Saturday, April 19, 2008

New Saudi Women Only Hotel, Oy!

And this is progress??? The kicker - note the source of the news story: The BBC! LOL! Saudis Open Hotel for Women Only Tehran, 20 March 2008 (CHN Foreign Desk) : The Middle Easts first women-only hotel has opened in Saudi Arabia. It will cater primarily to businesswomen, who work completely covered from head to toe in public and have to observe strict segregation. The hotel, in Riyadh, has 25 rooms and boasts fine dining and conference facilities, as well as a range of health and beauty treatments. [Beauty treatments? Why bother when no one but your brother (yech) or your huband (double yech) can see you? Har!] Its executive director said the response to the idea of a hotel just for women had been overwhelming. [Overwhelming response. Yeah, right. Maybe from Madjob's wives seeking a get-away from Iran???] The Luthan Hotel & Spa is owned by a group of 20 Saudi princesses and businesswomen. It hopes to attract expatriates from the nearby diplomatic quarter [fat chance!] as well as local women. It is the first spa hotel in the kingdom available to women all the time - pools in other hotels are only open to women on certain fixed days or hours. Saudi Arabia, where the doctrine of Islam known as Wahhabism is applied, strictly enforces the separation of the sexes in public. Women are prevented from mixing with men other than relatives, from driving cars and from employment in many jobs. They are required to cover themselves in Islamic dress [rather like what Mrs. Leticia Addams wore, all black, all the time, except she didn't wear a veil] when in public. Our correspondent Frances Harrison says it is a huge bonus that inside the hotel they can move around uncovered as if they were at home. Luthan Hotel & Spa executive director Lorraine Coutinho said: "Inside this physical structure, we are all women. We even have bell-women. [Bell-women? Do they undergo a gynecological examination to ensure that they are, indeed, female?] We are women-owned, women-managed and women-run." The inauguration of the hotel was attended by Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, secretary general of the Supreme Commission for Tourism. Saudi tourism officials who attended the launch have encouraged other women to invest in similar hotels across the kingdom. Source: BBC

Death of a Non-Profit: A Lesson to be Learned...

From The Concord Monitor: Archaeologist's cache passes to museum One million artifacts are now being sorted By CHELSEA CONABOY Monitor staff April 18, 2008 - 7:16 am A portrait of Howard Sargent, one of the state's pre-eminent archaeologists, hangs on the wall near the entrance of the Mount Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner. Soon, the result of Sargent's work - a little bit at a time, at least - will fill the exhibits there. The museum, which had a collection of about 2,000 American Indian artifacts, recently acquired Sargent's collection. All 1 million pieces. The museum became the court-appointed successor to the collection after the nonprofit that controlled it was dissolved over mismanagement. During the next several months, board members and volunteers will sort through the many boxes to prepare an exhibit for the public scheduled to open Sept. 19. Sargent's collection is valuable for its vastness and documentation, said State Archaeologist Richard Boisvert. It includes Sargent's field notes and artifacts from 66 sites in New Hampshire covering more than 12,000 years of prehistoric life in New Hampshire. Some of the pieces, like an almost-translucent quartz arrowhead or an intricately etched clay pot, are tangible relics. Other pieces - bags of soil, chips of rock or containers of plant and bone remains - won't likely be on display but could draw attention from graduate students and researchers. "It isn't just the artifacts, it's the records that go with the artifacts that make it so valuable," Boisvert said. "Howard's collection has the context. We know how deep things were. We know what goes with what." From boyhood growing up in Georges Mills, Sargent dreamed about running a museum. When he died in 1993 at age 71 of an acute asthma attack, he had amassed a huge collection from this state and others, earned recognition as the grandfather of New Hampshire archaeology, and written no will. A nonprofit formed to build a museum. The group acquired the historic Old High School on Lowell Street in Manchester and planned to renovate it. In 2005, the attorney general's office asked the probate court to dissolve the nonprofit's board. According to court documents, the group had effectively stopped operating. Reduced from the required five members to three, the documents said, the board had stopped holding meetings and done nothing with the Manchester building, even after receiving a grant from the state Land and Community Heritage Investment Program. The artifacts remained away from the public eye in a state building on Airport Road in Concord. The court appointed Todd Fahey, a lawyer with Orr and Reno, to decide what to do with the collection. He said he and state officials considered sending the collection to the Smithsonian or another national museum. "We felt that this was a New Hampshire collection that needed to stay within the boundaries of New Hampshire," he said. Fahey called the Warner museum an "ideal match" because of its focus on Native American history and its connection to Howard Sargent, who had been a founding trustee and friend to owners Bud and Nancy Thompson. Now, Executive Director Krista Katz and others face the welcome task of sorting through the collection and determining what will be displayed from the museum's collection of canoes, beaded garments, baskets and birch-bark containers. "This provides a depth to the story that we didn't have before," she said. There are 900 boxes in all. Of those, 160 boxes containing artifacts from the important Smyth dig near Amoskeag Falls are headed to the Manchester Historic Association on permanent loan. The rest fill Katz's office, the museum library, and a just-built storage area. "This is almost like its own little excavation," Katz said. Katz cracked open a few boxes yesterday. One contained bits of rock wrapped in manila paper and buried in Boston Globe newspapers from 1997. Another contained bags full of envelopes labeled with dig sites and details. One box was curiously labeled, "Peruvian, Bolivian, Egyptian stuff. Contemporary trash." Its contents included pottery pieces from Peru, a tiny carved terra cotta bust from Egypt and a Schlitz beer can. Boisvert, the state archaeologist, was a sophomore in high school when he met Sargent. Sargent was digging the Hunter site in Claremont, a deep dig that revealed layers of civilization, and Boisvert convinced him to let him help. He said Sargent, then a professor at Franklin Pierce College, had an "overgrown sense of responsibility" to history. He was an archaeologist in a time when there was little grant money available for digs and even less for preserving and analyzing what was found. His home became his storage, he said. In field journals, Sargent wrote about embarking on digs, setting up camp, learning about the locals, and a day when the crew started drinking beer at 9 a.m. He wrote about lobbying for the establishment of a state archaeologist's office, and he left artifacts of his own. "The price of gasoline is awful; 29.5 cents per gallon for regular, 31.5 for high test," he wrote in July 1951. [LOL! Actually, he was right. I remember gasoline prices averaging about 23.5 cents per gallon during my high school years, 1966 - 1969.] Bud Thompson said Sargent's wife told him once that he considered the Warner museum "his museum." "I'm sure he's smiling," Thompson said.

Inscribed in Stone Game Boards Found in Iran

From CAIS (Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies) - I'll see if I can find more news on this discovery.


Discovery of 3000-Years old Board-Games and a Compass-Rose in Persian Gulf’s Kharg Island

19 April 2008
LONDON,(CAIS) -- An ancient four-pointed compass-rose showing directions of ‘four cardinal points’ and a number of board-games carved on rocks discovered in the Iranian island of Kharg in the Persian Gulf, reported Persian service of CHN on Saturday.

The discovery was made by Shahram Eslami, a local and a member of Kharg’s Friends of Cultural Heritage. The relics were studied and their ancient origins identified by Dr Reza Moradi Ghiasabadi.

"The engravings are between 2000 and 3000 years old. The first discovered carving is located beside an ancient road which is a four-pointed compass-rose showing directions of four cardinal points within a square-shape with rounded angles setting, 50x50cm in diameters. Some sections of the compass-rose have been damaged, apparently as the result of a cracks in the rock," said Ghiasabadi.

He added, "the compass-rose's lines have been placed in a position to determine the cardinal points, which have only two degrees of error based on the Global Positioning System (GPS)".

“Thos is a unique discovery and a great deal of efforts and resources should be made available to safeguard the relic. Also we must not remove it from its original place," according to Ghiasabadi

The remaining carvings which are board-games were discovered in the northwest of the island. The board-games are in a mixture of circular and oblong shape settings, in various diameters, some 4cm and some in 10cm in circumference (see the picture). All these carvings engraved over the rocky-ground’s flat surfaces. The latter ones are located on the hinterland at the top of the cliff overlooking the waters of the Persian Gulf.

These game-boards have been carved on the rocks in various settings and Ghiasabadi have identified seven of them. Some of them could be the proto-type for backgammon.

