The other day a good friend gave me $50 trillion. It was a single note, the second highest ever printed. Of course, I was excited, although the money was from Zimbabwe and worth basically nothing, except what I could sell it for on eBay. The biggest thrill, beyond seeing so my zeros, was the picture on the front of the bill. It was clearly a cairn, three rocks stacked a top each other.
You can imagine the shear joy for someone just finishing a book about cairns to see one honored on currency, especially when I discovered that the cairn was used on all of the Zimbabwe currency. Soon that initial tingling of pleasure was crushed. Turns out that those three rocks are not a cairn but a stack of three, large, naturally occurring balanced rocks.
The rocks are found near the town of Epworth about 9 miles south of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital and largest city. Known locally as Domboremari, or “the money rock,” they are part of a larger area called the Chiremba Balancing Rocks, which also includes the “Flying Boat Formation.” All are made of granite boulders, eroded to a perfect balance.
Apparently in the 1960s, the Rhodesian Bank’s Board of Directors wanted a well-known natural feature of the country and chose the rocks as a symbol of strength and stability. The stacked stones did appear on the Rhodesian dollar, though much less prominently than they do on the Zimbabwean currency.
After a little sulking, a few tears, and a shot of whiskey (with Whiskey Rocks), I have gotten over my disappointment that the rocks are not a cairn. How could I complain that a country chose a rock formation a symbol? I do, however, think that a cairn would make a good emblem. After all, a cairn is a sign of aide, a guide and comfort to those who are lost, and a means of communication that has existed for thousands of years. Perhaps some day some country will see the light and use one.