Concrete Controversy

Posted on the May 7th, 2013 under Friends by Laurence Pharoah

A dissenting voice.

Concrete has been used in some of the earliest and most well known structures in the world. The leading example given for the origins of concrete construction is the Pantheon in Rome. A massive unreinforced concrete dome tops this structure with a diameter of 43 metres, Built in its current form in the first century it is still the largest of its type in the world. However a dissenting voice in the schools of science has arisen over the last 30 odd years. This school of thought claims that the originators of concrete may not have been the Romans at all. It may in fact be the Egyptians predating use of concrete by the Roman civilization by around 2,000 years.


Great Pyramids have a very high water contact – common in concrete stone.


Alternate theory.

When we think of the construction of the pyramids often we visualise vast slave squads hauling monolithic stones grinding along on log rollers. But Michel Barsoum, a native Egyptian and Professor of Material Sciences and Engineering at the lauded Drexel University in Philadelphia has made some discoveries that lend veracity to an alternate theory. It all began when Michel was contacted about a theory proposed by Joseph Davidovitz some thirty years before when he was the Director of the Geopolymer Institute in France. The theory stated that the top most stones of the great pyramid were not in fact hauled there, but poured into place. Professor Barsoum initially thought the idea preposterous and agreed to a cursory examination that he expected to take no more than two hours. Some five years later Professor Barsoum published some very interesting results.


On December 1st 2006 Professor Michel Barsoum published his peer-reviewed findings in the Journal of the American Ceramic Society. Through analysis of around 1,000 samples Barsoum and his team discovered that the structures in the limestone blocks on top of the great pyramid were consistent with reconstituted limestone. They also surmised that limestone aggregate was bound by silicon dioxide cement.

Additional factors also weigh heavily in the new theory’s favour. The limestone blocks topping the Great Pyramids have a very high water contact – common in concrete stone and highly unusual fornaturally occurring limestone in a desert location. Also the molecular structure is amorphic (i.e. with out defined shape) whereas naturally sedimentary rocks are nearly never amorphous.

The research team also discovered nanoscale spheres made of silicon dioxide within the blocks, which are never present within natural limestone. This evidence serves to make the Ancient Egyptians the very first nanotechnologists.


In summation Barsoum said “It’s very improbable that the outer and inner casing stones that we examined were chiselled from a natural limestone block.” And went on to add: “The basic raw materials used for this early form of concrete… can be found virtually anywhere in the world… Replicating this method of construction would be cost effective, long lasting, and much more environmentally friendly than the current building material of choice.”

“Ironically,” Barsoum said, “this study of 4,500 year old rocks is not about the past, but about the future.”


Thankyou for reading this article on the origins of Concrete.

For your more modern concreters in Brisbane  please click here.

Jamie Grant


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