In early times roads were used for transporting people and goods. People walked or used animals. Roads were tracks or traces that often used or paralleled game trails. Roads also were and are careers of ideas.
One example that still exists in the US is the Natchez Trace.
Natchez Trace is an ancient route that extends roughly around 440 miles from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, linking the Cumberland, Tennessee and Mississippi rivers.
Natchez Trace was Used for centuries. Paleo-Indians used it (12,000-8,000 BC). Native Americans also used it. It was later used by early European and American explorers, traders and emigrants in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Portions of the trace are deeply eroded due to years of travel. In some areas near Jackson, Mississippi, the sunken or old trace is as much as 6 feet lower than surrounding land.
In the civilization of Mesopotamia where wheels were developed was one of the first areas roads developed. The roads were hard surfaces for travel purposes. Most likely goods transported were packed material, soil, etc.
In 2000 BC, the Minoans built a road from Knossos in the mountains to Gortyn and Lebena on the coast. It was 50 kilometers. It was made of sandstone blocks and gypsum mortar.
The Silk Road
The Silk Road and its connectors were the major links between China, Asia, the Middle East and Europe.It was 4,000 miles long and began before 114 BC.It was a series of caravan tracks and was more of series of routes rather than a true road.It was named after the prized silks traded by the Chinese for Western goods.
Some of the more famous ancient roads that can still be found in Europe are the Roman Roads.
The Romans used beds of crushed stones.More frequently traveled roads used pavers to allow chariots to travel more quickly.They were build to allow the armies to travel quickly from one part of the Empire to the other parts. (At least as quickly as you could by foot, horse, and chariot). Some of these roads still exist.
Street paving started in the first human settlements around 4000 BC in the Indus Valley Civilization of the Indian subcontinent, such as Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. Roads in the towns were straight and long, intersecting one another at right angles.
Early Paved Roads
In the medieval Islamic world, many roads were built throughout the Arab Empire. The most sophisticated roads were those of Baghdad, Iraq, which were paved with tar in the 8th century. Tar was derived from petroleum, accessed from oil fields in the region, through the chemical process of destructive distillation.
At the beginning days of Baghdad, road surfaces were paved with tar from oil deposits.Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas built roads from inland cities to coast to move food and trade goods.
Early Road Builders
Blind Jack Metcalf was a pioneer in road building in England in 1765. He opined that roads
needed sound foundation and drainage.He was blind, he lost his sight at age six from smallpox.
Built macadam hard-surface roads in England in 1815. He invented a new process, “macadamisation”, for building roads with a smooth hard surface that would be more durable and less muddy than soil-based tracks.
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Sometimes a road is a road and sometimes it is a well-trod route and more like a trail. The Natchez Trace is an interesting example. More the latter than the former. The Romans built formal roads using advanced engineering design that was not duplicated until MacAdam created his composite gravel and hard-surfaced roads in the 19th century. As for the trade routes, describing them as roads is a misnomer. These were more like rights-of-way that combined trails, paths, ancient roads, rivers and even oceans and seas. The stimulus for use was the high value placed on the goods that transited through these areas.
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