Friday, December 15, 2017

Roman Scale and Weight with Inscribed Face

My first ancient scale arrived this week! The scale is only the beam that formed the backbone of a steel yard scale. It is missing hooks and or pans that would have attached the scale to a solid object and held the item(s) being weighed. A scale weight with markings was part of the lot. The picture on one large side of the weight looks like a late Roman bronze coin portrait.
The weight and beam may have been from different scales, but both look (and were sold as) ancient. I have an old US steel-yard scale. Pictures of both and some of my weights are shown below.

The vendor's description; Timeline Auctions, London:

A mixed group comprising: a bronze steelyard with incised gradations, pierced bulb, knop finial, two loops with chains; a tongue-shaped lead weight with stamped profile bust to one face, graffito inscription 'ERLILAFAV' to one face, '[...]CID[...]' to the other, loop above. 380 grams total, 73-22cm (3 - 8 5/8"). [2]

Fine condition.

Provenance - From a private collection; formed 1965-1975.

Shown above are two scales:
·         US steel-yard scale – 22” overall length; weight = 985 grams; beam weight = 800 grams
o   Low range scale = 6 to 28 lbs
§  Center to scale weight = 40 mm
§  Center to end of beam on weighing side = 470 mm
§  Scale marked in 2 lb increments 37.7 mm apart
§  6 lb mark is 54 mm from center
o   High range scale = 30 to 100 lbs
§  Center to scale weight = 10 mm
§  Center to end of beam on weighing side = 480 mm
§  Scale marked in 10 lb increments 53.5 mm apart
§  10 lb mark is 72 mm from center
·         Roman steel-yard scale – 8” overall length; weight = 307 grams; beam weight = 70 grams
o   Low range scale = ? to ?
§  Center to scale weight = 58.2 mm
§  Center to end of beam on weighing side = 142 mm
§  Scale marked in ? increments ___ mm apart
o   High range scale = ? to ?
§  Center to scale weight = 44.7 mm
§  Center to end of beam on weighing side = 142 mm
§  Scale marked in ? increments ___ mm apart

o   There are 3 sets of marks on the weighing end of the beam. My measurements averaged 18.4 mm apart, but they varied from 17.4 to 20 mm apart.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Roman Steelyard Scales

I bought two scales recently to go with my roman scale weights and cast bronze (that had to be weighed). The first arrived today. It is not ancient, but is old by US standards. The first pics are from the seller. The 3rd one is what arrived today.

The seller's description - Surrender Dorothy. Unexpected Vintage Finds Fresh Every Day.
Scale 22 1/2" long. Three 3 1/2" hooks plus one for hanging. Light surface rust.
Condition / Good. Works great. This handsome must-have vintage farm tool is in good working order and has been pre-used and pre-loved, Some wear to the finish. It's all ready to go to work again in your own shop... 
NOTE - the scale can be hung two ways. The light weight mode has a long lever arm to the hooks holding an item being weighed. This range is 5 - 26 pounds. The heavy weight mode has a shorter arm to the load and has a range of 25 - 130 pounds.

The scale and some other items that arrived today. I will post the coins and 2.5 Kg bronze currency bar later.

I bought this partial Roman Steelyard Scale last weekend. I hope it arrives soon. I want to look at the two scales side by side.

The steelyard weight above is from the Getty Museum. The one on my scale is not so fancy.

I am building a stand for my scale. You can see the two ranges (sides) below by looking at how far the weight is from the hanger for the same weight. When I looked at the vendor's pictures, I wondered why there were so many hooks. There are two hanging hooks, on opposite "sides". 
The gallon and a half of water is below the minimum weight mark on the high range scale, above. I could not move the weight close enough to the center to balance (level) the bar.

The gallon and a half of water on the low range scale, above, sets the weight near the middle of the balance bar.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

One Roman Pound, 333 gram Roman Bronze Weight with marks

Collections of ancient Roman items tend to grow at irregular rates. At least that has been the case for me. I started collecting scale weights recently as an extension of my interest in cast bronze (pre-money) from Central Italy. My last post showed a weight marked VI = half an As = 6 uncia. Today I "won" a one pound weight in an auction.
The description on this one was short and sweet:

ROMAN. Circa 4th century AD(?). Æ One Libra Weight (53x50mm, 332.92 g). Male bust surrounded by EX B M C S C / Crude engraved “L.” Two flat faces with beveled edge. Intact. Highly interesting and extremely rare with bust and legend.

