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Use of Durable Granite through Ancient and Modern Times

Granite and marble have long been the reigning high-end worktop material of choice. Granite has more popularity as a polished stone than marble due to its over-all durability and versatility.

Granite is an intrusive igneous rock that contains quartz, mica, and feldspar. It comes from crystallized magma that cooled far below the earth’s surface. In England, granite is mined in Cornwall such as De Lank and Porthoustock, and in Devon, such as Meldon. There are also granite quarries on Dartmoor such as Merrivale. It’s mined from around the world, including quarries in India, Brazil, Norway, Italy and China.

Rixö Red Granite Quarry by W.carter

Granite came from the Latin word “granum” meaning grain. Granite has an interlocking rock structure due to being heated and compressed under high pressure under the earth’s crust. This formation is what gives granite its strength and the grainy look for which it was named after. Due to its mineral composition, it provides an exceptional structural, decorative and epic material. It has a density of 2700 kg/m3, hardness of 7 by Mohs scale and 150 to 250 MPa compressive strength. This only means that not only is granite sturdy, it is also resistant to both heat and cold, and highly resistant to aging and weathering.

Granite is a popular stone because it is very durable, easy to grind and shape, and relatively abundant. Because of its abundance, granite is almost considered an inexhaustible rock. It has been used in a lot of interior and exterior applications. When polished, it can preserve its shine for many centuries. The products made of granite are sure to last for a long time.

Granite rocks can also provide aesthetic value because of its various colours, varying between the white granite from Norway and black granite from Africa. The wide range of colour variety like blue, pearl grey, donkey grey, cream, off white, pink, red, and green means that granite can offer unique colours and impeccable decorative value.

Granite is Part of the History of Human Civilization

Natural stone has always been a crucial part of the material culture of the human race. The Stone Age reveals how humans faced the need to utilize stone as part of its civilization development.

The Stone Age, dating from 800 to 5000 years BC, is known for the earliest cultural-historical period of human civilization. Stone was the primary material used to make utility items such as tools (axes, hoes) and weapons (arrow tips, spears). It was also used as decorative ornament and sometimes used to symbolize the meaning of human life, residences, and religious shrines and memorials.

Egyptian Pyramid Granite

Many of Egyptian pyramids used granite slabs as part of its base, columns, walls and floor veneer

The importance of stone in human civilization paved the way for the development of stone tools and was named the Paleolithic Age (from the Latin paleo meaning old and lith meaning stone),

Primitive human communities processed stone by using rough and unprocessed trappings to invent and innovate on various cutting tools. During that period, men slowly improved and developed the operation of stone processing in the following chronological sequence:

  • Dislodging and breaking off stones during the Early and Middle Paleolithic (800 to 35,000 years BC)
  • Splitting and rough hewing during the Late Paleolithic (35,000 to 10,000 years BC)
  • Cutting, grinding, and drilling holes during the Neolithic (10,000 to 5,000 years BC)
Obelisk Granite

The red granite obelisk at the Luxor Temple has a pair that is currently standing at the Place De La Concorde in Paris.

During the Bronze Age (4,000 to 2,000 years BC) and Iron Age (2,000 to 1,000 years BC), metals tools were invented. The use of primitive stone tools ended with the discovery of copper. But, around the same time, humans learned to master the skill of processing the hardest rock material known – Granite. The Egyptians, whose civilization takes us almost 8 millennia back from modern world, had the foremost information about granite processing. Under the rule of pharaohs and dynasties, hundreds of thousands of people worked together on the construction of pyramids and creation of sarcophagus for pharoahs.

How the Egyptians learned to use granite is still subject to academic debate, but it cannot be denied how Granite remains to be an important stone even in antiquity. The technological and technical aspect of processing granite by Egyptians is truly admirable for its precision and long-lasting history. The Great Pyramid of Giza is known for a colossal granite sarcophagus fashioned of red granite from Aswan.

The creation of these granite monuments was carried out by hundreds of thousands of people under the rule of dynasties. The amount of time, work, and resources needed to build these eternal memorials are astonishing. But the aim was to build precise, enormous, lavish testaments to Egyptian rule, and most of these monuments have lasted up to this day.

The Greek civilization was known for the widespread use of marble in the ancient Hellenic period. They favored the use of marble in their finest architecture and exquisite statues. It wasn’t until the Roman Greece period when granite was used again extensively for constructions.

The Romans favored granite and marble for different uses. Marble was primarily used for decorative and aesthetic purposes, whereas Granite was used extensively for buildings and constructions for its strength and durability. The Romans did not use massive granite and marble blocks. Instead, they lined buildings made from brick and mortar with granite slabs.

In this way, the Romans were able to use the knowledge and experience of their ancestors. They improved granite processing and left many monuments and temples in Europe. Romans were also known to build aqueducts and bridges. The well-preserved granite Tagus Bridge at Alcantara, Spain has arches spanning over 30 metres.

Alcantara bridge granite

During the Medieval and Renaissance Period, no considerable progress was made in granite processing. These periods were characterized by a lot of architectural development and construction. It was also around this time when the Saint Michael’s Mount, a small tidal island in Mount’s Bay, Cornwall was developed. The island is linked to the town of Marazion by a man-made causeway of granite setts.

St Michael

The rock exposures around St Michael island has well-developed granite that is sheeted in greisen veins.

It is also worthy to note that during the 18th century, rivers and canals in the city centre of Saint Petersburg, Russia were lined with granite embankments. And, in 1782, an enormous granite monolith monument devoted to Peter the Great was raised with a basement of pink granite known as the Thunderstone. It weighed 1500 tonnes and is known as the largest stone ever moved by humans.

The Bronze Horseman is an impressive red polished granite monolith, 3 meters in diameter, 25 meters in height, weighing 500 tonnes that was placed on a basement of polished granite with 6.5 meters on the sides, 1.5 meters in height and 150 tonnes in weight. It inspires awe and respect in modern men with its large scale.

Thunderstone Granite

The equestrian statue of Peter the Great is situated in the Senate Square of Saint Petersburg

Modern Technology Brings Granite Closer to Mankind

Due to modern technology, quarrying techniques for granite has improved greatly. Over the last decade, people have started preferring natural stones for their durability and aesthetic value. People now prefer strong stones like granite and marble for their walls, flooring, and worktops. This is because the same granite that immortalized monuments and shrines can now add their beauty and versatility inside the home.

If you prefer the beauty and strength of granite for your indoor or outdoor installation, The Marble Store offers a wide selection of granite in various colours and finishes.

Why don’t you ask one of our granite specialists for specific advice on what type of granite you need? Please call us on 0208 216 2041 or use our contact form here.

Granite Kitchen Worktop

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