Rope stretcher

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In ancient Egypt, a rope stretcher (or harpedonaptai) was a surveyor who measured real property demarcations and foundations using knotted cords, stretched so the rope did not sag. When performed by a king to begin building a temple[1] the stretching of the rope was probably a religious ceremony.[2] On artefacts as ancient as the Scorpion Macehead, Egyptians documented the royal surveyors' procedure for restoring the boundaries of fields after each flood.


The first surveyors to use ropes and plumbs may have been Egyptian.[3] Rope stretching technology spread to ancient Greece and India, where it stimulated the development of geometry and mathematics. Some think that it was India that influenced Greece.[4]

The Egyptian rope trick[edit]

Rope stretchers used 3-4-5 triangles and the plummet,[5] which are still in use by modern surveyors. The plummet can be used with a square ruled off into intervals on tongue and blade to get a unit rise and run or angle when taking an elevation to a distant point as with a modern sextant.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wilson, op.cit., p.38
  2. ^ Breasted: From the Great Karnak Building Inscription (Year 24 of the reign of Thutmose III), op.cit. § 608
  3. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, op.cit., p.828
  4. ^ Chattopadhyaya, op.cit., p.153
  5. ^ Petrie Museum website: plumbs
  • Alistair Macintosh Wilson, The Infinite in the Finite, Oxford University Press 1995
  • Debi Prasad Chattopadhyaya, Environment, Evolution, and Values: Studies in Man, Society, and Science, South Asian Publishers 1982
  • The New Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica 1974
  • James Henry Breasted Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Two, Chicago 1906

Further reading[edit]

  • Joel F. PAULSON, "Surveying in Ancient Egypt,", FIG Working Week 2005 and GSDI-8, Cairo, Egypt April 16-21, 2005. [1]

External links[edit]