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History of how Stone has been Used


5,000 years is a long time. It is so long that we have difficulty comprehending it. But structures built of natural stone more than 5,000 years ago are still up right today, which is evidence to natural stone’s enduring attractiveness and strength.

The Egyptians were the first society to expansively quarry and build with natural stone. They built most of their structures of granite and limestone. The Great Pyramid of Cheops, the only left over wonder of the ancient world, was built of massive limestone blocks around 2560 BC. Visitors to the pyramid today wonder at its size, but identify that it appears blocky and uneven. Even the ancients were concerned with aesthetics, though, and the pyramid was once lined with perfectly smooth casing stones, which were stolen over the years to build homes and temples. The interior burial chamber for the pharaoh is built of granite blocks hewn so perfectly that a piece of paper cannot be slid between them, even today. The ancient Egyptians likely harboured a lot of astonishing secrets about stonework.

Then the Greek empire rose and took the use of natural stone to new heights. With marble, they built the Temple of Artemis, another of the ancient wonders of the world. With its 127 marble columns, each 5 stories high, it was surely the first of the grand building to be made of marble. It would still be standing today, had triumphant civilizations not deliberately destroyed it, and only the base and a few columns remain.

The Greeks continued to perfect their quarrying and shaping techniques, and constructed such monumental marble monuments as the Parthenon, the Theseum, and the Temple of Zeus. In fact, the marble, which was used for these buildings, is still quarried today, under the commercial name Dionyssomarble.

The Greeks were the first to convey natural stone into the home, and ancient Greek literature refers to baths and pools being lined with marble. Many references to the use of Thassos marble in the bathroom occur, and that marble is still commercially quarried today.

Then the Roman Empire rose to power around the dawn of the first century AD. The Romans constructed widely with both marble and granite. They were, above all, road builders, and they could not find a better paving stone than granite. Though quarrying it was hard work, they lined many of their roads with granite. Public baths were well liked, and many were built out of granite. The Romans also at length used granite for columns, and ancient ones can be seen today in the Pantheon in Rome.

While the Romans loved granite for its toughness and strength, they loved marble above all else because of its attractiveness. Emperor Augustus once said of conquering a city, I found a city of bricks, and left it a city of marble. Unlike previous civilizations, the Romans constructed their buildings out of brick and strong mortar, and then lined them with marble slabs. So they were not dealing with huge blocks of heavy marble for the infrastructure, they were able to construct more quickly. Their technique is still used today in the building of state structures, museums, and monuments across the planet.

The Romans quarried marble and granite all over their nation, but frequently found that the most gorgeous marbles came from Greece. They praised the marble Cipollino of Karystos for its beautiful green colour, and that same marble is quarried and circulated today.

During the Renaissance, better quarrying and fabrication techniques let the use of marble and granite more widely in the home, as well as liberally throughout churches, palaces, and monuments. Natural stone continued to dominate the bath and the floor, but did not shift into the kitchen until current times. 

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