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

Lost island of Yap. The land of big money

Автор: 26.08.2020 | 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:
Desperate Futurism: Japan. Part 3. “Samurai Spirit”
If what they show in cinematograph is true than a typical samurai appears to be austere, taciturn and even slightly unsociable person. But this image in actual fact doesn’t get in line with reality... You don’t believe it? Our journalist Elena Rasenko suggests you make sure of it for yourself.
Mandala Therapy
Yesterday I created a Universe. I took some peas, rice, buckwheat, millet, black and white pepper seeds and cardamom. Grabbed a handful of coffee and aniseeds. Then it all acquired a centre. It kept growing and calming my thoughts. When the last seed landed in the circle, I felt forgotten harmony again, heard birds singing through the noise of cars on the avenue...
Desperate Futurism: Japan. Part 2 “Fish Day”
It is just as hard to imagine a Japanese who doesn’t eat fish as to picture a Scott who doesn’t drink whiskey. OUTLOOK journalist Elena Rasenko will tell you about a unique place where successors of samurai purchase fine seafood for their tables.
Desperate Futurism: Japan. Part 1
OUTLOOK journalist Elena Rasenko came back from Japan and launches a special series of articles devoted to this country. Warning for very sensitive readers: Beware! After reading, you will get a keen desire to break away, buy a ticket and fly to such a marvelous and fascinating Land of the Rising Sun!
Thailand handcraft: From silk to pearls
Have you ever thought how many grains of history are stored in each item sold at little booths in Thailand? Yet, strolling along those souvenir stalls you are browsing craft records of the whole nation, briefly looking through notes survived from a thousand years ago to the present day. Some pages have thinned to transparency, but marks did preserve their former accuracy.
Ecuador: To be an indian
Our journalist came back from Ecuador with unique experience and we share it with you. For the first time I was suspected of drug trafficking. Alone, in the country where there is no Ukrainian Embassy, I was standing and feverishly figuring out if someone could plant something on me on the way to the airport.
Road to Asia is paved with carpets
Carpets hang on walls as a symbol of wealth, lay on floors to create coziness and are presented as expensive gifts. Studying fancy pictures in the shapes of diamonds and stars on them attempting to figure out their meaning is a fairly amusing thing to do. Globally spread carpeting traditions were borrowed from eastern peoples who were the first to learn how to make yarn and fabric out of fibrous materials.
Women's adornments in India: Sacred meaning
Upon hearing word combination “Hindu woman” an image of a beautiful woman wearing sari and definitely with numerous adornments and pictures on her body emerges in our imagination. Where does passion for body decoration come from in national traditions of this people?
Your breakfast, Sir! How people start their day around the world
A mini toast, a slice of cheese and a sip of strong coffee. "That is not a buffet!" a waiter will pronounce indignantly, looking at the disgruntled tourist’s face. The generous Ukrainian soul cannot understand how locals manage to eat their full with that. Therefore, before going to a new country, you need to know exactly whether in the evening you should prepare a couple of sandwiches to indulge them in the morning,...
"Goat-dragging"
“To drag a goat with one’s hands” is a national entertainment of Tajik men however it enjoys huge popularity around Central Asia in the whole. As a rule a couple dozens, sometimes as many as a hundred, skilled and nimble horse riders gather to drag the goat. There is such a throng during the event that people fall off their horses, lose consciousness and even get maimed.
Wedding traditions of the world: from geese to lasso
Stealing the bride's shoe in the midst of the celebration, and to require unimaginable redemption from the groom, is an interesting action for which it is worth to go to the wedding party. This is not the only wedding tradition of country, by which the legal wedlock of two hearts acquires a special flavour. What are interesting rituals of different parts of our planet?
Tasty Japan: Give the country a try
Ice cream with a taste of horse meat, pickled insects, fish with deadly venom, etc – Japanese cuisine has things to surprise, amaze and shock you with. And truth be told, enumeration of these dishes doesn’t help my appetite at all. But we are not after exotic stuff. True culinary tourism is an attempt to comprehend mindset and feel national distinctive color through traditional cuisine – not try most exotic dishes.
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.
Закрыть
Outlook facebook page