Historical dimensions because that the cubit are detailed by scripture and pyramid documentation. Additional dimensions indigenous the Middle east are uncovered in other at an early stage documents. Two major dimensions arise from a history of the cubit. The first is the anthropological or quick cubit, and also the 2nd is the architectual or lengthy cubit. The wide geographical area and long chronological period suggest the cubit dimensions varied over time and geographic area. Greek and Roman occupations led come standardization. Much more recent size are detailed from a examine by Francis Galton based ~ above his investigations right into anthropometry. The topics for Galton’s study and those the several various other investigators lacked adequate sample explanation for developing a satisfactory cubit/forearm dimension. This finding is not surprising provided the demise of the cubit in today’s world. Modern dimensions from military and also civilian anthropometry for the forearm and also hand enable comparison come the old unit. Return there appears no pressing need for a forearm-hand/cubit dimension, the half-yard or half-meter unit seems a valuable one that can see more application.

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1. Introduction

If we understand anything of the cubit today, that probably comes from acquaintance with Hebrew scripture and/or the Old and new Testaments. Civilization have heard or read about the size of Noah’s Ark or Solomon’s Temple. Acquaintance through Egyptian background might have brought some awareness from the dimensions given for pyramids and also temples. The cubit to be a usual unit in the at an early stage East. It proceeds today in part locations, but with much less prominence having been changed by contemporary day units. Early employment of the cubit throughout the Near eastern showed differed dimensions because that this unit. Part variants have the right to be examined much easier with referral to biblical passages. Additional variants can likewise be uncovered in plenty of secular documents, however these are much less known and also less accessible than scripture.

The indigenous cubit (′kyü-bǝt) in English shows up derived from the Latin cubitum because that elbow. It was πήχυς (pay′-kus) in Greek. The cubit is based upon a human characteristic—the length of the forearm from the pointer of the center finger to finish of the elbow. Plenty of definitions seem to agree top top this facet of the unit, yet it go not develop a universal typical for there are plenty of ways to determine a cubit. It can be measured from the elbow to the basic of the hand, from the elbow come a street located between the outstretched ignorance and tiny finger, or native the elbow come the tip of the center finger. These alternating descriptions additional complicate the issue of determining a specific unit measure of the cubit. Hereafter, the latter description, elbow come the pointer of the middle finger, will signify the usual unit.

The human figure (typically male) has been the communication for numerous dimensions. The foot is immediately recognized as an instance <1>. Less frequently heard is onyx (nail), however onyx remains a clinical term. The Old English ynche, ynch, unce, or customs was a thumb-joint breadth. The anthropomorphic basis for numerous standards support the explain “man is the measure up of every things” attributed to Protagoras follow to Plato in the Theaetetus <2>. Small wonder the cubit was at first employed because that measurement offered its omnipresent availability for use. We always possess the unit. Human number units space arbitrary yet universal space especially reliable by their bodily reference producing a crude typical that is instantly accessable.

The cubit gives a convenient center unit between the foot and also the yard. The English yard might be thought about a double cubit said to measure up 12 palms, about 90 cm, or 36 customs measured from the facility of a man’s body to the guideline of the finger of one outstretched eight <3>. This is a useful method of measuring cloth held facility body come an outstretched hand (two cubits), or across the body to both outstretched hands (four cubits as mentioned in Exodus 26: 1-2, 7-8). The English ell is a larger variant that the cubit consists of 15 palms, 114 cm, or 45 inches. The is about equal to the fabric measure ell of early on Scotland. A male stride, identified as stepping left-right, to produce a dual cubit, or about a garden <1>.

The size in Table 1 give the (approximate) family member lengths for meter, yard, cubit, and foot.


