The origin of the scales and of weighing, one of the first measurement technologies in the development of human culture, remains obscure to this day. Standardized finished products provide indirect evidence dating the scale to the middle of the 5th millennium BC. It is reasonable to assume that the scales emerged parallel to the development of copper and gold metallurgy, if not sooner.

There is conclusive evidence that equal-armed scales were used in Egypt beginning around 3000 BC. The first metrological system can be shown to have emerged in Babylon around the same time. By mapping all surviving evidence of scales and weighing practices in the Atlas of Innovations, we will lay the foundation for a better understanding of the emergence and spread of the scales and of metrology.