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Encyclopedia > Megalithic yard

The megalithic yard (sometimes abbreviated to MY) is a theoretical unit of prehistoric measurement first suggested by the Scottish engineer, Alexander Thom in 1955. Professor Alexander Thom (1894 - 1985) was a Scottish engineer most famous for his theory of the Megalithic yard. ... 1955 is a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar. ...


Thom undertook an initial statistical analysis of 46 of the Neolithic and Bronze Age stone circles, in the British Isles. By plotting his measurements on a graph, he noted that many of the diameters of the stone circles came clumped together in groups, there were several examples with close to 22 foot diameters, another group measuring c. 44 feet across and another measuring c. 55 feet. A best fit for these results implied a common factor of 5.43 feet which he believed could have served as a manageable unit for measuring out figures on the ground. Thom went on to survey more than 300 sites, becoming increasingly convinced of the yard's existence. The Neolithic, (Greek neos=new, lithos=stone, or New Stone Age) was a period in the development of human technology that is traditionally the last part of the Stone Age. ... The Bronze Age is a period in a civilizations development when the most advanced metalworking has developed the techniques of smelting copper from natural outcroppings and alloys it to cast bronze. ... Prehistoric stone circles are megalithic monuments found almost exclusively in the British Isles, with two atypical examples known in Brittany. ... The British Isles consist of Great Britain, Ireland and a number of much smaller surrounding islands. ...


Thom halved his original best fit to 2.72 feet as he argued that the circle builders would have set out their monuments using a radius from a central point rather than using a diametrical measurement.

From the data he gathered, Thom argued that the megalithic sites were all built by ancient architects using a standard measurement unit equating to 0.829m or a little less than an imperial yard. Arguing for a common small unit of measurement from larger quantities such as this is known as a quantum hypothesis. Thom posited that wooden 'measuring rods' of this length or multiples of it would have been used for surveying purposes and that they must have been produced from a central place in order to maintain the consistency he had observed. He believed that Avebury could have been such a place. By using such rods laid out on the ground along with rope and a plumb line, Thom demonstrated that even complex elliptical shapes can be precisely measured out using basic geometry including Pythagorean triangles. Image File history File links Diagram showing the relative commensurability of possible unit sizes with Thoms measurements of stone circles in Britain. ... Megalithic tomb, Mane Braz, Brittany A megalith is a large stone which has been used to construct a structure or monument either alone or with other stones. ... This article is about the unit of measure known as the yard. ... This article is about the Avebury prehistoric site; for an article on the modern village and civil parish containing it, see Avebury, Wiltshire. ... Geometry (from the Greek words Geo = earth and metro = measure) is the branch of mathematics first popularized in ancient Greek culture by Thales (circa 624-547 BC) dealing with spatial relationships. ... Pythagoras (582 BC – 496 BC, Greek: Πυθαγόρας) was an Ionian mathematician and philosopher, known best for formulating the Pythagorean theorem. ...


Analytical methods employed by the British statisticians S.R. Broadbent and D.G. Kendall indicate that the 1955 dataset has a 1% significance meaning that such a best fit would only occur in 1 in 100 random datasets. Other archaeo-statisticians consider Thom's original 5.43 feet, the so-called megalithic fathom to provide a more persuasive argument for a standard prehistoric measurement unit. Thom and others have also claimed to have found evidence for megalithic feet, inches and cubits. For Wikipedia statistics, see m:Statistics Statistics is the science and practice of developing human knowledge through the use of empirical data expressed in quantitative form. ... In statistics, a result is significant if it is unlikely to have occurred by chance, given that a presumed null hypothesis is true, but is not improbable if the null hypothesis is false. ...


The megalithic yard theory is an attractive one as it has several pleasing properties. It can be used to produce ellipses with circumferences an integral multiple of their internal measurements. This led Thom to later introduce the megalithic rod equalling 2.5 megalithic yards as he calculated a ratio of 1:2.5 between radius and perimeter in the oval-shaped monuments he examined.


Such well-thought out measuring has therefore been claimed as the earliest example of ancient mathematics, although using a circle of 366 degrees rather than the 360 adopted by the later Babylonians. Its use has also been identified by some in other British megalithic structures and attempts have been made to link it with the engineering methods used to build the Pyramids. The significance of 366 in the context of the solar year has not been overlooked by some archaeoastronomers. Wikibooks Wikiversity has more about this subject: School of Mathematics Wikiquote has a collection of quotations by or about: Mathematics Look up Mathematics in Wiktionary, the free dictionary Wikimedia Commons has more media related to: Mathematics Bogomolny, Alexander: Interactive Mathematics Miscellany and Puzzles. ... Babylon is the Greek variant of Akkadian Babilu, an ancient city in Mesopotamia (Location: 32° 32′ 11″ N 44° 25′ 15″ E, modern Al Hillah, Iraq). ... Geometric shape created by connecting a polygonal base to an apex A pyramid is a geometric shape formed by connecting a polygonal base and a point, called the apex, by triangular faces. ... Archaeoastronomy (also spelled Archeoastronomy) is, as the name implies, the combination of astronomical and archaeological studies. ...


Later analysis of Thom's data has raised numerous questions regarding his approach however and professional archaeologists treat his ideas with scepticism. Thom's measurements of some circles have been found to be up to 0.3m out and for other broken or sub-circular monuments he studied, the precise diameter is open to question anyway. Local variations have been identified in measurement data from different parts of the British Isles suggesting that there was no centrally decreed 'yard' and it has been argued that body measurements such as the cubit would have been more likely to have been used. Anthropological studies of modern stone-using tribes have also been employed to suggest that Neolithic Britons would not have had a numbering system complex enough to create advanced geometric forms using such surveying techniques and that elliptical enclosures are the results of attempts to mark out circles by eye or to align a long axis on astronomical features. The lack of serious corroborating evidence from continental Europe should also be mentioned. Archaeology or sometimes in American English archeology (from the Greek words αρχαίος = ancient and λόγος = word/speech) is the study of human cultures through the recovery, documentation and analysis of material remains, including architecture, artefacts, biofacts, human remains, and landscapes. ... Cubit is the name for any one of many units of measure used by various ancient peoples, based on the distance between the tip of the middle finger and the elbow on an average person or a similar forearm-based measurement. ... Anthropology (from the Greek word άνθρωπος, human) consists of the study of humankind (see genus Homo). ...


Until such a time as a Neolithic measuring rod is excavated, the theory remains unproved.


See also

Pseudoscientific metrology Pseudoscience within metrology seems to have been triggered by interest around the Great Pyramid of Giza, and later by the discoveries of standards of measurement in Mesopotamia, especially in Gulash. ...


External links

  • Explaining the fundamental flaws in the foundation for the alleged common unit of length of "Megalithic Sites in Britain"

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