The cubit to be a straightforward unit in at an early stage Israel and the bordering Near east countries. The is אטה in Hebrew (pronounced am-mah′), which can be understood “the mom of the arm” or the origin, the is, the forearm/cubit. Selected biblical recommendations <4> for the cubit include these five rather popular selections.(1)And God stated to Noah, i have determined to make an end of all flesh; because that the planet is filled through violence through them; behold, ns will damage them through the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover that inside and out with pitch. This is just how you space to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. (Genesis 6:13–15 RSV)(2)They shall make an ark the acacia wood; 2 cubits and also a fifty percent shall it is in its length, a cubit and a fifty percent its breadth, and also a cubit and also a fifty percent its height. And you candlestick overlay it v pure gold, within and also without shall girlfriend overlay it, and also you shall do upon that a molding of yellow round about. (Exodus 25:10-11 RSV)(3)And he made the court; for the southern side the hangings that the court were of fine twined linen, a hundred cubits; their pillars were twenty and also their bases twenty, of bronze, however the hooks that the pillars and their fillets were of silver. And for the north side a hundred cubits, their pillars twenty, your bases twenty, that bronze, yet the hooks the the pillars and their fillets were of silver. And for the west side to be hangings the fifty cubits, your pillars ten, and also their sockets ten; the hooks that the pillars and their fillets to be of silver. And also for the front to the east, fifty cubits. (Exodus 38:9–13 RSV)(4)And Saul and also the males of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. And also the Philistines stood on the hill on the one side, and Israel stand on the mountain on the various other side, through a valley in between them. And also there come out native the camp that the Philistines a champion named Goliath, the Gath, whose height was 6 cubits and a span. (1 Samuel 17:2–4 RSV)(5)In the four hundred and also eightieth year after ~ the human being of Israel come out that the floor of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month the Ziv, i beg your pardon is the second month, he began to construct the home of The Lord. The residence which King Solomon built for The mr was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high. (1 monarchs 6:1-2 RSV)

The cubit figured out a measure for many facets of life in Biblical history. A Sabbath day’s journey measured 2,000 cubits (Exodus 16:29). This frostbite proscribed a limit to travel on the Sabbath. The distance between the Ark that the Covenant and the camp that the Israelites throughout the exodus is estimated at about 914 meters, 1,000 yards, or 2,000 cubits <5>.

Biblical citations and historical archeology suggest more than one standard length for the cubit existed in Israel. In II Chronicles 3:3 the quote may imply cubits that the old standard. Ezekiel 40:5; 43:13 might be indicating the cubit to add a hand. Archeological evidence from Israel <6> argues that 52.5 cm = 20.67 and 45 cm = 17.71 constitute the long and short cubits that this time and also location. To some scholars, the Egyptian cubit to be the traditional measure of size in the Biblical period. The Biblical sojourn/exodus, war, and also trade space probable factors for this size to have been employed elsewhere.

The Tabernacle, the holy place of Solomon, and also many other structures are defined in the holy bible by cubit measures. These also occur v two different cubits dimensions, the lengthy or imperial (architectural) cubit and the short (anthropological) cubit. Scholars have used various method to identify the length of these cubits through some success. The long cubit is offered as roughly 52.5 centimeters and the quick cubit as around 45 centimeters <4, 5>.

The Israelite long cubit coincides to the Egyptian cubit of 7 hands with 6 hands for shorter one. Eerdman’s dictionary of the holy bible <7, page 1373> says “… archeology and also literature argues an average length for the usual cubit the 44.5 cm (17.5 in.).” This citation also gives a range of 42–48 cm (17–19 in) for the cubit. Range is crucial parameter since it indicates the variation operating on this measure. Variation suggests multiple influences.

The English use of cubit is daunting to determine. The exact length the this measure varies relying on whether it contained the entire length indigenous the elbow come the guideline of the longest finger or by among the alternates described earlier. Some scholars imply that the longer measurement was the initial cubit making that 20.24 inches for the ordinary cubit, and also 21.88 inches because that the spiritual one, or a traditional cubit from the elbow to end of center finger (20′′) and also a lower forearm cubit from the elbow to base of the hand (12′′). These space the exact same dimensions for Egyptian dimensions according to Easton’s Illustrated bible Dictionary <9>. The Interpreter’s bible <10, page 154> provides the typical Scale length as 444.25 mm or 17.49 inches and also Ezekial’s range as 518.29 mm or 20.405 inches because that the 2 cubit lengths. Inasmuch together the Romans conquered England the much shorter cubit previously mentioned may have been the standard.

A rod or employee is called גמד (gomedh) in Judges 3:16, which way a cut, or something cut off. The LXX (Septuagint) and Vulgate render the “span” i m sorry in Hebrew bible or the Old testament is defined as a measure of street (the forearm cubit), about 18 inches (almost 0.5 that a meter). Among the number of cubits mentioned is the cubit that a male or typical cubit in Deut. 3:11 and the legit cubit or cubit of the sanctuary defined in Ezra 40.5 <6>.

Barrios <5> gives a an introduction of linear Hebrew steps (see Table 2).

