Hierapolis sawmill

Hierapolis sawmill

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The Hierapolis sawmill was a Roman water-powered stone sawmill at Hierapolis
Hierapolis
Hierapolis was the ancient Greco-Roman city which sat on top of hot springs located in south western Turkey near Denizli....

, Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 (modern-day Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

). Dating to the second half of the 3rd century AD, the sawmill
Sawmill
A sawmill is a facility where logs are cut into boards.-Sawmill process:A sawmill's basic operation is much like those of hundreds of years ago; a log enters on one end and dimensional lumber exits on the other end....

 is the earliest known machine to combine a crank
Crank (mechanism)
A crank is an arm attached at right angles to a rotating shaft by which reciprocating motion is imparted to or received from the shaft. It is used to change circular into reciprocating motion, or reciprocating into circular motion. The arm may be a bent portion of the shaft, or a separate arm...

 with a connecting rod
Connecting rod
In a reciprocating piston engine, the connecting rod or conrod connects the piston to the crank or crankshaft. Together with the crank, they form a simple mechanism that converts linear motion into rotating motion....

.

The watermill
Watermill
A watermill is a structure that uses a water wheel or turbine to drive a mechanical process such as flour, lumber or textile production, or metal shaping .- History :...

 is evidenced by a raised relief
Relief
Relief is a sculptural technique. The term relief is from the Latin verb levo, to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is thus to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane...

 on the sarcophagus
Sarcophagus
A sarcophagus is a funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved or cut from stone. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek σαρξ sarx meaning "flesh", and φαγειν phagein meaning "to eat", hence sarkophagus means "flesh-eating"; from the phrase lithos sarkophagos...

 of a certain Marcus Aurelius Ammianos, a local miller
Miller
A miller usually refers to a person who operates a mill, a machine to grind a cereal crop to make flour. Milling is among the oldest of human occupations. "Miller", "Milne" and other variants are common surnames, as are their equivalents in other languages around the world...

. On the pediment
Pediment
A pediment is a classical architectural element consisting of the triangular section found above the horizontal structure , typically supported by columns. The gable end of the pediment is surrounded by the cornice moulding...

 a waterwheel fed by a mill race
Mill race
A mill race, raceway or mill lade is the current or channel of a stream, especially one for conducting water to or from a water wheel or other device for utilizing its energy...

 is shown powering via a gear train
Gear train
A gear train is formed by mounting gears on a frame so that the teeth of the gears engage. Gear teeth are designed to ensure the pitch circles of engaging gears roll on each other without slipping, this provides a smooth transmission of rotation from one gear to the next.The transmission of...

 two frame saw
Frame saw
Frame saw sometimes refers to a woodworker's bow saw.A frame saw is a type of rip saw. It consists of a relatively narrow and flexible blade held under tension within a rectangular frame...

s cutting rectangular blocks by the way of connecting rods and, through mechanical necessity, cranks (see diagram). The accompanying inscription is in Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and attributes the mechanism to Ammianos' "skills with wheels".

Other sawmills


Further Roman crank and connecting rod mechanisms, without gear train, are archaeologically attested for the 6th century AD water-powered stone sawmills at Gerasa, Jordan
Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, and Ephesus
Ephesus
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era...

, Turkey. A fourth sawmill possibly existed at Augusta Raurica
Augusta Raurica
Augusta Raurica is a Roman archaeological site and an open-air museum in Switzerland. Located on the south bank of the Rhine river about 20 km east of Basel near the villages of Augst and Kaiseraugst, it is the oldest known Roman colony on the Rhine....

, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, where a metal crankshaft
Crankshaft
The crankshaft, sometimes casually abbreviated to crank, is the part of an engine which translates reciprocating linear piston motion into rotation...

 from the 2nd century AD has been excavated.

Literary references to water-powered marble
Marble
Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite.Geologists use the term "marble" to refer to metamorphosed limestone; however stonemasons use the term more broadly to encompass unmetamorphosed limestone.Marble is commonly used for...

 saws in Trier
Trier
Trier, historically called in English Treves is a city in Germany on the banks of the Moselle. It is the oldest city in Germany, founded in or before 16 BC....

, now Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, can be found in Ausonius
Ausonius
Decimius Magnus Ausonius was a Latin poet and rhetorician, born at Burdigala .-Biography:Decimius Magnus Ausonius was born in Bordeaux in ca. 310. His father was a noted physician of Greek ancestry and his mother was descended on both sides from long-established aristocratic Gallo-Roman families...

' late 4th century AD poem Mosella. About the same time, they also seem to be indicated by the Christian saint Gregory of Nyssa
Gregory of Nyssa
St. Gregory of Nyssa was a Christian bishop and saint. He was a younger brother of Basil the Great and a good friend of Gregory of Nazianzus. His significance has long been recognized in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Catholic and Roman Catholic branches of Christianity...

 from Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

, demonstrating a diversified use of water-power in many parts of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

.

The three finds push back the date of the invention of the crank and connecting rod mechanism by a full millennium; for the first time, all essential components of the much later steam engine
Steam engine
A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid.Steam engines are external combustion engines, where the working fluid is separate from the combustion products. Non-combustion heat sources such as solar power, nuclear power or geothermal energy may be...

 were assembled by one technological culture:

Sources


Roman sawmill at Hierapolis

Roman sawmill at Gerasa

Roman sawmill at Ephesos

Possible Roman sawmill at Augusta Raurica

External links