The Chumash Indians, hunter-gatherers concentrated on the south-central coast of Santa Barbara, used elaborately crafted seashells as currency 2,000 years ago, about 1,000 years earlier than archaeologists think.
The Chumash Indians have been producing shell nuts for thousands of years in the Santa Barbara Channel region, with particularly well-documented nut production sites. Archaeologists specializing in the area believe that money made of shells was originally used around 800 years ago.
Professor Lynn Gamble from the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, proposes that the use of shell money began about 1,000 years earlier than previously thought in California, i.e. the use of money The grain has been dated to about 2,000 years ago.
“If the Chumash Indians used beads as money 2,000 years ago, this would change our thinking about hunter-gatherers and the economic and social complexity,” she said. their association”.
“This may be the first example of money being used anywhere in the Americas at this time.”
Professor Gamble argues that archaeologists should use four criteria to judge whether beads were used as currency or jewelry: First, shell beads used as currency would be heavily used. than beads for decorative purposes; highly standardized particles can be currency; larger, more eye-catching beads are often used as decorations; currency particles are widely distributed.
“I compared the shell beads that have been accepted by archaeologists in California as money beads for more than 40 years with another widely distributed variety,” she said.
“They are also traded throughout California and beyond. Through surveying, measuring and comparing standards between different types of seeds, it became clear that these could be pre-seeds and appeared much earlier than previously thought.”
“We know that from the earliest days of contact with Europeans, California Indians traded a wide variety of goods, including food,” Professor Gamble said. “The use of shell particles has certainly greatly facilitated this extensive network of exchanges.”