Art and culture from Ancient Persia, £20.00
Weight: 31.808 kg
Length: 34.000 cm
Height: 18.500 cm
ME E 32625
Room 52: Ancient Iran
Achaemenid, 5th century
From Abydos, western Anatolia (modern Turkey)
This cast tin-bronze lion weight was discovered in western Anatolia. It dates to the time of the great Achaemenid Persian empire, but is part of a tradition of iron-shaped weights that can be traced to the Late Assyrian period (eighth-seventh centuries BC). Much of the Near East had been united under the Assyrians through strong military action and a sophisticated administrative system. When the Persians came to dominate the Near East following the conquests of Cyrus the Great (559-530 BC) they adopted much from this earlier empire.
By the mid-first millennium BC, Aramaic was probably widely written using an alphabetic script on parchment or papyrus. Under the Persians Aramaic became the administrative language of the empire. Unfortunately, neither papyrus or parchment survives well in the climate of the Near East and the language is only represented on objects like this weight. The inscription may be translated as 'correct according to the staters of silver', possibly referring to the use of a weight standard based on silver staters. The object now weighs 70 lb 2 oz. (31.808 kg), perhaps corresponding to a standard Old Babylonian talent (about 30.30 kg) and the Greek equivalent (29.6-30.9 kg) and suggesting that this lion weight represented 1 talent in weight.
T.C. Mitchell, 'The bronze lion weight from Abydos', Iran, 11 (1973), pp. 173-75, plates I-II