BY CAROLINE ROBERTS, Conservator, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology
This month’s ugly object is bound to give its competitors a run for their money. It is not much to look at, but it’s definitely worth getting to know. What exactly is it? It’s an ancient Egyptian mudbrick.
Mudbrick is a material used in building construction worldwide. It was used in antiquity and continues to be used today, from the painted mudbrick complexes of El Kurru village to my grandmother’s old ranch house in Fresno, CA. The components of mudbrick vary but usually include clay or clayey soil, sand, plant fibers and, in the case of the Kelsey brick, pieces of fired ceramic. Each brick would have been shaped, dried in the sun, and then used to build things. There are countless ancient mudbrick structures in Egypt, including the houses excavated at Karanis.
This mudbrick has seen better days, but it’s fun to imagine what kind of structure it might have been a part of once. Was it part of the wall of a house? A pyramid? We don’t really know. There are a number of ancient mudbrick structures still around, but (as shown by the poor condition of our brick) they can be a challenge to preserve.
You can find out more about the Kelsey’s ancient mudbricks in our exhibition Excavating Archaeology at the University of Michigan, on view starting October 18.