Metes and Bounds Descriptions come from Base 60 Mathematics

If you are building things, you need to cut and divide things up evenly, or at least as close as possible, then you are probably going to come up with base 60 mathematics system. Just about everything divides up nicely if you use this system.

Sixty is divisible by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 10, and all the respective parts are equal. No other number will work as well. Whether you are building houses or large buildings, furniture, or cooking at home, this system will work. Base 10, only divides evenly by 1, 2, and 5.

Let’s assume that you are a farmer selling potatoes in the market place. Someone wants one-quarter of your produce. Using a base 10 system, you are quickly into cutting something in half, while using base 60, those potatoes stay intact.

The earth travelled around the Sun in about 360 days; that was the circle, and it was divided initially into four seasons (90 days) and so on.

When measuring land, a similar system was used again with base 60. If you could place yourself in the center of the circle; each day (a degree), would give you direction. Surveyors would pace out the direction and the space of the lots using dimensions and the mini-universe being the circle comprised of 360 units. The breakdown into further fractions was minutes and seconds. Perhaps they should have used new names, but the key element was the base 60 mathematics system.

When this all started, the ancient Mesopotamians about 3,000 BCE chipped (etched) this into stone. The actual Deed to the land was cut into stone, and that was placed on the land, sometimes in one of the corners, for rectangular lots, and sometimes in the middle of the circle for round lots. However, you can appreciate that the round lots didn’t fit together very well.

Rectangular lots worked nicely with no leftovers. Round lots would reserved for larger parcels and farms. So, first urbanization and concentration of civilization used rectangles. That system used up the space efficiently.

The Deeds were placed at the corners, and now you require a “metes and bounds” description to tell you how to walk the lot. The description was also chipped into the stone.

You needed distance, direction and the correct angle, which is where the mini-universe system would come in handy. Then, you had to “pace it off”, stop, turn, as described and head along the correct angle. The important aspect was that this system would work without anyone being there to pace it off for you.

Fast forward 5,000 years and we now have GPS systems using a base 10 mathematics system. Naturally, this is very accurate, largely because of the precision of the technology.

For the Mesopotamians, the system was “good enough”, or “more or less” accurate, and that was all that was required at the time.

Brian Madigan LL.B., Broker

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