Many systems of weights and measures have existed throughout history. The definitions of some of these units were often vague and inaccurate, and although the roots of many of the units were the same, the actual value of a unit differed from country to country, or epoch to epoch. That fact should not lead to a conclusion that historical units of measure were inaccurate in general. Many units were defined to a high precision, and standards of measurement were in many cases excellent. As a case in point, the Great Pyramid of Giza was built to a precision of 15 mm over sides that are 235 m, over four and a half thousand years ago.
Mesopotamian system
Mesopotamia includes a number of cultures. The Sumerian number system uses a base 60 positional notation, and is the origin for the division of 60 for hours and angles.Length
- kùš -- Cubit (Sumerian). Akkadian ammatu. The copper bar cubit of Nippur, the first known standard bar, defines the Sumerian cubit as 51.72 cm around 1950 BC. It was split in four units, each of these in 16 again. The Babylonian cubit was probably around 48 cm. For reference, the inner square of the Tower of Babel measured 120 by 120 cubits..
- foot -- Defined as 26.45 cm by Sumerian ruler Gudea of Lagash around 2575 BC, this is the oldest preserved standard of length.
- digit -- 1 / 16 foot or 1 / 30 cubit
- stadion -- 148.5 m
- parasang -- Babylonian league is 5.6 km
Area
- sar -- Garden plot (Sumerian)
- iku -- "Plot of land enclosed by a boundary dike/canal", 100 sar. Probably 120 ·120 cubit²
Volume
- log -- 0.54 l
- homer -- 720 log
Weight and monetary
- shekal -- 8.36 g, introduced around 3000 BC
- mina -- 60 shekal
Time
- year -- The Sumerians used a 360 day year by 2100 BC.
- week -- The Babylonians introduced the seven day week, due to the belief that seven brought bad luck, so they did not want to work the seventh day.
- hour -- The 12 hour day and 12 hour night originates from Mesopotamia. The length of these hours changed through the year, being equally spaced over the time of light and dark, respectively.
Vedic system
Vedic measures were first used by the Indian Vedic civilization, and are still in use today—primarily for religious purposes in Hinduism and Jainism.
- See also: Vedic units of time
Persian system
The Persian system had influence on the Greek system, at least. The ghalva (stadion) and parasang were much used as a land measure. There are significant uncertainty, though.Length
- finger -- 1 / 4 palm
- palm -- 1 / 4 foot
- zereth -- Foot, 1 / 2 cubit
- arsani -- Cubit, 52.0 up to 64.0 cm
- cane -- 2 paces, 6 cubits
- chebel -- 40 cubits
- stadion -- Forerunner to Greek and Egyptian stadion, presumably around 264 m
- parasang -- The distance a horse would walk for one hour, 250 chebel, approx. 6 km. (6.23 km in mid 19th century. In todays Iran as well as Turkey, a metric farsang of 10 km is commonly used. Forerunner for league.
- schoinos -- Origin of Greek and Egyptian measures
- mansion -- Equivalent to "stathmos", 4 parsang
Volume
- chenica -- 1.32 l, probably basis of the Greek cheonix
Arabic system
The Arabic system is based on the Persian system.Length
- assbaa -- Finger, 1 / 4 palm
- cabda -- Palm, 1 / 4 foot
- foot -- Base unit, 0.32 m
- arsh -- Cubit, traditionally 2 feet, new definition 3 / 2 feet
- orgye -- Pace, 6 feet
- qasab -- Cane, 12 feet
- seir -- Stadion, 600 feet
- ghalva -- 720 feet
- farasakh -- League, from parasang, 18000 feet, 5.76 km.
