Exodus burnt bricks needs a lot of straw

Burnt bricks needs a lot of straw

That’s assuming the events in Exodus 5:7 took place. However the possible scenario must have been familiar to the writers which means they needed to have known of a place that used mud bricks (and expect their intended readers to be familiar with making mud bricks with straw also). Unfortunately that doesn’t narrow the area since mud bricks with straw were common throughout Egypt, the Levant, and Mesopotamia from a fairly early time until very recently (or still in some places).

For instance the following has a description and details for the Middle Bronze age (approx. 2100 BCE to 1550 BCE)
Homsher, Robert S. 2012. “Mud Bricks and the Process of Construction in the Middle Bronze Age Southern Levant.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 368 (November): 1–27. University of Chicago Press Journals: Cookie absent.
Straw addition was common.

I must admit Pharaoh’s actions in Exodus 5 sound like union busting. Work the slaves so hard that they will give up and turn on the union organizers.

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He was looking specifically at Megiddo (northern modern Israel), Pella (in modern Jordan), and Tel Dan (northern modern Israel) though the background info is wider. Pages 16-18 have info on actual labor practices, at least modern day and extrapolating back (modern mud bricks are a different size than those used then). How many bricks per person per day (though efficiently you would have a work crew).

Pay would not be in gold but in goods such as bread, wine, cloth/clothing, or the labor might be a tax (corvee). Note most mud brick making was likely for one’s own use or for that of neighbors (think of an old fashion barn raising) though the Exodus story is almost certainly about making bricks for the ruler’s building projects (something Jews might have experienced under their own rulers, during the Babylonian exile, or in Egypt).

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He didn’t. Egypt had a process that forced people to labor on public works projects for no wages, i.e. slave labor.

Found this

In burned brick the straw actually leaves passages in the brick to allow gases to escape. The straw in the brick is actually burned up and leaves behind holes in the bricks.

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Straw as binder is added about 1 percent by weight. Straw as fuel for baking would constitute about 50 percent of cost. so the conflict was more likely on baked bricks. also the Semites knew about baked bricks in Shinar tower of babel. They would not regress to baked bricks.

And when you are making millions of bricks, that 1% certainly adds up. The temple storehouses in Egypt were constructed with mud brick, not stone.

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Strictly speaking Egypt seems to have mostly used corvée labor which was closer to a labor tax. The Egyptian year was divided into three seasons, the time when the Nile was in flood and fields were submerged (roughly Sept to Jan), the time when the Nile was receding and planting could take place in the newly uncovered fields (roughly Jan to May), and the time when harvesting took place (May to Sept). The latter two seasons were busy times for farming but the first less so, so the rulers would demand labor on government projects such as building granaries etc. There was chattel slavery also.

BTW Homsher (2012: 19) quotes Emory (2009: 2) as noting that in Egypt brick making used 1 part straw for 5 parts earth and Keefe (2005: 58) at 2.5% (by weight). Homsher thinks that by volume straw to earth might have been close to 1:2.
Emory, 2009, “Mud Brick” in UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology - Mud-Brick (I strongly recommend looking at this, it is open source, comes with pictures and a clear description of the process).
Keefe, 2005, "Earth Building: Methods and Materials, Repair and Conservation:. London: Taylor and Francis.
Getting the straw would be a major undertaking especially since there were other uses for straw.
Apparently the process for making mud bricks was gather the materials (sand/clay/silt, water, straw or other organic material), mix and let sit for a day or so, mold the bricks, let dry, rotate and dry further, rotate again and dry further.

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This passage refers to unfired mud bricks which was a common building material in Egypt.
Mud is not pure clay but would include a significant percentage so that the finished brick would be strong enough and hold it’s shape. Bricks made without straw can dry slowly, shrink, crack, and lose their shape, or be too weak. This would lower production since they take longer and there would be more rejected.
The straw is used in a ratio of about 1:5 by volume, so it would also reduce the weight of the brick by about 15%, and the workers would have to use more dirt and possibly with a higher clay content.

So there’s more labour, lower production, more beatings. The intent was to punish the Hebrews for the request to “let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God” and make them turn against Moses.

Gotta keep those slaves in line.

Burnt bake bricks needs a lot of straw. All over Indus Valley uses burnt bake bricks

You dig up clay. Some earth has more clay than others.

Over time mud bricks with or without straw will decay. People using mudbricks would often cover the exterior surface with a mud plaster and place the bricks on a stone foundation to protect from rain and ground water. The mud plaster would have to be redone on a regular basis. For bricks to last for a long time they have to have plenty of clay and be fired at a high temperature (which you can’t do by burning straw, you need wood, charcoal, or coal). Note bricks of any sort are also vulnerable to earthquakes.

see above.

Much more expensive. Mud bricks can often be created on site or very near the site while stone frequently has to be imported from a distance (or if building at a site with stone at hand, you frequently have to move the labor there since stone isn’t very good for farming). Stone requires tools to shape; mud brick requires a wood frame. Store cutting requires specialists; mud brick was something every single farmer learned to do from their parents at least with the earth in their own area. (This is talking about the Middle East, in places like Scotland with a lot of smaller stones, people learned to build dry stone walls.)

