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World’s First ‘Cash Machine’ In Roman Empire Discovered In A Wall Of An Ancient Bakery

One never knows where archaeological treasures are hidden. Sometimes the most unanticipated finds can be made in unexpected places.

The invention of the first cash machines is often still debated, but it’s known that in the 1960s, James Goodfellow patented the first cash-dispensing automatic teller machine (ATM) and created the first pin code. Of course, money is not a new invention. The first evidence of a monetary system dating back more than 7,000 years have been found in Mesopotamia. “The Mesopotamian shekel – the first known form of currency – emerged nearly 5,000 years ago. The earliest known mints date to 650 and 600 B.C. in Asia Minor, where the elites of Lydia and Ionia used stamped silver and gold coins to pay armies.” Before the invention of coins, ancient people used stones, shells and other objects as money.

The fact ancient people used money in different forms is by no means a surprise, but the discovery they also invented what can be best described as a “cash machine” was certainly not expected. While excavating in the United Kingdom scientists stumbled upon what they define as the world’s first cash machine.

Archaeologists “unearthed evidence of the world’s first cash machine dating back to the Roman empire, buried for centuries in an unassuming field in Hatfield, England. The ‘noteworthy’ discovery suggests Juno Moneta, the Roman Goddess of Money and Funds, was smiling on the British Isles as early as AD 265.

The discovery, located in what appears to be the wall of an ancient bakery at the heart of the commercial Roman town, sheds light on how cash was the cornerstone on which the ancient community was founded and clearly shows the Romans were indeed keen on their ‘dough’,” the City A.M. reports. The mysterious fragments and collection of Roman coins, dated to the year AD 289, are traces of one of the world’s first automated monetary distribution machines, with clear signs of wear and tear from extensive use by townsfolk. The site points to cultural evolutions showing how shoppers and local shopkeepers alike were clearly ‘cashing in’ on a ready source of money in their town. A Roman vase was also discovered at the site, filled with cash. Archaeologists believe the vase was used for cash storage within the wall so the Hatfield Romans could easily replenish and access their hard ‘urned’ money. The site and fragments of the Roman ‘Hole in the Wall’ serve as an important reminder of how physical cash has always been embedded within British life. Locals have expressed a mixture of surprise and skepticism about this unusual find. “For my two-penneth, it sounds like a load of old bullion to me’, however, the presence of minted currency shows the Romans in Hatfield were clearly ‘coining it in’ well before current historians had previously estimated,” one local skeptic said.

The discovery of this ancient ATM serves as a reminder that cash has been around for centuries and should be protected as a matter of consumer rights. Marc Terry, Managing Director of Cardtronics, shared with City A.M.: “The impact of cash within British history and culture can’t be underestimated and now, more than ever, access to cash must be protected to maintain this cornerstone of British communities well into the future. Our recent research underlines this conviction and demonstrates the level of concern that UK consumers have for the reduction of cash access and acceptance across the country.”