Clay is one of the most versatile and widely used naturally occurring material. It has been used since the beginning of civilization itself. The first house's built at the beginning of the neolithic revolution between the great rivers of the tigress and the Euphrates known as Mesopotamia, were constructed from a clay
subsoil as circular domed forms. Generations after generation rebuild these domestic houses on the same site for centuries. This practice can still be seen today in many parts of the world but particularly in rural west African villages using pre -industrialized construction techniques. This strong tradition of making pottery from clay can be witnessed outside of
the dwellings made from the same material. From vernacular architecture to domestic artifacts clay is a most versatile material.
In post industrialized society, clay is quarried and processed to create one of the main building materials used across the world: the brick. In contemporary western practice the clay is fired in industrial sized kilns.
In warmer climates the tradition of making Adobe bricks does not necessitate the firing process.
Similar examples of unfired clay brick can still be found in Britain in Northampton shire . The practice is known as clay lump. There are many other traditions of using clay as a building material for houses and walls without the need for firing that exist. The most
well-known is that of using cob largely found in Devon and also Northamptonshire.
Cob is a clay subsoil mixed by oxen with chopped straw, water and another naturally occurring material kindly provided by the cattle. Whattle and daub employs clay as a major part of the daub which is pressed into a weave of hazel and Reed to create a simple partition.
The practice of rammed earth which also uses a clay subsoil referred to as pise de Terre in France, was a prolific building method found in China. Originally over 50% of the Great Wall of China was constructed using this vernacular process.
Other uses of clay can be found within industrial and domestic settings from
components in electronics, kitchen knives and even fixings on space shuttles.
Clay has been used to whiten paper and to help settle an upset stomach. Clay is used every day by every person in some way.