Mathematics Throughout History

Development Ofweights and Measures

Upon what were ancient measurements based?

Initially, people used different measurement systems and methods, depending on where they lived. Most towns had their own measurement system, which was based on the materials the residents had at hand. This made it difficult to trade from region to region.


The advent of agriculture in human civilization necessitated the development of mathematical concepts so that farmers could better predict times to plant and harvest.

Measurements eventually became based on common and familiar items. But that did not mean they were accurate. For example, length measurements were often based on parts of the human body, such as the length of a foot or width of the middle finger; longer lengths would be determined by strides or distances between outstretched arms. Because people were of different heights and body types, this meant the measurements changed depending on who did the measuring. Even longer lengths were based on familiar sights. For example, an acre was the amount of land that two oxen could plow in a day.


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