Glorious Mud: Working with Mudbrick in the Archaeological Lab at Koç University
Although writing my dissertation is the primary purpose of my stay at the Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations (ANAMED), I have also had the opportunity to continue working with my field dataset – earthen architecture in Kaymakçı, including mudbrick. Once every week or two I make a trip to Koç University’s campus in Sarıyer, northern Istanbul, to work in the archaeological lab there. The “hike” up north presents a good opportunity for me to get away from the dynamic (but at times raucous) Istiklal Street. The campus is located in a forested but windy area, and at times it is difficult to believe than I am still in the same city.
A mixture of earth, water, and organic temper, mudbrick is a very versatile and popular building medium used as early as the Neolithic period in Mesopotamia and Anatolia (as early as 10,000 years ago!). At Kaymakçı, mudbricks were used for a variety of building purposes, and one of my aims is to reconstruct the logic of Bronze Age architecture. In order to do so, I describe the basic properties of mudbricks, such as color, shape, size, texture, character of inclusions, and hardness. I also note manufacture process and preservation. Furthermore, I am interested in seeing how communities at the site organized mudbrick production. By looking at diversity or similarity in mudbrick appearance and composition, I can assess if people selected the same source materials and additives and if they produced them using similar production steps. Interestingly, earthen materials were not limited to bricks – they were also used to cover roofs, as is suggested by this piece of daub.
The archaeological lab at Koç is a great environment for such an investigation, as it has all the necessary equipment and space for processing, as well as the support of dedicated staff.