Digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, and the blockchain technologies used to record digital transactions on a public ledger may not be so revolutionary.
At least several hundred years ago, islanders on Yap in western Micronesia used principles at the heart of cryptocurrencies to conduct business, says archaeologist Scott Fitzpatrick of the University of Oregon in Eugene.
“Stone money transactions on Yap were the precursor to Bitcoin and blockchain technologies,” Fitzpatrick says. At April’s annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Washington, D.C..
Stone carvers went along for the ride and formed stone disks on site. A central hole was cut into each circular chunk of rock so men could run a wooden pole through the opening to hoist the rock. These weighty pieces of currency, called rai, were transported to Yap on rafts.
Everyone heard which individuals or clan groups took ownership of particular disks. Each rai was assigned a value based on size, evenness of shape, stone quality and risks taken on the journey. After being inspected and verified by a local chief, rai were displayed at communal spots, such as ritual dancing grounds.