Name of Object:

Cubit measure (dr’a)


Tlemcen, Algeria

Holding Museum:

Museum of Tlemcen (National Agency of Archaeology)


Hegira 728 / AD 1328

Type of object:

Cubit, marble

Museum Inventory Number:

002 M

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Sculpted translucent marble.


Length 66 cm, width 18 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Tlemcen, Algeria.


This cubit measure presents itself in the form of a rectangular tablet. An inscription in Andalusian characters has been carved onto one side within two lozenges. The text proclaims: 'Praise and recognition be to God! This is the measuring ruler of the cubit, for the qaysariyya [bazaar]. May God enrich it! In the month of rabi the second of the year seven hundred and twenty eight [AD 1328]'.
Above the inscription can be found a linear rule composed of four equal sections, each representing half a hand-span (nisf al-chibr = 11.7 m ; the hand-span, al-chibr = 23.5 m). The total length of this cubit is therefore 47 centimetres, an unusual dimension that was particular to the kissaria of Tlemcen.
Brosselard qualified this cubit as 'royal' as he traces it back to the Ziyanid prince Abu Tashufin I, who was a great amateur inventor and innovator.
This cubit served as a standard unit for all measures of length.

View Short Description

How date and origin were established:

The inscription carved on the cubit gives the date AH 728 (AD 1328).

How Object was obtained:

Donated by Bernard, squadron chief of the French Army, commander of Tlemcen.

How provenance was established:

This tablet was discovered within the wall surface of the qaysariyya of Tlemcen by squadron chief Bernard.

Selected bibliography:

Brosselard, Ch., “Inscriptions arabes de Tlemcen”, Revue africaine, no 25, 1861, pp.14–30.
Marçais, G., Algérie médiévale, monuments et paysages historiques, Paris, 1957.
Mazouz, A. and Deries, L., Djamaa el-kitabat el-arabiya fi el-djazair, kitab el-cherk el-djazairi (Corpus of Arabic inscriptions of Algeria, inscriptiuons of the Algerian East), Vol. 1, Algiers, 2000.

Citation of this web page:

Leila Merabet "Cubit measure (dr’a)" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019.;ISL;dz;Mus01;20;en&id=weights_and_measures

Prepared by: Leila MerabetLeila Merabet

Titulaire d'un magister en archéologie islamique (spécialité épigraphie arabe), conservateur du patrimoine archéologique et historique, Leila Merabet est chef du service Conservation et Valorisation (section islamique) au Musée national des antiquités. Elle a publié de nombreux articles dans les Annales du Musée national des antiquités.

Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Maria Vlotides
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: AL 29