Anatolian Weights and Measures Collection, Pera Museum

The Anatolian Weights and Measures Collection comprises over ten thousand pieces and consists of objects dating from prehistory to those used in present day Anatolia. These comprise the main types of scales and measuring instruments, used for measuring weight, length, and volume in every field, from land measurement to commerce, architecture to jewelry making, shipping to pharmacy.

Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation Anatolian Weights and Measures Collection is comprised of almost ten thousand objects dating from prehistory to those used in present day Anatolia.

Anatolian region has always been playing a significant role among the merchants as a result of its strong connection to Mesopotamia. In the early second millennium BC with the flourishment of a dozen city-states in central Anatolia, commercial activities gained momentum in the region. Located on the northeast part of Kayseri today, Kültepe served as the point of contact between Assyria and the rest of central Anatolia. The earliest weights from the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation Anatolian Weights and Measures Collection feature the commercial activities of this very era. Cylindrical hematite weights as well as the Babylonian weights in the shape of a stylized duck are among the finest examples.

Comprising a significant percentage of the collection, the city-state weights of the Classical era and the steelyard weights with depictions featuring busts of gods and goddesses under the rule of Roman Empire in Anatolia shed light on the socio-political perception and the justice system of their time. Throughout the following centuries the Anatolian culture of weights and measures witnessed a dual weighting system of the Byzantine Empire based on commercial and coin weights as well as the Anatolian Seljuk’s system of the silver-based dirham. Coexistence of such various weighting systems maintained until the expansion of the Ottoman State from the 14th century onwards.

Formed by Suna and İnan Kıraç as early as the 1980s, the collection provides a rich selection of the material culture of the various civilizations existed in Anatolia. The open-storage located at the centre of the exhibition floor invites visitors to perceive the collection with an alternative way of seeing besides its chronological structure.

Being home to objects used for measuring weight, length, and volume in every field, from land measurement to commerce, architecture to jewellery making, shipping to pharmacy, the collection aims to look at the rich material culture of Anatolia from an historical point of view.
Steelyard Weight in the Form of Heracles
Roman Period
3,785 g ; h.: 15 cm
Bronze, filled with lead

The steelyard weight in the form of a bust of Heracles, a symbol of strength and courage and one of the most important figures of ancient times, depicted with a long, prominent beard, wears a wreath of laurels on his head. It is believed that the whites of his eyes were previously fashioned from silver and the pupils, now only hollows, were once decorated with valuable stones. Only four centimetres of the weave-shaped original chain remain on the affixed ring placed on the crown of his head.

Bracelet Made of Sanjas
Ottoman Period
Glass-Gold-Gilded Silver

The bracelet made of Early Islamic glass weights was used in Egypt. Donation of Neslişah Sultan (Osmanoğlu) to the Pera Museum.

Islamic glass weights are called sanjas (Sence in Turkish). Traditionally some of them feature names of caliphs, governors, and imams, as well as verses from the Qur’an.

Colors of the sence vary according to the raw materials added during production; blue sences are produced with chromium oxide, amber-colored ones are produced with sulfur and carbon, and dark blues ones are produced with manganese.

Weights in the form of Sleeping Duck
2nd-1st Millennium BC
Stone (Hematite)
Dimensions variable

Used frequently in Mesopotamia and known as the Babylonian type, these weights are in the shape of a stylised duck with its head turned backwards and leaned against the body. A horizontal hole is at the intersection of the neck and the head.

Motifs engraved on the undersides are thought to be marks identifying the owner.

Very similar weights have been found in the Near East, where they are known to belong to the system of weights used in the Early Babylonian period in Mesopotamia, and therefore must have been introduced into Anatolia by Assyrian merchants. Similar weights have also been found at other sites in Anatolia, and were probably produced as the equivalents of units of weights such as mana and shekel that were used in the countries of the Near East at this period.

The weights that belong to this period were frequently shaped as animals, one of the most common animal being the duck-shape seen here.

