As long as there has been a history of mankind, there has been a history of roofing. Since no one likes to sleep out in the rain or snow, even the earliest primitive humans were in need of coverage. While caves certainly provide adequate shelter, they are often dank and moist, riddled with wildlife and otherwise not very hospitable. As a result, man soon set out to build freestanding homes. In fact, one of the earliest roofing materials was a mammoth skin found in Siberia, dating back to 40,000 BC.
Stretched hide, sod and other natural materials, remained the constant throughout much of early mans history. It was much more recently, by historical standards, that tiles have been developed. The earliest known case of a glazed roof tile was discovered in China, dating back to around 5000 years ago. Many examples of Chinese architecture still use this same style of elaborate roof tile, even today, albeit in temple structures and palaces. Wonderful examples of Chinese architecture and roofing can be found in the forbidden city museum in Beijing.
Around this same time, flat earthenware tiles were developed in what is now modern day Greece. These same types of shingles were adopted by the romans and eventually brought to England around 100 BC. For the next 800 years these clay tiles were widely used, by the wealthier portion of society, throughout Western Europe.
Thatchery has been an important part of structural architecture since the inception of the first straw huts. When animal skins were scarce, tightly bundled reeds and fronds quickly became a suitable substitute for semi-nomadic ancient human tribes. The same concept persisted throughout the ages and many dwellings, even stone buildings, were capped with a straw roof. Thatchery remained in practice right up into modern day as a low cost, abundantly available solution, for people that could not afford the more expensive clay tile shingles.
Roofing has changed significantly over the last 200 years and modern building materials have little in common with the reeds or clay of roofs of the past. In more recent years, eco-friendly materials and energy conservation in general has become the focal point of roofing research and development. Advances in materials, smog absorbing tiles, and even built in solar panels all strive towards saving money while maintaining an esthetically pleasing roof.
The profession of roofing has come a long way from those first animal skins strung over our heads 40,000 years ago. But the desire and need to build safe and comfortable shelter remained the same throughout the ages. As the roofing industry moves forward into the future, new and innovative technology will set the scene for safe, economical and harmonious trends.