From the Stone Age to Modern Civilization, humans have always required adequate shelter as a means of survival and over the centuries we have employed a wide range of roofing materials for protection. The earliest humans used earthly resources for their primitive roofs. One of the first known roofing materials was the skin of a giant woolly mammoth used in Siberia back in 40,000 B.C. Packed mud, sod and plants were also used which offered decent insulation but not much protection from moisture or insects.
As humanity evolved, so did roofing techniques and each civilization acquired their own preferred roofing material. In China, clay or earthenware tiles were developed and then spread to Babylon, Egypt, and eventually through Greece into Rome. The Romans then put their own spin on this design and developed slating and tiling around 100 B.C. In fact, Rome became known as “the city of tiled roofs”. Around 735
A.D., thatch roofs became more widespread within Europe and 300 years later, wood shingles were implemented.
Then, in 12th century England, King John dramatically changed the future of the roofing industry when he declared, by law, that all thatch and reed roofs be replaced with clay tiles. King John’s mandatory fire prevention efforts also gave way to new methods for the mass production of roofing materials and the industry took off from there.
In the centuries that following, European roofing techniques spread to the New World with clay tiles also being popular in the American settler town of Jamestown, Virginia. Slate has also been found in Jamestown ruins but not until later in the 17th century. Because the material was mostly imported from quarries in Wales, it was expensive and took a long time to ship across the Atlantic.
In the 19th and 20th century, concrete, metal, solar, and green roofs made their way onto the roofing scene. Depending on the country or region you may be in, roofing styles vary greatly based on local resources and cultural differences. For example, clay tile is more common in the American southwest while in the south and mid-west, wood and metal is the popular choice. The roofing industry has certainly evolved over the centuries and with so many technological advancements in the last 100 years alone, it will be interesting to see where the future of roofing leads us next.