- barid -- 4 farasakh
- marhala -- 8 farasakh
Egyptian system
Much of the Egyptian system of measurement is based on the Persian. The Egyptian system in its turn formed the basis of the later Greek system. The Egyptians based their measurements on the Royal cubit, for which the pharaoh devised a standard (master) cut in granite. From these standards, it is clear that accuracies in measurements of at least 1/16 yeba (1 mm) were possible. Note also the cubit and remen which has a ratio that constitutes an irrational number. The Egyptian system was also noteworthy in having units for volume derived from the standard for length. While the Royal cubit is a very well defined unit, uncertainty is connected to the units for land measurement, especially when the Greek stadion and schoinos units came in use.Length
- meh nesut -- Royal cubit, 52.3 cm, varied by less than 0.5 cm through the times.
- shesep -- Width of palm, alt. shep, 1 / 7 Royal cubit. It is speculated that the fraction of 1/7 may have been so that a reasonable pi could be made of 22 shesep over 1 cubit.
- yeba -- Digit, also zebo, 1 / 4 palm, logically enough
- thumb -- 4 / 3 yeba, or 2.49 cm. Basis for the Roman uncia and later, the inch.
- meh scherer -- Forearm, basically 6 / 7 Royal cubit. Also known as the common cubit, used by commons and not as precise.
- double remen -- Approx. 72.3 cm, the length of the diagonal of a Royal cubit square
- remen -- 1 / 2 double remen
- remen digit -- 1 / 20 remen
- khet -- Senus, 100 Royal cubit, also jet, hayt
- stadion -- 400 Royal cubits, 209.2 m
- parasang -- 10000 Royal cubits
- schoinos -- Presumably the "common atur", 12000 Royal kubits or 6.3 km.
- iter -- Royal river measure (pl. iteru or itrw), also atur or ater. 20000 Royal cubits, or 10.46 km. The units parasang, schoinos and ater seems to be often interchanged. The book of Herodotus clearly states the Egyptian mile as twice a Persian parasang, i.e. 20000 Royal cubits.
Area
- setat -- 100 · 100 Royal cubit², also aura
- jata -- 100 setat, is said to be used to this day.
- remen -- 1 / 2 setat
- hebes -- 1 / 4 setat
- sa -- 1/8 setat
Volume
- hekat -- 1 / 30 Royal cubit³, 4.8 l, used for grain. Was divided into fractions of 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32 and 1/64 by an "Eye of Horus" rule.
- oipe -- Alt. ipet, 4 hekat
- jar -- 5 oipe
- hinu -- 1 / 10 hekat, used for perfume as well as grain.
- ro -- 1 / 32 hinu
- des -- For liquids, approx. 0.5 l
- secha -- For beer
- hebenet -- For wine
Weight
- deben -- 91 g, normally of copper, but also silver, gold and probably lead. Also used as money.
- qedety -- 1/10 deben
Time
Miscellaneous
- seked -- Unit of inclination, also seqt. Indicates horizontal dimension measured in palms (and digits fractions as necessary) per vertical Royal cubit rise. E.g. 5 seked is 54.46°, 5 1/4 seked is 53.13°, 5 1/2 seked is 51.84°.
- shaty -- 1 / 6 silver deben or 1 / 3 lead deben
Greek system
The Greek system was built mainly upon the Egyptian, and formed the basis of the later Roman system.Length
- pous -- Foot (pl. podes), 31.6 cm, said to be 3 / 5 Egyptian Royal cubit. There are variations, from an Ionic foot is 29.6 cm to a Doric foot that is 32.6 cm
- daktylos -- Digit (pl. daktyloi), 1 / 16 pous
- condylos -- 1 / 8 pous
- palaiste -- Palm, 1 / 4 pous
- dichas -- 1 / 2 pous
- spithame -- Span, 3 / 4 pous
- pygon -- Homeric cubit, 5 / 4 pous
- pechya -- Cubit, 3 / 2 podes, 47.4 cm
- bema -- Pace, 5 / 2 podes
- xylon -- 9 / 2 podes
- orgyia -- Fathom, 6 podes
- akaina -- 10 podes
- plethron -- Cord measure, (pl. plethra), 100 podes
- stadion -- (pl. stadia), 6 plethra, i.e. 600 podes. Usually stated as 185.4 m. For referrence, the stadion at Olympus measures 192.3 m. With a widespread use throughout antiquity, there were many variants of a stadion, from as low as 157 m up to 211 m.
