The Testimony of Hands

68.43.62, .73

68.43.62, .73, nesting bronze weights; diameter of outer weight is 24 millimeters (1 inch).
San Gabriel de Yunque (A.D. 1598–1610)
UNM field school collection
Photograph by B. Bernard

In Spanish Colonial times, small goods were weighed on beam balances, with the object to be weighed in one pan and standard weights in the other. The weights were often designed as nesting cups, with the outermost weight having a hinged lid, for ease of of transport. A complete set from Spain can be seen here. Two weights found at San Gabriel are shown nested, above, and also separately, below.

68.43.73 68.43.62

Left: outer weight. Right: inner weight.

Such careful measuring tools may seem out of place on such a remote frontier, but the first Spanish colonists expected to find great mineral wealth in New Mexico and a beam balance would have been useful for measuring out gold and silver. Besides, the colonists would have wished to duplicate, as much as possible, the life they had left behind—and that life included commercial weights and measures. As a final consideration, frontier life was regulated by the viceregal government in Mexico City, based on the Laws of the Indies, and that legal mandate included weights and measures. The next photograph, looking down into one of the nesting weights, shows the mark that certified that weight and indicated its amount.

68.43.62, cup weight

68.43.62, bronze weight, showing the stamp
Photograph by B. Bernard

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