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Metal scraps from a late Bronze Age battlefield in northern Germany

Volker Minkus/Thomas Terberger

The first pan-European currency may have existed more than 2800 years ago in the Bronze Age. There were no coins yet and no central bank, but people across Europe used fragments of bronze – the majority of which were either a standard mass or a multiple of that.

“You can actually think of some monetary union in Europe without public institutions,” says Nicola Ialongo at the University of Göttingen in Germany.

Bronze is an alloy of copper and other metals, usually tin, that was used widely …