- diaulos -- (pl. diauloi), 2 stadia. Only used for the Olympic footrace introduced in 724 BC.
- dolichos -- 6 or 12 diauloi. Only used for the Olympic footrace introduced in 720 BC.
- parasanges -- Persian measure, 30 stadia, 5.5 km. Used by Xenophon, for instance.
- schoinos -- Lit. "reefs" (pl. schoinoi), based on Egyptian river measure iter or atur. Usually defined as 60 stadia or 11.1 km. There are variants, see Egyptian atur.
- stathmos -- One days journey, roughly 25 km. May have been variable, dependant on terrain.
Volume
- kotyle -- Liquid measure, (pl. kotylai), 1 / 4 cheonix
- cheonix -- Alt. choinix (pl choenikes), approx. 1.1 l. Initially used for wheat.
- modios -- Bushel, 8 cheonikes
- medimnos -- 48 cheonikes
- kotyle -- Dry measure, 6 kyathoi
- chous -- Dry measure, 12 kotylai
- metretes -- Dry measure, 12 choes, approx. 34 l
Weight and monetary
- medimnos --
- talent -- 60 mina
- mina -- 100 drachma
- decadrachm -- Coin only, 10 drachma
- tetradrachm -- Coin only, 4 drachma
- stater -- Coin only, also didrachm, 2 drachma
- drachma -- Weight of silver coin, 4.5 to 6 g
- diobol -- 1 / 3 drachma
- obolo -- 1 / 6 drachma, silver
- chalkoi -- 1 / 8 obolo, copper
Miscellaneous
- myriade -- 10.000
Roman system
The Roman system of measurement was built on the Greek system, and lives on to this day in the form of the Imperial system. The Roman units were accurate and well documented. Distances may have been measured by odometers connected to carriage axles, for instance. The definition of some units changed over time, however. For the libra, quite significantly so.Length
- pes -- Foot, (pl. pedes), is 29.6 cm. There is some uncertainty, The Roman Land Surveyors by Dilke gives 29.57 cm. In early ages, the value was 29.73 cm.
- pes naturalis -- Natural foot, about 25 cm
- digitus -- Digit (pl. digiti), is 1/16 pes.
- uncia -- Inch, lit. one twelfth (pl. unicae), also pollex for thumb, is 1/12 pes, or 2.47 cm.
- palmus -- Palm (pl. palmi), 1/4 pes.
- palmus major -- Hand, 3/4 pes
- palmipes -- Palm and foot, 1 pes plus 1 palmus, same as 1 / 4 passus
- cubitus -- Forearm, 1 pes plus 2 palmi or 44.4 cm
- braccio Fiorentino -- 55/28 pedes
- gradus -- Step, 1 / 2 passus
- passus -- Double pace (pl. passuum), basic military unit, is 5 pedes
- canne Romana -- 3 gradus
- pertica decempida -- Perch, 10 pedes
- actus -- Chain or furrow, is 120 pedes
- stadium -- From Greek unit stadion (pl. stadia), esp. used at sea, 1/8 mille passus or 185 m.
- mille passus -- Mile, lit. thousand paces (pl. milia passuum), also milliarium is 1000 passuum or 1480 m.
- league -- 1.5 milia passuum.
- schoenus -- Equivalent to Greek schoinos, but defined as 4 milia passuum
Area
- actus -- Furrow, 120 · 4 pedes²
- actus quadratus -- Furrow squared, 120² pedes²
- iugerum -- Acre, also jugerum, (pl. iugera), 2 actus quadratus
- heredium -- Heritable plot (pl. heredia), 2 iugera
- centurium -- Houndred (pl. centuria), 100 heredia
- saltus -- 4 centuria
- scriptulum -- Sometimes used for 1/288 iugerum
Volume
- sextarius -- Pint (pl. sextarii), 0.5801 l; There is some uncertainty.
