Mud - UCL Institute of Archaeology

EARTH - UCL Institute of Archaeology

Earthen Archaeology research, Theory and History

Earthen Archaeology Research, Theory and History


Within the Institute of Archaeology at the University College London there are a number of projects concerned with the archaeology, conservation and study of earthen architecture. These projects reflect the diversity of earthen archaeology, its research, theory and history.

These web pages detail the interests, projects and people involved in this small research group. The web pages are intended to promote awareness of on-going research both within and outside the Institute of Archaeology.

News and Events

EARTH CONFERENCE: Earthen architecture in Iran & Central Asia: its conservation, management, and relevance to contemporary society

Robert Byron (1905-1941) made an enormous contribution to the study of the architecture, archaeology and anthropology in Iran and Central Asia. To celebrate the centenary of his birth we held a conference at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 12-13th November 2005. Read more...

Seminar on Earth-based Materials

Richard MacPhail of the Institute of Archaeology, UCL and member of EARTH, has kindly agreed to give a seminar on earth-based materials, as part of the Core Course Strand B of the MSc Technology degree.

The first session took place on Wednesday 26 January in the Staff Common Room, and was a great success.

more news and events.....

What is earthen archaeology?

Earth has been used as a material for construction for at least the last 10,000 years. Earth is a cheap, readily available and strong material. Earth can be used in a variety of different forms: shaped blocks of earth (mud bricks); rammed earth (pisé); placed earth (cob); turf and sod construction; and earth placed onto a supporting frame or armature (wattle and daub, or mud and stud). These earth-building techniques often involve the use of an earthen mortar and/or surface finish (plaster or render).

Earth can be used in a variety of ways to make lots of different structures and buildings, and earth buildings can last for a very long time, if they are looked after and well maintained. The thermal characteristics of earth mean that earth buildings feel cold in the summer, but warm in the winter.

People often think that earthen architecture is restricted to arid, desert environments, however there is evidence of earthen architecture from almost everywhere in the world, from the abandoned desert cities of Central Asia, the Pyramids in Egypt, vast stretches of the Great Wall of China, cities of South America, mudde walls of the Yorkshire wolds, to the fabulous and beautiful new earth buildings being built all around the world today. Earth was, and is, everywhere.

However it is the case that earth walls can erode more quickly and leave less trace than walls built of other materials such as stone or fired brick. Because of this earthen architecture poses particular problems when planning for its identification, archaeological excavation, conservation and eventual management. It is these areas that provide a focus for the research carried out at the Institute of Archaeology, under the banner Earth: earthen archaeology research, theory and history.

Page last modified on 22 oct 12 11:58