Topic: Micronesia

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Rai Stones

Anthropology Numismatics Trade Micronesia Micronesia/Federated States of Micronesia

The Micronesian island of Yap is known for its stone money, known as Rai (Yapese: raay), or Fei: large doughnut-shaped, carved disks of (usually) calcite, up to 4 m (13 ft) in diameter (most are much smaller). The smallest can be as little as 3.5 centimetres (1.4 in) in diameter. There are around 6,000 of the large, circular stone disks carved out of limestone formed from aragonite and calcite crystals. Rai stones were quarried on several of the Micronesian islands, mainly Palau, but briefly on Guam as well, and transported to Yap for use as money. They have been used in trade by the Yapese as a form of currency.

The monetary system of Yap relies on an oral history of ownership. In the case of stones that are too large to move, buying an item with one simply involves agreeing that the ownership has changed. As long as the transaction is recorded in the oral history, it will now be owned by the person to whom it is passed and no physical movement of the stone is required.

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