The secret of the strength of the Great Wall of China

From Telegraph:

The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu

Workers built the Ming dynasty sections of the Great Wall about 600 years ago by mixing together a paste of sticky rice flour and slaked lime, the standard ingredient in mortar, said Dr Zhang Bingjian.

The sticky rice mortar bound the bricks together so tightly that in many places weeds still cannot grow. However, there was widespread resentment against the Wall in the south of China because the Ming emperors requisitioned the southern rice harvest both to feed the workers on the Wall and to make the mortar.

“The ancient mortar is a special kind of organic and inorganic mixture,” said Dr Zhang, a professor of chemistry at Zhejiang university in the city of Hangzhou in eastern China.

“The organic component is amylopectin, which comes from the porridge of sticky rice that was added to the mortar,” he said.

“The inorganic component is calcium carbonate, and the organic component is amylopectin, which comes from the sticky rice soup added to the mortar. This amylopectin helped create a compact microstructure, [giving the Great Wall] more stable physical properties and greater mechanical strength,” he reported in the journal of the American Chemical Society.

Dr Zhang said the use of sticky rice, a staple in East Asian food, was one of the greatest technical innovations of the time, and helped Ming dynasty tombs, pagodas and walls weather earthquakes and other disasters.

From Telegraph

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Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Côa Valley

The Côa Valley (Portugal) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed in the WH List in 1998 under the official name of “Prehistoric Rock-Art Sites in the Côa Valley“. According to WHC: this exceptional concentration of rock carvings from the Upper Palaeolithic (22,000–10,000 B.C.) is the most outstanding example of early human artistic activity in this form anywhere in the world.

From ArchDaily:

The Museum of Art and Archaeology in the Côa Valley is conceived as an installation in the landscape. The monolithic triangular form is a direct result of the valley’s confluences. Its materiality evokes the local stone yards and reflects two different natures: the concrete’s matter, and the local stone’s texture and colour.

Architects: Camilo Rebelo + Tiago Pimentel/Sandra Barbosa

For more amazing images and plans of the museum, including detailed information, visit ArchDaily here.

Call for papers – JCHMSD

From UNESCO-WHC:

The new Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development (JCHMSD), is currently considering papers for inclusion in its first issue launching in 2011. The double-blind peer reviewed journal is edited by Ana Pereira Roders, Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands, and Ron van Oers, UNESCO World Heritage Centre, France. It stimulates and encourages research devoted to the sustainable development of cultural heritage and to the positive contribution of cultural heritage management towards a sustainable environment.

Coverage includes, but is not limited to:

  • Cultural heritage – assessment, management, marketing and publicity, tangible and intangible dimensions
  • Sustainable development – preservation, conservation, restoration, rehabilitation, reconstruction, demolition, best practices, unsustainable development and consequent threats e.g. urban developments, large-scale agriculture, mining activity
  • Cultural heritage and sustainable development – legislation, Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment, effects of climate change, ecological sustainability, social sustainability, economic sustainability
  • The role of research and scholarship
  • Teaching & curriculum development

Submission:
Submissions should be sent by email to the Editors before August 2010:
Ana Pereira Roders: a.r.pereira-roders@bwk.tue.nl
Ron van Oers: R.Vanoers@unesco.org

Articles should be supplied in Word format. All authors’ details must be printed on a separate sheet and authors should not be identified anywhere else in the article. Submissions will be “concise-paper” articles of around 2,000 – 6,000 words. A title of no more than eight words should be provided.

More information can be found at: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/jchmsd.htm

From UNESCO-WHC

The oldest burial documented in Mesoamerica?

From guardian.co.uk:

Archaeologists in southern Mexico have discovered the 2,700-year-old tomb of a dignitary inside a pyramid that may be the oldest such burial documented in Mesoamerica.

The tomb held a man aged about 50, who was buried with jade collars, pyrite and obsidian artefacts and ceramic vessels. Archaeologist Emiliano Gallaga said the tomb dates to between 500 and 700BC.

“We think this is one of the earliest discoveries of the use of a pyramid as a tomb, not only as a religious site or temple,” Gallaga said.

Pre-Hispanic cultures built pyramids mainly as representations of the levels leading from the underworld to the sky; the highest point usually held a temple.

The tomb was found at a site built by Zoque Indians in Chiapa de Corzo, in southern Chiapas state. It may be almost 1,000 years older than the better-known pyramid tomb of the Mayan ruler Pakal at the Palenque archaeological site, also in Chiapas.

The man – probably a high priest or ruler of Chiapa de Corzo, a prominent settlement at the time – was buried in a stone chamber. Marks in the wall indicate wooden roof supports were used to create the tomb, but the wood long ago collapsed under the weight of the pyramid built above…

Read the rest of this article here.

This discovery is also featured here.

Babylon ruins torn between preservation and profit

From Associated Press:

A US-funded program to restore the ruins of Iraq’s ancient city of Babylon is threatened by a dispute among Iraqi officials over whether the priority should be preserving the site or making money off it.

Local officials want swift work done to restore the crumbling ruins and start building restaurants and gift shops to draw in tourists, while antiquities officials in Baghdad favor a more painstaking approach to avoid the gaudy restoration mistakes of the past.

The ruins of the millennia-old city, famed for its Hanging Gardens and the Tower of Babel, have suffered heavily over the past decades. Deep in Iraq’s verdant south, the cluster of excavated temples and palaces were mostly rebuilt by former ruler Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, using modern yellow brick to erect towering structures that marred the fragile remains of the original mud brick ruins. After Saddam’s fall in 2003, a U.S. military base on the site did further damage.

The site is filled with overgrown hillocks hiding the estimated 95 percent of the city that remains unexcavated — which archaeologists hope could eventually be uncovered.

But for that to happen, they argue, the slow and meticulous work needs to be done to train Iraqis in conservation and draw up a preservation plan that can be used to drum up international funds and get the site UNESCO World Heritage status.

A $700,000, two-year project to do that, funded by the U.S. State Department and carried out by the New York-based World Monument Fund, began last year and if it succeeds, the Babylon project could be a model for saving other ancient sites in this country that witnessed the birth of urban civilization…

Read the rest of the article here.