DAN'S WALLS AND GATES - STILL HERE
Partly excavated mud brick wall and gateway at Dan; Middle Bronze era
Excavated gateway at Dan
THE FIRST BRICKS
Nobody knows who invented bricks, but they certainly started something.
Brick-making is at least 6,000 years old. It was one of the first building materials, and is still a major player in the building industry.
How did people discover how to make bricks? Probably by picking up slabs of drought-dried mud (see right) and building a rough shelter from them. This could have happened in any one of the great rivers valleys that cradled civilization. It probably happened in all of them.
The technique of firing bricks to harden them was probably discovered accidentally, when bricks were used to surround a small fire.
The first bricks were simply shaped, sun-dried clay, but the brick kiln was quickly invented. Bricks used in Middle Eastern temples and ziggurats in the 3rd millenium BC - like the ziggurat of Ur - were fired in a kiln.
The Middle East was an ideal locale for mud brick buildings, since it had low humidity and rainfall.
The first archway of sun-dried brick was found in Ur, the ancient birthplace of Abraham and Sarah. The bricks for this arch would have been shaped and baked in about 4,000BC.
Of course, the trouble with sun-dried bricks is that they do not last - we only know about the archway mentioned above by a description of it.
HOW DID THEY LAST SO LONG?
The mud brick walls at Dan lasted for thousands of years, partly they were fired bricks but also because the walls and gateway at Dan were built over and accidentally preserved.
So for the modern visitor, the surprisingly small gateway is still visible - wide enough for a loaded donkey, but not much else, to pass through (see images at top of page).
Below: the Ziggurat of Ur, built of unfired and fired mud bricks
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