A brief history of the uses of lead – Part 2

Some of the earliest examples of humans using lead work are thought to date back to 4000BC in Egypt where lead glazes have been found on pottery and a lead figurine was found.

Before the Roman Empire it seems as though lead extraction and production was a side effect of obtaining silver as the metals are often found in close proximity to each other. However, during the time of the Roman Empire lead was used on a large scale for a range of uses including water pipes, plumbing, tank and pot linings, kitchenware and many other uses.

Roman Lead Pipes
Roman Lead Pipe

Interestingly it is from the Romans that the name of the metal derives as in Latin it is called Plumbum and during medieval times anyone with expertise in working with lead was known as a Plumbarius. This was later shortened to Plumber! The symbol for lead in the periodic table (Pb) also has its origins here.

Lead molecular formula
(Pb) Lead in the Periodic Table

After the fall of the Roman Empire the use of lead declined although during the middle ages there was resurgence in its use for a range of purposes including in the building industry where it was used for roofs, flashings, drain joins, and damp-proofing of foundations.

Lead Roofing Image from http://www.associatedlead.co.uk

The next part will be on modern production methods.

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