Old Units

I wonder if there is any man-made unit of measure still in use older than the hour. Months, days, and years have physical events to define them, but no aspect of nature told the Assyrians to divide the day into 24 parts (actually 12 pairs of parts).


9 thoughts on “Old Units

  1. More credit to the Assyrians. It’s not just that their system of measuring time has withstood the ages; it’s that said system hasn’t been successfully challenged. Following the French Revolution, the French attempted to create a metric calendar (10 months instead of 12, everything decimalized), but that was a complete failure, in part because neither the time the Earth takes to circle the Sun nor the time the Moon takes to circle the Earth is decimal.

    Now, here’s an interesting thought … Before the Assyrians, there was no measure of time that divided up the day. Later, the Revolutionary French would have divided everything by 10 or 100, but the Assyrians used 12. Earlier, in the Bible, time is determined by observable phenomena — dawn, noon, twilight (when it becomes either possible or impossible for someone to tell the difference between a white thread and a black thread).

    The Assyrian system is so ingrained that the French revolutionaries didn’t even attempt to decimalize the day.

    You’re not just talking about a single measure; you’re talking about the way all of the human beings on this planet operate. That cadre of Assyrian priests who determined the division of time have determined the destiny of the planet.

  2. Interesting theory CA, but I believe oldest man-made unit of measure is the 12 pack.

    The Assyrians invented the 24 hour day (2 12 packs … 1 day … fundamental rule of nature), to settle disputes over beer run times: “My dawn-to-noon time [travel was slower back then] kicks the ass of your noon-to-twilight time.” You can see the problem.

    The French introduced the concept of outcomes for hire: “For a couple of those beers, I can shave two hours off of your ‘time’.”

  3. My problem is the week. Seven days, so decreed all because God created everything in seven days. Seven days. Prime. Why not 5, 6, 8, or 10? These lead to great possibilities. If we had 45 weeks of 8 days (with 2-day weekends of course) then there would be 5 leftover days for celebrations (of your choice–Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, Groundhog day, Rutabaga day, etc.). Or if we had 10-day weeks, we could have 36 weeks (with at least 2, maybe three weekend days) and 5 days to celebrate (your choice).

    I don’t think I will live to see this!

  4. And I’m sure Pat would vote against any calendar with rutabaga day.

    It’s funny … in his family, rutabagas are a traditional dish at holidays. He has no idea why. He hates them. When the family’s primary rutabaga advocate died a few years ago, he thought the rutabaga tradition would also die, but a preteen cousin turned out to be a rutabaga fan, and so the tradition continues, since she will cook the rutabagas herself if that’s the only way they will continue.

    Alas, Pat has also confused rutabagas with sweet potatoes. I have no idea why. He refuses to eat sweet potatoes, because, to his mind, sweet potatoes and rutabagas are the same thing.

  5. To difuse the growing rutabaga conflict, I propose that October Twoth be Rhubarb Day.

    Like rutabaga, rhubarb is a semi-obscure plant/food that sounds funny when you say it. However, it tastes better – especially when baked in a pie with something, like stawberries, that actually tastes good.

    Can rhubarb be the olive branch of peace between brothers-in-law?

  6. You all have scary family traditions. My mom annually hosts her national pride day (aka St Pat’s day) and serves assorted boiled veggies and corned beef. Being a Native Californian I make enchiladas and watch others try to figure out which are potatoes, turnips or rutubagas. Once she put in parnips and really screwed them all over.

    That was the year my cousins began to eat my enchiladas come to think about it.

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