“24 Angulas Make a Forearm…
“Twenty-four angulas make one hasta, which is one of the universal measurement units of mankind—the length of forearm measured out to the extended middle finger. The hasta is a unit of measurement devised by the Harappan (the most ancient of India’s urban civilizations along the Indus) and akin to the cubit used in Sumeria (the most ancient urban culture of Iraq) and ancient Egypt.
It seems that the basic Harappan unit was formed from the width of eight barley grains placed side by side, which was found to be equal to a finger’s width (roughly 1.76cm). Twelve of these finger-widths/barley rows made an angula, while a dhanus (the length of a bow) was assessed as 108 of these finger-width/barley rows. Anything with ‘108’ in it was deemed to be very propitious in India and the East and so it was a favorite unit in which to design a citadel or a wall.
The use of barley as the ultimate foundation stone of measurement appears to be another universal element (alongside the forearm, the foot, and the breadth of a finger), so that, for instance, you will find it underwriting the system of measurements used by the Vikings. But there has always been room for financial manipulation and speculation, especially from the great rival of barley, the slightly lighter wheat seed. Four wheat seeds equal three of barley, which are themselves considered to be on par with the seed from a carob tree.”
…And 24 Palms Make a Man
Four fingers make a palm, and six palms make a cubit, and four cubits make a man who should therefore be twenty-four palms in height. The other rule of male proportion is that, like the Emperor Charlemagne and King Edward I of England, we should stand six times the length of our foot. Half the length of the foot is also the extent of the average erect penis—which comes in at an average of just under six inches. A much greater mystery is whether the navel or the base of the penis is the center of a man.”
Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.