Monthly Archives: December 2014

Bahay Kubo designs

Samal Bahay Kubo

A range of bahay kubo designs from the Philippines and inspiration from beyond for Filipino builders.


These Sasa homes are next to the car ferry

Balay are the inspiration for this resort south of Mati

Eden Park’s traditional village showcases this tribal chief’s bahay kubo

Viewed here from the uphill side

Other bahay kubo at Eden Park are available for rent

Some require a bit of courage

Others are grounded at one end…

…and airbourne at the other

Island Garden City of Samal (IGaCoS)

Abandoned kubo in Toril, Samal Island Abandoned kubo in Toril, Samal Island

Toril, Samal Island Toril, Samal Island



A new balay family home in Catagman

Bamboo furniture makes a comfortable place on the balcony

A sizeable house under construction in 2008 near Samal’s bat caves

As spectacular a bahay kubo as you could wish to find – at the entrance to the bat caves

Punta del Sol’s bahay kubo

A water-front bahay kubo at…

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Posted by on December 31, 2014 in Uncategorized


Cuisine in the Roman World.( An update )

Seeing that I have blogged about Food in the Roman period before, I will treat this post as an update, and hope you will enjoy the recipe given by Stephanie Hoss as she explores how a Mediterranean passion for the delicacy of Asparagus developed in the northern provinces.

The Romans are renowned for having been gourmets ,but their services to horticulture are less widely celebrated. Their talent for farming successfully generated many new fruit and vegetable cultivars, which were developed using selective breeding. While maps of the Roman Empire are  often seen as marking territory subject to its laws and, in some cases, occupied by soldiers, the green fingered imperialists also introduced a wealth of different fruit, vegetables and herbs to their provinces north of the  Alps.The list is long and includes such supposedly quintessential  English herbs as mint, as well as cherries and peaches. Among the vegetables, though, asparagus is surely their most famouse import.


Asparagus plants grow wild in the Mediterranean area, and proved agreeable to the Ancient Greek palate. Dried asparagus was also used as a medicine. The famouse Greek physician Hippocrates(c 460 BC – 370 BC ) recommended a tea made from dried asparagus as a diuretic, and  another made from the plant’s roots as a remedy for toothache. Hippocrates also refers to another of asparagus’ reputed properties; an aphrodisiac. Since no Greek sources refer to asparagus being farmed, wild plants were most likely  sufficient to sate their appetite for it. The same cannot be said of the Romans.


The oldest description of asparagus cultivation can be found in the writings of the Roman polymath, M. Porcius Cato Censor (234-149 BC) This prominent military commander, historian, and  politician also found time to turn his hand to gardening, and he published the treatise  Deagri cultura (On Farming ). Other asparagus tips can be found in Pliny the Elders Naturalis  Historia (1st century AD) and the agricultural works of Colmella and Palladius (1st and 5th centuries AD, respectively).

Roman Asparagus cultivation.

The possible Roman asparagus beds discovered in a rural settlement, under excavation by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit nr Cambridge


The cultivation methods laid out by the  Roman authors were geared towards mass-producing asparagus for the commercial market, which seems to have been highly lucrative. The methods they used stood the test of time, not changing significantly until well into the 19th century. According to Pliny the Elder, asparagus cultivated near Ravenna was especially bountiful, with three shoots weighing one Roman pound (or 327.4g) At first sight this may seem like an exaggeration to rival the statistics provided for some Roman victories, but modern asparagus shoots can weigh more than 100g.  The quality of Ravenna’s asparagus is also invoked by the poet Marcial (c40-104 AD), who elected to introduce  a more affordable gift with the ( perhaps optimistic ) declaration.  The delicate storks cultivated on the coast of Ravenna will not be more grateful to the palate than this  wild asparagus.

Three recipes for asparagus survive in Apicius’ cookbook De re coquinaraia – (4th century AD ) compendium for cooks in wealthy houses. Then as now, though, asparagus was probably usually enjoyed after being simply steamed or boiled, something for which a recipe was hardly necessary. One of Apicius’  recipes describes cooking dried asparagus, which needed to be blanched- that is, immersed into boiling water- before use. The other two recipes are both for a patina, or soufflé- style dish, that would be baked in a flat earthenware receptacle in hot ashes from the fire. In the first, asparagus (probably boiled ) is pounded in a mortar  with fish sauce, oil, water, and pepper before being thickened with eggs and then baked. This dish is served sprinkled with pepper.  The second patina involved the baking of songbirds coated with asparagus pure’e.

