The History of Concrete

The History of Concrete

November 28, 2022

You may not have ever given concrete much thought, but a great amount of science and technology goes into concrete development and application. Concrete has been around for thousands of years and has been instrumental in the building of the Great Pyramids of Giza and other important historical structures. So, how long has concrete been around, and who invented concrete?  Let’s take a quick look at the history of concrete.

Ancient Times

The earliest historical accounts of the use of concrete date back to 6500 BC. This record states that Nabataea traders used concrete to create floors, houses, and even underground cisterns to catch water.

Later on, in 3000 BC, Egyptians used concrete mixtures to create the Great Pyramids of Giza. Almost 500,000 tons of mortar were used in these creations. In China, also around this same time, a type of concrete was used in the construction of the Great Wall of China.

Romans were certainly not the inventors of concrete, but they are credited with being the first to use concrete in widespread construction projects as early as 600 BC. The specific Roman recipe for concrete consisted of a mixture made of volcanic ash, lime, and seawater. This mixture was packed into wooden frames to create bricks. Today, many of these early concrete structures are still standing in modern Rome.

In the Middle Ages, concrete technology, like most other types of knowledge, took a few steps backward. In fact, the Roman method for making pozzolan was completely lost after the fall of Rome in 476 AD. Upon the discovery of manuscripts describing the process were found in 1414. This discovery helped to reignite an interest in concrete construction.

Concrete technology really took off in 1793 when John Smeaton discovered better methods for producing lime for cement. Smeaton’s methods were used with great success to rebuild the Eddystone Lighthouse in Cornwall, England.

Portland cement was invented in 1824 when Joseph Aspdin used a method of burning finely ground chalk and clay until the carbon dioxide was removed.

In the early days of widespread concrete construction in Europe, it was mainly used for only industrial purposes. The use of concrete in residential construction became popular in the 19th century, primarily in England and France. When Francois Coignet began adding steel rods to prevent exterior walls from moving, most people realized that concrete could be a viable residential building material.

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