History Of Construction Technology
Tools, materials, innovations
Add (April notes) two subheadings: Construction Techniques and Construction Machines under each one.
Idea of “Simple Machine”
Works of Vitruvius
Master builders of Byzatine
Islamic Golden Age
See YC’s notes on Crusader Castles — looks like mostly books
a. See YC’s links
9. Gothic (1200-1400)
a. See YC’s links on Gothic architecture
10. Renaissance Period (1400-1600)
11. Baroque Period (1600-1750)
12. Industrial Revolution (1750-1900)
1. Construction Technology of Mesopotamia
1.1. Construction Techniques
The Mesopotamian civilization dates back to c.6000 BC. As one of the first Bronze Age cultures, this civilization was also the first to develop a written alphabet and use mathematics. Near 3000 BC, they were building temples and dwellings, and decorating them with geometric mosaics. The Babylonians were in truth rather remarkable, in their power to realize and manage numbers. As well as their great contribution to developing the concept of numeration, they developed approximation algorithmic rules. The use of math for building projects seemed to be a mere point of practicality for the Mesopotamians, though the legacy they passed on to the development of technology is incalculable (Boyer).
The Mesopotamians main building material of choice was the mud brick, and the use of the mud brick was employed in creating both dwellings and temples. Both the climate and the natural resources determined building styles and building materials, and the mud brick industry was a flourishing industry supplying the society’s building needs. They developed arches, columns, and domes, and used the mud brick to build these projects. In an area where wood was not readily available, the mud brick was certainly a natural choice for building material, and as well as being in great demand in a culture that was developing in size and scope as one of the first Bronze Age civilizations (Darby).
The introduction of agriculture led to people building and re-building their mud brick dwellings, so as to stay in one place. This move led the development of towns and cities, laws and government, and civic projects. Building technology was an area of progressive knowledge, and led to enhancements of the mud brick building technology. As such, a development known as Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil enhanced and further laid the foundation for lasting construction projects (Brown). Geosynthetics refers to simply adding and/or layering reinforcement to the soil in order to stabilize it. In the case of the Mesopotamians, they used bitumen as the reinforcement (Internation Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group). Bitumen is a naturally occurring organic substance, often referred to as tar, and has a history of use dating back thousands of years, including unto ancient Mesopotamia. When the first permanent settlers inhabited the Tigress-Euphrates region, they built their dwellings out of marsh reeds, bounds together, and layered on the outside with mud plastering. This changed to the advancement of making mud bricks to build with, that were dried in the sun (Bilkadi).
Indeed, it is likely the necessary use of bricks that led to the development of tunnel vaulting, also known as barrel vaulting, in the construction of the ziggurats. The paucity of wood led to an innovation in using the bricks as a supporting mechanism for tunneling, where the bricks were arranged along a given line, in a circular/semi-circular shape (Roth). The concept of vaulting would, in later ages, take on new dimensions in the construction of massive cathedrals and public works (Faiella).
The development of the mud brick industry led to the development of reinforcement geosynthetics. Straw was added to the clay, bitumen was added to the clay, and the bricks themselves changed from a commonly used loaf shape to a planoconvex shape (flat on one side, convex on the other side). The planoconvex bricks were baked in kilns, and bitumen was also used as adhesive and waterproofing in the layering of the bricks (Moorey). Indeed, the development of technology in brick building with the necessary development of an alphabet, numbers, along with the consequent rise of the city-state, and demand for building projects, places ancient Mesopotamia as a stronghold of useful, enduring construction technology with a legacy of use that is still used in modern day construction (Bilkadi).
1.2 Construction Machines
1.2.1 Invention of the Wheel
When one considers the technologies in the history of humankind that impacted the development of society and culture the most, the invention of the wheel inevitably comes to mind. The wheel is probably the most important mechanical invention of all time. Nearly every machine developed since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution involves a single, base principle embodied in one of humankind’s genuinely fundamental and great inventions. It is difficult to envisage any mechanized organization that would be achievable without the wheel or the idea of a symmetrical constituent propelling in a circular motion on an axis of rotation (Yenne and Grosser).
Set on diagrams on ancient clay tablets, the most ancient known use of this essential invention was a potter’s wheel that was employed at Ur in Mesopotamia (part of modern day Iraq as early as 3500 BC. The basic use of the wheel for transport was in all probability on Mesopotamian chariots in 3200 BC. It is intriguing to observe that wheels may have had industrial or manufacturing applications before they were used on vehicles (Sax, Meeks and Collon).
