Some science behind the scenes

Sacred geography - Megalithic inches, feet, yards and miles

The old so called imperial system of the UK is not an accident, nor is it a legacy of the Romans.  It appears to be a legacy of the units used in mapping and creating sacred geographies.  The Imperial system uses inches, feet, yards, chains, miles and so on. 

There are 12 inches in a foot, 3 feet in a yard, 22 yards in a chain, 10 chains in a furlong and 8 furlongs to a mile.  There are thus 1,760 yards to a mile.  A league is 3 miles.   

From what we can see the Imperial measurements have drifted from the originals in the actual distances they measure – understandable considering that we are talking of a time span of thousands and thousands of years.  Arbor Low, for example is a Neolithic henge monument in the Peak District, Derbyshire, England.  It is the centre point for a very great number of ley lines – so many that some have dubbed it the sacred navel of England.  It dates before 3000 BC.

Furthermore some of the Imperial measurements are relatively recent inventions, but the Megalithic yard, foot and inch – particularly the yard, seem to have been used extensively.  An inch is roughly the distance of the first joint of the thumb, a foot is roughly a foot length, a yard is the distance from the left shoulder to the fingertips of the right hand.  If you didn’t have a calibrated stick, you could use your body, but of course it was approximate.  As they were smaller people, the Megalithic measurements are smaller than our Imperial units.  As the ancients considered themselves to be measuring the body of Gaia – mother earth – there would have been a sort of correspondence in measuring Her with units based on the person’s own body.  There is nothing magical in this – they had to use some measurement and this is what was used.

It is also noticeable that the measurements, comparing one site to another are not always exactly the same – in one site a Megalithic yard may be 2.72 imperial feet and in another it may be 2.71 feet.  Critics say this means there was no system, but there were bound to be slight differences when all one could use for a measuring stick was something that might shrink, or get broken or lost.  Bodies are different sizes too if all one has available is one’s body!

In all the arguments about exact measurements what is being lost is that it was the proportions that mattered, the relative distances between each ring, or stone, or site. 


John Michell noted that 2.72 [imperial miles] is a standard distance he called the geomantic mile.  The distance from Silbury Hill to Stonehenge, for example, is 6 geomantic miles.  Distances from Glastonbury Tor to certain significant sites are multiples of it – to St Michael’s Tower and Burrow Bridge 4 geomantic miles; to Avebury 15 geomantic miles; to Stoke St Michael 4 geomantic miles and so on.


Professor Alexander Thom was one of the first persons to associate megalith builders with geometry and believed that the Megalithic yard was a standard unit of measurement. A Megalithic Yard (MY) is a unit of measurement of about 2.72 feet. The proposal was made by Professor Thom as a result of his surveys of 600 megalithic sites in England, Scotland, Wales and Brittanny.   As if to confirm this, Margaret Ponting has suggested that artifacts such as a marked bone found during excavations at Dail Mòr near Callanish, the Patrickholme bone bead from Lanarkshire and Dalgety bone bead from Fife in Scotland have shown some evidence of being measuring rods based on the Megalithic Yard in Britain.

But the Megalithic yard may have been in use across a much greater number of other cultures.  Professor Thom also made a comparison of his Megalithic Yard with the Spanish vara, the pre-metric measurement of Iberia, whose length was 2.7425 feet.   Basqueland was a stronghold of the Ancients, as such the measurements could have traveled with them.

A hazel measuring rod recovered from a Bronze Age burial mound in Borum Eshøj, East Jutland by P. V. Glob in 1875 measured 30.9 Imperial inches – very nearly 2.7 imperial feet. Keith Critchlow suggested the rod may have shrunk 0.63 inches from its original length of one Megalithic Yard over a period of 3000 years, which is probably true, but given the very approximate nature of these measuring instruments, they may just have been out by a bit, or the left shoulders of the people of East Jutland were a little less distant from their right hand fingertips.

