If you have never stopped to think about those people behind those odd instruments on tripods out along the roads and fields, there really is a world of wonder in Surveying.
It’s all about geometry – but there’s no need to be a maths wiz to be fascinated by the story of what has marked our land boundaries and enabled the building of lasting monuments and structures over time. The history of Surveying is both fascinating and filled with innovators, tools and methods which stir our curious minds.
Over 5000 years ago it is thought that the designers and builders of the famous Stonehenge circle, the Druids, used geometry to lay out the ropes and pegs and calculate the dimensions of this ancient, and often bewildering, circle of stones believed to represent the seasons and times of celebration of the natural world. It is the enduring symbol of early surveying.
While the Pyramids of Egypt may have been more about the flaunting of power of the rulers than a tribute to nature, the skills of the surveyors had developed to dizzying heights by this era of monument building.
Credited as the pinnacle of ancient surveying these intricate structures needed specific skills to produce the lines of such symmetry and size.
Not only were surveyors needed for monument building, but the Egyptians recorded a land register in 3000BC to establish land boundaries following floods of the Nile River. This led to legal division of land recording ownership.
Tools of the trade in ancient surveying were simple but very effective. Modern surveying still uses these ancient principles of design, with a technological edge to face the challenges of defining modern land boundaries and modern buildings – just as when formal surveying began.
One tool used was the groma.
Examples of Greek, then Roman, then more modern tools and instruments such as the theodolite and drones allow us to follow the development of surveying techniques through history, but the constant element is the surveyor and their skills that operate them. Highly qualified and practised in the field, these surveyors have changed the face of development for over 5000 years.