Measuring instruments  »  Balances

Balances - Pewter · Glass

The first documents to mention balances were written in Ancient Egypt in around 3500 b.C. Several examples of graffiti and papyruses, in fact, depict equal-arm balances for weighing various materials and precious metals. The same instrument was used in Mesopotamia; the balances used by Phoenician merchants were more famous than others as their weights were in the shape of horses' heads. The balance reached Europe from Crete and Cyprus during the Age of Metals. A tablet featuring an engraved balance, in fact, was found in the palace of Knossos (2000?1500 b.C.) on Crete.

The Greeks also knew about balances as they are often represented on monuments and other works of art. The Romans perfected the equal-arm balance and scale pans by adding an index and they used it to precision weigh small objects. For larger items they used the steelyard scales which had been invented in Campania. Steelyard scales comprise a short arm and a long arm. The long arm is fitted with a constant sliding weight called a "romano". Curiously enough, this word is not derived from the Romans but from the Arabs because the shape of this sliding weight resembled a pomegranate which is called "rumen" in Arabic. It is held with a hook and a pan containing the objects to be weighed is hung with chains from the end of the short arm.

Balances were soon also used for scientific research. The Magna Graecian scientist, Archimedes, for example, used them to measure the specific weight of bodies. In the early Middle Ages, the Arab physicist, Al Kaziin, used perfected balances to determine the specific weight of precious metals. Over time, various types of balances were developed for many scientific and commercial purposes. Modern-day precision balances can measure to the nearest millionth of a gram, much less than the weight of a human hair.

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kitchen scale
Kitchen scale
cm h 30
20280     KILO