Wednesday, October 31, 2018

One Ounce Bronze Commercial Barrel Weight, γA

Late Roman or early Byzantine bronze commercial weight –This weight is probably from the east and after weights with Roman numbers (I for a one ounce) and before only Greek numbers / letters were used. The seller proposed 500 - 650 AD. The weight has a Greek number and Roman letter to mark its weight. I can not tell from the picture if any of the original silvering is still on the weight. Simon Bendall in Byzantine Weights, pg 8, splits scale weights into commercial and coin weights. He then shows symbols for Roman and Byzantine weights. The  γA on this weight is for one ounce = 27.2 grams in theory = one VNCIA (ounce) = 1/12 of an As (Roman pound). One As = 327.45 grams.

Uniface barrel- shaped 1 uncia weight. Cylindrical with a slightly bulging center and with a flat top and bottom. The top bears a center punch flanked by the engraved letters γA = 1 uncia.
nVF, toned with some crust
Diameter = 15- 17mm
Weight = 26.18 g
Bendall numbers 33 & 34

purchased from numismatiklanz, 10/31/2018

Monday, October 29, 2018

Byzantine bronze commercial weight – semuncia

Byzantine bronze commercial weight (from Artemide eLive 5 - Antiquities) – This one is similar to my Roman weights, but it has Greek letters to mark its weight. Simon Bendall in Byzantine Weights, pg 8, splits scale weights into commercial and coin weights. He then shows symbols for Roman and Byzantine weights. The BI on this weight is for one semuncia = 13.6 grams in theory = half an uncia (ounce) = 1/24 of an As (Roman pound). One As = 327.45 grams.

This piece is 15 mm in diameter and 14 g.

I have one other semuncia weight (14.3 grams), but it has no marks. See below.

The weights clockwise from upper left:
6 uncia commercial weight = 154.4 grams
two steelyard weights, left one bronze, right one lead = 24.5 & 27.2 grams
three coin weights, 1 Solidi, symbol N or four dots - 3.9, 4.0 & 4.3 grams
three commercial weights
   3 uncia = 67.8 grams
   1 uncia = 27.1 grams
   semuncia = 14.3 grams

Thursday, October 11, 2018

L. Roscius Fabatus Girl feeding snake - Crawford 412/1

I bought this coin because I liked the symbol pair. I have not seen an ancient scale or balance on a coin or from other sources with these features:
  • ·        Two horizontal beams.
  • ·        An arch below the beams.
  • ·        A base with legs to hold the vertical post that holds the beam. Most coins are held from above the beam by hand.
  • ·        The pan on the right is larger than the pan (weight?) on the left.

It looks a bit like the Nuremberg ducat scale pictured below from Scales and Weights by Bruno Kisch, pg 40. When a gold ducat of low weight was placed in the right pan, the arch showed how many grains the coin was below standard. I have not seen any ancient scale pictures with the arch.  

If someone knows of a reference with a scale like the one below, let me know.

L. Roscius Fabatus Girl feeding snake
Scale and Scale Weight Box Control Symbols

64 BC, Cr412/1

AR Denarius (Serratus); L. Roscius Fabatus;  64 BC Chr., Rome,
Obv - Head of Juno Sospita r. in the goatskin cap that is tied in front, behind balance / scale, below: L.ROSCI; border of dots
Rev - Girl stands r. feeding snake that is raised in front of her, behind box for weights, In Ex: FABATI; border dots
3.94 g
Crawf. 412/1, o/r dies = 240/241
BMC 3474 – this control symbol pair
Syd. 915
RSC / Bab. 1; Note: both books show the scale / box symbol pair.
gVF, well centered and struck, nicely toned, some scratches
On the occasion of the annual festival of Juno Sospita in Lanuvium, a virgin had to feed the snake living in the basement of the temple. If the girl was chaste, she left the cave to much celebrating from her family, otherwise she was killed by the snake.
Crawford notes the die symbols were pairs of related every-day objects. There was no more than one die for each symbol. Bab lists 155 pairs. Grueber lists 108 pairs. Crawford lists 242 pairs.
3.94 g.

