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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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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Now that the weather's nice, try some of these outdoor activities! How about bicycle polo, or archery for a Medieval Islam day? Or kite flying or making a compass for a day in Medieval China? How about making a shaduf for a day in Ancient Egypt? Holding an Ancient Greek Olympic Games or a medieval European tournament? Building a Native American wickiup?