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A bull from the Ishtar Gate, Babylon, made out of a lot of molded bricks fit together

Molded bricks project: A bull from the Ishtar Gate, Babylon (600s BC)

Why molded bricks?

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.

What is clay?
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Mesopotamian architecture
The Sumerians
All our West Asia articles

A molded bricks project

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.

Neo-Babylonians in Mesopotamia

Fimo or real clay?

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.

Gridding and image transfer

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.

Do this project just with paper

Or, draw the picture, color it, and then draw the bricks over the top. Cut along the lines of the bricks to make a jigsaw puzzle, and see if your family can put it back together. Try drawing each brick separately. Put them together into a big picture. Does it look the same as the original picture? Why or why not?

More about Mesopotamian Art

Bibliography and further reading about Mesopotamian art:

Bicycle racing
Backgammon project
West Asian games
West Asian crafts and projects home