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Thread: Pictures of Aztec Money

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  1. #16
    us
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    I don't think they had "money" , per se. They were a Theocracy, with a fairly rigid social system with the priest class on top.

    I think these were more a 'status' item.
    "A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything." Friedrich Nietzsche

    "You ask where I live. I cannot tell you. I am a Voyageur, a Chicot, sir. I live everywhere. My grandfather was a voyageur; he died while on a voyage. My father was a voyageur; he died while on a voyage. I will also die while en route, and another Chicot will take my place. Such is our course of life."

  2. #17

    Dec 2005
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    Bum Luck,

    You are probably correct. The Aztec did not have money "per se". It was more of a barter/trade system. The principle items that served for what we would call money were cacao beans and cotton (quachtli), which was a woven cotton cape or blanket and was used as currency as well as for payments of tribute.

    Take care,

    Joe

  3. #18
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    Very cool Richard, I had no idea what Aztec money was until this thread. It must have really been something locating the caches. Was it all money?

    Thanks for the post!


  4. #19
    ca
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    Quote Originally Posted by cactusjumper View Post
    Bum Luck,

    You are probably correct. The Aztec did not have money "per se". It was more of a barter/trade system. The principle items that served for what we would call money were cacao beans and cotton (quachtli), which was a woven cotton cape or blanket and was used as currency as well as for payments of tribute.

    Take care,

    Joe
    Joe:

    Worth 8,000 cacao beans.....sounds like money to me.

    From the Smithsonian National Museum of American History website:

    NMAH | Aztec Hoe Money

    " this standardized, unstamped currency had a fixed worth of 8,000 cacao seeds—the other common unit of exchange in Mesoamerica."

    Probably used because they were easier to carry around,and count.
    For someone who had a lot of cacao beans.
    And something else to trade with,if they had no blankets (also bulky in quantity).

    Wonder how many for a gallon of gas ?

    Regards:SH.
    Last edited by somehiker; Apr 22, 2012 at 12:47 AM.
    Hell,you ain't never too old to look!

  5. #20

    Dec 2005
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    Wayne,

    I looked at that site some time ago. The Aztec did not start making tools with copper until the time of the conquistadors, as far as I know. What do you suppose someone would buy with 8,000 cacao beans? One good turkey hen was worth 100 full cacao beans? How easy do you suppose it was to go down to the street market to buy a few things for dinner......using "hoe money"?

    Perhaps the Internet is not the best place to learn about Aztec money, or how they lived day to day.

    Not saying the copper did not have value, just don't believe it was used as "Aztec money". The Aztec had a lot of copper.

    Maybe I just don't have enough imagination.

    Take care,

    Joe

  6. #21
    ca
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    Joe:

    I didn't know you held the Smithsonian in such low regard.
    Personally,I'm glad they have such a website,and more can be found by clicking on the "home" button.
    The description dates the artifact at about 1500,prior to the arrival of the Spanish.
    Similar finds,in caches of from 120-500 pieces,have not been rare,and seem not to have been used as tools.
    One author though,states that he can "imagine" them being used as such.

    From one of the other sources I've linked:
    "The earliest reference to these is in a document dated Oct. 31, 1548, in which a Spanish resident of Antiquera de Oaxaca, Francisco Lopez Tenorio, not only described the piece but also attached a drawing with the notation: "This is the form of copper coins that were in use in New Spain. The value placed and at which these were commonly accepted was of four such pieces, if new, for five Spanish reales. If worn, many refused to accept them, and they were sold to be melted at ten pieces for one Spanish Real.""
    This document is also cited here....
    Axe-monies and their relatives - Google Books Result

    More here as well....Microsoft Word - Hoe Money of AmericaNI2.doc

    Too bad the authors did not have the benefit of your expertise.

    Regards:SH.
    Last edited by somehiker; Apr 22, 2012 at 08:17 AM.
    Hell,you ain't never too old to look!

  7. #22

    Dec 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by somehiker View Post
    Joe:

    I didn't know you held the Smithsonian in such low regard.
    Personally,I'm glad they have such a website,and more can be found by clicking on the "home" button.
    The description dates the artifact at about 1500,prior to the arrival of the Spanish.
    Similar finds,in caches of from 120-500 pieces,have not been rare,and seem not to have been used as tools.
    One author though,states that he can "imagine" them being used as such.

    From one of the other sources I've linked:
    "The earliest reference to these is in a document dated Oct. 31, 1548, in which a Spanish resident of Antiquera de Oaxaca, Francisco Lopez Tenorio, not only described the piece but also attached a drawing with the notation: "This is the form of copper coins that were in use in New Spain. The value placed and at which these were commonly accepted was of four such pieces, if new, for five Spanish reales. If worn, many refused to accept them, and they were sold to be melted at ten pieces for one Spanish Real.""
    This document is also cited here....
    Axe-monies and their relatives - Google Books Result

    More here as well....Microsoft Word - Hoe Money of AmericaNI2.doc

    Too bad the authors did not have the benefit of your expertise.