The Persian Gulf's Iranian island of Kharg is situated at about 30 km northwest of Bandar-e Rig and 52 km northwest of Bushehr. It is the larger and more southerly of two islands (the other being Khargu). Kharg (also Khark) is about 8 km long and, at its widest point, 4 km across. The interior is hilly, terminating in cliffs at the northern and southern ends of the island.

Archaeologists have always believed the oldest settlement on the island dates back to Parthian dynastic era (248 BCE-224 CE), but as the result of a discovery in November 2007 history of the island was re-written, as the archaeologists have discovered an inscription (LINK) executed in Old-Persian cuneiform, dated to the Achaemenid dynasty (550-330 BCE). Since its discovery, the rock-inscription has been left unprotected in its original place at the mercy of looters, vandals, and harsh weather.

Original News bulletin published in Persian by CHN, and translated and prepared by CAIS.

Chess News Update

Chess Femme News has been updated, April 19, 2008.

Blast from the Past: Susan Polgar and Chess in Central Park

Salutations to GM Susan Polgar who is celebrating a birthday today while in Dresden, Germany. I don't report the particular number of the birthday because, as all true Goddesses know, age is irrelevant, darlings! What counts is what is within one's heart, and Susan Polgar has a truly good and great heart. Tonight (or maybe it's already been tonight in Dresden!) Ms. Polgar will be a featured guest at a gala ball in honor of the upcoming 2008 Chess Olympiad which is being hosted by Dresden.

Susan Polgar has been tireless in her efforts to promote chess, and during the past several years, the benefits of chess for children - and indeed, for everyone. Here's a blast from the past story from Chessbase (2004) about a wonderful day of chess in Central Park, New York, with GM Susan Polgar, GM Lev Alburt, and hundreds of chessplayers all having a great time. Lots of fab photos by Paul Truong.

Chess in the City
04.10.2004 – What brings hundreds of New York chess fans to Central Park on a rainy October day? They are there to watch a game between two grandmasters, which children reinact on a giant chessboard. This is another great idea coming out of the Susan Polgar Foundation – one that even Governor George E. Pataki knows to appreciate. More...

Here's a very pretty photo of Susan Polgar taken at Madison Square Garden sometime in 2007 - I found it on the internet and cut it down so that it fits here.

JAPFA Chess Festival

An update - Irene is hanging in there - having won her last 2 games, yippee! So, she still has a chance to get that coveted WGM norm. Here's the story from The Irene keeps Grandmaster norm hopes alive at Japfa The Jakarta Post, Jakarta April 19, 2008 Indonesia's chess star Irene Kharisma Sukandar was handed a lifeline to pursue her Grandmaster hopes by defeating Woman FIDE Master Thanda Aye Win of Myanmar in the sixth round and Catherine Perena of the Philippines in the seventh of the Japfa Chess Festival. The 16-year-old Woman International Master, who has collected four points from two draws and three wins, will struggle to acquire at least 2.5 points from the remaining three rounds in order to become the first Indonesian woman to hold a grandmaster norm. "I was sure I would win that match because I had good positions. She (Win) made a fatal blunder in the middle of the game, which made it easier for me (to win)," Irene said Friday after defeating Win on the 43rd move. Previously in the third round match on Wednesday, she lost to Woman Grandmaster Regina Pokorna of Slovakia and tasted another bitter loss from Woman Grandmaster Jana Krivec of Slovenia the next morning. She admitted she was emotional after she lost her third and fourth rounds, but she managed to bounce back in the sixth round match by trying to focus her mind on winning every match. "I realize that my chance to get the required points is very small with those qualified players as my contenders. But I will try my best," she said, adding that it would be a "miracle" if God allowed her to get her first norm in the tournament. Irene will face a tough battle against Pokorna and top seed Woman Grandmaster Li Ruofan of Singapore on Saturday. Meanwhile, Ruofan continued her impeccable winning campaign by defeating Philippine Catherine Perena and drew Pokorna to garner 5.5 points to top the leaderboard. Placing second place was Slovakian Pokorna, who collected 4.5 from three draws and three wins. Irene and Slovenian Krivec shared third place. In the men's second- and third-round match, Indonesia's youngest Grandmaster Susanto Megaranto failed to earn any points after succumbing to the world's youngest Grandmaster Wesley So of the Philippines. "He is more patient than in our last meeting," Susanto said. The tournament, being held at the Indonesian Sports Council's hall, is the fourth meeting between the two Grandmaster title holders, with the Filipino taking a 3-0 lead. (JP/ind)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Night Miscellany

An earthquake hit in the midwest at 4:37 a.m. this morning and was felt as far north as Pestigo, Wisconsin (I'm in Milwaukee). I didn't know it though, until I finally got up shortly after 6 a.m. and eventually rambled downstairs to turn the radio on, feed my critters and make some coffee. It was all over the "all news all the time" radio station I listen to while I get ready for work, complete with "live witness accounts" phoned in (with obviously phoney accounts of stuff jumping off the walls and loud thunder-like noises, but I digress!) I didn't feel a thing (no bed shaking, no rattling of windows) but I was awake. Actually, I awoke according to my clock at 4:38 a.m., but my clock is about 3 minutes fast, so I woke up and rolled over to look at the clock about 4:35 a.m., a full two minutes before the quake occurred. Assuming it would take perhaps a minute for the vibrations to make their way through the bedrock to hit Milwaukee, I anticipated the earthquake by at least 2 minutes, if not more. Stranger still, I distinctly remember hearing a semi-loud "crack" which I attributed to one or more of the trusses in the roof and/or garage roof making their usual strange "house noise." As I rolled over again, thumped my pillows and settled back in to try and get a little more sleep (an iffy thing these days) before I knew the alarm would go off at 6 a.m., I remember thinking somewhat fuzzily that it was rather strange that the wood should crack as it did, as there had been no drastic temperature changes during the past few days and no rain, and so there was nothing to account for one or more wood joints deciding to make such a loud noise. But, as we all know, houses and apartments invariably make strange noises at all hours of the day and night, and who knows the rhyme or reason therefor? Soooo, I missed the Friday Night Miscellany next - oops! - last - week. I had intended to put it up the next day, but got sidetracked by other things, and etc. But I'm back tonight - for a little while. Tomorrow will be a busy day, hopefully not dodging raindrops as the forecast presently calls for. We were supposed to have rain last night and today, too, but none fell, yippee! We surely don't need it. I'm absolutely itching to get out in the yard and start cleaning up. I did manage to pick up the largest branches that came crashing down during the long winter - but we've had several windy days since then and more have come down since the yard waste pick-up on April 15th. Isn't that always the way it goes, lol! It's still soggy and mushy out there! We had one 70 degree day - the Goddess and her Temptress ways teasing us with a hint of real spring. Sigh. Not enough to dry out the ground sufficiently to be thoroughly raked and cleaned, at least, not in my back yard. On the plus side, the stock market was up over 200 points today and was at its highest in several weeks. The various portfolios in which I have an interest have responded accordingly, yippee :) Wish I had millions invested instead of mere thousands. Oh well. You know, darlings, I must have been suffering through post-post-menstrual syndrome the past week or more, as absolutely nothing, and I do mean nothing, that I read in the "latest archaeological news" did a thing for me, no, not a single thing. I forced myself to post a few items here at the blog because there's been very little chess femme news to cover - I'm waiting for the next big advert of tournament news at The Week in Chess. A double drought! No really big discoveries, nothing related to women and/or the goddess - how frustrating. I couldn't even summon up sufficient enthusiasm for anything at the Daily Grail but, in keeping with the tenor of my usual Friday Night Miscellany posts, I will do my best, so here goes: Oh, this is wonderful news: ... A team of disease hunters has announced the discovery of a deadly new virus, found in a remote village in South America. Experts say the virus – named Chapare – is probably limited to a small swathe of Bolivia, but urbanisation and climate change could expand its range... "Vanishing lakes" have been in the news over the past several months. Here's the latest. Query: What happens if the glaciers really melt all the way down? What do people who depend on glacier-fed springs and rivers for drinking water do if there are no more glaciers? Oh my! Okay, now I've heard it all: the way to solve the current food crisis is through growing more POTATOES. Yeah, and not a mention of the some 4 million Irish who died during the great Irish Potato Famine of the 1840's, famine that caused a world-wide diaspora of ethnic Irish. That was then - before modern-day immigration laws, and a hard time they had of it, too. And how many died shipping over in un-seaworthy ships? What would happen now if millions of acres of modern-day potatoes should fail due to "blight?" Europe and the USA already have an immigration problem. Where would the masses of hungry go then? Russia? China? Geez, I really MUST be post-hormonal tonight Yikes! Nothing but doom and gloom. Peru occuses Yale of stealing 40,000 artifacts...Yale says they are having problems counting... Okay, okay, I'll try to do better... The Case of the Cursed Baseball Jersey: Jersey buried by Red Sox Fan uncovered at new Yankee Stadium (under construction, forever, apparently), and - get this: the Yankees plan to donate the jersey to charity, and may pursue a lawsuit against the construction worker. Geez, what a bunch of frigging jerks! Lizardman is blameless! It was actually Bigfoot who done it... 'night.