In addition to the written sources, various vestiges of Rome’s experience with asparagus have survived. Aside from the possible Roman asparagus beds recently reported from Cambridge, asparagus can be seen upon still- life wall paintings found in Pompei. These frescoes depict various delicacies  from the animal and vegetable kingdoms, and were supposed to impress viewers.

Roman Mosaic with asparagus

Roman Mosaic depicting food including Asparagus.

Roman recipe Asparagus


Roman frescoe Pompei

Roman fresco Pompei

Ancient Roman Feast

Roman feast.




In his Naturalis  Historia, Pliny also mentions a variety of asparagus being grown on the plains of the Roman province of Germania  Superior ( roughly equating to modern Switzerland , western France and southern Germany, which needed less care than farmed asparagus, but was more tender than Mediterranean wild asparagus. Further relics of the cultivation- and indeed the consumption of – asparagus in Rome’s northern provinces include two groups of exceptional artifacts. The first are 15 bronze knife-handles modeled on asparagus shoots. These shoots are more mature than those harvested in modern Britain, but asparagus is still consumed this way in Italy. Analysis of the bronze side-shoots on the knife handle suggests they were cast in a mould. If so, it is likely that the remarkable life-like handle finish was achieved with help of an actual asparagus shoot.

Asparagus Knife-Handle 2

A Roman bronze knife-handle found in Woerden,, Netherlands. On the left side ,the  remains of the iron blade can be seen.

In order to make the knife-handle the asparagus would  need to be completely encased in clay (including some twigs to create a channel for the bronze) and then baked in the oven until the clay was hard enough for the asparagus and the twigs to have been reduced to  ashes. Liquid metal could then be poured into the clay mould. After cooling the mould was then broken and the bronze shoot extracted.

A third of these handles were discovered in and around Trier, while the rest are all from other Germanic provinces. The quality of the craftsmanship makes it likely that they were produced for wealthy middle-class buyers, who presumably used them as ‘ everyday knives ‘ for all sorts of purposes;  It is unlikely they were used exclusively to prepare or eat asparagus, as harvesting it is best done by simply breaking then stems off, and it is most convenient to eat asparagus with fingers. The unusual form of handle most likely had a certain social cachet, and they must have been a status-symbol of some sort or other, as well as an advert for their owner’s appreciation of asparagus.

Two price tags discovered from Trier provide the only direct evidence for the price asparagus could command in the northern provinces. These tags were inscribed with both a merchants name and ‘ asparagus’, while a whole for string had been punched through them so they could be bound to the produce. Both of these tags give a price of one denarius, which is far too high for a single asparagus bundle. Studying Diocletian;s price edict of  AD 301, which factors in the huge inflation of the period, and among many other products, sets a price for cultivated and wild asparagus, suggests that one denarius would buy 10-12 bundles of asparagus. On the strength of this, the tags probably provide a whole-sale price for a producers shipment. If so these tags are a fitting testament to the taste that developed for asparagus in Rome’s northern provinces.

Courtesy of Current Archaeology.




Posted by on December 27, 2014 in Food in Roman Times


Lost and found: toys, tears and the Thames

I love this story !

British Museum blog

Janina Parol, Assistant Treasure Registrar, and Dora Thornton, Curator of Renaissance Europe, British Museum

If you walk by the north bank of the Thames when the tide is low you will spot mudlarks searching for finds, even when it is windy, raining and freezing. You might think they are crazy, but you will certainly be curious to know what they have found – if they are prepared to get that muddy and wet there must be a reason. Mudlarks can spend hours waiting to catch the right tide, but for the hundreds of hours that are spent out there in all conditions some of the last things we imagine them being interested in are toys.

Tony Pilson and Ian Smith on the Thames foreshore Tony Pilson and Ian Smith on the Thames foreshore

But interested they are. One in particular has discovered a huge number from the medieval and post-medieval periods. Tony Pilson, the highly-regarded founder member of the…

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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in Uncategorized


Night at the (British) Museum: fact and fantasy

British Museum blog

Sian Toogood, Broadcast Manager, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, British Museum

In the century or so since the birth of film, the British Museum has had many cameras within its galleries, labs and libraries. For the most part they have been filming documentaries, unravelling mysteries of the Museum’s collection, but every once in a while the Museum gets to participate in the organised chaos that is feature film production. In the past we have had Hitchcock in the Egyptian Sculpture Gallery, Merchant Ivory in the Assyrian Galleries and Phaedra in the Parthenon Galleries; we can now add Fox to this pantheon, with their third installment of the hugely popular Night at the Museum series: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.


