Discover the ancient measures with the new exhibition of the Pera Museum


The Pera Museum has brought together a new selection from the Suna and Inan Kıraç Foundation “Collection of Anatolian Weights and Measures” in an exhibition titled “The Art of Weights and Measures”.

The exhibition revolves around economics, culture, dynamics of social trust and the journey of standardization of units, aiming to explore through the eyes of civilizations, gods, merchants, masters and apprentices .

Inspired by the verse from Homer’s ‘Iliad’, the series of talks in the exhibition titled ‘And the stone fell because of its weight’ covers the era of the Assyrian trading colonies, the Hittites and the Hellenistic period, highlighting shopping, trade, weight and measurement systems in Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman times.

Generating concepts about the act of measuring and weighing meant developing both a practical and philosophical relationship with the world for ancient civilizations. As these archaic societies laid the foundation for units of weight from seeds grown in the fertile soil of Mesopotamia, they prepared the environment for the development of their civilizations through their observations of measurement. For example, the second millennium BC saw the expansion of the frontiers of exploration, with trade routes from Mesopotamia to Anatolia.

As curiosity for precision in measuring and weighing continued, myths moved from the world of gods to that of mortals, and concepts such as righteousness and justice came to be associated with the balance of the scale. While the sins of the dead were weighed on scales in ancient Egypt, scales were indispensable elements in depictions of gods and goddesses as symbols of justice in ancient Greek and Roman cultures.

In Byzantine society too, just or correct weighing had a strong moral significance and revoked the idea of ​​the weighing of souls. In the Ottoman Empire, on the other hand, the correct weighing emerged as an image that laid the foundation for trust in the context of faith as well as in commerce.

The exhibition takes its starting point from the quote from Protagoras, “Man is the measure of all things: of the things that are, that they are, of the things that are not, that they are not.” For this reason, the attempt to measure the world with a handful of units brought the ability to construct it mentally. As the measurement of discovery was mixed with myths, measuring and weighing became an important tool for self-expression for people curious about science, the universe, and the unknown beyond a physical experience.

In the previous parts of the exhibition speeches, Professor Fikri Kulakoğlu, who is leading the excavations, spoke about the trade and the weight measurement system in the ancient site of Kultepe, while Professor Ilknur Taş talked about measure and measurement in Hittite culture. Suna and Inan Kıraç Foundation Pera Museum Yavuz Selim Güler, Director of the Anatolian Weights and Measures Collection, also gave information about Roman merchants and bankers in Anatolia.

The fourth part of the series of speeches will take place on Tuesday, with the speech “State, art and weighing instruments in Byzantium” by archaeologist Brigitte Pitarakis, scientific consultant of the Istanbul Research Institute in the field of Byzantine studies . The speech can be listened to via the museum’s Youtube channel.

His speech will be based on the relationship between currency and the measurement of weight in Byzantium, and aims to place the weighing instruments produced between the 4th and 7th centuries within the framework of the commercial context in which they were used with the ideology imperialism and state control. mechanism. Weighbridge knobs and double pan weights, which also have aesthetic qualities, exemplify the versatile meanings of functional objects. The busts of the Empress and Athena prominent on the knobs of the scales serve for imperial propaganda, while the inscriptions and decorations on the scales indicate the development of state offices responsible for their control and administration. integrity between religion and state.

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