A mudbrick or mud-brick is an air-dried brick, made of a mixture of loam, mud, sand and water mixed with a binding material such as rice husks or straw. Mudbricks are known from 9000 BCE, though since 4000 BC, bricks have also been fired, to increase their strength and durability.
In warm regions with very little timber available to fuel a kiln, bricks were generally sun-dried. In some cases, brickmakers extended the life of mud bricks by putting fired bricks on top or covering them with stucco.
The history of mudbrick production and construction in the southern Levant may be dated as far back to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (e.g., PPNA Jericho). These sun dried mudbricks, also known as adobe or just mudbrick, were made from a mixture of sand, clay, water and frequently temper (e.g. chopped straw and chaff branches), and were the most common method/material for constructing earthen buildings throughout the ancient Near East for millennia. Unfired mud-brick is still made throughout the world today, using both modern and traditional methods.
The 9000 BCE dwellings of Jericho, were constructed from mudbricks, affixed with mud, as would those at numerous sites across the Levant over the following millennia. Well-preserved mudbricks from a site at Tel Tsaf, in the Jordan Valley, have been dated to 5200 BCE, though there is no evidence that either site was the first to use the technology. Evidence suggests that the mudbrick composition at Tel Tsaf was stable for at least 500 years, throughout the middle Chalcolithic period.
The South Asian inhabitants of Mehrgarh constructed and lived in mud-brick houses between 7000–3300 BC. Mud bricks were used at more than 15 reported sites attributed to the 3rd millennium BC in the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. In the Mature Harappan phase fired bricks were used.
The Mesopotamians used sun-dried bricks in their city construction;  typically these bricks were flat on the bottom and curved on the top, called plano-convex mud bricks. Some were formed in a square mould and rounded so that the middle was thicker than the ends. Some walls had a few courses of fired bricks from their bases up to the splash line to extend the life of the building.
Sun dried mudbrick was the most common construction material employed in ancient Egypt during pharaonic times and were made in pretty much the same way for millennia. Mud from some locations required sand, chopped straw or other binders such as animal dung to be mixed in with the mud to increase durability and plasticity. Workers gathered mud from the Nile river and poured it into a pit. Workers then tramped on the mud while straw was added to solidify the mold. The mudbricks were chemically suitable as fertilizer, leading to the destruction of many ancient Egyptian ruins, such as at Edfu. A well-preserved site is Amarna. Mudbrick use increased at the time of Roman influence.
In the Ancient Greek world, mudbrick was commonly used for the building of walls, fortifications and citadels, such as the walls of the Citadel of Troy (Troy II). These mudbricks were often made with straw or dried vegetable matter.
In areas of Spanish influence, mud-brick construction is called adobe, and developed over time into a complete system of wall protection, flat roofing and finishes which in modern English usage is often referred to as adobe style, regardless of the construction method.
The Great Mosque of Djenné, in central Mali, is the world's largest mudbrick structure. It, like much Sahelian architecture, is built with a mudbrick called Banco, a recipe of mud and grain husks, fermented, and either formed into bricks or applied on surfaces as a plaster like paste in broad strokes. This plaster must be reapplied annually.
Mudbrick architecture worldwide
- Cob – Building material made of soil and fiber
- Earth structure – A building or other structure made largely from soil.
- Loam – Soil composed of similar proportions of sand and silt, and somewhat less clay
- Rammed earth – Technique for constructing foundations, floors, and walls by compacting a damp mixture of sub soil
- Sod house – Turf house used in early colonial North America
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Adding straw or dried vegetable matter to the clay of mudbricks was a common practiceCS1 maint: date format (link)
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- Earth Architecture, website whose focus is contemporary issues in earth architecture.
- EARTHA: Earth Architecture and Conservation in East Anglia, British organisation that focuses on the proper maintenance and conservation of earth buildings in a region of the UK that has a long history of building with mud. Very experienced experts are contactable and there are regular demonstrations in the area.
- Video showing mud brick making, mud brick building and biolytic sewerage in South Africa.
- CRAterre: Centre de recherche architectural en terre, French university research organisation dedicated to unfired earth construction