A wheel with rundles or spokes first appeared on Egyptian chariots around 2000 BC, and wheels seem to have originated in Europe by 1400 BC without any influence from the Middle East. The idea of the wheel seems elementary, hence it is simple to presume that the wheel would have merely “happened” in every civilization when it hit a specific degree of technological sophistication (Nemat-Nejat) .
Even so, this is not the case. The great Inca, Aztec and Mayan cultures reached an exceedingly high level of growth and cultural development, yet to the best of studied theory, they never employed the wheel. In point of fact, at that place there are no manifest grounds of evidence that the use or practice of the wheel existed among the indigenous people. Indeed, the use of the wheel anywhere in the Western Hemisphere is not found until well afterwards inter-group communication with Europeans (Guerra) .
Still in Europe, the wheel developed little until the outset of the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, with the approach of the Industrial Revolution the wheel became the fundamental element of technology, and issued forth to be employed in countless myriad mechanisms (Wilson).
While the invention of the wheel is touted by some scholars as being placed around 8000b.c., the oldest known wheel was of Mesopotamian origin, dating c.3500b.c. This early wheel was constructed of planks of wood that were joined together. To elucidate on the development of the ‘discovery’ of the wheel, it is necessary to describe the process. Therefore, the process of discovery involved six stages.
Stage One: Rollers were placed beneath heavy objects.
Stage Two: Involving a true invention of the sledge, runners were placed under a heavy load which enabled the load to be moved more easily.
Stage Three: The roller and the sledge are combined. The sledge runners moved forward over the rollers, in successive fashion.
Stage Four: The rollers were discovered to have developed grooves from the sledge runners. It was observed that the deep grooves allowed the sledge to travel a greater distance.
Stage Five: The rollers evolved into wheels via process of axle construction. Wood was cut away from between the grooves, axles were fashioned and wooden pegs joined the runners on each side of the axle. As the wheel turned, the axle turned. Hence, a wheeled cart.
Stage six: The cart was improved upon by having the axles attached to the frame of the cart, thereby separating the wheels and the axles (Lasseter) (Anthony).
The invention of the wheel, from the potter’s wheel to using the wheel for transportation, is quite arguably the most important invention of humankind. Without the wheel, most mechanical processes as we know them in our present day, simply would not have happened. A confluence of factors from agriculture, to settlement, to city-building, commerce, religion, and development of culture, all combined to produce the first platform upon which technology could develop, and inventions such as the wheel, to happen.
1.3 Construction of the Ziggurat of Ur
One of the most notable achievements of the Mesopotamian civilization in construction technology was the construction of the Ziggurats. There are thirty-two Ziggurats in the Mesopotamian area. The Ziggurats were built for local religions, and were constructed in a step pyramid fashion, using mud brick technology (Kostof). The greatest example of its kind, is the Ziggurat of Ur, constructed in the Ur III Dynasty. Of mud brick construction, it is a monument to the technological achievements of the day.
The Ziggurat at Ur, a massive stepped pyramid approximately 210 by 150 feet in size, is the best and likely the foremost well-preserved temple from the remote historic period of the Sumerians. It consists a series of successively smaller platforms which lifted to a height of about 64 feet, and was constructed with a solid core of mud-brick covered by a thick skin of burnt-brick to guard it from the forces of nature (Burney). The Ziggurat’s corners are oriented to the compass points, with walls sloping slightly inwards (Molleson and Hodgson) .
The Ziggurat of Ur was a component of a temple building complex that serviced the urban center as an administrative hub. Additionally, in terms of spirituality, it was believed to be the site on earth that the moon god Nanna (the patron deity of Ur) had selected to inhabit. Nanna was shown as a wise and unfathomable old man, complete with a flowing beard and four horns in number. A single shrine crowned the summit of the ziggurat (Faiella). This was purportedly the bedchamber of the god, and was occupied each night by one woman. Nightly, one woman, as chosen by the priests, would occupy this bedchamber as companion to the god Nanna. Additionally, a kitchen was located at the base of one of the ziggurat’s side stairways (Berg).
Form follows function, and the function of this temple was involved several aspects: administrative center of the city; conveying power to the masses through sheer size; serving as an abode for their patron god; a place of worship and religious sacrifice; and, being seemingly untouchable by the elements of earthquake and flood, seen as an enduring symbol of the cultures technological achievements.
