How Was Measurement Done in Ancient Times?

Measurement is an integral part of our lives, and it has been so for thousands of years. The need to measure things accurately has been essential for trade, agriculture, construction, and other areas that require precise calculations.

In ancient times, people used various methods to measure different things, and some of these techniques are still in use today. Let’s delve into the world of ancient measurement and discover how our ancestors used to measure things.

Length Measurement:

In ancient times, people used various objects to measure length. The most common method was using body parts like the hand, foot or forearm.

For example, a cubit was a unit of measurement that was based on the length from a person’s elbow to the tip of their middle finger. Similarly, the span was measured from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger when they were stretched out.

Another method was using natural landmarks such as mountains or rivers as reference points for measuring distances. This technique was prevalent in ancient Egypt where they used cubits derived from a royal cubit that was based on measurements taken from key landmarks like the Nile River.

Weight Measurement:

In ancient times, people used stones or other heavy objects to measure weight. The most common unit of measurement was a talent which varied depending on location and culture but generally ranged anywhere between 25-80 kilograms. Other units included shekels and minas which were smaller measures.

Some cultures also used a balance scale that compared the weight of an object against known weights placed on another side of the scale. This method is still in use today in many parts of the world.

Volume Measurement:

Ancient civilizations developed various methods for measuring volume depending on what they needed to measure.

For instance, Egyptians used hekat (about 4.8 liters) as their standard volume measurement for grain while Greeks used amphora (about 35 liters) for wine and oil. Other units of measurements included liters, bushels, and gallons.

Time Measurement:

In ancient times, people used various methods to measure time. The most commonly used method was the sundial, which was a device that used the shadow cast by the sun to determine the time of day. The Greeks later developed water clocks that were more accurate than sundials.


Measurement has come a long way since ancient times, and we now have highly advanced tools and technologies that enable us to measure things accurately. However, it is essential to remember that our ancestors’ methods were just as effective in their time as ours are today. The use of body parts as reference points or natural landmarks for length measurement, stone weights for weight measurement, various containers for volume measurement and sundials for time measurement are all techniques that have stood the test of time.

As we continue to advance technologically, it’s important not to forget the lessons learned from our ancestors’ ingenuity in measuring things accurately with what they had available.