It is easy to think that people used to sleep outside under the stars or be protected from the elements in caves, however, archeologists have found evidence that early roofs were made from a variety of organic substances such as animal parts, wood, rocks, and clay.

Early people were limited to the roofing materials that could be found in their natural environment. Tropical places usually used palm fronds (these are still popular in tropical places), and in the plain lands, they would use animal skins or mud.

Thatched roofing — a natural reed and grass that is dried to be waterproof — began with temporary shelters for nomadic people. Presumably, between 5000 and 1800 BC, the first hunter-gatherers colonized the areas between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea and eventually settled there long-term. As they built their homes, thatched roofing was the covering of choice due to readily available materials and the effectiveness of thatch in keeping out the rain, though they were subject to collapse with heavy rains. Thatch also allowed for air circulation, which I imagine was helpful since they didn’t have HVAC back then.

It is said that the earliest finds of roof tiles were found in archaic Greece fand documented rom a very restricted area around Corinth. Supposedly, fired tiles began to replace thatched roofs starting at the temples of Apollo and Poseidon between 700 and 650 BC.

Some Europeans used baked clay for their roofs, resulting in the signature Terra-cotta look of Spanish and Mediterranean architecture. By the early 1900s, red-painted concrete tiles were being used as a lower-cost alternative.  Tiles have spread to many countries as the number of styles and colors expanded and homeowners learned of their durability and weather resistant qualities.

Asphalt shingles were not developed until the 1920s. Easy and inexpensive to manufacture and install, asphalt shingles quickly became a popular choice. They are the most popular roofing material to this day.

Today’s roofing products are created for durability and versatility, not just to give us more options. Affordable choices are readily available to more homeowners these days, which means you don’t have to hunt or forage to get a new roof. Whatever roofing solution you choose for your home, you can be sure of the long history of human ingenuity, hard work, and craftsmanship that got us where we are today.

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