Terrazzo

From Academic Kids

Terrazzo is a faux-marble flooring system.

Origionally created by Venetian construction workers as a kind of 15th century value added product, the workers used marble chips from upscale jobs to create Terrazzo. The workers would usually set them in clay to surface the patios around their living quarters. Consisting originally of marble chips, clay, goat milk (as the sealer), production of Terrazzo became much easier after the 1920s and the introduction of electric industrial grinders and other power equipment.

It is interesting to note that newly set Terrazzo will not look like marble unless it is wet. That's where the goat's milk comes in, acting as a sealer and preserving the wet and thus marble-like look.

Modern terrazzo is made with synthetic resins like epoxy or urethane.


Archaeologists use the word terrazzo to describe the floors of early neolithic buildings (PPN A and B, ca. 9.000-8.000 BC) in Western Asia, that are constructed of burnt lime and clay, coloured red with ochre and polished. The embedded crushed limestone gives it a slightly mottled appearance. The use of fire to produce burnt lime, which was also used for the hafting of implements thus predates the use of pottery by almost a thousand years. In the in the early Neolithic settlement of Cayönü in eastern Turkey ca. 90 m² of terrazzo floors have been uncovered. The floors of the PPN B settlement of Nevali Cori measure about 80 m². They are 15 cm thick, and contain about 10-15 % lime.

These floors are almost impenetrable to moisture and very durable, but their construction involved a high input of energy. Gourdin and Kingery (1975) estimate that about 5 times the amount of wood is needed to produce the required amount of lime, but recent experiments by Affonso and Pernicka have shown that only the double amount is needed. But that would still amount to 4.5 metric tons of dra wood for the floors in Cayönü, in what is an only sparsely wooded environment today.

Other sites with terrazzo floors include Nevali Cori, Göbekli Tepe, and Kastros (Cyprus).

Further reading

  • W. H. Gourdin/W. D. Kingery, W.D., The Beginnings of Pyrotechnology. Neolithic and Egyptian Lime Plaster, Journal of Field Archaeology 2, 1975, 133-150.

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