Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow Museums
Hegira 4th–5th centuries / AD 10th–11th centuries
Glass, moulded and stamped; transparent pale-green in colour.
Diameter 2 cm
A glass weight produced in Egypt between the AH 2nd and 9th / AD 8th and 15th centuries, which would have been used to check the weights of prototype gold, silver and copper coins. A gold dinar would typically weigh 4.25 g and a silver dirham would have weighed 2.97 g. Metal coins were hand-minted and it was, therefore, difficult to ensure the exact accuracy of the weight; tampering with the weight of hand-minted coins was also a problem. Glass weights such as this one were developed to monitor the accuracy of metal coinage, and were used by the sellers to make sure that the correct vale of metal was being paid in return for the goods being purchased. The Arabic texts stamped on these weights usually bore the name of the ruler or official who ordered their issue and were usually re-issued every time the ruler or official changed office. This particular example is pale-green in colour and has a stamped Arabic inscription on one side (still to be deciphered), while the back is flat and plain.
These glass weights testify to Fustat's position as one of the richest cities of the Middle East during the Fatimid period (AH 296–566 / AD 909–1171). A busy port, the markets of Fustat traded a wide variety of goods that arrived from all over the world, from places as far away as China. Fustat was also an important manufacturing centre, producing fine ceramics, glassware, steel and copper products, soap, sugar, textiles and paper.
This glass weight was made in AH 5th- / AD 11th-century Egypt. Merchants and shopkeepers used such weights to check the weight of gold or silver coins, making sure that they were of the right weight and nobody had tampered with their precious metal. They were marked with the same designs as on the coins.
Stylistic analysis: many comparable examples have been found in Fustat, Egypt, which have been dated to the Fatimid period after deciphering the scripts stamped on them.
Donated to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in 1929.
Battie, D., and Cottle, S., (ed.), Sotheby's Concise Encyclopaedia of Glass, London, 1991.
Jenkins, M., Islamic Glass, A Brief History, New York, 1986.
Lewis, B., (ed.), et. al. The Encyclopaedia of Islam, London, 1965.
Noorah Al-Gailani "Glass weight" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus04;19;en
Prepared by: Noorah Al-GailaniNoorah Al-Gailani
Noorah Al-Gailani is Curator for Islamic Civilisations at Glasgow Museums, Scotland. With a BA in Interior Design from the College of Fine Arts, Baghdad University and three years' experience in design and folk art preservation, she moved to the UK in 1992. On completing her MA in Museum Studies at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London in 1994, she worked as Project Officer at the Grange Museum of Community History documenting the presence of Muslim communities in the London Borough of Brent. In 1995 she was Assistant Curator, Ancient Monuments Laboratory, English Heritage, and in 1996 became Curator for John Wesley's House and the Museum of Methodism in London. She co-authored The Islamic Year: Surahs, Stories and Celebrations (Stroud: Hawthorn Press, 2002) for non-Muslim children. Since 2003 she has been based at The Burrell Collection in Glasgow, working across the city's museums to interpret Islamic art and culture, ancient and modern, through research, exhibitions and educational activities.
Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: UK4 24C