February 24, 2021

The Use of Money Pushed Back 1000 years on the California Coast

Hunter-gatherers on the California coast were using highly worked shell beads as currency 2000 years ago according to Lynn Gamble of the USC Santa Barbara. This changes our view of the political and economic complexity of hunter-gatherers.

Lynn’s research is published in  “The origin and use of shell bead money in California” in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. She found that beads 1000 years before the beads accepted as money by archaeologists were found to be just as standardized as the newer beads, even more so. This is the kind used as money.

As Gamble notes, shell beads have been used for over 10,000 years in California, and there is extensive evidence for the production of some of these beads, especially those common in the last 3,000 to 4,000 years, on the northern Channel Islands. The evidence includes shell bead-making tools, such as drills, and massive amounts of shell bits — detritus — that littered the surface of archaeological sites on the islands.

Spanish colonizers were impressed by the Chumash trading networks and commerce facilitated by these beads.

This research pushes the use of money on the Pacific coast back 1000 years.

Ucsb.com has the report here;

Mike Ruggeri’s Ancient North America News