Saturday, March 6, 2010

Women: The Power Principle

In honor of International Women's Day, a practical exercise to relieve stress and achieve inner peace, and a lovely poem. (Image: Sacred Mantra Mandala - Tibetan Thangka Painting.  Do you recognize the pattern? Think - Liubo...)

From The Hindu Online
Women: The Power Principle

For all those women who find no time for themselves, practical mystic and yoga guru YOGACHARINI MAITREYI suggests a simple technique that helps reorient and refocus themselves.

The Cleansing Breath

The cleansing breath is an excellent and simple breathing technique to release a sense of feeling overwhelmed. If there is too much information to remember, too much to do, too many deadlines, too much irritation or frustration then take a break and practise the cleansing breath. This gives you the space to re-orient and refocus. This can be done in front of the work desk, as one is lying down before bed, just as one is waking up, while one is waiting, while one is anticipating a stressful situation, when one is worrying too much or simply when wants to relax. This is an effective tool in between a busy work day or a day filled with learning sessions. Information needs time to be assimilated and the cleansing breath creates time and space for this assimilation. It also releases acidity from the system

The Technique:

1. Sit comfortably with a straight back, shoulders relaxed and chest open. Be aware of your sitting position as well as your breathing. Now take a deep in breath and then breathe out like you are sighing a sigh of relief. Pout your lips as you are doing this so that the sigh makes a whoosh sound. This pouting the lips is called the kaaki mudra or the crow's beak. Feel all stresses leaving as you breathe out. Do 9 rounds keeping eyes closed. 2. You can also add this movement to relax the shoulders. Breathe in and bring your shoulders to your ears. Breathe out using the cleansing breath and release the shoulders, relaxing them. Do 9 times

Shakthi means power. In the Indian system the power principle is feminine. Shiva symbolises destruction but, more appropriately, the change management principle and the consciousness principle. Change is constant, however to change something for the positive needs consciousness. Just as an old building is destroyed to build something new in its place Shiva or the consciousness principle frees us from the old negative habits to make space for new things. It is this consciousness that helps us partly change, remodel, strengthen or completely remove old structures depending on what is appropriate. Shakthi or power is what enables this principle.

That is why power needs to be in the hands of the refined as their ultimate aim is harmony, although they may get into confrontations during the process of resolution. A gross person will misuse power and hurt or terrorise because they are unhappy and want to feel better about themselves. Some even take pleasure in destroying others who are not submissive. They are extremely intolerant and fanatic and power in the hands of such people causes a lot of destruction. The less gross hurt out of fear and self protection.

The Shiva and Shakthi principles are not separate from each other and are within each one of us. Consciousness and power need to dance together. Yin and Yang need to be balanced for us to be fully balanced men or women. When we understand Shiva/Shakthi in this manner rather than as religious figures, we can apply it to our day to day betterment rather than relate to them out of superstition. They become keys for mind management principles.

Women's day, why not men's day
I've wondered why the men got left behind when it comes to a day dedicated to them. We also have children's day apart from women's day. To celebrate a fully balanced male is to actually celebrate the feminine and the child in oneself. This means a balanced man also accesses his feminine qualities without being effeminate. He has softness and firmness, not aggression. The most fearful people are the ones who are most aggressive. Right through history we have seen instances of how the aggressive scheming group due to greed misappropriates another's wealth or knowledge. Thus men also should celebrate women's day knowing they are celebrating their own gentler side that is capable of deep love and tenderness.

Our Indian history and culture has the most powerful and revered women and yet the worst oppression is seen as well. India is truly the land of extremes, holding the richest and the poorest the densest and the most intense in its womb. On women's day let us celebrate the Goddess in each one of us. Let us nurture the qualities of wisdom, abundance and strength by giving our selves space to grow.

The left and right brain, yin and yang

The left brain is called the masculine brain and the right brain the feminine. The left brain is logical, reasoning, sequential, analytical, objective and looks at parts.

The right brain is random, emotional, intuitive, holistic, subjective and looks at wholes.

This left/ right balance helps us see many points of view. Else we see things with the perspective of the most dominant side and the interpretation of situations is different. Thus a balance of yin and yang, right and left brain helps us have a more balanced perspective as well.

A yoga technique to worry less
Women have a habit of putting themselves last, especially those with a pronounced maternal instinct. Their children's health or their spouse's or the health of their kith and kin comes before their own and they worry about it all the time. The caretaker needs to take care of her health first to be able to do her best. If a woman is working then the excuse I hear most often is that she has no time. Hence I have listed a very simple technique called the cleansing breath that one can practise at any time during the day in 2 to 3 minute segments.

Yogacharini Maitreyi is a practical mystic who teaches yoga and creates conscious community around the world.;

An ode to women

Women are but a reflection
Of trees in full bloom
Who flower with dignity and grace.
When given the room.
To grow into whom they can become.
Blossoming season after season.
To only express their being. And for no other reason.
What a joy to be part of her growth.
Where a woman is empowered to stand up even if hurt
And even if she has reacted out of fear. Is willing to listen and wipe another's tear.
What use is all this progress If she cannot feel safe And feel no harm will come to her
A real woman rises above this, not by building walls.
But builds her resources and strengths. Where she has an inner light Burning bright
Where hope buds, and all hurdles disappear

42nd International Women's Chess Tournament

Belgrade, Servia
March 3- 11, 2010

Unfortunately, FIDE saw fit to schedule the European Individual Chess Championships to overlap this venerable international tournament.  When it began, Belgrade Tournament was one of the few tournaments in the world that provided an exclusive venue for female chessplayers, now in its 42nd year.  Surely FIDE could show more sensitivity to such historical tournaments and schedule their events around them?  It is little enough to ask.

Article at, who are very good at providing coverage to a wide audience of women-only chess events.  As the article points out, because of the scheduling conflict with the European Championship, and a decrease in prize sponsorship the last several years, top female players in the world have opted to by-pass the Belgrade Tournament.  But now it provides a great opportunity for up-and-coming players and relatively unknown players eager to make a name for themselves and to shine.


WGM Tatjana Grabuzova (RUS 2345)
WGM Margarita Vojska (BUL 2325)
WGM Ana Benderać (SRB 2299)
WGM Suzana Maksimović (SRB 2272)
WIM Elena Borić (BiH 2260)
IM Svetlana Petrenko (MDA 2260)
18-years old WFM Jovana Erić (SRB 2183)
WIM Marija Petrović (SRB 2182)
WFM Ana Marija Stefanidi (GRE 2125) (top photo)
16-years old Lena Miladinović (SRB 2018) (bottom photo)

Information from the Belgrade Chess Federation, which is providing coverage of the Tournament:

International March 8 Tournaments have now become a tradition in Belgrade, and with the exception of 1980, 1984. and 2004, they have been held every year. Almost all the leading women chess players have competed in the March 8 Tournaments including world champions - the legendary Nona Gaprindashvilli and Maya Chiburdandize and also our best players and youth and talented players who acquired necessery expiriance for the future and progress in our chess.

After tournaments which are played in Hestings and Weik An Ze this tournament is with longest tradition in chess history.

This year 42. tournament will be held in Belgrade (March 3-11, 2010).

Tournament is sponsored by the Belgrade Assembly.