- cochlearia -- Spoonfull (pl. cochleara), also ligula, 1/48 sextarius
- cyathi -- Shot, liquid measure 1/12 sextarius, also 10 drachmae as a dry measure
- acetabula -- Small cup, 1/8 sextarius
- quartarius -- Fourth part (pl. quartaria), 1/4 sextarius
- hemina -- Half a pint, lit. "less" (pl. heminae), 1/2 sextarius
- cheonix -- From Greek, 3/2 sextarii
- semodius -- Half a modius, dry measure (pl. semodii), is 8 sextarii
- modius -- Peck, dry measure (pl. modii), is 16 sextarii
- congius -- Liquid measure, (pl. congii), is 12 heminae
- amphora -- Jar, (pl. amphorae) 8 congii. Also used for determining the shipping weight for sea transport.
- culleus -- Leather sack, liquid measure, 20 amphorae
- calix -- Cup
Weight and monetary
- libra -- Pound (pl. librea), is 0.327 kg. The pound varied significantly, since most of the standards were obtained from the weight of particular coins. This value is based on the gold aureus of Augustus which was in use from 27 BC to AD 296. The earliest bronze coins of Rome 338 BC to 268 BC were 0.273 kg.
- uncia -- Ounce, lit. one twelfth (pl. unciae), is 1/12 libra
- deunx -- Eleven twelfths, 11/12 libra
- dextans -- Ten twelfth, 10/12 libra
- dodrans -- Three fourths, 3/4 libra
- bes -- Two thirds, 2/3 libra
- seprunx -- 7/12 libra
- semis -- Half, 1/2 libra
- quincunx -- Five twelfths, 5/12 libra
- triens -- Third, 1/3 libra
- quadrans -- Fourth, 1/4 libra
- sextans -- One sixth, 1/6 libra
- sescuncia -- 3/2 unciae
- semuncia -- Half an ounce, 1/2 uncia
- siscilius -- 1/4 uncia
- sextula -- Lit. "lesser, 1/6 uncia
- semisextula -- Half a sextula, 1/12 uncia
- scriptulum -- Means 1/288, i.e. 1/288 libra or 1/24 uncia
Time
- year -- The Julian calendar 365 1/4 day year was introduced in 45 BC.
English system
Before the Roman based measurement system was introduced from 1066 onwards, there existed a Anglo-Saxon system of measure based on the units of the barleycorn and the gyrd (rod). This presumably had Germanic origins. Later development of the British system continued by defining the units by law in the Magna Carta of 1215, and issuing measurement standards from the then capital Winchester. Standards were renewed in 1496, 1588 and 1758. The last Imperial Standard Yard in bronze was made in 1845. See: Imperial system of unitsLength
- barleycorn -- Basic Anglo Saxon unit, the length of a corn of barley. The unit survived after 1066, but now defined as 1/3 inch. Note the relation to the grain unit of weight.
- digit -- 3 / 4 inch
- ynch -- Anglo Saxon inch, 3 barleycorns. Based on the uncia from 1066.
- nail -- 3 digits
- palm - 3 inches
- hand -- 4 inches
- shaftment - Width of the hand and outstretched thumb, 6 1/2 ynches before 1066, 6 inches thereafter
- span -- Width of the outstretched hand, from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger, 3 palms
- foot -- Usually 13 ynches but also other variants. Shortened by basing it on the Roman pes from 1066.
- cubit -- Forearm, 18 inches
- ell -- Elbow, 20 nails or 45 inches. Mostly for measuring clothing
- yard -- Introduced after 1066, 3 feet.
- fathom -- From one fingertip to the other, 6 feet
- furlong -- "Furrow long" (Saxon furrow is fuhr), based on the stadion, defined as 40 rods
- league -- Usually three miles. Intended to be an hour's walk.
- mile -- Introduced after 1066, originally the Roman mile at 5000 feet, in 1592 it was extended to 5280 feet to make it an even number of furlongs.
