Charles Woods and Connie Tindale

From the beginning of Egyptian history mud bricks were used as a basic material for construction. The bricks are made without being fired in a kiln and consist of Nile mud or clay mixed with a binding material such as straw. In hot countries like Egypt, these bricks are simply left to dry in the sun. The method of making the bricks (shown below) has not changed in millennia and homes in the outer villages of both the East and West Banks are still being constructed using materials that would have been familiar in Pharaonic times.

Mixing the mudMoulding the bricks
Mixing the mud and moulding the bricks
Unmoulding the bricksDrying the bricks in the sun
Unmoulding the bricks and drying them in the sun

In the course of the Early Dynastic Period (about 3100-2613 BC) and the Old Kingdom (about 2613-2160 BC) bricks remained the basic building material of structures for living in, whether palaces or the houses of the ordinary people. Stone was gradually introduced for temples and the tombs of the élite but mud brick continued as the building material for homes and is still in use in the twenty-first century. .

Bricks were produced in vast quantities for all sorts of projects in ancient Egypt. They were made from Nile mud mixed with sand and straw, the latter two elements giving strength to the basic material. Bricks used for specific state projects were often stamped with the name of the king for whom it was being built. The discovery of stamped bricks can often be extremely useful for dating a structure. Some of the mud bricks used in the building of the storerooms of the Ramesseum under Ramses the Great (about 1279-1213 BC) are stamped in this way and there are examples in the British Museum. The basic structures of the vaults at the Ramesseum are still standing even though the expected life of a mud brick is usually only around 30 years. Because of the dry atmosphere, these bricks have lasted three millennia instead of three decades.

New bricks waiting to be laidOld bricks and new bricks side by side
Newly made bricks waiting to be laid in the new wall enclosing the ancient mud brick remains of the vaults at the Ramesseum
The early pyramid structures in Egypt were of mud brick and when they decayed, further bricks were added on top of the rubble which is why some old monuments appear to be on hills or humps. The remains of the Mortuary Temple of Thutmosis III at the base of the Theban Hills is almost entirely of mud bricks and has suffered the ravages of time; only recently emerging from beneath waste heaps of decayed brick and the debris of other excavations. This is the 'ancient'. Directly across the road from the temple is the 'new'; where new mud brick walls surround old mud brick houses still occupied by the same families for hundreds of years.
Still in useNud bricks from the mortuarty palace of Tutmosis III
Mud bricks are still in use for the building of walls and houses across the road from the ancient bricks of the Mortuary Palace of Thutmosis III
All the houses which had been built over the tombs along the Theban hillside at Qurna were recently demolished. All were of mud brick construction and some were highly decorated, as were the internal walls of some of the ancient houses in the Deir el Medina workers' village. Although there are no longer any inhabited houses on the hillside, several of the old mud brick houses have been preserved and form part of the Qurna Discovery Project run by Caroline Simpson, so that they can be enjoyed by future generations. Colour is still discernable on the low remains of the mud brick walls on the Malqata Palace.
painting on mud brick housepatinting on mud brick house
Paintings on houses in the villages of Qurna which were demolished in 2008
funerary items


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