Earth Homes, Mud Brick and Ancient Engineering

A couple points about this short video clip below, taken on June 1, 2012 at the Vigla site (dated to roughly 3rd century BC) on Cyprus. The first point is that it, the video, captures the A/V of an archaeological trowel at work. The video doesn’t capture the essence of the meteorology and atmosphere, though, which on the hottest and most humid days induces 21st century archaeologists to ponder what a 12th-century crusader thought when arriving on the scene in full battle regalia (“Chain mail in this heat? Yeah, I think I’ll crusade up to the North Pole instead…”). Then the thoughts drift to how some of those knights returned home to contemplate existence and play chess with death (or life, depending on one’s interpretation).

The up-close trowel shot also demonstrates what the majority of archaeological fieldwork is like: one scrape after another, and how this requires archaeology attentiveness to the changes in the soil. In the video, the soil color change is what the ubiquitous mud brick looks like upon digging into, the mud brick a staple of any rural and urban settlement. To identify this, look for the color change that is darker rust-colors, a type of clumpiness in the soil, and white fibers that helped bond the bricks (today fiberglass strands provide that binding agent, at least with concrete). Mud bricks also required a foundation that raised them above the ground surface so they didn’t melt away when it rained (saturate the mud bricks, and they will slump and fail).


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