- rod -- Saxon gyrd measuring stick, might have been from 20 "natural feet". Retained its length but redefined as 16 1/2 Roman feet after 1066.
- chain -- Gunter’s Chain, introduced in the 17th century, 66 foot alternative to the rod for land measurement.
Area
- acre -- Saxon unit, meaning "field", one furlong by 4 rods. Probably meant to be "as much area as could be plowed in one day".
Weight
Miscellaneous
- score -- 20
Scottish system
Length
- inch -- 2.554 cm
- foot -- 12 inches, 30.645 cm
- ell -- Elbow, 37 Scots inches. 94.5 cm
- fall -- 18 Scots feet
- mile -- 320 falls, 1814.2 m
Spanish system
There were several variants, the Castilian is shown.Length
- punto -- Point, 1 / 12 linea
- linea -- Line, 1 / 12 pulgada
- pulgada -- Inch, 1 / 36 vara, 0.02322 m
- pie -- Foot, 12 pulgadas, 0.2786 m
- vara -- Yard, 0.8359 m
- paso -- Pace, 60 pulgadas
- legua -- League, 5000 varas, approx 4.2 km
French system
In France, again, there were many local variants. For instance, the lieue could vary from 3.268 km in Beauce to 5.849 km in Provence.Length
- lieue commune -- French land league, 4.452 km, 1/25 Equatorial degree
- lieue marine -- French (late) sea league, 5.556 km, 3 nautical miles.
- lieue de poste -- Legal league, 2000 toises, 3.898 km
- lieue metrique -- Metric system adaptation, 4.000 km
- toise -- Fathom, 6 pieds. Originally introduced by Charlemagne in 790, it is now considered to be 1.949 m.
- pied -- Foot, varied through times, the Paris pied de roi is 32.48 cm.
- pouce -- Inch, 1 / 12 pied
- ligne -- 1 / 12 pouce
Volume
- litron --
Weight
German system
Up to the introduction of the metric system, almost every town in Germany had their own definitions. It is said that by 1810, only in Baden there were 112 different Ellen.
Length
- Meile -- A German geographische Meile or Gemeine deutsche Meile was defined as 7.420 km, but there were a wealth of variants:
- Anhalt -- 7532 m
- Baden -- 8889 m before 1810, 8944 m before 1871, 8000 m thereafter
- Böhmen -- 7498 m
- Brabant -- 5000 m
- Bayern -- 7415 m, connected to a 1/15 Equatorial degree as 25406 Bavarian feet.
- Hamburg (Prussia) -- In 1816, king Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia adopted the Danish mile at 7532 m, or 24000 Prussian feet. Also known as Landmeile
- Hessen-Kassel -- 9206 m
- Lippe-Detmold -- 9264 m
- Oldenburg -- 9894 m
- Osnabrück -- 5160 m
- Pfalz -- 4630 m
- Rheinland -- 4119 m
- Sachsen -- Postmeile, 7500 m. Also 9062 m or 32000 feet in Dresden
- Schleswig-Holstein -- 8803 m
- Westfalen -- 11100 m, but also 9250 m
- Vienna -- 7586 m
- Wiesbaden -- 1000 m
- Württemberg -- 7449 m
- Reichsmeile -- New mile when the metric system was introduced, 7.5 km. Prohibited by law in 1908.
- Schainos -- Uncertain use, between 10 and 12 km,
- Wegstunde -- One hours travel, used up to the 18th century. In Germany 1 / 2 Meile or 3.71 km, in Switzerland 16000 feet or 4,8 km
- Stadion -- Uncertain use
- Rute -- Roman origin, use as land measure. Very differing definitions, 10, 12, 14, 15, 18 or 20 feet, varied between approx. 3 and 5 m.
- Klafter -- Fathom, usually 6 feet. Regional changes from 1.75 m in Baden to 3 m in Switzerland.
- Elle -- Distance between elbow and finger tip. In the North, often 2 feet, In Prussia 17 / 8 feet, in the South varable, often 2 1/2 feet. The smallest known German elle is 402.8 mm, the longest 811 mm.
