Homepage Timeline Maps A-Z index Learning

Measuring volume in Ancient Egypt

Most often written sources refer to units for measuring grain: in the New Kingdom (about 1550-1069 BC) there are capacity measures for other materials such as honey, resin and gold-dust.

Three main measures are ‘jar’ (Egyptian hnw, in Egyptology cited as hin), ‘barrel’ (HqAt vocalised in Egyptology as heqat) and ‘sack’ (XAr vocalised in Egyptology as khar).

Old and Middle Kingdom (about 2025-1700 BC): 1 khar = 10 heqat, 1 heqat = 10 hin

Jars inscribed with hin-measurements indicate that 1 hin corresponds to 0.48 litres (earlier calculations gave about 0.503 litres)

Therefore 1 heqat would be about 4.8 litres, and 1 khar about 48 litres.

Middle Kingdom accounts refer to single and double heqat measures. Early New Kingdom (about 1550-1400 BC) sources indicate a mixed system of single, double and quadruple heqat

Late New Kingdom sources indicate that official usage preferred the quadruple heqat, named ipt (in Egyptology cited as oipe), and four of these (sixteen single heqat) now corresponded to one khar (‘sack’)

Beside the predominant official systems, other measuring units evidently existed, even in the official domain: the decree of Horemheb (about 1300 BC) refers to a ‘house-ipt’ corresponding to 5 heqat=50 hin


Copyright © 2002 University College London. All rights reserved.