History of Construction Technology Literature Review Chapter

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History Of Construction Technology

Time Periods

Tools, materials, innovations

Add (April notes) two subheadings: Construction Techniques and Construction Machines under each one.

Mesopotamia

Ziggurat

Wheel

Ancient Egyptian

Ramp

Ancient Greek

Idea of "Simple Machine"

Crane

Temple

Wheelbarrow

Roman Empire

Works of Vitruvius

Roman Crane

Wheelbarrow

Byzantine Empire

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Byzantine_inventions

Master builders of Byzatine

Islamic Golden Age

Crusade

http://www.muslim-heritage.com/topics/default.cfm?ArticleID=343

See YC's notes on Crusader Castles -- looks like mostly books

Romanesque (1000-1200)

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… [END OF PREVIEW]

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