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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.
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