On the origins of money: Ancient European hoards full of standardized bronze objects

January 20, 2021

In the Early Bronze Age of Europe, ancient people used bronze objects as an early form of money, even going so far as to standardize the shape and weight of their currency, according to a study published January 20, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Maikel H. G. Kuijpers and C?t?lin N. Popa of Leiden University, Netherlands.

Money is an important feature of modern human society. One key feature of money is standardization, but this can be difficult to identify in the archaeological record since ancient people had inexact forms of measurement compared with today. In this study, the authors assessed possible money from the Early Bronze Age of Central Europe, comparing the objects based on their perceived - if not precise - similarity.

The objects studied were made of bronze in shapes described as rings, ribs, and axe blades. The authors examined more than 5,000 such objects from more than 100 ancient hoards. They statistically compared the objects' weights using a psychology principle known as the Weber fraction, which quantifies the concept that, if objects are similar enough in mass, a human being weighing them by hand can't tell the difference.

They found that even though the objects' weights varied, around 70% of the rings were similar enough to have been indistinguishable by hand (averaging about 195 grams), as were subsets of the ribs and axe blades.

The authors suggest that this consistent similarity in shape and weight, along with the fact that these objects often occurred in hoards, are signs of their use as an early form of standardized currency. Later, in the Middle Bronze Age of Europe, more precise weighing tools appear in the archaeological record along with an increase in scrap bronze, pointing to a developed system of weighing.

The authors add: "The euros of Prehistory came in the form of bronze rings, ribs and axes. These Early Bronze Age artefacts were standardized in shape and weight and used as an early form of money."
-end-
Citation: Kuijpers MHG, Popa CN (2021) The origins of money: Calculation of similarity indexes demonstrates the earliest development of commodity money in prehistoric Central Europe. PLoS ONE 16(1): e0240462. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0240462

Funding: The research was supported by the Talent Programma VICI from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO https://www.nwo.nl/; Grant number 277-60-001: "Economies of Destruction". The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS ONE:https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0240462

PLOS

Related Weight Articles from Brightsurf:

How much postmenopause weight gain can be blamed on weight-promoting medications?
Abdominal weight gain, which is common during the postmenopause period, is associated with an array of health problems, including diabetes and heart disease.

Commercial weight management groups could support women to manage their weight after giving birth
Women who were overweight at the start of their pregnancy would welcome support after they have given birth in the form of commercial weight management groups, University of Warwick-led research has found.

Rollercoaster weight changes can repeat with second pregnancy, especially among normal-weight women
Everyone knows that gaining excess weight during one pregnancy is bad, but clinicians rarely consider weight gains and losses from one pregnancy to the next -- especially in normal-weight women.

Early and ongoing experiences of weight stigma linked to self-directed weight shaming
In a new study published today in Obesity Science and Practice, researchers at Penn Medicine and the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity surveyed more than 18,000 adults enrolled in the commercial weight management program WW International, and found that participants who internalized weight bias the most tended to be younger, female, have a higher body mass index (BMI), and have an earlier onset of their weight struggle

Being teased about weight linked to more weight gain among children, NIH study suggests
Youth who said they were teased or ridiculed about their weight increased their body mass by 33 percent more each year, compared to a similar group who had not been teased, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health.

Association between weight before pregnancy, weight gain during pregnancy and adverse outcomes for mother, infant
An analysis that combined the results of 25 studies including nearly 197,000 women suggests prepregnancy body mass index (BMI) of the mother was more strongly associated with risk of adverse maternal and infant outcomes than the amount of gestational weight gain.

Study: Faster weight loss no better than slow weight loss for health benefits
Losing weight slowly or quickly won't tip the scale in your favor when it comes to overall health, according to new research.

What your choice of clothing says about your weight
It's commonly said that you can tell a great deal about a person by the clothes they wear.

Stand up -- it could help you lose weight
You might want to read this on your feet. A new study published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that standing instead of sitting for six hours a day could prevent weight gain and help people to actually lose weight.

Cash for weight loss
A new study, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, has shown that selling rewards programmes to participants entering a weight loss programme is a low cost strategy to increase both the magnitude and duration of weight loss.

Read More: Weight News and Weight Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.