Tools were very important to our forefathers as far as architecture and building constructions go. Over the centuries, all kinds of architectural tools, most of the hand tools, were used to perform a variety of tasks related to construction. Ancient Romans and the Greeks are best recognized for their contribution towards architectural revolution of the world, and in particular, their reverence for recorded and established architectural orders.
Roman and Greek architects are known as the earliest great innovators who quickly developed the ancient architectural tools, techniques, and standards that evolved into what we use today. These tools were used to design and construct structures such as the Amphitheater, the Granary Building, the Monumental Aqueduct, Triumphal Arch, and the Basilica.
Here are the top five ancient architectural tools that are considered the most innovative and practical—even way ahead of their time.
The crane is unquestionably one of the greatest architectural inventions in human history. The construction crane was invented by the Ancient Greeks sometime in the late 6th century BC although records indicate that the most practical cranes with lifting tongs and stronger iron bars appeared around 510 BC. At this time, the crane was used to lift huge blocks of stone used in the construction of Greek temples. Because the stones in these temples bear the hole marks of a lifting device, archeologists believe that the use of the crane was one of the greatest innovations in ancient architecture.
The chorobates was a tool made of a wooden frame, designed in the form of a beam with a water level and two supports on each end. The chorobates was used as a sightline, to determine a parallel line to the water level. On each end of the beam, it had a plumb bob that could be placed squarely on the ground. It also had a groove on top of the beam, which acted as the viewfinder. The chorobates, similar to today’s spirit level, was first described by Vitruvius in the Book VII of the Architecture and is considered to have been a very important tool in the construction of the aqueducts.Crane
Sometimes referred to as the dopter, the dioptra was an ancient classical Greek astronomy tool that was adapted for use in surveying. Dating back to 3rd century BC, the dioptra features a sighting tube or a rod with a sight on each end attached to a stand. It was fitted with protractors and was used to measure angles. It is believed that since a variation of this tool was sophisticated enough in its time to measure the position of stars, it may have been used in the construction of tunnels—including the Eupalinian aqueduct—although scholars disagree whether it was available that early.
The Groma or Gruma was a surveying instrument invented by the Romans although some scholars believe that it may have originated from Mesopotamia. It was a vertical staff mounted with horizontal cross-pieces at right angles on a bracket and a plumb line dangling from each end. This tool was used to survey right angles and straight lines as evidenced by its use by the Greeks in the 4th century BC. The Gromawas regarded as the principal surveying tool of the Romans.
Although not necessarily a tool, Chorography (from khōros, “place” and graphein “writing”) chorography is the art of mapping or describing a district, region, or place on a map. Considered a very important development in architecture technology, chorographywas first documented by ancient geographers Ptolemy and PomponiusMela and was heavily relied on by ancient architects in designing constructions. Today, chorography is by definition the “representation of a space or place”.
A sundial was discovered in the workshop of Verus in Pompeii. The early sundial was designed to show time and on its sides it had units that were used to take measurements. While there is no historically documented exact use of the sundial, it is believed that the earliest designs were used by architects to orientate buildings.
Libella was a leveling instrument first used by the Romans. The earliest designs of this tool was made up of a letter A-shaped frame with an added horizontal bar on top. A plumbline was suspended from the apex to coincide with a mark on the crossbar at the center of the frame. It is believed that other variations of the Libella featured marks that indicated slopes, although there is no evidence that these variations ever existed.