The Origins of Rubber – From the Amazon to Our Homes

Many ancient civilisations of the world were making remarkable leaps in all areas long before these things became known to the rest of the world – for example, the Romans were famed for many things, from their road construction and of course underfloor heating, the ancient Egyptians constructed the spectacular pyramids in a time when construction machinery was not invented, and the ancient Chinese were the first to be using paper money to pay for things.

The native people of South and Central America, like the Aztecs and the Mayans were also ahead of their time in many ways. Many of the things that they enjoyed were not discovered by the rest of the world for centuries. For example, chocolate was a delicacy that was enjoyed long before most other countries were even aware of it, but it is still as popular as ever today all around the world.

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Something else that we consider a relatively modern material that was being used in South America for a long time unbeknownst to everywhere else, is rubber. This is a material that is commonly used in all sorts of ways nowadays – from vehicle components to heating, there are lots of rubber items that we depend on in our daily lives without really giving it much thought. Modern rubber moulding companies like this can create all sorts of components, from engineering to industrial use items. However, before any of this was thought of, the people of South America had worked out how to get rubber from a native tree…

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The rubber tree only grows in South America – the Amazon Rainforest and warm, wet tropical climate is the perfect home for it, and the native people worked out that this was no ordinary tree. They were able to get a liquid called latex from the tree by ‘rubber tapping’ – extracting the sap through a bore hole in the trunk. Once this had been collected, it could be mixed with a juice from other plants. Depending on the rations used this would affect the properties of the rubber. From bouncing balls to shoes, the material was used for a wide variety of things – the chemical in the vines which were used for mixing made the solid rubber much less brittle.