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The Tomolo in Gambatesa - Roman Stone Measure

The tomoli formerly used in Gambatesa were of two kinds: the wood stock tomolo (bucket) and one made of stone.  The stone tomolo was used to measure oil and wheat (and other things), but the wooden bucket was for measuring wheat only.  The stone and wood, however, gave the same measure, and both the unit of measurement and the measurer were called a tomolo.

A stone tomolo, Gambatesa, 49 KB

As seen in the photographs below, a stone tomolo is hollow at the top with an exit hole in its side.  The Romans used these kinds of stones for the measurement of goods sold in the market, and a tomolo was used in Gambatesa until the end of the 1950s to measure commodities like wheat, when wheat served in place of money as the standard of exchange.

This tomolo appears to be limestone (calcaire in French), the stone of which marble is composed, polished by centuries of use.  It is shaped like a funnel or a vat with an exit hole low down on its side; something like a cork was used to keep the hole closed while goods were added to the vat.

Stone tomolo, view from above, 38 KB Exit hole of the tomolo, 15 KB

The tomolo in these photographs is located in Via Eustacchio, the piazza ("street") where the market was held for years and years.  Coming from the direction of the Municipio ("Town Hall"), the tomolo is on left near Via del Tomolo.  In the dialect of Gambatesa, the stone is called u tumel[e] or u tomel[e]; the same word is used to mean the unit of measurement itself.

Exit path of the tomolo, side view, 40 KB

Exit path of the tomolo, 33 KB

Stone measures like this one in Gambatesa have been used since Roman times.  There is a tomolo which Angelo has seen in the central part of the Swiss village of Gruyère, and there are others in the old Roman cities in North Africa.  These measurers all use the same standard-unit of measurement, the tomolo.

In the top-most photograph of this page, the outstretched or tensed leg, or gamba tesa, in the center ring of the ironwork is used as the symbol of the Comune of Gambatesa, but no one actually knows the origin of the name "Gambatesa".
  English equivalents for the Italian word comune are "municipality", "borough" and "township", or in other words "a city or village and the (usually) agricultural territory that it administers".

Photographs by Angelo Abiuso (Geneva), August 2004

The URL of this Web page: https://www.roangelo.net/valente/sttomolo.html
Last revised: 13 September 2005 : 2005-09-13 by Robert [Wesley] Angelo.

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