- Fuss -- The foot varied between 23.51 cm in Wesel and 40.83 cm in Trier.
- Rheinfuss -- Rhine foot, used in the North, 31.387 cm
- Zoll -- Inch. Usually 1 / 12 foot, but also 1 / 10.
- Linie -- Usually 1 / 12 inch, but also 1 / 10.
Volume
- Klafter -- For firewood, 2.905 m³
Danish system
From May 1 1863, king Christian V of Denmark introduced an office to oversee weights and measures, a justervesen, to be led by Ole Rømer. The definition of the alen was set to 2 Rhine feet. Rømer later discovered that differeing standards for the Rhine foot existed, and in 1698 an iron Copenhagen standard was made. A pendulum definition for the foot was introduced in 1820, and changed in 1835. The metric system was introduced in 1907.Length
- mil -- Danish mile. Towards the end of the 17th century, Ole Rømer connected the mile to the circumference of the earth, and defined it as 12000 alen. This definition was adopted in 1816 as the Prussian Meile. The coordinated definition from 1835 was 7.532 km. Earlier, there were many variants, the most commonplace the Sjællandsk miil of 17600 fod or 11.130 km.
- palme -- Palm, for circumference, 8.86 cm
- alen -- Forearm, 2 fod
- fod -- Defined as a Rheinfuss 31.407 cm from 1683, before that 31.41 cm with variations.
- kvarter -- Quarter, 1 / 4 alen
- tomme -- Inch, 1 / 12 fod
- linie -- Line, 1 / 12 tomme
- skrupel -- Scruple, 1 / 12 linie
Volume
- potte -- Pot, from 1863 1 / 32 fot³
- smørtønde -- Barrel of butter, from 1683 136 potter
- korntønde -- Barrel of corn, from 1683 144 potter
Weight
- pund -- Pound, from 1863 the weight of 1 / 62 fot³ of water, 499.75 g
Miscellaneous
- dusin -- 12
- snes -- 20
- gross -- 144
Norwegian system
Before 1541, there were no common definition for length measures in Norway, and local variants flourished. In 1541, an alen in Denmark and Norway was defined by law to be the Sjælland alen. Subsequently, the alen was defined by law as 2 Rhine feet from 1683. From 1824, the basic unit was defined as a fot being derived from astronomy as the length of a one second pendulum times 12/38 at a latitude of 45°. The metric system was introduced in 1887.Length
- alen -- Forearm, 62.748 cm from 1824, 62.75 cm from 1683, 63.26 cm from 1541. Before that, local variants.
- favn -- Fathom (pl. favner), 1.882 m.
- fjerdingsvei -- Quarter mile, alt. fjerding, 1/4 mil, i.e. 2.82375 km.
- fot -- Foot, 1/2 alen. From 1824, 31.374 cm.
- linje -- Line, 1/12 tomme or approx. 2.18 mm
- lås -- 28.2 m
- landmil -- Old land-mile, 11.824 km.
- mil -- Norwegian mile, spelled miil prior to 1862, 18000 alen or 11.295 km. Before 1683, a mil was defined as 17600 alen or 11.13 km. The unit survives to this day, but in a metric 10 km adaptation
- rast --Lit. "rest", the old name of the mil. A suitable distance between rests when walking. Believed to be approx. 9 km before 1541.
- steinkast -- Stones throw, perhaps 25 favner, used to this day as a very approximate measure.
- stang -- Rod, 5 alen or 3.1375 m
- tomme -- Thumb (inch), 1/12 fot, approx. 2.61 cm. This unit was commonly used for measuring timber until the 1970s.
- skrupel -- Scruple, 1/12 linje or approx. 0.18 mm.
Area
- mål -- 100 kvadrat rode, 984 m². The unit survives to this day, but in a metric 1000 m² adaptation.
- kvadrat rode -- Square stang, 9.84 m²
- tønne land -- "Barrel of land", 4 mål
Volume
- favn -- 1 alen by 1 favn by 1 favn, 2.232 m³, used for measuring firewood to this day.
