California Cogged Stones: International Trade and Exchange

I was reading Quora and it showed me an awesome article about the history of money, or more correctly, the development of debt, and the ideology of private property, and how “barter” is an ideological myth promoted by capitalists.

How did the concept of money actually emerge from the “barter system”?

TL;DR: the original “money” was debt administrated by temples, to support the development of farming, a seasonal activity that requires debt and repayment. Temples allowed the division of labor and specialization, by extending credit and tracking repayment. From this emerged the idea of money or currency.

That response reminded me of the mysterious cogged stones of California.

People have all kinds of hypothesis about these stones, like they are religious or astronomical artifacts, but I think they are tokens of identity, and possibly a kind of indication of relationships between different nations in the area.

The cogs seem to all originate in the Santa Ana River area by the coast. Given their smoothness and precision, I suspect specialists made them; the society had some division of labor.

They’ve been found as far away as Chandler, Arizona, around 380 miles away.  This is roughly 30 days away walking.

It’s far enough away that most people wouldn’t have undertaken the trip, but many could have. Likewise, the range of these stones is all over southern California, but concentrated around the Santa Ana river.

Traveling up and down the river was probably frequent, and normal. Given the diversity of microclimates and soils in the area, it’s possible there was mercantile style trade between areas.

These small artworks, common along the river, may have been attractive to people a bit further away.

They would have been collected and hoarded for the same reasons as people collect and hoard them today – for their beauty and oddity. They could have been traded for more commonplace goods. They could have been given as tokens indicating a good relationship with the nation.