The first mortars were made from mud or clay. These materials were used because of availability and low cost. The Egyptians utilized gypsum mortars to lubricate the beds of large stones when they were being moved into position(ref. i). However, these materials did not perform well in the presence of high levels of humidity and water.
It was discovered that limestone, when burnt and combined with water, produced a material that would harden with age. The earliest documented use of lime as a construction material was approximately 4000 B.C. when it was used in Egypt for plastering the pyramids(ref. ii). The beginning of the use of lime in mortars is not clear. It is well documented, however, that the Roman Empire used lime based mortars extensively. Vitruvius, a Roman architect, provided basic guidelines for lime mortar mixes(ref. iii).
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