Ancient Origins Of Everyday Things: Our System For Measuring Time

Sometime in the early second millennium B.C., the Babylonians invented their number system, and its influence still affects us to this day. Because of a limited amount of symbols (they only had two, along with their indicator for zero), they had to innovate, creating a system where one column indicated multiples of 1, one column indicated multiples of 60, and one column indicated multiples of 3,600. These columns were only separated by a small space, so attention to detail was important.

Once they had their number system in place, the Babylonians began applying it to various aspects of their life, such as the number of degrees in a circle and the number of days in a year. Since their system was much easier to calculate and divide, the Babylonian numbers reigned supreme over those of other nations, remaining the favored system for astronomers up to the 16th century. Eventually, thanks to its divisibility, the base-60 system was applied to the concept of time, giving us the number of minutes in an hour and the number of seconds in a minute. 

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