Virginia Sealcoating and Paving

History of asphalt paving

Geologists have dated asphalt back to biblical times specifically around the Dead Sea which separates Israel from Jordan, and involving the famous cities of Sodom and Gomorrah that bordered the Dead Sea.

Proof that Sodom and Gomorrah existed rests in the hands of research, but it is the minerals found here that interest us today.

The land surrounding the Dead Sea was not farmable so geologists set out to find why people would have settled there such a long time ago. They have come to the conclusion that the reason there was settling on the banks of the Dead Sea were the minerals, specifically asphalt.

Before cement was invented, asphalt was used to hold stone blocks in place due to its waterproofing and adhesive qualities. It was a valuable commodity and a naturally occuring substance used to make vessels watertight, used by the Egyptians in their embalming and for building adhesive. Research has suggested that it was a lucrative source of income, hence, they have reason to believe that may have been why cities grew up on the banks of the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is one of the few places today where natural asphalt can be found. It has been found in small segments and in 1.5 ton blocks floating on the sea. Natural asphalt was probably formed from the evaporation of petroleum.

In the early 1900's, we began refining crude petroleum and with the increase in the need for roads as automobiles emerged, asphalt became a modern day thriving industry, although very different in nature from that almost 7,000 years ago.

The Asphalt Association was founded in 1919 and today in known as the Asphalt Institute. It is considered to be the best source of information and advice on asphalt materials and uses. It's purpose is to serve the users of asphalt through programs in research and education.

Today asphalt is still found in its natural state mostly in Trinidad and Venezuela. Other than natural deposits, asphalt is currently considered a 'carefully refined residue from the distillation process of selected crude oils." (Wikipedia) Outside of North America asphalt is called bitumen, but wherever it exists, it is the main product used for road building today. In the 1880's Washington DC boasted the highest number of miles of asphalt streets in the world.

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