Technique Overview

Adobe Moulding

Egypt - Adobe making Tomb of Queen Hatshepsut (Courtesy Hassan Fathy)

Sun dried clay brick, named Adobe, is undoubtedly one of the oldest building materials used by mankind: The oldest identified adobes were produced around 9,000 BC at Dja’ De El Mughara in Syria. Adobes are made of thick malleable mud, often added with straw. After being cast they are left to dry under sun. They are traditionally either hand shaped or shaped in parallelepiped wooden moulds.

The name adobe comes from the Egyptian hieroglyph dbt, meaning brick. It has passed via Coptic τωωβε in Arabic, as Al-ţŭb. When Arabs invaded Spain and France, the word has been deformed progressively as A Thob, A Dob and it became finally adobe in French and in English.

This technique has been used all over the world since memorial times, as can been seen on various hieroglyphs and Egyptian scriptures. The oldest samples known were found on the site of Jericho, in the Jordan Valley, in Mesopotamia. They date from around 8000 BC and they were hand shaped. They looked like an elongated loaf. Fingerprints of the craftsmen who did them are still visible on some of them.

In Peru the hand shaped adobes were long ago conical. In the Middle East they were at a time hemispherical and humpbacked. In India the archaeological site of Chitradurga in Karnataka state shows also hand shaped adobe of the 15th century. They were like quadrangular loafs. Today one can still find hand shaped bricks in Africa, in countries like Nigeria or Niger where they are called Tubali.

Adobe production has been industrialised in Western USA. Several states in USA have codified adobe making and construction.

Egypt, Thebes, Tomb of Rekhmire - 15th Century BC - Adobe making (Portion of the fresco)
Egypt, Thebes, Tomb of Rekhmire - 15th Century BC - Adobe making (Drawing of the entire fresco)
USA, New Mexico - Adobe making
USA, New Mexico - Adobe making (Photo J. Evrard)
Libya, Ghadames - Adobe making


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