"Ramo secco" ingot

Ramo secco

The forerunners of the first real money were ingots, semi-finished products made of various alloys. A well-preserved example of this currency is kept in the Tolmin Museum. It was excavated in 2002 at the Repelc fallow within the Iron Age necropolis in Most na Soči. It was made in a two-part mould and weighs 956 grams. The two larger surfaces are adorned with a motif that resembles a dry branch (in Italian, “ramo secco”). Chemical analysis of the object revealed that it was cast from a copper and lead alloy, which, in addition to the more common copper and iron alloy, was characteristic of such ingots from the western Emilia region of Italy.

The ingot from Most na Soči differs from the others in a special way. During its use, a small but very important piece of charcoal was inserted into the narrow slot on the upper surface. Radiocarbon analysis of this piece of charcoal definitively dates the ingot to the last decade of the 5th century BC, when pre-monetary assets of this type were most widespread. That means that the Iron Age aristocracy of the Soča Region was most likely paying with this "prehistoric money", which points to a strong connection between the inhabitants of the Soča Region and the Italic cultures of that time.

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