Archaeology news: Researchers dub hoard of ancient bronze age money ‘Euros of Prehistory’

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In modern-day Europe’s Early Bronze Age, ancient people were already using metallic pieces as early currency. And new research indicates this nascent form of money was far more sophisticated than first thought.

Archaeologists now suspect our ancient ancestors even went so far as to standardise the currency’s shape and weight.

The euros of Prehistory came in the form of bronze rings, ribs and axes

Maikel H. G. Kuijpers and Catalin N. Popa of Leiden University

Money in many forms is recognised as the clearest characteristic of modern-day society.

One key feature of cash is standardisation – a notoriously tricky concept to identify in the archaeological record.

This is because ancient people had inexact forms of measurement compared with its various incarnations today.

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However, this study saw archaeologists assess possible money from the Early Bronze Age of Central Europe.

In doing so, the researchers attempted to compare the objects based on their perceived – if imprecise – similarity.

The examined objects constituted of bronze shaped described into intricate rings, ribs and axe blades.

More than 5,000 such objects, originating from more than 100 ancient hoards were studied.

They statistically compared the objects’ weights using the Weber fraction psychology principle.

This quantifies the idea that, if objects are similar enough in mass, a human being weighing them by hand is unable to differentiate them

The archaeologists discovered how despite the objects varying in weight, approximately 70 percent of the rings were sufficiently similar.

This in effect meant the roughly 195-gram coins would have been indistinguishable by hand.

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And the same conclusion was also reached by the subsets of the ribs and axe blades.

The authors suggest such consistent similarity in shape and weight, taken in tandem with the fact these objects occurred in hoards, are signs of their use as an early form of standardised currency.

Later, in Europe’s Middle Bronze Age, more precise weighing tools appeared in the archaeological record, along with an increase in scrap bronze.

This also suggests a sophisticated and developed system of weighing.

The authors said in a statement: “The euros of Prehistory came in the form of bronze rings, ribs and axes.

“These Early Bronze Age artefacts were standardised in shape and weight and used as an early form of money.”

The news coincides with recent archaeological research concerning odd ring-shaped Bronze Age objects excavated in Austria, which were likely used to trade cereals.

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