ASU archaeologist talks Aztec currency with New York Times
The latest New York Times Magazine’s Innovations Issue examines the history of currency.
Among the contributors is Arizona State University archaeologist Michael E. Smith, who discusses means of exchange in the Aztec Empire.
Smith notes that ancient Mesoamerican currency was chiefly cacao for day-to-day items and cotton cloth for more valuable goods.
“If you wanted to buy a taco at the marketplace, you’d use cacao beans,” says Smith, a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
It is believed that cacao and cotton were selected to be used as currency because they did not grow in the Aztec capital and were not easily available to locals. However, Smith has discovered evidence of cotton production nearby.