Thursday 18 October 2012
The Roman Green movement?
We've probably all got that bookcase or faux-oak coffee table at home that looks a million dollars on the surface but is just a scratch or spilt glass away from revealing the cheap pine or particle board underneath. One hundred years ago we might have called this shoddy, today we call it cheap. Two thousand years ago Pliny was excited. Wood veneers appear to have been common place in 78AD when he wrote about them - Pliny describes how rare and expensive timbers such as citrus, turpentine, maple, palm, holly, holm-oak, elder root and poplar are cut into slivers to dress up cheap timber - probably pine just like today. He says veneers were invented to make a single rare tree go as far as possible - which suggests the ancient timber industry was doing its best to match demand and affordability with supply. It would be a big step to say Roman timber merchants were environmentalists, but the widespread use of veneer points toward an industry that - perhaps only for the sake of economic survival - was doing its best to be sustainable.
Find out if Calvus ever chained himself to a tree