It wasn’t so easy back in ancient Egypt—a land of great mystery and magic to modern man. People did want to know what they weighed no doubt. Dieting wasn’t a fad (none of these scales for weight loss stuff ha-ha) and food was relegated to simple fare, so overeating fast food just wasn’t a big issue for most. No doubt obesity did not rear its ugly head for the poor. For about three thousand years they ate the same thing. Who could over consume crocodile, pomegranates, or ostrich? There were lavish banquets for the rich no doubt when a bit of indulgence took place. Cakes with honey, apples and apricots, beer that looked like gruel, and dates were all treats. Whether they kept people svelte or not remains to be seen. Lard is not as much of a temptation as butter!

Fortunately, we have great source material in good condition. Fat people don’t appear to my knowledge in wall paintings although they do depict food preparation and eating. As for scales, well let me think. A device for weighing was probably pretty fundamental: no fancy digital scale units. They didn’t have words for pounds or tonnes either. Scales were necessary for the purposes of trade and barter that were the heart of the economy. Paintings show ample views of traditional poles and balancing receptacles of various sizes and shapes. I don’t think people ever jumped in!

The crude technology had to work in some way for comparing individuals to arrive at some conclusion about their girth. If you wanted to be more certain and go beyond a guestimate by picking someone up, you would resort to a mode of measurement that could be somewhat more reliable. They certainly knew how to weigh body parts before burial, particularly the heart. Evidence is amply found in the great pyramids. They also used their system for metals like copper, gold, and silver.

We know the ancient Egyptians used units of lengths in the early dynastic period. The Nile was measured as well—in cubits (think Noah’s ark) and palms. The Palermo Stone shows area indications using “khets” and “remens.” Volume and capacity were done in “hegats” and “hinus.” Sounds like fun. Whatever they needed entailed a system that was repeatable and thus verifiable. What about people, again the question arises. It’s not the same process as for jars of oil and barrels of grain. They were pretty advanced for the time as far as I can see and showed considerable natural knowledge.

Perhaps we don’t really know and can only surmise the rest. They might have had a water displacement method. They were clever beings: that we do know. They had a way of explaining things and finding out about basic pre-scientific concepts that was unique and practical, if not religious and ritual. We just have to assume there was consciousness of body weight as there was for animals like goats or sheep. It is fun to imagine in any case as we scour the stylized images of men going about their daily tasks.