Humans have been using composite materials for a long time in
order to build our dwellings. Some of the earliest forms of building
were built of mud bricks. Mud bricks work well when they are being
compressed (compression forces) but a cake of mud is easily
broken if it is bent (bending forces). This is because
the act of bending places a tension force on one edge.
At the same time as the mud block buildings were being built
other people were making straw dwellings. Straw has a great deal
of tensile strength (resistance to pulling forces) but it is very
weak when crumpled. These early builders realised was that if
straw, which has a good tensile strength was embedded in a block
of mud, which has good compressive strength and left to dry the
resulting brick would resist both tearing and squeezing. These
composite bricks made excellent building materials.