    Regards:SH.
    Wayne,

    "Not saying the copper did not have value, just don't believe it was used as "Aztec money". The Aztec had a lot of copper."

    That was an opinion base on the research I have done into the history of the Aztec people. Many other people have a different opinion, and they are probably correct.....to a point, just as I may be.

    All things in a primitive culture have some value. Because of that, they may use, just about anything, for money/barter/trade.

    "Too bad the authors did not have the benefit of your expertise."

    I'm no expert but I do have an interest in Aztec history. Your comment hints that you believe you have more expertise than I. That's not saying much, so you will forgive me if I don't relinquish my opinion too easily.

    In "Aztecs of Mexico", George C. Vaillant writes this on page128: "Quills of gold dust sometimes were used as an exchange medium, as were crescent-shaped knives of thin-beaten copper. These last had not the common acceptance or the utility of cacao beans, although they represented easily portable value."

    In that respect, I suppose you could call Beaver pelts, shells, blue rocks and obsidian......money. In each case, its worth would depend on the desire of the person receiving it. Do those things meet the definition of "money"? I suppose it depends on who is doing the defining.

    As far as I know, there remains some debate over "Aztec hoe money". I looked into "Axe Money" some time ago, and have "Axe-Monies and Their Relatives".

    Take care,

    Joe
    Last edited by cactusjumper; Apr 22, 2012 at 12:49 PM. Reason: Spelling error

  8. #23
    ca
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    Joe:

    I am not trying to claim that Cacao was not considered the highest valued trade item by the Aztec.
    Only that the existence of this "Hoe Money",and it's use in trade,may have been a late step in evolution of the monetary system of the Aztec.


    I have also looked into the subject of Aztec copper artifacts,some time ago.While I as well,may be skeptical of some of the opinions/conclusions I read during my research,I do not consider either of us to be experts on the subject.Certainly not more than those at the Smithsonian.Currency can be many things,and trade goods are anything which two parties may exchange,be it cacao beans,fabrics used as "money",precious metals,etc.etc.
    The fact that gold dust,in transparent quills,was used as trade currency,does seem to be at odds with claims that the Aztec placed no value on gold,other than for religious purposes,doesn't it?

    The use of the term "money" seems to apply mainly to currency for which there is a set value,unlike many of the other items you mentioned,where the value was determined by the "barter" system.
    Both Cacao Beans and copper Hoe Money apparently had set value in the Aztec market.
    That value may diminish however,for hoe money,as mentioned by Tenorio,with age and condition being a factor.
    I suspect this would have applied to Cacao Beans as well.

    Regards:SH.
    Last edited by somehiker; Apr 22, 2012 at 01:56 PM.
    Hell,you ain't never too old to look!

  9. #24

    Dec 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by somehiker View Post
    Joe:

    I am not trying to claim that Cacao was not considered the highest valued trade item by the Aztec.
    Only that the existence of this "Hoe Money",and it's use in trade,may have been a late step in evolution of the monetary system of the Aztec.


    I have also looked into the subject of Aztec copper artifacts,some time ago.While I as well,may be skeptical of some of the opinions/conclusions I read during my research,I do not consider either of us to be experts on the subject.Certainly not more than those at the Smithsonian.Currency can be many things,and trade goods are anything which two parties may exchange,be it cacao beans,fabrics used as "money",precious metals,etc.etc.
    The fact that gold dust,in transparent quills,was used as trade currency,does seem to be at odds with claims that the Aztec placed no value on gold,other than for religious purposes,doesn't it?

    The use of the term "money" seems to apply mainly to currency for which there is a set value,unlike many of the other items you mentioned,where the value was determined by the "barter" system.
    Both Cacao Beans and copper Hoe Money apparently had set value in the Aztec market.
    That value may diminish however,for hoe money,as mentioned by Tenorio,with age and condition being a factor.
    I suspect this would have applied to Cacao Beans as well.

    Regards:SH.
    Wayne,


    It seems we are both moving, slowly, to the middle on this subject. It was a late step in the Aztec monetary system. Could it have been a desperate attempt by the Aztecs to convince the Spaniards that the copper, of which they had plenty, was more valuable than the gold and precious stones which they used for religious reasons?


    As I have stated before, I don't for a second consider myself any kind of expert. As for my feelings about the Smithsonian, I have had contact with them a number of times in the past and always found them to be helpful and knowledgeable. Once it was to provide myself
    with the list of items in the Ales Hrdlicka Collection. They sent me what I was interested in, some of which was concerning the Adolph Ruth investigation.

    Once again, what I said about the "Aztec Hoe Money" was strictly my uninformed opinion, based on the small amount of research I have done into the Aztec culture. One does not need to be an "expert" to form and express an opinion. I can assure you, my opinion on this matter is not based on a single source, and I doubt yours are either.

    Cacao beans did fluctuate In value, depending on if they were "full" beans or "shrunken". If they were the smaller beans, It was possible to roast the shrunken bean to make them appear like the "full" beans. The same holds true for the quachtli. There were three common grades worth, 65, 80 and 100 cacao beans. Of course, we have left out the feathers of the Quetzal.