We Live In Frightening Times

(Photo: Hunger in Hyderabad, India, 2008. "Villagers near the city of Hyderabad recently jostled for rice that was being sold by government officials." Kirshnendu Halder/Reuters, (c) The New York Times Company.)

Welcome to the 21st century. Food shortages leads to price increases leads to hunger leads to civil unrest leads to - revolutions - or societal collapse. We've seen societal collapse in the ancient (and not so ancient) past due to droughts, shifting rivers, volcanic eruptions that disrupted the growing seasons for 2-3-4 years due to increased suspended particulate, leading to famine and starvation. What resulted was NOT pretty.

So, what will be the responses of modern-day national governments? Price controls and rationing? Mass starvation? I remember Biafra and the hopeless, overwhelmed feeling you get when confronted with such a castastrophe unfolding before your eyes on television. So, you gave then and give what money you can now and don't see that it's making any difference. Millions died. Millions are still dying every year due to malnutrition.

The "extra" I used to have from which to give to charity has disappeared. My salary increase for 2008 was 3% - and that has to hold me until my next "review" at the beginning of 2009. My utility bills are going up by 20 to 30% even as I type this and my grocery bill has increased by a good 10 to 15% just over the past 6 months. So, there is no "extra" anymore to give to charity.

I do not understand why people keep having children whom they cannot possible feed? I do not understand this kind of mindset, popping out babies like there is no tomorrow - and very likely will not be for many millions of children. Children - always the most helpless are the victims. I suspect we're just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg here...

Here are a few of the recent articles about the "suddenly upon us" food crisis:

(More than 20,000) Mongolians flood capital to protest food prices
Friday April 18, 9:40 am ET
Thousands of Mongolians stage protest in capital over rising food prices

***If they're protesting in Mongolia, there must be food shortages and rising prices next store in China, too, particularly at the rate that illegal developers have been gobbling up farm land with the wink wink collusion of the local Communists who pay no attention to whatever is going on in Bejing. Will we hear about that unrest - probably not, given the Communist government's control of the media. This is really ironic, given the fact that some Chinese are protesting the western media's alleged bias against China in the coverage on Tibet and have gone so far as to put up a website decrying that bias and pointing out alleged instances of bias (no doubt complete with Photoshopped pictures to support their version of the "facts.") Of course those Chinese (whoever they are - supposedly students here in the US) say nothing about their own country's 1984 control of the media and mass brainwashing of the Chinese people. They have no access to free and unfettered media so how could anyone living in China possibly have an informed opinion on anything? So then, will they starve quietly into their graves and solve a large part of the world's problem of "excess population" (a term used in by Scrooge in Dickens' "A Christmas Carol")? Somehow, I don't think so...***

The Food Chain
A Drought in Australia, a Global Shortage of Rice
Published: April 17, 2008
The collapse of Australia’s rice production is one of several factors contributing to a doubling of rice prices in the last three months — increases that have led the world’s largest exporters to restrict exports severely, spurred panicked hoarding in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and set off violent protests in countries including Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

U.N. Panel Urges Changes to Feed Poor While Saving Environment
Published: April 16, 2008
“Modern agriculture will have to change radically if the international community wants to cope with growing populations and climate change, while avoiding social fragmentation and irreversible deterioration of the environment...”

The prices of basic food like rice, wheat and corn have been rising sharply, setting off violent popular protests in countries including Haiti, Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, Yemen, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Italy. The unrest has resulted in tens of deaths and helped lead to the dismissal on Saturday of the Haitian prime minister, Jacques-Édouard Alexis, and the increasing cost of subsidizing bread prices is a major worry for key American allies like President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

Across Globe, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger
Published: April 18, 2008
“This is a perfect storm,” President Elías Antonio Saca of El Salvador said Wednesday at the World Economic Forum on Latin America in Cancún, Mexico. “How long can we withstand the situation? We have to feed our people, and commodities are becoming scarce. This scandalous storm might become a hurricane that could upset not only our economies but also the stability of our countries.”

Harrappan Sites to be Excavated

From news aggragator Archaeology News, from The Harappan sites to be excavated after 50 years April 18, 2008 Varanasi (PTI): After a gap of 50 years, a team of archaeologists will be excavating two sites near Noida and Meerut to determine when exactly the "eastern limit" of the Indus Valley civilisation flourished. Alamgirpur village in Meerut-Baghpat and Bulandkhera village in Gautam Buddh Nagar districts "are believed to be the eastern most limits of the Harrappan culture" and the last time the area was surveyed was in 1957-58. "We expect the excavation to throw light on this aspect as well as others of the ancient civilisation. Archaeological Survey of India last conducted a dig at Alamgirpur and Bulandkhera in 1957 and 1958," professor Parasnath Singh, head of the department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology at Banaras Hindu University, told PTI. Over the years, local residents have stumbled upon artefacts like coins, pottery and other items besides a mummified body of a woman wearing bangles in villages on the cusp of Meerut and Baghpat districts - home to Hastinapur detailed in the epic Mahabharata. The artefacts found are believed to date between 1500 BC and 700 BC, but have not been carbon dated. Prof Singh said a team of experts in archaeology, geology and zoology besides supporting staff would be conducting the digs and analyse the findings. He said the ASI had been informed about the project and its approval was expected shortly. ******************************************************************************************** How does one happen to "stumble" across a mummy? It seems more likely that wholesale looting of these sites has been going on for the past 50 years and there may not be much of anything left in context for the archaeologists to discover, which is a true national tragedy.