A couple of recent purchases that were described in the next post. Top left is a lead weight. Top right is a bronze weight. Below is a lead shell that could have been a scale weight, a votive item or something else.

The one pound (As) weight arrived today! It is the one on the top left. A better pic of the man is below.

Clockwise from top left, center last
  • Bronze 332.4 gram scale weight, Roman, about one pound or one As
    • obverse = EX.BMC.SC, male head
    • reverse = L for one pound (As)
  • Lead 318 gram loom weight (Roman?), this is about a Roman pound or As
  • Bronze 48.6 gram Aes Rude with inscription +, note this is close to two uncia or one sextans
  • Lead 129.5 gram scale weight, Punic (?)
  • Bronze 154.4 gram scale weight, Roman, this is about one Semis or 6 Uncia or half an As 
    • obverse inscription = VNCIAS (top row), VI (bottom row), center dot inside circle
    • reverse = center dot inside circle
  • Lead 59 gram shell, might have been weight, votive item or something else. Many recent auctions call these votive items. This one (and several others) weigh about two uncia or one sextans

Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Weighty Post

Ancient Scale (and other) Weights
My wife wants to know why I am BUYING fishing weights! A short answer is: My coin collecting focus is Roman Republican coins. Most of these are silver denarii or struck bronze coins. I also have a nice group of cast bronze aes rude, bars and formed bronze from central Italy. An extension of my cast bronze collection is an interest in how did the Romans weigh (or portion) their cast bronze. Along this line of thought, I started reading about scales and collecting scale weights. I have several pieces that were certainly scale weights and others that may have been scale weights. Most of the may have been pieces are either cast bronze or lead. I do not have scale weights made from other materials yet: glass, stone and other metals.
The best of the best of this collection is a Roman bronze weight. I do not know what time period, but similar shaped weights were found in excavations at Pompeii. Shown below is this weight, a lead and a lead shell (the shell could be a weight or votive offering).

 Items from the top picture, clockwise from top right:
1. From the seller: I am sending you a picture of a very interesting weight we recently receive in consignment. It looks like a byzantine weight, but it has a Roman inscription  VNCIAS  VI. The weight is 155g. VNCIAS is the word for ounce, this is why i think this is really interesting.
A Roman pound is about 324 grams and had 12 ounces called uncia. The Romans used V for both letters U & V. This weight weighs close to the "official" weight of a Semis or 6 Uncias.
2. an Italic votive lead scallop-shell, 59 grams
3. Sardo-Punic lead weight, 130 grams 
Shown below are some Roman weights.
From a museum in Italy.

The Roman weights shown above and below are from a museum in Chester England.

The next two pics are weights from the Edward C. Streeter Collection of Weights and Measures Located at the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, Yale University

Bruno Kisch was curator of the Streeter Collection at Yale when he wrote the book below. I have enjoyed the book and look here when I want to know a bit more about scale weights.

This summer I bought a group of small weights that were advertised as late Roman or Byzantine weights.

Clockwise from top left:
  1. N, 3.97 grams, 16.2 X 15.1 X 2 mm
  2. N, 4.32 grams, 13.7 X 10 X 4 mm
  3. four dots, 3.9 grams, 12.5 X 11.9 X 4 mm

I recently bought two lots of lead weights.
The first:
It was described as: Weight in pb to be catalogued. The 35 X 52 mm; over 250 grams (I am guessing that is the max of the seller's scale. I bought a heavier one to weigh the 388 gram bar I bought recently. I think this is a weaving loom weight.

The following lot fro the Chris Rudd collection is a big one at 1.7 Kg. I do not have it in hand, so can not speak individual pieces yet.

12th-15th century AD
LOT 039
A mixed group of lead weights including barrel-shaped, discoid and biconvex. 1.7 kg total, 22-50mm (1 - 2").
Condition - Fine condition.
The Chris Rudd collection, Norfolk, UK; formed since the 1970s; collection number DM4,8 and 9; found near Downham Market, Norfolk, UK.
Chris Rudd has collected ancient coins and antiquities since the 1940s. As an amateur archaeologist he found many himself at Badbury Rings, Dorset, 1952-53. He also dug at Hod Hill with Professor Sir Ian Richmond and at Wroxeter with Dame Kathleen Kenyon and Dr Graham Webster. Today he is best known as a Celtic coin dealer. His catalogues have been described as ‘an important research source’ by Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe and ‘treasure houses of delight’ by Dr Anne Ross. Coins and artefacts associated with Chris Rudd – as a collector, dealer and valuer – can be seen in The British Museum and other museums. This collection was formed since the 1970s.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Not coins, but interesting

A partial eclipse last week was a chance to see something neat. We watched through strong glasses and in the shadows under our trees. I post some of the pics below so a friend (but not coin collector) can see them here. I think the slivers of light look like birds or bats. They change direction as the eclipse progresses.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

EID MAR Denarius!

