Starting in the late 18th century, the age of industrialisation brought about a huge number of new technologies, amongst which
novel binder systems of hydraulic nature were meant to answer the demand for improved mortar strength even at moist conditions.
Such mortars form an important part of our today’s architectural heritage and are therefore frequently encountered either
as primary materials or as historic restoration mortars, when historic objects are studied in the course of restoration. Their
proper identification, a prerequisite for any sound diagnosis and therapy, may be complicated by the fact that those building
materials later on either ran out of use, or developed into more modern systems. The paper deals with the basic features of
a choice of those cementing materials which were “novel” at their time: Sorel cements, iron hammer scale mortars, and natural
Roman as well as early Portland cements. The analytical approach followed is based on light and scanning electron microscopy,
believed to provide primary tools to identify the mortars and to understand some of their key properties.