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Project ID: 648055
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - WEIGHTANDVALUE (Weight metrology and its economic and social impact on Bronze Age Europe, West and South Asia)

Reporting period: 2015-08-01 to 2017-03-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The project investigates the emergence of weight and scale use and the economic and societal transformations brought about by this innovation during the Bronze Age in western Eurasia. This period, ca. 3000–1000 BC, is sometimes considered as the emerging epoch of the first commercial trade within a large geographical sphere. Nevertheless, the most important tools in this regard, weights and scales, have never been investigated systematically and with a rigorous methodology. The initial aim is to identify these devices in the archaeological record. In an integrated approach using archaeological data, 3D scanning and statistics, the scale of dissemination and use of weights in the Bronze Age world is the main focus of the project. So far, finds of potential weights are generally not identified, or are either ignored or insufficiently published. Often the material seems to be regarded as too difficult to extract data from. The expertise in the team together with the use of specific methods and equipment enables the researchers of the project to considerably change the present state of research. After achieving this, the objective of the project is to conceptualize the significant practical and intellectual consequences of the introduction of weight metrology to economic organization and trade, value regimes and early money conceptions, as well as on individual and societal realities. By doing this it will open up new hypotheses and provide a new interpretative framework of the European, West and South Asian early Metal Age. The project therefore contributes to an understanding of economic history, the origins of a globalized world, the history of money and cognitive changes in conceptualizations of material value. In this respect it has a relevance for the understanding of the origins of modern economic world and therefore of your present way of life.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

During the first year the PI was systematically collecting data as well as preparing the organisation of the sub-projects of the Postdoctoral researchers. He was mainly involved in the call and the recruitment process for these positions. He is very pleased with the choices he made together with the selection panel. In each call they were the only researchers within the applications which were specifically qualified for the research projects. All have conducted metrological research on Bronze Age material before: Nicola Ialongo has been active in investigating hoards and their weight-relatedness from Bronze Age Italy and has applied innovative statistical approaches. Enrico Ascalone has worked for nearly 20 years with weights from Syria to the Indus region and has extensively published in this field. Sarah Clegg has recently finished her PhD at Cambridge in which she investigated capacity metrology and its economic importance in third millennium BC Mesopotamia. Her hiring opened up unexpected possibilities for the project because, as well as having an intensive knowledge of the archaeology of Ancient Mesopotamia, she is also a trained Assyriologist. With her expertise it is therefore possible to assess the vast written documentation on the use weights and metrological systems in this region, an aspect which was excluded in the original DoA. Before the whole team started their positions in August, October and November 2016 they met for a training day in May 2016 with the external adviser Jari Pakkanen and the PI for the discussion and training in the statistical methods used in the project. For three months in 2016 Peter Flemestad, a linguist trained in Indo-European Studies, was hired to collect data regarding the terminology of weighing equipment and related word fields in Indo-European languages. He was able to assemble raw data from various languages and made some preliminary conclusions on linguistic relations and the exchange of loan-words between languages in western Eurasia. This small but promising pilot study shall be further elaborated in a future project.
In the following pages the results of the work of PI and the three postdoctoral researchers will be presented.
In his own research the PI did specific investigations in all regions included in the project, but, he mainly concentrated on the area of the Atlantic Bronze Age. In this way he contributed to the sub-project “Bronze Age Europe” (see below) where the difficulty of identify weighing equipment is most obvious in the distribution maps, which reflect the insufficient state of research (e.g. scales have been published in some regions but no weights so far). The PI was able to identify weights and weight-regulated artefacts and through this propose a new understanding of the role of exchange and trade in this region. He has studied some of these potential bronze, lead and stone weights in the British Museum. These objects can be dated to the Later Bronze Age (ca. 1350–800 BC). Most interestingly, weight regulated gold artefacts (the so-called gold bar torcs) seem to have existed and their metrological system may even indicate a link to the Mediterranean. He organised also the first workshop within the project at the University of Munich in June 2016 and a session with colleagues at the annual conference of the European Association of Archaeologists in Vilnius in September 2016.
The sub-project “Iran, Central Asia and the Indus”, started in August 2016, aimed to collect relevant data about weights and especially potential weights (such as “pebble weights“) in these regions. The use of weights during the Bronze Age on Iranian plateau is an open question and has never been investigated. In the first part of this PostDoc project Enrico Ascalone focused on the collection of unpublished stone objects and potential weights coming from the main museums of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Owing to his PhD work in Iran and his many research trips to this co

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

It is very promising that the collection of data in the first phase of the project has already lead to new insights into the main objectives of the project. First of all, all contributions have confirmed the prediction of the project stated in the DoA that weighing equipment can be identified in regions between the Atlantic and the Indus, where none was previously known. In addition, further systematic investigation in regions with an already known use of weights and scales during the Bronze Age has already lead to important new results. For example, the investigations of very early weights from the Diyala region in eastern Mesopotamia from the third millennium BC demonstrate the use of a unit (9.1 g) which is also known from western Syria and the Aegean in the Early Bronze Age. This is confirming a suggestion made in the habilitation (2012) of the PI that weight metrology and specific units spread from a core region in Mesopotamia to the west and as far as the Aegean during the early third millennium BC (most likely as a consequence of indirect trade relations). New results from southern Italy (Lipari) indicate the use of weights in second quarter of the second millennium BC. These would be the earliest weights in Europe (outside of the Aegean). Interestingly their shapes are similar to metal weights from Central Europe a few hundred years later. New identified weights in England hint to the specific sites where such tools were needed: in ship wrecks transporting raw material of high value, in potential hub sites at coastal zones and in potential marketplaces further inland. This illustrates the changes in economic behaviour and its consequences for social realities during the period. All these new results are promising indications that the history of interaction and trade during the Bronze Age will need to be largely rewritten at the end of the project. The conceptualisation of material value in a very precise way by units of weight was apparently a common phenomenon during the Bronze Age, both in literate and in illiterate societies. A reasonable hypothesis is that a common mental state in the understanding of value appeared in which it was possible to express material wealth as a daily procedure, at least for all those who had access to, and were exchanging, products of greater value. The research therefore contributes to a much better understanding of the very early history of trade and aspects of profit making: to the origins of our capitalistic modern world.

All these results were only obtained during the last year or even during the last six months and they are awaiting publication. Manuscripts are under preparation, have been handed in or are already published. These studies go considerably beyond the current state of knowledge and their impact for understanding societal realities and the conceptualisations of material value (especially in non-literate societies in Europe and also in parts of Western Asia) has still to be assessed in detail.

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