Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Metric vs. Imperial Measurement and Ancient Measures : Secrets of the Great Pyramid by Peter Tompkins - LexiLine Journal 359

When we discuss ancient astronomy and archaeoastronomy we must also keep in mind the system of measurement used by the ancients, which was the now-called "imperial" system.

I remember well personally stepping off the relative lengths of the square-cut rocks at the temples of Malta to discover they often had the ratio of the sides of 3 x 4. This was additional clear evidence that the megalithic makers used the imperial system. When I asked the archaeologist who was guiding my tour of the temples what system of measurement the builders used, the archaeologist had no idea, but otherwise acted as if the answers were known, which of course, they were not. The archaeologist had no clue as to who built the temples or why.

Anyone who has built anything knows that you first have to have a system of measure and then proceed from there to build. The system of measure is one of the surest indicators of the provenance of ancient sites - but do not expect mainstream archaeologists to understand this simple wisdom. They prefer scholarly opinion to facts.

The imperial system has recently been in the news as follows:

EUobserver reports in an article by Lisbeth Kirk at that Brussels pressures Britain to go metric.

We have never understood what advantage this is supposed to bring to the UK or anyone else for that matter. After all, the two leading nations of the world, the US and the UK, both still use the ancient inches and feet sexagesimal-type "imperial" system, which is still also visible in the fact that we have 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, and so on.

Imagine - for the sake of consistency - now changing those as well to the metric system, e.g. so that we would have 100 deci-minutes in an hour or 30 deci-hours in a day. It would be chaos.

To this we can add the powerful worldwide prevalence of the 360-degree circle, the change of which to a 300 or 400 degree circle would wreak absolute havoc in all the world's mathematics and measurement. The use of a 360-degree circle of course goes back to astronomy and the 360-day year used for ancient civil calendars.

At the level of computer users, various attempts have been made here in continental Europe to replace the inch descriptions of computer monitors and screens with metric equivalents, to no avail, since it simply leads to mass confusion and time-wasting relearning with no logical benefit. Computer monitors are advertised and almost everywhere in Europe still described to be 15, 17, 19, 20, 21, etc. inches.

We not only print by dots per inch but the well-known pixel = one dot. Our screen resolution is given in pixels. It would then be completely idiotic not to also measure monitor and screen sizes by the imperial system.

It would be even worse for our use and understanding of text fonts if also here we had to go from the imperial to the metric system, since font sizes are give in points, and 72 points = 1 inch. The standard 12-point type is thus 1/6 of an inch, except that Microsoft Windows magnifies fonts by 33% so that only Macs actually render 12-point type accurately, which in the past led to different website text resolution on Macs than on PCs. See

The American Bar Association has an excellent article by Mark Senn on
its website entitled "Reflections on Some Forgotten Terms of Land Measurement" (published in Probate Property, March/April 2002, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp 8-11, here viz. as a .pdf, and based on a similar article originally published in 19 ACREL News No. 3, Aug. 2001, at 5) which contains a useful summary of the development of both the imperial and metric systems in human and land measurement. Of course, land measurement goes back to the days of the megaliths and their use for survey and for marking boundaries.

One of the best books on ancient measurement systems is Secrets of the Great Pyramid, by Peter Tompkins, especially the Appendix, Notes on the Relation of Ancient Measures to the Great Pyramid, by Livio Stecchini, "one of the world's leading authorities on ancient mensuration", whose mentors had been professors of law.

Stecchini too became a professor of law and wrote much about ancient measurement, making the following observations about the scholars (p. 289-291):
"The study of Greek temples ... led me to the study of ancient geography and geodesy. But I was gradually forced to accept the fact that scholars of ancient history do not read numbers, neither in ancient texts nor in research papers .... In many different guises I was told that "numbers do not constitute evidence in ancient
studies." ....

Yet the techniques of land surveying used in Mesopotamia are a key to the understanding of how the ancients mapped the sky.... [emphasis added]

[Tompkins' explanation of the geometry of the Great Pyramid] permitted me to see ancient astronomy in terms of observational techniques based on measurements, rather than systems based on the theological persuasions or the psychological projections of the modern investigators...." [emphasis added]
The book by Tompkins is essential reading for anyone interested in this field.

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