Posted by: imalqata | February 13, 2014

To Flatten or not to Flatten

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Remains of mud plaster floor (lower right) and pottery used as leveling material (upper left) in room Y11

Remains of mud plaster floor (lower right) and pottery used as leveling material (upper left) in room Y11

In a settlement built on the irregular surfaces of desert terraces, the inhabitants of the North Village needed to find fast and inexpensive ways to make their living surfaces as flat as possible. One common way that people tried to make their floors flat was to take what I have come to call leveling fill, that is, mud, sand, small bits of old mud brick, broken pieces of pottery and occasionally animal bone and small beads mixed together. This ancient garbage is packed into the uneven surface of the gebel or natural desert. Sometimes people seem to have shaped the gebel a bit first, but often the layer of ancient garbage is quite as irregular in its thickness as the unevenness of the desert was. Once the leveling fill was in place, the occupant of the house would cover the surface with a layer of plaster (mud mixed with some straw) to create a floor. This is the same type of material found between many of the bricks in the house walls

A broken pot is given new life as fill in the floor

A broken pot is given new life as fill in the floor

Yesterday I came across a room in what is probably a house where the builder had left behind a shallow dish filled with ash as part of the leveling fill for the room’s floor. In one corner, the mud plaster floor still survived and you could see how the broken and discarded bowl was given a second life as a support for the plaster floor.

Uneven pathway through the village

Uneven pathway through the village

Apparently a level surface wasn’t always an option or a necessity and it appears that people in this settlement accepted a floor or street that sloped, sometimes steeply, as a way of life. For instance, there is a north/south pathway in the east side of the village that starts out level, but as it turns into an east/west walkway a passerby would have been forced to walk on a steep slope that was part of a desert terrace for about three meters until the path leveled out again. Since the people here probably knew they were not going to be permanent residents, they may have been willing to put up with uneven floors and streets that in their own homes or villages would not have been tolerated.
Diana Craig Patch

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