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600–900 CE

Moche Net Balance Scale

Pre-Columbian balance scale from coastal Peru

This net balance scale originates from pre-Columbian Peru around 600–900 CE. It features two woven diamond-shaped nets made of wool, cotton and linen suspended to create a triangular form with a nested geometric diamond pattern of threads.

Moche Net Balance Scale

The balance scale is constructed from materials that suggest an origin of coastal Peru. Based on its estimated age, it was likely made and used by the early Chimú people, also known as the Moche civilization. The balance contains multi-ply yarn, which was uncommon in Moche culture, suggesting it was used to weigh materials of high value.

Artifact format

Bone: 4 7/8 in. × 5/8 in., suspending string: 17 1/2 in., nets: 23 1/2 x 8 3/4 in.

Original artifact location

Moche (historical name), Peru (current name)

Current artifact location

Mead Art Museum, Amherst

Catalog number

AC M. 1940.1


Geometry timeline Babylonian Nested Triangle Tablet Babylonian Geometrical Problem Tablet Babylonian Sippar Recombination Text Moscow Mathematical Papyrus Euclid's Elements Euclid Diagram Papyrus Moche Net Balance Scale Al-Tusi's Commentary on the Elements

Interactive Content

Computational Explanation

Additional Reading

  • Smith, D. A. and Spier, L. "The Dot and Circle Design in Northwestern America." Journal de la société des américanistes Année, Vol. 19, p. 47–55, 1927.
  • Hernandez, J.; Maloney, M.; and Flores, A. "Net Balance Scale." [link]
  • Hoffmann, C. A. "El juego de chuncana entre los chimú. Un tablero de madera que prueba la hipótesis de Erland Nordenskiöld." Bulletin de l'Institut Français d'Études Andines, Vol. 32, Issue 2, pp. 317–345, 2003.
  • O'Neale, L. M. "A Note on Certain Mochica (Early Chimu) Textiles." American Antiquity, Vol. 12, pp. 239–245, 1947.
  • Thompson, D. "An Aesthetically Functional Set of Ancient Andean Fiberwork Scales at the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, Atlanta." Ars Textrina, Vol. 21, pp. 85–106, June 1994.
  • Thompson, D. "Ancient Andean Textiles: A Balancing Act." Fiberarts, Vol. 22, No. 2, p. 16, Sept./Oct. 1995.
  • Ziolkowski, M. C. and Al-Sharqi, A. S. "Dot-in-Circle: An Ethnoarchaeological Approach to Soft-Stone Vessel Decoration." Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, Vol. 17, Issue 2, pp. 152–162, 2006.