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Wampum

Wampum was a kind of ceremonial money used by peoples native to the east and northeast of what is now the United States. It was made by stringing beads made from the shells of shellfish. White beads were made from the shell of the Channeled whelk and purple beads from the Quahog. The beads could be strung together in many combinations, and were apparently sometimes used as ways to remember the past, not writing but a way to record some events. Wampum had great ceremonial value, and was used in ritual gift giving. It was sometimes used as a badge of office by tribal leaders. It was also sometimes used to authenticate messengers and their messages. It is not known how far back in the past wampum was used, but it is thought to date back to at least the 1500s. Dutch and English colonists used it as currency for a time, then the Dutch colonists started to mass produce wampum, resulting in inflation and a crash as wampum became valueless.