From Barter To CoinsIn the beginning — long before wire transfers or central banks or even coins — there was barter. Tribes in Mesopotamia and Phoenicia began trading livestock as early as 6000 BCE, adding grains and vegetables as agriculture developed.
Driving cattle and hauling heavy sacks of grain was cumbersome. Around 1200 BCE, Chinese merchants began using cowrie shells and metal knives and spades as substitutes for goods they delivered later. The metal implements were rounded off, possibly to prevent accidents. They evolved into coins — the first money.
By 500 BCE, coins were circulating in Turkey, Greece, Persia and Macedonia. Later, they spread to the Roman Empire. Nonetheless, ancient Roman soldiers may have been paid at least partially in salt, a practice that — according to Pliny the Elder — explains the word “salary.”