Oldest "Temple Complex" at 11,500 Years Old

From news consolidator Archaeology News, article from CIVIL SOCIETY TURKEY: DISCOVERY OF 12,000-YEAR-OLD TEMPLE COMPLEX COULD ALTER THEORY OF HUMAN DEVELOPMENT Nicholas Birch 4/17/08 As a child, Klaus Schmidt used to grub around in caves in his native Germany in the hope of finding prehistoric paintings. Thirty years later, representing the German Archaeological Institute, he found something infinitely more important -- a temple complex almost twice as old as anything comparable on the planet. "This place is a supernova", says Schmidt, standing under a lone tree on a windswept hilltop 35 miles north of Turkey’s border with Syria. "Within a minute of first seeing it I knew I had two choices: go away and tell nobody, or spend the rest of my life working here." Behind him are the first folds of the Anatolian plateau. Ahead, the Mesopotamian plain, like a dust-colored sea, stretches south hundreds of miles to Baghdad and beyond. The stone circles of Gobekli Tepe are just in front, hidden under the brow of the hill. Compared to Stonehenge, Britain’s most famous prehistoric site, they are humble affairs. None of the circles excavated (four out of an estimated 20) are more than 30 meters across. What makes the discovery remarkable are the carvings of boars, foxes, lions, birds, snakes and scorpions, and their age. Dated at around 9,500 BC, these stones are 5,500 years older than the first cities of Mesopotamia, and 7,000 years older than Stonehenge. Never mind circular patterns or the stone-etchings, the people who erected this site did not even have pottery or cultivate wheat. They lived in villages. But they were hunters, not farmers. "Everybody used to think only complex, hierarchical civilizations could build such monumental sites, and that they only came about with the invention of agriculture", says Ian Hodder, a Stanford University Professor of Anthropology, who, since 1993, has directed digs at Catalhoyuk, Turkey’s most famous Neolithic site. "Gobekli changes everything. It’s elaborate, it’s complex and it is pre-agricultural. That fact alone makes the site one of the most important archaeological finds in a very long time." With only a fraction of the site opened up after a decade of excavations, Gobekli Tepe’s significance to the people who built it remains unclear. Some think the site was the center of a fertility rite, with the two tall stones at the center of each circle representing a man and woman. It’s a theory the tourist board in the nearby city of Urfa has taken up with alacrity. Visit the Garden of Eden, its brochures trumpet, see Adam and Eve. Schmidt is skeptical about the fertility theory. He agrees Gobekli Tepe may well be "the last flowering of a semi-nomadic world that farming was just about to destroy," and points out that if it is in near perfect condition today, it is because those who built it buried it soon after under tons of soil, as though its wild animal-rich world had lost all meaning. But the site is devoid of the fertility symbols that have been found at other Neolithic sites, and the T-shaped columns, while clearly semi-human, are sexless. "I think here we are face to face with the earliest representation of gods", says Schmidt, patting one of the biggest stones. "They have no eyes, no mouths, no faces. But they have arms and they have hands. They are makers." "In my opinion, the people who carved them were asking themselves the biggest questions of all," Schmidt continued. "What is this universe? Why are we here?" With no evidence of houses or graves near the stones, Schmidt believes the hill top was a site of pilgrimage for communities within a radius of roughly a hundred miles. He notes how the tallest stones all face southeast, as if scanning plains that are scattered with archeological sites in many ways no less remarkable than Gobekli Tepe. Last year, for instance, French archaeologists working at Djade al-Mughara in northern Syria uncovered the oldest mural ever found. "Two square meters of geometric shapes, in red, black and white - a bit like a Paul Klee painting," explains Eric Coqueugniot, the University of Lyon archaeologist who is leading the excavation. Coqueugniot describes Schmidt’s hypothesis that Gobekli Tepe was meeting point for feasts, rituals and sharing ideas as "tempting," given the site’s spectacular position. But he emphasizes that surveys of the region are still in their infancy. "Tomorrow, somebody might find somewhere even more dramatic." Director of a dig at Korpiktepe, on the Tigris River about 120 miles east of Urfa, Vecihi Ozkaya doubts the thousands of stone pots he has found since 2001 in hundreds of 11,500 year-old graves quite qualify as that. But his excitement fills his austere office at Dicle University in Diyarbakir."Look at this", he says, pointing at a photo of an exquisitely carved sculpture showing an animal, half-human, half-lion. "It’s a sphinx, thousands of years before Egypt. Southeastern Turkey, northern Syria - this region saw the wedding night of our civilization." Editor’s Note: Nicolas Birch specializes in Turkey, Iran and the Middle East. Posted April 17, 2008 © Eurasianet ***************************************************************************************** Wikipedia has information on Gobekli Tepe and several photographs. See also this information from the German Archaeology Institute, which dates the oldest layer to about 11,000 years ago (9000 BCE), with more photographs.

JAPFA Chess Festival

Another update on the Japfa International Chess Festival from The Jakarta April 18, 2008 Irene faces tough climb to gain WGM norm The Jakarta Post, Jakarta Indonesian Woman International Master Irene Kharisma Sukandar faces a rougher passage to gain her first Grandmaster norm after falling in her third and fourth round matches of the Japfa Chess Festival, Central Jakarta. Posting 1.5 points from one first-round win and second-round draw at the Indonesian Sports Council hall, the 16-year-old Indonesian star who is expected to become the first Indonesian Woman Grandmaster must garner at least five points from the remaining six rounds in order to reach her first Grandmaster norm. Last month, Irene, who eventually won the Cup of Rector International tournament in Ukraine, missed her first norm by a whisker -- bagging six points, or one point away from the seven-point requirement. "I made a positional mistake in the middle of the game," Irene said after losing to Woman Grandmaster Jana Krivec of Slovania on her 91st move in the fourth round Thursday. Earlier in the third round match late Wednesday, she gave up to Woman Grandmaster Regina Pokorna of Slovakia. Irene was playing top seed Woman Grandmaster Li Ruofan of Singapore in the fifth round Thursday evening. In the next rounds Friday, she will take on Woman FIDE Master Thanda Aye Win of Myanmar and Catherine Perena of the Philippines. Leader Ruofan, meanwhile, extended her winning streak after outsmarting Krivec and Win in the third and fourth rounds to score 3.5 points. "Actually, I had some problems in the middle of the game when my pieces' developing positions were not good. But suddenly she (Win) made a positional mistake and I took the chance (to beat her)," Ruofan said. The 30-year-old who has an Elo rating of 2,423 said she is determined to win in every match, citing that she had got some practice with her husband, Grandmaster Zhong Zhang of China, before the tournament. Trailing in second place was Slovakian Pokorna with 2.5 points. Philippine Perena and Slovenian Krivec shared a third place with 2 points. Perena said she set a target of 4.5 points for the tournament, in order to get her decisive norm for a Woman International Master title. (ind)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

JAPFA Chess Festival

The Jakarta reports on the chess femmes participating in the Japfa International: April 17, 2008 Irene, Ruofan lead chess 2nd rd The Jakarta Post, Jakarta Indonesian Woman International Master hopeful, Irene Kharisma Sukandar, shared the lead with top seed Woman Grandmaster Li Ruofan of Singapore in the second round of the Japfa Chess Festival at the Indonesian Sports Council's hall on Wednesday. Irene beat Woman FIDE Master Thanda Aye Win of Myanmar in the first round on Tuesday and drew with Catherine Perena of the Philippines in the second round on Wednesday to collect 1.5 points. "I played very badly in the second round match with most of my pieces in bad positions. From the beginning, I let myself feel the pressure," 16-year-old chess player said with a sigh. "My chances of winning were very slim. That's why I accepted Catherine's offer of a draw." At the time of writing, Irene, who is chasing her first Grandmaster norm in the championship to become Indonesia's first Woman Grandmaster, was taking on Woman Grandmaster Regina Pokorna of Slovakia in Wednesday's third round match. The Indonesian Chess Association said Irene needed at least 6.5 points from the 10-round contest to win a Grandmaster norm. Irene is expecting tough battles on Thursday, playing Krivec in the fourth round and Ruofan in the fifth round. Top seed Ruofan, who defeated Slovakian Pokorna in the first round, also saw her campaign held back by the Philippine national master Perena in the second round. Ruofan was not immediately available for an interview Wednesday. Another Woman Grandmaster, Jana Krivec of Slovenia, had a rough start after drawing her first and second round matches with Regina Pokorna and Thanda Aye Win, respectively. One of those on the bottom of the ladder, Win, said she had not set any goals for the tournament, but enjoyed the contest. "This is the first time for me to play Grandmaster players. I am here to get some experience," the 25-year-old Woman FIDE Master said. (ind)

35 Ancient Statutes Discovered in Indian Temple Renovations

From Sify News:

Ancient idols found, devotees throng Gujarat temple
Tuesday, 15 April , 2008, 22:43

Palanpur (Gujarat): The Palaviya Jain temple in the walled city here is witnessing an unusual rush of devotees - and art lovers - to catch a glimpse of 35 ancient idols recovered last week during the temple's reconstruction.

The idols, said to have been crafted during the 14th century, are of the Jain deities Parshavnath, Adinath, Devendranath and other Tirthankars.

Vikram Samwat 1310,1320,1330,1335 and 1340 are the inscriptions on these idols, clearly etching the years according to the Hindu calendar when they were made.

Sailesh Mehta, Trustee and in-charge of the temple's reconstruction work, told IANS that some idols are of marble and black stone while a few are cast in metal. “The digging would be limited to the foundation work,” he added.

The idols offer a fascinating peep into the cultural history of ancient Gujarat.

“Since the idols are similar to those in Patan and Siddhpur Jain temples of Gujarat and those of Delwara temple in Mount Abu, there must have been close links between the artisans in Patan, Siddhpur and Delwara. These idols created by artisans of the 14th century are indeed amazing,” said Mukund Brahma Kshatriya, a scholar.

Yaswant Rawal, a researcher of cultural history of north Gujarat, said that the site from where the idols were recovered was once under dense forest cover before it became a part of the expanded town. The place formed part of King Dharavarsha Parmar's kingdom of Chadaravti extending up to Mount Abu. The king and his younger brother Chandra Singh Parmar embraced Jainism.

