Courtesy Robert Littman and Marta Lorenzon

BRICKS WITHOUT STRAW. Adding straw—or another organic material like dung—to mudbricks strengthens them because it binds the bricks together, enabling them to dry evenly and reduces shrinkage, which prevents cracks from developing in the bricks. At Tell Timai, the archaeologists manufactured some bricks without straw temper to see what difference it made. The results were conclusive: The brown bricks without straw, pictured above, were significantly more fragile and easily broken than the sturdier red bricks with temper.