Moneta Gallery Coin Museum

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Chinese Cowries - ho

[ Archaic: Cowries, Spades & Knives ]
China - Qi Knife Mon

[ Archaic: Cowries, Spades & Knives ]
White Jade Cowrie -

[ Archaic: Cowries, Spades & Knives ]
Chinese Stone Cowry

[ Archaic: Cowries, Spades & Knives ]
Cowrie made of Shell

[ Archaic: Cowries, Spades & Knives ]
H 3.182

[ Archaic: Cowries, Spades & Knives ]
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Ancient Stone carved cowrie - Chinese
Ancient Stone carved cowrie - Chinese

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Registered: August 2005
Location: Arizona USA
Posts: 2,356
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This has to be a premier example of an imitation cowry. Every detail has been reproduced in an open-backed cowry carved in stone! Thus it might be considered a very early form of man-made money, perhaps pre-dating the copper/bronze types. Also, this one shows evidence of having been colored (red ochre?).
As everywhere at the dawn of culture, barter was used in China in prehistorical times. Soon periodical markets were held, especially along the borders to neighbouring realms. According to Chinese tradition this happened at the time of the legendary emperor Shen-Nun (2737-2697 AD). Through such markets the Chinese came in contact with cowrie shells for the first time. Since these cowries were popular embellishments, they soon became standards of value the first "coins."
To satisfy the demands of trade and everyday use, large numbers of cowries were needed. And the supply was in constant danger: unpaid taxes and the chaos of war could easily lead to shortages. Hence from about 1350 BC, people began to imitate cowries from clay, bronze, or, like the piece shown here, from stone. This stone cowrie probably dates from the 7th century BC.
Cowries, whether real or imitations, were not yet "real" coins. Coins always bear the official mark of some issuing authority such as a mint; with cowrie shells, this was not the case. Hence, they are referred to as pre-coinage means of payment.
This is 22 x 16 x 7 mm; 2.60 gm - Very Scarce with this intricate detailed carving.

Moneta Library has articles on Cowries to VIEW and DOWNLOAD:
The Worlds's First Money, Chinese Cowries and Their Imitations - by Ted Puls [ link ]
Cowries - Bob Reis: [ link ]
Origin of Cowries in Ancient China - UofPa: [ link ]
Metallic Cowries - Royal Asiatic Society: [ link ]
Nice Video on Cowrie history: [ link ]
The following is by Bob Reis, a prominent numismatic dealer and author:
There are two aspects to cowrie substitutes. One was that cowries had value, it was custom of the time to bury the dead with grave goods, over time the grave goods became more and more imitations of the real thing. The other was that in regions where cowries were scarce they might make imitations for the market, because something was better than nothing.
There are a variety of small bronze items that have been speculatively considered to have been some kind of local money, but they are not mentioned in the classical Chinese monetary and numismatic books. Notwithstanding, some of these objects are found in such large quantities that it seems reasonable to consider them as money objects. The idea that enigmatic bronze objects were early forms of Chinese “money” was popularized in Europe by a monograph written by H. A. Ramsden in 1912.
Zhou dynasty was a confederation of little kingdoms with a figurehead Emperor. Various constituent states started using money in their commercial activities. Odd shaped coins such as spade, knife, ant, nose, yibi, and possible money items like fish and cicada money were followed by the early round coins.
The oldest Chinese coins are at least as old as the earliest Greek coins. The Chinese coinage system differed from other systems in two ways. It was monometallic, only bronze coins circulated in general commerce. Gold and silver were treated as commodities. And the manufacturing method was by casting in moulds rather than by striking heated solid planchets.
· Date: September 8, 2007 · Views: 12,775 · Filesize: 29.5kb, 80.1kb · Dimensions: 850 x 375 ·
Keywords: Chinese Stone carved cowry cowrie
Additional Categories: Archaic: Cowries, Spades & Knives

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