Indeed, the construction of the Ziggurat serves as a benchmark, encompassing a leap in the ability of humankind to assemble, engage in commerce, worship, and have the time and energy for knowledge-building. For at its core, the essence of civilization is found in its’ ability to accumulate knowledge. Clearly, then, the Ziggurat of Ur demonstrates not only the evolution in the materials used in construction, but also the machines used in making the construction occur.
Finally, it should be noted that Mesopotamia was one of the first Bronze Age civilizations, and hence developed smelting to extract ore from the earth. While the development of tools and such is a natural consequence of bronze smelting, it is unlikely that at least at that time period the particular development of tools enhanced their existing technology. Regardless, the development of metal tools will herald a new age in building and construction technology (Stone).
Mesopotamian civilization was notable for ‘inventing’ many things that would have a drastic impact upon the rest of the civilized world. Not only did they develop technology regarding building, they also invented the wheel, the first alphabet, the Pythagoreum Theorum, glass, the arch, column and dome, sails for harnessing wind energy, and writing, to name a few key inventions. The development of the wheel would revolutionize transportation, which as a matter of course would impact the development of construction technology due to its impact on the rise of culture and civilization (Darby) (P. Moorey).
2. Construction Technology of the Ancient Egyptians
2.1. Construction Techniques
The Ancient Egyptians made many contributions to building technology and technology in general. Rulers and religion played important roles in the development and creation of building projects. Statues were a favorite commodity of the ruling class, bearing likeness of the ruler of the moment. Funereal monuments were also in great demand, heralding a thriving class of craftsman. Dieties played a large role in the identification and relationship of the human to the divine, with accompanying characteristics of the dieties being bestowed upon certain working and ruling classes, such as craftsman and engineers (What is Civil Engineering).
The historical record regarding ancient Egyptian engineering and construction technology is sparse, and the main means by which data has been gathered has been through the auspices of experimental archeology. However, the field of experimental archeology has still left questions to be answered regarding how stone masonry and actual moving of the large stones occured. Further questions about how astrology was used to align stones is of note and interest as well. The development of survey tools by the Egyptians enabled the precise alignment and laying of stone works (Shaw).
The Egyptian surveyors achieved increbile feats of engineering with their tools, from the development of canals to the building of pyramids and other large scale structures. Surveyor tools they employed included the use of plumb bobs, leveling instruments, measuring ropes, and sighting instruments. Of note for this review are the leveling devices. Not much is known about the actual tool for long-distance measuring, yet for short-distances, two main tools were used. These were the water level tool, and the A-frame level with a plumb bob suspended from the apex. Egyptians comprehended the use of the isosceles triangle, and used this concept to cut, chisel, set, and mortar square stones into place. The leveling tools the high level of masonry in craftsmanship in ancient Egypt produced some of the world’s most astounding building achievements that still endure today (Root) (Patel).
The Ancient Egyptians used the concept of vaulting, known as barrel vaulting, a technique used in early vaulting techniques in Mesopotamia as well (Edwards). Of note is the development of vaulting known as the ‘corbel vault.’ A corbel vault is an architectural technique of creating an arch using ‘corbeling.’ A corbel is a piece of stone jutting out of a wall, to support any incumbent weight, such as the stone resting upon it. Corbeling, then, is a technique where the stones are keyed inside a wall to support the wall or arch they line (Lehner).
As corbelling was used in pyramid construction, it can arguably be considered a crucial development in using not only stone, but also in the evolution of engineering in construction technology in the development of the arch and tunneling techniques.
Egypt embarked into a time period previously unparalleled in national accomplishment recognized as the Old Kingdom, marked as the beginning of the Third Dynasty. Previously, kings of the First and Second Dynasties used mud-brick as the basic substance for tomb construction, but with the coming of the Third Dynasty the archaeological record is marked with the beginning of stone utilization, primarily in construction of private monuments, albeit on a grand scale. Imhotep is credited as being the first ruler to build with stone (Edwards).
2.2 Construction Machines and Machinery
One very notable major contribution in terms of large and enduring construction technology is the development of the ramp . Regarding pyramid building in ancient Egypt, Archaeologists agree that a system of ramps may have been used to move the millions of blocks into their positions. It is suggested that at least five different types of ramps have been used (Heizer).