I saw the coin at auction last year, but could not push the bid button. When I saw it in person, I decided that an EDI-MAR place holder coin is a pretty good thing!

EID.MAR Denarius
Contemporary Forgery of Cr 508/3
43 – 42 BC, Traveling mint in northern Greece

Marcus Junius Brutus (BRVT IMP) with Lucius Plaetorius Caestianus (L.PLAET.CEST, moneyer)
Silver denarius, probably an ancient forgery, original struck at mint moving with Brutus in Northern Greece  in 43-42 B.C.
Obverse –Bare head of Brutus to right; B[RV]T IMP above and right, clockwise; left and below L.PLAET.CEST
Reverse –Pileus between two daggers; below EID.MAR = Eidibus Martiis = Ides of March = March 15, 44 BC.

Flan cuts and some gouges, weakly struck on top of the head, through attempting piercing, edge filed in places, otherwise nearly fine and very rare.

3.17 grams, 18.1 mm  

  •          Cr – 508/3, dies = 30 / 33
  •          BMCRR – East 68 – 70
  •          Syd – 1301
  •          RSC – Brutus 15
  •          Bab – Junia 52, Plaetoria 13
  •          Sear – 1439
  •          Sear CRI – 216 – “Arguably the most famous of all the coin types of ancient Rome, The Eidbus Martiis coinage of Brutus – probably his final issue before Philippi – is an unashamed celebration of the very act of tyrannicide.”
  •          RBW -
  •          Cahn, EIDibus MARtiis, Q.Tic. 18, 1989, (dies not listed)  
  •       Roman History by Cassius Dio; Cassius was born in 155 AD and died in 235 AD. Dio published a Roman History (Ῥωμαϊκὴ Ἱστορία, Historia Romana), in 80 books, after twenty-two years of research and labor. The books cover a period of approximately 1,400 years, beginning with the tales from Roman mythology of the arrival of the legendary Aeneas in Italy (c. 1200 BC) and the founding of Rome by his descendant Romulus (753 BC); as well as the historic events of the republican and imperial eras through 229 AD. - Book 47, Paragraph 25, line 3 1  Note 1 – from Wikipedia

PP 25 lines:
1.  Now as soon as Brutus learned of the attempt of Mark Antony and of the killing of Antony's brother, he feared that some other insurrection might take place in Macedonia during his absence, and immediately hastened to Europe. On the way he took charge of the territory which had belonged to Sadalus, who had died childless and had left it to the Romans,
2.  and he also invaded the country of the Bessi, in the hope that he might at one and the same time punish them for the mischief they were doing and invest himself with the title and dignity of imperator, thinking that he should thus carry on his war against Caesar and Antony more easily. He accomplished both objects chiefly by the aid of a certain prince named Rhascyporis. And after going thence into Macedonia and making himself master of everything there, he withdrew again into Asia.
3.  In addition to these activities Brutus stamped upon the coins which were being minted his own likeness and a cap12 and two daggers, indicating by this and by the inscription that he and Cassius had liberated the fatherland.
Note 12 - The cap of liberty, given to slaves at the time of their manumission. 

·        Ex Noble Numismatics, Sale 113, Lot 4774, 22–25 Nov 2016; Sydney, Austrailia; Ex Dr. Adrian Carr Collection and purchased in 2001.

·        I found 41 examples, including this coin, on line. The average condition was high, probably because the coins were from auctions. The average weight was 3.47 grams with a St. Dev. = 0.3 grams. None of the coins weighed over 4.0 grams. Most of the coins lighter than mine were holed or plated. Most of the coins did not report die axis, but all but two reported a die axis of 12.

