History of Concrete | Concrete Origin | Oldest Concrete Structure

History of Concrete | Concrete Origin | Oldest Concrete Structure

History of Concrete | Concrete Origin | Oldest Concrete Structure


History of Concrete | Concrete Origin | Oldest Concrete Structure

 Introduction to Concrete

Civil engineering is the oldest type of engineering, which has influenced any civilization’s foundations ever lived. Civil Engineers have defined the standards of living. By applying its theories and methodologies, Civil engineering has revolutionized the world without any doubt. The Coliseum, The Great Wall of China, The Pyramids, Channel Tunnel (which is considered the largest engineering project ever completed), Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam, to name a few, are civil engineering wonders.

Just from these examples, civil engineering is connected to our daily life activities, like the construction of different facilities, transportation, water resource, etc. In carrying out these whole processes and building wonders, concreting is extensively used.


Concrete is one of the most used and also the oldest construction material. The main reason behind its usage is its availability, low cost, durability, and sustainability against harsh weather. The other substitute material for concrete is steel, which is very expensive as compared to concrete, and its usage is therefore less. Ten times more concrete is used than steel for construction globally.

Concrete is a material that is brittle and has high compressive strength. Reinforcement is added to the concrete to give it to them the tensile strength required; otherwise, concrete has lower values of tensile strength.


The properties of these two important construction materials, namely, concrete and steel, are two important parameters. However, the manufacturing of steel is always carried out under certain controlled conditions in a plant.

Every property of steel is kept under scrutiny, and then they are thoroughly mentioned in the manufacturing’s certificate. So, the designer and the contractor have no additional work to carry out.

How is Concrete Made Today

But in the case of concrete manufacturing, the properties are changed drastically with the type of constituting materials used, the batching and mixing time. The water to cement ratio, the type of mixing carried out, it is made on-site or on the plant far away from the construction site, etc. These factors have a direct impact on the properties of the concrete made. So, we can say that concrete is a very volatile material.

The designer and contractor have huge responsibilities to keep a check on the quality of concrete by properly managing each and every activity regarding the production of concrete so that durable and long-lasting structures could be built which will stand there for centuries to come.

Composition of Concrete

Concrete is not a single material rather a composite one. The main components of concrete are:

  1. Cement 
  2. Water
  3. Fine aggregate 
  4. Coarse aggregate
  5. Admixture

The strength and quality of concrete are determined by the reaction between these constituents, especially cement and water. To achieve different properties, certain types of cement and some materials, such as Pozzolana, fly ash, micro silica, additives, admixtures polymers, fibers, blast furnace slag, etc., are also used.

 History of Concrete

Although concrete looks like a mere combination of the main constituting materials, i.e., water, cement, and aggregate, it has not been like that even since.  Concrete has evolved into an important aspect of the construction industry.

Concrete Origin

The earliest use of concrete as a construction material dates back to 6500 BC in Syria and Jordan regions by the Nabataea traders. They had used concrete to make underground cisterns floors, housing structures, and other such structures.

How Has Concrete Changed Over the Years?

The other account of concrete usage dates back to 300 BC, where Egyptians and Chinese people are credited with the use of materials like concrete. The Egyptians used mud mixed with straw to join together dried bricks.

Gypsum mortar and mortars of lime were also used in the construction of pyramids. Around 500,000 tons of mortar was used in the construction of the Great Pyramids of Giza. The Chinese have used some form of cement to construct the great wall of china.

Use of Concrete by Roman / Roman Concretes

The Romans were credited with the widespread usage of concrete. They have successfully implemented the material in most of their construction works. Even though they were not the first ones to create the concrete, the mix they used in construction contained volcanic ash, lime, and seawater. Because of the use of quality concrete and fine construction, their great concrete structures still stand tall.

The use of concrete for construction crept backward in the middle ages, after the Roman Empire’s fall in 476 AD. The interest in concrete making and usage rekindled with the discovery of Manuscripts. One of such examples is given below.

A roman author, architect, and civil engineer named Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, in his famous multi-volume work De architectura, has mentioned the’ brick.’ Where he says:

Bricks must be manufactured in spring or autumn so that they dry evenly. Those prepared in summer are defective because when the sun brings the surface to high temperature. It makes it appear dry, while at heart, it is not. Then, drying the core retracts, making crack the dry parts.”

He also mentioned the drying period of a brick, which is not less than two years. There are the oldest known accounts related to the manufacturing of bricks.

In 1753, Bernard Forest De Belidor described the concrete of Vitruvius. Bernard claims that the concrete which was used in the time of Vitruvius was a combination of pozzolana and lime.

In 1757, John SMEATON demonstrated that the best lime is made from impure limestone; he discovered a modern method to produce hydraulic lime. The simplified version of this method is the burning of limestone containing clay until it turns into clinker, then the clinker is crushed to a powder to be used in construction. Smeaton used his newly made material in the construction of Eddystone Lighthouse in Cornwall, England.

Another milestone in concrete history was achieved when in 1796, James parker opened a quarry site of limestone in silicate. Louis Vicat’s Ph.D. publication on cement was another achievement.

In 1824, Joseph Aspdin invented Portland cement by burning finely ground chalk and clay until the carbon dioxide is removed. The inventor named the cement after the fine quality building stones quarried in Portland, England.


What is the History of Reinforced Cement Concrete?

The first reinforced concrete structure ever built was Joseph Lambot’s boat in 1824. With this concrete saw a revolution regarding the usage as well as the research.

During 1850-1880, in England and France, Portland cement was extensively used for home construction. Francois Coignet introduced the use of steel rods for the prevention of exterior walls from spreading.

History of Concrete Timeline

The following list shows some of the main events in concrete production and advancement in concrete.

  • In Canada in 1830, the first lime and hydraulic cement were produced.
  • Joseph Monier invented reinforced concrete in 1849.
  • In 1854, William Wilkinson built a house using reinforced concrete in England.
  • The first concrete bridge was built in 1889.
  • The first-ever concrete street was made in the US in 1891.
  • The first high rise building made of concrete is built in 1904 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • In 1913, the first ready-mix load was delivered in Baltimore, Maryland.
  • First concrete dams were built in 1936. (Hoover and Grand Coulee dam).
  • In 1970, the first fiber-reinforced concrete was introduced.
  • In 2004, special fibers made by Aron Losonszi (Hungarian Architect) were added in concrete, which transmits light in concrete, hence making translucent concrete.
  • The world’s first-ever completely operational 3D printing building in Dubai was introduced.

Future Concrete

These were few milestones achieved in concrete technology history, and hopefully, this trend will go on into the future. Science will be able to formulate the perfect concrete with ideal properties.

Oldest Concrete Structure

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