“The dexterity in carving these stone idols is amazing. Artisans would have tested the quality of the stone before bringing out the life-like images,” said idol maker Jingoish Sompura.

Crystal Skulls Debunked

(Image: the rock crystal skull sent anonymously to the Smithsonian in 1992)
From Archaeology magazine:Legend of the Crystal Skulls
Volume 61 Number 3, May/June 2008
by Jane MacLaren Walsh

Along with superstars like Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, and Shia LaBeouf, the newest Indiana Jones movie promises to showcase one of the most enigmatic classes of artifacts known to archaeologists, crystal skulls that first surfaced in the 19th century and that specialists attributed to various "ancient Mesoamerican" cultures. In this article, Smithsonian anthropologist Jane MacLaren Walsh shares her own adventures analyzing the artifacts that inspired Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (in theaters May 22), and details her efforts tracking down a mysterious "obtainer of rare antiquities" who may have held the key to the origin of these exotic objects.

Sixteen years ago, a heavy package addressed to the nonexistent "Smithsonian Inst. Curator, MezoAmerican Museum, Washington, D.C." was delivered to the National Museum of American History. It was accompanied by an unsigned letter stating: "This Aztec crystal skull, purported to be part of the Porfirio Díaz collection, was purchased in Mexico in 1960.... I am offering it to the Smithsonian without consideration." Richard Ahlborn, then curator of the Hispanic-American collections, knew of my expertise in Mexican archaeology and called me to ask whether I knew anything about the object--an eerie, milky-white crystal skull considerably larger than a human head.

told him I knew of a life-sized crystal skull on display at the British Museum, and had seen a smaller version the Smithsonian had once exhibited as a fake. After we spent a few minutes puzzling over the meaning and significance of this unusual artifact, he asked whether the department of anthropology would be interested in accepting it for the national collections. I said yes without hesitation. If the skull turned out to be a genuine pre-Columbian Mesoamerican artifact, such a rare object should definitely become part of the national collections.

I couldn't have imagined then that this unsolicited donation would open an entirely new avenue of research for me. In the years since the package arrived, my investigation of this single skull has led me to research the history of pre-Columbian collections in museums around the world, and I have collaborated with a broad range of international scientists and museum curators who have also crossed paths with crystal skulls. Studying these artifacts has prompted new research into pre-Columbian lapidary (or stone-working) technology, particularly the carving of hard stones like jadeite and quartz.

Crystal skulls have undergone serious scholarly scrutiny, but they also excite the popular imagination because they seem so mysterious. Theories about their origins abound. Some believe the skulls are the handiwork of the Maya or Aztecs, but they have also become the subject of constant discussion on occult websites. Some insist that they originated on a sunken continent or in a far-away galaxy. And now they are poised to become archaeological superstars thanks to our celluloid colleague Indiana Jones, who will tackle the subject of our research in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Details about the movie's plot are being closely guarded by the film's producers as I write this, but the Internet rumor mill has it that the crystal skull of the title is the creation of aliens.

These exotic carvings are usually attributed to pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures, but not a single crystal skull in a museum collection comes from a documented excavation, and they have little stylistic or technical relationship with any genuine pre-Columbian depictions of skulls, which are an important motif in Mesoamerican iconography.

They are intensely loved today by a large coterie of aging hippies and New Age devotees, but what is the truth behind the crystal skulls? Where did they come from, and why were they made?

Museums began collecting rock-crystal skulls during the second half of the nineteenth century, when no scientific archaeological excavations had been undertaken in Mexico and knowledge of real pre-Columbian artifacts was scarce. It was also a period that saw a burgeoning industry in faking pre-Columbian objects. When Smithsonian archaeologist W. H. Holmes visited Mexico City in 1884, he saw "relic shops" on every corner filled with fake ceramic vessels, whistles, and figurines. Two years later, Holmes warned about the abundance of fake pre-Columbian artifacts in museum collections in an article for the journal Science titled "The Trade in Spurious Mexican Antiquities."

The first Mexican crystal skulls made their debut just before the 1863 French intervention, when Louis Napoleon's army invaded the country and installed Maximilian von Hapsburg of Austria as emperor. Usually they are small, not taller than 1.5 inches. The earliest specimen seems to be a British Museum crystal skull about an inch high that may have been acquired in 1856 by British banker Henry Christy.

Two other examples were exhibited in 1867 at the Exposition Universelle in Paris as part of the collection of Eugène Boban, perhaps the most mysterious figure in the history of the crystal skulls. A Frenchman who served as the official "archaeologist" of the Mexican court of Maximilian, Boban was also a member of the French Scientific Commission in Mexico, whose work the Paris Exposition was designed to highlight. (The exhibition was not entirely successful in showcasing Louis Napoleon's second empire, since its opening coincided with the execution of Maximilian by the forces of Mexican president Benito Juárez.)

Rest of article.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Big Cat Sightings - It Really WAS a Cougar!

Prior comments about recent big cat appearances. The poor animal was, unfortunately, shot to death by North Chicago police. I don't understand why the local Humane Society wasn't called, or someone from the state Natural Resources Department with a tranquilizer gun. I mean - come on! Yeah, they cornered the cat and it jumped at them. DUH! The cougar weighed in at 150 pounds Here's just one of the articles covering the story, from MSNBC.

Chess News Update

Chess Femme News has been updated, April 16, 2008!

Possible Flaw in Psychological Studies: The Monty Hall Effect

A fascinating piece from The New York Times: (Science/Findings) And Behind Door No. 1, a Fatal Flaw By JOHN TIERNEY Published: April 8, 2008 The Monty Hall Problem has struck again, and this time it’s not merely embarrassing mathematicians. If the calculations of a Yale economist are correct, there’s a sneaky logical fallacy in some of the most famous experiments in psychology. The economist, M. Keith Chen, has challenged research into cognitive dissonance, including the 1956 experiment that first identified a remarkable ability of people to rationalize their choices. Dr. Chen says that choice rationalization could still turn out to be a real phenomenon, but he maintains that there’s a fatal flaw in the classic 1956 experiment and hundreds of similar ones. He says researchers have fallen for a version of what mathematicians call the Monty Hall Problem, in honor of the host of the old television show, “Let’s Make a Deal.” Here’s how Monty’s deal works, in the math problem, anyway. (On the real show it was a bit messier.) He shows you three closed doors, with a car behind one and a goat behind each of the others. If you open the one with the car, you win it. You start by picking a door, but before it’s opened Monty will always open another door to reveal a goat. Then he’ll let you open either remaining door. Suppose you start by picking Door 1, and Monty opens Door 3 to reveal a goat. Now what should you do? Stick with Door 1 or switch to Door 2? Before I tell you the answer, I have a request. No matter how convinced you are of my idiocy, do not immediately fire off an angry letter. In 1991, when some mathematicians got publicly tripped up by this problem, I investigated it by playing the game with Monty Hall himself at his home in Beverly Hills, but even that evidence wasn’t enough to prevent a deluge of letters demanding a correction. Before you write, at least try a few rounds of the game, which you can do by playing an online version of the game. Play enough rounds and the best strategy will become clear: You should switch doors. This answer goes against our intuition that, with two unopened doors left, the odds are 50-50 that the car is behind one of them. But when you stick with Door 1, you’ll win only if your original choice was correct, which happens only 1 in 3 times on average. If you switch, you’ll win whenever your original choice was wrong, which happens 2 out of 3 times. Now, for anyone still reading instead of playing the Monty Hall game, let me try to explain what this has to do with cognitive dissonance. For half a century, experimenters have been using what’s called the free-choice paradigm to test our tendency to rationalize decisions. This tendency has been reported hundreds of times and detected even in animals. Last year I wrote a column about an experiment at Yale involving monkeys and M&Ms. The Yale psychologists first measured monkeys’ preferences by observing how quickly each monkey sought out different colors of M&Ms. After identifying three colors preferred about equally by a monkey — say, red, blue and green — the researchers gave the monkey a choice between two of them. If the monkey chose, say, red over blue, it was next given a choice between blue and green. Nearly two-thirds of the time it rejected blue in favor of green, which seemed to jibe with the theory of choice rationalization: Once we reject something, we tell ourselves we never liked it anyway (and thereby spare ourselves the painfully dissonant thought that we made the wrong choice). But Dr. Chen says that the monkey’s distaste for blue can be completely explained with statistics alone. He says the psychologists wrongly assumed that the monkey began by valuing all three colors equally. Its relative preferences might have been so slight that they were indiscernible during the preliminary phase of the experiment, Dr. Chen says, but there must have been some tiny differences among its tastes for red, blue and green — some hierarchy of preferences. If so, then the monkey’s choice of red over blue wasn’t arbitrary. Like Monty Hall’s choice of which door to open to reveal a goat, the monkey’s choice of red over blue discloses information that changes the odds. If you work out the permutations (see illustration), you find that when a monkey favors red over blue, there’s a two-thirds chance that it also started off with a preference for green over blue — which would explain why the monkeys chose green two-thirds of the time in the Yale experiment, Dr. Chen says. Does his critique make sense? Some psychologists who have seen his working paper answer with a qualified yes. “I worked out the math myself and was surprised to find that he was absolutely right,” says Daniel Gilbert, a psychologist at Harvard. “He has essentially applied the Monty Hall Problem to an experimental procedure in psychology, and the result is both instructive and counter-intuitive.” Dr. Gilbert, however, says that he has yet to be persuaded that this same flaw exists in all experiments using the free-choice paradigm, and he remains confident that the overall theory of cognitive dissonance is solid. That view is shared by Laurie R. Santos, one of the Yale psychologists who did the monkey experiment. [Sounds like a little cognitive dissonance going on with Drs. Gilbert and Santos!] “Keith nicely points out an important problem with the baseline that we’ve used in our first study of cognitive dissonance, but it doesn’t apply to several new methods we’ve used that reveal the same level of dissonance in both monkeys and children,” Dr. Santos says. “I doubt that his critique will be all that influential for the field of cognitive dissonance more broadly.” Dr. Chen remains convinced it’s a broad problem. He acknowledges that other forms of cognitive-dissonance effects have been demonstrated in different kinds of experiments, but he says the hundreds of choice-rationalization experiments since 1956 are flawed. Even when the experimenters use more elaborate methods of measuring preferences — like asking a subject to rate items on a scale before choosing between two similarly-ranked items — Dr. Chen says the results are still suspect because researchers haven’t recognized that the choice during the experiment changes the odds. (For more of Dr. Chen’s explanation, see TierneyLab.) “I don’t know that there’s clean evidence that merely being asked to choose between two objects will make you devalue what you didn’t choose,” Dr. Chen says. “I wouldn’t be completely surprised if this effect exists, but I’ve never seen it measured correctly. The whole literature suffers from this basic problem of acting as if Monty’s choice means nothing.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Blast from the Past: Knucklebones

