Bitumen is not a new phenomenon and it has been used as a waterproofing material since long ago during the Sumerian and Assyrian era and many previous civilizations, and it has been used the most in the construction and insulation of ships against water penetration and sinking. In the Bible, the name of the substance used to bind the bricks of the Tower of Babel is translated as bitumen.
Also, in ancient Egypt and ancient Greece, bitumen was used for embalming corpses, sculpting, decorations, or in the construction of temples and bridge columns, or as paving stones for the surface of streets and houses. It even played a role in defending cities during wartime against enemy attacks.
Khuzestan bitumen, which was known as “Mamatan” during the Achaemenid period, had many uses such as tool making, crafting containers with bitumen, making seals and ornaments, etc.
Achaemenians also used bitumen for sealing and insulating moisture in the magnificent palace of Persepolis. Ancient Susa artists used a mixture of bitumen and calbit and heated this material to obtain a composition that was very similar to stone. They have used this material to make various objects as well as to make statues and stones.
The beginning of the modern bitumen industry can be attributed to 1712 when natural bitumen stones were discovered in France. But the first roads made of asphalt were laid in Europe, by an English man named John Metcalf. He laid about 180 miles of naturally derived bitumen roads in the northern county of Yorkshire.
Ultimately, the early process was perfected by John Macadam, who mixed stones in with the bituminous material in order to create a stronger surface and over time, with the advancement of technology, it became more widely used and more easily available than before.
In Iran, for the first time in 1933, bitumen was used to pave Palestine Street.