An ancient relation between units of length and volume based on a sphere

Elena Zapassky, Yuval Gadot, Israel Finkelstein, Itzhak Benenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The modern metric system defines units of volume based on the cube. We propose that the ancient Egyptian system of measuring capacity employed a similar concept, but used the sphere instead. When considered in ancient Egyptian units, the volume of a sphere, whose circumference is one royal cubit, equals half a hekat. Using the measurements of large sets of ancient containers as a database, the article demonstrates that this formula was characteristic of Egyptian and Egyptian-related pottery vessels but not of the ceramics of Mesopotamia, which had a different system of measuring length and volume units.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere33895
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
StatePublished - 28 Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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