Ancient Pen Pushers Invented Weights And Measures 3,000 Years Ago

Ancient bureaucrats introduced the first weight and measures system to transport food and wine more than 3,000 years ago, scientists have revealed.

Image shows the recovered amphorae, undated photo. They are cleaned in the water tank at the Center d’Arqueologia Subaquatica de Catalunya in Spain. (OeAW-OeAI, H. Gonzlez Cesteros/Newsflash)

Experts examined millennia-old amphoras from pre-Roman times to just 700 years ago and discovered they all fit into standard shapes and sizes.

Standardised began, says the international research team, in the first millennium BC and continued right through to the 15th century.

The uniform packaging meant goods like olive oil and wine could be despatched all over the Mediterranean and India.

The discovery was made after studying hundreds of amphorae found on a 1st century BC shipwreck on Italy’s western coast near Rome.

The site was at the heart of the ancient world’s trade routes.

Universidad Complutense de Madrid archaeologist Horacio Gonzalez Cesteros said in a statement obtained by Newsflash: “We now better understand how bulk agricultural products were packaged and transported efficiently over long distances.

Image shows a fragmentary jar, undated photo. It originated from the Yassiada shipwreck and it has been given an official seal and can be linked to Kos by its material composition. (Frederick H. van Doorninck, Jr., Justin Leidwanger, Jenny Vo-Phamhi, James Gross/Newsflash)

“The large number of transport amphorae that are available as archaeological finds offer the opportunity to learn more about the economy in the period from the 1st millennium BC to the 15th century AD.”

The research team – from Spain. Australia and the USA – explained that the pots were precisely made so Rome’s customers didn’t get too much or too little.

Cesteros explained: “Nevertheless, one cannot speak of an ‘industrial’ production in today’s sense,

“The standardisation of amphorae did not go hand in hand with industrialisation, extreme specialisation and mass production.

“Because unlike today, the products were handmade by the potters, so a certain deviation from the standard was unavoidable.”


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