Archaeologists working in China's Henan province have discovered what they believe to be the oldest known coin mint in the world. The mint, found while archaeologists were excavating the ancient city of Guanzhuang, is 2,600 years old.
If confirmed, the find could rewrite the history of coinage.
Excavations have revealed miniature shovel-shaped bronze coins. Dozens of clay moulds used to cast coins were also found. As per radiocarbon dating, the mint became operational between 640 BC and 550 BC.
The findings were published in the journal Antiquity on 6 August, 2021.
Currently, coins of the Lydian empire, which was based in present-day Turkey, are considered the oldest coins in the world. Hao Zhao, an archaeologist at Zhengzhou University and the lead author of the research paper, says that the earliest mint for producing Lydian coinage dated between 575 and 550 BC.
He believes the new findings give weight to the idea that the earliest coins were minted in China, not Turkey or Greece, as long thought.
Zhao adds that the evidence points towards the fact that the discovery in Guanzhuang "is currently the world's oldest-known securely dated minting site".
The ancient city of Guanzhuang was established around 800 BC. A bronze foundry was established in about 770 BC to cast weapons, tools and vessels. But it was only about 150 years later that a mint was established.
Researchers found two spade coins, named after their similarity to the gardening tool. One of them was in near-perfect condition, measuring about 6 inches long and about 2.5 inches wide.
According to researchers, the most astonishing aspect of the discovery is that the coins were found with other objects that could be dated. The location of the find, close to the presumed seat of official administration, indicates possibilities that the administration recognised the activity.