Archaeologists have been working in an area of Henan Province in eastern China. They excavated the remains of an ancient city called Guanzhuang and they discovered the oldest known coinage in the world. At the site, spade-shaped brass coins were mass produced 2,600 years ago.
Scientists on the project believe their discovery lends weight to the idea that China was the first place the coins were minted, not Turkey or Greece. Guanzhuang was a city surrounded by walls and a moat for its safety and was established around 800 BC. The foundry inside the city was used to cast bronze objects, including ritual vessels, weapons and tools.
This foundry opened in 770 BC, according to archaeologists Hao Zhao. About 150 years after the foundry opened, workers began knocking coins outside the downtown south gate. Archaeologists have been working on the site of the ancient city since 2011 and have discovered workshops and hundreds of pits used for foundry waste. The minting of pike coins began at the location between 640 BC and 550 BC.
The team used radiocarbon dating to determine when strike operations began and noted that it would not be later than 550 BC. Previous research has dated other ancient coins minted in Turkey to 630 BC at the earliest. The earliest known coinage that produced Lydian coins was dated between 575 BC and 550 BC. The dating of the other sites means that the Guanzhuang coin is currently the oldest known and reliably dated coin site in the world.
During the Guanzhuang excavation, archaeologists discovered two pieces of shovel, which look like small versions of the gardening tool and dozens of clay molds used to produce them. One part was in near perfect condition. It was barely 6 inches long and about 2.5 inches wide, weighing 27 grams. Project archaeologists note that it is rare to find coins and the tools used to strike them. The discovery of the tool and the part is what allowed scientists to date the site.