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Neo Babylonian weights and measures

Sources: For the late Babylonian period, a large account of tablets have been excavated in main cities of the southern Mesopotamia (Babylon, Borsippa, Kiš, Nippur, Sippar, Ur, Uruk, etc). For the period which provided the bulk of the material (from the rising of the Chaldean dynasty during the late 7th B.C. to the early 5th B.C. when Babylonia revolted against Xerxes) around 19 000 texts are directly available for scholars, and many more tablets remain unpublished. Most of them records economical operations of private businessmen or Babylonians' temples and widely refer to various measures of weight, capacity, and length.

Bibliography:
For a detailed treatment of metrology during late Babylonian period see :

  • Powell, M. A. 1984: “Late-Babylonian Surface Mensuration”, AfO 31, p. 32-66.
  • Powell, M. A. 1990: “Masse und Gewichte”, RlA 7, Berlin, New York, p. 457-517

For summarized versions, see:

  • Wunsch, C.: Das Egibi-Archiv. I. Die Felder und Gärten. Cuneiform Monographs, vol. 20 a and b, Groningen, STYX, p. xix-xx.
  • Baker, H.: The Archive of the Nappāḫu Family. AfO, Beiheft 30, Vienne, p. ix-x..
  • Jursa, M.: Neo-Babylonian Legal and Administrative Documents: Typology, Content and Archives. GMTR 1, Münster, 2005, p. 19, 28, 41.

Metrological systems:

Units of weight
gin2 šiqlu 8,33 g.
↓ × 60
ma-na manû 500 g.
↓ × 60
gun biltu 30 kg.
Units of capacities
GAR - 1/10 l.
↓ × 10
sila3 qa 1 l.
↓ × 6
ban21) sūtu 6 l.
↓ × 6
PI (6 ban2) pānu 36 l.
↓ × 5
gur kurru 180 l.

Capacity measures are expressed using positional notation2).

Units of length
šu-si ubânû 1/24 cubit c. 0.0208 m.
↓ × 24
kuš3 ammatu 1 cubit c. 0.5 m.
↓ × 7
gi qânu 7 cubits c. 3.5 m.
↓ × 2
GAR - 14 cubits c. 7 m
Units of Superficy

Two systems were used for measuring superficies in Late Babylonia : The reed system used for smaller areas,especially urban plots, and the seed system used for larger areas.

  • The reed system
šu-si ubânû 168 sq. fingers c. 0.0729 m2
↓ × 24
kuš3 ammatu 7 sq. cubits c. 1.75 m2
↓ × 7
gi qânu 49 sq. cubits c. 12.25 m2
↓ × 2
GAR - 98 sq. cubits c. 24.5 m2
  • The seed system
GAR - 30 sq. cubits c. 7.5 m2
↓ × 10
sila3 qa 300 sq. cubits c. 75 m2
↓ × 6
ban2 sūtu 1800 sq. cubits c. 450 m2
x 6 ⇒
PI (6 ban2) pānu 10800 sq. cubits c. 2700 m2
↓ × 5
gur kurru 64000 sq. cubits c. 13500 m2
1)
1 (ban2) : , 2 (ban2): , 3 (ban2): , 4 (ban2): , 5 (ban2):
2)
= 97 gur 1 (PI) 5 (ban2) 0 (sila3) = 97.1.5.0 gur
neo_babylonian_weights_and_measures.txt · Last modified: 2015/02/23 20:33 (external edit)
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