stonework, term applied to various types of work—that of the lapidary who shapes, cuts, and polishes gemstones or engraves them for seals and ornaments; of the jeweler or artisan who mounts or encrusts them in gold, silver, or other metal; of the stonemason who executes the plan of architect or engineer for wall, pier, vault, bridge, or dam; of the carver who chisels bas-relief, intaglio, or freestanding figure, using a pointing machine for accuracy; and of the printer at his imposing stone. The term stonework is most frequently used to refer to the craft of masonry, as old as civilization and still widely used. Of Roman masonry buildings, some aqueducts, arches, basilicas, and baths still remain. Masonry is classified according to finish, rubble being of rough-quarried or field stone and ashlar of dressed stone. It may be laid without mortar (and is then called dry, or Cyclopean) or with mortar to bind the stones closely together, the outside finish of such joints being called pointing. Stonemasonry may be of hard materials, such as granite, bluestone, or marble, requiring full finish before laying, or of softer varieties, such as brownstone, laid with rough exterior, the decoration being carved afterward. The pyramids (see pyramid) and the sphinx of Egypt are among the world's greatest masterpieces of stonework.

Craft of building in stone, brick, or block. By 4000 BC, Egypt had developed an elaborate cut-stone technique. In Crete, Italy, and Greece, cyclopean work overcame material weaknesses by using enormous irregularly shaped stones without mortar, thereby reducing the number of joints. African stonemasons also were skilled at mortarless work, and Japanese mortarless castle walls resisted collapse during earthquakes. The Roman inventions of concrete and mortar permitted the development of the arch into one of the basic construction forms and gave rise to a number of variations in the facing used for walls: squared stone blocks, concrete studded with rough stones, concrete with diagonal stone courses, brick- and tile-faced concrete, and mixed brick and stone. The Assyrian and Persian empires, which lacked stone outcroppings, used sun-dried clay bricks. Stone and clay were the primary masonry materials in the Middle Ages and later. Precast-concrete blocks, often used as infill in modern steel framing, did not effectively compete with brick until the 20th century. Brick and block are often combined or used in cavity walls. Glass-block walls, which utilize steel rods to reinforce the mortar joints, admit light and afford greater protection against intruders and vandals than ordinary glass. Seealso adobe, building stone.

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