Ottoman, late 19th-early 20th century
28,5 cm

Compared to a balance, a steelyard can weigh heavier commodities. The steelyard consists of a square-section arm fitted with a sliding weight, and a hook for hanging the object to be weighed.

Two or three faces of the arm are graduated with notches at equal intervals enabling light, medium and heavy loads to be weighed at the same time.

October 23, 249-October 22, 250 AD
1006,40 g; 15×11 cm

On the lead weight is the name of the Decius (249 – 251 AD), one of the emperors of Rome known for the persecution of Christians. The Emperor printed not only his name, but also the names of his two sons, Herennius Etrusculus and Hostilian, who had just become candidates for emperor, and referred to them as Ceasar.

On the reverse is the name of a governor: Gaius Sabucius Secundus Paulus Modestus. At the bottom is the name of a local officer, homonyarkhes Aelius Asklepiodotes, also known as Drosinius. For the first time, the title of this officer is documented on this weight. During Antiquity, a compliance agreement entitled homonoia was signed between cities because of commercial, religious and military reasons. Numerous coins and inscriptions documenting that such agreements were signed have survived, however the title of the official post acting as a mediator in such agreements was not known. Here, with the title homonyarkhes, the name of this post is now documented for the first time. Because the weight has this title on, this indicates that the area of responsibility of this post was not only to keep harmony between cities, but also supervise the market place.

Balance Set
Iranian, 18th century
Large Box: 32×19,5 cm
Small Box:11,5×7,2 cm

The box of the balance set has lacquered decoration. Around the border are the symbols of the zodiac and their Persian names, along with floral motifs.

Inside the box is a moneychanger’s balance set as well as a varying collection of tools to measures length and weight. The set includes two scales, two tongs and eleven weights. In the drawers at the side of the box one can find the rest of this set: the Ottoman length measure arşın in one, and another smaller moneychanger’s scale set (seen in the image) in the other.

The weights included in the set also feature floral decoration. At the bottom of these weights are circles, the number of which indicate the value of a weight.

Seljuk and Ottoman Periods
Dimensions variable

The dirhem was introduced into Anatolia with the spread of Islam, but for a long time the Byzantine solidus continued to be used alongside this new unit of weight.

The dirhem served both as a unit of weight and currency, since coins were valued according to their weight. The word is derived from the Greek drachma, which was borrowed first into Persian and later into Arabic as a result of trade relations.

The Seljuks adopted the dirhem system as used by the Umayyads, Abbasids and Iranians, but the unit was not fully standardised, and its value varied from region to region and period to period. The dirhem weights with Anatolian motifs were produced by casting. Although this technique may have been borrowed from the Seljuk’s, there are no stamps or inscriptions allowing us to identify the period.

However, the Ottomans continued to stamp dirhem weights that had been used at earlier periods. The dirhem weights of the Ottoman Period continued to have the similar motifs as well. The findings show that in Ottoman weight system, 1 dirhem was equivalent to just over 3.103 grams. If discrepancies according to region are ignored, this may be taken as the average value.

“Havayi Terazi” (Miner’s Triangle)
Ottoman Period, 18th – 19th century
100 x 117 mm

The “Havayi Terazi” was first encountered in Iraq and ancient Rome in the 11th century. In the Ottoman Empire, it was commonly used for measuring elevation in the construction of the aqueducts and watercourses in the Ottoman Empire. It is known that Sinan the Architect used a havayi terazi in the constructions of the Kırkçeşme water supply network.

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The instrument was employed in Europe until the 19th century and came to be known as the “miner’s triangle”, as it determined gradient in mines.

Also used for determining horizontality, havayi terazi was often made of brass or bronze and shaped as an equilateral triangle. One of the sides of the triangle features two hooks equidistant from the two corners. A plumb line with a plumb-bob at the other end is connected to the center of the same side as the hooks. The opposite corner, on the other hand, features a short line that divides the triangle into two equal parts.