TABLE - After Round 4

SN Name Rtg FED 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts
1 IM Petrenko Svetlana 2268 MDA * 0 1 1 ½
2 WFM Eric Jovana 2183 SRB 1 * 1 ½ ½ 3
3 WFM Stefanidi Maria-Anna 2125 GRE 0 0 * 0 0 0
4 WGM Grabuzova Tatiana 2347 RUS 0 * 1 ½ 1
5 WIM Petrovic Marija 2182 SRB * 1 ½ 0 1
6 WGM Benderac Ana 2299 SRB 0 * 1 ½ 1
7 Miladinovic Lena 2038 SRB 0 ½ 0 * 0 ½
8 WGM Voiska Margarita 2320 BUL 1 ½ 1 ½ * 3
9 WGM Maksimovic Suzana 2272 SRB ½ 1 0 0 *
10 WIM Boric Elena 2263 BIH ½ ½ 0 1 * 2

Marija Radosavljevic, IA
Katarina Tadic, NA

2010 International Women's Day

This year International Women's Day will be celebrated on March 8, 2010. 

Some websites:

International Women's Day 2010
Wikipedia Entry (very interest history)
Women for Women - Join Me On The Bridge March 8, 2010

I love history - and I love chess.  I'm not a good player, and until I retire and can afford to take lessons (and devote lots of time), I won't ever be any better than I am today, which isn't very good.  LOL!  But I love it, nonetheless.  And I would love to get better.  Watch out, chess dudes.  I may be a little 75 year old lady beating your butt at a local tournament in ---- 17 years.  Crap - only 17 years...

The history of chess is a fascinating subject in and of itself, and it was that history that caught me more than 10 years ago; it is that history which led to the development of The Weave discussion on the old Art Bell message boards, and then to the creation of the Goddesschess website, and then to the creation of this Blog.  Along the way, there have been chess columns and articles and book reviews. 

We have many historical articles and interesting studies emale chessplayers archived at the Goddesschess website - we invite you to explore the contents under the general Women of Chess heading (left side navigation bar).

A potpourri of historical  information on women in chess can be found at the following websites - not current news sites:

Chess and Women - Edward Winter (I always want to call him Edgar Winters)
A History of Women's Chess in the U.S. - St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center
A timeline - Google search (some fascinating articles cropped up!)

Top three female players today:

GM Judit Polgar (HUN 2682) born 1976
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

GM Koneru Humpy (IND 2622) born 1987
Photo: Alexandra Kosteniuk's - interview

GM Hou Yifan CHN 2570) born 1994
Photo: Alexandra Kosteniuk's - coverage 8th Asian Continental Open

Susan Polgar National Opens for Boys and Girls

The Fifth Annual SUSAN POLGAR NATIONAL OPEN FOR GIRLS and the Fourth Annual SUSAN POLGAR NATIONAL OPEN FOR BOYS have begun at the Carefree Resort & Villas in beautiful (and warm!!!) Carefree, Arizona. (Photo from Round 1). 

Some 300 boys and girls have assembled to compete in these open national events named after GM Susan Polgar.  GM Polgar heads the Susan Polgar Institue for Chess Excellence at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas (SPICE) and the Susan Polgar Foundation.  Among many other accomplishments, GM Polgar is a Women's World Chess Champion (1996-1999) and is also a 5-time Olympic Champion with 10 overall medals (5 Gold, 4 Silver, 1 Bronze).

Schedule of events and play.


Main Event: (All Scholastic Sections): Awesome Netbook Computer to 1st, $200 (in Chess Prizes) to 2nd, $150 to 3rd $100 to 4th, $50 to 5th
All the above are in kind, chess prizes such as chess books/DVDs, etc and not a cash prize. Digital Clock to 7-0 score, Trophies to top 20 Individuals, Trophies to top 3 teams, Medals to 21st-30th Individuals, Medals to 4-6th Teams, Trophies to top 3 Parent/Child/Sibling Teams.

Adult Section: $300-$200-$150-$100 in cash prizes, based on 20 paid entries.

Scholarships to Texas Tech University ( will be awarded based in part on the performance in this event. Please visit the tournament website for more details.

Bughouse Championship: Trophies top 10 teams.
Blitz Championship: Primary - trophies to top 10, Elementary – trophies to top 10, Middle School – Trophies to top 10, High School / Adult U1600 – trophies to top 5
Puzzle Solving Championship: Trophies to top 3 individuals

9 Queens Action! Beginner Ladies' Chess Workshop March 7, 2010

Beginner Ladies Chess Workshop on March 7
Ladies- have you wanted to play chess but never learned? Used to play but now you don’t remember the rules? Come this Sunday, March 7th to the 9 Queens beginner chess academy at Bookmans on Grant and Campbell.

From 2:00pm - 4:00 pm National Master Leo Martinez and Expert Amanda Mateer will teach the basics like how the Queen moves and how to play a pawn game. This is your chance; unleash your inner queen and get in the game!

(The workshop is in Tucson, Arizona)

Because the most powerful piece on the board is YOU!

Get Involved

The success of 9 Queens speaks not only to the strength of our organization but also to the need for our programs. Since launching our programs, principals, teachers, and parents throughout the country have contacted 9 Queens in need of our support. Currently there are over 25 schools, libraries and after-school centers on the 9 Queens waiting list.

Now, more than ever, 9 Queens needs your support. Your generous tax-deductible contribution to 9 Queens will provide necessary resources that go directly to our programming. Make the most of your year-end giving and impact the lives of those individuals who would benefit most by your financial support of 9 Queens.

$50 can sponsor a two-hour after-school chess club for 30 students from a low-income public school.

$100 can provide a child with a year of chess instruction.

$250 can provide chess instruction to teach 40 girls how to play chess.

$500 can sponsor a semester of in-school chess instruction for an entire second grade classroom.

$1000 can sponsor a year of in-school chess instruction for an entire classroom of students in a low-income public school.

$2500 can provide a low-income public school with a year of quality after-school chess programming.

Donate online- Your tax-deductible donation will enable under-served and under-represented children to enjoy the benefits of chess education. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to 9 Queens using a secure, online system.

Donate by mail- To mail tax-deductible donations to 9 Queens, please write checks payable to: 9 Queens. Send your check to:

9 Queens
P.O. Box 41838
Tucson, AZ 85717

Contribute in-kind- In addition to providing financial support, you can also help 9 queens promote chess by contributing in-kind donations. If you have materials or services you think would be of use, please email Jean Hoffman for more information.

Volunteer- To learn more volunteer opportunities with 9 Queens, email Jean Hoffman.

Hales Corners Challenge XI!

It will be here before we know it - April 17, 2010! If you are within driving distance of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, consider coming for the day.  It's a very nice venue conveniently located in southeast Milwaukee (near the airport) and a great event, organized by the Southwest Chess Club.  It's worth 10 Grand Prix Points and is also part of the WCA Tour. 

Further information and entry form

To encourage more chess femmes to play in the Open Section, Goddesschess has increased its prize pool to $245 for Challenge XI, but dependent on how many enroll to play in that section. The more chess femmes play in the Open, the more prizes are available for them and the higher the amounts. Two fixed prizes are offered for chess femmes who finish in the top two spots in the Reserve Section. In addition, Goddesschess will pay the entry fees of the top finishing chess femmes in both sections should they choose to play in Hales Corners Challenge XII. Goddesschess prizes are awarded in addition to any other prize that a chess femme may win:

For Female Players in the Open Section:

1 woman - no cash prize
2 women - one prize of $45
3 women - two prizes of $45 and $40
4 women - three prizes of $50, $45, $40
5 or more women - four prizes of $55, $50, $45, $40
Top finishing female - paid entry for Challenge XII when registration confirmed

For Female Players in the Reserve Section:

1st --$30
2nd --$25
Top finishing female - paid entry for Challenge XII when registration confirmed

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ancient Writing: How the Alphabet Was Born from Hieroglyphs

So writes Orly Goldwasser in the March/April, 2010 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. The entire article, with images and photographs, as well as two interesting sidebar features, are included at BAR's website, which I love to visit regularly because I never know what treasures I might find there.

