Lion Counterweight

Project details

  • Object number – 7270-JR
  • Material – Brass
  • Place of Origin – Nuremberg, Germany
  • Date – c. 1607-1624
  • Context – James Fort
  • Location – Study Collection
  • Category – Health & Hygiene

This lion is part of a scale made in Nuremberg, Germany, for weighing pharmaceutical substances. The three dimensional mount of a lion couchant with a ball nestled between his front paws and his left paw resting upon it was used as a counterweight to keep scales suspended while they were in use.

This brass lion is barely one inch tall, but it served a very important purpose. When the scale was not being used, it was important to keep the balance beam holding the weighing pans from unnecessary movement, which could cause wear in the areas of suspension. The lion, weighing 1.7 ounces, was tied to the end of a string that held the balance pans up or lowered them down depending on the position of the lion. The lion image was common on Nuremberg pharmaceutical scales from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Since the Jamestown Rediscovery “lion” was found in the mixed fill of the 1861 Confederate earthwork covering James Fort, it is not possible to say exactly when it first came to Jamestown.