Cauris

CAURIS

WHAT ARE

Small white and oval shells. They were once used as money in different parts of the world. Today they are used for decorative and spiritual purposes

EGYPT

Since ancient Egypt they were used by different people. In fact, gold imitations have been found in masses in the tombs of children and women of ancient Egypt.

SHATY

The first monetary standard in the history of Africa is called shaty and comes from ancient Egypt

CAURIS

They are a symbol of wealth and power, easy to carry, to identify. For some time they represented a type of coin that lived during the same years as silver coins, gold dust, salt bars, octene, copper and cloth

USE

Its use as a currency was present during the empire of Mali and then especially during the 16th century. During the 17th century, its use dominated Africa and became the preferred currency along the trade routes of Africa

VALUE

The shells were grouped in baskets and weighed to determine the value: 40 cowries were worth a rope; 50 strings were worth a head; 10 heads were worth a bag

THE FRANCO

Western countries initially appreciated this form of money. Over time they changed their minds until 1907 when the French forbade shells to be trading currencies. Africans protested until the 1940s: the date on which, through colonization, the Franco was forcefully introduced

SYMBOLS

These shells are used for decoration and often combined with jewelry and placing everything for example on the hair or on the statues. It also represents woman, fertility and protection against bad spirits

RELIGION

These shells are used during rituals and represent a bridge between the visible and invisible world. Through them, finally, you can read the future if you know their language

TODAY

The headquarters of the central bank of West African states in Benin is a modern building decorated with cowries as large as windows. The Cedi Ganese, the current currency, takes its name from this shell in the Akan language

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