Article. Traces the development of a unique form of written communication by foreign workers and settlers in Egypt - an alphabet - based exclusively on the sounds of syllables composing a single word. It's long but worth the read for anyone interested in the development of ancient writing and, in this case, an invention that we use in modified form to this very day!

Sidebar: The Wadi el-Hôl Inscription: Earlier than Serabit?
Photograph by Bruce Zuckerman and Marilyn Lundberg, WS Research. Courtesy Department of Antiquities, Egypt.  The el Hôl inscription is faintly carved into a limestone wall. The inscription could be read “(The) besieger עוחי, ‘El’s Trickle.”

Sidebar: A Cuneiform Alphabet at Ugarit
DIFFERENT SCRIPT, SAME ALPHABET. This cuneiform clay tablet found at the ancient Syrian coastal city of Ugarit is in fact impressed with wedge-shaped alphabetic signs. Was the alphabet invented twice?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Divorced Before Puberty

From The New York Times

Published: March 3, 2010

It’s hard to imagine that there have been many younger divorcées — or braver ones — than a pint-size third grader named Nujood Ali.

Nujood is a Yemeni girl, and it’s no coincidence that Yemen abounds both in child brides and in terrorists (and now, thanks to Nujood, children who have been divorced). Societies that repress women tend to be prone to violence.

For Nujood, the nightmare began at age 10 when her family told her that she would be marrying a deliveryman in his 30s. Although Nujood’s mother was unhappy, she did not protest. “In our country it’s the men who give the orders, and the women who follow them,” Nujood writes in a powerful new autobiography just published in the United States this week, “I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced.”

Her new husband forced her to drop out of school (she was in the second grade) because a married woman shouldn’t be a student. At her wedding, Nujood sat in the corner, her face swollen from crying.

Nujood’s father asked the husband not to touch her until a year after she had had her first menstrual period. But as soon as they were married, she writes, her husband forced himself on her.

He soon began to beat her as well, the memoir says, and her new mother-in-law offered no sympathy. “Hit her even harder,” the mother-in-law would tell her son.

Nujood had heard that judges could grant divorces, so one day she sneaked away, jumped into a taxi and asked to go to the courthouse.

“I want to talk to the judge,” the book quotes Nujood as forlornly telling a woman in the courthouse.

“Which judge are you looking for?”

“I just want to speak to a judge, that’s all.”

“But there are lots of judges in this courthouse.”

“Take me to a judge — it doesn’t matter which one!”

When she finally encountered a judge, Nujood declared firmly: “I want a divorce!”

Yemeni journalists turned Nujood into a cause célèbre, and she eventually won her divorce. The publicity inspired others, including an 8-year-old Saudi girl married to a man in his 50s, to seek annulments and divorces.

As a pioneer, Nujood came to the United States and was honored in 2008 as one of Glamour magazine’s “Women of the Year.” Indeed, Nujood is probably the only third grader whom Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has described as “one of the greatest women I have ever seen.”

Nujood’s memoir spent five weeks as the No. 1 best-seller in France. It is being published in 18 other languages, including her own native language of Arabic.

I asked Nujood, now 12, what she thought of her life as a best-selling author. She said the foreign editions didn’t matter much to her, but she was looking forward to seeing it in Arabic. Since her divorce, she has returned to school and to her own family, which she is supporting with her book royalties.

At first, Nujood’s brothers criticized her for shaming the family. But now that Nujood is the main breadwinner, everybody sees things a bit differently. “They’re very nice to her now,” said Khadija al-Salami, a filmmaker who mentors Nujood and who translated for me. “They treat her like a queen.”

Yemen is one of my favorite countries, with glorious architecture and enormously hospitable people. Yet Yemen appears to be a time bomb. It is a hothouse for Al Qaeda and also faces an on-and-off war in the north and a secessionist movement in the south. It’s no coincidence that Yemen is also ranked dead last in the World Economic Forum’s global gender gap index.

There are a couple of reasons countries that marginalize women often end up unstable.

First, those countries usually have very high birth rates, and that means a youth bulge in the population. One of the factors that most correlates to social conflict is the proportion of young men ages 15 to 24.

Second, those countries also tend to practice polygamy and have higher death rates for girls. That means fewer marriageable women — and more frustrated bachelors to be recruited by extremists.

So educating Nujood and giving her a chance to become a lawyer — her dream — isn’t just a matter of fairness. It’s also a way to help tame the entire country.

Consider Bangladesh. After it split off from Pakistan, Bangladesh began to educate girls in a way that Pakistan has never done. The educated women staffed an emerging garment industry and civil society, and those educated women are one reason Bangladesh is today far more stable than Pakistan.

The United States last month announced $150 million in military assistance for Yemen to fight extremists. In contrast, it costs just $50 to send a girl to public school for a year — and little girls like Nujood may prove more effective than missiles at defeating terrorists.

Follow-up: Queen Behenu Tomb Discovered

Prior post.

Isis sent me this report, that contains additional information, including this photograph. From

Ancient Egyptian Queen's Burial Chamber Discovered
French archaeologists working at Saqqara have unearthed the burial chamber of a 4,000-year-old queen, Dr. Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), announced today.

Badly destroyed, the 33-by 16-foot burial chamber belonged to Queen Behenu, wife of either King Pepi I or Pepi II of the Sixth Dynasty.

It was discovered as sand was removed from Behenu's pyramid in South Saqqara, west of the pyramid of King Pepi I.

Although the mummy of the queen was destroyed and little remains of the burial, the team found two inner walls which contain hieroglyphics engraved on white stone known as the "Pyramid Texts."

The oldest body of Egyptian religious writings, Pyramid Texts were widely in use in royal tombs during the 5th and 6th Dynasties. They are basically special prayers to protect the dead and ensure sustenance in the afterlife.

Further excavation inside the burial, led the French team to the queen's sarcophagus.

"It is a well-preserved granite sarcophagus engraved with the queen's different titles, but says nothing about the identity of her husband," Philippe Collombert, head of the mission, said in a statement.

Since the beginning of their project in 1989, Collombert's team has located a total of seven pyramids belonging to queens dating to the reigns of Pepi I and Pepi II.

The pyramids have been attributed to Queens Inenek, Nubunet, Meretites II, Ankhespepy III, Miha, and a yet unidentified queen.

Pictures: courtesy of Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tomb of Ancient Egyptian Queen Behenu Uncovered at Saqqara

From Yahoo News

Burial chamber of ancient Egyptian queen unearthed
Wed Mar 3, 4:28 pm ET
CAIRO – French archaeologists announced Wednesday the discovery outside Cairo of the burial chamber of a mysterious queen from Egypt's Old Kingdom more than 4,000 years ago.

The necropolis of Saqqara outside Cairo has yielded a string of new discoveries as 10 different teams excavate a previously untouched area of these burial grounds were used continuously for more than 2,000 years until Roman times.

French mission head Philippe Collombert said the mummy of Queen Behenu was destroyed, but the chamber contained green hieroglyphics picked out on white stone known as the "Pyramid Texts."

"We are excited because the texts are well conserved," he told The Associated Press, adding that the queen's titles were written on the walls of the 33 by 16 foot (10 meter by 5 meter) burial chamber inside her small pyramid.

The text is primarily concerned with protecting the queen's remains and her transition to afterlife.

Collombert called the queen "mysterious," and said it was not clear whether she was the wife of King Pepi I or II, two long-ruling pharaohs of the Sixth Dynasty.

