Why are there 60 minutes in an hour?

| David Lewis | Communication

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Tens are all around us – to win an Olympic medal you are required to give a 100 percent effort, and run a 100 meters dash in less than 10 seconds. That’s because modern society uses the decimal system – a numeral system with ten as its base. 

But this wasn’t always the case. Once upon a time – some 5,500 years ago – the world’s leading civilization was Sumer. Its culture reigned supreme and projected on all surrounding nations. 

The Sumer civilization and its cutting edge scientists used the sexagesimal numeral system – a numeral system with six as its base. They were the first to divide the circle into 360 degrees, the day into 24 hours, and the hour into 60 minutes.

Most of us have long forgotten this great civilization, but its legacy remains very much alive every time we take a look at our watch or count in dozens.  

Bonus fact: The decimal system success is commonly attributed to the fact we all have 10 fingers that we use to learn to count.

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And for all of you Sumer-enthusiasts, here are some facts:

The land of Sumer extended on most of southern Mesopotamia, which is in modern southern Iraq. According to the researchers, Sumerian culture is one of the first cultures in human history. It is generally accepted that this culture began around 3500 BC. Sumer was divided between state cities which frequently fought each other.

This culture is attributed to all the beginnings of an advanced civilization that would serve as the basis for Western culture: the invention of the wheel, cuneiform, science, courts, and more.

The term ‘Sumer’ first appears in the Acadian scriptures. Some scholars claim that the Sumerians called themselves the ‘black-headed’. 

While we do know they were of non-semite origin their exact origin remains unknown. According to one theory, they were of fishermen who live on the shores of the Persian Gulf and immigrated to Mesopotamia during a water rise in the fourth millennium BCE. An alternative theory suggests they came from Middle Asia through what is known today as Iran.

Bonus 60 Plus: The numeral system we use today was developed in India in the 6th century. The Arabs adopted it in the 9th century, following a book published by the mathematician Muhammad Ibn Musa Al-Khuwarizmi. Later, the Jewish scholar named Abraham Ibn Ezra, followed by the Italian genius Fibonacci, introduced the method to Europe, where it was quickly adopted as a substitute for the Roman system and implemented both in commerce and science.

And for all of you Sumer-enthusiasts, here are some facts:

The land of Sumer extended on most of southern Mesopotamia, which is in modern southern Iraq. According to the researchers, Sumerian culture is one of the first cultures in human history. It is generally accepted that this culture began around 3500 BC. Sumer was divided between state cities which frequently fought each other.

This culture is attributed to all the beginnings of an advanced civilization that would serve as the basis for Western culture: the invention of the wheel, cuneiform, science, courts, and more.

The term ‘Sumer’ first appears in the Acadian scriptures. Some scholars claim that the Sumerians called themselves the ‘black-headed’. 

While we do know they were of non-semite origin their exact origin remains unknown. According to one theory, they were of fishermen who live on the shores of the Persian Gulf and immigrated to Mesopotamia during a water rise in the fourth millennium BCE. An alternative theory suggests they came from Middle Asia through what is known today as Iran.

Bonus 60 Plus: The numeral system we use today was developed in India in the 6th century. The Arabs adopted it in the 9th century, following a book published by the mathematician Muhammad Ibn Musa Al-Khuwarizmi. Later, the Jewish scholar named Abraham Ibn Ezra, followed by the Italian genius Fibonacci, introduced the method to Europe, where it was quickly adopted as a substitute for the Roman system and implemented both in commerce and science.