centlanahuatectli [Nahuatl]

In Middle America, a unit of length used in describing the thickness of objects like trees and pillars, = the distance between the tips of the fingers of outstretched arms. It belongs to the fathom family of units, but with a special sense. It may well be that, like the English fathom itself as a measure of haystacks, the centlanahuatectli measures the circumference and not the diameter of the object measured; that is, a 1-centlanahuatectli tree would be one such that, when it is embraced, the tips of the fingers of opposite hands just meet.


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