Under that dynasty, Egypt's Old Kingdom period ended as centralized rule broke down and ushered in a period of competing dynasties and powerful nobles vying for power across the country.

Pyramids from this time were mainly concentrated in Saqqara and were shoddily built, compared to their more famous cousins in Giza, and have largely fallen apart.

Collombert said the mission has worked in the area since 1988 and has unearthed seven pyramids belonging to queens from the dynasty, but this is only the second pyramid with religious texts on the walls.
This ticks me off. This article does not at all impress the importance of what it meant for an Egyptian woman to bear the title "Queen." Not a word is said about how rulership was passed via the matrilineal line of descent! Why do you suppose all those Egyptian pharaohs thousands of years ago married their sisters??? Rulership was authenticated and, although not much talked about in today's histories, actually conveyed to their male consorts via the woman's line of descent, not the male's line of descent. It was the WOMEN who really ruled, albeit mostly from behind the throne, with some important exceptions (for instance Hatshepsut and Cleopatra VII). When the primary wife (Queen) failed to give birth to a male heir, all hell broke loose.

Women's World Chess Champion Becomes Champion for Peace

Information from GM Alexandra Kosteniuk's chess blog for general release:


The Chess Queen Becomes Champion for Peace


Champions for Peace, an initiative from “Peace and Sport, l’Organisation pour la Paix par le Sport” is now delighted to count 39 heroes from the winner’s podium who actively or symbolically help to create a genuine culture of peace throughout the world using sport. They represent 24 nationalities, 25 Olympic and non-Olympic sports disciplines, 49 World Champions, 20 Olympic Champions and more than a hundred national and regional titles.

At 25, reigning women’s world chess champion Alexandra Kosteniuk brings her international reputation and her numerous victories to promote this noble cause. Initiated to the game of chess at 5 years old, she started collecting international awards from the age of 10, became world champion Girls U-12 in 1996, Women’s European Champion in 2004, Russian Champion in 2005, before winning the supreme women’s world title in 2008. The same year she won the first-ever gold medal in ‘Mind Sports Games’. Alexandra holds the highest title available to men and women chess players – Grandmaster.

Beyond her talent and performance, through her leadership in chess education excellence, Alexandra brings unprecedented experience and motivation to the Champions for Peace initiative. For over 10 years, her high moral standards, ethics and charisma have made her an inspiration and role model for her generation and for millions of fans all over the world. A true ambassador for chess worldwide and on the web, Alexandra has always worked to ensure that her favourite sport serves peace, human development and social progress.

In her role of "Champion for Peace", she will travel to Colombia in the near future to launch a program for peace and social cohesion, initiated by Peace and Sport in partnership with the NGO Colombianitos and the International Chess Federation (FIDE). This program will over time enable 4,000 children living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods in cities in Colombia to learn chess.

"I am very pleased to be part of the Peace and Sport movement,” declared Alexandra Kosteniuk. “I want to give back to the world the love and happiness that I have received through the wonderful game of chess. I firmly believe that chess serves the cause of peace by improving the lives of young people. I have seen firsthand how chess helps students to develop the skills they need to be successful in life."

Joel Bouzou, President and Founder of Peace and Sport, himself a World Champion and Olympic Medallist, added: "We are deeply honoured that the Chess Queen has joined the Champions for Peace family. Alexandra has proved to the world that "Chess is Cool". It’s a real pleasure to be able to count on her enthusiasm, determination and intelligence to inform new audiences and convince policy-makers that sport can and must contribute to sustainable peace."

Other Champions of Peace include such sporting legends as SERGEY BUBKA (Olympic Champion and six-times World Champion, Pole Vault, Ukraine); FRANKIE FREDERICKS (double World Champion, 100 and 200 metres, Namibia); CATHY FREEMAN (Olympic Champion and double World Champion, 400m, Australia); YELENA ISINBAYEVA (double Olympic Champion and double World Champion, Pole Vault, Russia), CHRISTIAN KAREMBEU (World Champion, Football, France) BRADLEY MCGEE ( Double Olympic Champion, World Champion, cycling, Australia), PAULA RADCLIFFE (World Champion, Marathon, United Kingdom) as well as many more.

Press contacts

Peace and Sport

Diego Garcés

You can read the entire press release and connect automatically to all of the links it provides by clicking on the headline above to link to the post at GM Kosteniuk's post at her chess blog ( main site). 
This is a wonderful thing!  Goddesschess is so happy to see another pre-eminent female chess player extend her expertise to a new forum that provides great opportunities to expand the potential audience for chess world-wide.

I cannot speak as to what is going on in other countries, but in the USA, we are fortunate to have several  titled chess femmes taking their unique skills to the next level to help children, girls, women, and chessplayers in the quest to achieve their full potential.  More about this tomorrow.

Congratulations to GM Alexandra Kosteniuk. 

L'Bri Update: Day 21

Well, I didn't think something like this would actually happen.  I mean, what are the odds?  But it did and I am so pleased!

Today was the day I was going to write my second update on my use of the L'Bri products I started using on February 10.  It has been 21 full days (3 weeks).  Earlier today I was in one of the female attorney's offices chatting with her about my upcoming get-away to Las Vegas after tax season, and I mentioned that as part of our three day All Girls Girly Stuff I was going to buy a swim suit and would be taking some products to Isis to try out, new products that I had been using on my face and was very happy with the results.  She looked amazed and said I was just thinking to myself what nice skin Jan has!

Wow!  So I give her a quick summary about how I ended up purchasing the L'Bri products, how I used them and the results I was seeing, and that she could order free samples on the internet (I emailed her my sister's L'Bri website url later).  I think she is going to be ordering some free samples.  She said - and I'm sure she meant it as a complement - that I looked much younger, and she sounded so amazed when she said it.  LOL! 

I'm not sure if another comment made last Friday  (2/26) counts.  I was in the office kitchen getting some water when one of the paralegals came in and she commented on how rosy my complexion looked and how much my pink sweater suited me.  I have received complements on the pink sweater before, but never any comments about my complexion while wearing it.  Pink does suit my coloring, so maybe this one doesn't count as being caused by my use of L'Bri products.

So, how does my skin look?  Note: I examine without glasses in different mirrors, under different lighting conditions, and also close examinations with my glasses on AND using a magnifying mirror. 

Looks pretty darn good.  It is definitely smoother to the touch and softer. My rosacea flare-ups have decreased quite a bit.  Those pesky zits around my chin area have greatly decreased, too and what new ones pop up are not lasting as long.  So, the gentle form of the products are just fine for treating post-menopausal (hormonally caused) adult acne on extremely sensitive skin.

Wrinkles - glacially slow improvement - I can see improvement now where 10 days ago I really could not.  Most impressive is the change in the "frown lines" (either side of the mouth) - I hope it's not just my imagination :)  I think they have definitely decreased.  "Laugh lines" on either side of the eyes - I see minor, but definite, improvement.  Wrinkles on my eyelids - tiny tiny change - there is change, but I guess they're not going to get much better.  Wrinkles on bridge of noese - minor improvement.  Wrinkles on upper lip - too soon to tell since I only began using Maxifirm on my entire face about 11 days ago.  They are not so noticeable, so I am hoping they will disappear - soon!  LOL! 

Overall effect is definitely noticeable by yours truly, and by one unbiased observer!  Ta da! 

I conclude that it really is true what the L'Bri literature said - that the result of using all the products in tandem would be cumulative over 4 to 6 weeks.  If after only 3 weeks I (and Jennifer) can see definite improvement, I look forward to what my skin will be in another 3 weeks, which will take me to the end of 6 full weeks.

