Kuijpers MHG, Popa CN (2021) The origins of money: Calculation of similarity indexes demonstrates the earliest development of commodity money in prehistoric Central Europe. PLoS ONE 16(1): e0240462. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0240462.
The origins of money and the formulation of coherent weight and measurement systems are amongst the most significant prehistoric developments of the human intellect. We present a method for detecting perceptible standardization of weights and apply this to 5028 Early Bronze Age rings, ribs, and axe blades from Central Europe. We calculate the degree of uniformity on the basis of psychophysics, and quantify this using similarity indexes. The analysis shows that 70.3% of all rings could not be perceptibly distinguished from a ring weighing 195.5 grams, indicating their suitability as commodity money. Perceptive weight equivalence is demonstrated between rings, and a selection of ribs and axe blades. Co-occurrence of these objects evidences their interchangeability. We further suggest that producing copies of rings led to recognition of weight similarities and the independent emergence of a system of weighing in Central Europe at the end of the Early Bronze Age.
Commentary from other researchers in the New York Times: An Ancient Form of European Money: Bronze Rings, Ribs and Blades