What is tufa? History of Architecture

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A block of tufa from Caere with an Etruscan inscription on it.

A block of tufa from Caere with an Etruscan inscription on it.

Tufa (some people call it “tuff”)  is a kind of limestone that is very common in Italy. Tufa is very soft when it is first cut from the ground, so it is easy to work with. It’s not soft like butter, but it is easier to cut than harder stones like granite. Tufa is easier to work than travertine or marble. But tufa is a coarser stone, so you can’t get it to look as smooth as travertine or marble either. Tufa is always going to have a rough surface. If you look at a pumice stone, which is kind of the same texture, you’ll see what I mean.

A block of tufa (with an Etruscan inscription on it)

Blocks of tufa from a Roman wall

The Etruscans and the Romans used tufa a lot in early temples and in their tombs. But gradually they started using finer stones like travertine and marble instead. By the time of Julius Caesar, tufa was mainly used where it wouldn’t show- in the foundations of buildings, or where it was going to be covered with slabs of marble or stucco.

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By |2018-04-15T10:20:00+00:00May 25th, 2017|Architecture, Romans|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. What is tufa? History of Architecture. Quatr.us Study Guides, May 25, 2017. Web. January 23, 2019.

About the Author:

Dr. 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, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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