Nuremberg ducat scale from 
Scales and Weights by Bruno Kisch, pg 40.

Staedtler 6in plastic protractor with swing arm

Some ancient coins with scales. Mine are the first few.

Egyptian painting from book of dead

quadrans of Claudius
Purchased from Numismatica Tintinna

Follis of Maximinus
purchased from MA Shop Gert Boersma
Roman Republic, MN. CORDIUS RUFUS 46BC
purchased from Ken Dorney

Roman Republic, C. Annius brockage 
purchased from NAC

Roman Republic, C. Piso L.f. Frugi. 61 BC (CNG)

Roman Republic, C. Annius and L. Fabius, 82-81 BC (NAC)

Roman Republic, Q. Metellus Scipio and P. Licinius Crassus Iunior, 47-46 BC (New York Sale)

Similar to mine from CNG

Similar to mine, but scale / modius (a bucket to measure grain) from CNG

Friday, September 21, 2018

A tiny Roman steelyard scale

Roman Steelyard Balance

1st-3rd century AD

I bought an interesting, and small, Roman Steelyard scale in a recent auction. It was advertised as bronze. It is not magnetic, so I assume bronze is correct. The length of the beam is 150 mm. The seller advertised it as 240 mm. It is 240 mm if you hold the scale by the weighing hook, but it is impossible to weigh items that way. “A steelyard has a beam with unequal arms. The long arm has a weight suspended from it, which is moved until equilibrium is obtained. The load is suspended from the short arm of the beam.1” This scale has two fulcrum points, or weight ranges (low and high). Weight range is switched by rotating the load hook 180o and using the other fulcrum point.
The scale is good but not the best design available in ancient Rome. Scale accuracy is a function of repeatable distances between the fulcrum hanger, load hanger and weight hanger. The most accurate design had load and fulcrum points in the center of the scale arm and used football shaped dowels, see pics below of my small steelyard scale and two different 19th century scales.
The weight range of this scale is indicated by stamped dots or lines on two sides of the scale arm. I could not make a regular pattern on either side. The low weight range scale arm had 14 dots and two lines. The high weight scale arm had only two dots (that I could see for sure) and about 8 lines (again hard to see). In a flat part of the scale arm were several counter stamps. I assume the stamps were some approval of the scale’s calibration. They are hard to see in hand or in pictures, but I guess there are a dozen or more. The counter stamps are not all the same. One looks a bit like PacMan with a wide open mouth.
This scale is a plane jane version. Some scales have decorations. I thought this one might be decorated because the seller mentioned a finial. A finial is an ornament at the top, end, or corner of an object.  See pic below.

I am not sure what would have been measured with a scale this size, but I estimate the max weight would be about 6 US pounds or 3 Kg. I bent the holder of a scale when I attempted to put too much weight (3 asses, or 3 US pounds, including both the weights and some Aes Rude) on a two pan balance about this size.

The seller’s description, modified a bit:
Roman Steelyard Balance. 1st-3rd century AD
A bronze steelyard with impressed point scale, two lateral chains and finial with hook, lead weight with wire hook. 29 grams total, steelyard: 24cm overall (9 1/2"). Note: the overall length is only 150 mm! The extra 90 mm is when the chain and hook are counted as length.
[2 pieces: scale & scale weight]
Condition: Fine condition.
Provenance: Private collection, home counties, UK; acquired before 1980.
TimeLine Auctions; September 4 to 10, 2018: Ancient Art, Antiquities & Coins; LOT 1217

Scale Weight = 26.38 grams
Weight Dia = 17.8 – 18.2 mm
Weight height = 16.2 mm (56 mm including hook)

Scale beam length
15.6 mm from short arm fulcrum to short end
135 mm from short arm fulcrum to long end
150 mm total length

