Biblical Archaeology Review 40:2, March/April 2014

With & Without Straw: How Israelite Slaves Made Bricks

By Robert LittmanMarta LorenzonJay Silverstein

“Pharaoh charged the taskmasters and foremen of the [Israelites], saying, ‘You shall no longer provide the people with straw for making bricks as heretofore. Let them go and gather straw for themselves. But impose upon them the same quota of bricks as they have been making heretofore; do not reduce it, for they are shirkers’ … So the taskmasters and foremen of the people went out and said to the people, ‘Thus says Pharaoh: I will not give you any straw. You must go and get the straw yourselves wherever you can find it, but there shall be no decrease whatever in your work.’ Then the people scattered throughout the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. And the taskmasters pressed them saying, ‘You must complete the same work assignment each day as when you had straw.’”

(Exodus 5:6–8, 10–13)

For several years now, we have been studying the process of mudbrick making in our excavation at Tell Timai in the Nile Delta.

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