I was extremely pleased when I was approached by Fox, not because it was a fantastic opportunity to get more people interested in…

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Posted by on December 19, 2014 in Uncategorized


Rita Roberts’ Translation of the famous “Ivory” Tablet, Knossos Tablet KN 684 U h 11

Here is my latest translation of the Minoan Linear B Script writings which so far has been the most difficult.

Canadian Zen Haiku canadien ISSN 1705-4508

Rita Roberts’ Translation of the famous “Ivory” Tablet, Knossos Tablet KN 684 U h 11: Click to ENLARGE:

KN 684 U h 11 EREPATO KARAMATOOnce Rita and I had finally managed to establish our connection with Skype, due in no small part to her patience in assisting me to get it up and running on my computer, I began to teach her interactively. Her lessons have run to about one hour each, which is what I would have expected. Rita emphatically told me that she found this tablet, the famous “Ivory” one, to be the most difficult one by a long shot that she has had to translate so far. And she was right. I had deliberately assigned her this tablet with the express intention that she had to move on to more complex Linear B tablets; so this one came as a shock to her.During the classroom session, in which we tackled…

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Posted by on December 17, 2014 in Uncategorized


Was the ark round? A Babylonian description discovered

A fascinating insight from Dr Irving Finkel curator of The British Museum since 1979. This is not about my Linear B study but about cuneiform clay tablets which never the less I found interesting.

British Museum blog

Irving Finkel, curator, British Museum
Detail of a cuneiform tablet

I’ve just come from the press conference launching my new book, The Ark Before Noah. As I told the journalists, it all started with a fairly normal event for a museum curator: a member of the public bringing in an object that had long been in their family to have it identified. As often happens in my case, it was a cuneiform tablet. The visitor, Douglas Simmonds, had been given it by his father for passing his exams. It was part of a modest collection: a few tablets, some cylinder seals, a lamp or two and some pieces from China and Egypt. His father, an inveterate curio hunter, had picked them up after the War in the late 1940s.

With kind permission of Douglas Simmonds With kind permission of Douglas Simmonds

This tablet, however, turned out to be one in a million. The cuneiform was a sixty-line passage from the…

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Posted by on December 14, 2014 in Uncategorized


Sarcophagus with mummy of teenage boy opened

Sarcophagus with mummy of teenage boy opened.

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Posted by on December 10, 2014 in Uncategorized


Bringing a Ming painting back to life

A wonderful restoration of a Ming Painting.

British Museum blog

Jin Xian Qiu, Senior Conservator of Chinese Paintings and Carol Weiss, Conservator of Chinese Paintings, British Museum

On entering the BP exhibition Ming: 50 years that changed China, one of the first objects visitors see is a large silk painting depicting an official in front of Beijing’s Forbidden City. This Ming dynasty painting by artist Zhu Bang was conserved especially for the exhibition, using traditional Chinese scroll mounting techniques that have been passed down from master to student since before this 500-year-old painting was even painted.

The British Museum is extraordinarily fortunate to have as its Senior Conservator of Chinese Paintings Mrs Jin Xian Qiu, who originally trained and worked in Shanghai Museum before coming to the British Museum 27 years ago. It is thanks to her expertise that many of the Museum’s Chinese paintings can be displayed today. For this particular project, along with the help of her…

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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in Uncategorized


The Minoans and their Leisure Time.

Apart from their magnificent artwork, their religion and the many crafts they produced  the Minoans spent some of their leisure time taking part in sports activities such as, boxing, wrestling and bull leaping.

The bull leaping is believed to be in connection with bull worship.  In one type the leaper approaches the bull from the front, grabs the horns and somersaults backwards. This is a highly dangerous sport. It is possible the bull was sacrificed afterwards as part of a religious ritual.

The Famous Bull Leaping Frescoe.

The Bull leaping Fresco Knossos

Mycenaean Wman weaving

Minoan Woman Weaving.

From Charalambus Cave

The Minoans also loved music. These musical instruments were found in a cave burial on the Lasithi  Plateau Crete.

Knossos Board Game.

This is the famous Knossos Board Game. It is the ancient board game discovered by Sir Arthur Evans  in the Palace of Knossos and goes back to 1600 BC  It is a ‘ race game ‘, but at the same time something more. It portrays an ancient symbolism about life and the trip to Hades with a return back to life. A gap between the two parts of the board is supposed to represent the River-Ocean that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead.



Posted by on December 6, 2014 in Uncategorized


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