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Mahogany measuring stick - Measuring by elbows

The artifact of the week is no. R-6898, a beautiful mahogany measuring stick. It was made by Filippus Bjarnarson from Efri-Hamrar in 1901. It may be his final work, as he died that same year.
The measuring stick is masterfully carved with a diamond and flower pattern. On one side is carved a fish, on the other a crocodile or alligator. On one side is carved „smíðað“ (English: „made“). On the other side is the year it was made in Roman numerals, MDBCI (1901). This is a medieval variation on the system, since the original system did not use B, here used to mean „300“.
Before the invention of the metric system, people commonly used their body parts to measure things. Of course this could be a problem, because most people don‘t have thumbs or arms the same length. Nor is their stride the same length when they measure a „foot“ of distance. For that reason there were different standardized ells (length of your forearm), feet (a single short stride) and inches (broadness of your thumb).
These standards differed according to time and place.
This measuring stick does not follow any of the standards historically used in Iceland. It comes closest to the Danish standard but is still different enough to be noticeable. Two copper pins on one side of the stick measure 67,5 cm, which is a little longer than the standard Danish ell (62,8cm). On the opposite side is marked a shorter length of 37,5 cm, which is significantly longer than the Danish foot (30,5cm). There are also six nails in the third side of the stick, at a regular interval of 2,8 cm, which is close enough to the standard Danish inch (2,6 cm).
Filippus may in fact have used his own ells, inches and feet – that is, instead of using the Danish or any other standard, he simply measured the length of his own forearm, stride and width of thumb.

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