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Tracing the Ages: When Was Concrete Invented and Its Impact on Modern Construction

When was concrete invented? Historians trace the earliest known use to about 6500 BC, revolutionizing construction from that point forward. In this article, we delve into concrete’s timeline, from its ancient conception to the innovative material it is today.

Key Takeaways

  • Early instances of concrete use date back to 6500 BC with Nabataea traders in Syria and Jordan, which significantly influenced the development of concrete-like materials and construction techniques throughout ancient civilizations.

  • The invention of Portland cement by Joseph Aspdin in 1824 marked a critical advancement in modern construction, leading to the ubiquitous use of concrete in creating the vast array of structures seen in urban environments today.

  • The emergence of reinforced concrete, thanks to Joseph Monier, and later improvements by Francois Coignet, has been pivotal in allowing the construction of much larger and more complex structures, shaping the world of construction as we know it.

The Ancient Origins of Concrete

Ancient Roman concrete structures

An exploration into the history of concrete reveals a journey that begins as early as 6500 BC, with the earliest known instances of concrete structures traced back to Nabataea traders in regions of Syria and Jordan.

These humble beginnings of concrete-like materials, including concrete floors, paved the way for a revolution in construction that has dramatically shaped our modern life and helped create concrete advancements in the concrete industry.

First Formulations

Resourceful Nabataea traders developed the initial concrete-like structures, combining silica sand and lime to create enduring structures. This simple yet ingenious blend of materials set the stage for the sophisticated concrete structures that decorate our modern landscapes, utilizing high quality building stones.


As we journey further into history, the awe-inspiring realm of ancient Egypt reveals itself. Here, the Egyptians utilized a combination of mud mixed with straw and gypsum, along with lime mortars, to construct their monumental pyramids.

This marked a pivotal moment in construction history with the innovative use of concrete-like materials, paving the way for the first concrete street and the first reinforced concrete bridge.


Significant contributions to the evolution of concrete also came from the East, specifically China. Utilizing a unique cement made from sticky rice, they constructed monumental structures such as the Great Wall of China.

A blend of organic and inorganic components laid the foundation for modern concrete’s development, demonstrating their ingenuity.

Roman Mastery

The Romans, famed for their architectural prowess, further refined the production of roman concrete by incorporating volcanic ash, lime, and seawater into their mixtures. This resulted in durable structures that have not only withstood the test of time but continue to inform modern construction practices.

The Reinvention of Concrete in Modern Times

Hydraulic lime production

Advancing to the early modern period, we see a resurgence in concrete use. The combination of volcanic ash, known as trass, with lime mortar resulted in a water-resistant and robust material, marking the reinvention of concrete in modern times.

Hydraulic Lime’s Comeback

Hydraulic lime’s resurgence marked a turning point in concrete history. John Smeaton’s discovery of a modern method for producing hydraulic lime in 1793 revolutionized the production of cement and concrete, paving the way for the structures we see today.

Birth of Portland Cement

1824 saw Joseph Aspdin inventing Portland cement, a development transforming the construction industry fundamentally. This new type of cement set the stage for the vast array of modern concrete structures that define our urban landscapes.

Breakthroughs in Reinforced Concrete

Reinforced concrete construction

The narrative of concrete becomes more exciting with reinforced concrete’s emergence. This invention, credited to Joseph Monier, brought about significant advancements in construction techniques and materials, enabling the construction of larger structures such as bridges and buildings.

The Firsts in Reinforced Concrete

Francois Coignet marked the beginning of steel reinforced concrete construction with his inventive use of steel rods in concrete homes. His method, which involved incorporating steel rods to prevent the spreading of exterior walls, laid the groundwork for modern reinforced concrete practices.

Innovations in Concrete Mix and Design

Innovations in concrete mix and design

As the narrative of concrete continues to unfold, recent developments have led to significant advancements in the mix and design of concrete. These innovations have resulted in enhancements in durability, sustainability, and versatility, expanding the potential uses of this essential building material.


From its humble beginnings in ancient civilizations to its integral role in modern construction, the story of concrete is indeed a journey through time. As we continue to innovate and refine this staple material, it’s clear that concrete will remain a cornerstone of our built environment for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

When did humans start using concrete?

Humans started using concrete around 6500 BC, with the earliest recorded structures dating back to that time in regions of Syria and Jordan.

When was concrete first used in UK?

Concrete was first used in the UK in the 19th century, specifically between 1817 and 1822, by Sir Robert Smirke at Millbank Penitentiary.

Did they have concrete in 1920?

Yes, concrete was widely used by the 1920s, offering benefits over traditional masonry structures. Regulations and codes for reinforced concrete design were developed during this period.

Why don t we use Roman concrete today?

We don’t use Roman concrete today because, although it gets stronger over time and withstands erosion from water, it likely does not have the initial strength required for modern construction.

Who first invented concrete?

The earliest recordings of concrete structures date back to 6500BC by the Nabataea traders in regions of Syria and Jordan, who created concrete floors, housing structures, and underground cisterns. Egypt and China also used mud mixed with straw to bind dried bricks around 3000 BC.