The most direct method was the linear ramp, probably used in the Third-Dynasty pyramid of Sekhemkhet, at Saqqara. It is likely, however, that these types of ramps were probably rarely used, because they would have had to be very wide. Alternatively, a staircase ramp may have been used (a steep and narrow set of steps leading up one face of the pyramid, traces of which have been found at the Sinki, Meidum, Giza, Abu Ghurob and Lisht pyramids) (Shaw) (Heizer).
The ‘spiral ramp’ (Nineteenth-Dynasty Papyrus Anastasi I), is another variation, though what it would have rested on and how checks and revisions could have been made on the pyramids is an open question, given that it would have covered the pyramid. The ‘reversing ramp’ entails zigzag course up one face of a pyramid, though likely not used for the construction of step pyramids. ‘Interior ramps’ have been found inside the remains of the pyramids of Sahura, Nyuserra and Neferirkara, at Abusir, and of Pepi II, at Saqqara (Heizer) (Shaw).
From stonework, to surveying, to the relationship between religion and civic works, the ancient Egyptians employed cutting-edge tools to develop their construction technology. The ramp allowed the construction of large-scale projects, which exist to the modern day.
3. Construction Technology of the Ancient Greeks
3.1. Construction Techniques
There is evidence in the grand scale of monument building in Ancient Greece to support the theory that the Greek building methods enabled the development of the tiled roof. Earlier building of a grand scale were constructed of mud brick, whereas the Greeks used stone to build the walls of their monuments, hence the stone walls could actually support a weighty tiled roof whereas mud-brick walls could not (Goldberg). Interestingly, some scholars point to the ancient Chinese as the source of knowledge of construction technology for tiled roofs in ancient Greece.
Another well-established feature of Ancient Greek building technology is the use of columns. There are three column types established in Greece (Benson). Doric columns are the most elementary. They have a capital (the top, or crown) built of a circle topped by a square. The shaft (the tall part of the column) is plain and has twenty sides. The Doric order has no base. The Doric order is very plain, but powerful-looking in its design, and was popular in construction of the long rectangular buildings of Greece. Above the column were items called friezes, metopes, and triglyphs. All architectural elements, these sections were often used to convey simple patterns interspersed with statues of gods or other favorite figures. The most famous example of Doric building is the Parthenon in Athens, which is plausibly the most well-known and most studied building in the world. Modern-day constructions borrow some parts of the Doric order (Thompson, Papadopoulou and Vassiliou).
3.2. Construction Machines
The Ancient Greeks developed the idea of the ‘simple machine.’ At its’ core, a simple machine makes work easier; things that would otherwise be difficult to move, through using a simple machine, are easier to move (Singer, Holmyard and Hall). Examples of simple machines are wheels, screws, pulleys, levers, inclined planes, and wedges (Koloski-Ostrow). These machines change the direction or degree of force. Through a concept known as mechanical advantage, the ratio of output to input force is proportionally increased, making the load easier to move (Anderson).
The development of the crane, the winch and pulley, the watermill, the wheelbarrow, and the odometer all had enormous impacts on the progression of construction technology development in ancient Greece.
The crane for raising massive loads was invented by the Ancient Greeks in the late 6th century BC. The archaeological record indicates that no later than c.515 BC distinctive cuttings for both lifting tongs and lewis irons begin to appear on stone blocks of Greek temples. Evidence for the existence of the crane comes from examination of peculiar holes indicated in the use of a lifting mechanism. Archeologists regard these holes as proof of the innovation of the crane. The introductions of the winch and pulley hoist soon lead to a widespread replacement of ramps as the main means of vertical motion. The development of the winch and pulley hoist replaced ramp technology. Stone size also decreased, as construction technology advanced (Coulton).
The invention of the crane is credited to the ancient Greeks. Likely, they used their invention in the construction temples, through using the technology to place the heavy blocks they used in the building of Greek temples, dedicated to the Greek gods.
The cranes employed by the Greeks and the Romans were manifestly representing an earlier technology of crane evolution. These earlier cranes featured the structure of an elongated wooden beam named a ‘boom’. The boom was attached to a rotating base, and a rope was wound around a drum that was driven by a wheel or treadmill. The rope was attached with one end to the tip of the wooden beam (boom). The other end of the rope featured a hook which assisted raising heavy loads, such as large stones, and even ships (Coulton).
The change from using ramps to using cranes is explained through the social employment order, where skilled labor of small teams was preferred over large unskilled labor. A tool like the crane would enable this type of employment, as less people could do the same amount of lifting (Coulton) (Landels).