Quadrant and Rubu Dairenin Suret-i İsti’mali [User’s Book of Quadrant]
Quadrant, 1860
Rubu Dairenin Suret-i İsti’mali [User’s Book of Quadrant], first half of the 20th century

Signed “Osman”, this quadrant was made to be used on the 41st parallel, on which Istanbul also lies, to determine the time and location.

Inspired by the astrolabe used in astronomy and time measurement, the quadrant was used not only by horologes determining prayer times and the qibla direction of mosques (the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca), but also by architects for measuring angle, height, and inclination.

In astronomic measurements, the quadrant was designed to be used with one specific latitude and would only provide accurate information for the settlement on that latitude.

Often made of boxwood or similarly firm woods, quadrants were commonly used in Islamic countries until the early 20th century.

This particular quadrant is on display at the first floor of Pera Museum with the book entitled Rubu Dairenin Suret-i İsti’mali [User’s Book of Quadrant] written by Ahmet Ziya Bey. The book which Ahmet Ziya Bey wrote and illustrated with Arabic letters before 1928 alphabet reform was printed in the military printing house.

Ottoman Period
19th century

The two scales attach to the arm of the balance by three rows of metal chain. Both faces of the balance arm are stamped. Inside one of the scales are a tughra (Sultan’s signature) and the number “268”- these stamps inform us that the scales were inspected and verified by the civil servants.

As a means of preventing fraudulence of weights and measures in trade, the Ottoman government made it compulsory that weights and other measuring instruments be inspected and stamped as it can be seen in this particular example. Officials known as muhtesib appointed for inspected weighing and measuring equipment, and if found to be accurate stamped them with the tughra of the reigning sultan.

Steelyard, single-pan balance
Roman Period

It comprises a balance beam, a steelyard weight in the form of bust and a modern replica of its pan which was added later in accordance with the original pan.

Bronze steelyards were employed popularly in different cultures being an easily portable implement, by merchants and wandering vendors. Steelyard collars of the Roman period were in the form of a sphere, polygonal prism, a bust or figure. They were of various sizes and weights, cast in the lost-wax method. The central core was filled with the requisite amount of lead to give the necessary weight. They were suspended from a ring attached to the crest.

The steelyard weight of the example of single-pan balance is in the form of a bust of Iupiter-Ammon. This particular choice of bust might help us to reveal the historical meaning of the object a little bit further. Depicted with a pair of ram horns, Ammon originally an Aethiopian or Libyan divinity, whose worship subsequently spread all over Egypt, a part of the northern coast of Africa, and many parts of Greece. Although the Egyptian name of the god was either Amun or Ammun, the Ancient Greeks associated him with Zeus and called him Zeus-Ammon. The Romans, however, called him Iupiter-Ammon.

There are several other traditions, with various modifications arising from the time and place of their origin; but all agree on one point: The ram is the guide of the wandering herds or herdsmen. Ammon, therefore, who is identical with the ram, is the guide and protector of man. He stands in the same relation to mankind as the common ram to his flock. It is not a coincidence that a steelyard was shaped as Iupiter-Ammon, but for a reason to remind people that he is the guardian of the man and of all his possessions.

Weights in the form of Astragalus (Ankle Bone)
Roman Imperial Period, AD 1st-3rd centuries
Bronze-lead, inlay in silver
Dimensions variable

These astragal-shaped weights which form a set of three with a handle on top reveal an elaborate craftsmanship. The Romans introduced their own system of weights based on the libra to Anatolia. The denominational marks written in Latin and Greek indicates the numbers which correspond to their mass. According to the Roman system, one libra was equivalent to 12 unciae (libra of 327.45 g).

The astragalus is the talus bone in the heel of many mammals that has a rounded but cubiform shape. With its attractive shape, astragalus has been an inspiration for both secular and spiritual objects throughout history. Having been used as game dice in Ancient Greek and Roman cultures, it was also assigned to magical attributions. Astragalus-shaped objects can be found in bronze, lead, and glass as well as in other different materials.

