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Introduction to Land Surveying


From the 1960 Model Law for Land Surveyors, land surveying means and includes assuming responsible charge for and/or executing the surveying of areas for their correct determination and description, and for conveyancing; the establishment of corners, lines, boundaries and monuments; the platting of land and subdivisions thereof including, as required, the functions of planimetry and topography; the defining and location of corners, lines, boundaries and monuments of land after they have been established; and preparing the maps and accurate records and descriptions thereof.

Historically, surveyors have existed since the earliest of civilized times. A Babylonian boundary stone dating back over 3500 years was recovered, inscribed with the name of the surveyor, and a written testimony of his work. Tombs marked as belonging to surveyors can be found in ancient Egypt and Greece. For over a millennium, ancient Rome employed the services of surveyors for the construction of roads and aqueducts. These Roman surveyors even had to pass a competency test, and learned their craft from a series of textbooks called The Corpus.

During early American expansion and settlement, land grants and property claims were often handled indiscriminately, resulting in overlapping parcels of land and a chaotic system of real estate. Daniel Boone, famed colonial trailblazer and explorer, was in fact, by popular myth, an awful land surveyor, so much that the term "shingled plats" rose into use to describe a particularly frequent mistake of his: the parcels of land he surveyed were measured and placed so badly that they overlapped like shingles! He was forced to retire to another county, having been driven out of his own county by his clients.

Today, our country is undergoing a massive process of commercial and residential expansion. Industrial parks, urban expansion and renewal, suburban residential developments, and public works such as bridges, dams, and sewer lines are being created in ever-increasing numbers. The modern land survey is a necessary part of this development, in order to maintain strict legal control over boundaries and land use. Most types of land development projects require the services of a land surveyor, including title transfer (sale), subdivision, and construction.

Read about the components of a complete land survey.
Read a list of home and commercial projects that require a land survey.