Since I've been using the products 2x a day for the last 21 days, I've gotten very efficient with them, so it is true that one can do an entire routine from cleansing to final moisturizing in about 5-6 minutes, including application of eye gel and Maxifirm.  Separate timing for use of the peel (the exfoliating product I am using that looks like emulsified orange peels, LOL!), which I have settled into a routine of using peel, two days off, peel on third day, start the count over again.  I am scheduled for another peel tomorrow morning and I can see in the magnifying mirror that I need it!  I have flaking skin - those zits are healing away layer by layer. 

Oh - pores.  I learned just today by accident while scouting around the internet during my lunch hour that pore size is genetically determined, and so no product can permanently shrink pore size.  However, products can temporarily reduce the appearance of large pores.  I believe this is what has happened with my face and, coupled with the overall improvement in skin texture, the pores are not as noticeable. I don't know if this is the case with other women, but my largest pores are on my upper lip and in the crease lines from nose down to chin. Mind, I'm looking at my skin under blasting light, with my glasses on and also with a magnifying mirror, so those damn pores look like pot-holes.

Products can also improve overall skin texture both by healing blemishes (from inside out) and removing dead skin cells.  Products can further promote healthy skin and maximize production of new skin cells by maintaining a neutral PH balance and not clogging skin pores (those pores again) or unduly drying out essential oils that are provided to the skin from below.  Diet and intake of enough water along with adequate sleep do the rest.  This isn't exactly a scientific explanation, but this is how I understand what's going on in lay-person's terms. 

The L'Bri products are not doing any damage to my skin - that is a major plus.  As much as I thought that my prior regimine was beneficial to my face, it was causing problems, although not as many as if I'd been scrubbing my skin twice a day with alkaline soap and using harsh scrubbers to exfoliate a couple of times a week.  I was actually clogging up those pores in several places on my face in an attempt to slow the development of dry skin and wrinkles, especially on the bone line of where cheek bone meets eye socket - lots of little bumps used to be there. 

So - all of that stuff that I used to use (other than my generic Lubriderm facial wash) is going into the garbage tonight.  Oy, it hurts to be throwing out so many $$$!  But those old products have more minuses than pluses - not like the L'Bri products, which thus far have all pluses.

My next report will be in 3 weeks, which will be the end of 6 full weeks of using L'Bri products.  Will I look ten years younger - not, by the way, a claim that L'Bri makes, LOL!  It's a demand I'm making!  We'll see...  If I can go back to 48 again facially and start all over - well!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Stone Circles in Syria

"Syrian Stonehenge" - an exciting discovery that needs to be thoroughly investigated (before the looters get there). At its oldest, it may be a couple thousand years older than the oldest part of Stonehenge in England.  We sure do have a lot to learn yet, don't we... (Photo courtesy Dr. Robert Mason. One of the corbelled stone structures found in the Syrian desert. Archaeologists suspect that its an ancient stone tomb. In the front of it are the remains of a stone circle.)

From the
Syria's Stonehenge: Neolithic stone circles, alignments and possible tombs discovered
Monday, 1 March 2010

For Dr. Robert Mason, an archaeologist with the Royal Ontario Museum, it all began with a walk last summer. Mason conducts work at the Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi monastery, out in the Syrian Desert. Finds from the monastery, which is still in use today by monks, date mainly to the medieval period and include some beautiful frescoes.

Dr. Mason explains that he “went for a walk” into the eastern perimeter of the site - an area that hasn’t been explored by archaeologists. What he discovered is an ancient landscape of stone circles, stone alignments and what appear to be corbelled roof tombs. From stone tools found at the site, it’s likely that the features date to some point in the Middle East’s Neolithic Period – a broad stretch of time between roughly 8500 BC – 4300 BC.

It is thought that in Western Europe megalithic construction involving the use of stone only dates back as far as ca. 4500 BC. This means that the Syrian site could well be older than anything seen in Europe.

At a recent colloquium in Toronto, Canada, Mason described his shock at discovering the apparent tombs, stone circles and stone alignments: “I was standing up there thinking, oh dear me, I’ve wandered onto Salisbury Plain,”

At the southern end of the landscape there are three apparent tombs. They are about eight metres in diameter and each of them “actually has a chamber in the middle”. The roof is corbelled which suggests that beneath them is “something you would want to seal in.” Each of these corbelled structures had a stone circle beside it, which is about two meters in diameter.

Dr. Mason cautioned that the team did not have the chance to do more than survey the area, so it’s still possible that these corbelled structures could have a purpose other than burial. More work also needs to be done to get a precise date of construction.

Dr. Mason set out to look for more stone circles and chambered structures. This time he brought a monk with him, from the monastery:

“Lurking around in the hills above a Syrian military base with a digital camera in one hand and a GPS unit in the other is the sort of thing that makes you want to have a monk in your presence,” he explained.

The two of them went to a rock outcrop – a place that would have been a good source of flint in ancient times – where he found the remains of several corbelled structures. In the valley below they found another corbelled structure with a stone circle right beside it.

The monk who travelled with him sensed that this high outcrop would have been of great importance to the people who lived here. “This is a high place” he told Mason.

As Mason gazed at the landscape, from the height of the outcrop, he saw stone lines, also known as alignments, going off in different directions. Dr. Mason has a strong background in geology, and knew immediately that these could not be natural features.

“I know what rocks look like, where they belong - these rocks don’t belong in that.”

One of stone lines was “very bizarre,” snaking its way up a hill. Mason followed the line and found that it led to the “biggest complex of tombs of all.”

This particular stone structure has three chambers and was probably the burial place for “the most important person.” In the front of the tomb are the remains of a stone circle. Dr. Mason can’t confirm for sure that this was used as a tomb, until further archaeological work takes place.

The lithics the team found in the landscape are also quite unusual – they don’t seem to be made from local material. Mason explained that local flint is white or dark red, but the material they found is “very good quality brown chert.”

The Neolithic period is a time period when people in the Middle East were beginning to grow crops and adopt farming. They didn’t live in settlements larger than a village. There were no cities in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world.

Professor Edward Banning is a University of Toronto anthropology professor and Neolithic period expert, and has done extensive fieldwork in the Middle East, including Jordan. He said that we need to be careful about drawing conclusions before more fieldwork is done.

“Virtually all the burials that archaeologists have ever discovered from Neolithic sites in that part of the world come from inside settlements – in fact even below floors and houses,” he said. If the corbelled structures are confirmed as burial structures, then this site will represent something new.

“It’s possible that this landscape that Dr. Mason has identified could be an example of off-site burial practices in the Neolithic which would be very interesting.”

This would help settle a mystery that archaeologists have long faced. Banning said that while burials have been found in Neolithic settlements, “Those burials are not high enough in number to account for the number of people who must have died in those settlements. So a number of us for many years have assumed that there must have been off-site mortuary practices of some kind.”

Dr. Mason goes a step further. He says that this site “sounds like Western Europe” and he wonders if this could be an early example of the stone landscapes seen at places like Stonehenge.

Dr. Julian Siggers of the Royal Ontario Museum, another Neolithic specialist, pointed out that it has been argued that agriculture spread from the Near East to Europe. This find creates a question - could these stone landscapes have travelled with them? [Well - duh! Of course they did!  Connect the dots!]

“It’s such an important hypothesis if it’s right that it’s worth telling people about now,” said Mason. “We’ve found something that’s never been found in the Middle East before.”

