EARLY HISTORY 3. Ancient Masonry.—The art of masonry construction dates from the earliest records of authentic history. The most fruitful source from which to obtain a knowledge of the history of the more ancient peoples is in a study of the remains of their masonry struc tures.
The earliest important constructions of which we have any remains are probably those of Chaldea and Assyria, with which the great constructions of Egypt may be classed. The dates of few of them are known with accuracy. The earliest of the Chaldean remains are supposed to date from about 2500 B.C. Alongside of these are the remains of the second Babylonian Empire, founded about 600 s.c. Stone and timber were lacking in Chaldea, and hence the natural development of their primitive construction was toward the use of brick. In the earlier and more crude structures, sun dried brick of rough form were used; later, hard-burned bricks were employed. In some of the early buildings both classes were used, the burned bricks being employed as facing to protect the sun-dried from the weather.
The burned bricks of the earliest times are still found to be sound and hard, and many of the sun-dried still keep their shapes. These bricks were of square, flat form, the burned ones varying from 11 to 13 inches square and 21 to 3 inches thick; the sun-dried were somewhat larger.
According to Professor Rawlinson, the cementing material in some of the early Chaldean structures was either a coarse clay, sometimes mixed with straw, or a bitumen of good quality which still unites the bricks so firmly that they can with difficulty be separated.
In the later Babylonian construction the character of the materials shows improvement, and elaborate ornamentation is introduced. Ornamentation was accomplished by enameling and carving the bricks and by the use of colors. Ordinary lime mortar was used.
Assyria, unlike Chaldea, had plenty of stone. The type of construction used by the Assyrians, however, was probably derived from that of the Chaldeans. Brick was the principal material employed, although frequently stone was used to face the brick walls, and sculptures were freely used. The great halls of their palaces were ornamented with sculptures; the entire walls in some cases to a height of 10 or 12 feet were covered with figures in relief, representing scenes from life, and usually commemorating the great ness of the monarch for whom they were erected.
The arch was used by the Assyrians to a limited extent for nar row openings, the arches being of brick, which were made narrower at one end than the other, in order to fit in the arch.
The art of construction in Egypt was much more advanced than in Assyria and Babylonia and was probably of an earlier date. The ancient Egyptians were very skillful in working stone. Their tem ples were built of large blocks of stone, well squared, and laid so that the joints are scarcely visible. They quarried granite and trans ported large blocks for long distances. They also cut and polished granite.
The great pyramid has a base of 764 feet square and is approxi mately 4S6 feet high, and is built in courses, of great blocks of lime stone, from 2 to 5 feet thick and as much as 30 feet in length. The early Egyptian masonry is remarkable both on account of the great size of the materials and the exactness with which they are fitted together, no mortar being employed.
In Greece and Italy remains are found of Cyclopean masonry built of stones of large size and carefully adjusted joints. The walls of 11lycence were built of irregular blocks of great size, the spaces being filled with smaller stones.
Greek Masonry.—The masonry of the Greeks was arranged in courses and the joints carefully fitted and equal to the best Egyptian workmanship. The carving of artistic forms was here for the first time developed to a high degree of excellence.
The Egyptians had used the system of the column and entab lature in their temples. The Greeks introduced the pediment, and improved the artistic design of the buildings, bringing the propor tioning and ornamentation of such structures to a most wonderful perfection.
4. Roman and Medieval Construction.—Ii the system of con struction developed by the Romans the walls were built of coarse concrete or rough cemented rubble, and were usually faced with brick or marble. Sometimes, in less important construction, small blocks of tufa, set irregularly, formed the surface of the walls, which were stuccoed on their interior surfaces.
The art of building was greatly developed during the Roman period. The introduction of the arch changed the whole system of construction. In the Romanesque architecture, the circular arch was the principal feature, the structures consisting mainly of heavy walls supporting semicircular arched roofs. Roman arches were constructed of cut stone, brick, or concrete.
The introduction of the pointed arch, and later of the use of arched ribs with piers and buttresses to transmit the loads to the foundations, marks another advance in the art of construction. This made possible a disposition of the materials of the structures to better advantage, and led to more economical construction.
Dining medieval times the use of stone masonry was brought to a high state of perfection. Random ashlar or rubble was com monly used in buildings in preference to coursed ashlar. Beautiful and imposing effects were attained by the use of materials of rather small size, and great skill was developed in the cutting of ornamental forms.
The Romans used lime mortar in their ordinary construction. They also discovered that if certain materials of volcanic origin were pulverized and mixed with lime, the resulting mortar possessed the property of hardening under water. The mortar used by the Romans in their aqueducts and other hydraulic works was made from this material, obtained from near the foot of Vesuvius. Similar materials were later found and used in Germany and France.