owrie shells are definitely one of the single most recognizable symbols of African culture today. Not only have they been used as currency they also have other religious and cultural symbolism.
According to Wikipedia; Cowry or cowrie is the common name for a group of small to large sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs in the family Cypraeidae. It is majorly found in the Indian Ocean and was collected in the Maldive Islands, in Sri Lanka, along with the Malabar coast, in Borneo and on other East Indian islands, and in various parts of the African coast.
The word cowrie is most often used to refer to the shells that the animals grow around themselves. It is believed that cowrie shells were one of the first currency used by mankind.
Over the years, African cowrie shells have served a number of significant purposes and here are some of them…
Uses of African Cowrie Shells
In Ancient Africa, cowries represented wealth and were traded for food, goods, and other services. Asides being used as currency, cowries were also associated with sexual pleasure and good luck.
In Modern times, cowrie shells have been used in African arts and crafts, jewelry, accessories and for beautification purposes.