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Published on May 23, 2011
How to make mud-bricks (video)
About 10,000 years ago, residents of ancient Near East started to fashion their own mud walls. They started with essentially long slabs of mud and water that would dry in the sun. The slabs got progressively smaller and we can start to see a proto-type of modern walls in about 6,600 BC in Chogha Bonut where slabs are laid one on top of the other.
These slabs are eventually created to a standard size (i.e. formed into bricks). Some builders would add straw to strengthen the brick and reduce cracking.
However, making mud-bricks is labor intensive. This video shows a man making about one a minute. With rest breaks, it is possible to imagine him making 200 a day and a typical two-storey house needs 10,000 or more.
Some interesting facts:
The vast majority of ancient bricks in Mesopotamia were sun-dried. Baked bricks were stronger but expensive, so they were reserved for palaces, major gateways, or other major monuments that were built to last.
When used in thick walls, mud-bricks could support structures several stories high. The best examples are the "skyscrapers" in Yemen.
A city could consume so much mud in creating bricks (think 100s of millions of bricks over the life of a city) that it was possible to create early harbors from the large-scale excavations of mud.