Archaeologist Euan Mackie noticed similarities between the Megalithic Yard and a unit of measurement extrapolated from a long, marked shell from Mohenjo Daro and ancient measuring rods used in mining in the Austrian Tyrol. He suggested similarities with other measurements such as the ancient Indian gaz and the Sumerian šu-du3-a.

Jay Kappraff has noted similarity between the Megalithic Yard and the ancient Indus short yard of 33 Imperial inches.

Again there is nothing surprising in all this.  Different bodies may have produced slightly different measures, all they were doing was using the same principle of measuring – left shoulder, right hand fingertips.  They were still using this somewhat haphazard system in a draper’s shop in my home town to measure cloth lengths when I was a child – and they usually chose the smallest shop assistant to do the measuring!

To repeat, it wasn’t the actual distance that mattered it was the proportions - the relative distances between features and in this the man who was used as the measuring unit had to be nurtured until the building was finished.


As sub-units of these, Professor Thom proposed the Megalithic Inch of 0.816 Imperial inches, one hundred of which are included in a Megalithic Rod, and forty of which composed a Megalithic Yard. Thom applied the statistical lumped variance test of J.R. Broadbent on this quantum and found the results significant.  But here we may be coming unstuck, because other people have come up with different measurements.

The archaeologist Charles Piazzi Smyth went to Egypt to study and measure the pyramid, subsequently publishing his book Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid (1864).  He calculated that the measurements he obtained from the Great Pyramid of Giza indicated a unit of length, the pyramid inch, equivalent to 1.001 British inches.  He concluded that this was the standard basic unit of measurement by the pyramid's architects.

The View over Atlantic – John Michell

Reference to Berriman’s Historical Metrology will remove any doubt that the English inch was known in Egypt at the time when the Pyramid was constructed and that its length then was exactly the same as it is today. All over the world the traditional units of measurement are related to each other geometrically, and there are several cases where the reference to the inch is unmistakable. This is particularly clear in the chief unit of weight of the ancient world which was based on the cubic inch of gold. There are a number of Egyptian weights in the British Museum, as well as others from Greece and Babylon, of which it has been proved that the cubic inch of gold was their standard of reference.

An inch is the length of the first joint of the thumb, there are very approximately 12 to a bodily foot.  But the size of people’s hands differs far more than their bodies.  We do not believe that the pyramids were built by using a man with a thumb to measure every distance, but there is no doubting that a man with a thumb – preferably the same thumb – was used for some of the smaller measurements – proportions being key again.  The advantage with a thumb is that – gory though it may sound, you can use a man’s thumb after he has popped his clogs [died] by simply cutting it off.


Edward Milles Nelson was foremost a scientist interested in microscopic analysis of metals and other crystalline structures, but he was also interested in sacred geography.  After visiting Hestingsgarth stone circle in the Shetlands in 1905, he discovered that the measurement used by the builders – the megalithic foot was 12.96 inches [E M Nelson – the Cult of the Circle Builders 1909].  Multiply Smyth’s 1.001 inch by 12 and you do not get 12.96, but you do get 12.012. 

Again we have well meaning scientists trying to put absolute units onto approximate measures.  Probably in the days when ancient sites were built a man’s foot was 12 inches long.  In our own scientific one-off study the two men in the house had feet almost exactly 12 inches long in their shoes.  It was no accident that the Imperial foot was called a foot.  A foot is ideal for pacing out any measurement, you just have to heel and toe as you go along.  PROPORTIONS MATTER. YOU HAD TO USE THE SAME MAN!!!

[Note:  A rod, according to our gardener, is equal to the length of stone wall a normal working man like himself can build in a day.  Men were at one time called x rods according to their capacity for wall building - and he was not joking.  At one time a stone was thrown as a measure, but they found stones of the same size weighed more in the north than in the south and thus this was not a good way of calculating distance.  The rod was used for paying farm and field workers]


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