Introduction Tumbrels are two-part balances which were used to check the weights of specific coins.  They were used to identify rogue, underweight coins which would neither tip nor balance the beam/balance-arm (MacGregor 1985, 440). Though they are known from the Byzantine empire in our early early-medieval period (MacGregor 1985, 440-442; fig. 1), we would expect to …more

Apothecaries’ Weights

Introduction Apothecaries’ weights were used to weigh out ingredients in medicines and potions.  The weight-system used was influenced by the Roman system, and the units were called scruples, drachms and ounces.  There were three scruples to the drachm, and eight drachms to the ounce.  Being generally small square or sub-square weights they can be confused …more

Page Holders

Introduction A type of medieval tweezers with significantly expanded arm terminals (c. 45-50 mm in length when complete) may have had a particular function: to hold together several leaves of vellum manuscripts.  The objects can have slides which presumably locked the grip.  Their terminals are generally square, rectangular or trapezoidal, often with punched or engraved …more


Introduction Jettons are metal discs which feature designs and often inscriptions, and which were intended for use as counters for most of the period in which they were produced, that is in the medieval and early post-medieval periods.  Being like a coin in terms of its properties, along with tokens, medals and medallions, jettons are …more

Steelyard Weights

Introduction The balance known as a steelyard required weights that could be suspended.  This was achieved either by hanging weights using integral or separately added loops, or by perforating a weight centrally to take a separate wire bent into a loop.  Weights used on steelyards were fundamentally made of lead; this was encased as a …more


Introduction Steelyards are portable ‘scales with beam arms of unequal length’ (Crummy 1983, 99), rather than being an equal-arm balance.  They therefore had a fulcrum close to one end, or more specifically two; the material being weighed (the load) was suspended via a loop at the terminal of the same end, often in a pan, …more

Bird feeders, inkwells and other small lead vessels

Introduction Small lead or lead-alloy vessels can be bird feeders, inkwells, cup weights, dice shakers or be of unknown function. A few are described below with tips on identification and recording. Most of these objects should be recorded as Lead. Only use Lead Alloy if the object seems rather too lightweight to be pure lead. …more

Styli, pencils and parchment-prickers

Introduction A stylus (plural styli) is a writing implement used to scratch letters into the wax of a writing tablet. A pencil makes a coloured mark on wood, paper or parchment. A writing tablet was usually made from wood or bone and had slightly recessed panels filled with wax (see, for example, the early-medieval Blythburgh …more