We come into contact with asphalt every day. It’s used to pave roads, driveways, and parking lots. Most of the time we don’t think about how much asphalt is used in the United States. In reality, the U.S. produces about 350 million metric tons of asphalt per year. That is used for everything from roads to parking lots.
But where did liquid asphalt come from? What was it traditionally used for, and how does asphalt differ today from days of yore?
The Original Asphalt
In the rest of the world, asphalt is called bitumen, which is a much more accurate term. Bitumen refers to the liquid deposits in the earth, which we often think of as tar or oil. Asphalt is natural to the earth in the same way. Asphalt is really a natural petroleum product made up of organisms, animals, and reptiles that decayed over billions of years.
The First to Use Natural Asphalt
Natural asphalt has been used for a number of purposes over the last several thousand years. The ancient Egyptians used asphalt to coat the bindings that they used for mummies to preserve the body. In 6000 B.C. the Sumerians used asphalt as a sealant for building construction.
What we think of as asphalt today is actually refined asphalt. The natural bitumen deposits are raided for natural asphalt, which is then refined in plants across the country and the world. The refined asphalt, mixed with fine gravel and oil, is what makes up most of our roadways. Asphalt was not refined in this way until the early 1900s.
As you can see, liquid asphalt has been around and used for thousands of years, and we will probably continue to use it for many more centuries.
If you are interested in laying new asphalt, contact us today for more information.