Roman concrete was used to construct the magnificent pantheon, which has endured for two millennia.

Researchers discover secret recipe of Roman concrete that allowed it to endure for over 2,000 years

(Read the article on one page)

Ancient Rome’s concrete recipe is an impressive feat in architectural history. Some Roman buildings are so spectacular in their construction and beauty that modern builders would never attempt something similar, even with today’s technology. Now engineers are beginning to understand why ancient Roman concrete was so revolutionary.

Rome built many of its buildings and monuments with concrete made of lime, volcanic sand, and volcanic rock. The ancient Romans’ buildings and structures, some of the most spectacular in the world, have withstood chemical and physical onslaught for 2,000 years and are still standing.

An advanced concrete recipe allowed the Romans to constructed magnificent structures that no builder would dare to attempt today

An advanced concrete recipe allowed the Romans to constructed magnificent structures that no builder would dare to attempt today. Source: BigStockPhoto

Previous research has already found that Roman concrete was far superior to our own modern concrete, which is made to endure about 120 years.

It’s been known for a while that the volcanic sand used in Roman concrete and mortar made their buildings last for so long.  Now a new study by a group of engineers and engineering researchers has discovered the precise recipe that made the Roman concrete endure much longer than concrete used today.

The researchers used an ancient recipe written down by Roman architect Vitruvius to mix a batch of mortar. The engineers let it harden for six months and looked at it with microscopes. They found that clusters of a dense mineral form through the Roman process. These strätlingite crystals, formed by the volcanic sand as it binds with limestone, prevented the spread of cracks by reinforcing interfacial zones. Interfacial zones are weak links inside the concrete.

A magnified piece of Roman concrete consisting of lime, volcanic sand, and rock

A magnified piece of Roman concrete consisting of lime, volcanic sand, and rock ( Wikimedia Commons )

It isn’t just that Roman concrete is more lasting. It is also not as bad for the environment in the manufacturing of it because the mix only needed to be heated to 900 Celsius as opposed to the 1,450 of modern concrete.

“Stronger, longer-lasting modern concrete, made with less fuel and less release of carbon into the atmosphere, may be the legacy of a deeper understanding of how the Romans made their incomparable concrete,” Ancient-Origins.net wrote in 2013 . Heating the limestone in 19 billion tons of Portland cement made annually accounts for 7 percent of human-released carbon into the atmosphere, according to the new study .

Ceiling in the Pantheon, made entirely from Roman concrete

Ceiling in the Pantheon, made entirely from Roman concrete. Credit: Giulio Menna / flickr

Rome is situated between two volcanic regions, Monti Sabatini to the north and the Alban Hills to the south. When Augustus became the first emperor of Rome in 27 AD, he initiated a building campaign. After builders settled on using Pozzolonic ash from the Alban Hills’ Pozzolane Rosse ash flow, Augustus decreed that Pozzolonic  mortar be the standard in Roman buildings. That decision cemented Rome’s enduring architectural legacy. Roman architects found that this mortar substantially improved the margin of safety in buildings, which were becoming more daring in their design.

The prototypical example of this may be the awe-inspiring Roman Pantheon, a huge concrete building capped by 142-foot dome. It was built in the second century AD.

The Roman Panethon, a huge concrete building that has endured for nearly 2,000 years

The Roman Panethon, a huge concrete building that has endured for nearly 2,000 years. Source: BigStockPhoto

“Made entirely out of concrete, without the reinforcing support of structural steel, no modern engineer would dare attempt such a feat, says David Moore , author of The Roman Pantheon: The Triumph of Concrete . ‘Modern codes of engineering practice would not permit such mischief,’” Smithsonian.com says .

Featured image: Roman concrete was used to construct the magnificent pantheon, which has endured for two millennia. Source: BigStockPhoto.

By Mark Miller

Comments

please look into the works of Hannibal Pianta, he attended the Milan Institute of technology in 1888 and conducted work in concrete from 1902(chicago) till his death in 1937(san antoonio). His works are still standing without much restoration work, to include Nel-stone blocks exposed to the elements.

cool

This resolution may be that the 'cement' they used in the concrete is material that has already been subjected to great heat and is actually pre-cooked. Hence the strength.

Only the ash was "pre-cooked". It's the limestone that needs to be cooked to make it work. In their cement and in modern cement.

Very interesting.

Pages

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Ancient Places

Some of the Mitla mosaics.
Unique and curious designs plaster the walls of the most popular Zapotec archaeological site in Mexico. They are called the Mitla mosaics and are unrivalled in their precision and quality of workmanship. But a mystery surrounds the carved symbols as some researchers suggest they contain a coded language just waiting to be deciphered.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article