    These kinds of conversations are always interesting for me, as well as being informative.

    Thanks for the replies,

    Joe

  10. #25
    ca
    May 2007
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    Joe:

    " Could it have been a desperate attempt by the Aztecs to convince the Spaniards that the copper, of which they had plenty, was more valuable than the gold and precious stones which they used for religious reasons? "

    I don't recall any historical reference to the Aztec having "plenty" of copper.There was a copper source,I believe not far from Tenochtitlan,where Cortez obtained metal from which to cast cannon,so it was something that the Spanish were interested in.The Aztec had traded copper bells for some time as well,and as artifacts,these bells have been found far to the north in many pre-columbian digs.These "celts",as they are sometimes called,have been dated (where found during archaeological excavations) as pre-conquest as well.
    Historically,I don't think the Aztec received much of anything from the Spanish for their copper....or their gold(which they did have plenty of).
    Other than the point of a sword.
    So it would seem unlikely that they would have made any such attempt.

    What was a "quill of gold" worth,I wonder ?
    In the markets,as well as for "tribute" (taxes).

    From :
    "Mexico, Aztec, Spanish and Republican, Volume 1 By Brantz Mayer" pub.1853

    Pg.106


    "But all this expensive machinery of state and royalty was not supported without ample revenues from the people There was a currency of different values regulated by trade which consisted of quills filled with gold dust of pieces of tin cut in the form of a T of balls of cotton and bags of cacao containing a specified number of grains The greater part of Aztec trade was nevertheless carried on by barter and thus we find that the large taxes which were derived by Montezuma from the crown lands agriculture manufactures and the labors or occupations of the people generally were paid in cotton dresses and mantles of featherwork ornamented armor vases of gold gold dust bands and bracelets crystal gilt and varnished jars and goblets bells arms and utensils of copper reams of paper grain fruits copal amber cochineal cacao wild animals birds timber lime mats and a general medley in which the luxuries and necessaries of life were strangely mixed It is not a little singular that silver which since the conquest has become the leading staple export of Mexico is not mentioned in the royal inventories which escaped destruction"...

    Vases of gold and gold dust are two of the commodities also mentioned in the passage quoted above,as having been used to pay tribute to Montezuma.
    I find that interesting.
    Other sources,including inventories of Spanish plunder, also mention "chips of gold" or tejuelo ,each worth 50 ducats (Cortez's Letters).
    They would therefore have been about 5 1/2 troy oz. each.
    Also interesting.

    Regards:Wayne
    Last edited by somehiker; Apr 22, 2012 at 10:56 PM.
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  11. #26

    Dec 2005
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    Wayne,


    Michael Coe writes in "Mexico", that "The large axe-money is from Mitla, Oaxaca." Since Milta Oaxaca did not fall to the Aztecs until 1494, it might be that what is being called "hoe money" may actually be tribute from Mitla Oaxaca. Metallurgy was being used by many of the tribes of Mexico, but came to the Aztec very late. That might explain why there was arsenic in the copper.


    One of the kingdoms that were using metallurgy, was Michoacan. Because they had been able to equip their warriors with copper weapons, they were able to turn back the Aztecs.

    There is more on the Aztec sources for copper, but it's late.


    Take care,

    Joe

  12. #27
    ca
    May 2007
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    Joe:

    The Aztec had a short history in central Mexico,relative to the city state civilizations who preceded them.
    Most of what they had,at the time of the conquest had been adopted/adapted from those who occupied the valley at the time of their arrival or prior to it.
    We could probably create a long list of things "not really Aztec" from the historical record,dating back to their days as a wandering tribe of homeless drifters.
    While none of these pre-hispanic civilizations would be labelled as a "copper culture",they had certainly discovered the metal and it's properties,and had found a number of practical applications for it.

    Regards:Wayne
    Last edited by somehiker; Apr 23, 2012 at 05:05 AM.
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  13. #28

    Dec 2005
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    Wayne,

    "By this time, copper alloys were being explored by West Mexican metallurgists some because the different mechanical properties were needed to fashion specific artefacts like particularly axe monies".

    Since there is arsenic present in the "hoe money", that indicates that the copper has been alloyed, making it more suitable for tools. That makes it look more and more like the "hoe money" was not produced by the Aztec, and was confiscated from defeated tribes or given as tribute.

    I think the doubts that have been expressed by some archaeologist, have considerable merit. Of course, that and five dollars will get me an average cup of coffee.

    Take care,

    Joe

  14. #29
    ca
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    Joe:

    Are you saying that the presence of arsenic in these copper artifacts was deliberate ?
    How would this prove the "hoes,axes,scrapers,or chisels",as they have been called by various theorists,as NOT being of Aztec manufacture ?

    Regards:Wayne
    Hell,you ain't never too old to look!

  15. #30
    Charter Member
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    I'd call these tools a form of 'commodity money' since they have value in themselves as well as for use as money.
    Coins did not come to the New World until the Spanards got to Mexico, built the first mint and created the first coin--in about 1536.
    Don.......
    Last edited by Mackaydon; Apr 23, 2012 at 11:53 PM.

 

 
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