History Of Construction Technology Time Literature Review


The Ziggurat's corners are oriented to the compass points, with walls sloping slightly inwards (Molleson and Hodgson) . The Ziggurat of Ur was a component of a temple building complex that serviced the urban center as an administrative hub. Additionally, in terms of spirituality, it was believed to be the site on earth that the moon god Nanna (the patron deity of Ur) had selected to inhabit. Nanna was shown as a wise and unfathomable old man, complete with a flowing beard and four horns in number. A single shrine crowned the summit of the ziggurat (Faiella). This was purportedly the bedchamber of the god, and was occupied each night by one woman. Nightly, one woman, as chosen by the priests, would occupy this bedchamber as companion to the god Nanna. Additionally, a kitchen was located at the base of one of the ziggurat's side stairways (Berg).

Form follows function, and the function of this temple was involved several aspects: administrative center of the city; conveying power to the masses through sheer size; serving as an abode for their patron god; a place of worship and religious sacrifice; and, being seemingly untouchable by the elements of earthquake and flood, seen as an enduring symbol of the cultures technological achievements.

Indeed, the construction of the Ziggurat serves as a benchmark, encompassing a leap in the ability of humankind to assemble, engage in commerce, worship, and have the time and energy for knowledge-building. For at its core, the essence of civilization is found in its' ability to accumulate knowledge. Clearly, then, the Ziggurat of Ur demonstrates not only the evolution in the materials used in construction, but also the machines used in making the construction occur.

Finally, it should be noted that Mesopotamia was one of the first Bronze Age civilizations, and hence developed smelting to extract ore from the earth. While the development of tools and such is a natural consequence of bronze smelting, it is unlikely that at least at that time period the particular development of tools enhanced their existing technology. Regardless, the development of metal tools will herald a new age in building and construction technology (Stone).

Mesopotamian civilization was notable for 'inventing' many things that would have a drastic impact upon the rest of the civilized world. Not only did they develop technology regarding building, they also invented the wheel, the first alphabet, the Pythagoreum Theorum, glass, the arch, column and dome, sails for harnessing wind energy, and writing, to name a few key inventions. The development of the wheel would revolutionize transportation, which as a matter of course would impact the development of construction technology due to its impact on the rise of culture and civilization (Darby) (P. Moorey).

2. Construction Technology of the Ancient Egyptians

2.1. Construction Techniques

The Ancient Egyptians made many contributions to building technology and technology in general. Rulers and religion played important roles in the development and creation of building projects. Statues were a favorite commodity of the ruling class, bearing likeness of the ruler of the moment. Funereal monuments were also in great demand, heralding a thriving class of craftsman. Dieties played a large role in the identification and relationship of the human to the divine, with accompanying characteristics of the dieties being bestowed upon certain working and ruling classes, such as craftsman and engineers (What is Civil Engineering).

The historical record regarding ancient Egyptian engineering and construction technology is sparse, and the main means by which data has been gathered has been through the auspices of experimental archeology. However, the field of experimental archeology has still left questions to be answered regarding how stone masonry and actual moving of the large stones occured. Further questions about how astrology was used to align stones is of note and interest as well. The development of survey tools by the Egyptians enabled the precise alignment and laying of stone works (Shaw).

The Egyptian surveyors achieved increbile feats of engineering with their tools, from the development of canals to the building of pyramids and other large scale structures. Surveyor tools they employed included the use of plumb bobs, leveling instruments, measuring ropes, and sighting instruments. Of note for this review are the leveling devices. Not much is known about the actual tool for long-distance measuring, yet for short-distances, two main tools were used. These were the water level tool, and the A-frame level with a plumb bob suspended from the apex. Egyptians comprehended the use of the isosceles triangle, and used this concept to cut, chisel,...


The leveling tools the high level of masonry in craftsmanship in ancient Egypt produced some of the world's most astounding building achievements that still endure today (Root) (Patel).
The Ancient Egyptians used the concept of vaulting, known as barrel vaulting, a technique used in early vaulting techniques in Mesopotamia as well (Edwards). Of note is the development of vaulting known as the 'corbel vault.' A corbel vault is an architectural technique of creating an arch using 'corbeling.' A corbel is a piece of stone jutting out of a wall, to support any incumbent weight, such as the stone resting upon it. Corbeling, then, is a technique where the stones are keyed inside a wall to support the wall or arch they line (Lehner).

As corbelling was used in pyramid construction, it can arguably be considered a crucial development in using not only stone, but also in the evolution of engineering in construction technology in the development of the arch and tunneling techniques.

Egypt embarked into a time period previously unparalleled in national accomplishment recognized as the Old Kingdom, marked as the beginning of the Third Dynasty. Previously, kings of the First and Second Dynasties used mud-brick as the basic substance for tomb construction, but with the coming of the Third Dynasty the archaeological record is marked with the beginning of stone utilization, primarily in construction of private monuments, albeit on a grand scale. Imhotep is credited as being the first ruler to build with stone (Edwards).

2.2 Construction Machines and Machinery

One very notable major contribution in terms of large and enduring construction technology is the development of the ramp . Regarding pyramid building in ancient Egypt, Archaeologists agree that a system of ramps may have been used to move the millions of blocks into their positions. It is suggested that at least five different types of ramps have been used (Heizer).

The most direct method was the linear ramp, probably used in the Third-Dynasty pyramid of Sekhemkhet, at Saqqara. It is likely, however, that these types of ramps were probably rarely used, because they would have had to be very wide. Alternatively, a staircase ramp may have been used (a steep and narrow set of steps leading up one face of the pyramid, traces of which have been found at the Sinki, Meidum, Giza, Abu Ghurob and Lisht pyramids) (Shaw) (Heizer).

The 'spiral ramp' (Nineteenth-Dynasty Papyrus Anastasi I), is another variation, though what it would have rested on and how checks and revisions could have been made on the pyramids is an open question, given that it would have covered the pyramid. The 'reversing ramp' entails zigzag course up one face of a pyramid, though likely not used for the construction of step pyramids. 'Interior ramps' have been found inside the remains of the pyramids of Sahura, Nyuserra and Neferirkara, at Abusir, and of Pepi II, at Saqqara (Heizer) (Shaw).

From stonework, to surveying, to the relationship between religion and civic works, the ancient Egyptians employed cutting-edge tools to develop their construction technology. The ramp allowed the construction of large-scale projects, which exist to the modern day.

3. Construction Technology of the Ancient Greeks

3.1. Construction Techniques

There is evidence in the grand scale of monument building in Ancient Greece to support the theory that the Greek building methods enabled the development of the tiled roof. Earlier building of a grand scale were constructed of mud brick, whereas the Greeks used stone to build the walls of their monuments, hence the stone walls could actually support a weighty tiled roof whereas mud-brick walls could not (Goldberg). Interestingly, some scholars point to the ancient Chinese as the source of knowledge of construction technology for tiled roofs in ancient Greece.

Another well-established feature of Ancient Greek building technology is the use of columns. There are three column types established in Greece (Benson). Doric columns are the most elementary. They have a capital (the top, or crown) built of a circle topped by a square. The shaft (the tall part of the column) is plain and has twenty sides. The Doric order has no base. The Doric order is very plain, but powerful-looking in its design, and was popular in construction of the long rectangular buildings of Greece. Above the column were items called friezes, metopes, and triglyphs. All architectural elements, these sections were often used to convey simple patterns interspersed with statues of gods or other favorite figures. The most famous example of Doric building is the Parthenon in Athens, which is plausibly the most well-known and…

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