MeasureCommon scaleEzekiel"s scale

Barrois <5> shows the dimension of the cubit can only be identified by deduction and not directly due to the fact that of conflict information. That reports the aqueduct the Hezekiah was 1,200 cubits follow to the engraving of Siloam. Its size is given as 5333.1 meter or 1,749 feet. Absolute certainty because that the length of a cubit cannot be determined, and also there are great differences of opinion about this length fostering strong objections and also debates. Some writers make the cubit eighteen inches and also others twenty, twenty-one inches, or greater. This shows up critically vital for those seeking to recognize the exact modern-day equivalent of dimensions taken indigenous scripture. Taking 21 inches for the cubit, the ark Noah built would it is in 525 feet in length, 87 feet 6 inches in breadth, and 52 feet 6 inch in height. Using the typical 20′′ cubit and also 9′′ span, Goliath’s elevation would be 6 cubits plus a expectancy for about 10 feet and also 9 inches. Through a cubit of 18′′ his height is 9 feet 9 inches. The Septuagint, LXX, says 4 cubits to add a span, or a more modest 6 feet and also 9 inches. There are countless implications relying on which measurement is selected <7>. The story calls for young David come slay a giant and not merely an over average sized man! an in similar way for many other dimensions and description uncovered in beforehand writings, the larger the dimensions, the far better the story. Spiritual dimensions call for solemn, awe motivating ones, however this frustrates an exact determination.

Rabbi David ben Zimra (1461–1571) claimed the foundation Stone and also Holy of Holies were located within the Dome that the rock on the temple Mount. This check out is widely accepted, but with distinctions of opinion over the precise location recognized as the “central place theory,” few of these differences result from solid disagreement over the measurement of the cubit. Kaufman <11> argues against the “central place theory” defending a cubit measure up 0.437 meters (1.43 feet). David <12> suggests for a holy place cubit the 0.56 meter (1.84 feet).

Differences in the size of the cubit arise indigenous various historic times and also geographical places in the biblical period. These very long time periods and varied geographical locations frustrate identify a an ext exact size to the cubit. Israel’s location in between Egypt and also Mesopotamia suggest that plenty of influences came right into play over the an are of hundreds and hundreds of year in this well-traveled area. These impacts probably added to the varied dimensions encountered end this long time frame. Stories, myths, and also drama include their share.

The faster written point out of the cubit wake up in the epic of Gilgamesh. The incomplete message is extant in twelve tablet computers written in Akkadian uncovered at Nineveh in the library that Ashurbanipal, king the Assyria (669–630? BCE). Other fragments dated from 1800 BCE contain components of the text, and still much more fragments stating this epic have been found dating from the second millennium BCE. The cubit is specifically pointed out in the text once describing a flood together remarkably similar and predating the flood mentioned in Genesis. Obviously, the cubit was an early and necessary unit the the middle East basic to conveying linear measures as shown in Tables 2, 3, and also 4.

Great Pyramid at Gizeh, Khufu

Second Khafra
Granite temple
Third Pyramid Menkaura
 Peribolus walls
Great Pyramid the Dahshur (?)
Pyramid at Sakkara Pepi
Fourth to sixth dynasty, mean of all

2. EgyptThe Egyptian hieroglyph for the cubit shows the symbol of a forearm. However, the Egyptian cubit was much longer than a typical forearm. It appears to have actually been composed of 7 palms the 4 digits every totaling 28 parts and also was around 52.3-52.4 cm in size according come Arnold <13>.

The earliest attested conventional measure is indigenous the Old Kingdom pyramids of Egypt. It was the royal cubit (mahe). The imperial cubit to be 523 to 525 mm (20.6 come 20.64 inches) in length: and was subdivided right into 7 palms that 4 digits each, for a 28-part measure in total. The royal cubit is known from Old Kingdom style dating native at least as early on as the building of the action Pyramid that Djoser about 2,700 BCE <13–15>.

Petrie <15> starts Chapter XX the following. Worths of the Cubit and Digit writing.

The dimensions which have been thorough in the foregoing pages supply products for an accurate determination the the Egyptian cubit. From together a massive of exact measures, no only might the earliest worth of the cubit it is in ascertained, but likewise the level of its variations together employed by different architects.

Petrie’s methods and also findings room so plainly and precisely explained they can finest be quoted as follows.

for the value of the normal cubit, certainly the most important source is the King-s room in the good Pyramid; the is the many accurately wrought, the ideal preserved, and the most specifically measured, of all the data that space known.

Arranging the instances chronologically, the cubit offered was as displayed in Table 3.

Petrie writes the following.