Professor Banning is sceptical about this idea. He said that stone structures are found throughout the world, pointing to the dolmens found in East Asia. He claims that people in Western Europe could have developed the techniques independently of the people who built the landscape near the Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi monastery. [Here's the old argument of 'independent invention' versus 'diffusion.'  As if diffusion would take a kajillion years, instead of just a thousand, or a couple of hundred, along well known and well travelled ancient trade routes (both land and sea).  Geez!]

Prof. Banning also said that Mason’s site may not be entirely unique in the Near and Middle East. He said that archaeologists have detected, via satellite photos, what appear to be cairns and stone circles in other areas, including the deserts of Jordan and Israel. However, he admits that most of these things have not received a lot of archaeological investigation.

That situation is about to change. Dr. Mason plans to return to the Deir Mar Musa al-Habashi site this summer with a team of Neolithic experts. The results of their investigations may well put Britain’s Stonehenge in the shade.

A Dynasty of Priestesses

From Archaeology Magazine Online - this is the main article.  For more, including videos and interviews with specialists working on the dig, please click on the article title to follow the link back.

Dynasty of Priestesses
March 1, 2010 By Eti Bonn-Muller

Evidence of a powerful female bloodline emerges from the Iron Age necropolis of Orthi Petra at Eleutherna on Crete

For a quarter century, Greek excavation director Nicholas Stampolidis and his dedicated team have been unearthing the untold stories of the people buried some 2,800 years ago in the necropolis of Orthi Petra at Eleutherna on Crete. Until now, the site has perhaps been best known for the tomb its excavators dubbed "A1K1," an assemblage of 141 cremated individuals, all but two of whom were aristocratic men who likely fell in battle in foreign lands. Excavated between 1992 and 1996, this elaborate rock-cut tomb was brimming with fantastic burial goods that date from the ninth to the seventh century B.C., including bronze vessels, gold and silver jewelry, and military regalia, as literally befits the burial of Homeric war heroes. Now, two unprecedented discoveries since 2007--three lavish jar burials that contained the remains of a dozen related female individuals and a monumental funerary building where a high priestess and her protégés, also all related, were laid to rest--are adding to our knowledge of Eleutherna's women, and forcing the scholarly community to reevaluate their importance and role in the so-called "Dark Ages" of Greece (see "Top 10 Discoveries of 2009").

History and Excavations

The site of Eleutherna includes an acropolis, a polis, and a necropolis. Excavations in each area by various teams over the years have shown that the people who lived here--descendants of the Bronze Age civilizations of both the Minoans and the Mycenaeans, as well as the Dorians, warriors from the Greek mainland who settled on Crete between 1100 and 900 B.C.--controlled a vast territory, beginning around the ninth century B.C. The surrounding landscape, rich in stone, lumber, honey, and plant resources, may have played a large part in Eleutherna's economic success. The site is also strategically located, nestled in the olive-tree-dotted foothills of the sacred Mount Ida, some six miles from the sea and 10 miles from the so-called "cave of Zeus," where the head of the Greek pantheon was raised.

The Dorians wove Minoan culture into the tapestry of this cosmopolitan city. They expanded Minoan trade routes and communications with far-flung corners of the Mediterranean world, such as Asia Minor, the Middle East, North Africa, and Sicily. As the economy boomed, the landowning aristocracy grew even more powerful through taxes, its success driven yet further by the proliferation of imported luxury goods and exotic raw materials, including gold, silver, ivory, glass, and semiprecious stones, as reflected in spectacular finds from the necropolis. (See Sacred Adornments for more on the most recent discoveries.)

Stampolidis's team has unearthed three types of Iron Age burials at Orthi Petra--or "Standing Stone" (see "Introduction to Orthi Petra" video for more on the site's name)--dating from the ninth to the seventh century B.C.: pithos (large ceramic jar) burials, cremations, and basic inhumations. Over the years, stunning finds have come to light, ranging from exquisite bronze vessels to the fragile skeleton of a dog that accompanied its master to the other side. The team has also discovered funerary buildings and activity areas for cremations, including pyres straight out of verses from the Iliad.

Despite the excavation's extraordinary success, Professor Stampolidis is greatly humbled. "If you are going to do this work, you are becoming a philosopher," he says, "and you try, at least, to understand that you are just a small part of a speck of dust in oblivion."

Eti Bonn-Muller is the AIA online senior editor.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ancient Writing: 60,000 Year Old Symbols on Ostrich Shells

See "The Writing on the Cave Wall" from yesterday.  These lines and dots look rather familiar, don't they.  Except these are even older...

Image Credit: P.-J. Texier, Diepkloof project

Stone Age engraving traditions appear on ostrich eggshells
Standardized designs identified on 60,000-year-old water containers
By Bruce Bower
March 1, 2010 Web edition : 3:04 pm

Long before human communication evolved into incessant tapping on computer keys, people scratched on eggshells.

Don’t laugh—researchers say a cache of ostrich eggshells engraved with geometric designs demonstrates the existence of a symbolic communication system around 60,000 years ago among African hunter-gatherers.

The unusually large sample of 270 engraved eggshell fragments, mostly excavated over the past several years at Diepkloof Rock Shelter in South Africa, displays two standard design patterns, according to a team led by archaeologist Pierre-Jean Texier of the University of Bordeaux 1 in Talence, France. Each pattern enjoyed its own heyday between approximately 65,000 and 55,000 years ago, the investigators report in a paper to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers already knew that the Howiesons Poort culture, which engraved the eggshells, engaged in other symbolic practices, such as engraving designs into pieces of pigment, that were considered to have been crucial advances in human behavioral evolution. But the Diepkloof finds represent the first archaeological sample large enough to demonstrate that Stone Age people created design traditions, at least in their engravings, Texier says.

Evidence of intentionally produced holes in several Diepkloof eggshells indicates that ancient people made what amounted to canteens out of them, a practice that researchers have documented among modern hunter-gatherers in southern Africa.

The engraved patterns probably identified the eggshells as the property of certain groups or communities, Texier proposes.

“The Diepkloof engravings were clearly made for visual display and recognized as such by a large audience comprising members of a community, and probably members of related communities,” comments University of Bordeaux 1 archaeologist Francesco d’Errico, who was not involved in the new study.

D’Errico participated in the recent unearthing of 13 pieces of engraved pigment at South Africa’s Blombos Cave dating to between 100,000 and 75,000 years ago. Along with perforated sea shells and other personal ornaments previously excavated in Africa and the Middle East, these discoveries show that items holding symbolic meaning were made more than 60,000 years ago by both modern humans and Neandertals.

Even more exciting, according to archaeologist Curtis Marean of Arizona State University in Tempe, is the presence of drinking spouts in the South African eggshells. Water containers opened a new world of travel across arid regions for ancient people, he notes.

“The ability to carry and store water is a breakthrough technological advance, and here we have excellent evidence for it very early,” Marean says. “Wow!”

Eggshell fragments from the oldest sediment layers at Diepkloof display a hatched-band motif. These engravings consist of two long, parallel lines intersected by varying numbers of short lines. Some specimens contain one hatched band, while others display remnants of two or three. Engravers always fashioned parallel lines first and then inserted regularly spaced intersecting lines, Texier says.

Eggshells from younger soil layers at Diepkloof contain patterns consisting of deeply engraved, parallel lines that sometimes converge or intersect. One eggshell fragment from these layers exhibits a different pattern—slightly curved horizontal lines that cross a central, vertical line.

Of the many Howiesons Poort sites in southern Africa that have yielded ostrich eggshells, only Diepkloof shows evidence of stylistic engraving traditions, Texier says.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lewis Chess Pieces Embroiled in Politics

Politicians seemingly with nothing better to do, but it's really all about the money, so they'l never stop arguing...

