Many people believe that asbestos is a material that originated in the modern era. It did indeed experience a surge in popularity during the late 19th century when it was used to build many of the buildings in the industrial revolution boom. It was used in everything from building insulation to hotplate wiring to electrical insulation to fabric. However, the origins of asbestos go back a lot further than this. Although large-scale asbestos mining did not really begin on a large scale until the end of the 19th century, asbestos has been used as a building material for much longer.
The Very First Asbestos Mines
The word “asbestos” comes from an Ancient Greek word that means “inextinguishable”. The material was also described in the writings of Theophrastus from approximately 300 BC. The book On Stones is thought to contain a description, although this has been questioned by scholars as the naming of materials is not always accurate from ancient times.
Charlemagne and His Magic Tablecloth
The Shrouds of Dead Kings
The amazing fireproof properties of asbestos were considered to be magical, which explains by so many ancient societies regarded it with awe.
Evidence of Health Issues
Pliny the Elder also described how the slaves would use the membrane from the bladder of a goat over their mouth and nose to protect themselves from inhaling the fibres.
These days, even after asbestos has been banned, we are still seeing the effects of this in those exposed to the material as cases of latent mesothelioma due to exposure are diagnosed every day.