Why use Basalt?
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Why use basalt?

Basalt road
A Roman road paved in basalt
(This is from Trajan's Market in Rome)

Basalt is a volcanic stone - it forms from the lava that volcanoes spew out when they erupt. Stone carvers in Ancient Egypt used basalt to make statues.


Egyptian basalt statue
of Cleopatra (not that Cleopatra,
but an earlier one, related to her)
from the Hermitage Museum in Russia

Basalt is a very hard, black stone, and so the Romans used it for roads, because it would last a long time. People in the ancient world also used basalt for grinding stones, to grind wheat and barley. Roman traders often shipped basalt (bu-SALT) grinding stones on sailing ships to markets all over the Mediterranean, so people could have good grinding stones even where there weren't any volcanoes.


A basalt grain mill from
the Roman town of Ostia

Bibliography and further reading:

Volcanoes, by Peter Francis and Clive Oppenheimer (second edition 2004).

Why is basalt igneous?
What is Limestone?
What is Tufa?
What is Travertine?
What is Marble?
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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