S87. EXONUMIA 1. ANCIENT AND BYZANTINE WEIGHTS: FROM DATABASES TO HISTORICAL ANTHROPOLOGY
- Charles Doyen (UCLouvain / FNRS)
Org.: Charles Doyen, Pierre Charrey, chair: Charles Doyen
Research on ancient and Byzantine weights has undergone an impressive development in the last decades. Historical metrology has now become an autonomous and dynamic field of research.
In line with the pioneering studies of the second half of the 19th century, ancient weights used to be studied as para-numismatic and epigraphic items. This antiquarian and erudite approach was then refined throughout the 20th century with the development of scientific archaeology. During the past few decades, scholars were then focused on creating various corpora of weights produced in the same region, the publication of museum collections, and the completion of many individual archaeological reports.
Since the relevant data were scattered throughout thousands of publications, the study of ancient Greek weights on a large scale in time and space required the creation of an efficient database. This long-term work has been carried out since 2016 by an international network of about 30 scholars in the framework of the Pondera Online project.
Within a few years, the Pondera Online database (UCLouvain) has become a game-changer in the field and already contains over 15,000 ancient weights. This collaborative tool now makes possible undertaking historical and anthropological studies on a new level. Each period, from the Greek city-states to the development of Roman and then Byzantine imperialism, raises its own problems: e.g. metrology and territorial sovereignty, organisation of state control, anthropology of gestures, technological innovations and massive standardisation, religious ideology and economic rationality, etc.
Historical metrology allows for a new perspective on the political economy and monetary practices in ancient and Byzantine times. Four case studies presented by young scholars, each dealing with the Greek-Hellenistic, Roman, and Late Antique/Byzantine eras, will demonstrate the new autonomy acquired by the discipline and will outline a few promising perspectives for ancient history in general.
Witold Kula, considered one of the founders of the Polish school of social and economic history linked to the French school of Annales, was at the origin of the current called “historical metrology”. Since its founding work in the 1970s, which focused on the logic of traditional measurement systems, studies of weights and measures systems now take into account both the technical aspects and...
The obligation to use certified weights and measures is a recurrent topos in Greek literary and epigraphic sources relating to market regulations. Magistrates were required to provide merchants with measuring instruments and weights and to control the use of official weights and measures in transactions. These controls took the form of countermarks or other types of marks on the instruments...
For four centuries, Roman merchants, collectors and money changers used normalized weights. These unparalleled instruments soon became a medium for a homogenous repertoire of forms and images. The precious materials, the iconography and the inscriptions engraved by the imperial factories incapsulate an array of references to the visual culture of citizens. Actors of an ecumene that was both...
The vast majority of scales and especially weights are known to us today without an archaeological context. If we look at the few examples that come from archaeological findings, we can detect a significant difference between the Mediterranean area and the region north of it. While in the Mediterranean region these instruments are mainly found in settlements, outside the Mediterranean region...