I started to ask this question in the Writing SE, but realized that I want both a method and a mechanism, so decided that for the latter, I'd come over here.

I'm building a novel where the MCs are transported, unprepared, from the 24th Century to the 14th. They decide (the details of why aren't important here) to establish a business that will grow over the centuries. This has been taken care of. Afterward, they attempt to return home and find themselves 200 years closer to their starting point, but clearly not all the way there. They need to access their resources, particularly finances.

What mechanism could they have established in the late 14th C. that would allow them to clearly identify themselves as approved to have access to the funds that have been growing that entire time?

I've thought of a seal, or perhaps a seal and a passphrase. Both of those are simple enough, but not necessarily secure, since a signet ring or stamp could be reverse-engineered from the result. Is there a way to document, in a way that a 14th or 16th Century accountant could understand, something like a rudimentary public/private keypair system?


Probably a "split object" would work the best. An intricate artifact, best made of some stone with complex texture like malachite is split into two parts. Each party keeps one part. It is very easy to see when two parts are reunited whether they are matching or not.

The biggest challenge that I see is that the business that was left on its own would preserve their half of the artifact along with the story that whoever has the other part actually owns this business.

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    $\begingroup$ I like this. I’ve done some research into banking, which of course included reading up on the Medicis (the story is set in Croatia, so it was an easy integration). There was some side note about them buying up some smaller banks, and the document actually ended up naming the prominent family that owned the acquired bank. So I used that name. Even without historical accuracy, I have historical plausibility. I say all this to say that it’s likely a bank the size of the Medicis would be able to maintain something like this over centuries. $\endgroup$ – J.D. Ray Feb 8 at 2:03

A lock-box with bearer bonds and documents of ownership faking a line of descendants in periods before the early 1900's wouldn't be too hard. You could even just have the money placed into a safe or bank account that only you knew the password of; something like the Berenberg Bank. Also, don't overlook buried treasure.

  • $\begingroup$ I like this as a backup device rather than the primary method. They’ll need some cash. $\endgroup$ – J.D. Ray Feb 8 at 1:59

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