In China, archaeologists have discovered a foundry that dates back to the period between 640 and 550 BC. The site produced tools, jewelry and standardized coins, making it the oldest known mint in archaeological records.
It seems that nothing is more convenient to find a round and light coin! However, money didn't always look so graceful.
The found artifacts can hardly be called "coins". They look more like paddles with handles, but these objects served exactly this purpose thousands of years ago. The study's authors note that the discovery of such an ancient foundry that produced coins sheds light on the very origin of standardized money.
“Minting coins has significantly changed economic and social institutions, both materially and ideologically,” the researchers write. "Coins have provided human societies with new ways to value wealth, prestige and power."
Today, the earliest coins are artifacts from China, Western Asia and India. The ancient mints associated with these sites date from roughly the same time period as the new find, but none have been radiocarbon dated. The newly discovered foundry in the rural town of Guangzhuang has gone through all modern dating methods, making it "the world's oldest reliably dated coinage site."
Historical records indicate that Guangzhuang was a city and an important administrative center for Zheng State, a regional power that existed before the rise of Imperial China. It is known that the inhabitants of the city used coins that looked like shovels.
"The coinage methods used in Guangzhuang are characterized by batch production and a high degree of standardization and quality control, which indicates that the production of coins was not a small-scale experiment, but rather a well-planned and organized process," the study said.
It is important to note that the two shovel coins that were found in the foundry were made primarily of copper with added tin and lead. They were originally 14 centimeters high and 6 centimeters wide.