Why should you care about Harappan weights?
Several aspects of the Harappan civilization fascinate us today; their enigmatic script, organized trade, meticulous craft, and extremely standardized weight system. The weights tell us about the mathematical advancement of this ancient civilization.
In the same way that their mud and burnt bricks had a regular ratio, Harappan weights and measures were kept consistent throughout their civilization. The weights of the Harappans are significantly easier to understand for historians today than their language and writing, which seems to include around four hundred signs in no apparent alphabetical sequence.
The weights were typically chiseled out of chert, which is a hard mineral, in a cubical shape and with no marks. Chert weights were used to weigh a variety of items. The fundamental unit was 16 (equivalent to 14 grams now) and was measured using a binary method of measurement. The largest weights were multiples of 16, such as 32, 48, 64, and so on. The smaller ones were fractions of a sixteenth.
They exchanged so many craft materials that it was essential for them to measure their raw materials at every stage of the trading process, from the tiniest to the biggest materials - including the tiniest carnelian stones to the largest ceramic vessels transporting liquids.
They have been able to excavate metal scale pans which were used to measure items. Much like the rural scale pans used by small merchants and farmers in India. In Lothal, a significant Indus Valley city in the present Indian state of Gujarat, an ivory scale was discovered with the tiniest division marked on it, roughly 1.6 mm in thickness.
All of this would have created the groundwork for the vast scientific explorations that would be made by individuals who would follow after this ancient civilization. Their mastery of weights is quite intriguing to us because it reveals that this ancient society made considerable mathematical advancements. Beyond mathematics, it demonstrates commercial acumen by utilizing it for practical reasons, such as managing and organizing a massive trade route.