Weight in shape of reclining cow - ROM2014_14146_14


Weight in shape of reclining cow

Medium:Bronze, cast
Geography: Possibly excavated at Abydos, Egypt
Date: c. 1400-1200 BC
Period: Late 18th to early 19th Dynasty, New Kingdom
3.5 x 5.6 cm, 89.5 g
Object number: 910.139.1
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

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.

Stone and bronze weights equivalent to specific amounts of copper were used in everyday market transactions, and could be checked against more official weights kept in temples.  In addition to the native system of deben and qedet (one tenth of a deben), the Ancient Egyptians also used Mesopotamian, Syrian and Greek systems. The system to which this charming cow belonged has not yet been determined.  The earliest known use of cow or ox-shaped weights in Egypt was during the New Kingdom, Eighteenth Dynasty, and the latest to the Nineteenth.  This would suggest all animal-shaped weights belong to the New Kingdom.

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