Ancient Egypt

The el-Amarna Hoard

Length: 20.800 cm (largest piece)
Width: 1.950 cm (largest piece)
Thickness: 1.050 cm (largest piece)

CM 1974,0223.1

Before coins started to circulate in ancient Egypt around 500 BC, there was a system of values based on weights of gold, silver and copper. Metal measured in units of weight known as deben (around 90 g) could be used to settle bills and to trade. Records from the Eighteenth Dynasty (1550-1295 BC) show that often the actual metal did not change hands; instead it was used to value goods for exchange. Egypt had no easily accessible source of silver, but the Egyptian word for silver, hedj, came to mean something close to 'money'.

These ingots and metal rings date from the fourteenth century BC and were found at el-Amarna. They give us rare archaeological evidence for Egypt's earliest money system. The complete ingots weigh around 3 deben (265-286 g) and the rings seem to be fractions of the deben.