How to Make a Hut

We know a lot about making Egyptian pyramids and palaces, and a bit about where skilled workers lived, but what about the small homes that peasants/serfs/slaves would have lived in?

Due to the scarcity of wood, the two predominant building materials used in ancient Egypt were sun-baked mud brick and stone, mainly limestone, but also sandstone and granite in considerable quantities. From the Old Kingdom onward, stone was generally reserved for tombs and temples, while bricks were used even for royal palaces, fortresses, the walls of temple precincts and towns, and for subsidiary buildings in temple complexes. The core of the pyramids consisted of locally quarried stone, mud bricks, sand or gravel. For the casing, stones were used that had to be transported from farther away, predominantly white limestone from Tura and red granite from upper Egypt.

Ancient Egyptian houses were made out of mud collected from the damp banks of the Nile river. It was placed in moulds and left to dry in the hot sun to harden for use in construction. If the bricks were intended to be used in a royal tomb like a pyramid, the exterior bricks would also be finely chiselled and polished.

Ancient Egyptian architecture. Wikipedia.
A brick wall in Giza, Egypt. 2010. kallerna.

There was very little wood in Egypt, especially wood one might build with. The wealthy imported their wood, and scrap pieces or used items probably made their way to all people. While grand structures often used stone such as limestone, houses mostly used mud brick. The exact same bricks Torah describes Hebrew slaves making for Pharaoh (bricks that were certainly made in other desert areas, so we can’t use this as evidence that there were in fact Hebrew slaves in Ancient Egypt). So it only makes sense that the huts in my Hebrew village would also be made of mud brick.

The brick store-chambers of Pithom, the city built by Hebrew bondsmen—looking north. Breasted, James Henry, 1865-1935. “Egypt through the stereoscope : a journey through the land of the Pharaohs [Electronic Version].” (1908) Rice University: (We’ll take the title of this 1908 work with a grain of salt.)

Homes of those who were better off often had flat mudbrick roofs where people slept to get away from the heat. Some homes had multiple rooms. I’m assuming each family unit had one small room (closer to worker village rooms of 25 square meters (270 square feet)) without a second story. Roofs and even some of the walls would be reed, not brick.

Ruins of old Huraymila, Saudi Arabia. Richard Mortel. December 18, 2021. (The Old Town of Huraymila, Saudi Arabia, has ruins of buildings which are probably a couple hundred years old but the town goes back around 1000 years. Note the roofs which are reeds, not brick.)


What I keep going back and forth on is the roofs. Some articles say that most (or nearly all) homes in Ancient Egypt had flat roofs made of mudbrick (or a mud/straw plaster) that were used for sleeping. A few articles say that homes of poorer people would have reed roofs. Few to none of these articles actually have any primary sources (mudbrick and reeds do not last long enough) and it’s all guesswork.

Egyptian Fired Clay Soul House, 12th Dynasty. Ancient Egypt Gallery, British Museum, London, England, UK.  1 August 2017, Gary Todd from Xinzheng, China.

We know what the grand structures were made of. We know what people aspired to after death (soul houses being models of ideal homes found in gravesites). And we’re still learning more about recently excavated worker villages. But there’s very little about how the poorest of the poor, those in their own rural villages, would have lived.

So I will assume a simple mudbrick construction (single layer, as many sites claim the poor used) for single room huts. Some windows and broken spots covered in reeds. Roofs made from reeds, with perhaps the occasional full mud roof one can climb on. Open doorways with reed or cloth coverings.

Because my main family is an extended family (all descendants of the matriarch, Jochebed), they share a courtyard, kitchen, well, gardens, livestock areas, and toilet. To make their 11 huts fit the space, some will have shared walls but others will have air space between them, for noise and air circulation.


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