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Late Roman and Byzantine Weights in the Collection of the Istanbul Archaeology Museum

Oğuz Tekin, Istanbul University, Summer Fellow 2010/11

The scope of this project is to make a study and a catalogue of the nearly 500 hundred Late Roman and Byzantine weights in the collection of Istanbul Archaeology Museum. They are all unpublished and not in exhibition. There are mainly two groups of weights: Commercial weights and coin weights. Since the photographs and the technical measurements of the weights were taken previously in the museum, I could classified them according to their forms and units, thus I was able to make a tentative catalogue of them during my two-month study here. The chronological span for the weighs ranges from 4th century through the 13th century AD.

Researching through the museum catalogues and private collections, weights were classified in eight main types:

  1. Spherical commercial weights,
  2. Circular commercial weights,
  3. Square commercial weights,
  4. Octagonal commercial weights,
  5. Circular coin weights,
  6. Square coin weights,
  7. Octagonal coin weights, and
  8. Bowl-shaped weights

Types 2, 3, 5 and 6 form the majority in number.

While type 1 consists of Late Roman weights, the rest consists of Byzantine weights. All the weights except the bowl-shaped ones, are engraved or punched on the top with the denominational mark, mainly inlaid with silver. The largest unit is a 3 libra weight which weighs 975 gram and it is among the circular commercial weights (type 2).

Consequently, the above-given information is the basis of the tentative catalogue. Nearly all the weights were classified and catalogued by their forms and units, as well as their chronology. With some unique examples in the collection, the catalogue will make a contribution to the studies in the area of Byzantine weights. The catalogue will be published in the first half of 2010.

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