ADOBE HOUSES, NEW MEXICO — In “New” Mexico and in “Old” Mexico there is a peculiar style of architecture which is both primitive, natural and economical — it is the ADOBE method of building. Large flat cakes of sun-dried clay, called “Adobe bricks,” are used today and have been used for ages in these countries. In fact, we find the same thing to have been done in Egypt and the Holy Land, and many a town in Mexico presents a decidedly Oriental appearance on account of its thousands of flat-roofed houses of adobe. It cannot be said of this material that it is at all beautiful. The color of such houses is far from cheerful, being frequently a sort of compromise between a loaf of brown-bread and a strong cigar. There are rarely any windows in these huts and almost never does a chimney rob them of their flatness and monotony. But as a rule in New Mexico, as in the country south of the Rio Grande, no fires are needed either for warmth or cooking, save such as can be made in a pan, or at best, in small brick ovens, heated with charcoal. One half the world, it is said, does not know how the other half lives. To see these dwellers in adobe huts is quite a revelation to most travelers; but who knows whether their inhabitants are not in reality as happy as the wealthy inmates of a sumptuous palace? (from John L. Stoddard, Glimpses of the world; a portfolio of photographs of the marvelous works of God and man – 1892)

The word adobe has existed for around 4,000 years, with relatively little change in either pronunciation or meaning. The word can be traced from the Middle Egyptian (c. 2000 BC) word dbt “mud brick.” As Middle Egyptian evolved into Late Egyptian, Demotic (Egyptian), and finally Coptic (c. 600 BC), τωωβε dj-b-t became tobe “[mud] brick.” This was borrowed into Arabic as al tob, tuba, or Al-ţŭb. (الطّوب al “the” + ţŭb. “brick”) “[mud] brick,” which was assimilated into Old Spanish as adobe [aˈdobe], still with the meaning “mud brick.” English borrowed the word from Spanish in the early 18th century.

In more modern English usage, the term “adobe” has come to include a style of architecture popular in the desert climates of North America, especially in New Mexico. (from Wikipedia)


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