Breaking down the bullion. The compliance of bullion-currencies with official weight-systems in a case-study from the ancient Near East

Publication date: March 2018Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 91
Author(s): Nicola Ialongo, Agnese Vacca, Luca Peyronel
In this paper we provide an analytical insight on a specific form of bullion-currency. Through the comparison of the statistical properties of different samples of hacksilver and balance weights from various contexts of the Near Eastern Bronze Age, the study attempts to assess whether the weight values of bullion-currencies can be expected to comply with existing weight-standards. The results of the statistical analyses on a silver hoard from Ebla (Syria) strongly suggest that hacksilver in the Bronze Age Near East was shaped and/or fragmented in order to comply with the weight-systems that were in use in the trade networks where it circulated. The results also show the possibility to quantify the level of affinity between different weight-systems. The study is intended to provide a starting point for future research, aimed at the identification of different forms of bullion-currencies in pre- and protohistoric economies.

Graphical abstract