Road paving has been practiced for thousands of years, though the modern form we know as asphalt was not first utilized until the 1800’s.

Highway builders used to rely on stone, gravel and sand for road construction. This method stabilised roads so horses could traverse them safely while also decreasing mud and dust accumulation.

Ancient Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia, also known as Mesopotamia, lies between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and is commonly referred to as “Land Between the Rivers.” Although semi-arid with a dry climate, this region boasts plenty of fertile land due to floods which deposit silt onto the soil annually. Thus, farming here can be highly successful.

As a result, agriculture was highly productive in ancient Mesopotamia. Farmers constructed irrigation systems and planted barley, wheat, vegetables and fruit with great success. Check out for the best paving specialists adelaide.

This region was abundant with bitumen deposits which the Mesopotamian kings exploited as a monopoly. This made it possible to build roads and dams, leading the cities of ancient Mesopotamia to blossom into great civilizations.

Ancient Greece

During the ancient Greek period, paving became more widely used for roads and public buildings due to improved Greek construction techniques that proved more durable than their predecessors.

Ancient Greece stood out among other civilizations with a free enterprise economy that prioritized private property and limited government intervention. It also had laws protecting individual rights, officials who controlled weights and measures, as well as law courts to settle disputes and uphold public policies.

Ancient Greece largely focused its economic activities at the household level, rather than at state or national levels. This was a result of Greek values which prioritized community over individuality.

Ancient Egypt

During the Pharaonic period, ancient Egyptians developed several new architectural styles that utilized bricks. They employed this technique when constructing temples and tombs.

At first, they constructed these structures using mud bricks; however, over time they switched to using stones as well. Furthermore, they began experimenting with different materials for building buildings and palaces.

One of their greatest achievements was the invention of paving. This type of surface allowed human-drawn sleds to transport basalt stone from a quarry on the Nile to monument sites.

Roman Empire

Rome was renowned for their incredible engineering feats, leaving behind them many bridges, canals, stone-paved roads and other masterpieces across the Empire. These roads served many purposes – whether for trade, transporting goods and people or military purposes – which proved essential to Rome’s expansion and continued prosperity.

Roads were constructed using multiple layers of materials for durability and stability. These included a base layer of gravel, leveled earth, and lime mortar.

Another layer was composed of rubble masonry and smaller stones set in lime mortar, then covered with gravel, paving stones and a concrete mixture for smoothness and durability.

Roman road systems had many issues, but the Romans managed to make their roads stronger and more reliable over centuries. Additionally, they set new standards in road construction and technology which would be followed for generations after the fall of Rome.

Early 1800’s

In the early 1800s, most streets were made from dirt. Unfortunately, these surfaces proved unreliable and would become impassable quagmires during rainy periods.

However, Mordecai Levi from Charleston, West Virginia pioneered a way to pave streets using bricks. This innovative paving method quickly spread throughout many American cities.

The earliest paving materials included cobblestones, naturally round stones that served as ship ballast and were dumped at local wharves. Later on, wood blocks became popular for paving streets.

19th Century

In the 19th century, cities began paving streets with various pavement materials. Cobblestones–a type of rounded stone used for ship ballast–became increasingly common along many east coast cities.

John Loudon McAdam, a Scottish inventor, invented what would come to be known as “macadam,” an innovative road surface made up of broken stones bound together by tar. This method quickly gained widespread acceptance as an efficient means for creating durable roads.

Sidewalk paving composed of granite blocks was a popular design in Boston during the mid-19th century. Examples can be seen today at commercial districts and large warehouses along the waterfront.


The 1920s were a decade that witnessed incredible artistic, cultural and technological breakthroughs. Yet life back then was very different than it is today.

Before asphalt became the dominant pavement type in the 1920s, North American cities used a wide range of street pavement materials. This diversity was matched by the labor skills necessary to fabricate and install them.

Scotland and northern England had long used appropriate depths of paving stones to accommodate the weight and volume of traffic on any given road. Thomas Telford, a Scottish engineer in the early 1800s, pioneered raising the bed of his road for drainage purposes; this allowed him to create roads with relatively flat grades that were more suitable for horses than their higher Roman counterparts; this marked an important development towards modern HMA pavements.


In the 1930s, paving industry underwent a significant technological leap. Cold feed systems and pressure injection devices were introduced to more precisely measure materials used in asphalt paving projects.

Another groundbreaking innovation was the invention of the free floating screed, designed to flatten material beneath it. This device revolutionized paving and enabled more consistent thickness on pavements.

In addition to new technologies, the 1930s saw many other advancements in paving equipment. These included tractor units (instead of horse-drawn equipment) and vertical tamping bars.


In the 1940s, pavers experienced a profound transformation. World War II brought with it new equipment that was far more efficient and versatile than that which existed in decades past.

In 1985, the federal government passed the Interstate Highway Act which allocated fifty one billion dollars to states for highway construction projects. This enabled contractors to purchase larger machines like electronic level controls and extra-wide finishers which proved more efficient and user friendly than their smaller predecessors.

In addition, asphalt began becoming increasingly popular due to its cost-efficiency over concrete. As a result, highways across America began being repaved and renovated using this revolutionary material – marking an important turning point in paving history that helped lay the foundations for modern highways we enjoy today.


The 1950’s marked the conclusion of World War II and ushering in a new baby boom. It was an era of rapid technological progress, with vibratory steel-wheel rollers and electronic leveling controls becoming commonplace.

In the 1950s, an increasing number of wheeled vehicles necessitated more skilled labor to create roadway surfaces capable of supporting heavier loads.

Scottish inventor John Loudon McAdam created macadam, a pavement design that required workers to break rocks into an even size so they could be passed through a two-inch ring (Figure 3). Macadam roadways remain popular today throughout the United Kingdom.

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