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Units of measurement already used in commerce 3,000 years ago in northwestern Europe

An archaeological study shows that the use of weights and scales to measure the value of goods and materials in general was already widespread in the second millennium and at the beginning of the first millennium BC in north-western Europe.

Lorenz Rahmstorf, a researcher at the University of Göttingen, published a work in the journal Antiquity following analyzes that he and his team carried out of various objects from the middle and late Bronze Age found in various British islands and northern France.

The researcher found that these objects were based on the same weight units. This indicates that weights and standard measures to facilitate trade and exchange were already in use along European trade routes.

This contrasts with the common belief that trade during the Bronze Age in Northwestern Europe was substantially based on simple exchange and bartering. The existence of a real unit of measurement, as precise as that identified by the researcher, instead allowed people to compare exact reports of the value of the materials exchanged, using the latter as if they were precise sums of money.

This also allowed traders to perform much more complex calculations, such as calculating profits, creating currencies and exploiting any production surplus. Furthermore the weight units identified by the researcher are compatible and in some respects identical to those dominant in the eastern Mediterranean at that time: this indicates that the same knowledge of standard weights and measures was much more widespread than previously thought and was not alone limited to the advanced cultures of the eastern Mediterranean and western Asia, such as those of Greece, Egypt or Mesopotamia.