April 20, 2024

There’s a Strange Link Between Bees and Money, and It Goes Back Thousands of Years : ScienceAlert

In 2022, the Royal Australian Mint released a $2 coin decorated with honey bees. About 2,400 years earlier, a mint in the kingdom of Macedonia had the same idea, creating a silver obol coin with a bee stamped on one side.

Over the hundreds of years between these two events, currency showing a symbolic connection between honey and money has become very common.

In a recent study i Australian Coins ReviewI trace the bee through numerical history – and suggest a scientific reason why our brains might naturally draw a connection between the melliferous insects and the abstract idea of ​​value.

What is currency and why is it important?

Money is a store of value, and can act as a medium of exchange for goods or services. Currency is a physical representation of money, so the coins are a permanent representation of their value.

Coins have played a central role in many societies in enabling efficient trade since ancient times. Their durability makes them important time capsules.

Ancient Malta was famous for its honey. Modern coin 3 Mils (1972-81) celebrate this history with images of bees and honeycombs. According to the information card issued with the tire set:

The 3 Mils coin shows a bee and honeycomb, indicating that honey was used as currency in Ancient Malta.

In ancient Greece, bees were used on some of the earliest coins made in Europe. A Greek obol coin minted in Macedonia between 412 BCE and 350 BCE, now housed in the British Museum, shows a bee on one side of the coin.

An ancient obol from Macedonia, dated between 412 BCE and 350 BCE, shows a bee on one side. (Adrian Dyer)

Bees also appear on coins that survive elsewhere in ancient Greece, such as a bronze coin struck in Ephesus dated between 202 BCE and 133 BCE.

The use of bees on ancient coins increased over the centuries including widespread circulation of bronze coins, and new types continue to find out.

Ancient Medal Black Background
A bronze coin struck at Ephesus, dated between 202BCE and 133BCE, with a honey bee. (Adrian Dyer)

Why we like bees on coins

Why do bees appear so often on coins? One approach to this question comes from the field of neuroaesthetics, which seeks to understand our tastes by understanding the underlying brain processes that underlie aesthetic appreciation.

From this perspective, it appears that the sweet taste of honey – reflecting the large amount of sugar it delivers – promotes positive neural activity. related to bees and honey.

In fact, primatologist Jane Goodall once suggested that high-calorie nutrition could be obtained from honey an important step in primate cognitive development.

Therefore, our brains may be pre-adapted to like bees because of their association with the sweet taste of honey. The early use of bees on coins may be a functional expression of the connection between a known value (honey) and a new form of currency: coins as money.

The bee on modern coins

The use of bees as a design element continues from ancient times to the present day. A honey bee visiting a flower is shown on a series of ten centesimi bronze coins issued in Italy from 1919 to 1937.

(On the other hand, the world’s last stock of pure Italian honey bees can be found in Australia, on Kangaroo Island, which has been declared a sanctuary for Ligurian bees by the District. an act of parliament in 1885.)

More recently, the 20 Seniti coin from the Pacific nation of Tonga shows 20 honey bees flying out of a hive. This medal was part of a series initiated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to promote sustainable agricultural and cultural development throughout the world.

Bees are relevant here because their pollination efforts contribute to about one-third of the food needed to feed the world, which has added value US$200 billion per yearand are threatened by climate change and other environmental factors.

Bees on coins, today and tomorrow

Public awareness of bees and environmental sustainability may be factors in the current interest in beekeeping. The variety of countries that use bees as a design element over the entire history of coins suggests that people have long valued the relationship with bees as essential to our own prosperity.

In Australia, the 2022 honeybee $2 coin is part of a series developed by the Royal Australian Mint. In 2019, the Perth Mint in Western Australia issued coins and stamps celebrating native bees.

Despite the decline in cash, it seems that bee coins are still going strong. The victorious companions of human society are likely to be an important topic of coin design for as long as coins continue to be used.The conversation

Adrian DyerAssociate Professor, Monash University

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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