Goats-Hair Cloth and Bricks of Mud

    “Goats-Hair Cloth and Bricks of Mud,” Tambuli, Feb. 1995, 10


    Goats-Hair Cloth and Bricks of Mud

    During Old Testament times, children of the Bible lands often lived in tents. Those who left Egypt with Moses to travel in the wilderness for 40 years, for example, never had a permanent home while they were growing up. Abraham was also a nomad (a person who moves from place to place) for much of his life. And while Lehi and his family journeyed from Jerusalem to the sea, and after they reached the Promised Land, they lived in tents, too.

    These tents were probably much like the tents still used today by the nomadic peoples of the Middle East. They were likely made of cloth woven from goats’ hair. Wooden rings for the poles that held the tent up were stitched into the cloth. There were usually three rows of poles, with the middle row being taller than the outer rows. Ropes were stretched from the poles on the outside walls of the tent to the ground, where they were staked.

    Most tents were divided into two sections. One section was a kind of open porch, which was used for receiving guests. The other section, which was curtained off, was usually used as the women’s quarters and as a storage area. The floor was often just dirt, but sometimes it was covered with woven mats. There was little or no furniture in these dwellings, and children and their parents slept on straw mats rolled out each night and put away each morning.

    Only those children whose families were able to stay in one place long enough lived in permanent homes.

    Generally the homes had only one room, not much bigger than the average tent, and they were made of mud bricks.

    To make the bricks, a builder first dug a hole in the ground. Into this hole he put a mixture of dirt, water, chopped straw, palm fiber, and bits of shell and charcoal. Then he stomped on it until it became pliable. This mixture was poured into wooden molds to form the bricks, which were either left to dry in the sun or dried in a large oven called a kiln. The stronger, kiln-dried bricks were used for the foundations. Only those who were lucky enough to live near rock quarries or mountains were able to use roughly formed stones in their foundations, instead.

    A mud mixture was used as mortar to hold the bricks in place and as a kind of plaster for the walls. When it rained, sometimes the water soaked through the mortar and the walls, making the home a very damp place. Because the roofs were formed by placing brushwood, dirt, and clay on top of wooden beams, the rain also caused grass to grow on them. Sometimes small animals were allowed to graze on the roof.

    Windows in these homes were few in number and small in size. In summer they were covered with a wooden lattice, and in winter with a heavy cloth.

    As time went on, improvements were made in Old Testament housing, but many of the children who loved and followed the early prophets lived in goats-hair tents or mud-brick homes.

    Illustrated by Phyllis Luch