Replica of a

Late Bronze Age Kiln

Experimental Archaeology

Replication of a LBA Kiln

 Kiln Gallery

Making Mud Bricks

   Mud Bricks Gallery

Making Tandir

   Tandir Gallery

The Replication of a LBA Kiln

   Kiln Gallery

Burn the Brick

Burn the House Down

   Burn the House Gallery

   Burn the House Video

Burn the Palace Down

   Burn the Palace Gallery

   Burn the Palace Video

The Mud House

Ceramic Fabric Exp.






As part of the 2009 experimental projects to provide first hand observation, a replica of a Late Bronze Age kiln was reconstructed with the help and effort of team members. The project was inspired by the exposure in 2004 of a variety of pyrotechnic installations in the eastern part of the mound. Following 5 years of excavations, we can now confirm that this part of the LBI city functioned as an industrial quarter with some installations designated for the production of pottery, metal and other materials. The 2008 magnetometry survey had already defined a large number of anomalies (interpreted as pyrotechnological installations) in the eastern side of the mound, suggesting a location for the craft quarters of the site. This evidence coincides with the afternoon wind direction in the Amuq valley which always blows from west to east, thus preventing the poisonous effects of smoke from reaching the city.
For the experiment, a unique example discovered in 2004 in Square 44.80 (see report 2004) was selected as a model. Found in very good condition, both the upper stage and lower chamber had been exposed. The firing chamber was seen, but not excavated. Providing a template for pottery firing at the site, an attempt was made in the experiment to understand how these installations were constructed and functioned.

The Kiln discovered during the 2004 excavation season.

The Construction of the Kiln: the Lower Stage

A 1.5 m x 1.5 meter area was cleaned at the dig house near the 2008 experimental bread oven (tandir). A square space was dug to a 30 cm depth to allow 20 x 40 cm mud bricks to stand on their short sides. The ground level of the foundation trench was then coated with a mud and straw mixture. This layer provided insulation and functioned as mortar bedding for the mud bricks.

Fig 1: The foundation and the firing pit                              Fig 2: Covering the foundation with straw and mud mixture

Thirteen (40 x 20 cm) mud bricks were laid along the sides and the central section, creating three rows of horizontal flues in an east-west direction. Three north-south flues were also made to provide air circulation. Along the wall sides and in between the mud bricks, five spaces were left open in order to locate the flues. In the interior section of the kiln, the spaces between the mud brick rows varied from 20 to 30 cm. In four spots in between the bricks, additional support was given by making mud bridges. Those bridges were used to create a better foundation platform for the next floor level without blocking the air ventilation inside the lower stage. Behind, a firing pit with 1.70 m diameter was dug to a meter depth where fuel would be burned. The firing chamber and the lower deck were then separated by a mud brick wall.

Fig 3: Students preapering the mud brick foundation.     Fig 4: The mud brick foundation.

The Upper Deck/ Floor

One of the most complicated tasks in building a kiln was the preparation of the upper clay stage that would be on top of the mud brick foundations. To enable the hot airflow from the lower deck to flow up into this platform stage, flues were made in the lower chamber. To seal the lower chamber and in order to create the upper stage, a decision was made to use a technique resembling slab construction. Each day only a portion of the floor was added in the horizontal space. For this type of construction, like in the bread oven, a special type of clay was necessary. East of the Alalakh mound, in the deep cut of a canal constructed to drain Lake Antioch, a strata of light colored soil provided good quality clay for constructing bread ovens. This clay was traditionally used by the villagers for making mud brick and pise structures. Last year, following the same tradition, our bread oven was constructed from the same source. Since this clay has enough strength and cohesion, we decided to use it for constructing the kiln stage. Carrying chunks from the canal in sand bags, the clay was afterward set in water tanks. The clay chunks were levigated with the aid of water and each day, an amount was taken out from the tanks for drying. The half dried clay was mixed with straw and the mixture was laid on top of the brick foundation. This slow process started by moving from the sides of the wall into the interior. It was very important for the clay to stick to the brick support and then move to other spots slowly where no brick support existed. Emulating the excavated 2004 examples, to enable the hot airflow to the upper deck, the upper stage itself was perforated for flue holes. Ten holes were made into the clay surface to provide an equal distribution of air flow without losing the carrying strength of the stage. Based on the coiling technique used, the approximate thickness of the stage surface varied from 2-4 cm at several spots.

Fig 5-6: The preaparation of the clay floor.

The Walls

The archaeological record has limited information about the superstructure of the furnace. Therefore, a decision was made to raise the walls of the kiln by using a brick vaulting technique, called corbelling. The surrounding walls were elevated by 4 brick courses. Each new course of mud bricks were laid slightly inwards creating a corbelled arch formation. Each day only three courses were added to allow the mud and straw combination of mortar to dry. Any attempt to do more would have collapsed the entire structure since no wooden supports were used. Under the skeptical eyes of the many team members, the corbelled arch vault rose to the top and the central section was left open for the chimney. A door was located on the north side of the structure which could be sealed with mud bricks, and a mud and straw mixture in order to provide full insulation each time before the firing. 200 mud bricks were used for the construction of the walls.

Fig 7-8: Constructing the Walls.

While constructing the vault, we realized why the kiln did not operate during our first attempts. The error was in raising the walls of the installation at the same height as the firing pit. In order to make a more solid construction, we realized that it was at the expense of air circulation. The space created in the firing chamber made the hot air rise towards the ceiling of the firing chamber rather than flow into the underground channels of the lower chamber. This mistake was fixed by taking down the walls of the firing pit and creating a very low ceiling that will push the hot air into the channels in the lower chamber and then into the upper stage.

Fig 9: Firing the Kiln. Fig 10: The plastering of the outer surface.

Firing the Kiln

Several thermocouples were located inside the construction during the first firing attempt. One was attached to the wall face of the firing pit, two were located inside the lower chamber and two more were located on the upper stage. A separate one was attached to the chimney. As mentioned above, when thermocouples were placed, the standing walls of the firing pit were at the same height as the construction, approximately 1.50 m. When the heat approached 600 degrees in the firing pit, the lower and upper stage kept their stable temperature and did not reach higher then 34 degrees.

Fig 11-12: Ben Claasz Coockson working on the firing pit of the Kiln.

We corrected this error by taking the walls of the firing chamber to the height of the floor level, so that the fire in the pit was forced to run through the lower deck then to the upper stage floor and finally to the chimney. Unfortunately, when this was done, the experiment was not tested with thermocouples due to the absence of the Geologist member of the team, Pinar Ertepinar Kaymakci. However, a trial to bake a figurine made by our Registrar Ferhat Can showed that the kiln was functioning properly except for the fact that it needed more channels to allow smoke to escape for less oxidization. As the final step to insulate the kiln, the entire structure was sealed by a mud and straw mixture by plastering the dome.

Future work is planned to improve the quality of this experiment.

Special thanks to Hasan Ay, Sarah Hawley, Marjie Bush, Nurettin Bataray, Aycan Ensan, Ferhat Can , Isa Okten, Sadik Isik, Gokhan Maskar , Eda Atasever and Ben Claasz Coockson for their great efford on the construction of the Kiln.

for more information

Murat Akar