The Horreum of Senex Caecilius

This building serves as a granary and as a storehouse for machinery and tools that are used on the farm. A carpentum, a vallus, a Greek invention called a tribulum, and an improved version, a Punic cart, are used in harvesting and threshing the grain. Among the many hand tools are the scythe (falx), hoe (marra/ sarculum), hatchet (securis/ ascia), pick-axe (dolabra), and spade (pala). We also store those open-ended winnowing baskets (ventilabra) here, but the plow (ard) and the yoke (iugum) for the oxen are in the byre.

Here are a few details about planting, harvesting, threshing, and winnowing the grain.

  • Plowing was done with a simple, ox-drawn plow that only scratched a furrow, so cross-plowing at right angles was necessary for a good seed bed.
  • Harvesting was done by hand with a sickle or a scythe until the vallus was developed. It was a blade-toothed hopper that was pushed through the crop by a mule or a donkey.
  • Threshing was done on special floors by beating the grain with flails, by having animals tread on it, or by drawing a heavy sledge (tribulum) across it.
  • Winnowing was done by tossing the threshed grain in the air and catching it in shallow baskets while the wind carried away the chaff.

    An illustrated article describes the methods and implements of grain production and processing at Karanis in Roman Egypt.

    Some of the preceding information comes from Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome, written by Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins and published in1994 by The Oxford University Press (New York).

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