The earliest were those used in building Babel, of clay burned in the fire. Genesis 11:3, "Let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly (margin burn them to a burning). And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar." So Herodotus states that in building Babylon's walls the clay dug out of the ditch was made into bricks, being burnt in kilns. The bricks were cemented with hot bitumen (asphalt), and at every thirtieth row reeds were stuffed in. The materials were ready to their hands, clay and bitumen bubbling up from the ground. But in Assyria and Egypt the bricks are sundried, not fireburnt, though in Jeremiah 43:9 a brick kiln is mentioned in Egypt.

The Babylonian are larger than English bricks, being about 13 in. square, and 3 1/2 in. thick; more like our tiles, and often enameled with patterns (compare Ezekiel 4:1); such have been found at Nimrud. The Babylonians used to record astronomical observations on tiles. Nebuchadnezzar's buildings superseded those of his predecessors; hence, most of the Babylonian bricks bear his name m cuneiform character. The Egyptian are from 15 to 20 in. long, 7 wide, 5 thick. Those of clay from the torrent beds near the desert need no straw, and are as solid now as when put up m the reigns of the Egyptian kings before the Exodus. Those made of Nile mud need straw to prevent cracking; and frequently a layer of reeds at intervals acted as binders.

In the paintings on the tomb of Rekshara, an officer of Thothmes III (1400 B.C.), captives, distinguished from the natives by color, are represented as forced by taskmasters to make brick; the latter armed with sticks are receiving "the tale of bricks." This maybe a picture of the Israelites in their Egyptian bondage; at least it strikingly illustrates it. In Assyria artificial mounds, encased with limestone blocks, raised the superstructure 30 or 40 feet above the level of the plain. The walls of crude brick were cased with gypsum slabs to the height of 10 feet; kiln-burned bricks cased the crude bricks from the slabs to the top of the wall. The brick kiln is mentioned in David's time as in use in Israel (2 Samuel 12:31); they in Isaiah's time (Isaiah 65:3) substituted altars of brick for the unhewn stone which God commanded.