The Gravity Cubit
By Scott Creighton
It remains one of the most scrutinised structures in the world and still its secrets remain largely elusive to us. The Great Pyramid at Giza stands 481 feet tall with each of its four base lengths measuring almost exactly 756 feet. But why did the ancient designers of this structure decide upon these particular dimensions? What rationale might they have used - or were these dimensions merely the arbitrary product of a whimsical desire on the part of the Pharaoh Khufu, in whose the name the Great Pyramid of Giza was apparently built?
It would seem, however, that whimsical or arbitrary dimensions were far from the minds of the designers of the Great Pyramid. As we further explore this question, we will discover that the dimensions of the Great Pyramid may well have been formed on a scientific basis. We will find also that the ancient Egyptian measure - the Royal Cubit - may also have originally been derived from this hitherto unknown ancient science.
Before the construction of a pyramid can even begin there would naturally be a plan, or indeed a number of plans, giving the dimensions, angles and so forth to a particular scale. The practical need for such would have been every bit as essential in ancient times as it is to us here in the 21st century. Though no plans of Khufu's Pyramid have ever been found, it is quite inconceivable to consider that such a massive undertaking could have been achieved without the use of plans of some kind. It is further unlikely that the implementation - i.e. the scaling up - of any such architectural plan(s) could have been achieved without having first developed a standard unit of linear measure.
The standard unit of measure used by the ancient Egyptians was the Royal Cubit or Mahe which would be equivalent to 20.61 inches. This measure was subdivided into 7 palms of 4 digits each, giving a Royal Cubit unit measure of 28 equal parts. Conventional wisdom informs us that the ancient Egyptians defined the length of the Royal Cubit by averaging the length of a man's forearm - from his elbow to the tip of his middle finger. It is unsurprising, therefore, that the ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for their Royal Cubit measure is symbolised by the forearm. But should the fact that the Royal Cubit is symbolised by the forearm automatically imply that the forearm was the original means by which the Royal Cubit was derived? Or could it be equally possible that the forearm hieroglyph is actually (unwittingly) symbolising a scientifically based unit of measure whereby, as a result of the male forearm being a very close approximation to the underlying scientifically-based length, the forearm symbol was then used to depict the measure?
So, what is this scientifically grounded method of deriving the ancient Egyptian's Royal Cubit? And what evidence is there that might support the hypothesis that the Royal Cubit length was originally based in science? To begin to answer these questions we must first attempt to understand the process of creating a measuring system.
A CONSISTENT MEASURE
Virtually anything - a leaf, a rock, a toe, etc - could be used as the basis of a measuring system provided everyone within a particular community or society agrees on the particular object being used. If, for example, a seashell was used as the base unit of linear measure, then rulers or "rods" can be made to the exact length of this seashell which craftsmen can then use to design and build things to the "seashell standard". If, however, one of these seashell rods is measured from another rod which is, in turn, measured to create another rod then, over time, the unit of measure will inexorably "drift" in accuracy from the original seashell length. To create a perfect rod length each and every time then it would naturally be best to create the rod from the original source, the seashell, each and every time a rod was required. In this way the measure is much less likely to drift in its accuracy, producing rod after rod of equal and consistent length.
If, however, the original source measure (the seashell) became lost or was otherwise inaccessible for some reason then a replacement seashell would not give the exact same measure as the previous seashell measure - the original unit of measure. In effect a whole new measuring system - and everything this implies - would have to be created. And then if this seashell was somehow also lost…..
The master builders of ancient times would have been every bit as aware of this potential problem as we are today. They would have realised that a better solution to their measure - to prevent the scenario outlined above from ever happening - would be to define a unit of measure that was itself based on some entity or property that would consistently give the same length. And even if the original measure became lost or was destroyed, the unit could simply and easily be re-created from scratch.
In 1790 Thomas Jefferson - some 11 years before he became President of the United States - was charged with the task of defining a new unit of weights and measures for the fledgling new country. In consideration of the problem of devising a standard unit of measure, Jefferson wrote:
"There exists not in nature, as far as has been hitherto observed, a single subject or species of subject, accessible to man, which presents one constant and uniform dimension."
In their ground-breaking book Civilisation One (Watkins, 2004), authors Christopher Knight and Alan Butler, through their analysis of Scottish Engineer, Alexander Thom's Megalithic Yard, came to the very same conclusion as Jefferson. And indeed, as I grappled with the question of finding a possible scientific source to the ancient Egyptian Royal Cubit, I found myself also arriving at this conclusion. The natural world simply does not produce anything that is easily accessible and consistently of the same length that could be used as the underlying basis for a unit of measure. Even if we take an average length of a man's forearm, will this average be the same in ancient times as it is today when much of the western world has been "super-sized" with all manner of junk food, making us larger than our ancestors? Probably not.
It may well be that nature is unable to produce two items that are consistently exactly the same length but there are, however, other aspects to our planet that are indeed considered generally consistent and easily accessible - its rotation and its gravity! But is it possible to create a linear unit of measure from these two properties of the Earth?
Indeed it is. Furthermore, in defining such a unit of measure from these two properties (rotation and gravity), we will be producing a unit of measure that is equivalent to the ancient Egyptian Royal Cubit of 20.61 inches and - in so doing - perhaps we may also be rediscovering the very method by which the Royal Cubit was originally devised.