Like many innovations in technology, the winch and pulley system may have been a development of military needs (Coulton). Indeed, the development of the catapult and balliste in ancient Greek warfare has their roots in a structure operation on a winch and pulley system called the gastraphete (Marsden). The winch and pulley system was not only pivotal in building design, but also in construction of civic works, such as canals, government buildings, and temples.
The watermill was a device invented by the ancient Greeks composed of a water wheel or turbine to power some mechanical process. Put more simply, it was the first harnessed use of hydropower — a technology that is widely used today (Wilson). Used from everything from processing food (grinding wheat) to powering a sawmill, it is likely that the supportive functions of the watermill were of enormous benefit in the development of ancient Greek construction technology.
4. Construction Technologies of the Roman Empire
4.1.1. Construction Techniques
4.1.2. The Influence of Roman Architecture on Building Technology
The architectural style of Rome was firmly rooted in the Hellenistic Greek traditions. Before the Romans, the most commonly used building style was the post and lintel. The post and lintel systems were limited in the weight it could carry and the span between the supports (Allen).
What the Romans developed and interrelated into the Greek architectural style was the arch. Indeed, the arch was a revelation in the world of architecture. What had been the common, less supportive structure of the post and lintel, so commonly seen in the Greek temples, had now been replaced by the strength of this new arch (Allen).
The Roman invention of the arch allowed architects to build larger structures than ever before. This arch was far stronger than the post and lintel. It was relatively easy to make with the scaffolding in place and the support was held in place with the ‘keystone’. The weight was able to be more evenly spread from the keystone down towards the bottom of the arch, providing more stability to the structure. The scaffolding used here was able to be re-used to produce arches of the same size (Onians).
This proved to be useful in the construction of the Roman aqueduct. This was built at a higher level, composed of two layers of arches that would have the ability to carry water from either a source in the hills or a reservoir to settlements. The Romans chose the arch as the dominant element of their architecture inserting it in all their buildings in order to characterize the supporting structures. This was evident in both interiors, such as in basilicas and temples, both of which are architecturally concentrated on the interior of the building (Mark and Hutchinson).
Examples of these are the Basilica Ulpia in Rome and The Maison Carree in France (J. Anderson). The Basilica was set out to have a Nave, a double-column double-aisle on wither side of the Nave and apses on either end of the hall (Kinney). The Maison Carree, however, we can see as representing the new style of temples set out by the Roman architects. The new style shows how much the Roman architecture had developed at this stage from the Greek influences. Some of the major differences between Roman and Greek temples, as can be seen through studying the example of The Maison Carree are as follows:
Roman temples were built on an elevated plateau, with a staircase in front. This can be contrasted to Greek temples, which were built on a stylobate which had a base of three steps.
The Greeks placed the statue of a god in the Naos, which the Romans later translated to be the ‘Cella’, whereas the Romans mostly placed the statue in the absis.
In contrast to the Greeks, the Romans used pilasters (half columns)
Roman temples are monopteral, meaning they have only one colonnade, whereas Greek temples can be both monopteral as well as dipteral (having a double colonnade).
The Roman temple was designed to be placed in the town centre, or the ‘Forum’. This was different from Greek temples, which were designed to be placed on an acropolis. This is why the Greek temples had columns on every side of the temple; it was designed to be seen from all angles. Because of this, Roman temples had columns on the front side only, as they would have been surrounded by other buildings (J. Anderson) (Kinney).
The Romans took and borrowed many concepts from the Greek culture. One example given was the development of the Roman temple from the Greek (The Maison Carree). Another example was the way they took Greek gods and renamed them (for example, Athena, the Greek goddess of crafts, domestic arts and war, was renamed Minerva by the Romans). The gods and goddesses, however, although renamed, were still worshiped as much by the Romans as by the Greeks. The extensions of the arch idea lead to the development of domes. The Romans developed the idea of a pantheon, a sanctuary to the worship of many gods (Mark and Hutchinson).