- skjeppe -- 1/8 tunna, i.e. 17.4 1.
- tønne -- Barrel, 139.2 l.
Weight
- bismerpund -- 12 pund, 5.9808 kg
- laup -- Used for butter, 17.93 kg (approx. 16.2 l). 1 laup is 3 pund or 4 spann or 72 merker.
- merke -- From Roman pound, (pl. merker), 249.4 g, 218.7 g before 1683.
- ort -- 0.9735 g
- pund -- Pound, alt. skålpund, 2 merker 0.4984 kg, was 0.46665 kg before 1683
- skippund -- Ships pound, 159.488 kg. Was defined as 151.16 kg in 1270.
- spann -- Same as laup
- vette -- 28.8 mark or 6.2985 kg.
- våg -- 1/8 skippund, 17.9424 kg.
Nautical
- favn -- Fathom (pl. favner), 3 alen, 1.88 m
- kabellengde -- Cable length, 100 favner, 185.2 m
- kvartmil -- Quarter mile, 10 kabellengder, 1852 m
- sjømil -- Sea mile, 4 kvartmil, 7408 m, defined as 1/15 Equatorial degree.
Monetary
- ort -- See riksdaler and spesiedaler.
- riksdaler - Until 1813, Norwegian thaler. 1 riksdaler is 4 ort or 6 mark or 96 skilling.
- skilling -- Shilling, see riksdaler and spesiedaler.
- spesiedaler -- Since 1816. 1 spesiedaler is 5 ort or 120 skilling. From 1876, 1 spesiedaler is 4 kroner (Norwegian crown, NOK).
Miscellaneous
- tylvt -- 12, also dusin
- sneis -- 20
- stort hundre -- Large hundred, 120
- gross -- 144
Swedish system
In Sweden, a common system for weights and measures was introduced by law in 1665. Before that, there were a number of local variants. The system was slightly revised in 1735. In 1855, a decimal reform was instuted that defined a new Swedish inch as 1/10 foot. It did not last long, because the metric system was subsequently introduced in 1889. Up to the middle of the 19th century there was a death penalty for falsifying weights or measures.Length
- aln -- Forearm (pl. alnar). After 1863, 59.37 cm. Before that, from 1605, 59.38 cm as defined by king Carl IX of Sweden in Norrköping 1604 based on the Rydaholmsalnen.
- famn -- Fathom, 3 alnar.
- kvarter -- Quarter, 1 / 4 aln
- fot -- Foot, 1/2 aln. Before 1863, the Stockholm fot was the commonly accepted unit, at 29.69 cm.
- linje -- Line, after 1863 1/10 tum, 2.96 mm. Before that, 1/12 tum or 2.06 cm.
- mil -- Mile, also lantmil. From 1699, defined as a unity mile of 18000 aln or 10.69 km. The unufied mile was meant to define the suitable distance between inns.
- nymil -- New mile from 1889, 10 km exactly. Commonly used to this day, normally referred to as mil.
- kyndemil -- The distance a torch will last, approx 16 km
- skogsmil -- Also rast, distance between rests in the woods, approx 5 km.
- fjärdingsväg -- 1 / 4 mil
- stenkast -- Stone's throw, approx 50 m.
- ref -- 160 fot, for land measurement, was 100 fot after 1855.
- stång -- 16 fot, for land measurement
- tum -- Thumb (inch), after 1863 1/10 fot, 2.96 cm. Before that, 1/12 fot or 2.474 cm.
Area
- kannaland -- 1000 fot², or 88.15 m²
- kappland -- 154.3 m².
- spannland -- 16 kappland
- tunneland -- 2 spannland
- kvadratmil -- Square mil, 36 million square favnar, from 1739.