Why would a woman in ancient Persia have been buried with "some 600 pieces" of knucklebones in her grave? Here is the article:

Iran: Female Gambler Skeleton Comes out of Grave
Tehran, 4 October 2005 (CHN) – Archaeologists excavating the ancient cemetery of Gohar Tepe of Mazandaran, north of Iran, discovered some 600 pieces of bone used in a gambling game inside the tomb of a woman.

Gohar Tepe is one of the key archaeological sites of Mazandaran province, providing experts with surprising ancient evidence in the last four seasons of work there. People resided in the region since 5000 years ago to the first millennium BC, enjoying a civilization and urban life characteristics.

The game pieces found in the tomb belong to a traditional Persian game called "Ghap" which is played with the bone remains of sheep foot knuckle.

As head of the excavation team of Gohar Tepe, Ali Mahforouzi, explained to CHN, potsherds discovered alongside the woman and the game bones show her to date back to the first millennium BC.

"So many pieces have never been found from one single grave; moreover, with the large number of potsherds found in the tomb, we assume the woman to have had a special social status," Mahforouzi said.

The interesting point about the game pieces is that they are all in the same size which puts forward the hypothesis of them belonging to a collection maybe gathered by the woman; some of the bones are also pierced which make experts believe that the woman should have used them as for a necklace. [Or perhaps she was the owner of a gambling establishment and some of the tools of her trade were buried with her.]

"The tomb was found besides a clay platform. The corpse was found next to the platform and the game pieces from underneath it. This raises many questions that could not yet be answered," added Mahforouzi.

Two dress and hair pins have been found on the woman's chest and on the back of her head, revealing that she wore a dress and had her hair done in the back. Another discovery inside the tomb is a huge jug with some measurement scales, the use of which is not yet clear. [So, there seems to be no question that the skeleton was a female - gasp!] "Many similar scales have been discovered in other graves of the cemetery," said Mahforouzi.

Archaeological excavations will continue in the area for two months.
"Ghap" - the origin of the popular dice came "craps?"

Goddess Tanit

From Barbara Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets."

Carthaginian name of the Phoenician Great Goddess, Astarte - the biblical Ashtoreth or Asherah. Her temple in Carthage was called the Shrine of the Heavenly Virgin. Greek and Roman writers called it a temple of the moon.(1)

Another of her titles was Astroarche, Queen of the Stars. Her priestesses were famous astrologers, whose prophecies were circulated throughout the Roman empire and even rivaled the pronouncements of the Cumaean sybils.(2)

Though Romans destroyed Carthage in the Punic Wars, Roman legend traced the very origin of Rome to the Carthanginian mother-city, as shown by the story of Aeneas, who came directly across the Mediterranean from there, to found Rome.(3) The primitive Roman queen Tanaquil, who conferred sovereignty on the "fatherless" Latin kings, the Tarquins, was none other than the Lybyan Goddess Tanit. She was also known as Libera, Goddess of Libya, whose festival the Liberalia was celebrated each year in Rome during the Ides of March.(4) An alternative name for the festival was Bacchanalis, dramatizing the love-death and resurrection of Bacchus Liber, or Dionysus, or Consus, which were various names for the same fertility god.(5)

The distinctive symbol of Tanit was a pyramidal shape, like a woman in a very full skirt, topped by a dis-shaped full-moon head, with upraised arms in the manner of the Egyptian ka.(6) Similar smbols represented such goddesses as Aphrodite, Athene, Venus, and Juno.

(1) Reinach, 42.
(2) Lindsay, O.A., 327.
(3) Reinach, 106.
(4) G.R. Scott, 165.
(5) Graves, W.G., 399.
(6) Larousse, 84.
Some personal observations: Tanit is on the order of the "Hannah/Anna" goddesses, great mother goddesses, previously posted about - I've got to get some kind of search engine installed at this blog! Think of the ka shape as a referee's arms signalling "touchdown!" That's the form.

Was Car the goddess of Carthage - that is, the same as the goddess Tanit?

Squirrel News

This is an hilarious story! Posted for the Maui News, "Second Thoughts," by Lynn Horner, April 15, 2008. What happened was this: I learned this morning I am not as addled as I’ve been telling myself, although I still can’t remember where I leave my glasses two, maybe three times a day. While standing in front of a kitchen window that looks out on the woodsy garden due east and contemplating the unfortunate chore of scooping the cats’ litter boxes, I noticed a large gray squirrel dragging something through the spikes of leaves that, barring a freak snowstorm, hold the promise of Stella d’Oro day lilies. Whatever his booty, it must have weighed as much as he did. What could it be? The raccoons had already made off with my Martha Stewart clogs . . . Because Nature is my religion, there are binoculars propped on books and hanging from hooks in strategic places all around the house; I grabbed the nearest pair and focused in. It was my favorite trowel. A trowel I looked for yesterday, for over an hour, and decided dementia was gaining momentum. I knew EXACTLY where I’d left it. Well. I thought I knew. What could a squirrel possibly want with my trowel? Was a family of squirrels gardening in the nether regions of the property? Planting nut trees and peanuts in the untamed area behind the garage? (Oregon is the filbert capital of the world, by the way. Filberts are what we call them in the Northwest; they’re hazelnuts elsewhere. Who knows and who even cares why.) I ran outside and reclaimed my trowel, which the squirrel dropped the minute he heard me holler: “HEY! Buy your own damn tools!”

Ruy Lopez International Chess Festival

This is a post-script to the Magistral portion of the tournament. There was an Open "Apertura Ruy López" in which the Magistral participants played - a rapid chess event. The winner was the young GM Caruana Fabiano with 7.5/9. Our ladies, GM Koneru Humpy and WGM Hou Yifan both finished with 6.5/9, Hou in 6th place and Koneru in 8th place (out of 81 players).

