Twelve (a dozen), 24(hours in a day), 60 (seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour), 360 (radial degrees of a complete circle) are just few of the relationships based on the number 12.
How and where did this relationship occur, and why did they not start with a system of tens. Today much of our and England’s systems are inexorably mixed with this old 12 system of the Sumerians.
However, most of the rest of the world use the metric (10-based) system.
Why did the English (and we of course) not convert to the metric system when all the others did?
The English initiated the Industrial Revolution which was well under way there by 1800. The Paris meeting of 1875 purpose was to establish a common worldwide number system.
By that time England’s industrialization was well along which would have made it costly or them to convert.
Returning to the 12 system: We can’t be sure why the Sumerians used the “12” system but one suggested answer seems plausible. Those ancients were not familiar with fractions. So when one had to divide up a quantity they noted that 12 was divisible by three, four and six whereas 10 was divisible by only two and five.
Who were these Sumarians, the inventors of the 12 system and numerous other seminal things? (Sumerians that is, not the biblical “good Samaritans”).
Until a few hundred years ago the world knew nothing of the Sumerians. Then some writing on clay tablets surfaced in Iraq and subsequent investigations turned up thousands of these clay tablets.
It is ironic that we now know far more about the daily lives of Sumerians than we do about Egyptians the major reason being that the Egyptians wrote on papyrus (a form of paper)which quickly deteriorated whereas the Sumerians wrote on clay tablets which were quite durable.
The Sumerians lived in Iraq which at that time was very fertile.
The land was irrigated by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. They were pretty much contemporaneous with the Egyptians.
Then had no stone so their buildings were beautifully constructed of mud brick that, of course, deteriorated over time which is why we knew nothing of their existence.
Besides their numbering system they invented a host of other things. Of major importance was their invention of writing (cuneiform).
It was one of those momentous advances in civilization. So good was their system that it was in international use throughout the middle east for nearly 2000 years.