Making Molded Bricks - West Asian Projects
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Making Molded Bricks

Ishtar Gate bull
A bull from the Ishtar Gate, Babylon (600s BC)

Architects in ancient Mesopotamia (West Asia) didn't have much good stone to carve, but they had plenty of clay on the riverbanks of the Tigris and the Euphrates. So instead of using stone, architects in ancient Mesopotamia often built their buildings out of clay bricks.

To decorate these buildings, artists molded the bricks into different shapes, and then when the bricks were put together they made patterns and pictures, as in the bull illustrated here. You can do that too: draw a picture, and then cut the picture into smaller rectangles. Mold the design on one paper rectangle on to a small rectangle of clay, and you'll have one brick. Now repeat that with all the other paper rectangles. When they're dry, fit them together like a puzzle, and you'll have your drawing remade in clay bricks, just like in ancient Mesopotamia.

This will be cooler if you can glaze and fire the clay, but even if you have to use Fimo or modeling clay it will give you an idea of what the Mesopotamians were doing.

If working with clay is too messy, you can also use this as an opportunity to learn how to make a small picture larger using gridding, by just transferring a small paper image to a large piece of paper.

More about Mesopotamian Art

Bibliography and further reading:

Bicycle racing
Backgammon project
West Asian games
West Asian crafts and projects
More project suggestions
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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