A Lead Weight of Shimon Bar Kokhba
by Robert Deutsch

The subject of this paper is a lead weight, cast in a mould, with a small handle-like projection at the top.1 The width of the weight is 6.3 cm.; its height is 5.4 cm., with the 1.2 cm. projection bringing the total height to 6.6 cm. It weighs 426.1 gr. The cross-section of the weight is trapezoid, and the smaller rectangular surface measures 5.3x3.7 cm. The surface, which is covered by a considerable amount of corrosion, bears a three-line palaeo-Hebrew inscription in relief (Fig. 1):

'Sim`on son of Kosba, Prince of Israel'

Fig. 1: Lead weight with inscription

The Palaeography

Several letters — the mem, waw, yod, resh and nun — are similar to those on the coins of Bar Kokhba.2 Three letters are in mirror script: the letters kaph, yod (twice) and 'aleph. The fourth letter in the first line is peculiar, but must be a letter waw because of its location in the name sm`wn 'Sim`on'. The first letter of the third line is damaged, but the upper end and the lower horizontal line of the letter nun are visible. Three words are written in abbreviated form: kws(b') `Kos(ba)', nsy(') 'Prince' and ysr'(1) 'Israe(l)'. This has also been observed on several Bar Kokhba coins.3 The word nsy(') `Prince' is written with a samekh instead of a shin, a phenomenon known from the Bar Kokhba letters.4

The Language

The language used to mark ownership on the weight is Hebrew, as suggested by the use of the Hebrew word bn 'son', instead of its Aramaic counterpart br. This is the fourth lead weight belonging to the Bar Kokhba administration that has been recorded to date.5 While the three previously published weights bear Hebrew inscriptions in square Jewish script, the weight under discussion is unique regarding its palaeo-Hebrew script.

The Weight Standard

According to Flavius Josephus, some 60 years before Bar Kokhba (Ant. 14:105-106), the local Judaean weight — the maneh — equalled 2.5 Roman libra, i.e. 327.5 gr. (one libra being equal to 131 gr.). Our weight of 426.1 gr. weighs c. 3.25 libra, which makes no sense. In our view, the weight of the silver coins of Bar Kokhba is to be considered as the key to the weight standard used by his administration. It is noteworthy that the Aramaic term sela and the Phoenician term shekel are names of coins, as well as of weight standards.6 The silver tetradrachm (or sela) weighs on average 14 gr. and its quarter fraction, the denarius or zuz, is c. 3.5 gr. The weight of the Hebrew lead weight under discussion — 426.1 gr. — is c. 30 sela.7 The Bar Kokhba lead weight, published by Lifshitz, weighs 210 gr., which is exactly 15 sela,8 and the Horvat Alim weight weighs almost four times as much, c. 804 gr., which is c. 60 sela (in fact, 57.5 sela).9 Accordingly, we have a system of three weights of 15, 30 and 60 sela.

Discussion

  1. Dear David. The surface of the led weight is covered by a considerable amount of corrosion. In addition, microscopic investigation revealed cracks in the metal and large crystals, which can grow to such size only during 2000 years

    To detect led or any other metal corrosion is very easy
    Dr. Robert Deutsch, 01/03, 04:44 PM

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