Weight of 10 beqa - ROM2014_14144_40


Weight of 10 beqa

Medium:Basalt, carved and smoothed
Geography: Possibly excavated at Naukratis, Egypt
Date: c. 1400-1200 BC
Period: Late 18th to early 19th Dynasty, New Kingdom
4.5 × 3.7 × 3.2 cm, 125.1 g
Object number: 909.80.404
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 to the ordinary system of deben and qedet, the Ancient Egyptians also used a system called the ‘gold standard’ as the weights often have the hieroglyph for ‘gold’ on them. This beqa system was in use at least from the time of King Khufu during the Age of the Pyramids. The name of this standard comes from Palestine, and is mentioned in the Bible for the poll tax in Exodus 36:26.  Weights in this system often have names on them, and are frequently carved of beautiful stones.

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