Mortar in Italian Green Marble with Pestle
The name “mortar” originates from the vulgar Latin “mortarjius“, derived in turn from the most ancient mortare (making parts). The need to crush and pulverize some materials for percussion dates back to remote times and was initially practiced mainly using natural cavities and, perhaps, even before milling with a millstone, almost always with stone mortars. The oldest mortars are in hard stone (used, for example, by the Etruscans and Greeks), marble or alabaster. Even the Bible testifies to its ancient use: “The manna was crushed in a mortar to make buns”.
Since the days of the earliest civilizations, the mortar has been widely used for cooking herbs, roots and drugs. During the excavations of Troy, archaeologists found a basalt mortar with granite and limestone pestles. Egyptians, Greeks and Etruscans used alabaster and jasper mortars to grind grain. Another use of the mortar since ancient times was in alchemy, herbal medicine, pharmacy. The most used by apothecaries was the bronze mortar, which was forged in the shops of many European locations (in Italy especially Veneto and Tuscany), using the same mold as the bells.