The Pantheon was dedicated to the twelve Olympian gods. It was the first temple to combine concrete construction — a technique in which the Romans were especially innovative — with the more conservative if decorative use of Greek classical orders (Terenzio). Originally, the visitor approached the temple through a courtyard precinct, where the main altar was located. A colonnade on three sides of this courtyard served to mask from view a sight of the real domed form of the building. Only the classical portico with huge un-fluted columns of black and red Egyptian granite could be seen. Attached awkwardly to the curvilinear drum of the building, this portico peak hid the hemispherical dome that gave a clue to appearance of the interior. The interior of the Pantheon greets the visitor with an unexpected yet exhilarating explosion of space (W. L. MacDonald). To begin with, the height of the building from floor to ceiling is an incredible 142′. The Pantheon was a completely free-standing building, and the first hemispherical domed structure. Its concrete drum, rising from a point beginning one-half the actual height of diameter of the building, circumscribes a complete sphere within its volume.
The concrete dome is stepped, that is, the drum, 20′ at base, tapers in stages on the outside as it rises to its zenith at the “eye” or oculus, a hole thirty feet in diameter where the concrete is only 90″ thick. Supported by a wall 24 feet thick — in turn built upon a ring of concrete foundation 15 feet thick — the dome is not actually as heavy as it appears. The lowest concrete aggregate was made up of heavier gravel (mostly basalt) which was gradually replaced by lighter materials such as pumice closer to the top. To further lighten the dome and facilitate the drying of the concrete, empty clay jugs were embedded in the upper courses. The walls themselves were reinforced with hidden brick relieving arches, and rather than appear as massive mural spaces, they were penetrated by alternating curved and square niches that act as piers to hold up the dome. This was truly a remarkable advancement in the skill of Roman architecture and engineering (W. MacDonald).
Moreover, an additional cultural concept that the Romans ‘borrowed’ from the Greek way of life was the Greek theatre. Although the types of entertainment the Romans preferred were different to the Greeks, the architecture was similarly constructed. However, whereas the Greeks preferred interiorly decorated theatres, which usually were constructed on a naturally downward facing hill to see the stage, the Romans used their skills as engineers to construct an individual building (Sears).
The Colosseum – the greatest amphitheatre of the antiquity – was built in Rome, Italy, about 1920 years ago. It is considered an architectural and engineering wonder, and remains as a standing proof of both the grandeur and the cruelty of the Roman world. The Colosseum is elliptical in shape. The building stands on a base of two steps; above it there are three floors of arcades. The ground floor half columns are Doric in style; those of the second floor are Ionic and those of the upper floor are Corinthian. There were eighty arches on every floor, divided by pillars with a half column (Lancaster).
The development of the arch brought about an incredible advancement to the architecture of the Romans. The final example given here will be the development of a pure arch structure itself; the triumphal arch (Alchermes).
In ancient Rome and in all its empire, power was exalted by the building of triumphal arches. They were conceived to appear in front of the people as an eternal frame to the victories of the man-god: the emperor. Triumphal arches constitute a typical element of Roman architecture. These structures, whilst having an autonomous functional value as a gate, also have a monumental and commemorative character. The emperor, returning victorious from the campaigns, was honoured solemnly by building a symbolical victory arch. The Arch of Constantine, in Rome, was erected in honour of the Emperor Constantine (Alchermes). Triumphal arches usually embody one or more arched passages. This is a three-way arch, measuring 21m in height, 25.7m in width and 7.4m in depth. The central archway is 11.5m high and 6.5m wide, while the lateral archways are 7.4m x 3.4m. Eight detached Corinthian columns, four on each side, stand on plinths on the sides of the archways (Allen)
The history of Roman construction technology is given to us through written descriptions, reliefs and mosaics. The Roman writer and engineer, Vitruvius, wrote at length on the art and architecture of Rome, in a series of ten books. Vitruvius mentions some notable uses in Roman construction, such as new uses for ropes, pulleys and winches, wheels, mills, and metal use in equipment to a lesser degree. As one can see, much that was happening in previous times and in contemporary times of the Romans was also being used and enhanced in Roman construction technology. Additionally, many different materials were utilized in construction (MiriamMilani Antiquities of Ancient Rome).
The Romans used a wide variety of materials running from chalk and sand through to pozzolanic concrete. Rubble and broken pottery would be mixed with mortar in order to fill wall segments. Pumice would be mixed with the concrete to create a lighter face, to increase the aesthetic value of the work. Their acquaintance and expertise with such an assortment of materials was partly facilitated by the breadth of the empire. Their use is what allowed them to achieve a considerable leap in construction and architecture. Indeed, practicality in terms of economics was also fundamental in material use, as the Romans tended to use locally available items when possible to decrease transport times. Importation and transport of construction materials was limited to the purely necessary or items of high value luxury. Of principle importance in construction material use were stone, wood, ceramics, terracotta and to a lesser degree, metal (MacDonald).
