Technology-driven Civilization

The article is all about the historical development of road construction and the role of technology in the development.

Transportation, as far as mankind is concerned, remains an undisputed factor in the improvement of countries' economies and widespread civilization of the human world, and the transformation of a country from an underdeveloped state to a developing state and then to a developed state. There are several means of transportation with very incredible history and invention; the air, the sea, the land, and even the pipelines as means of transportation for crude oil. Each with its own fascinating and peculiar nature and problems.

But the land as a means of transportation has always been a source of intriguing possibilities, and its development over the centuries has never ceased to lower its momentum and shows no sign of ever becoming less fascinating and important. The history of road construction dates back to ancient times in the history of mankind. A road is an open way for travel and transportation. At the same time, road construction is the provision of a route for travel and transportation. The earliest road network was built by the pharaoh's Cheops in Egypt around 2500 BC, which was 1000 yards long and 60 feet wide. But it was never regarded as a true road because it served only one purpose leading to the site of the Egyptian pyramids. There were several other ancient road builders who emerged like the Assyrian empire, which began the first organized road-building in 1115 BC and continued it for about 600 years.

The Royal Road was built by the Persians from the Persian Gulf to the Aegean sea for a distance of 1775 miles around 800 BC, Carthage, on the north coast of Africa. Of all the ancient road builders, the best of them all is believed to be ancient Romans, who constructed the world's best engineered, straightest, and most sophisticated road networks until modern times.

Constructing road networks of 53000 miles of roads, which enveloped all of England to the north, the majority of western Europe, radiated throughout the Iberian peninsula. Covered and laid athwart of the entire Mediterranean area.

This Roman road was composed of a graded soil foundation topped by four courses

  • A bedding of sand or mortal
  • Rows of large and flat stones
  • A thin layer of gravel mixed with lime
  • A thin surface of flint-like lava

The roads were about 3 to 5 feet thick and had variable widths from 8 to 35 feet, but 12 to 24 feet was the average width for the main road. Their road construction style remained the best and most complex until the advent of modern road construction technologies in the very late 18th and 19th centuries. Amazingly, in 1717 in Scotland, a man named John Metcalfe, who became blind at age 6, built many miles of roads and bridges in Yorkshire, England.

The roads were built in three layers:

  • A foundation of large stones
  • A mixture of road materials
  • A layer of gravel

Later around the very late 18th century, road construction received a massive boost from two British engineers, namely Thomas Telford and John Loudon McAdam, who had different road construction systems. Thomas Telford, originally a stonemason, had a very brilliant system of road construction, which included:

  • Digging a trench and installation of heavy rock for the foundation
  • Surfacing with a 6-inch layer of gravel

The center of the road is raised during construction, producing a crown that allows water to drain off. Though faster and less expensive, it's still costly and requires constant resurfacing with gravel. Furthermore, McAdam's system of road construction was quite peculiar in the principle of building a well-drained road built directly on the subsoil instead of on a stone foundation in Telford's system.

McAdam roads were composed of: 

  • Placing a closely compacted 10-12 inch layer of stone, which has been broken to an inch in diameter and raised in the center to facilitate drainage
  • Then a carpet of finer-grained stone that cemented by the setting of the powder.

A process is completed in stages, allowing the road traffic to compact each stage. McAdam's roads have the advantage of speed and low cost but lack the ability to support heavy motor vehicles, which proved its ultimate undoing, which proved Telford's system the standard road construction system for roads that will support heavy motor vehicles.

Road construction has a very long and fascinating history and will continue to evolve as long technology evolves, and as far as the need for improved transportation and relationship between societies and nations countries continue to increase. Finally, Road construction has been bombarded by many situations like road accidents, armed robbery attacks, and increased costs of transportation. But will continue to evolve as the need for it arises.

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