The Earliest Balance Weights in the West: Towards an Independent Metrology for Bronze Age Europe
Citable Link (URL):http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/15723
Journal Article (Published version)
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Weighing devices are the earliest material correlates of the rational quantification of economic value, and they yield great potential in the study of trade in pre-literate societies. However, the knowledge of European Bronze Age metrology is still underdeveloped in comparison to Eastern Mediterranean regions, mostly due to the lack of a proper scientific debate. This paper introduces a theoretical and methodological framework for the study of standard weight-systems in pre-literate societies, and tests it on a large sample of potential balance weights distributed between Southern Italy and Central Europe during the Bronze Age (second–early first millennium bc). A set of experimental expectations is defined on the basis of comparisons with ancient texts, archaeological cases and modern behaviour. Concurrent typological, use-wear, statistical and contextual analyses allow to cross-check the evidence against the expectations, and to validate the balance-weight hypothesis for the sample under analysis. The paper urges a reappraisal of an independent weight metrology for Bronze Age Europe, based on adequate methodologies and a critical perspective.
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