374. Money Tablets

 •  1 min. read  •  grade level: 11
The particular kind of money which was given to these workmen is not here mentioned. It may have been gold and silver; perhaps it was clay; for it is a fact worth mentioning that in Babylonia and in Persia at that very time there were in use certain clay tablets which are supposed by some writers to have been used for the same purpose that we now use banknotes! Among other curious things which Loftus unearthed at Warka were about forty “small tablets of unbaked clay, covered on both sides with minute characters.” They were in length from two inches to four and a half, and in breadth from one inch to three. They had on them the names of various kings, and dates ranging from 626 to 525 B.C. Among these was the name of Cyrus, the king who directed the work for which the money was given according to the text. Sir Henry Rawlinson, who examined the inscriptions, says that the tablets “seemed to be notes issued by the government for the convenience of circulation, representing a certain value, which was always expressed in measures of weight, of gold or silver, and redeemable on presentation at the royal treasury.” Loftus adds, “These tablets were, in point of fact, the equivalents of our own banknotes, and prove that a system of artificial currency prevailed in Babylonia, and also in Persia, at an unprecedented early age—centuries before the introduction of paper or printing” (Travels in Chaldea and Susiana, p. 222).