A Brief History of Concrete

Concrete has been used in various forms for thousands of years, and of course, the technology used in its development and application has changed significantly over that time. Let’s take a brief look at a timeline for the long history of concrete and how it has evolved and remains important today for foundation companies like ours in Western NY:

  • 6500 BC: Around this point in history, we have the earliest record of concrete structures being built by people of areas now known as Syria and Jordan. The earliest uses of concrete were for floors, underground cisterns and some housing.
  • 3000 BC: In Egypt and China, the next developments in concrete technology began to occur. The ancient Egyptians mixed mud with straw to create bricks, and used gypsum mortar and lime mortar as binding agents in creating the pyramids. Approximately 500,000 tons of mortar went into the development of the pyramids at Giza. Meanwhile, an early form of cement was used in developing the Great Wall of China.
  • 600 BC: The ancient Romans started using concrete on a much broader scale, and over the course of the next several hundred years, they implemented concrete in most of their construction. Their concrete was a mixture of lime, volcanic ash and seawater that would then be packed into wood forms and stacked like bricks.
  • Middle Ages: The Middle Ages were a dark period for just about all forms of technology, and concrete is no exception. After the Roman Empire fell, its technique for making cement was lost until the 1400s, when manuscripts describing the creation of its pozzolan cement were discovered. This resulted in a renewed interest in the development and use of concrete for construction purposes.
  • 1700s: By the late 1700s, concrete was once again the subject of studies by researchers and architects. One John Smeaton discovered a new method for creating hydraulic lime for cement, using limestone that contained clay and heating it up until it turned into clinker, which then got ground into a fine powder. This was the primary process and material used for rebuilding the Eddystone Lighthouse in Cornwall.
  • 1800s: The next major development in the concrete world came in 1824, when Joseph Aspdin invented Portland cement, a material that is still widely used in all forms of construction today. He ground up chalk and clay until the carbon dioxide was fully removed, and named the cement after stones that were quarried in Portland, England. Over the rest of the century, concrete began to be used more widely for industrial buildings, and then eventually in home construction.
  • Late 1800s: People began adding steel rods into concrete to reinforce it and prevent exterior walls from spreading and shifting.
  • Early 1900s: The first high-rise concrete building was built in Cincinnati in 1904. By 1936, concrete technology had evolved to the point where it was able to be used for the massive Hoover Dam and Grand Coulee Dam.

For more information about the history of concrete and how concrete companies in Western NY use it today, reach out to the team at Bri-Mic Construction, Inc.