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Island man finds one of the oldest units of length measurement, a cubit

Don MacFarlane saved an ancient piece of history from being torched.
Don MacFarlane saved an ancient piece of history from being torched. - Desiree Anstey

Don MacFarlane discovers oldest units of length measurement, a cubit, while clearing the eaves of the historic J. C. Pope house

LOWER BEDEQUE, P.E.I. - While clearing the eaves of the historic James Colledge Pope property, located in Lower Bedeque, Don MacFarlane grabbed something that didn’t feel quite like a stick.

“We were doing some renovations on the old house, cleaning out the eaves, and I was throwing stuff into the yard to be burned when I grabbed something that felt a little different. It was black as tar, so, curious, I decided to take it home to clean,” said MacFarlane.

“There was something special to me about the item with eight sides, like an octagon, so I kept it safe in my house for 20 years. I happened to show Ron (Rayner), and the next day I had a letter on my doorstep that explained the item as an important piece of history.”

A cubit is one length of a man’s forearm, from the fingertips to the elbow.
A cubit is one length of a man’s forearm, from the fingertips to the elbow.

It turned out that MacFarlane was holding one of the oldest units of length measurement, a cubit.

“As far as (a) cubit goes, I remember hearing about it years ago,” said Rayner. “It had been used in Biblical times. You will find in the pages of the Bible the ark built by Noah was so many cubits long, wide, and deep.”

A cubit is one length of a man’s forearm, from the fingertips to the elbow.

The cubit rod MacFarlane found is dated 1852.

“It’s a very rare find. It’s almost as if it were meant to be because someone was ready to throw that on a fire pile and Don found it,” said Rayner. “And it’s marked around the time that big house was built. The Pope family are very prominent in the Island’s history.”

The rod is 457 millimeters (18 inches) in length, which is the usual measurement of a Biblical cubit.

“We both belong to Mount Moriah Masonic Lodge and we know the measurements done on King Solomon’s Temple were done in cubits,” said Rayner. “The cubit is the first recorded unit of length used between the Romans, Egyptians and Greeks.”

Every side is listed with numbers, and in the middle, all the digits come together.

“I couldn’t believe I had a part of history in my hand, and I showed it to all my family,” said MacFarlane. “I keep it safe, but If the kids don’t want it I will donate it to a museum.”

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