Ancient Building Materials

From the very beginning of human civilization, men were using 3 basic building materials,

  1. stone,
  2. clay,
  3. wood

Depending on the scarcity or abundance of one or more of these materials in the different localities, the ancients made spectacular use of the materials on hand and built local styles and various building forms from them.

Most ancient stone masonry were dry-jointed, until the Romans developed the use of concrete.

In areas where there were limited timbers (eg Egypt & Mesopotamia), people used clay to make sun-baked bricks. Although kiln burnt technology were around, most ancient civilizations had potteries and clay pipes, and did not make terracotta roof tiles until the Bronze Age in Greece.  Burnt bricks came much later until the time of Alexander the Great.

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Aswan Dam

The Nile is the life of Egypt.

In the 1960s, Egyptian Government made the decision and investment to build a dam south of Aswan to control the annul flood of the Nile as well as for hydro-electricity.

There are many pros and cons.

The far-reaching effects are surfacing:

  • An artificial lake, lake Nasser (named after the President who initiated the construction of the dam & the lake)  is created above the dam, much of the historic sites along the banks are lost forever.
  • Without the natural annul flooding, the Nile can no longer enrich the soils on its two banks with nutrient-rich sediments.  The farmers have to use non-environment-friendly, expensive artificial fertilizer.
  • The Nile Delta, instead of normal accumulation as in all natural river delta,  is also suffering from the same sediment loss. The shoreline is constantly eroded by  the Mediterranean waves with no additional sediment being brought down from the river.
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Greek World

By the time of Jesus the Messiah, most of his known world was under Roman Empire, and the dominant culture of the Empire was known to us as Graeco-Roman Culture.

The Graeco-Roman Culture was affected by many external influences, among them Egyptian, and Mesopotamian.  Greek culture itself had went through centuries of successions, from Minoan, Mycenaean to Classic Greek.

For our easier understanding, the architecture of Graeco-Roman world can be subdivided into 3 main groups:

  1. of Etruria & Latium, Northern Italy
  2. of Greece, Southern Italy
  3. of Hellenistic Asia Minor

Of the architectural remains survived till today, most of them are just ruins beyond recognition in the eyes of a common tourist, just pieces of stones here, and broken wall there, among the few remaining columns. (Most of the standing columns on the archaeological sites had been re-erected by archaeologists).  The more interesting building types are the open air theatres & amphitheatres, aqueducts, bridges, triumphal arches and the few city gates.

Normally speaking, temples survived better than the residential houses,  for reasons:

  • Temples were built with special consideration and planning, better design, more durable material, more labor and cost involved.
  • Temples were protected and maintained by the religious authorities, often with political backings.
  • Some temples, as a place of worship, were changed to churches and had continuous usage and maintenance.
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Babylon: Where it all begin

Take a moment and think, what is the geographical setting of the Bible?

We may think of the world view of present day Christianity, of Roman Catholicism, or of Jewish Israel and so on. But may be to your surprise, the Bible’s initial setting is in the Mesopotamia.

(Click on map to enlarge)

The term Mesopotamia is a Greek word, meaning the land between the rivers, i.e. the Euphrates (Greek name, meaning “Sweeting Water”; in Hebrew is Perath (of Assyrian origin), meaning “the good and abounding river“) ,  and the Tigris (Greek name transliterated from Old Persian;  in Hebrew is Hiddekel, Smith Bible Dictionary gives the meaning as “rapid, swift“).

A brief conceptual history should gives us a clearer picture of this land.

The civilization roughly can be traced back to 6000BC. The more famous were of two civilizations: Assyria in the North, centering on the Upper Tigris regions and Babylon in the South, on the lower regions where the two rivers run parallel to one another.

These two rivers were of the same name mentioned in Genesis 2, among the first bunch of Geographical names that we have in the Bible. Many are debating whether the Edenic pre-flood rivers could be the same as what we have today after the flood.

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Go Slow Italy

Go Slow Italy

My sketch is based on a photo from the book which I borrowed from the city library, Go Slow Italy, by Alastair Sawday.

I found this book under the “travel” category, I am attracted to the catch word “SLOW”.

“Have you ever eaten a MacDonald’s Hamburger?… Brilliantly effective, and heart-breakingly fatuous. If it were just clever and silly we would have little to worry about. But of course it is much, much more than that.

“Fast food… had driven young people into the arms of an alien and damaging culture, fattened them and filled them with junk.

“Carlo Petrini created Slow Food movement…  he encouraged people to think of Slow Food as a creative and wholly enjoyable phenomenon.

“Farmers… rejected factory farming. They were never going to get rich, but not all of us want to. For people who like doing things their own way, the Slow movement has been a tonic.

“Our western societies have slowly and almost imperceptibly learned to live at a pace that would have alarmed even those insanely galloping young men.  We need, it seems, to be ‘elsewhere’, anywhere but ‘here’. Holidays have to be far away, the further the better. Food comes from distant countries; friends are cultivated beyond our immediate reach; we work hard in order to have time not to work……

These thoughts are refreshing, as they give us a new alternate look at life.  We, who live all our life in a cosmopolitan mega-city, are too much straight-jacketed by our social norms, everyone pushing for efficiency, power, riches and even health at a fast pace, the faster to reach our goal the better it seems. We are not even given a chance to think twice.

Reflections:

  • If getting rich is not the goal, what then is the real purpose of life?
  • Do I enjoy the things that I am doing everyday? Am I enjoying every meal and everyday of my life?
  • Could “holidaying at home”, “enjoying your friends” be a reality?
  • When was the last time that I go slow: reading a book, instead of watching a movie, or documentary, going over thousands of years of history within 45 minutes?
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