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Journal of Anthropology
Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 489757, 11 pages
Review Article

The Cubit: A History and Measurement Commentary

Aurora University, Aurora, Illinois, USA

Received 20 August 2013; Accepted 7 November 2013; Published 30 January 2014

Academic Editor: Kaushik Bose

Copyright © 2014 Mark H. Stone. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Historical dimensions for the cubit are provided by scripture and pyramid documentation. Additional dimensions from the Middle East are found in other early documents. Two major dimensions emerge from a history of the cubit. The first is the anthropological or short cubit, and the second is the architectual or long cubit. The wide geographical area and long chronological period suggest that cubit dimensions varied over time and geographic area. Greek and Roman conquests led to standardization. More recent dimensions are provided from a study by Francis Galton based upon his investigations into anthropometry. The subjects for Galton’s study and those of several other investigators lacked adequate sample descriptions for producing a satisfactory cubit/forearm dimension. This finding is not surprising given the demise of the cubit in today’s world. Contemporary dimensions from military and civilian anthropometry for the forearm and hand allow comparison to the ancient unit. Although there appears no pressing need for a forearm-hand/cubit dimension, the half-yard or half-meter unit seems a useful one that could see more application.