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Posted by on Mar 9, 2017 in Tell Me Why |

Why Were There Windows of Different Sizes in Ancient Homes?

Why Were There Windows of Different Sizes in Ancient Homes?

The earliest windows were just holes in a wall. Later, windows were covered with animal hide, cloth, or wood. Shutters that could be opened and closed came next. Over time, windows were built that both protected the inhabitants from the elements and transmitted light, using multiple small pieces of translucent material (such as flattened pieces of translucent animal horn, thin slices of marble, or pieces of glass) set in frameworks of wood, iron or lead.

In ancient times, the size of windows depended on many factors. The earliest homes had only doors and no windows, so that intruders could not enter a home easily. The Romans were the first to make windows of clear glass, a technology likely first produced in Roman Egypt.

Namely, in Alexandria ca. 100 AD cast glass windows, albeit with poor optical properties, began to appear, but these were small thick productions, little more than blown glass jars (cylindrical shapes) flattened out into sheets with circular striation patterns throughout. It would be over a millennium before a window glass became transparent enough to see through clearly, as we think of it now.

Over the centuries techniques were developed to shear through one side of a blown glass cylinder and produce thinner rectangular window panes from the same amount of glass material. This gave rise to tall narrow windows, usually separated by a vertical support called a mullion. Mullioned glass windows were the windows of choice among European well-to-do, whereas paper windows were economical and widely used in ancient China, Korea and Japan.

However, wealthy homeowners lived in single storey buildings with few exterior windows. This was to prevent noises coming in from the streets. Windows were generally larger on the top floors than the lower ones. Windows were particularly popular on the side of the house facing onto the garden. Their manufacture was greatly owed to the advancements made in Roman glass production methods.

In England, glass became common in the windows of ordinary homes only in the early 17th century whereas windows made up of panes of flattened animal horn were used as early as the 14th century. Ordinary people in Britain used waxed parchment or oiled linen, which they stretched across the windows so as to keep out the cold but allow some light to enter. Later on, wooden shutters were used at night for greater security and warmth.

In the Far East, paper was used to fill windows, and in ancient Egypt, on the other hand, windows were built high up on the walls to let heat escape during the day. Cool air coming through the windows at night also helped the homes cool.

So, we can say that in ancient times, the type of windows depended a great deal on the climate of the place. Later on, windows became very decorative, and a good example of this are stained glass windows found in medieval homes and churches. Modern-style floor-to-ceiling windows became possible only after the industrial plate glass making processes were perfected. Modern windows are usually filled with glass, although a few are transparent plastic.

Content for this question contributed by Kelly Huebner, resident of Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio, USA