19th century Roman marker used to measure Earth discovered

Last Updated: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 20:51

Washington: Researchers have found a marble benchmark which was used to measure the shape of Earth in the 19th century.

The marker called Benchmark B was found near the town of Frattocchie, by Italian researchers, along one of the earliest Roman roads which link the Eternal City to the southern city of Brindisi.

Placed there by Father Angelo Secchi, a pioneer in astrophysics, the marker consisted of a small travertine slab with a metallic plate in the middle. The plate featured a hole at its center, `Discovery News` reported.

"The hole was the terminal point of the geodetic baseline which run in the ancient Appian Way near Rome, between the tomb of Cecilia Metella, a daughter of a Roman consul, and a tower near Frattocchie," Tullio Aebischer, a cartographical consultant at the department of mathematics and physics of Roma Tre University said.

Geodesy is a science that deals with the size and shape of the Earth and the determination of exact positions on its surface. Essentially the figure of the Earth is abstracted from its
topographical features and a baseline is the fundamental requirement for computing the triangulation of a region.

In order to determine the extension of the "triangle", it is necessary to know the exact distance between two points: A, the starting point, and B, the ending point.

In this way, networks of triangulation can be spread over entire countries and continents.

While Benchmark A, the starting point of the baseline, was found in 1999 in front of the Cecilia Metella mausoleum, nothing was known of the Benchmark B`s whereabouts.

"We found it after a long archival research and a georadar survey. The discovery will allow us to precisely verify the ancient measurements with modern GPS technologies," Aebischer said.

The newly discovered benchmark will most likely remain in its original place just as benchmark A remains hidden under a manhole in the middle of the road at the Cecilia Metella mausoleum.

"These are historical markers and must be valued as an important heritage for the knowledge of a territory," Aebischer added.

PTI



First Published: Monday, January 28, 2013 - 20:50

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