Saturday, December 11, 2004

Money as the root of all evil

I have noted that rising sea levels and natural disasters played a big role in the Nusantao and previous Sundaland migrations. Also covered briefly was the possibility of a spiritual component to exploration and colonization.

Of course, when dealing with trade networks we also have to follow the buck, so to speak.

How did Nusantao trade occur? Solheim thinks it was barter trade, however, there is also a possible that money was involved.

Otto Dempwolff reconstructed a word for money: *'uwan. Cecilio Lopez later updated this to *huwaN "money." These reconstructions though occur before the Formosan languages were brought into the Austronesian family and thus might only apply really to Proto-Malayo-Polynesian.

That however is significant as Solheim postulates that the Nusantao were mostly Malayo-Polynesian speakers, albeit always with a minority of people among them who spoke other languages. If we accept Solheim's dates that means the Nusantao could have been using money before 5000 BC.

The type of money used by Austronesians upon contact with Europeans was mostly shells particularly cowries and often in stringed form. Here are some examples:

Solomon Island stringed shell money

Sumerian stringed shell money

Giant stone money (rai) of Yap (resembles Chinese stringed copper coins)

The early trade in shell tools may have evetually led to the use of shells as money. Clan competition could easily heat up with the large scale use of money even on a regional scale. It is much easier to accumulate wealth with money than attempting to stockpile bulky trade goods.

The abstract quality of money indeed helps the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Paul Kekai Manansala


msudol0928 said...

I hate to break this to you, but - despite being a "small a" agnostic, I do consider that you may be incorrect assuming that money is the root of all evil. Television is! No, just kidding. It comes from the bible, 1st Timothy 6:10 and in King James it states "For the love of money is the root of all evil:" and based on the concordance I stumbled on, different translations are too similar to debate. Even I must admit: DON'T BLAME THE MONEY FOR HUMAN EVIL!