RU  UK  EN
Статьи  >  Imagine  >  Lost island of Yap. The land of big money

Lost island of Yap. The land of big money

Автор: 07.09.2019 | traditions, Micronesia
How can you understand the nature of finance, if there is no desire to go deep into the jungle of science? It is better to see once, than to read a hundred times: a trip to the island of Yap in Micronesia replaces the entire university course of monetary theory. Yap roads are lined up with giant doughnut-shaped, carved disks the size of a millstone - rampant inflation has made the world biggest money into fun for tourists.

Many phenomena have been credited with the invention of stone money by tourist guides to Micronesia. Among inventors were named space aliens, disappeared giants inhabited the mythical continent of Lemuria - bored mere mortal is free to choose a legend to his liking. Meanwhile, it is known that the exotic currency which is called rai, appeared about five hundred years ago, in the heyday of the Neolithic culture of the Caroline Islands.Yap_Island_2C_FSM_03.jpgPhoto discover.silversea.com

A civilization that was able to erect a monumental city of Nan Madol on artificial islands, undoubtedly had a complex multi-layered economy, which required a universal equivalent of commodities, rarely found in nature. Europe used to send expeditions for gold, and Yap navigators explored a large deposit of the mineral aragonite in the coral rocks of remote Palau island. The islanders were amazed by the beautiful stone with pearlescent, like Gauri shells, serving as exchange coin in small transactions, so, briskly knocking of stone axes came to Palau, however, it proved to be very difficult to "chop" currency.

Local leaders have imposed a strict tribute for production of aragonite, and forced guests from Yap to perform heavy chores for access to the deposits of strategic resource. They had not much time for manufacture, and the miners worked from dawn to dusk. While some workers were digging impregnable rocks, and climbing up the steep slopes with agility of a monkey, others were hewing stones with sharpened shell knives, shaping disks with a circular through hole for carrying on a bamboo pole. They did not have food every day, and survived on a meagre diet of shellfish and edible shoots of taro plants. Yet, workers had a hard four hundred kilometres long journey back home on overloaded leaky boats. Many boats overturned and sank - weakened rowers could not cope with high waves.12794731_1108255055885431_6375135617952705398_o.jpg
Photo onceinalifetimejourney.com

Not surprisingly, that rai obtained at the cost of human lives, were revered as a shrine: it was strictly forbidden to sit or to stand on the stone, and only representatives of the two higher castes were allowed to possess that kind of money. The most valuable specimens were assigned names, and transactions with their participation was accompanied by solemn ceremonies and dances.

Nominal value of rai depended not only on the disc size, but also on the individual stories related to production, transportation, and track record of each stone, known by heart by every islander. Also owner status had value: coin, after having been in the hands of the leader, dramatically added to the price. The stone disc with a diameter of two meters and a half was equivalent of a boat or a piece of land, and the larger rai helped marry off a notable bride. The tradition of paying stone money for a bride has been observed till now, but young people can hardly take seriously customs of their ancestors.Photo i.huffpost.com

Rai were stored in equipped areas like banks, near the communal houses. When all the banknotes are known personally, theft makes no sense, so why bother to move heavy stone blocks from hut to hut? Moreover, the Yapese had extensive knowledge of the cryptocurrency mechanism: lost in a shipwreck discs were successfully replaced by the stories of witnesses who confirmed quarrying and long transaction history stored in folk memory. The most famed rai bank located on the atoll Rulung near the town of Colonia, capital of Yap. Here are exhibited huge coins about four meters in diameter, made in the late 19th century. That time Yap was raged by rampant inflation, provoked by one man.

Convicted for murder in his native Georgia, the USA, sea captain named David O'Keefe escaped from justice, he was surfing the Pacific Ocean on a fishing boat, till in 1871 was shipwrecked near Yap and was helped by the local sorcerer. Recovered, enterprising sailor suddenly realized how to earn extra money on the naive natives. To begin with, he supplied Yapese men with iron tools, and local banks got overloaded with raw material. Inspired by success, the local masters made tons of new coins, they wanted to ship them to Yap but lacked boats. It was time for O'Keefe’s proposal, which tribal elders failed to decline – an enterprising Irish American contracted to transport rai in exchange for sea cucumbers and copra.

Soon the island was swept by monetary fever, between Palau and Yap continuously shuttled agile ship, but O'Keefe rapidly grew rich by reselling exotic products to Hong Kong. Aborigines were blissfully happy with a crazy wealth, but a fairy tale ended as suddenly as it had begun. Money has become much more than the commodities, wealthy families impoverished, left on the ashes of hope with useless piles of stones, which were good for a building a hedge only.Photo quinsprogress.files.wordpress.com

In 1890, Germany bought the "island of bad luck" from Spain, so German administration had to deal with inflation. Rai production was limited at the legislative level, and exchange surplus was unceremoniously removed for the construction of roads. Before gaining independence by Micronesia, Yap Archipelago changed owners three times, having lost nearly half of the remaining stone money on the steep turns of history. Nowadays the Yapese prefer US dollars, and artefacts serve as an exotic background for photo shoots - according to recent data, on Yap there are over 13 thousand rai.

