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Ancient Egypt and DUI Metrology

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

standard measures for beer and wine 1/2 hin
Image taken at Royal Ontario Museum, Egypt Room. Note that each liquid volume measurement may be slightly different in volume. But how does each compare with Pharoah's reference hin?

If you served wine or beer at a pub in ancient Egypt the beverages were measured out using liquid volume instruments like these. Each container in the image measures 1/2 of a hin. The hin was a national standard unit of volume. Everyone in Egypt used the hin as the standard measure of volume. Everyone could compare their purchased hin of wine or beer to the national standard to make sure they were being treated fairly. Every bar owner could make sure their hin measuring instrument matched Pharoah’s. The Measurement Ministry could check everyone’s hin measuring instrument to make sure they each matched Pharoah’s hin. Fairness and Justice were maintained by everyone using standard measures that were traceable to Pharoah’s prototype standard. All hin or half-hin measurements were a comparison to Pharoah's hin.

If you bought grain for your animals in Ancient Egypt, the vendors sold it in standard units of mass, the deben. Vendors in the grain markets had to use fair scales that compared the mass of grain they were selling, to reference standard weights of 20 deben, or 10 deben, or 2 deben, or one deben. Smaller masses were measured in 1/2 kite, 1 kite, or 2 kite.

Deben and Kite weights
Image taken at Royal Ontario Museum, Egypt Room, units of mass

Vendors used scales that looked just like the ones held by "Lady Justice" - Justitia. It appears that Justitia or her Egyptian counterpart, after an Egyptian died could measure people's hearts for truth in the same way that merchants could weigh grain against standard weights.

Perhaps drunk chariot drivers were charged with the offence of having a blood alcohol content of 80 millideben/100millihin.

If I were a defence lawyer in ancient Egypt maybe I would ask the following questions during cross-examination of Pharoah's expert witness:

  1. Are hins, kites, and debens the only measures of volume and mass in the kingdom? What about cubic cubits?

  2. If we have a new Pharoah between date of offence and date of trial, are the units of measurement now traceable to that new Pharoah's cubit or the old one?

  3. If Ptolemy has now assumed control of Egypt, is the delict concentration now based on Egyptian units of measurement or Roman, Greek, or Byzantine units of measurement?

  4. How does the Pharoahilyzer work and how does it compare my client's sample of breath against Pharoah's standard deben and hin?

If I were a defence lawyer in England after 1215, I could argue Magna Carta and take the position that there was only one measure, una mensura, in the country for each of weight and volume. If a police officer or forensic scientist in England post-1215 uses a measure of concentration using units other than the standard measure of weight/volume then the Court should find the Crown's evidence as not being traceable to the reference standard, una mensura, in violation of Magna Carta.

Magna Carta 35
Magna Carta s. 35 in Latin and two translations into English

In Canada, according to the Constitution Act 1867 (BNA Act) section 91 17., Weights and Measures are governed by the federal Parliament:

91 It shall be lawful for the Queen, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate and House of Commons, to make Laws for the Peace, Order, and good Government of Canada, in relation to all Matters not coming within the Classes of Subjects by this Act assigned exclusively to the Legislatures of the Provinces; and for greater Certainty, but not so as to restrict the Generality of the foregoing Terms of this Section, it is hereby declared that (notwithstanding anything in this Act) the exclusive Legislative Authority of the Parliament of Canada extends to all Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say,

  • 17. Weights and Measures.

In Canada, our federal Parliament has enacted the Weights and Measures Act. Section 4(1) reads:

4 (1) All units of measurement used in Canada shall be determined on the basis of the International System of Units established by the General Conference of Weights and Measures.

"All units of measurement used in Canada" includes all quantities, units, and concentrations described in the Criminal Code of Canada, including section 320. The Weights and Measures Act and the Criminal Code of Canada should be read together.

Determination of measurements for forensic criminal law purposes, including section 320 prosecutions must be "determined on the basis of the International System of Units established by the General Conference of Weights and Measures."

In the same way that traceability of a measurement result to Pharoah's hin, deben, or cubit would have been required in Ancient Egypt, or traceability of a measurement result of mass or volume of wine, ale, corn to the una mensura would have been required in England post 1215, every measurement of volume, mass, or concentration in Canada must be traceable to the International Standard of Units established by the General Conference of Weights and Measures.

Measurements of volume, mass, time, or concentration using an "approved instrument" in Canada, are required by Canada's Weights and Measures Act, to be traceable to the the International Standard of Units established by the General Conference of Weights and Measures.

Traceabilty is established by documenting the reference standards used at the factory during the original calibration of the instrument or during a re-calibration of the measuring instrument at an authorized service centre. "Calibration" occurs at the factory or authorized service centre, not in a police detachment. Calibration of an "approved instrument" is NOT traceable to the controls used for quality control during the measurement process.

Canadian lawyers and Judges need to learn the international vocabularies of metrology (the VIM) and legal metrology (the VIML). We need to learn and apply the international terminology of metrology. We need to learn and apply this terminology because Canada is a member state of the General Conference of Weights and Measures.

The presumptions and conclusive proof provisions within section 320 of the Criminal Code of Canada need to be construed and applied in the context of the Weights and Measures Act and Canada's membership in the General Conference of Weights and Measures. Case law respecting "presumption of accuracy" and "conclusive proof" may need to be re-examined to fit Canada's participation as a member state in the CGPM (General Conference of Weights and Measures) and OIML (International Organization of Legal Metrology), whereby we now should be using international vocabularies of metrology and legal metrology. It is respectfully submitted that sections 7 and 8 of the Charter require that the presumptions and other shortcuts contained in Criminal Code section 320, be construed and applied to conform to Canada's international obligations respecting good measurement science and its application to Canadian criminal law. Shortcuts may be appropriate in tightly defined circumstances but they should not violate good international science.

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