Medieval mason's marks could beat flat-pack furniture frustration

A medieval system of marking stones in building work could be a cheap and effective way of labelling products such as flat-pack furniture for assembly, a University of Warwick academic has claimed.

As well as the better-known monograms, used by medieval stone masons to identify their work and ensure they got paid, a second type of mason’s mark was used to help assemble pieces which had been carved elsewhere and then transported to the site of construction.

“Mason’s assembly marks were used to show which piece of stone needed to go alongside another,” explained Dr Jenny Alexander, of the University of Warwick’s History of Art department. “It was a very simple system that has been replicated across the world for centuries.

“I think companies who manufacture flat-pack furniture could learn a lot from this system. If they used a system similar to masons’ assembly marks to show which pieces went together, it could remove the need for the complex and often impenetrable instruction booklets they currently issue in many different languages.”

The marks are a series of symbols which operated outside literacy and enabled instructions to be transferred between the designers and the constructors of buildings across the building world, Dr Alexander said. She added that the system is universal, and that different versions of mason’s assembly marks have been found in use at various sites across the world over a 4000-year period.

Further information:
http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/podcasts/media/masons_marks_master.mp4 (video)

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