For the cubit I had deduced (<16, page 50>) from a amount of material, good, bad, and also indifferent, 20–64  .02 as the best result that I might get; about a dozen of the actual cubit rods the are recognized yield 20–65 01; and now from the earliest monuments we find that the cubit very first used is 20–62, and the mean value indigenous the seven buildings named is 20–63 b .02-. … ~ above the entirety we may take 20– together the initial value and reckon that it slightly enhanced on an typical by recurring copyings in food of time. (pages 178-179).

3. Greek and also Roman Comparisons

In the writings of Eratosthenes, the Greek σχονος (schoe′nus) was 12,000 imperial cubits presume a 0.525 meter. The stade was 300 imperial cubits or 157.5 meter or 516.73 feet. Eratosthenes provided 250,000 stadia because that circumference of the earth. Strabo and also Pliny indicated 252,000 stadia because that the circumference and also 700 stadia for a level <13, 17>. Reports that Egyptian construction indicate only a 0.04 inch difference in between cubit of Snefru and also Khufu pyramids follow to Arnold <13> and Gillings <17>.

Lelgemann <18, 19> reported the examination of almost 870 metrological garden sticks who lengths stand for 30 various units. He argues for the more quickly unit, the Nippur cubit, to be 518.5 mm. Lelgemann provides the old stadion = 600 feet and also reports the stadion in ~ Olympia at 192.27 meter which the believes is based upon the Remen or old Egyptian profession cubit derived from the Egyptian royal cubit (523.75 mm) and also old trade cubit = 448.9 mm.

Nichholson <20> in Men and also Measures specialized a thing to The story the the cubit. His summary (page 30) provided comparative lengths to 5 cubits as presented in Table 4.

Nichholson proposes a long history of the cubit beginning before the time the the an excellent Pyramid that Kufu c. 2600 BCE. He cases a measure up of 500 typical cubits for the base side indicating just a six-inch distinction from the base measure made by Flinders Petrie. That fixes the day of the imperial cubit at about 4000 BCE. The an excellent Assyrian cubit is dated c. 700 BCE. The Beládic cubit is dated c. 300 BCE. Nichholson fixes the black cubit as completely realized at approximately the ninth century that this era which suggests a parallel to the growth and also spread that Islam. While his actions for this variants that the cubit show up to dovetail with few of the other approximates given in this paper, over there are serious questions about the chronological sequence associated with these variants. Nichholson supplies no proof or assistance for this sequence. His estimates of the common and royal cubits conform to various other estimates, yet the other values are less conforming.

4. Greek/Roman Periods

The Greek πχυς (pay′-kus) was a 24-digit cubit. The Cyrenaica cubit measured around 463.1 mm v the middle cubit around 474.2 mm make them roughly 25/24 and also 16/15 roman cubits. Other Greek cubits based on different digit steps from other Greek city-states were likewise used. The Greek 40-digit-measure appears to correspond to the Latin gradus, the step, or half-a-pace <21>.

It shows that the Greeks and Romans inherited the foot native the Egyptians. The roman inn foot was separated into both 12 unciae (inches) and also 16 digits. The uncia to be a twelfth part of the roman inn foot or pes of 11.6 inches. An uncia was 2.46 cm or 0.97 of our inch. The cubitas was same to 24 digiti or 17.4 inches. The Romans additionally introduced your mile the 1000 paces or twin steps, v the speed being equal to 5 Roman feet. The roman mile that 5000 feet was introduced right into England throughout the occupation. Queen Elizabeth, that reigned indigenous 1558 come 1603, adjusted the statute mile to 5280 feet or 8 furlongs, with a furlong gift 40 rods the 5.5 yards each. The furlong continues today as a unit usual in horse racing.

The arrival of the yard as a unit of length came later, yet its beginning is not certainly known. Some believe the origin was the dual cubit. Whatever its origin, the beforehand yard was divided by the binary an approach into 2, 4, 8, and also 16 parts called the half-yard, span, finger, and also nail. The garden is sometimes linked with the “gird” or one of a person’s waist, or with the street from the pointer of the sleep to the finish of the ignorance on the human body of Henry I. Systems were generally “standardized” by recommendation to a royal figure.

The distance between thumb and outstretched finger come the elbow is a cubit periodically referred to as a “natural cubit” of about 1.5 feet. This standard seems to have actually been supplied in the Roman device of measures and also in different Greek systems. The roman ulna, a four-foot cubit (about 120 cm), was typical in the empire. This length is the measure from a man’s hip come the finger of the outstretched the contrary arm. The roman cubitus is a six-palm cubit of around 444.5 mm about 17.49 inches <17>.

