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Ancient Weights and Scales

Ancient and Medieval Weights and Scales for sale at Forum Ancient Coins

Ancient Scales and Weights on the Classical Numismatics Discussion

Weights are among the more common objects of pre-modern societies. Weights and a balance were essential for measuring quantities of many commodities and for evaluating coins. In the Islamic world, balance weights were made of metal, glass, or stone. If the mass of any small solid object conforms to an appropriate weight unit, it is likely to be a balance weight. Many excavated weights have been wrongly identified as game pieces or tokens.

Probably the most common class of weights are those for evaluating coins. The weights of pre-industrial handmade coins were often regulated loosely or not at all. Nearly every monetary transaction, therefore, required the use of a balance with weights, to ensure that the coins being transferred were of full weight or to measure their value as a direct function of their total mass. Every merchant, money changer, and fiscal official had a balance and a set of weights for the coins he used. Bakers in eleventh-century Cairo, for example, had weights for the bread they sold and for the coins they received (al-Musabbi hi, 63; Bates, "Function," 71). -- Michael Bates in Bates Weights.


Balog, P. "Fatimid Glass Jetons: Token Currency or Coin-Weights?" in JESHO 24 (1981), pp. 93-109.
Balog, P. "Islamic Bronze Weights from Egypt" in JESHO 13 (1970), pp. 235 - 255.
Balog, P. "Pesi di bronzo islamici del XIII secolo" in Quaderni ticinesi di numismatica e antichit classiche 1973, pp. 179-93.
Balog, P. "Poids forts fatimites en plomb," Revue Belge de Numismatique 105 (1959), pp. 171-88. PDF Online.
Balog, P. "The Fatimid Glass Jeton" in Annali dell 'Istituto Italiano di Numismatica 18-19 (1971-72), pp. 175-264; and 20 (1973), pp. 121-212.
Bates, M. "How Egyptian Glass Coin Weights Were Used" in Rivista Italiana di Numismatica e Scienze Affini 95 (1993), pp. 539-545.
Bates, M. "The Function of Fatimid and Ayyubid Glass Weights" in JESHO 24 (1981), pp. 63-92.
Bates, M. "Weights" for Encyclopedia of Islamic Archaeology (unpublished).
Berriman, A. Historical Metrology: A New Analysis of the Archaeological and the Historical Evidence Relating to Weights and Measures. (New York, 1953).
Bernard, S. "Notice sur les poids arabes anciens et modernes" in Description de l 'egypte...l 'expedition de l 'armee francaise, XVI. (Paris, 1825), pp. 73-106.
Bendall, S. Byzantine Weights, An Introduction. (London, 1996).
Campagnolo, M. & K. Weber. Poids Romano-Byzantins et Byzantins en Alliage Cuivreux Collections du Musee d 'Art et d 'Histoire - Genve. (2015).
Curiel, R. & P. Gignoux. "Un poids arabo-sasanide" in Studia Iranica 5 (1976), pp. 165-69.
Entwistle, C. A Catalogue of the Late Roman and Byzantine Weights and Weighing Equipment in the British Museum. (London, 2008).
Hafford, W. "Hanging in the Balance: Precision Weighing in Antiquity" in Expedition 47 (2005).
Hendin, D. Ancient Scale Weights and Pre-Coinage Currency of the Near East. (New York, 2007).
Holland, L. "Islamic Bronze Weights from Caesarea Maritima" in ANSMN 31 (1986).
Houben, G. The Weighing of Money. (Zwolle, Netherlands, 1982).
Ibrahim, T. "Ponderales andaluses" in Numisma 233 (July-December 1993), pp. 39-68.
Jovanovic, J. "Late Antique and early Byzantine spherical bronze commercial weights housed in the Archaeological Museum in Split" in Vjesnik za Arheologiju i Povijest Dalmatinsku, 2012, Vol. 105, pp. 179-200.
Krapivina, V. "Bronze Weights from Olbia" in Black Sea Studies 1 (Aarhus University Press, 2003), pp. 117 - 130. PDF Online.
Lang, M. & M. Crosby. The Athenian Agora X: Weights, Measures and Tokens. (Princeton, 1964).
Manns, F. Some Weights of the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods: English translation by Godfrey Kloetzli. Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Museum 7. (Jerusalem, 1984).
Meshorer, Y. Ancient Means of Exchange, Weights and Coins. The Reuben and Edith Hecht Museum Collection A. (Haifa, 1998).
Morton, A. A Catalogue of Early Islamic Glass Stamps in the British Museum. (London, 1985).
Mutz, A. Romische Waagen und Gewichte aus Augst und Kaisaraugst. Augster Museumshefte 6. (Augst, Switzerland, 1983).
Pilcher, E. "Weights of Ancient Palestine" in Palestine Exploration Quarterly. (Oct 1912). pp. 178-199.
Powell, M. "Money in Mesopotamia" in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 39:3 (1996).
Ronen, Y. "Coins as scale weights" in INR 5, 2010.
Ronen, Y. "The Enigma of the Shekel Weights of the Judean Kingdom" in Biblical Archaeologist 59:2 (1996).
Ronen, Y. "The Weight Standards of the Judean Coinage in the Late Persian and Early Ptolemaic Period" in Near Eastern Archaeology 61:2 (1998).
Scott, R. "Weights and Measures of the Bible" in Biblical Archaeologist 22:2 (1959).
Tekin, O. "Ancient and Ottoman Weights in the Collection of Bursa Museum" in Tarhan Armagani. (Istanbul, 2013). pp. 329 - 338.
Tekin, O. "A catalogue of weights in the museums of Bodrum and Milas (including some non-weight objects)" in Stratonikeia to Lagina, Festschrift in Honour of Ahmet Adil Tırpan. (İstanbul, 2013), pp. 613 - 622.
Tekin, O. Balance weights in the Aegean world, Classical and Hellenistic periods. (Istanbul, 2016).
Tekin, O. "Two Hellenistic Weights of Cyzicus From Dascylium" in Anatolia 39 (2013), pp. 121-127.
Tye, R. Early World Coins and Early Weight Standards. (York, 2009).
Weber, K. Byzantinische Mnzgewichte: Materialkorpus Fr 1-Nomisma-Gewichte: Studien Zur Vielfalt Der Ausfhrungsform, Metrologie Und Herstellung. (Solingen, 2009). Purchase online.
Weber, K. Late Antiquity Weights. Supplement 16. (Solingen, 2013).
Whitehouse, D. Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass, Vol. III. (Rochester, 1997).
Whitelaw, I. A Measure of All Things: The Story of Man and Measurement. (New York, 2007).

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