Bronze Weight
Eastern Mediterranean/Aegean
AD 4th-5tth centuries
32 x 31 x 7 mm; 52.05 g

Bronze weights that had been used as a unit of weight and currency played an important role as one of the finest control mechanisms of the government. They meant to communicate accurately in the tax governance procedures.

Square shaped bronze weights were quite common from the beginning of the 4th century BC until the second half of the 6th century BC. This particular example from Suna & İnan Kıraç Foundation Anatolian Weights and Measures Collection has two seated imperial figures, facing and crowned. Each of the figures holds spear and globe. The faces, hands and legs, four points on the wreath are inlaid with silver, some of which is missing and their arms, collars and legs are inlaid with copper. Among the heads is a small half-figure with wings. In the upper corners, two half-figures which may be Angels (or Victory) can be found.

Pharmacist’s Balance
Europe (?)
20th century
Dimensions variable

Stamped on its box with the name and the address of its owner, a pharmacist’s balance is the witness of the 20th century pharmacies where pharmacists were responsible not only to purchase drugs but also prepare drug products according to the medical prescriptions.

Pharmacists were acting quite responsively to weight a certain amount of drug products. To be as accurate as possible, pharmacists used their personalised balance sets. It was a common behaviour to indicate the name of the pharmacist either in Latin or in French on the visible side of the balance set.

This particular balance set says a lot about its owner since the name of the pharmacist, Vincent Kassapian, is inscribed on the interior velvet cover of the box. Referring himself as “druggist” (Droguiste), Vincent Kassapian tells also the address of his store with the inscription in Turkish with French letters and spelling (Bahdje Capou meaning Bahçekapı) on the box.

Pera Museum
Pera Museum is an art museum in the Tepebaşı quarter of the Beyoğlu (Pera) district in Istanbul, Turkey, located at Meşrutiyet Avenue No. 65 (adjacent to İstiklal Avenue and in close proximity to Taksim Square.) It has a particular focus on Orientalism in 19th-century art.

Inaugurated on 8 June 2005, Pera Museum is a private museum founded by the Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation. The aim of offering an outstanding range of diverse high quality culture and art services is as important today as when the Museum first opened its doors to the public.

Couched in the historic quarter of Tepebaşı, the impressive building was originally conceived as the Bristol Hotel, designed by architect Achille Manoussos. Restorer and architect Sinan Genim was given the daunting renovation operation in 2003; the triumph of transforming the interior into a modern and fully equipped museum is only matched by the architect’s mastery in simultaneously preserving the exterior façade, safeguarding an integral part of Istanbul’s architectural flavour.

Through Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation’s three permanent collections, “Orientalist Paintings”, “Anatolian Weights and Measures”, and “Kütahya Tiles and Ceramics”, Pera Museum seeks not only to diffuse the aesthetic beauty of these collections but also to create dialogue with the public concerning the values and identities that they encompass. Utilizing a full scope of innovative methods, including exhibitions, publications, audio-visual events, learning activities, and academic works, the objective of transmitting the beauty and importance of these works to future generations is realised. Having organized joint projects with leading international museums, collections, and foundations including Tate Britain, Victoria and Albert Museum, St. Petersburg Russian State Museum, JP Morgan Chase Collection, New York School of Visual Arts, and the Maeght Foundation, Pera Museum has introduced Turkish audiences to countless internationally acclaimed artists. Some of the most illustrious amongst these include Jean Dubuffet, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Rembrandt, Niko Pirosmani, Josef Koudelka, Joan Miró, Akira Kurosawa, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Fernando Botero, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Goya.

Since its inauguration, Pera Museum collaborates annually with national and international institutions of art and education to hold exhibitions that support young artists. All of the Museum’s exhibitions are accompanied by books, catalogues, audio-visual events in addition to learning programs. Parallel to its seasonal programs and events, Pera Film offers visitors and film buffs a wide range of screenings that extend from classics and independent movies to animated films and documentaries. Pera Film also hosts special shows that directly correlate with the temporary exhibitions’ themes.

Pera Museum has evolved to become a leading and distinguished cultural center in one of the liveliest quarters of İstanbul.