5. Various other Near east Dimensions

Over time and the geographic locations of the Middle eastern various cubits and variations ~ above the cubit have actually been recorded: 6 palms = 24 digits, the is, ~45.0 cm or 18 inches (1.50 ft); 7 palms = 28 digits, the is, ~52.5 cm or 21 inch (1.75 ft); 8 palms = 32 digits, the is, ~60.0 cm or 24 inch (2.00 ft); and also 9 palms = 36 digits, that is, ~67.5 cm or 27 inches (2.25 ft) <1>. Oates <22, page 186> writing of mesopotamian archeology claims “measures of size were based upon the cubit or “elbow” (very roughly 0.5 m).”

The backgrounds of Herodotus <23, page 21> explained the walls surrounding the city that Babylon as “fifty royal cubits broad and 2 hundred high (the royal cubit is three inches longer than the plain cubit).” an accompanying keep in mind to the text offers the information provided in parentheses, and the finish note reports these worths as “exceedingly high” elevating questions about the elevation of these wall surfaces which would certainly be well over three-hundred feet high if the royal cubit that 20 inches is implied, or 100 meter if the royal cubit is 50 cm. For comparison, the good pyramid that Khufu is noted as originally 146.59 meter <24, page 895>. The credibility that Herodotus has frequently been questioned, and these dimensions can be suspect likewise or topic to the exact same exaggerations discovered elsewhere in his reportings.

In 1916, during the critical years of ottoman Empire and during WWI, the German Assyriologist Eckhard Unger discovered a copper-alloy bar during excavation at Nippur from c. 2650 BCE. He declared it to be a measure standard. This bar, irregular in shape and irregularly marked, was claimed to be a Sumerian cubit of around 518.5 mm or 20.4 inches. A 30-digit cubit has actually been determined from the second millennium BCE v a digit length of around 17.28 mm (slightly more than 0.68 inch). The Arabic Hashimi cubit of around 650.2 mm (25.6 inches) is taken into consideration to measure 2 French feet. Because the created ratio in between the French and English foot is about 16 come 15, it produces the adhering to ratios: 5 Hashimi cubits ≈ 10 French feet ≈ 128 English inches. Also, the size of 256 roman inn cubits and also the length of 175 Hashimi cubits are nearly equivalent <16>.

The safety cubit (Arabic) measured around 555.6 mm; 5/4 that the roman cubit developing 96 security cubits ≈ 120 roman cubits ≈ 175 English feet. The Arabic nil cubit (or black cubit) measured around 540.2 mm. Because of this 28 Greek number of the Cyrenaica cubit 25/24 that a roman foot or 308.7 mm, and 175 roman cubits 144 black cubits. The mesopotamian cubit measured about 533.4 mm, 6/5 roman cubit making 20 Mesopotamian cubits ≈ 24 roman cubits ≈ 35 English feet. The Babylonian cubit (or cubit that Lagash) measured about 496.1 mm. A Babylonian trade cubit exist which to be nine-tenths of the regular cubit, that is, 446.5 mm. The Babylonian cubit is 15/16 of the imperial cubit make 160 Babylonian profession cubits ≈ 144 Babylonian cubits ≈ 135 Egyptian royal cubits. The Pergamon cubit 520.9 mm was 75/64 the the roman cubit. The Salamis cubit 484.0 mm was 98/90 the the roman inn cubit. The Persia cubit of about 500.1 mm was 9/8 that the roman cubit and 9/10 that the security cubit. Prolonging the geographic area still additional produces an ext names and values because that the cubit <16, 18, 19, 25, 26>.

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From the Encyclopedia Britannica <24> section on Weights and Measures given in Volume 23, the unit specifications for the Middle east cubit are presented in Table 5.

Digit, zebo1/28 royal cubit0.737′′18.7 mm
Palm, shep1/72.947′′75 mm
Royal foot2/313.95′′254 mm
Royal cubitunit20.62524
Ater, skhoine12,000 imperial cubits3.9 miles6.3 km
Finger, ezba1/24 cubit0.74′′19 mm
Palm, tefah4 fingers, 1/6 cubit2.9′′75 mm
Span, zeret3 palms, 1/2 cubit8.8′′225 mm
Royal cubit7/6 conventional cubit20.7525 mm
Pace2 cubits35.4′′900 mm
Stadion360 cubits528′′162 meters
Palm4 fingers3.0′′77 mm
Span12 fingers9.1′′231
Cubit24 fingers18.2′′463 mm
Stade604 feet185 meter