HOW GRANITE WAS USED IN THE ANCIENT WORLD, AND HOW IT IS USED TODAY
As Old as the Pharaohs!
Granite is the oldest igneous, natural stone on earth, and its first known usage harks back to
ancient Egypt. Historically, it began with its being used in the crudest from, with large blocks
of the stone being cut and shaped manually. It was a very labor-intensive activity, indeed.
Menkaure's Pyramid, most likely dating to the 26th Century BC, was constructed
of limestone and granite blocks. The Great Pyramid of Giza (c.2580 BC) contains a huge
sarcophagus of red granite from Aswan.
Historians have discovered uses of granite in Ancient Egypt that include columns, door
lintels, sills, jambs, and wall and floor veneer. Due to its natural, colored grain, granite was
also used in colorful paving of roads.
The Chola Dynasty of South India built the world's first temple entirely of granite in the 11th
Up to the 4th Century AD, granite was widely used by the Romans in construction, especially
in wall-veneers and tunnels, aqueducts, and bridges, and more rarely, in artistic objects. It
was only during the Medieval Ages that granite waned in popularity, perhaps on account of
its difficulty to be carved into aesthetic objects.
It was during the 12 th Century that a man-made causeway of granite setts linked the island
of St. Michaels’ Mount to the Cornwall mainland, and is in use even today.
Set in stone
Victorian Britain put granite to use as a more practical alternative to marble, since the non-
corrosive properties and magnificent colors of this natural stone withstood the test of time,
and this soon became a symbol of social stature.
Dwelling further on the use of granite for construction, it has been extensively used as
a dimension stone and as flooring tiles in public and commercial buildings and
monuments. Aberdeen in Scotland, constructed principally from local granite, is known as
"The Granite City." Because of the abundance of this natural stone, granite was commonly
used to build foundations for homes in New England. A most unusual use of granite was in
the construction of the rails for the Haytor Granite Tramway, Devon, England, in 1820.
In more recent times, granite found favor in military engineering- Finland planted granite
boulders along its Mannerheim Line to deflect invasion by Russian tanks in 1940. Granite
boulders also come in handy for building retaining walls and dykes.
Rock of Ages
Mt Rushmore stands head and shoulders (excuse the pun) above all as an everlasting
granite monument to previous American Presidents. Even the Statue of Liberty is grounded
well and solid on its granite pedestal.
In some areas, granite is used for gravestones and memorials. Granite is a naturally
occurring hard stone and requires skill to carve by hand. Until the early 18th century,
granite could only be carved by hand tools and the results were often not very aesthetic,
and required the more advanced tools of modern times.
Closer to home, hearth, and business- tops for countertops
Being is one of the hardest materials on earth makes granite durable and it is available in a
wide array of colors and textures. It remains the top choice for counter tops, and is also
widely used for flooring and wall tiles. Because of its exceptional strength, granite is well
suited for exterior applications such as cladding, paving, and curbing, outperforming other
materials in maintenance, physical characteristics, and lifespan.
Polished granite is the number one choice for kitchen and bathroom countertops nowadays,
due to its high durability and myriad colors. The variety is endless, and it can be cut to suit
all kitchens, backsplashes, and any counter tops requiring a smooth, workable surface,
needing minimal maintenance. The myriad combinations of granite’s colored grain can be
chosen to complement any color-scheme.
Used widely in homes, bars, diners, and specialized table tops, granite can safely
incorporate cantilevers, free spans and overhangs, as part of almost every application.
In the kitchens and bathrooms, not only is it used for counter tops and vanities, but can be
adeptly customized to accommodate other installations, e.g. sinks and cooktops.
Did you know?
The town of Felicity, California, houses the Museum of History in Granite. This museum is a
contender for status as a World Heritage Site.
New Hampshire is known as ‘The Granite State’.
The stones used in the sport of ‘Curling’ are made from granite on account of their
durability, since the sport is played on ice, the smooth surface of granite facilitates the
Thus, what started as it being used for purely construction purposes, granite soon worked
itself by sheer dint of its highly-prized qualities into kitchens and bathrooms, and has
become a part of our everyday lives.
Nelson L. Nemerow (2009) Environmental Engineering: Environmental Health and Safety for
Municipal Infrastructure, Land Use and Planning, and Industry. John Wiley &