Southern Chesapeake Bay region, Virginia, United States of America
Knossos, Crete
Nepal or Tibet, 11th–12th century
Namikawa Yasuyuki
Paolo Uccello
Paris, 1868, Oil on canvas, 111 x 70 cm
25th Dynasty, Egypt
Tang Dynasty Horse from Henan Province, China


Metrological Relief

Ancient Aegean weights and measures
450 BC

The Metrological Relief is a marble slab roughly triangular in shape carved in relief with the upper body of a man looking to his left and with his arms outstretched. The slab, which is broken across the left forearm, is 2.09 m long, 62 cm high in the centre, and the height of the side that is still complete is 26.15 cm and approximately 10 cm thick.

The relief is clearly concerned with measurement, and the pedimental shape suggests that it once stood over the porch of a public weights and measures office.

Various dimensions are described (a foot, an ell, fist, finger), and what were once dismissed as puzzling discrepancies can now be seen to belong to different classification values in a logical, elegant and integrated system based on divisions of the earth’s surface at different points on the longitudinal meridian.

Dating to approximately 450BC, the relief was acquired somewhere in the Aegean by William Petty, Lord Arundel’s agent, in 1625. It will almost certainly have been made near its findspot, probably in western Asia Minor or on one of the off-shore islands (modern Greece).

It was taken to Arundel House which, in the 1630s, contained a collection of artwork, sculpture, alters and gems, second only to the Royal collection. In 1691, the Arundel sculpture was sold to Sir William Fermor, later Baron Leominster, who had the Metrological Relief built into the pediment of an elaborate garden feature in the grounds at Easton Neston, Northamptonshire.

The Metrological Relief was presented to the University of Oxford, as part of a collection of Pomfret marbles, in 1755.