We know there were extensive trade ties between the ancient Indus Valley Civilization and that of ancient Sumer.

I'm curious if there were cultural transmissions of engineering ideas too. The Indus and Saraswati network of cities had standardized baked bricks constructed with specific ratios.

Did monuments like the great Ziggurat of Ur have the same ratio as IVC sites? If so, do we know where the oldest examples of those brick ratios are found?

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    I was curious, so I looked it up and put a good reference for IVC/Mesopotamian trade into a link in your question for you. FYI: the words "We know" are often used here (particularly by new users) to try to pass off factually incorrect assertions as facts, and then get us to reason against nonsense. Something to be aware of when you write future questions. Either way, its good practice here to back up any non-trivial assertions with references.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 14:28
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    The same can be said for the second statement: The Indus and Saraswati network of cities had standardized baked bricks constructed with specific ratios. What is the source you are basing this information off of, and what are these sizes and ratios? If I have to research your question before I can begin to research an answer, It means I have half as much time (or half as much inclination) left to dedicate to solve your question...
    – justCal
    Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 15:19
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    FWIW, I found this article that provides the dimensions (in mm) that Mesopotamian fired bricks eventually landed at. I haven't been able to get the same info for IVC bricks, although it does seem to be a common claim that they stuck to the 1:2:4 dimensional proportions during the brief window that the IVC was firing bricks (and that does match the proportions on the earlier Mesopotamian fired bricks). If someone could dig up the actual IVC measurements (assuming that was standardized), I think there's enough info for an answer.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 21:24

1 Answer 1


Page 88 of the reference given above by @T.E.D. gives:

enter image description here

The author further observes, on the following page, that:

The most suitable brick shape that can improve the way of joining the structure to make it stronger, as well as the ease of transport from the production site to the construction site, ... were important elements that played a main role in determining the dimensions, size, and shape of the brick.

While some patterns gradually appear in the aspect ratios, as noted on page 91 of the reference, full standardization is not seen until the Neo Babylon period some centuries following collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization about 1300 B.C.

Thus the wide variance (across both time and space) in size and shape, in width from 12 to 23 cm and in width:thickness ratio from 12:6 to 23:6 for example, belies any concept of there being a "standard" brick dimension. With the failure of such existing in Ancient Mesopotamia, the suggestion that such a standard might have been transferred to the Indus Valley by trade becomes unfortunately meaningless.

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    2 things I'd add to this: 1) The references I found for the IVC all seemed to be saying that it was the "Mature" Harrapan phase (2600-1900BC) where fired (not sun-dried mud) bricks were mostly used in the IVC. Not so much before or later. That's when bricks would have been mass-produced from molds of a standard size. 2) The 1:2:4 proportion the IVC used isn't too far off what is used today for modern bricks, and is arguably near the ideal form factor for a brick. So its not at all weird that it would be arrived at independently, even if it were the same.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 16:29
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    @T.E.D.: Thank you. Let me look into (1) a bit. Point (2) occurred to me also, perhaps since a set of plastic red bricks was once a favourite toy. I'm actually surprised it took so long to settle as a standard. I'm just not quite sure yet how I want to work it in. Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 16:45
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    Thanks for this helpful research. I would have expected the cultural transmission to go in the opposite direction (i.e. Indus Valley to Mesopotamia), given the emphasis on engineering standardization in the IVC (trading weights, municipal plumbing, brick dimensions, etc.) But it appears there was no such standardization in the Mesopotamian region .
    – rd108
    Commented Jul 10, 2023 at 0:07

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