From The Times
February 24, 2010
MPs angered by ‘Norwegian’ Chessmen
Charlene Sweeney

The British Museum has been accused of “airbrushing” history after a poster campaign claimed the world famous Lewis Chessmen were from Norway, and failed to mention any connection to Scotland at all.

Angus MacNeil, the Nationalist MP for the Western Isles, wants the posters removed or the reference to Norway replaced by Lewis. Mr MacNeil, who has raised the issue at Westminster, described the promotional campaign as a “total cheek”.

The new dispute follows a longstanding debate over where the figures, most of which are in the British Museum in London, belong. The SNP believes they should be repatriated to Scotland, where they were found.

The posters, on display at London Underground stations, promote a new BBC Radio 4 series, A History of the World in 100 Objects, which explores the British Museum’s internationally renowned collection. Under an image of the chess set’s Queen are the words “AD 1150-1200 Norway”, despite ongoing disagreement over its origins.

Mr MacNeil — who has seen the posters at a number of stations — has laid an early day motion (EDM) before the Commons stating that “this House deplores the historical airbrushing of the Lewis Chessmen by the British Museum in a poster campaign”.

The EDM adds that it “further deplores the fact that references to Lewis or the Hebrides are nowhere to be seen; notes that the only thing certain about the chessmen, from the expansive European Norse society, is that they are made from walrus ivory or whale teeth and that they were found on the Isle of Lewis in 1831.”

Mr MacNeil’s campaign has won cross party support, with Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour MP, and Stuart Graham, a Conservative MP, signing the EDM.

“It is a total cheek and a fabrication of history,” said Mr MacNeil. “I am writing to the museum and I want the posters either removed or the word ‘Lewis’ inserted over ‘Norway’.

“There is no mention of Lewis, the Outer Hebrides or even Scotland on these posters — even though they are the Lewis Chessmen." The chess pieces were discovered in a sand dune near Uig on the Isle of Lewis in 1831. Although most historians believe the intricately carved figures were made in Norway and bound for Ireland, others have argued they could have been created in Scotland by a craftsman influenced by Viking art. Lewis was a part of the Norse Kingdom of Mann and the Isles between 1079 and 1266.

Many of the Lewis Chessmen — used as a model for a scene in a Harry Potter film — will be reunited for the first time for more than 150 years for a tour of Scotland starting in a few months. Entitled The Lewis Chessmen: Unmasked, the exhibition opens in Edinburgh in May, before travelling to Aberdeen, Shetland and then the Western Isles.

The British Museum has agreed that 25 of its 82 walrus ivory pieces can come up to Scotland to join the travelling exhibition with the 11 pieces held by the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Only part of the collection will come north because the British Museum regards the 12th century chessmen as one of its main visitor attractions.

The tour comes after the Scottish government sought the repatriation of the priceless figures. Former culture minister Linda Fabiani was sent to London to view the chessmen and make the public case, but museum chiefs turned down the request as it would lead to other demands for the return of artefacts. Unlike some of the British Museum’s controversial exhibits, such as the Elgin marbles, the chessmen were not plundered but bought for 80 guineas from an Edinburgh dealer, who himself had paid £30 for them.

A spokeswoman for the British Museum said: “It is generally accepted that the Chessmen were made in Norway, during this period the Western Isles, where the chessmen were buried, were part of the kingdom of Norway not Scotland.”

Judit Polgar - Gregory Kaidanov Sicilian Theme Match

A wrap-up report.

I left you all in suspense, as at the end of Game 3 GM Kaidanov led the match 2 games to 1.  But GM Judit Polgar tied the match by winning the final game (Game 4) behind the white pieces, forcing a play-off series of  two games (each player won one game) and then a final Armageddon game, eek!   You can read the exciting report of the final as well as a review of each game at Susan Polgar's blog.  I won't keep you in suspense - Judit won!!!!

The match was sponsored by Jeff Smith, who funded a $22,000 purse divided between the two players ($22,000 per Monroi; $16,000 per Chessbase).

Chessbase has a report, Monroi provided live coverage of the games (includes photos and videos), and GM Alexandra Kosteniuk has included one of Judit's games (Game 2) at her blog as an excellent example of the Dragon variation of the Sicilian (like I know what that is - har!)  

Congratulations to Judit Polgar.  I hope this signals that we may be seeing more of her in the future - but if we do not, she has set the standard that other up-and-coming chess femmes are striving to reach. 

This is an exciting time to be covering news of female chessplayers.  In my mind, I compare the advancement of women in professional chess to what is happening in the world of Olympics-eligible female figure skaters.  It seems just a few years ago that a new young star burst on the scene.  Michelle Kwan.  She set the standard and elevated ladies' figure-skating to new heights, introducing an element of athleticism combined with artistry that rocked the skating world.  Kwan retired in 2006 - just in time for a new star to begin her rise.  At the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics South Korean skating star Kim Yu Na totally exploded the previous record for ladies' programs top scores (short program and free skate) under the new scoring system.  Yu Na is now the standard that other up-and-coming skaters are striving to reach., taking over the torch from Kwan, so to speak.

Who will be the new female star in chess to reach Judit Polgar's standard and take over her torch?

Evidence of Man in India 15,000 Years Earlier Than Thought

February 23, 2010 14:09 PM

Newly Discovered Archaeological Sites In India Reveals Ancient Life

LONDON, Feb 23 (Bernama) -- Newly discovered archaeological sites in southern and northern India have revealed how people lived before and after the colossal Toba volcanic eruption 74,000 years ago, according to Press Trust of India (PTI) on Tuesday.

The international and multidisciplinary research team, led by Oxford University in collaboration with Indian institutions, has uncovered what it calls 'Pompeii-like excavations' beneath the Toba ash.

The seven-year project examines the environment that humans lived in, their stone tools, as well as the plants and animal bones of the time.

"This suggests that human populations were present in India prior to 74,000 years ago, or about 15,000 years earlier than expected based on some genetic clocks," said project director Michael Petraglia, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford.

The team has concluded that many forms of life survived the super-eruption, contrary to other research which has suggested significant animal extinctions and genetic bottlenecks.

According to the team, a potentially ground-breaking implication of the new work is that the species responsible for making the stone tools in India was Homo sapiens.

Stone tool analysis has revealed that the artefacts consist of cores and flakes, which are classified in India as Middle Palaeolithic and are similar to those made by modern humans in Africa.

"Though we are still searching for human fossils to definitively prove the case, we are encouraged by the technological similarities.

An area of widespread speculation about the Toba super-eruption is that it nearly drove humanity to extinction.

The fact that the Middle Palaeolithic tools of similar styles are found right before and after the Toba super-eruption, suggests that the people who survived the eruption were the same populations, using the same kinds of tools, says Petraglia.

The research agrees with evidence that other human ancestors, such as the Neanderthals in Europe and the small brained Hobbits in Southeastern Asia, continued to survive well after Toba.

Although some scholars have speculated that the Toba volcano led to severe and wholesale environmental destruction, the Oxford-led research in India suggests that a mosaic of ecological settings was present, and some areas experienced a relatively rapid recovery after the volcanic event.

The team has not discovered much bone in Toba ash sites, but in the Billasurgam cave complex in Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, the researchers have found deposits which they believe range from at least 100,000 years ago to the present.

They contain a wealth of animal bones such as wild cattle, carnivores and monkeys.

They have also identified plant materials in the Toba ash sites and caves, yielding important information about the impact of the Toba super-eruption on the ecological settings.


The Writing on the Cave Wall

A group of 26 symbols crops up at Stone Age sites throughout the world – are these the origin of the written word?  Link to larger graphic of the marks catalogued from around the world - Europe, Asia, Africa and North and South America.