From the Noble's description:
Various communications by Dr. Carr are indicated and expanded below.
It is thought to be a contemporary forgery ie., at the time of Brutus. The coin was definitely a struck coin and not cast and has the weight and silver composition of other military pieces of the time of Brutus. Mapping shows the same alignment of the coin's obverse as a specimen recorded in Foss' book with the prominent epiglottis and thinner neck. This specimen is not from any dies noted by Cahn. The reverse has an interesting map in as much as the dagger on the right is slightly higher than that on the left which is unlike almost all illustrated by Cahn. It needs to be remembered that other military issue coins of the time show the work of some apprentice engravers with mistakes and variations in the dies. The coin was sold to Dr. Carr by its original owner as genuine.
Communication between the original seller and the agent for the coin states; 'the coin from which you bought from my consignor came from a very large collection from Alberta Canada in 1947 and had included many fabulous Roman and Greek rarities including a Carthage Decadrachm for which I bought the coin for $22,000 several years ago. Several Roman coins of Pertinax and P. Niger were in there as well, I own both of them. With the Eid Mar coin, unless I can positively 100% identify it as genuine I cannot sell as genuine.' David Sear said the following: 'The style of the portrait is certainly curious and seems to differ markedly from that of other published specimens. The piece definitely looks ancient, but I wonder whether it might be some type of 'contemporary forgery' struck unofficially in Imperatorial times in imitation of the regular issue. The rather caricaturish-nature of the features look to be somewhat more reminiscent of some of the early triumviral portraits of Antony and Octavian, so perhaps the coin may have been produced in the West by Republican sympathizers.'
The 'Eid Mar' denarius, one of the most famous rarities of all ancient coins, was struck in the summer of 42 BC at a mint moving with Brutus's army in Greece. The date (Eid[ibus] Mar[tiis]) takes on the character of a symbolic watchword, while the pileus represents liberty regained and the daggers are the messengers of the deed. 

The seller's pics:

A couple more of my pics:


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cast Bronze Pieces of One to Five Roman Pounds

A couple of nice sized cast bronze pieces arrived this month. One is massive = 1443 grams. The other is only large = about 300 grams.I have a second piece that is about the size of the smaller one = 375 grams.

One Quarter of a Circular Shaped Bronze Ingot
The piece weighs 1443 grams, or about 5 roman pounds.
The seller had four cast bronze pieces. This was my favorite of the group. The broken ax looked interesting, and did not sell, but this chewed up my budget for the month.
The vendor's description - 
A Quarter of a large circular cake-shaped bronze ingot. Central Italy, 6th-4th century BC., RRR
Cf. Garrucci, TAV III, 4 and 5, from the Cere hoard (of about the same shape and weight). 
1443 g
152 x 97 x 39 m
Untouched earthy green patina. EF. 
This very rare and fascinating example has the weight of an Aes Signatum or Five Roman Pounds and probably represents a quincussis.

Garrucci, page 3; five pieces are shown on plate III.
I translated the text from Garrucci:
first I broke the Italian into sections to help google translate group the words - 
· Di piu perche vi si vede chiaramente come il metallo si e aperta la via intorno intorno per un fondo che doveva percio essere mobile.
· Il primo pezzo due libbre e once due
· once due
· il secondo due libbre once otto
· il terzo libbre quattro once otto e mezzo
· mezzo
· otto
· il quarto libbre quattro once tre
· il quinto libbre quattro once otto e mezzo

The English, tho I am not sure of all the translations are right. - 
· Most of all, as you can see clearly how the metal opened up the street around for a base that had to be mobile.
· The first piece two pounds and two ounces
· Once two
· The second two pounds eight ounces
· The third pound four times eight and a half
· half
· eight
· The fourth pound four times three
· The fifth pound four times eight and a half

Roman Republic or Central Italian, Aes Formatum
Latium, Anonymous, VIII-IV century BC
Parte di pane o torta quadrilateral (part of a larger plate).
Haeberlin tav.II n.7.
BB; 388 grams; 54 mm X 52 mm 24.9 mm

The older piece is shown below with two Ramo Secco bars and an unmarked bar.
top left, 744 grams - top right, 375 grams
bottom left, 854 grams - bottom right, 892 grams
Note the seams are obvious on the three bars, but not on the broken plates.

Roman Republic, Aes Rude, Central Italy
9th to 5th century BC
375 grams, 60 X 55 X 22 mm
Patina verde

I will attach a few side views of the smaller pieces later. You can see the flat spot where the molten metal must have hit a "wall" and stopped flowing. The rest of the sides are brittle fractures where the flat plate was broken. I think I can see what looks like a chisel mark that helped start the breaks. The new piece looks like it has a sand bottom and cooling metal "smooth" top. 

I took some pictures today of the three pieces. The top pic shows "smooth" parts of the bronze plate where I think it stopped flowing when it hit a wall. The second picture shows jagged, brittle fracture. The next picture shows the two partial plates. The right one is my most recent. I had to buy a larger scale. 

375 grams                388 grams

1442 grams for the cake on left