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- "When wasteful war shall statues overturn, and broils root out the work of masonry."
- –William Shakespeare
- "Each of us is carving a stone, erecting a column, or cutting a piece of stained glass in the construction of something much bigger than ourselves."
- –Adrienne Clarkson
Historical Context Edit
Masonry: the “art” of construction of something, sometimes utilitarian (houses) or not (temples and palaces), from blocks of stone, brick or even concrete usually held together with mortar (if not, it’s termed “dry set” masonry).
The ancient Egyptians mastered the art of masonry as early as the fourth millennium BC, constructing temples, palaces, pyramids and other edifices from limestone, sandstone, granite and basalt found in the hills of the Nile River. The Assyrians of the Fertile Crescent lacked easy access to stone but possessed rich deposits of clay, which they sun-dried into bricks. The Babylonians too used brick, held together with mortar made of lime and pitch. The Harappa city in now-Pakistan was built around 2600 BC with bricks and gypsum mortar (now called “plaster of Paris”).
The Romans invented concrete, a superior mortar for all that stone and marble building they did … and which could be used as a construction material itself. This “concrete revolution” allowed them to build monumental structures that were impossible using more primitive materials. From 300 BC to the fall of Rome, concrete paved roads, lined aqueducts, and held the Colosseum together (among other things). But the masonry skills were lost during the Dark Ages (as was so much else) until the 1300s, when Europeans again began using concrete as mortar for their castles.
So endemic did the use of concrete become, the term “mason” evolved to include those who worked with concrete (along with the secretive members of a fraternal organization). To distinguish themselves as artisans, those who work with “real” stone took to calling themselves “stonemasons.” Although they occasionally labor on the building of modern monuments and memorials in capitals around the world, mostly they just carve tombstones these days.