How Societies Are Defined by the Segmentation of Time

While There's an Astronomical Basis for Years and Days, Most Temporal Units Are the Product of Language and Culture

Why does an hour last 60 minutes? Why does a minute last 60 seconds? What are “minutes” and “seconds,” really? A minute is just the duration you arrive at if you divide an hour into 60 equal segments. Seconds are merely what you get if you divide hours by 60 a second time.

We use these units because some of the first people to make precise astronomical calculations, the Babylonians, utilized a base-60 (sexagesimal) number system that they inherited from a more ancient population in Mesopotamia, the Sumerians. The Sumerian …