Banking on Stone Money: The Influence of Traditional "Currencies" on Blockchain Technology

Author(s): Scott Fitzpatrick

Year: 2018


Centuries ago in western Micronesia, Yapese islanders began traveling to the Palauan archipelago to carve their famous stone money from limestone, which they then transported back to use in a variety of social transactions. While commonly referred to as ‘money’, these disks were not currency in the strict sense, though their value is not dissimilar to other traditional and modern objects where worth is arbitrary based on both real and perceived attributes (e.g., size, shape, quality, pedigree, or other factors). These characteristics have corollaries in today’s society for material culture and electronic cryptocurrencies that use blockchain technology—essentially, digital ledgers that track financial transactions in real time across a computer network to ensure that they are seamless and incorruptible. Here I argue that transactions involving traditional forms of ‘money’ or exchange valuables are the precursor to Bitcoin and other technologies that demand a unified and continuous chain of information to ensure that the value is known and ownership indisputable. This research suggests that Yapese stone money is just one of many cases in the ancient past of humans, through social networks, attempting to create accurate and unbroken lines of communication so that economic relationships can be established, maintained, and rectified.

Cite this Record

Banking on Stone Money: The Influence of Traditional "Currencies" on Blockchain Technology. Scott Fitzpatrick. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444276)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: 153.633; min lat: -51.399 ; max long: -107.578; max lat: 24.207 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 18749