Stone was clearly an important material for construction The Romans were expert in quarrying. Moreover, they used different types of stone for different project applications. Marble was used to decorate surfaces; lime and sandstone would be used for pedestrian areas subjected to low wear (Moropoulou, Bakolas and Anagnostopoulou). Basaltic lava or granites would be employed for applications which required great stress forbearance. The difference in these materials is not only in their relative brittleness and durability but also in other elements such as how porous and heavy they are (Sharma, Casanova and Wache).
As Roman territorial expansion evolved, so too did access to fresh and unique local materials. The commerce and trade involved in the flow of goods and knowledge of materials across geographic regions would fundamentally be of great importance in the progress of technological advancement in building and construction (Robinson) .
Romans were also advanced in their proficiency and skill in using various types of wood. The architect Vitruvius wrote at length and in some detail about how to process trees for use in building (Hughes and Thirgood). In construction technology, it is of critical note to point out that again, for military purposes, the field advanced for its demand in military applications. Knowledge of materials allowed this machinery to undertake the extreme stresses inherent in its employment (Wilson).
The use of terracotta and ceramics allowed an immense degree of freedom in a wide range of areas of construction such as the tiling of roofs, waterproofing of pools, making vessels in which to carry and store materials and most importantly for making bricks and pipes. Ceramics were even used to substitute wood in the construction of trusses to build arches (Degryse, Elsens and Waelkens).
Brick technology was also a notable advancement in building techniques. The construction of the large furnaces necessary to furnish this industry can only happen in a developed economy, such as was possible during the Roman rule (Bowen). The breadth of the Roman Empire allowed access to a broad market of resources, including metal.
Metal was utilized throughout the Empire according to needs and characteristics. Metals were widely used in statuary, joinery, weaponry, trusses, piping, and tool making (Gilfillin).
4.2 Construction Machines
Ropes were made in a myriad of styles depending on use. They could be made to be elastic, harnessing the concept of an energy-conserving spring. The catapult is a perfect example of that use, where tensile force was created in the coils of ropes necessary for the catapult (Heizer) (Marsden).
Pulleys were widely used to direct force up or down. To apply force, the most common methods involved different types of winches, mounted horizontally or vertically. The practical application of these sub-units, ropes, pulleys, wooden structures and winches permitted the Romans to produce the varied construction machinery necessary according to the needs of the moment. Metal was restricted to unique situations and projects (Heizer).
Some machinery could be of massive size and strength, making it to conduct modern experiments in the name of scientific endeavor. These machines produced similar functions one would expect in modern construction. However, machinery for moving operations was lacking. While no engines existed at the time, large stone sections would be carried great distances through teams of Oxen, ramps, and slave labor/manpower (Heizer).
The construction methods of early Rome are simplistic, generic, and not indicative of the massive building projects of later Rome. The earliest buildings of Rome, built around the Palatine and Esquiline hills in the 9 thCentury BC were far more basic. Buildings were constructed of organic materials, using wood and earth, standing on packed ground. As such, not much remains in the historical record for the study of the structures; rather, one must rely on interpolation of the evolution of building from earlier civilizations and contemporary accounts (MacDonald) .
5. Construction Technology of the Byzantine Empire
5.1. Construction Techniques
The contribution of religion to construction technology during the Byzantine Empire cannot be understated. The building projects Byzantine Empire were founded upon the legacy of Roman formal and technical achievements, utilizing the Roman’s technological advances in building large scale projects. The new capital of Constantinople was in close contact with the Hellenized East, and the contribution of Eastern culture was an important element in the development of its architectural style, which in turn, dictated the design and use of construction elements, from materials to tools, to machinery and supporting industries (VanMilligan). As such, a short history of the role of architecture in construction technology is offered.
The most notable architectural building achievement of Byzantine architecture is the Church of Holy Wisdom or Hagia Sophia. It was constructed in a span of five years (532-37) during the reign of Justinian. Hagia Sophia is without a clear antecedent in the building and construction technology architecture of that time. Religion played a central role in shaping architecture. Such structures, which may show considerable variation in plan, have in common the placement of a central domed space, flanked and partly sustained by smaller domes and half-domes spanning peripheral spaces. The needed technology of ramps, levels, levers, pulleys and winches, the mathematics of angles and arches, were all utilized and expanded upon during this great advancement in architecture (Ousterhout).
