Return to Numbers & Metrology in the 1st millennium

Neo-Assyrian economic documents

Metrological system

Units of weight


Neo Assyrian weights could be dannu (heavy) or qallu (light). A dannu weight double a qallu weight.


dannu (heavy) qallu (light)
gin2 SIGNE14
ca. 17 g ca. 8,5 g
↓ ×60
ma-na1)
ca. 1,01 kg ca. 505 g
↓× 60
gú-(un) 2)
60,6 kg 30,3 kg


Since Neo Assyrian scribes ordinary did not use units smaller than the shekel, fractions were employed (cf. below ‘fractions’). In the first one, horizontal wedges were used for the denominator preceded, if needed, by vertical wedges for the numerator. Thus, “1/4 gín” was written with four horizontal wedges (SIGNE17), while “3/4 gín” was written with three normal verticals and four horizontals wedges (SIGNE17bis). In the second system, fractions were noted classically (see “fractions” below).
When fractions are used without precision about the unit, the mina is generally meant.


Units of capacity


silà, na_qa_18.jpg 1,84 l.
↓ ×10
bán, sūtu3) 4) 18,40 l.
↓ ×10
imēru - 184 l.


There is no occurrence of a Neo Assyrian smaller than the so that fractions are used.


Other miscellaneous units are used, like maqarrrutu (“roll” or “bale”), ebissu (“bundle”) or pittu (“bundle”) for different kinds of dry products, and like kāsu(“cup”), šappu(“bowl”), middutu (“measure”), zikku and kuš-sal (“wineskin”) for liquids.


Units of length

šu-si, ubānu (“finger”) ca. 2 cm
↓ ×12
(r)ūṭu (“1/2 cubit”) - ca. 24 cm
↓ ×2
kùš, ammutu (cubit)5) SIGNE24 ca. 48 cm
↓ ×126)
gar - -
↓ ×7207)
- -
↓ ×30 (× 21600 cubits)
bēru - -


In parallel, we find the pušku (“palm”) measuring ca. 8 cm and the unit gìr-pad-du (“bone”) measuring ca. 32 cm.

Numerical system


The Neo Assyrian numerical system follow almost the same pattern that those of all the others Akkadian texts.


1
× 10
10
× 10
(1 me) 100


However, few special writings exist:

  • From at least the middle Assyrian times, the number 9 () can be abbreviated this way: .
  • The number 8 () can also be writing: SIGNE7.
  • 60 is generally written SIGNE8 or SIGNE9, except for when he's followed by a 10-sign (70, 80 …).

Fractions

1/2 1/3 2/3 5/6
oass_ban2.jpg


Cardinal numbers with a syllabic complement (4-tu = 1/4, 5-su= 1/5, 6-su= 1/8 …) are used for the writing of other fractions, and sometimes for 1/3 (3-suor 3-si).

Bibliography

  • Postgate J.N. (1976). Fifty Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents. Warminster: Aris & Phillips. p.63-72.
  • Powell M.A. (1990. “Masse und Gewichte”, RlA 7, Berlin, New York, p. 457-517
1)
Various kind of minas are attested in the Neo Assyrian documentation. The two principal cases are the minas “of the king” and the mina “of Karkemiš”. A mina “of the merchant” and a mina “of agate” are also attested.
2)
When numbering talents, Neo Assyrian scribes used almost always vertical wedges, instead of traditional Babylonian horizontal wedges.
3)
Neo Assyrian texts also attest sūtus of 8 or 9 q̧ûs (1 sūtu of 8 = ca. 14,222 l.; 1 sūtu of 9 = ca. 16 l.). Moreover, texts from Kalhu mention a “big” (dannatu) sūtu divided into 9 “Assyrian” (1 “big” sūtu = 16 l.; 1 “Assyrian” sūtu = 1,777 l.).
4)
1 bán, 2 bán, 3 bán, 4 bán, 5 bán :
5)
We find, together with the ordinary cubit, a “royal cubit”, a “big cubit” and a “aslu cubit”. Their values are not really known.
6) , 7)
Reconstrucuted from the Babylonian metrological standard.
neo_assyrian_weights_and_measures.txt · Last modified: 2015/10/19 07:59 by gombert
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