Fully carpeted floors seem like a relic of the past, specifically the ’70s when shag flooring ruled the roost. But carpet actually dates much, much farther back.You can probably guess that natural stone flooring is one of them, and maybe even tile. But what kinds of floors did humans have when they lived with animals in the house? A few truly traditional flooring materials may surprise you.Here’s a look at what’s been underfoot for the past 5,000 years or so.About 5,000 years ago, Egyptians developed stone construction. Stone and brick floors began to appear. Soon these floors became works of art as well as a useful surface for the home. Coloured tiles created patterns called mosaics across the floor to add beauty to the house.
As far back as 3,000 years ago, Greeks created pebble mosaics for their floors. Gradually they began using oblong stone shapes rather than pebbles. This technique was used in ancient France, Spain, Italy, and Northern Europe.
During the Roman Empire (27 BC to AD 476) engineers found another advantage of stone floors – heating. They built a small basement with pillars under the floor to support large stone squares. A vent was created at one end of the basement, and a fire was started under the opposite end. The heat and smoke from the fire would heat the stone floor above.Evidence also shows that ceramic tiles were used for floors thousands of years ago. Tile floors are also an ancient relic, with the first instance of ceramic tiles being used sometime around 4000 B.C. The style became truly popular though in the 12th century when monks began using tiles to create patterns on cathedral floors. Today, tiles can be found in almost any room, but are a particularly popular choice in utility rooms like bathrooms and kitchens.
Roman Heated Stone Floors
This process made use of large tiles propped up on joists so that a gap was created beneath the surface of the floor. A furnace was placed at one end of this gap and, while a vent was placed at the other end. The heat from the burning furnace was drawn across the bottom of the floor toward the vent, warming the tile above. These heated floors were used in the homes of the wealthy throughout the life of the empire.
The Romans introduced tile making in portions of Western Europe. During the Roman Empire, the art of natural stone flooring reached new heights of innovation. Masterful Roman architects were able to design a series of floors that were actually heated from below; these were the first below-surface radiant heating systems. After the fall of Rome, however, the craft was forgotten for centuries.
In many early homes, the floor was just a patch of ground. This is still true in some parts of the world, such as places in Africa where the weather is always warm. Dirt is a good, inexpensive surface. Hay, straw, and cow dung are sometimes strewn on the floor and tamped down as people walk on it, creating a surface almost as hard as cement.In some regions, household waste was just thrown on the floor and trampled down. During the Middle Ages in Europe (about AD 400 to 1400), animals sometimes shared the house with peasants, though in a separate room.Occasionally the animals wandered into the humans’ part of the house, and their dung was also trampled into the floor. There were numerous variations in the practice of compacting material into a dirt floor. Some methods would help ensure that the floor would set well. Others seemed to be designed for aesthetics. Animal blood, most often taken from a slaughtered pig, was commonly sprinkled over trampled-refuse surfaces to harden them faster. Mint was used in many European floor surface mixes as a deodorizing agent, to help counteract the smell of waste and feces.
The History of Natural Stone Flooring
Stone construction was first developed in Egypt over 5000 years ago, with the building of palaces and monuments using large bricks of mountain-cut material. Today, the pyramids at Giza have some of the oldest examples of natural stone flooring in the world, proving the long-term resilience of these surface coverings. The use of stone in flooring continued to develop over time, and there is evidence that the Greeks were creating pebble mosaic floors as early as 3000 years ago. These were made by placing hundreds of small, rounded stones into a mortar bed to form an image.
Evolution of Hardwood Floors
One of the most beloved floor choices today is, of course, hardwood floors. The sleek style of hardwood first showed up as long ago as 1600 A.D. In more recent years, several more flooring options have surfaced, including engineered wood in 1960 and laminate in 1970. But the newest notable option is the arrival of bamboo floors in 1990. The eco-friendly option is easy to maintain, natural and durable and is even resistant to damage caused by moisture and insects.The earliest known wood floors came into use during theMiddle Ages. At first, rough planks were laid across the floor. Then these were sanded or smoothed by rubbing them with stone or metal. Later, varnishes or stains were applied to help smooth the floor and make it last longer.
Ancient Indian Flooring
Traditional dirt floors were given a new twist in the Indian subcontinent with the addition of an array of colorful decorative sands. These could be strewn across the floor or mixed with rice powder and flower petals to tint and color the natural surface of the ground randomly. They could also be arranged in intricate patterns and designs, in an art form known as rangoli, which is still practiced today.
Early North American Flooring
Tribal people in North America commonly poured large amounts of sand over the ground inside their structures and then smoothed out the sand. The sand layer would collect waste and refuse and, over time, would turn mucky, much like a giant litter box. At that point, it could be swept out of the structure and then replaced with a fresh layer of sand, creating a warm, soft, relatively sanitary floor covering.
Another practice common in North America was to spread peanut and sunflower seed shells across the floor. As the floor was walked on, the oil from the shells would coat the occupants’ feet and become spread out across the dirt floor, hardening its surface while making it more compact, stable, and free of dust.
In early North American homes, settlers would sometimes spread sand on top of the dirt floor. When the litter in the room became unbearable, they’d simply sweep it out the door along with the sand. Then they’d spread a new layer of sand on the floor. Other settlers would spread peanut and sunflower seed shells on the floor. As these were trampled underfoot, the shells spread oil into the dirt to help settle the dust.
In the Los Banos area of central California, Native American Yokuts dug house pits about three feet deep. They piled the dirt outside the hole for walls. Then they made domes from branches, reeds, and mud for a roof.
The history of flooring is quite intriguing and provides us with an in-depth knowledge about it.