Measures of area

Due to the length of the Weights and Measures page, it's been split up into different sections. You can find the main article at Weights and Measures.

Measures of length

Measures of area

Measures of capacity

Measures of weight

Balances

Measures of area

It was a widely practiced custom in ancient times to state land areas in terms of what a yoke of oxen could plow in one day, or the amount of seed required to sow a given area.

Egyptian

The cubit (mḥ) was used in Egypt for determining areas. A piece of land one cubit wide and one hundred cubits long was considered as a cubit in area. A hundred cubits (an area of one hundred cubits square) was a sṯ’t, and was equal to roughly 2/3 acre.

Mesopotamian

Land was measured in Babylonia and Assyria by the area a team of oxen could plow in a day. This area was defined as 6,480 square cubits (or 20.4 in.) or about 4/10 acre. Land was also measured according to the quantity of grain necessary to sow it; thus one finds such expressions as an imeru of land. Area measures varied in different times and places.

Israelite


Land was also measured by the amount of grain required to sow it (Lev 27:16; 1 Kings 18:32). Elijah dug a trench around the altar on Mount Carmel large enough to contain two seahs (“measures,” KJV and RSV) of seed (1 Kings 18:33). It is difficult to determine the size of the trench.

Leviticus 27:16 does not seem to refer to the value of a field at fifty shekels per homer of barley needed to sow it, for it would mean that a vast area could be bought for a ridiculously low price. The v. prob. refers to the grain to be harvested and is thus an estimate of the value of the field and not of its area. Numbers 35:4, 5 describes the size of the pasture lands of the levitical cities. Verse 4 says the lands are to extend outward from the wall of the city 1,000 cubits all around, but v. 5 seems to describe a square area with sides of 2,000 cubits. If taken literally, there would be no space left for the city in the middle of the square area. The solution is that the 2,000 cubits of v. 5 represent the frontage of the specified depth of 1,000 cubits which means that the 2,000 cubit square is not the area of the pasture lands, but is a square enclosing the city and making the frontage of the pastures on each of the city’s four sides. From data in the Mishnah, Benzinger calculated that a seah was equal to 784 square meters, or .193 acres; following the same proportion, a homer would be 5.79 acres.

Roman

The Lat. jugum (yoke, team) was used to describe the area plowed by a team. It was later defined as a jugerum of 28,800 square (Rom.) ft., or 5/8 acre. It has been calculated that 3 3/5 seahs were required to sow one jugerum of land in the Graeco-Rom. period which would be .173 acres. The Rom. furrow (actus) was 120 Rom. ft. in length, and land was measured according to the square actus.