Chemists from China have discovered the formula of a durable ancient mortar made of sticky rice and limestone, which will help archaeologists restore ancient tombs and palaces. Living on Earth’s Meghan Miner brings us this science note.
GELLERMAN: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Bruce Gellerman. Just ahead: sun, sun, sun, California here it comes! But first, this Note on Emerging Science from Meghan Miner.
[SCIENCE NOTE THEME]
MINER: Sticky rice is popular in East Asia, partly because it’s conveniently clumpy for eating with chopsticks. But its stickiness also made it useful to ancient Chinese builders.
Fifteen hundred years ago, Chinese bricklayers mixed heated limestone and water with sticky rice to create a mortar. The sticky rice-lime paste may be the world’s earliest “combination mortar,” that used both organic and inorganic materials.
The use of sticky rice mortar persisted through the Ming Dynasty, which flourished until the mid seventeenth century. City walls, tombs and palaces built with the rice-lime paste have proven durable- resilient to earthquakes and standing up to the test of time.
Chemists in China have recently uncovered the ‘secret ingredient’ that makes this rice-lime paste work. It’s amylopectin, a complex carbohydrate in the sticky rice.
The researchers say this information will prove helpful in restoring ancient buildings. And, this can be a tricky process…using modern alternatives can lead to the failure of the restoration work and even further damage to the historic structures.
Which just goes to show that sticky rice is not only tasty, but restorative too. That’s this week’s note on Emerging Science, I’m Meghan Miner.
[SCIENCE NOTE THEME]
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
P.O. Box 990007
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.
Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth