What Were The First Buildings That Used Plaster?

Plaster is one of the most important materials for creating beautiful, safe and comfortable homes, with countless styles from Venetian plaster walls to ornate and elaborate frescos highlighting an incredible level of versatility.

Part of the reason for this is that whilst all plasters have a binding agent, an aggregate and a fibre, there is a lot of room for flexibility with those different materials.

Whilst Venetian plaster typically consists of marble chips and slaked lime (and notably no aggregates), plaster can also be made with ingredients as simple as clay, sand and structural fibre such as straw or animal hair.

This makes plaster a material far older than you might expect, predating the discovery of gypsum and by extension lime, as well as predating civilisation as we know it.

Plaster And The Birth Of Civilisation

Between 12,000 BC and 7000 BC, the ways in which people fundamentally lived their lives were changing, as people changed from travelling groups of hunter-gatherers to farmers that started to settle down in areas where they could grow the first crops.

These farms grew to become settlements, then towns and finally cities, and this fundamental shift in purpose led to a change in how buildings and shelters would be constructed.

One of the first major examples of this was Çatalhöyük, based near the city of Konya in Turkey, which was initially found in 7500 and became one of the earliest prototypical cities to have been discovered.

What is notable is that even by this stage buildings were made from baked mud brick houses coated in plaster to a very smooth finish, with the development of plaster finishing even at this early stage being highly sophisticated.

Because earthen plaster could be made from sand, clay and the waste of grains being grown, plaster was widely available and would bake dry thanks to the heat of the sun.

Once that was done, the baked plaster could then be whitewashed, painted and decorated, highlighting that this was not merely a place to stay before travelling ever onwards, but a home they could call their own.

The clay in the local area was ideal for plastering, and as a result, led to the production of many different frescoes and statues made from plaster that highlight what living in the densely-populated town was like, as well as animals, the nearby volcanoes and patterns.

The Great Plaster Pyramids

However, the biggest change and revolution in plaster came from one of the first and by far the most famous ancient civilisations in history.

Construction in Ancient Egypt was filled with both wonder and influence, and architects and builders used remarkably ingenious techniques to move vast quantities of stone to create the Great Pyramids.

However, the discovery that matters most is the discovery of gypsum, a mineral rock that functions similarly to lime, and could be heated, crushed and mixed with water to create a plaster that when mixed with lime made a strong, beautifully smooth surface.

This plaster has survived for thousands of years, outliving a civilisation famed for its longevity and allowing for easy and beautiful paintings to be drawn on the walls.

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