A substance said (in Gen. xi. 3) to have been used for mortar. It belongs to the class of hydrocarbons, and is a resultant from petroleum, after having gradually undergone evaporation and oxidation. The continuation of this process upon this mineral tar produces the asphalt so abundant at the southern end of the Dead Sea. Indeed, this material gave that sea the name of the asphaltic lake (Asphaltites Lacus). Deposits of this substance are found in many parts of the world, and almost always in close proximity to bitumen springs. The best known among those in the East to-day are at Hît, not far from the site of ancient Babylon. This bitumen was used in coating and thus in increasing the durability of sun-dried bricks, and for various other useful purposes. Hull thinks that the bitumen in the basin of the Dead Sea is probably derived from the bituminous limestones of the Cretaceous series, and that it reaches the surface through fissures in the rock. Of slight commercial importance, the springs of Hît are still used by the native boat-builders.

J. Jr. I. M. P.
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