In ancient civilisation, units of measurement were based on human body parts. Here’s a few of them…
Cubit – The pyramid builders of Ancient Egypt measure things in cubits. It was the length of a man’s forearm from elbow to the tip of his middle finger. The cubit was one of the first recorded units of measurements and was used until the middle ages.
Span – This unit of measurement was based on the width of a hand, stretched out as far as it could go, from thumb tip to pinky finger.
Hand – The width of the four fingers where they meet at the palm is known as a handbreadth. Used as a unit of length in the ancient world and still used these days to give the height of horses and ponies.
Foot – Don’t be fooled into thinking this is purely the measurement of a mans foot! In Ancient Greece 16 fingers made up a foot, rather confusingly. The Romans devised the measurement of a foot, by using one foot divided into 12 units and measured 29.6cm (12 inches)
Fathom – In Ancient Greece the fathom was two yards, or the distance between the fingertips of a man’s outstretched arm. Fathoms measured distance on land, but sometime during the 1600’s fathoms became the unit to measure the depth of water.
Yard – there are a few theories on how this measurement is based, some say it may have developed as a double cubit, or the length of a man’s stride, or the distance around your waist. Also, it has been said that King Henry I determined that it was the distance between his fingertips and his nose.
Whatever theories or reason’s for these measurements they are all still used today in some shape or form.