Stone Weight with Inscriptions

Created: Ancient Iran. 522-486 BC

Found: Territory of Iran, Kerman

An Achaemenid Stone Weight from the State Hermitage Collection
Among the few objects representing the culture of Iran under the Achaemenid dynasty in the State Hermitage there is one most interesting object, a stone weight with inscriptions. The weight shaped as a turnicated pyramid with with rounded edges is made of black basalt. It is 10.3 cm high, 10.3 x 10.7 cm wide at base. Three of its sides bear cuneiform inscriptions in three languages: Elamite (6 lines in the middle), Old Persian (9 lines, left of the Elamite) and Akkadian (4 lines, right of the Elimite). The fourth side is empty. In the upper plane of the truncated pyramid there is a small cavity, possibly a trace from the clip, fixing the stone to the grinding machine during its processing. The weight of the stone is 2222.425 g.
The weight is recorded in the inventory book Ancient East under the number 19106 (act 182 of 26 March 1955). The weight was first discovered in the early 1860-s by French diplomat, scholar and man of letters Joseph Artur Gabineau. Being on a diplomatic mission in Iran he visited the mausoleum of Nimat Ullah in Mehan (around 40 km from Kerman) where the stone was preserved (Gabineau, 1964, p. 323). The publication of J. A. Gobineau was coldly accepted by the scientific community, who considered him a dilettante.
To the Hermitage the weight came from the collection of the disbanded Asiatic Museum on 20.06.1936 (Act 410). To the Asiatic Museum the stone was transferred at the beginning of the 20-th century by Russian diplomat Alexander Jakovlevich Miller, from 1899 to 1904 deputy consul in Sistan and Kerman, from 1910 to 1913 general consul in Tabriz. A.J. Miller was interested in Iranian antiquities. In the darvish sanctuary of Nimat Ullah he made photographs of the stone weight preserved there.
The mausoleum of Shah Nimatullah Vali (1330-1431), the founder of a sufi order, philosopher and poet is located in Mehan (also spelled Mahan, Maghan), not far from Kerman. The main building of the mausoleum was constructed in 1437 by Ahmad-shah Bahmani, one of the Bahmanid rulers of India, who admired the poetry of Nimatullah. It is still one of the most celebrated monuments in Iran.
A.J. Miller sent the photographs to different scholars (Barthold, 2003, p. 143) and presented them at the meeting of the Russian Committee for studying Central and Eastern Asia on November 26, 1904. For the first time his photographs were reproduced by .V. Williams Jackson in his book: Persia Past and Present, New York, 1906 (between pages 181, 183 and 184 – the Old Persian text is reproduced twice, the Elamite is missing – possibly an error of layout). Jackson dedicated the following passage to the weight: "Before I close this chapter I wish to call attention to one small inscription of Darius, previously known but not easily accessible in the cuneiform characters. It is preserved at the village of Maghan, near Kerman, in the shrine of Nimat-ullah Vali, founder of the order of Nimat-ullah dervishes, but its previous history is unknown. The characters are carved on three faces of a small tetragonal pyramid of dark stone, which is about 4 inches high and 3,5 inches square at the base, and therefore a little larger than the photographs I reproduce. The photographs were kindly sent me by the late J.C. Van Roosbroeck, Director of "Persian Customs and Post, and forwarded to him by the courtesy of Mr. A. Miller, Russian Consul at Kerman".
By the efforts of A.J. Miller and several other Russian and European diplomats and officials working in Iran the weight was in 1907 transferred to Tehran nd then to the Asiatic Museum in St. Petersburg. German Assyriologist F.G. Weissbach published his article on the weight in the Bulletin of the Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences (Weissbach, 1910, S. 482-483). He presented the drawings of the inscriptions, their transliteration and translation. Weissbach used plaster casts offered him by K.G. Zalemann, director of the Asiatic Museum. Ronald Kent in his Corpus of Old Persian texts possibly used the photograph from Jackson;s book - (Kent, 1950, p. 157, WB = Darius, Weight B).

adam: dārayavauš. x-
šāyaϑaiya: vazaraka: x-
šāyaϑiya: xašāyaϑ-
iyānām: xašāyaϑ-
iya: dahyunām: xš-
āyaϑiya: ahayāyā
: baumiyā: vaištā-
spahyā: puca: haxā-
manišiya I am Darius
Great king
King of kings
King of nations
King of all lands
Son of Vishtaspa
the Achaemenid

The Elamite and the Akkadian texts repeat the same titles of king Darius. It is noteworthy that on the weight from the Hermitage its weight is not indicated, while all other available Achaemenid stone weights bear such indications. All these weights belong to the reign of Darius I (522-486 B.C.), who introduced standards for weights and measures in Iran. All these weight units were tight to Babylonian shekel (8.33 g). Besides the king introduced a new weight measure – karša, equal to 10 shekels. Six Achaemenid stone weights are known. The one in the British Museum № 91117 – two karša = 166.724 g (the equivalent of 20 shekels). Two weights from Persepolis: PT3 283 and PT4 736, inscribed 20 minae /120 karša and 10 minae /60 karša, their weight 9950 and 4930 g. It gives the weight for a shekel 8,29 and 8,22 g., taking into account that both stones are damaged. The weight of the Hermitage stone – 2222.425 g does not correspond to any whole number of shekels. W. Trousdale suggested that the original weight of the stone had been 30 karša, but then about 10% of its weight had been lost Trousdale, 1968, pp. 277-280). It is not likely, for the stone is practically undamaged. A. Bivar suggested that it was probably some special weight equal to 400 silver shekels (Bivar, 2010). The most probable interpretation was suggested by Weissbach in his article of 1910. In Iran the relation of values of gold and silver for a long time remained constant - 1 to 131/3. So the price of 2 karša (= 20 shekels) of gold was equal to the price of 2222.425 g of silver. The existence of the Hermitage weight proves that in Iran in the reign of Darius I financial operations including the exchange of gold for silver were quite common (Weißbach, 1911, S. 625-696).

Bivar A. D. H. Weights and Measures. Pre-Islamic Period. Encyclopaedia Iranica, 2010,
Gabineau J.A. Traité de l’Écriture cunéiforme. Paris, 1864, t. I
Jackson Williams A.V., Persia Past and Present, New York, 1906
Kent Roland G. Old Persian. Grammar, Text, Lexicon. New Haven, Connecticut, 1950
Trousdale William, An Achaemenid Stone Weight from Afghanistan, East and West 18, 1968, pp. 277-280
Weissbach F. H., Die sogenannte Inschrift von Kerman, Известия Российской Императорской академии наук, VI серия, том IV, первый полутом, СПб., 1910, с. 482-486
Weißbach F. H., Zur keilinschriftlichen Gewichtkunde. Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, Vol. 65, No. 4, 1911, S. 625-696
V.v. Barthold. Историко-географический очерк Ирана, в кн. Работы по исторической географии и истории Ирана. Москва, 2003 г.


Stone Weight with Inscriptions


Epoch. Period:


Place of finding:



10,3х10,3х10,7 cm

Acquisition date:

Handed over from the Asian Museum of the USSR Academy of Sciences

Inventory Number: