Lime is an incredible material that continues to
amaze archaeologists, because of its ability to preserve ancient artifacts, which are
discovered throughout our modern day.
It is factual that Man evolved due to the existence of lime. Here is a brief
outline of its use as a structural finish.
Beginning with all life on earth, lime stone is formed in the oceanic
environment which basically evolved from biological marine life and
shelled-creatures that lived and died. As their shell remains were left
to settle to the bottom they were buried deep into the ground by the
earth's ever changing activity such as pressure and heat. Throughout
time this material "re-crystallized" into new shapes and patterns that
grew together to form the rock we today call Lime stone.
According to experts, lime has been sheltering man for at least 7,500 years and
perhaps even longer.
As early man desperately sought shelter from the elements, we know that
one of the earliest plasters was made of lime.
Here is a likely scenario how the first lime plaster was created:
A limestone cooking platform was subjected to continuous heat and
flame. Afterward, the fire was doused with water, which initiated a
chemical reaction with the heated lime, creating a putty-like mass.
Once this plasticized lime cooled, it was molded and applied over a
framework of reed and fabric, forming walls and ceilings that offered
strong protection from wind, the sun, and precipitation.
The Lascaux caves in France are frescoed of natural iron oxide pigments
applied onto damp cave walls of high calcium content (Lime stone),
dating back as far as 16,000 years. These paintings are often
considered to be among the first true frescoes made by man.
Circa 7500 B.C.
The ancient peoples who inhabited the area of present-day Jordan made a plaster from lime and unheated crushed limestone. The plaster was used to cover walls, floors, and hearths in their homes. Artisans also crushed colored stones into a powder, which was used a decorative material.
Circa 4000 B.C
The Egyptians proved themselves highly proficient with Lime. About 6,000 years ago, they used lime to plaster the pyramids at Giza. In addition, the Egyptians also incorporated various limes into their religious temples as well as their homes.
Circa 2800 B.C.–Circa 1000 A.D.
The Greeks have enabled all of us to witness the beauty and incredible durability of true lime stuccos.
Innovative Greek builders used these fine lime plasters in creating the Parthenon and many other classic structures that survive into the present day.
753 B.C.–535 A.D.
Lime was used extensively throughout the Roman Empire. The builders during that time possessed a firm knowledge of lime's many beneficial features, as a mortar and as a decorative finishing material.
As the Empire grew, the Romans influenced architecture and structures throughout the civilized world. Consequently, many more people learned to appreciate the benefits of lime and embraced it as a building material.
In his famous book De architectura, Vitruvius asserts that a structure must exhibit the three qualities of firmitas, utilitas, and venustas—that is, it must be strong or durable, useful, and beautiful. He dedicates an entire chapter to praising lime.
Because lime was used in so many classic Roman structures and monuments which still stand, Rome richly earned its appellation: The Eternal City.
Ca. 400 A.D.–1100 A.D.
During the Dark Ages, as civilization teetered on the brink, the practice of building with lime flickered, but did not die. Art and architecture slipped into the shadows during these years. However, people continued to construct dwellings with lime, because of its excellent building properties and protective qualities.
Ca. 1300 A.D.–1800 A.D.
Into the Middle Ages, lime remained an important element in the continuity of life. Lime was widely utilized throughout Europe as a plaster and paint décor, and it served as a principal building material for homes, protecting inhabitants from inclement weather.
In southeast England in the 14th century, artisans, using trowels, applied decorative lime plaster to the exterior of timber-framed structures.
Throughout these years, lime was widely used for molded and ornamental plaster work.
During the Renaissance, lime made an explosive revival in the plastering and painting arts. In the mid-15th century, artisans from Venice created a new type of external facing called Marmorino, made by applying lime directly onto terra cotta brick and lime-mortar bases.
Craftsmen developed other impressive techniques with applied lime plaster work.
The Scagliola technique came into fashion in the 17th century as an effective substitute for costly marble inlays. Scagliola was also used to produce building facades, stucco columns, sculptures, and other architectural elements that resemble marble.
The 18th century gave rise to the renewed interest in innovative external plasters. Some builders attempted to introduce oil mastics in plasters but had little luck in gaining support.
Some time later, clay limes—non-pure hydraulic limes—were introduced to set mortar in underwater conditions. Builders intended these limes to feature a higher hydraulic set than higher calcium and magnesium limes.
The development of artificial cements started early in the 19th century. As the Industrial Revolution unfolded, builders wanted a mortar that set fast with increased strength. These hydraulic properties were derived from lime and gave face to the introduction of what we now know today as Portland cement.
The popularization of Portland cement reversed the ages-old tradition of utilizing only pure lime. As industrial progress gained steam, people demanded that buildings go up faster and faster. However, society is increasingly paying the price for its hurry-up-and-get-it-done approach to building. Many structures made of non-permeable cements are cracking and failing before our eyes.
What looms important in the present day is this critical question: does building faster, stronger, non-permeable structures create sustainable structures overall? The answer, sadly, is no.
Lime has proven itself as a durable, useful, and aesthetic construction material for thousands of years.
The reasons for using lime as a mortar and for decorative art remain valid today.
We invite you to look into the true, time-tested Benefits of Lime.