How Were Things Measured in Ancient Times?

Measuring things has been an essential part of human civilization for thousands of years. From measuring ingredients in cooking to measuring the distance between two places, we rely on various tools and techniques to achieve accurate measurements.

But have you ever wondered how things were measured in ancient times? Let’s take a look.

Ancient Egyptian Measurements

The ancient Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to develop a standardized system of measurement. They used various body parts such as the cubit (the length from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger) and the handbreadth (the width of four fingers) to measure length. They also used units like the hekat for measuring volume and weight.

The Greek Influence

The Greeks made significant contributions to the field of mathematics, including measurement. The Greek mathematician Euclid introduced a system of measurement based on ratios called “geometric proportion.” This system was used extensively in architecture and engineering.

Roman Measurements

The Roman Empire had a highly developed system of measurement that was primarily based on their military needs. They used units like pace (double-step), mile, and league to measure distances. They also had units for measuring weight, such as libra (pound) and uncia (ounce).

Chinese Measurements

The Chinese also had their own system of measurement, which was based on decimal fractions. They used units like chi (foot), zhang (10 feet), li (mile), dou (volume), and jin (weight).

Tools Used in Ancient Times

In addition to their systems of measurement, ancient civilizations also developed various tools for achieving accurate measurements. The Egyptians used tools like plumb bobs, leveling rods, and sighting instruments called merkets to measure angles.

The Greeks developed tools like the gnomon, which was used to measure the angle of the sun. They also used the dioptra, a type of surveying instrument that was used to measure angles and distances.

The Romans made significant contributions to the field of engineering and developed tools like the water clock and sundial, which were used for measuring time.


In conclusion, ancient civilizations had their own unique ways of measuring things. They developed standardized systems of measurement, which were based on various units, tools, and techniques. These systems have influenced modern-day measurement and continue to be an essential part of our lives today.