In the July 21 SN: Portraits of a galaxy’s ecosystem, sleep and Alzheimer’s, poliovirus vs. glioblastoma, Parker Solar Probe previewed, mind-reading robots, a new ancient gibbon and more. BEEN THERE DONE THAT Yap islanders in Micronesia sailed to nearby islands for limestone to carve into huge disks used as money called rai. Digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, and the blockchain technologies used to record digital transactions on a public ledger may not be so revolutionary. At least several hundred years ago, islanders on Yap in western Micronesia used principles at the heart of cryptocurrencies to conduct business, says archaeologist Scott Fitzpatrick of the University of Oregon in Eugene.
“Stone money transactions on Yap were the precursor to Bitcoin and blockchain technologies,” Fitzpatrick says. At April’s annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Washington, D.C., he explained the connection between the carved stone disks, some weighing more than a Honda Accord and standing taller than a man, and today’s cyber-tokens floating in digital space.
Based on studies of rock sources and dating of sites on Yap and nearby islands, Fitzpatrick thinks that, before European contact in 1783, inhabitants of Yap sailed about 400 kilometers to other islands in Micronesia to quarry limestone from caves and rock-shelters. Sea voyagers negotiated with local leaders for access to limestone deposits.
Stone carvers went along for the ride and formed stone disks on site. A central hole was cut into each circular chunk of rock so men could run a wooden pole through the opening to hoist the rock.
These weighty pieces of currency, called rai, were transported to Yap on rafts. Arriving back home, travelers presented newly acquired rai to their fellow community members at a public gathering. Read more from sciencenews.org…
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