The first hydraulically hardening mortars were used as early as 1000 B.C. by Phoenician builders who mixed burnt lime with ground clay bricks or volcanic ashes (pozzolans). The term “cement” originates with the Romans who, as of the third century B.C., constructed buildings from a mixture of quarried stones, pozzolan and clay-brick meal and burnt lime, thus developing an early form of concrete constructions. The span of the Pantheon’s dome in Rome, erected in 120 A.D., already measured an impressive 43 m and was not outmatched until 1911 with the construction of the Centennial Hall in Wrocław, a modern concrete shell structure.
Binding agents displaying hydraulic properties through the addition of pozzolans were used until well into the 19th century. During the Middle Ages and Early Modern History, materials science remained an artisan’s discipline. Nonetheless, audacious stone edifices were built that bear testimony to the skill of the times’ master builders and that exploit the maximum strength of the materials used. Thanks to the precision with which the stone blocks were worked and the resulting thinness of the mortar gaps, no stringent requirements were placed on the binding agents is use at the time.
It was not until progress in the field of iron- and steelworking, which facilitated employment of this new material for components subject to torsional and pressure loads, that rationalisation of solid construction techniques became necessary. From the development of quarry stone masonry with mortar gaps to Roman concrete, this process eventually lead to modern concrete. At the same time, the development of hydraulic binding agents was advanced and their water resistance, setting progression and final strength was continuously improved. Even today, development of innovative types of cement and concrete continues unabated.