Top 7 Ancient Road Transport

By Rohan Chawla → Saturday, 11 March 2017

The basic modes of transportation are land, air, and water. In the modern era, a part of our research is how to make these modes smoother, better and faster for travel and transportation. The roads being the main mode of land transport. In this article, we will take a look at the development of roads. Roads once were the natural uneven surfaces. These were not easy for travel and transport nor did they help in speedy travel. This however changed as humans realized the importance of smooth paved roads.
Here is how the roads developed as the time passed.

Mesopotamian Roads: 

The early roads adapted by humans to travel were natural surfaces. These surfaces were made flat and smooth by human feet. The human traffic along with their domesticated animals made the paths smooth and flat enough to travel. The first known existence of a paved surface is known to be found in Mesopotamia, the modern Iraq. The cities of Ur and Uruk were the first cities to have roads. These were constructed around 4000 BC. The wheel was first discovered and invented in this region. This was one of the most important reasons for the development of roads. The early man could not use the wheel to its full capacity on sandy, uneven and stony surfaces. They realized that a smooth surface makes the wheel more sustainable and the travel more steady. The people of Mesopotamia learned the art of brick making using mud. They were able to make bricks of same shape and size. They used bitumen to set the bricks to the surface.

Cretan Stone Roads: 

The island of Crete in Europe was the home to the Minoan civilization. This civilization flourished from 3650 to 1400 BC. The Minoan civilization is credited for the construction of the first paved roads. They built a 50km long paved road from Gortyna to Knossos. These regions differed in elevation by 4.300 feet which made this ancient road even more special.
The road was a layered structure which consisted of stones. Drainage was taken into account during the construction. A convex section ran throughout the length of the road with gutters along certain sections. The road had 12 feet wide pavements. These were made up of sandstone, gypsum, and clay. The middle of the road consisted of two rows of basalt slabs which were 2 inches thick. The middle of the road was used for walking while the pavements were used by carts and animals.

The Roman roads: 

The Minoan and Mesopotamian civilizations were the first road constructors but the Romans are known for the best road networks built during the ancient time. Romans were aware of the impact of a good road network over the economy, wars, and administration. The Romans learned the art of cement work and street paving from the Etruscans. They learned multiple skills from various civilizations and utilized them to build their roads. The discovery of concrete made from cement led to the development of roads during this period.
The Romans built 53,000 miles of road connecting their capital to their widespread empire. They were successful in constructing 29 military roads known as the viae militares. The most famous of these roads was the Appian Way.
The Roman roads were mostly straight. They were built over marshes, swamps, lakes and mountains. Parallel furrows were made 40 feet apart that provided proper drainage. The material obtained after digging these furrows was used to raise the foundation of the road 2-3 feet above the ground. The roads eventually became layered as they gained importance. On a bedding of mortar and sand, four layers were constructed. The first layer was known as the statumen layer. It was 10 to 24 inches thick and consisted of stones which were at least 2 inches thick. The second layer was rudus which was 9 inches thick. This layer was made up of stones whose size was less than 2 inches. The third layer was the nucleus layer which was the most important layer. It was composed of 12 inches of concrete made from gravel and sand. The last layer known as the summum dorsum consisted of large stone slabs which were at least 6inches deep. This form of road construction was adopted in 300 BC and was used for more than 2000 years. The vehicles that used this road were horse-drawn chariots and carts.

Indus Valley Civilization: 

The now known regions of Sindh, Balochistan, and Punjab were once known as the Indus valley region. This civilization flourished from 3250-2750 BC. The road was made up of burned bricks laid with bitumen onto the surface. Drainage was given great attention. Each house had drain pipelines that carried water to the center of the street. At the center was a drain hole 2-4 deep covered with slabs.

By 75AD the people in now known India were skilled in brick pavement and stone slab pavement.  The value of a well-established road network was known to the royal rulers. The royal road of the Mauryans stretched from the ranges of Himalayas to now known Allahabad.

The Middle Ages: 

The marvelous road networks that existed during the time of Romans, Mauryans and the Chinese started to disappear with the changing dynasties. These empires started perishing and the networks once used for development were now used for invasions. This led to the decline of these networks.

With the rise of the Moors, the Charlemagne and the Vikings in the 9th century, the road networks were revived. Old cities were rebuilt and new ones were being constructed by the 12th century. Street paving started being recognized as an art. Well built roads were used for bringing in food from farmlands and gained importance. The wheeled transport increased in number and quality and thus roads gained importance. There was a sudden desire to make travel more comfortable. Thus the empires started taking funds for road maintenance and upkeep. These were derived from tolls and taxes such as road-labor tax were levied. Long distance travel for commerce and trade became popular and increased rapidly. This marked the restoration of the trade route between Europe and China through Central Asia.

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