This tiny piece of silver may well lay claim to being the oldest coin in the world.
Recovered from Wari Bateshwar in Bangladesh, the site of what was clearly a community from Stone Age times, with Bronze Age settlements too. Archaeologists are recovering considerable evidence of the city as a major centre of both trade and industry.
Enclosed within the 5.3 km ramparts, on the banks where the Old Brahmaputra and Bhairab rivers link, secrets are emerging during each season of excavation.
In Wari Bateshwar, as in other sites in Bangladesh including Mahasthangarh, silver punch coins similar to coinage of about 600 BC found in Lythia (in Asia Minor, modern day Turkey) have also been found.
Looking as though punch marked into soft silver, producing a free shape, and dated to the same period. But a trove of these tiny coins, apparently cut from a sheet of soft silver also punch marked, and also dated to the same period appear unique, and may suggest an earlier origin.
It is not clear exactly why traders, who, at the time, traded in exchanges of goods, found the need to exchange goods for bullion, and even less clear why they were punch marked unless, simply, providing some form of early guarantee.
We do know that, towards the 1st Century BCE, trade through here in silk was bought for bullion, causing the Roman Empire to forbid the wearing of silk. And it may well be that even earlier exchange trade was not always available, necessitating bullion, even in small pieces.
Somehow, there seems something slightly odd about handling such treasures in one of the world’s poorest countries!