The primitive technology guy made lime mortar from the shells of rainforest snails


Originally published at:


Don’t forget to turn on the Closed Captions for slightly more information!


I want to know how he managed not to burn himself, handling quicklime bare handed.


“How did people ever come up with making lime mortar in the first place?”

I imagine such a process goes something like this:

  1. Eat a bunch of snails.
  2. Have a pile of snail shells lying around.
  3. Kind of bored, guess I’ll take this rock and smash some snail shells against a bigger rock.
  4. Now I’ve got a big pile of white powder. Does it do anything good?
    4a. Does not get me high when I snort it.
    4b. Does not get me drunk/happy when I eat it.
    4c. Works okay as wall coloring, but other stuff works better.
    4d. Banishes spirits? Further research needed.
  5. Bored now, plus raining.
  6. Hey! My smashing rocks are stuck together!
  7. Conclusion: snail dust makes rocks stick together good. Refine process with other great discovery, fire.


Forget all that. Snail God taught them!




Don’t get it damp; quicklime needs water to activate.
Darn you, ■■■■■-haters of BB!


I believe the invention is credited to Egyptians working with limestone as a source, not shells. They also used fire and water to heat/cool rock for mining purposes. Surely somebody in this industry noticed a pile of goop turn into a hard mass one day, and said “Hmmm…”


What with insensible perspiration and all, your skin would ordinarily be M015T enough to begin slaking the lime, and would shed a lot more M015TURE as it started to burn. Pretty much every mason has been burnt on lime on one or more occasions.


He made a diamond mortar. I was expecting a gun that fires green citrus fruit.



Rosendale Cement was on the scene about 30 years earlier than Portland and far more durable. Of course, I have a prejudice as I live in the shadow of the kilns and mines that produced it.


One theory I like is that at some point someone used limestone to build a fire pit. The fire got a good dose of air from a nice wind, some of the the stone hit 1650 F (yes a simple wood fire can hit 1650 with a good stiff breeze) quicklime was produced, and when the fire was doused with water… hey… those rocks seem to have melted and then hardened and stuck together.


Given that he has access to thousands of years of knowledge then, in theory, what level of technology could he hope to reach? I mean he’s building up a nice little manufacturing base there what with his kilns, water-powered machinery, textiles and such. I imagine it’s a problem of scaling when you only have a workforce of one. Yeah, it’s a pointless question but it’s like watching a person rebuild civilisation after all the infrastructure has failed because there’s nobody left to keep it running.


It is kind of silly that you have to resort to creative spelling just to use the word


Mo(i)st silly indeed.


Well of course, that’s a given. Geeezzz.




It’s a rare day I get to make a non-Cowbell related Blue Oyster Cult reference, so… Quicklime Girl.


Well, he’s managed to smelt very small amounts of iron out of mud. So in theory he could get himself as far as the iron age on his own. Eventually he’ll hit limits based on lack of trade; he can make iron from mud and lime from snail shells, but eventually I assume he’ll hit something he can’t get locally. Local historical steel quality was affected by clay, iron ore etc., so he might not have the right stuff to make crucible steel, regardless of how much mud he fires.

Of course, if civilization falls, getting to this information while it’s still useful could be tricky. Like, will the apocalypse happen slowly enough to print off the relevant wikipedia pages? Does anyone make a “So you want to reboot technological civilization from first principles” text?


Hmmm sounds like this should get put in the seed vault…