High range scale, short distance from fulcrum hanger to hook for holding item to be weighed
15 mm from short arm fulcrum to weight hook (high weight scale)
135 mm from short arm fulcrum to long end
27 mm from short arm fulcrum to minimum weigh point of long end
Ratio = 135 / 15 = 9.0
Ratio = 27 / 15 = 1.8

Low range scale, long distance from fulcrum hanger to hook for holding item to be weighed
28.9 mm from long arm fulcrum to weight hook (low weight scale)
123 mm from long arm fulcrum to long end
27 mm from long arm fulcrum to minimum weigh point of long end
Ratio = 123 / 28.9 = 4.3
Ratio = 13 / 28.9 = 0.45


Scale Range
Minimum, with one uncia weight that came with scale
Maximum, with one uncia weight that came with scale
Minimum, with one As weight
Maximum, with one As weight
Low, long arm
0.45 uncia = 12 g
4.3 uncia = 120 g
0.45 As = 150 g
4.3 As = 1,400 g
High, short arm
1.8 uncia = 49 g
9.0 uncia = 250 g
1.8 As = 590 g
9.0 As = 2,900 g

scale in high weight range mode

scale in low weight mode, note the scale weight is just the right weight to balance the scale, some scales place a plumb bob on the scale to help detect the balance point

19th century scale

19th century scale

counter marks on side one

counter marks on side two

finial ornament at the top of an Islamic mosque

measuring scale arm

7.      Measuring and weighing in ancient Times, English editor – A. M. Goldstein, Hecht Museum
8.      Pondera, Pesi E Misure Nell’Antichita; Carla Corti & Nicolette Giordani

Monday, July 2, 2018

One Week's Pay for a Roman Soldier at Veii

My interest in Roman pre-money started when I read Rome paid soldiers for the first time at Veii about 400 BC, or a century before they started producing coins. A century earlier, Servius Tullius classified citizens by wealth.
If bronze ingots were used for money, how were they measured. It seems likely that steelyard scales would have been used. They are better for weighing heavy items than the double balance scale.
The following pics are from my display at the Texas Numismatic Association (TNA) meeting in June.
 The display shows one week's pay in the large pan of the steelyard scale = 21 Asses = 6900 grams = 15 US pounds. Rome did not produce coins in 400 BC. The pan includes some cast bars, cast cakes and Aes Rude pieces. 

Pages of plates from Haeberline, see pic and info on the book below, cover the bottom of the display are. Some pieces not needed to make 15 pounds of bronze are shown. 

This double pan balance holds half a day's pay or 1.5 Asses. The scale weights in the left pan weigh one As and one Semis (= S = VI VNCIA = 6 Roman ounces). 

Haeberline's book and plates.

Hab plate 21. This must be a blue state set of Aes Grave, the prows are pointing left and they weigh less. Prows pointing right weigh more.

Roman scale weights, the left one is 6 ounces and could be Republican, the right one has a portrait that looks like a LRB (late Roman Bronze, or 3rd centruy AD) to me.

I bought this Roman Steelyard scale as a lot of two pieces. The weight has a portrait that looks like LRB. The balance arm could be older or newer.
Several weights that could be used with a steelyard scale. I have the one in the lower right on the balance in the picture, but the scale is held by a second hanger to keep from having problems in the case. 

I tested my scale using windshield washer fluid before building the display.

A few more pics for good measure:

The above pic from a Sands of Time email. 

another Haberline plate showing a Ramo Secco bar

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Barrel Shaped Bronze Scale Weight, 326 gram, with Silver Inlay

Barrel Shaped Bronze Scale Weight, 326 gram, with Silver Inlay
This weight is the largest of three scale weights I purchased recently. The seller's pic, Timeline Auctions, is below.  A similar 326 gram weight sold 3 months earlier and is the 2nd pic below. Both were advertised as Viking, but look a lot like Roman barrel weights. They have the right weight for a Roman pound or As.