Not all stone is good for building. Also ‘just carve it’ underplays how difficult that can be especially when your tools are stone or bronze. You’ve also got to move the stone from where it is to where you want it. Large stone blocks may be easier to carve but more difficult to transport. Time doing all this takes away from time doing other things. In other words an individual farmer doesn’t have the time to do that for his own house (great if you can do it, the house will last a long time but the upfront cost is too much); a ruler who can skim the labor off a large number of subjects can do it.

They do seem to have done that in some cases with a stone foundation and mud brick above. However intermingling will lead to instability since mud brick and stone would expand/contract at different rates depending on temperature and in the case of mud brick, moisture.

Well it is a story and a bit of a plot hole that supposed badly treated slaves had gold jewelry. Admittedly the story also says they borrowed a lot from the their Egyptian neighbors (Exodus 3:22) and then never returned it.

Though the standard payment seems to have been in terms of loaves; actual payment might be in loaves or a standard equivalent in some other good (e.g., beer, cloth). People receiving that would barter (e.g., loaf to a fisherman in return for some fish or to a melon grower for some melons).

Almost certainly, Note even for covee labor the overseers would have to provide food and some of that might be bartered.

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Yes areas differ. Look to areas with fired pottery and there you will find clay. See also Ancient Egyptian pottery - Wikipedia

Well it is a story so not necessarily very accurate; however, first being a cowherder doesn’t necessarily mean you own the cows, you could be hired. Even if you owned the cows, the land under might be leased or be used by some other arrangement. Note that in Egypt the state (i.e., Pharaoh) ultimately owned the land (which is effectively true in any nation). Also even according to the story, the Hebrews stole (or borrowed without intending to repay) a lot from the Egyptians before leaving.

Story, however, being dangerous to a small group of refugees (and there is no way that the leaving Hebrews numbered in hundreds of thousands) is not the same as being dangerous to a nation like Egypt on its home territory. Also the Philistines seem to be anachronistic to the story. Their culture doesn’t seem to have appeared until circa 1200 BCE in the area in the Levant they are associated with. They are associated with the Battle of the Delta in c. 1175 BCE when Ramesses III fought off an incursion of the sea people.

Was anyone in conflict over clay?

The israelites didnt steal according to the story…they were owed wages and demanded payment from the Egyptian people before the Exodus.

Mud brick was used for just about everything but monumental structures such as temples, tombs of important people (note by the time of the New Kingdom 1550–1077 BCE tombs were carved into rock, pyramids were an Old Kingdom method of burial c. 2700–2200 BCE with a revival with less permanent building material [e.g., lot of mud brick] in the Middle Kingdom’s 12 dynasty, c. 1991-1802 BCE).

I note there is a separate article on Mud-Brick Architecture Mud-Brick Architecture at the UCLA Encyclopedia of Archaeology. The following is a useful quote from it

Note the mention of palace complexes.

Watching the construction of burnt bricks is not a life experience of mine. But yes, the archaeology of the Exodus is an interest of mine. I know that “brick production quotas” appear in 13th-century Egyptian sources, per Kitchen and Hoffmeier. Straw was not used in Canaan–at least for making mudbricks so this detail is applied to activities in the eastern delta --see Frerichs and Lesko on this latter. So the bit in Exodus contains a local detail, not useful elsewhere.

Yes mud bricks were used. But why conflict on straw? Any why did they regress from burnt bricks of tower of babel?

Yes. But why conflict on taras which was a minor raw material?Compare with indus valley and we see the diffefence

Bharatjj…good questions. I am not sure of “conflict on taras”? For one thing, all I find on Taras is that it may be a place in Iran or it may be Ukrainian. So you lost me. The issue, it seems, is the requirement for straw to be used in making brick. The fact that they made bricks with straw in them in Egypt —especially the Eastern Delta – but did not use straw in brickmaking in Canaan —this detail would suggest that the writer of the Exodus account wrote from familiarity with Egyptian practices, thus likely to have lived there, spent time there and so on. He wasn’t relaxing in Canaan inventing stories about a slave past in a foreign land etc. I see that you have some questions for Erp which relate to this. You wonder why they regressed from what was used in the Tower of Babel? That is a whole other issue. For one thing, Babel was not Egypt. We are discussing what this chapter of Exodus says about the formation of bricks in the eastern delta area of Egypt. This practice was part of the experience of the Semitic peoples who were employed in making these bricks in the 13th (or so) centuries BCE. The product at Babel is another subject for another time. Thanks for the contribution!!

Except straw was used in making bricks in Canaan, see Homsher (2012) which I mentioned above.

Note my own view is the story of Babel is late. However, fired bricks were known early but they did require significantly more work/expense to acquire the fuel for firing. Firing was definitely use to make pottery. “Burnt brick” was used in the New Kingdom for specialized purposes ( Spencer, A. Jeffrey. 1979. Brick Architecture in Ancient Egypt . Aris and Phillips.).

Burnt bake bricks needs a lot of straw. From Indus Valley.

Sorry, er, what’s this got to do with anything at all? There is no archaeology of the Exodus. It’s fiction. Never happened. It was made up nearly a thousand years after it was set. Like King Arthur, Excalibur and the Round Table at Camelot.