Rai stones on the Island of Yap

 

 

 

Rai stones are circular disks carved out of limestone with a large hole in the middle of the disk.

 

There are five major types of rai stone monies: Mmbul, Gaw, Fe' or Rai, Yar, and Reng.

 

The size of the stones varies with the largest stone being 3 meters (10 ft) in diameter, 0.5 meters (1Ĺ ft) thick and weighing 4 tons (8000 lb).

A large rai stone in the village of GachparA large rai stone in the village of Gachpar

The value of a specific stone is not only dependent upon the size and craftsmanship going into the carving of the stone, but also upon the history of the stone. For example, the value of a stone is affected by how many people may have died when that specific stone was transported to the island, or whether some well known person (sailor) brought the stone to the island.

These rai stones were used in social transactions like marriages, inheritance, political deals or negotiations, as compensation for damages suffered by a particular individual, transfers of land title, or in exchange for food. Visitors to the island find the stones placed in front of or alongside meeting houses or along certain pathways. Ownership is transferred without physically relocating the stones as it is rare to actually move any of the stones.

Although western-style money has replaced the rai stones as everyday currency, these stones are still exchanged in traditional ways between the inhabitants of Yap. The stones are also a national symbol and included on the islandís license plates.