how did people figure out elevation before technology using only sticks and string?



how did people figure out elevation before technology using only sticks and string?

In: Engineering


There are 2 good ways to measure elevation. depending on if we are talking about a few dozen feet, or a few thousand feet

If you want to know how tall a tree is for instance, you can measure it’s shadow, Then compare it to a shadow of a known object. The ratio of the shadows will be the same, so with some math you can get the height of the tree.

If you want to know about mountains, you boil water. Water boils at 100°C or whatever scale you use at sea level. The higher you go up, the lower the temperature the water boils. On Everest water boils at 68°C. This method is not perfect, but thermometers are not that hard to make, and it gave a good estimate.

Well, they didn’t. Before technology would be before writing, so we would have no way of knowing how (or if) people measured elevations and heights. They almost certainly didn’t do it using only sticks and strings (save for very small things).

Ancient peoples (well after the development of technology) would measure heights and elevations using mostly math, rather than devices. Trigonometry can be used to give you some fairly good measurements (or estimates). Simply measure the distance from the base of the object to some point away, then the angle from that point to the top of the object, and you can then figure out the height.

This has pretty much been the technique for millennia, only improving our measurement tools. It really wasn’t until the invention of satellites that we could use more direct methods.

> Sticks, strings,

Add *levels* and *sights*

Example of level:

Over moderate distances, the self leveling property of water can be used to inform level. A weight on a string shows plumb. By measuring the difference from level elevation is calculable.

None of the other commenters have answered the actual root of your question so I’ll give it a shot. The methods for measuring distance and elevation changes on land are refered to as [surveying]( Before things like GPS, radar mapping satellites, etc. (I’m assuming that’s what you mean by “technology”), surveying was, very broadly speaking, done with a combination of ropes/chains of a known length and various measuring devices to determine the angle of the rope. If you know that your rope is, for instance, 100 meters long and you tie the ends so that both are 1 meter above the ground directly below them, you just need to measure the slope of the rope relative to gravity and you can do some pretty simple geometry to determine the change in elevation *and* the distance when drawn on a map between the ends of the rope. Add in a compass and you’ve got all you need to make a very accurate map with elevation lines. Nowadays it’s possible to skip the ropes/chains in many cases and just use some sort of electronic range finder, but the same basic principles are still used for planing stuff like construction projects to this day; that’s what’s going on when you see people looking through those little binocular things on a tripod around a construction site.