2008 Gausdal Classic

Standings after round 8: 1 Kaidanov, Gregory USA 2596 6.5 2 Gopal, Geetha Naraynan IND 2562 5.5 3 Macieja, Bartlomiej POL 2599 5.0 4-6 Kotronias, Vasilios GRE 2611 4.5 Lie, Kjetil A NOR 2558 4.5 Sandipan, Chanda IND 2585 4.5 7 Ikonnikov, Vyacheslav RUS 2578 4.0 8 Krush, Irina USA 2479 3.0 9 Hole, Øystein NOR 2387 1.5 10 Moskow, Eric USA 2229 1.0 There is no chance at this point for Dr. Moskow to earn an IM norm in this event, but perhaps he will do better in his next tournament. Good luck to Dr. Moskow.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Update: De Ludo Scachorum

Prior post. An argument brews about whether da Vinci did the illustrations for this rare work on chess: From The New York Times Historical Stalemate: Chess Book May Have Leonardo Illustrations (or Not) By DYLAN LOEB McCLAIN Published: April 14, 2008 Reported discoveries of lost works by Leonardo da Vinci are almost as common as, well, images of the Mona Lisa. The latest attribution to be proposed involves the design for the illustrations in a chess book from around 1500. The book, “De Ludo Scachorum,” or “The Game of Chess,” is by Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan friar and Renaissance mathematician who was a friend and collaborator of Leonardo. One of the earliest chess books, it contains 114 diagrams of chess problems drawn in red and black. Long thought to be lost or destroyed, it was discovered in 2006 in a 22,000-volume library in northeastern Italy that belonged to Count Guglielmo Coronini, who died in 1990. The nonprofit Coronini Cronberg Foundation, which oversees the library, enlisted Franco Rocco, an Italian architect and sculptor whose work has puzzlelike qualities, to examine the book and its illustrations. After a year of study he determined that Leonardo created the design on which the illustrations are based, possibly by building a chess set. “I reached the conclusion that the diagrams are the invention of Leonardo da Vinci,” he said in a telephone interview. Mr. Rocco said that he based his report on the quality of the drawings and the friendship between Pacioli and Leonardo. The proportions of the illustrations are based on the golden ratio, he said, like many figures in Leonardo’s compositions; he also noted a similarity between the queen and designs for a fountain in Leonardo’s “Atlantic Codex.” His findings have been widely reported in the international press and have stirred some excitement in chess circles. In his chess column in The Times of London, Raymond Keene wrote that the sophistication of the chess puzzles themselves could have come only from “a powerful intelligence” and might also be the work of Leonardo. But Martin Kemp, a prominent Leonardo expert who is an emeritus art history professor at Oxford University, has emphatically dismissed the possibility that Leonardo had any hand in the drawings. “There is not an earthly chance of them being by Leonardo," he said in a telephone interview. He said that there was no resemblance between the drawings and Leonardo’s work. Nor did he find the designs particularly compelling, he said. The relationship between Pacioli and Leonardo is undisputed and has long fascinated art and mathematics scholars. The two met in Milan in 1496, and Leonardo illustrated Pacioli’s 1509 “Divina Proportione,” a treatise on mathematics and proportions that dealt at length with the golden ratio. (Two quantities or shapes are in the golden ratio if the ratio of their sum to the larger quantity is the same as the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one; expressed mathematically, the golden ratio is roughly 1.618.) In 1499 the French invaded Milan, and Leonardo and Pacioli fled to Mantua. While there Leonardo drew a portrait of the marchesa of Mantua, Isabella d’Este, who liked chess. “De Ludo Scachorum” was written during this time and dedicated to the marchesa and her husband, Francesco Gonzaga. Asked whether Leonardo might have designed the actual chess puzzles, Mr. Kemp said he doubted that. While Leonardo was interested in geometrical games, Mr. Kemp said, no information in surviving manuscripts suggests that he played chess. “It is not improbable of him being interested in it,” he said, “but whether he had the patience to sit for hours and play, there is some doubt.” As for Mr. Rocco’s investigation, Mr. Kemp called it “a nightmare of nonmethod.” He said the attribution was based on unsubstantiated ideas, which made the theory rickety from a historian’s perspective. “You start with one hypothesis, and you build another hypothesis on top of it and then you build another hypothesis on top of that, and you have this tower of unsupported hypotheses,” Mr. Kemp said. As he wrote in an e-mail message, “The silly season on Leo never closes.”

Ancient Egyptian Anchor Discovered

From the Turkish Daily News A unique anchor discovered Friday, April 11, 2008 Vercihan Ziflioğlu ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News Archaeology and anthropology are two sciences trying to shed light on the lives of ancient civilizations. The main aim of all the research is to find vestiges of lost cultures and civilizations, to decode the code of the universe, and hence, life. Ancient Egypt, with its aura of mystery, is one of the most important civilizations among the cultures of Antiquity and continues to attract the attention of scientists. As the pharaohs refuse to give up their secrets, science takes a further step toward unveiling what has been hidden for millennia. Last year, a stone anchor bearing hieroglyphic inscriptions was discovered, by chance, off the shores of Kyrenia, a significant port city in northern Cyprus. Examined by professional diver Tevfik Camgöz, the historic artifact was sent by authorities in northern Cyprus to the British Museum's Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan. After a number of examinations, experts found the anchor to be 3,000 years old and that it has no equal in the world. Camgöz refrained from giving concrete information about the coordinates of the spot where he found the anchor. Noting that research is ongoing, Camgöz said, “the main goal of the examinations conducted on the hieroglyphics inscribed on the stone anchor is to discover why the Pharaoh sailed the waters of Cyprus. That journey by the Pharaoh might change history fundamentally.” History of humanity hidden beneath northern Cypriot shores Camgöz's adventures in diving began when he was a 4-year-old. He performed his first dive when he was 15 and made many other dives in the waters of Turkey and northern Cyprus later in his life. He continued to search for the unknown under international waters as well. But it was the waters of northern Cyprus that attracted him the most. “North Cyprus is very rich in terms of underwater archaeology. An unbelievable treasure of sunken cities, ships, amphorae, and sculptures is hidden beneath the shores of North Cyprus.” Camgöz founded the Nautilus Diving School, the only diving school in northern Cyprus, five years ago. It is the only dive center to be awarded a grant by the United Nations Development Programme and Office for Project Services (UNDP-UNOPS). Behind a curtain of secrecy Camgöz found, by chance, the invaluable anchor that belonged to an erstwhile pharaoh. “One day, nine years ago, I was trying to discover diving spots in Kyrenia, a mile offshore.” Exploring at a depth of 20 meters, an object caught his eye. After a few minutes, Camgöz decided that it was just an illusion and surfaced. Last year, Camgöz made another dive at a spot near the location where he had made that dive nine years earlier. It was during that dive that he found the stone anchor. When he moved it slightly, he saw some hieroglyphics on its back surface. “I immediately recognized the hieroglyphics. I was running low on air. That's why I had to surface,” he said. A second dive to further examine the anchor resulted in the discovery of a few other historic artifacts located close to the anchor. He went on a third dive with students from the North Cyprus Campus of the Middle East Technical University to conduct scanning and inventory studies. A fourth dive was undertaken with a professional team, led by underwater archaeologist Enver Gürsoy, during which the coordinates of the site were recorded and photographs were taken. Camgöz said all the studies were undertaken under the supervision of northern Cyprus' Office of Historical Monuments. Coordinates not revealed The anchor with the hieroglyphics was then sent to the British Museum to decipher the hieroglyphics. “After an initial examination, some of the hieroglyphics were decoded. The inscriptions included information about the pharaoh's Cyprus expedition,” said Camgöz. What that discovery could fully yield is unclear for now as examinations on the ancient anchor have not yet been completed. “Studies have focused on the question of why the pharaoh conducted expeditions into the waters off Cyprus. Currently, we don't have adequate information, but experts have determined that this ancient anchor has no equal in all the world,” said Camgöz. Funds insufficient for underwater archaeology Camgöz said underwater archaeology is an evolving field, both in Turkey and northern Cyprus. “But funds are insufficient. There is a great need for financial support.” Cyprus' waters are available for diving throughout the year. The water temperature ranges between 16 and 20 degrees centigrade while diving depths range between 30 and 40 meters. Camgöz also produces underwater documentaries. Two years ago, together with Turkish state broadcaster, TRT, he prepared a documentary called “Blue Depths of Green Island” about northern Cyprus' underwater life and diversity of fish. The Web page of Camgöz's diving school is:

