Cubit measure (dr’a)
Museum of Tlemcen (National Agency of Archaeology)
Hegira 728 / AD 1328
Sculpted translucent marble.
Length 66 cm, width 18 cm
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.
The inscription carved on the cubit gives the date AH 728 (AD 1328).
Donated by Bernard, squadron chief of the French Army, commander of Tlemcen.
This tablet was discovered within the wall surface of the qaysariyya of Tlemcen by squadron chief Bernard.
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.
Leila Merabet "Cubit measure (dr’a)" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://www.museumwnf.org/thematicgallery/thg_galleries/database_item.php?itemId=objects;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