Antiquities - Viking
Viking Large Weight with Inlay, 10th-12th century AD
A substantial bronze barrel-shaped weight with inlaid silver geometric motif. 
328 grams
33.3 mm tall
42.3 mm largest diameter
30 - 31 mm top and bottom (small) diameter
Condition Fine 
Provenance - From an old North Country collection; formed between 1970-2000.
Literature - See Weber, K. Byzantinische Münzgewichte: Materialkorpus für 1-Nomisma-Gewichte, Schwelm, 2009 for discussion.

I asked the seller why the weights were listed as Viking when they look a lot like Roman / Byzentine weights. He said:
The Viking weight was attributed as Viking as it was found from a Viking site/context. The Vikings regularly re-used Roman and Byzantine trade weights for their own purposes. 
I think my weight has a wolf design on part of the top. Below the design (wolf and twins?) is a horizontal line and letters. 
the top of my coin, you need a good imagination to see the wolf

I think the wolf looks a bit like this one.

Side view, this color looks about right. The two pics above had extra light to try to bring out the design.

Bottom view.

I have not decided if cleaning would improve my chances to see the design on my weight. I am inclined to leave it as is.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Roman Cupid Steelyard Weight

I have been interested in scales and scale weights for a while. I bought three weights in a recent auction. The best item is one in the form of Cupid. Note the chain is a thick braid formed loops crossed at 90 degree angles.

Antiquities - Roman
Roman Cupid Steelyard Weight
1st-2nd century AD
A bronze steelyard weight comprising a length of trichinopoly chain with hook finial, and a hollow-formed bust of Cupid with small lateral wings to the shoulders, styled hair, wreath to the neck, small nose and pellet eyes.
78.5 grams; the weight is about 65 grams and the chain is about 12 grams
57 mm wing tip to wing tip
60.5 mm tall
22.4 mm thick
150 chain length
17.5 mm S loop
Condition - Fine

Provenance - Property of a British gentleman; formerly in the private collection of Russian businessman Yuri Golubev (1942-2007), some of his collection was published in his book 'Symbols and Images'; acquired on the London art market 1990s-2007.

Literature - Cf. Simpson, G. Roman Weapons, Tools, Bronze Equipment and Brooches from Neuss-Novesiaum Excavations 1955-1972, BAR International Series 862, Oxford, 2000 plate 48 for type.
See pictures from the book by Simpson of a steelyard scale with a head of Bacchus below. Note the scale below is larger: weight 2160 grams (about 20X) and height 115 mm (about 2X), or over 20 times heavier for 2 times the size. This is due to lead filling. 

A second weight was listed as an Iron Age Celtic Steelyard Weight with Bust. This weight fits inside the Cupid weight.

Antiquities - Celtic Iron Age
Iron Age Celtic Steelyard Weight with Bust
1st century BC-1st century AD
A bronze weight with discoid base, shank formed as a crude male bust with loop above.
16 grams
21.6 mm tall, including loop
18.4 X 19.3 mm base diameter, not quite circular
The head is 10.7 mm wide and 12.3 mm from tip of nose to back of head
Condition - Fine
Provenance - Property of a British gentleman; formerly in the private collection of Russian businessman Yuri Golubev (1942-2007), some of his collection was published in his book 'Symbols and Images'; acquired by auction on 16 October 2006; accompanied by a copy of the listing.

A few of the other weights are shown below.
The top left lead weight could be a fishing sinker, scale weight, plumb bob, loom weight or something else. My guess is loom weight.
The top middle, acorn shaped weight Acorn Weight is 46 X 15 mm and weighs 29 grams. It could be a plumb bob or steelyard scale weight. like the one below found near Cyprus.

The upper right weight has a geometric pattern, weighs 300+ grams and is 37 mm tall by 39 mm diameter. It has a bronze shell and lead filling.
The lower right weight has what looks like a portrait of a LRB (Late Roman Bronze coin). It weighs 380 grams and is 74 X 34 X 22 mm.

I think the middle lead piece is a scale weight, but could be a votive offering.