How A Simple Idea Can Yield Untold Benefits

Mangrove project creates fish, fire and hope in Eritrean desert by Peter Martell Mon Apr 14, 12:18 PM ET HIRGIGO, Eritrea (AFP) - Kneeling by the sparkling waters of the Red Sea, Ahmed Shengabay presses sand carefully over a mangrove seed. "When this grows, it will provide protection for fish and food for my goats," Ahmed said smiling, waving at a long and thick line of tall trees already reaching high into the sky. "We've planted all this already," the fisherman cum farmer added proudly, the mangroves lining the shore beside his small desert village of Hirgigo. "The little fish like the mangroves, the big fish like the little fish -- and we like the big fish." The seed-planting is part of a remarkable yet low-tech pilot project, designed as a model to improve the lives of desert coastal communities by using the salt-water trees to increase fish numbers, provide feed to raise livestock - and combat desertification. Like many of the small villages scattered along Eritrea's Red Sea coast, Hirgigo is a harsh place to live. The region is reputedly one of the hottest inhabited places on earth, with temperatures soaring well above 40 C (104 F) for much of the year, combined with an average annual rainfall of less than two centimetres (an inch). The sun beats down hard on a dusty plain dotted with palm trees, squeezed between barren mountains and the sea. "It's a tough land," said Simon Tecleab, a marine scientist who has been working on the project for the past ten years. "Before, after the rains stopped, the villagers would have to go far to find food for their animals or they would just starve," he added. Much of the original mangrove forest was destroyed by overgrazing by camels or cutting for firewood or the building of homes and boats. But today, along the shore, mangrove trees stretch in a tall green band along some seven kilometres (four miles) of coast and over 100 metres (330 feet) thick, a budding ecosystem acting as nursery grounds for fish, crabs and oysters. The mangroves -- now protected by fences from hungry livestock -- have therefore become crucial to the villagers. "Mangrove leaves and excess seeds are carefully gathered so as not to damage the plants, then used as fodder for sheep and goats," Simon added, who teaches at Eritrea's College of Marine Sciences and Technologies in the port of Massawa, ten kilometres (six miles) to the north. -- Somalia, Djibouti, Mexico and Peru could be next -- At Hirgigo, research into planting mangroves began a decade ago, challenging conventional wisdom that the saltwater plants also needed fresh water to grow -- a major limitation in the arid regions where the trees are needed most. Mangroves grow along some 15 per cent of Eritrea's 1,350 kilometre (837 mile) long coastline, mainly in areas where seasonal freshwater streams run into the sea. But Dr Gordon Sato -- a respected American bio-chemist and member of the US National Academy of Sciences -- reasoned that the trees needed not the freshwater but the minerals the streams brought from inland. Planting low-cost slow-release fertilizer packs of nitrogen, phosphorous and iron alongside each seed, Sato and his team from the Eritrean Ministry of Fisheries found they were able to plant mangroves in areas even previously uninhabited by the trees. "It opens up seemingly unproductive land to produce food, alleviate hunger and create wealth," Sato said, who named the scheme the Manzanar Project, after the US internment camp in the Californian desert where, as a Japanese-American citizen, he spent the Second World War. Sato, who saw there how plants could be grown even in the harshest of conditions, believes that the simple technology of the project can be applied elsewhere in the world to counteract the global impact of deforestation, tackle poverty and bring desert areas into agricultural production. "Countries such as Somalia, Djibouti, Mexico, and Peru immediately come to mind," the 80-year old scientist told AFP. Residents say the project has had a massive impact on the community of about 3,000 people. "There are already lots more fish to catch than before, and some day it will be full of big shrimps," Ahmed said, crouching to place a protective rusty tin can over the seed. Nothing from the mangroves is wasted. "We burn the dry branches remaining for cooking, which is a great help," said an elderly women, heaving a large bundle of sticks onto her back. In the village, bare-foot children kick a half-deflated football between two huts, patched with ragged cloth reinforced with scraps of tin cans hammered flat. The dust swirls as Halima Shifa Idriss, one of several women in the village who work planting the tree seeds, feeds her plump sheep with mangrove clippings. "There were four sheep, now I have eight," Halima said, laughing as the animals reach up greedily to snatch another mangrove branch. "That has made a big difference for my family."

Chess News Update

Chess Femme News has been updated, April 14, 2008!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Owl

From Barbara G. Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets." See also prior posts on Athena:

Romans called the owl strix (pl. striges), the same word that meant "witch."(1) Greeks said the owl was sacred to Athene, their own version of the ancient Mesopotamian "Eye-Goddess" whose staring owl-eyed images have been found throughout the Middle East, especially around the Mother-city of Mari.(2) The owl was also the totem of Lilith, Blodeuwedd, Anath, and other versions of the Triple Goddess of the moon. See Trinity.

According to Christian legend, the owl was one of "three disobedient sisters" who defied God and was transfrmed into a bird who never looked at the sun.(3) It is easy enough to see in this idea the shape of the Goddess herself, and the church's hostility to her. One of the medieval names for the owl was "night hag;" it was said to be a witch in bird form.(4) The owl is still associated with witches in the smbols of Halloween.

The owl is also a bird of wisdom because it used to embody the wisdom of the Goddess. Certain medieval magic charms apparently sought to use the bird's oracular power against its former mistress, woman. If an owl could be slain and its heart pulled out and laid on the left breast of a sleeping woman, the owman would talk in her sleep and reveal all her secrets.(5) This seems to have been the basis of the expression, "heart-to-heart talk," which meant a woman's secret conversation with her familiar.

(1) Trigg, 96.
(2) Neumann, G.M., pl. 87.
(3) de Lys, 37.
(4) Cavendish,P.E., 100.
(5) Agrppa, 76.

Harrappan Figurine

Here's an interesting figurine I came across, it's from Harrappa, unfortunately not dated. It's called a "begging dog." The round base reminds me of ancient gaming pieces that have been excavated in the Middle East, Egypt and elsewhere.
Interestingly, game pieces in the ancient Middle East were often called "dogs" even if they did not resemble dogs. For instance, in her discussion about the game of nard, Anna Contadini wrote that the playing pieces were called "kilab" (dogs) in Arabic. In the Greek game Polis (Poleis - "cities"), the gaming pieces were called "dogs." (See Roland G. Austin's 1940 article "Greek Board Games," preserved at the Elliott Avedon Museum of Games website). H.J.R. Murray noted in his monumental "A History of Chess" on pages 37-38: "The board is arranged so that the divisions or points constitute a track along which the men (in Asia commonly called horses or dogs) are moved in obedience to the throws of the dice or equivalent implements (e.g. staves, shells, seeds, teetotums)."

Spain Arrests 20 for Treasure Plunder

From The New York Times By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: April 12, 2008 Filed at 2:23 a.m. ET MADRID, Spain (AP) -- Twenty people accused in the plunder and sale of thousands of archaeological items have been arrested and their suspected booty -- including Roman and Stone Age pieces -- seized, police said Friday. The suspects and used metal detectors at archaeological sites throughout Spain, often selling their finds on the Internet, police said in a statement. Among the locations plundered were archaeological digs at Calpe on the eastern Mediterranean coast and Municipium Augusta Bilbilis near Calatayud in central Spain, where the Romans built a colonial city on an earlier settlement. Agents searched 24 addresses and needed three vans to carry away the suspected loot from one of the places searched, the statement said. Roman swords, 12,000 coins, stone and metal axes and more than 10,000 paleontological pieces were among the artifacts seized, police said.

Chess News Update

Chess Femme News has been updated, April 13, 2008! The new pages have a slightly different navigation scheme (link buttons are now across the top of the page rather than on the right side, where they tended to get lost) and the color scheme has been simplified, it's now whiter and brighter. I'm still not satisfied with its appearance, but I think it is a bit better. I'm trying to integrate more photographs of the women chess players that are covered in the tournament reports and news stories, but I'm trying to keep download speeds in mind for those who are still using dial-up internet connections. So, not as many photos as I'd like.
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