Ancient weights and measures (ancient Egypt)

Much of the ancient Egyptian system of measurement is based on that of Mesopotamia and had a strong influence on the Greek system . The ancient Egyptians based their measurements on the royal cubit Meh , for the king ( Pharaoh ) a prototype of granite ready made. With this standard, precision down to a sixteenth, the Djeba (about 1 mm), was possible. It is noteworthy that Elle and Remen form an irrational relationship. In addition, the volume measurements were based on the length measurements. The length of the royal cubit is known very precisely, but far less precise information is known about the units for land surveying, especially since the Greek stadion and skhoinos were also used later .

General geometry

Lengths

Description translation origin finger meter Explanation
Djeba finger 1/4 Schesep 1 00.000.019
Schesep (henet) Hand width 4 Djeba 4th 00.000.075
Amem fist 1.5 Schesep 6th 00.000.112
Schesepui Two hand widths 2 Schesep 8th 00.000.150
Pedj-Scherer Small range 3 Schesep 12 00.000.225
Pedj-aa Wide range 3.5 Schesep 14th 00.000.263
Djeser Four hand widths 4 Schesep 16 00.000.299
Remen Five hand widths, upper arm 5 Schesep 20th 00.000.374
Meh-shearers Small cubit 6 Schesep 24 00.000.449
Meh (meh-nesut) Elle (old royal elle ) 7 Schesep 28 00.000.524
Nebi (naubia) ~ 35 00.000.65
Chet (chet-en-nuh ,schenoch) 100 Meh 00.052.4
Iteru (schoinos) royal river (length = one Egyptian mile )
and hours of sunshine (time)
20,000 Meh 10,500 corresponds in length to Beru and Danna ; “Schoinos”, “parasang” and “ater” were used almost synonymously for the length measure “iteru”. Herodotus writes that the Egyptian mile measures two Persian “parasang”, that is, 20,000 Meh (meh-nesut).

Derivations

The factor 7 was possibly introduced because of the approximation √2 ≈ 7/5 ≈ 10/7. The geometry was already highly developed in ancient Egypt, the Egyptians could indeed the square root of two is not calculated, but distinguished. Finding that “5 · √2 ≈ 7” , they divided the cubit into 28 parts. The ancient Egyptian geometrists divided the nippur cubit into 28 instead of 30 fingers , since they did not use the sexagesimal system anyway .

Description conversion Explanation
with an assumed value of the Mesopotamian 30-finger cubit of Nippur of 518.6 mm
Egyptian Remen ( Pygon ) = 20/28 nippur cubit = 37.0 cm
ancient Egyptian royal elephant ( Meh ) = 20√2 / 28 nippur cubits ≈ 52.4 cm
Egyptian royal office = 20√2 / 28 old royal elite = 52.9 cm

Derivatives

• The later Roman digit ( digitus , finger, Roman inch) was founded with the Egyptian finger , although this differed slightly (approx. 1%) with a statistically reconstructed 18.522 mm.
• The Egyptian building remen of the third millennium BC is called pygon in Greek .
• Centuries later they used a construction remen of 20 fingers from the old royal cubit.
• The foot of the new royal cell ( Japanese Shaku ) and the Roman foot ( pes ) have a ratio of exactly 100 to 98.
• The megalithic yard (≈ 83 cm) is almost exactly 1.6 nippur cubits.
• The theoretical length of a Roman barley grain is exactly 8.252 mm.

Surfaces

Description conversion
Cha-ta (charo, chara) 10 setjat (supposedly still in use today) = 2.75 hectares
Setjat 10,000 square cells = 0.275 hectares
Cha 1,000 square cells = 0.0275 hectares
Ta (meh-ta) 100 square cells = 0.00275 hectares
Remen ½ Ta = 50 squares = 0.0013775 hectares
Heseb ½ Remen
Sat ½ Heseb

volume

Description conversion Explanation
Henu (to) 1/10 Heqat or 32 Ro / Ra = 0.475 liters
Heqat 10 Henu = 4.75 liters
Ipet (oipe) 4 Heqat = 19 liters, since the New Reich
Iar 20 heqat = 95.5 liters
Ra, Ro 1/32 Henu
Secha for beer
Of ~ 0.5 liters, for beer
Liftet for wine
Pega 1/4 henu ~ 0.12 liters, honey measure, since the new empire

Weight and currency

Description conversion
Deben (gold deben) 13.6 g in the Old and Middle Kingdom ; 91 g in the New Kingdom ; corresponds to 12 shati
Copper deben 27.3 g, = 6 shati
Silver deben 27.3 g, = 6 shati (12 shati in the New Kingdom)
Lead deben 54.6 g, = 3 shats
Qedety 1/10 deben
Shati (measure of value) 1/12 gold deben = 1/6 silver deben = 1/3 lead deben (1/12 silver deben in the New Kingdom)

Tilt

Description translation conversion Explanation
Seked ( sqd ) Unity of inclination vertical  : horizontal = 1 king digit: x;

where x is a length that is historically determined in Schesep (hand width),
e.g. B. x = 7 Schesep → 7 Seked = 45 °, x = 5 Schesep → 5 Seked = 54.46 °, x = 5½ Schesep → 5½ Seked = 51.84 °.

The use of the long cord (12 Königsellen or Meh) of the harpedonapten enables an immediate conversion from Schesep to Seked (when the short cathete is stretched as a base). It is divided down to the width of a finger (Djeba).

Explanation of the Seked, English names: Cubit (royal cell), Palm (hand width), Digit (finger width)

literature

• Rainer Hannig : Large Concise Dictionary Egyptian-German: (2800 - 950 BC) . von Zabern, Mainz 2006, ISBN 3-8053-1771-9 , p. 1319 ff.
• Wolfgang Helck : Measures and weights [Pharaonic times]. in Wolfgang Helck, Wolfhart Westendorf (ed.): Lexicon of Egyptology. Volume 3, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1980, ISBN 3-447-02100-4 , column 1199-1209.
• Wolfgang Helck, Eberhard Otto : Small Lexicon of Egyptology. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1999, ISBN 3-447-04027-0 , p. 179 f. → Dimensions and weights.
• Nobility camel: dimensions and weights. In: Science in Ancient Egypt. Kemet Heft 4, 2000. Kemet, Berlin 2000, , pp. 38-40.
• Jean Vercoutter : Les poids de Mirgissa et le "standart-cuivre" au Moyen Empire. In: Erika Endesfelder u. a. (Ed.): Egypt and Kusch (= writings on the history and culture of the ancient Orient. No. 13, [Festschrift Fritz Hintze]). Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1977, pp. 437-445.
• Sven P. Vleeming : Measures and weights in the demotic texts. In: Wolfgang Helck, Wolfhart Westendorf (Hrsg.): Lexikon der Ägyptologie. Volume III, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1980, ISBN 3-447-02100-4 , column 1209-1214.

Individual evidence

1. Adel Kamel: Dimensions and weights in: Kemet Heft 4/2000 , p. 39.