Ancient Mesopotamia Money and Currency

If you look at the history of money, you will find that the ball started rolling in primeval Egypt and Mesopotamia. Later, around 250 BC, coins made from valuable metals such as gold, silver and bronze became popular and were extensively used in most parts of the Mediterranean, the Near East as well as countries located in Southwest Asia, especially in India. Although coins came into effect in the latter part of the seventh century, the practice of using precious metals, particularly silver, as a form of money dates back to the 24th century BC Mesopotamia, the region where Iraq exists now.

Money wasn’t used to trade goods and services. The Mesopotamians used the barter system instead. They developed a writing system to keep track of buying and selling. Scribes kept accurate records of business transactions by writing on clay tablets. Business contracts were sealed with a cylinder wheel.

The most common money substances were barley as cheap money and silver as the more expensive, but other substances were also used. As to the forms or shapes in which money circulated, a number of words in the ancient languages can be identified that probably refer to these forms, but their specific appearance remains, in most cases, unknown.

Marvin A. Powell, in “Money in Mesopotamia,” lists the types of money people of ancient Mesopotamia used from probably the third millennium B.C., by which date Mesopotamia was already part of an extensive trade network. Money was not in coin form at that time, although words like minas and shekels that are used in connection with coinage were applied to the weights of the ancient Mesopotamian form of money.

Silver rings were used in Mesopotamia and Egypt as currency about 2000 years before the first coins were struck. Some archaeologists suggest that money was used by wealthy citizens of Mesopotamia as early as 2,500 B.C., or perhaps a few hundred years earlier. Historian Marvin Powell of Northern Illinois in De Kalb told Discover, “Silver in Mesopotamia functions like our money today. It’s a means of exchange. People use it for storage of wealth, and the use it for defining value.”

In the early days of shekels, people carried pieces of metal in bags and amounts were measured out on scales with stones as countermeasures on the other side. Between 2800 B.C. and 2500 B.C., pieces of silver were caste a standard weight, usually in the form of rings or coils called har on tablets. These rings, worth between 1 and 60 shekels, were used primarily by the rich to make big purchases. They came in a number of different forms: large ones with triangular ridges, thin coils.

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Ancient Mesopotamian Currency, Barter System, Money