History of Marble

5,000 years is a long time. It's so long that we have trouble comprehending it. But monuments built of natural stone more than 5,000 years ago are still standing today. Which is a testament to natural stone's enduring beauty and strength.

The ancient Egyptians were the first civilization to extensively quarry and build with natural stone. They built most of their monuments of granite and limestone. The Great Pyramid of Cheops, the only remaining wonder of the ancient world, was built of massive limestone blocks around 2560 BC. Visitors to the pyramid today marvel at its size, but recognize that it appears blocky and rough. 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 harbored many astounding secrets about stonework.

Then the Roman empire rose to power around the dawn of the first century AD. The Romans built extensively with both marble and granite. They were, above all, road builders, and they could find no better paving stone than granite. Though quarrying it was difficult work, they lined many of their roads with granite. Public baths were popular, and many were constructed of granite. The Romans also extensively used granite for columns, and ancient ones can be seen today in the Pantheon in Rome .

While the Romans loved granite for its durability and strength, they loved marble above all else because of its beauty. 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 built their structures out of brick and strong mortar, and then lined them with marble slabs. Because they were not dealing with huge blocks of heavy marble for the infrastructure, they were able to build more rapidly. Their technique is still used today in the construction of state buildings, museums, and monuments across the world.

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