The protected house

Buildings were living organisms, and they had to be fed: Mesopotamian foundational stones had milk or butter added to them, as well as antiseptics like oil, wine and honey. However, despite the solidity of the structures, the buildings were at the mercy of spirits, and protection from them could not fall to a mere collection of solid bricks. They had to be armed with charms against the evil eye: armed guardians in Persian palaces, lions in Babylon’s processional way or the terrible face of the Gorgon placed high up on buildings in Greece, Etruria and Rome all sought to deter enemies, and the skull-shaped bricks moulded by Miquel Barceló are an evocation of these magical beliefs.

Bowls with spiral inscriptions were placed at the outside corners of homes to trap evil spirits, and in the Muslim world tiles with the Hand of Fatima protected dwellings and dwellers from on high, as did socarrat tiles placed on ceilings in Christian cultures.