Weight of 20 sela - ROM2014_14143_13


Weight of 20 sela

Geography: Possibly excavated at Naukratis, Egypt
Period: Undetermined Period
3.9 x 6.4 cm, 292.1 g
Object number: 910.85.210
Not on view

Currency in the form of coins was introduced into Egypt during the Late Period, but for most of Ancient Egyptian history a barter-exchange system based on the value of various weights of silver or copper was used.  Goods were valued in terms of how much copper or silver would be required to buy them, and then exchanged for other goods with the same value in metal.  For example, an Ostracon from Deir el Medina, #73, verso, described by Jac Jansen in Commodity Prices from the Ramesside Period (Leiden, 1975) gives an example of a coffin worth 25.5 deben of copper, which was purchased for two goats, one pig, two sycamore logs, and 13.5 deben of actual copper. There are many such exchanges recorded from Ancient Egypt.  Units of grain and oils were also used in exchange-barter.  As in modern economies, rates of exchange varied with supply. The weight, in grams, of a deben changed from the Old and New Kingdoms to the Late Period, but a qedet, (also known as a kite) was always valued at one tenth of a deben.

In addition, the Egyptians used measuring systems borrowed from their neighbours in Mesopotamia, Syria, and the Aegean.  These may have been introduced by traders and merchants.  This weight belongs to a well known standard usually called the Phoenician or Alexandrian, though it was in use in Egypt since the First Dynasty.

The base (or top) of this weight has been hollowed out, perhaps to make it conform to the sela standard.

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