Monday, March 05, 2007

Cubans traded their gold for cheap brass pendants
Recent research in Cuba has highlighted the contrast between European and ancient American values. Cheap brass dress accessories from Western Europe traded for many times their price in gold with Caribbean natives who prized the alloy more than the pure metal.

“It would have been impossible for the first Europeans arriving in the Caribbean to envisage the colossal value that their metal would accomplish in trade with the indigenous population,” write Marcos Martin-ón-Torres and his colleagues in the Journal of Archaeological Science. “Early chroniclers report that pure gold or caona was considered the least valuable metal, significantly less esteemed and less sacred than copper-based alloys.”

You know, I never really considered how valuable gold was considered in the New World. It seems to have been mostly associated with royalty, but was it the most valuable metal, or just the most common?