Extremely Rare and Large Stone Currency, Yap Island
largest diameter 42in (106.7cm) ; weight approximately 600lbs (272kg)
rai, carved in the shape of a disc out of natural coarse limestone.
Hera Ware Owen, Recipes from the South Seas
Grey, Eve, Legends of Micronesia, 2 vols, and
miscellaneous photographs, original receipt dated 1960, slides and correspondences by the field collector.
Acquired from the United States government on September 9, 1960 by Frank Johnson, Chief Engineer of Merchant Vessel Errol while serving in Micronesia (original receipt);
by descent to present owner.
According to Wavell (2010: 77-78), "Yap is known throughout the world for its giant stone money. Sometimes taller than the height of a man, this money is the largest and, many say, the most unusual form of money in the world. It consists of stone wheels of crystallized calcite shaped like millstones that are mined in Palau, 250 miles from Yap, and originally transported across the ocean on rafts attached to outrigger canoes. Many Yapese were killed in storms and accidents during transport, and, therefore, stone money was relatively rare, as well as somewhat restricted in size. These stone wheels, called rai, could be as small as seven inches across but were mined in larger and larger sized once European traders...supplied iron tools for mining and began to transport the stone wheels on sailing ships...
...In the fall of 1965, Yapese law prohibited the removal of Yapese stone money from the island without official taxation and approval of the transaction by the Yapese government (Gilliland 1975:18). This and later legislation has made it virtually impossible for genuine pieces of stone money to be removed from Yap, although occasionally museums obtain a special permit."
African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art
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