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Big Tree Recruitment blog about the evolution of surveying and surveying technology

The Evolution of surveying and surveying technology

February 19, 2019

By Claire Rochford, Business Manager, Big Tree Recruitment Ltd

The first recorded land register dates back to ancient times, in Egypt in 3000BC. Including re-establishment of farm boundaries following floods of the Nile River and construction of t he Great Pyramid of Giza recorded about the same time.

Land surveying was established as a profession under the Romans, and land surveyors established the basic measurements under which the Roman Empire was divided, such as a tax register of conquered lands (300AD).

There is also biblical references to land boundaries and landmarks can be found in: Deuteronomy 19.14 and 27.17; Proverbs 22.28 and 23.10; and Job 24.2

A method of surveying known as triangulation, which relied on the measurement of angles, was used to build a hierarchy of networks to allow point positioning within a country, in eighteenth century Europe.

In Australia and New Zealand during the early days of British colonisation, "much of the survey work undertaken to open up the country and provide land holdings to settlers was carried out using Gunter's chains, measuring wheels, circumferenter, Kater's compass and even pacing where approximation sufficed... so long as the corners of the land were clearly staked and marked by the surveyor, the accuracies of measurement and direction were left to chance" (Hallmann 1994, 2.3)

Gunter's chain was replaced by steel bands and invar tapes, and then by Electromagnetic Distance Measurement (EDM) equipment, and Global Positioning System (GPS) devices, each capable of improving efficiency and greater accuracies of measurement. Compasses were also replaced by transits, later theodolites and then Total Stations, which combined angular and distance measurement in a single survey instrument. 

Measurements and mathematics alone do not provide the correct answers. The status of measurements over time was subject to alternative forms of evidence of 'what the land boundary was intended to be, and where it was intended to be located'.

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