Ignatius Donnelly

Gold and silver: the sacred metals of Atlantis

Money is a key factor in the development of civilizations, transforming the limitations of barter into the vast potential of wealth and commerce. Various cultures have utilized different items as currency, from practical goods to rare and precious objects. Here is a table of some items historically used as money:

Articles of Utility

RegionItems Used as Money
IndiaCakes of tea
ChinaPieces of silk
Iceland and NewfoundlandCodfish
Illinois (early days)Coon-skins
Bornoo (Africa)Cotton shirts
Ancient RussiaSkins of wild animals
West India Islands (1500)Cocoa-nuts
Massachusetts IndiansWampum and musket-balls
Virginia (1700)Tobacco
British West India IslandsPins, snuff, and whiskey
Central South AmericaSoap, chocolate, and eggs
Ancient RomansCattle
Ancient GreeceNails of copper and iron
The LacedemoniansIron
The Burman EmpireLead
Russia (1828 to 1845)Platinum
Rome (under Numa Pompilius)Wood and leather
Rome (under the Cæsars)Land
Ancient BritonsCattle, slaves, brass, and iron
England (under James II)Tin, gun-metal, and pewter
South Sea IslandsAxes and hammers

Articles of Ornament

RegionItems Used as Money
Ancient JewsJewels
The Indian Islands and AfricaCowrie shells

Conventional Signs

RegionItems Used as Money
Holland (1574)Pieces of pasteboard
China (1200)Bark of the mulberry-tree

Primitive societies often used items of practical value as currency, such as cattle, salt, or skins. More advanced civilizations utilized metals, including iron, copper, and lead, as they could be fashioned into tools and weapons. However, the use of gold and silver as money is less intuitive, given their limited practical utility.

Gold and Silver as Sacred Metals

Gold and silver held sacred significance across various ancient cultures, often associated with the sun and the moon. This reverence likely stems from their visual resemblance to the celestial bodies. Gold, with its brilliant luster, was associated with the sun, while silver, with its cooler, reflective surface, was linked to the moon.

In Ancient Cultures:

  • Peru: Gold was revered as “the tears wept by the sun” and was used exclusively in religious contexts, adorning temples and sacred objects. The Inca temple of the sun at Cuzco, known as the “Place of Gold,” was an opulent display of gold and silver wealth.
  • Atlantis: Plato’s description of Atlantis mirrors the situation in Peru, with vast accumulations of gold and silver used to adorn temples and sacred spaces, rather than for practical purposes.
  • Assyria: Gold and silver were dedicated to the sun and moon, respectively. A pyramid in the palace of Nineveh featured stages covered in different colors representing celestial bodies, with gold at the top symbolizing the sun and silver representing the moon.

Reverence and Currency:

The sacred status of gold and silver contributed to their use as currency. The Atlanteans’ demand for these metals likely spread their value across cultures, establishing a tradition that persists to this day. The reverence for gold and silver transcended their practical utility, embedding them deeply into the economic systems of various civilizations.

Modern Implications

The historical and sacred value of gold and silver continues to influence modern economies. As global commerce expands, the reliance on these metals as a basis for currency remains a topic of debate. The finite nature of gold and silver production poses challenges for a rapidly growing and advancing world, raising questions about the sustainability of a currency system rooted in ancient reverence.

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