Tubular shell beads assembled into strings or woven into belts or embroidered ornaments. The Algonquian word (short for wampumpeag) translates as string of white (shell beads). Before contact with white settlers, Indians used wampum primarily ceremonially or in gift exchanges. In the early 17th century it came to be used as money in trade with whites, because of a shortage of European currency.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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