Captain Blackthorn grimaced against the salt air that sandblasted his face. His men were weary, his ship was falling apart and the hold was replete with treasures beyond counting. It was time to head home and enjoy the bounty that years at sea had brought them. As he braced himself against the pressing squall he considered the conundrum of converting said bounty into a transferable asset that could easily be spent without arousing suspicion of the local militia or the jealousy of rival pirates. If only large amounts of wealth could be represented on something as light and unobtrusive as a piece of paper. But then Blackthorn had a idea:
"I know what we'll do! We'll bury it!…"
Medieval Britons didn't write contracts. Instead, men making agreements would clap their knives onto an altar and recite the agreement three times to seal a deal. Even after the Normans introduced written contracts, British nobles would wrap the parchment around a knife to authenticate it.