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Cement history

A lime concrete floor, made from quicklime (burnt limestone), stones and water built about 7000BC was found in Israel in 1985. However, it seems that little use was made of even this very basic limestone cement/concrete for several millenniums. The next significant use of lime cement was by the Ancient Egyptians as a ‘lime concrete’ mortar between blocks and as in-fill to stone walls.

The use of lime cement then spread to other parts of the Mediterranean and by about 500 BC it was in use in Ancient Greece being used to cover sun-dried brick walls. Initially copying the Greeks the Romans made a major improvement by discovering that the addition of volcanic ash made the cement stronger. The Romans built several significant structures including the roof of the Pantheon. As the aggregate used was pumice this was the first major use of un-reinforced lightweight concrete

In the middle ages the Normans found that, in the absence of volcanic ash, ground tile and brick materials could be used to strengthen the cement. There was further development in the late 17th and early 18th century when engineers began to experiment with cement compositions. This work led to the invention of Portland cement by Joseph Aspdin.

Aspdin patented this new ‘Portland cement’ in 1824. He chose the name because, when set, he thought that its colour resembled Portland stone which was being used for many buildings at that time. Following the introduction of Portland cement, particularly in the last 50 years or so, there have been major advances in the understanding of cement and its properties.

Acknowledgement: The Concrete Society