Cover photo gomadnomad.com

Вам это будет интересно:
Mechoui: Heavy Treat
Destiny often hatches surprises and you can never know for sure what you’ll try at a festive table especially when travelling around Middle East countries.
Happiness moves in mysterious way: Places to make wishes in Latvia
Trip to Latvia breaks the chain of mundanity, awakes secret fantasies which usually remain dormant in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Wandering between the centuries-old pine trees, fresh Baltic breeze languidly runs over strings in wait for off-beat adventure. Dreams do come true – you just need to know a right place to make a wish.
Video: Craft of Uzbekistan. Golden-stitched embroidery
OUTLOOK was lucky to visit hospitable Uzbekistan and get better acquainted with crafts of this amazing country. Today we'll tell you about art of golden-stitched embroidery that has long been considered the art of the nobility. We will tell you about mediums artisans use, secrets and unique distinctives of this craft. Feel the world with us!
What do they eat: Rome’s cuisine
OUTLOOK often tells about the kitchens of the peoples around the world, but when it comes to Italy, writing about the country should be a crime. Each of its twenty regions has its own culinary world with the subtleties and specialties. Let the title of gastronomic capital of Italy be Bologna, its official capital - Rome, too, has something to boast about. We are telling you what is remarkable about Roman cuisine...
Nan Madol: A City over an Abyss
Only an abandoned artificial archipelago with traces of extinct civilizations can better than a deserted island! Cadent splash of oars that plows blue dreams of the Pacific Ocean quells drumroll of ecstasy in your temples while preparing will and mind to the meeting with the greatest mystery of Micronesia. Nan Madol lies empty for more than one hundred years...
The state of contrasts. Haiti
The state of contrasts where beaches look like gardens of heaven while cities and villages resemble dumps; where over 80% of population are faithful Catholics who practice bloody cult of vodou at the same time; where absolute poverty on one hand and unthinkable luxury on the other feather in.
Tajik сombs of beauty
When Bahriddin’s mother was getting ready for work, she was assiduously arranging her hair around her tubeteika. It resulted in some sort of a crown. On holidays she plaited special adornments into her black hair with a tinge of blue. When she walked, they were tinkling slightly to create an aura of a dance. And in evenings little Bahriddin couldn’t fall asleep without holding her tight braid in his hands.
National drinks: Zero degrees and lots of energy
Everyone knows that being in Scotland you should try whiskey, in France you should taste wine, and in Japan t is all about sake. But few people think about national soft drinks. They were created by peoples with far more practical intentions - refreshing and burning, repelling from the climate features, possessing nourishing properties.
Everything on sale: Worlds's best markets and bazaars
In this day and age, it is difficult to surprise anyone, especially an urban resident, with some large department store or market, since nowadays one can buy everything from a humble convenience store next door. However, the iconic bazaars and flea markets are still operating across the globe, they are famous in legends and described with delight.
Sacred animals of the Incas
Our "Peruvian cycle" is replenished with the story of the most revered animals in Peru. Being the link between the present and the past, they play an important role in the life of this nation. Wise ancestors of the modern Peruvians, the ancient Incas, were living in harmony with all life that surrounded them.
Hanging Out In Pakistan
OUTLOOK studied the brightest Pakistani holidays, because the saying goes for a reason: people live same way they hang out. An amazing game of history. Pakistan appeared on political map relatively short time ago yet one doesn’t have the heart to call it ‘young’ for it is inhabited with heirs of one of the most ancient civilization.
The way they dance
What is it that characterizes any nation without much words and long explanations? Dances, of course, because it is these movements, refined over centuries, that can tell a foreigner about other peoples much more than thick history books. If you carefully watch and feel the way people dance in different countries, their mind set will become much more comprehensible. And these aren’t mere words.
Twelve guises of South Korea
Only dancing and wearing mask, Korean peasants were able to express their disgust towards rudeness or greed of the hosts or apply to some deity with extraordinary request. Keeping anonymity, the people played out the scenes from life, cried, and laughed. At the end of the performance the destiny awarded the good characters and punished villains.
Crafts of Uzbekistan. Straw Items
OUTLOOK was lucky to visit hospitable Uzbekistan and get better acquainted with crafts of this amazing country. Today we tell you about art of straw work, about materials that craftsmen use and what secrets and unique features of this craft are. Feel the world with us!
Eastern music of Sufi: Qawali
‘Love evolves when one looks in the eyes of the person beloved seeing there God’, in such a way the lines of some Arabian song called Qawali is translated. The authorship of this chant is ascribed to Eastern strangers Sufi who tending to find the sense of existence strolled around the half an Earth bare-footed. In the travels they composed songs where they told narration describing what they had to endure.
Forgotten art: Chinese ceremony in South Korea
After the walking along the boisterous streets of Seoul one wants to take it easy in a café drinking a cup of flavored tea, however, it never happens like that. Good teahouses are found out only near Buddhist monasteries or at the bohemian pedestrian street Insadon. Chinese ceremony in Korea that is incomparable with the rough schedule of offices and remaining the joy of wise people and privilege of the masters.
Malanka and Vasyl winter fun: Carnival in Ukrainian style
The New Year in Ukraine did not always start with a Christmas tree, and instead of Santa Claus and Snow Maiden, guests were waiting fora minx girl - Malanka and motor-boy Vasyl accompanied by the retinue. All the follies were out of hand: the ridiculed riddles carried a sacred content, dictated by the logic of the myth of the duel of spring and winter.
Mulled wine: Yummy way to keep warm
Vitamins, development of resistance to cold, correct day regimen... That's all good and useful, especially when the winter weather swirls in, but sometimes we all have to pamper ourselves and at the same time to be protected against germs and colds. And the best way to do it is to sip some mulled wine.
New Year in offbeat way: Traditions around the world
In anticipation of the holiday rush, we took a sleigh, harnessed reindeer and enjoyed a ride across the planet to find out unique customs for welcoming New Year worldwide.
Maculele: dance to make the sparks fly
When the first emigrants from Africa came to Brazil, they brought rousing actions in the country that had been living upon the principle ‘Life is a carnival’. As the citizens of Africa explained, dance maculele appeared in the environment where slaves had to protect themselves from the encroachment of their owners.
Закрыть
Outlook facebook page