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Read your history here folks: the Shekel

Apologies to anyone in the FinanSer community who felt my discussion of the origins of money were disparaging any religious sensitivities.  I was merely stating a historical fact. 

Nevertheless,
apparently some people do not know their history, so here’s a little
more depth on the Shekel from one of thousands of websites discussing
the Temple of Ishtar:

"The
oldest coin currency that we know is a Sumerian bronze piece dating
from before 3000 BC. On one side of the coin is a representation of a
sheaf of wheat, and on the other, Ishtar, the goddess of fertility. The
Sumerians called it the ‘Shekel’ where ‘She’ meant wheat, ‘Kel’ was a
measurement similar to a bushel, hence this coin was a symbol of a
value of one bushel of wheat. (The word ‘shekel’ survives in modern
Hebrew as Israel’s monetary unit.)

"The original shekel had as
its purpose payment for sacred prostitution at the temple of Ishtar,
which was the temple of life and death.

"The temple, as well as
being a ritual center, was the storage place for the reserves of wheat
that supported the priesthood, and also the community in lean times. So
farmers fulfilled their religious and social obligations by bringing
their contributions of wheat to the temple, and receiving in exchange a
shekel coin, entitling them to a visit with the temple prostitutes at
the festival time.

"All this also must be understood in its
cultural context: The sacred prostitutes were representatives of the
goddess, and intercourse with them was intercourse with the goddess of
fertility herself, nothing to take lightly. At that time fertility was
truly a matter of life and death. If the crops failed, there was no
alternative, and everyone starved or at least went hungry until next
year. And, of course, completing the magic ritual properly insured the
fertility in crops, animals and children that was necessary for future
prosperity."

Some people took
offence at my discussion of this point the other day, as they thought
it was against Israel.  To be honest the similarity between the
original shekel and today’s modern version, is about the same as a
Neanderthal caveman and a modern City dweller.  They are worlds apart.

Therefore,
I make no reference to religious or other such points in my words, and
do not mean to offend any religious sensitivities.  My aim is just to
discuss historical facts about the origins of money, and that is all.

Meanwhile, if you look at Wikipedia, it leaves out this more entertaining aspect of the Shekel’s origins, although it concurs with the description above:

"Shekel also rendered sheqel, refers to one of many ancient units of
weight and currency. The first known usage is from Mesopotamia around
3000 BCE. One explanation is given for the origination of this word as
to have originally applied to a specific mass of barley, and the first
syllable of the word, ‘she’ was Akkadian for barley. A shekel was
originally 180 grains (8.33 grams). "

  but then Wikipedia is not the definitive Oracle is it?

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here…

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