Group Members: Isabel, Rahim, Bee, Eila
The Experiment: We used ancient measurement techniques to complete several different tasks involving drawing out straight lines and right angles onto a field. Most of the data collected was qualitative, since the experiment largely revolved around our experiences using the Groma. A Groma is an ancient tool which allowed people to create straight lines and right angles over large distances. A photo is attached below for reference. The experiment took place on the Mini Bald Spot, a small quad located in the heart of Carleton College. Besides the Groma, we used a clickwheel to measure distances which we then marked with string and flags.
Task #1: Templum
We were tasked with creating two templa, one which measured 30’x30′ and another which measured 60’x60′. It took us awhile to get a hang of using our Groma, and we had a few technical issues at the beginning. The arm of our Groma fell off a couple of times because of a loose screw, and the uneven distribution of weight caused the cross-piece of the Groma to be slightly tilted. However, the strings still lined up meaning that our Groma was functional, and after a bit of practice we were able to use it pretty accurately. It took us about 30 minutes to draw out each templum; although the second was larger than the first, it took the same amount of time to create because we already had some practice with the Groma. Eila noticed that using the Groma required a good amount of precision and a gentle hand. At first, I had trouble with the Groma from a visual perspective since it was sometimes difficult to tell when the strings were all lined up. However, this got easier with time. During the construction of our first templa, we measured our lines by placing a flag at either point and then eyeballing a straight line between the two with the clickwheel. This worked fairly well, but in order to increase our precision we used string to draw out a line between the two points and then measured along the string for our second templa.
Task #2: Road-building
Our second job was to see how long of a “road” we could build by creating a series of straight lines. We started at the Mini Bald Spot and made our way to the closer edge of the Bald Spot before being called back by Jake after about 30 minutes. Although we weren’t able to get an exact measurement since we accidentally pulled up the flags before we were able to measure, a recreation of our path on Google Maps suggested a length of about 750 feet. After drawing the first couple of points, we landed on a process which involved one person standing at the previous point with a pole, and another standing at the site of the future point so that the person in the middle with the Groma could line both points up with one another. This task was considerably simpler than the templum since we didn’t have to line up any angles.
Task #3: Centuriating
Our final task was to centuriate an area with dimensions 60’x64′, split into four squares of 30’x32′ each. We started out with the class split into two groups, one of sixteen people and the other of eight. It quickly became clear that the group of 16 was too large to be productive, and so we split off into a third group of eight. After the initial hiccup, the process went considerably more smoothly although it did take us a bit to figure out our strategy and decide on the area dimensions. It became clear that the most efficient way to work would be to have no more than four people working together to draw each line. After establishing the initial corner, we split into two groups of four and each group worked on creating one side of the rectangle. We measured the same way we had for the templum, although we did each size piecemeal, splitting it into half-length chunks in order to simplify dividing it into squares. After three sides were measured and halved, we measured out and marked the halfway point of the final square.
Overall, the measurement process was fairly simple although at times difficult. Wind, imperfect materials, and human error all contributed to the difficulties however we were still able to complete all three tasks pretty successfully. Initially we became more efficient with practice, but at a certain point our efficiency definitely decreased as we tired.