The Metrologic collection of the Museum of Beja, is a good example of the evolution of Weights and Measures, in our country. The chronologic period represented is quite extent, it comprises specimens used from the foundation of our nationality, until the present day. The collection includes length linear measurements, the masses, in which weights and weighing instruments are subdivided, and the volume measurements for dries as well as volume measurements for liquids.
For lengths measurements, the museum possesses a set of ancient measures of length (0,66 meters), an inch by inch gauge, a chain of sixths, and an interesting size-rule dated from 1751 that might have been used to measure people heights.
The set of weights (blocks or masses) constitutes the biggest nucleus of the collection pieces under study. The stone patterns are the most ancients, probably medieval, although it is somewhat difficult to identify them as far as time or place of origin, as they had a long utilization along the centuries.
In the block (masses) category we find the weighing instruments, commonly known as weight control scales, the equal-arms scale, of which the museum possesses a few examples, is, probably, the most ancient weighing instrument, and at the same time, of the more simple use. It also exists scales for specific weighing, such as for wheat, kitchen scales, decimals and a set of three roman scales dated from the XVIII to XIX centuries.
In relation of volume and capacity, for liquid and dries measurements, outstands the royal standards of D. Sebastião, dated from 1575. In the volume standards for liquids, the unity would be the Almude (25 liters), and the submultiples a half almude, the Canada (2 liters’), the half Canada, and the quartilho (half a quart). The unity for the standard of dry volumes was the alqueire (varying between 13 and 22 liters’), and the submultiples a half alqueire, a quart and an eighth (half a quart), that were eventually measured with a bronze rasoira (level with a rim of measures).
It is also to be noted, a set of clay measurements, that belonged to Beja’s aguadeiros (man who carries water) composed by canadas (earthen water-pots) of 6 litres, cántaros (water pot of 20 litres), and pots with 12 litres. Many were engraved with the quantity it held, and the marks or calibrating dates and/or belonging. These types of measurements were very often used during the XVIII and XIX centuries. The aguadeiro figure was quite important, In a region where water was very scarce, in as much that they ensured the distribution of this precious liquid to the city.