Oxted & District History Society - Talk
Oxted & District History Society

David Rudling, Director of the Sussex School of Archaeology, gave an illustrated lecture to the Oxted & District History Society entitled ‘From Cowrie Shells to Credit Cards: the Archaeology of Money’.

Cowrie shells were used in the Far East and in parts of Africa as units of currency until the 20th Century.  However by 700BC, in China, small spades were inscribed with a value for buying and selling.  Other items of value used were large stones in the Pacific Yap Islands, Kina shells and shell rings in New Guinea and circular pigs’ tusks in the New Hebrides.  Brass manilas were made in Britain and Europe to buy slaves in Africa.  The Vikings chopped up plundered silver by weight for purchases.

The first coins from 600BC have been found at Ephesus in Lydia.  These were quickly copied by the Persians, Greeks and then the Romans.  The first silver penny appeared in Britain in the 8th Century AD, each weighing 1/240th of a pound of silver.  Coins were quickly forged, debased and clipped.  In a purge by Henry I, a group of forgers each had one hand and one testicle chopped off.  Gold nobles appeared under Edward III, each worth 6s 8d but sovereigns did not start until the reign of Henry VII.


From Cowrie Shells to Credit Cards by David Rudling.