Volume
- pot -- Pot (pl pottor), 0.966 l
- tunna -- 2 spann
- ankare -- Liquid measure, 39.26 l
- ohm -- Also åm, 155 pottor
- storfavn -- 3.77 m³
- kubikkfavn -- 5.85 m³
Weight
- skeppspund -- Ships pound, 20 lispund or 170.03 kg.
- bismerpund -- 12 skålpund, 5.101 kg.
- lispund -- 20 skålpund
- skålpund -- Pound, 0.42507 kg
- mark -- 1 / 2 skålpund or 212.5 g. Used from the Viking era, when it was approx 203 g.
- ort -- 4.2508 g
Nautical
- kabellãngd -- Initially 100 famnar or 178 m, Later, a distansminut or 1 / 10 nautical mile.
- kvartmil -- Quarter mile, 1852 m, identical to nautical mile.
- sjõmil -- Sea mile, 4 kvartmil, 7408 m
Monetary
- daler -- From 1534, Swedish thaler. From 1873, replaced by the krone (Swedish crown, SEK).
- riksdaler -- From 1624, 1 1/2 daler, from 1681 2 daler, from 1715 3 daler, from 1776 6 daler
- skilling -- From 1776, 1 / 48 riksdaler
- mark -- From 1534, 1 / 3 daler.From 1604, 1 / 4 daler.
- õre -- From 1534, 1 / 8 mark. Subsequently replaced by the skilling, but from 1855 reintroduced as 1 / 100 riksdaler.
Finnish system
In Finland, approximate measures derived from body parts and were used for a long time, some being later standardised for the purpose of commerce. Some Swedish, and later some Russian units have also been used.- vaaksa -- The distance between the tips of little finger and thumb, when the fingers are fully extended.
- kyynärä -- (c. 60 cm) The distance from the elbow to the fingertips.
- syli -- Fathom, (c. 180 cm) the distance between the fingertips of both hands when the arms are raised horizontally on the sides.
- virsta -- 2672 m (Swedish) 1068.84 m (Russian)
- peninkulma -- (c. 10 km) The distance a barking dog can be heard in still air.
- poronkusema -- (c. 7.5 km) The distance a reindeer walks between two spots it urinates on. This unit originates from Lapland.
- leiviskä -- (8.5004 kg)
- kappa -- (5.4961 l) Still in use at market places to measure potatoes.
- tynnyrinala -- (4936.5 m^{2}) The area (of field) that could be sown with one barrel of grain.
- kannu -- (2,6172 l)
- kortteli -- Used for both length (14.845 cm) and volume (3.2715 dl).
US system
The US systen is based on the English system from the 1700s. See U.S. customary units.See also
References
- Measure for Measure, Richard Young and Thomas Glover, ISBN 1-889796-00-X.
- Masse und Gewichte, Marvin A. Powell
- The Civilisation of Ancient Egypt, Paul Johnson
- The Weights and Measures of England, R. A. Connor
- World Weights and Measures. Handbook for Statisticians, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs
- Lexikon der Münzen, Maße, Gewichte, Zählarten und Zeitgrößen aller Länder der Erde, Richard Klimpert, 1896
- Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle, Pierre Larousse, 1874
- De gamle danske længdeenheder, N.E. Nørlund, 1944
- Mål og vægt, Poul Rasmussen, 1967.
- Med mått mätt - Svenska och utländska mått genom tiderna, Albert Carlsson, ISBN 91-36-03157-7.
External links
- Dictionary of Units of Measurement
- Units of measure
- Unit systems
- Mile measurements
- Mesopotation bibliograpy
- Old units of measure
- Measures from Antiquity and the Bible
- Greek measure
- More on the schoinos
- Measuring length in Ancient Egypt
- Egyptian units
- Egypt unidades, pesos e medidas
- Las Matemáticas en el Antiguo Egipto
- Irrational numbers and pyramids
- Sekeds and the Geometry of the Egyptian Pyramids
- English Customary Weights and Measures
- Alte Längenmaße und ihre Bedeutung
- Projekt zur Erschliessung historisch wertvoller Altkartenbestände
- Scandinavian units
- Swedish units