What just happened?

To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site

 
Kina shell

Large image 

On display

Room 68: Money 

Object details

Width: 21.6 cm
Museum number: Oc1990,09.273

See this object in the Collection online 

Image service

License image 
Commission photography 

Share this object

Kina shell

Papua New Guinea, 20th century

Countries often use images on their coins and banknotes to make statements about their identity. The five kina banknote of the Bank of Papua New Guinea, was first issued in 1981, and depicts a bird of paradise on the front and a kina shell on the back.

For many centuries, pearl shells were traded from the coast to the Highlands of New Guinea, where they were valued for their shining beauty, and were used as gifts exchanged on important occasions such as marriages. In the mid-twentieth century Australian colonial officials brought many more shells to the region. Pearl shells were then presented on impressive banners. When Papua New Guinea gained independence in 1975 the new coins and banknotes introduced were named after these shells.

Currency, in the form of paper money, has now largely replaced pearl shells in the local economy. Today, kina banknotes are presented on banners topped with bird of paradise plumes, in the same way as the pearl shells used to be.

Like the banknotes, Papua New Guinea's first coinage, issued in 1975, also alluded to tradition and the 1-kina coin carries a stylised bird of paradise emblem on one side.


Explore more