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Historic and traditional systems of measurement

The need to measure quantities has always been important in human culture. In traditional systems, units have often been associated with everyday life. You recognize the use of body parts when defining units of lengths, such as the foot, or some practical measurement, such as the Swedish kyndemil which is the distance a torch will last when walking at a reasonable pace (as it turns out approximately 16 kilometres) or the Japanese koku which originally was the amount of rice a person would eat in a year.

It is natural to assume that there could be confusion when regional definitions of the same unit differs in quantification. An example of this is the pound which both can refer to a mass and a force. In the case of masses there are in Britain alone the London pound, tower pound, merchant's pound, troy pound, avoirdupois pound and metric pound. The origins of the English pound is the ancient Roman libra (0.328 kg) where the abbreviation lb comes from. The whole of Europe has or had has some variation of this measurement such as the French livre, the German pfund, the Russian funt and the Scandinavian skålpund with different interpretations of how much mass it should equal.

Most systems of measurements before the enlightenment and scientific revolution had these properties which also reflects in arbitrary ratios between units making it difficult to convert between different units without a modern calculator. A few examples of traditional systems of measurements are presented in this article. Some units are still in use today for certain purposes while others have been completely extinct.