Many important buildings of Constantinople have been destroyed; however impressive examples still exist throughout the provinces and on the outer fringes of the empire, notably in Bulgaria, Russia, Armenia, and Sicily. Secular architecture in the Byzantine Empire has left fewer traces. Foremost among these are the ruins of the 5th-century walls of the city of Constantinople, consisting of an outer and an inner wall, each originally studded with 96 towers, of which some can still be seen (VanMilligan).
The continuous influence from the East is presented in the manner of embellishing external brick walls of churches built about the 12th century. Brick work was especially important in the Roman period, and continued to be an important industry into the Byzantine Empire. One such use of bricks was for decoration of churches. Bricks were approximately sculpted into form and aligned so as to produce bands of ornamentation. This style was associated with the manner of exterior brick and stone work as represented in various patterns borrowed from Persian influence. The domes and vaults to the exterior were covered with lead or with tiling of the Roman influence, once again showing the evolutionary aspect of technological advancement and utilization of materials and methods (Hakim).
Another modified adaptation from Roman methods was in the substitution of brick and stone masonry for concrete (Hakim). Brick was used for the large building projects, as well as being used for the facing of walls and piers. Brick was also utilized for vaulting in many buildings mainly built of stone. Stone was used either alone or in combination with brick. In piers intended to support unusually heavy loads the stone was very carefully cut and fitted, perhaps being tied and clamped with iron (Ousterhout) .
Vaults were built sometimes of brick, sometimes of cut stone; in a few cases even of earthenware jars fitting into each other, and laid up in a continuous contracting spiral from the base to the crown of a dome. Ingenious processes for building vaults without cent rings were made use of — processes inherited from the drain-builders of ancient Assyria, and still in use in Armenia, Persia, and Asia Minor. The groined vault was common. This type of vault approximated the form of a dome, by a longitudinal convexity upward in the intersecting vaults. The aisles of Hagia Sophia display a remarkable example of the various forms in vaulting technology (Osterhout).
The dome became the most characteristic feature of Byzantine architecture notably the dome on pendentives. What this means is if a hemisphere be cut by five planes, four perpendicular to its base and bounding a square inscribed therein, and the fifth plane parallel to the base and tangent to the semicircular intersections made by the first four, there will remain of the original surface only four triangular spaces bounded by arcs or circles. These are called pendentives. When pendentives are built of masonry, each piece forms a type of arch, by virtue of its convexity. At the crown of the four arches, these pieces meet and form a complete circle, perfectly stable and capable of sustaining any superstructure that does not by excessive weight disrupt the whole fabric by overthrowing the four arches which support it (Vanderpool).
Upon these pendentives, a different dome may be initiated of any desired curvature, or even a rounded drum to support a still loftier dome, as in the subsequent churches. This method of treating a square is plainer than the groined vault, having no distinct edges or intersections; it is at least as effective architecturally, by cause of its larger height in the centre; and is evenly relevant to progressive bays of an oblong, cruciform, and even columnar building. In the great cisterns at Constantinople large areas are covered by rows of small domes supported on ranges of columns (Ballance).
Buttressing, as a construction technology, was well understood by the Byzantines. Their plans skillfully executed to provide internal abutments, which were often continued above the roofs of the side-aisles to prop the main vaults, exactly as the Romans employed in there saunas and temples. However, the Byzantines followed to a lesser degree than the Romans did to traditional methods of building and construction (Ballance).
6. History of Islamic Golden Age Construction Technology
6.1. Construction Techniques
6.1.1. Influence of Religion on Architecture
Religion, as in other ages and cultures, shaped to a great degree the techniques used in architecture and building in the Islamic Golden Age. From the Mosque of Sultan Sulayman located in Istanbul, Turkey to the Taj Mahal mausoleum in Agra, India the impact of the Islamic religion shines through in the architecture. However similar, these two structures also display apparent differences reflective of the local cultures that existed during the time of construction.
In general, mosques were always oriented towards Mecca and consisted of covered walkways, columns and arches, a small niche or mihrab that faced Mecca, and a fountain placed in an open courtyard, that the Muslims used for purification. Islamic architecture also had minarets built beside the structure, which were large towers, typically used for muezzins to call to other Muslims when it was time to pray.
In Istanbul, the most prominent mosque is the Mosque of
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