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PALA (probably = σκαπάνη, σκαφεῖον), a spade. The spade was comparatively little used in ancient husbandry, the implements used besides the plough for breaking up and cleaning the ground being mostly of the pick-axe or hoe shape [see BIDENS, LIGO, MARRA, SARCULUM]. The pala was used, like our spade, for digging, not picking: it was of iron (Col. 10.45), with a broad cutting edge curved at the end. Pliny (Plin. Nat. 18.46) speaks of it as useful for breaking up rushy ground (juncosus), whereas he recommends the bidens for stony ground and for loosening the soil before planting slips (17.123): and this was probably one of its uses in the olive-yard. Cato (R. B. 10), in his list of implements requisite for an olive-yard of 240 jugera, gives only 4 palae, but 6 aratra and 8 sarcula: it was used too for digging a trench (Liv. 3.26), and in gardening (Colum. l.c.). The woodcut below, taken from a funeral monument

Pala, falx, and bidens. (From an ancient relief.)

at Rome (Fabretti, Inscript. Ant. p. 574), exhibits a deceased countryman with his falx and bidens, and also with a pala, modified by the addition of a strong cross-bar, by the use of which he was enabled to drive it nearly twice as deep into the ground as he could have done without it. In this form the instrument was [p. 2.312]called bipalium, being employed in trenching (pastinatio), or, when the ground was full of roots to a considerable depth, in loosening them, turning them over, and extirpating them, so as to prepare the soil for planting vines and other trees. By means of this implement, which is still used in Italy and called vanga, the ground was dug to the depth of two spades or nearly two feet. It is clear, however, from Columella, 11.3, 10, that the cross-bar was placed higher when a deeper spit was required: he speaks of digging three feet deep, but says that in other cases it will be sufficient to dig “non alto bipalio, id est minus quam duos pedes;” where the various reading bipedalio is clearly a misconception from the “duos pedes.” (Plin. Nat. 18.230; Cat. Agr. 6.45, 151; Varro, R. R. 1.37; Colum. R. R. 5.6.)

Cato (ib. 11) mentions wooden shovels (palas ligneas) among the implements necessary to the husbandman. One principal application of them was in winnowing. The winnowing--shovel, also called in Latin ventilabrum (Varro, R. R. 1.52), is still generally used in Greece, and the mode of employing it is exhibited by Stuart in his Antiquities of Athens. The corn which has been threshed lies in a heap upon the floor, and the labourer throws it to a distance with the shovel, whilst the wind, blowing strongly across the direction in which it is thrown, drives the chaff and refuse to one side. So Isid. Or. 20.14, 10, “pala quae ventilabrum vulgo dicitur, a ventilandis paleis nominata” (the etymology need not be accepted); and Tertull. Praescr. 3, “palam in manu portat ad purgandam arcam suam.” According to Schol. ad Aristoph. Birds 806, this was called σκάφιον as well as πτύον or λικμητηρίς. The fruit of leguminous plants was purified and adapted to be used for food in the same manner. (Hom. Il. 5.499-502; 13.588-592.)

The term pala was applied anciently, as it is in modern Italian, to the blade or broad part of an oar. [REMUS] In a ring the broad part, which held the gem, was called by the name of pala. [ANULUS]

[J.Y] [G.E.M]

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