Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/784

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from the Spanish word adobes.[1] In 1873 I visited the original church dedicated to St. Francis, which gave its name to the now well-known town in California—this church was constructed with "dobies." Mud houses were not uncommon in England in the past, and they are yet known in Devonshire, where the stuff they are constructed with is called "cob." I am under the impression that the importance of mud in connection with building has hitherto been overlooked.

Once begun, the progress of mud architecture would be considerable. Those who began their architectural style with branches of trees could not have made any advance until some kind of implement was invented by means of which the wood could be cut and fashioned; and the "stone age," when stone tools came into use, is a comparatively late one in man's history. The mud builder, on the contrary, required no tools; his hands were sufficient for every purpose. He may have been content at first with an inclosure formed by four walls. A covering of grass or reeds would soon suggest itself; this, although rude and primitive, would be the first complete human habitation. But, more than that, it would be the beginning of the "house"—the "home," which, from the relations and associations it produced, must have been one of the most important steps in the history of early civilization.

The great antiquity of the use of mud as a building material can be established from a number of references to history. In Persia, at least, we have traces of it. Firdusi, in the Shah Namah, relates how Jemshid, now known as a mythical personage, introduced a better civilization among the people; among the improvements it is told how "he taught the unholy demon train to mingle water and clay, with which, formed into bricks, the walls were built, and then high turrets, towers, and balconies, and roofs, to keep out rain, and cold, and sunshine." It is naturally inferred that the bricks made by the children of Israel in Egypt were sun dried from the use of the straw in them. The making of bricks is often represented in the sculptures of Egypt.

The first use or invention of mud for building was ascribed to mythical personages, thus attributing to it a kind of divine origin.

I shall now give a few details of the manner of building in mud, most of which are derived from what I saw in Persia. Many of the methods I saw there I have since found are also practiced in other parts of the world.

It was pointed out to me that, in the larger towns, on entering a house, you have often to descend from the level of the street to

  1. Adobes, or dobies, is probably a variant of the Arabic tob or toob, allied again to the Coptic tobi, which was also the Egyptian word for brick.