The writing on the cave wall
17 February 2010 by Kate Ravilious
Magazine issue 2748

THE first intrepid explorers to brave the 7-metre crawl through a perilously narrow tunnel leading to the Chauvet caves in southern France were rewarded with magnificent artwork to rival any modern composition. Stretching a full 3 metres in height, the paintings depict a troupe of majestic horses in deep colours, above a pair of boisterous rhinos in the midst of a fight. To the left, they found the beautiful rendering of a herd of prehistoric cows. "The horse heads just seem to leap out of the wall towards you," says Jean Clottes, former director of scientific research at the caves and one of the few people to see the paintings with his own eyes.

When faced with such spectacular beauty, who could blame the visiting anthropologists for largely ignoring the modest semicircles, lines and zigzags also marked on the walls? Yet dismissing them has proved to be something of a mistake. The latest research has shown that, far from being doodles, the marks are in fact highly symbolic, forming a written "code" that was familiar to all of the prehistoric tribes around France and possibly beyond. Indeed, these unprepossessing shapes may be just as remarkable as the paintings of trotting horses and tussling rhinos, providing a snapshot into humankind's first steps towards symbolism and writing.

Until now, the accepted view has been that our ancestors underwent a "creative explosion" around 30,000 to 40,000 years ago, when they suddenly began to think abstractly and create rock art. This idea is supported by the plethora of stunning cave paintings, like those at Chauvet, which started to proliferate across Europe around this time. Writing, on the other hand, appeared to come much later, with the earliest records of a pictographic writing system dating back to just 5000 years ago.

Few researchers, though, had given any serious thought to the relatively small and inconspicuous marks around the cave paintings. The evidence of humanity's early creativity, they thought, was clearly in the elaborate drawings.

While some scholars like Clottes had recorded the presence of cave signs at individual sites, Genevieve von Petzinger, then a student at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, was surprised to find that no one had brought all these records together to compare signs from different caves. And so, under the supervision of April Nowell, also at the University of Victoria, she devised an ambitious masters project. She compiled a comprehensive database of all recorded cave signs from 146 sites in France, covering 25,000 years of prehistory from 35,000 to 10,000 years ago.

What emerged was startling: 26 signs, all drawn in the same style, appeared again and again at numerous sites (see illustration). Admittedly, some of the symbols are pretty basic, like straight lines, circles and triangles, but the fact that many of the more complex designs also appeared in several places hinted to von Petzinger and Nowell that they were meaningful - perhaps even the seeds of written communication. [Sheer coincidence that the English alphabet contains 26 letters?]

Von Petzinger caused quite a stir when she presented her preliminary findings last April at the Paleoanthropology Society Meeting in Chicago. She and Nowell have recently submitted a paper to the journal Antiquity and they are currently preparing another paper for the Journal of Human Evolution. The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC plans to include the symbols in a forthcoming exhibition on human evolution.

"This work is really exciting," says Iain Davidson, an Australian rock art specialist at the University of New England in New South Wales. "We can see that these people had a similar convention for representing something."

Suspecting that this was just the beginning of what the symbols could tell us about prehistoric culture, von Petzinger and Nowell's next move was to track where and when they emerged. The line turned out to be the most popular, being present at 70 per cent of the sites and appearing across all time periods, from 30,000 to 10,000 years ago.

The next most prolific signs were the open angle symbol and the dots, both appearing at 42 per cent of the sites throughout this period. The vast majority of the remaining symbols are each present in around one-fifth of the French caves, the exceptions being the cordiform (roughly a love-heart shape), reniform (kidney shape), scalariform (ladder shape) and spiral, which all turned up in just a handful of sites. "The spiral only appears in two out of the 146 sites throughout the entire time period, which really surprised me as it is a common motif in many later cultures," says von Petzinger.

The Rhone valley and the Dordogne and Lot regions in the south seem to have been the original sites for the symbols in France: most signs seem to appear in these regions before spreading across the rest of the country. Notable exceptions include the zigzag, which first appeared in Provence and is a relative latecomer, debuting around 20,000 years ago.

No signs ever emerged in northern France, though. "For large periods of time the north was uninhabitable because of ice sheets coming and going, so there was less opportunity for culture to develop independently up there," says von Petzinger.

The Ice Age may have hindered the cultural revolution in the north, but elsewhere it could have been instrumental in furthering it. "People were forced to move south and congregate in 'refugia' during the last glacial maximum, 18,000 to 21,000 years ago, and it is at this time when we start to see an explosion in rock art," says Nowell. "One possibility is that they were using the signs to demarcate their territories."

Yet while long winters spent in caves might have induced people to spend time painting wonder walls, there are reasons to think the symbols originated much earlier on. One of the most intriguing facts to emerge from von Petzinger's work is that more than three-quarters of the symbols were present in the very earliest sites, from over 30,000 years ago.

"I was really surprised to discover this," says von Petzinger. If the creative explosion occurred 30,000 to 40,000 years ago, she would have expected to see evidence of symbols being invented and discarded at this early stage, with a long period of time passing before a recognisable system emerged. Instead, it appears that by 30,000 years ago a set of symbols was already well established.

Rewriting prehistory

That suggests we might need to rethink our ideas about prehistoric people, von Petzinger says. "This incredible diversity and continuity of use suggests that the symbolic revolution may have occurred before the arrival of the first modern humans in Europe." If she is right, it would push back the date of the creative explosion by tens of thousands of years.

The idea would seem to fit with a few tantalising finds that have emerged from Africa and the Middle East over recent years. At Blombos cave on South Africa's southern Cape, for example, archaeologists have recently discovered pieces of haematite (an iron oxide used to make red pigment) engraved with abstract designs that are at least 75,000 years old (Science, vol 323, p 569). Meanwhile, at the Skhul rock shelter in Israel, there are shell beads considered by some to be personal ornaments and evidence for symbolic behaviour as far back as 100,000 years ago (Science, vol 312, p 1785).

Further evidence may well come from caves elsewhere in the world, and indeed a tentative look at the existing records suggests that many of von Petzinger's symbols crop up in other places (see map). The open angle symbol, for example, can be seen on the engravings at Blombos cave.

Does this suggest that these symbols travelled with prehistoric tribes as they migrated from Africa? [Assuming you accept as correctg the current theory that so-called modern man originated in and migrated out of Africa.] Von Petzinger and Nowell think so. Davidson, on the other hand, who has identified 18 of these symbols in Australia, is unconvinced that they have a common origin, maintaining that the creative explosion occurred independently in different parts of the globe around 40,000 years ago. Instead, he thinks the symbols reveal something about a change in the way people thought and viewed their world, which may have emerged around this time. "I believe that there was a cognitive change, which suddenly put art into people's heads," he says. [Just like the television show "Flashback" - it happened to everyone, everywhere, all at once - 40,000 years ago.  Yeah, right.]

Clottes, however, thinks they could be on to something. "Language and abstract thought were probably practised long before 35,000 years ago, since 'modern humans' are some 200,000 years old. We shouldn't be surprised by the sophistication of these people's thinking: they were our great-great-grandparents after all," he says.

But if people really did have a symbolic culture this far back, why don't we find more evidence pre-dating 40,000 years ago? "Perhaps the earlier symbols tended to be carved into perishable things such as wood and skins, which have now disintegrated," says von Petzinger. And even if they did paint in caves many of the rock surfaces will have eroded away by now.

Whenever these symbols did emerge, the acceptance of symbolic representation would have been a turning point for these cultures. For one thing, it would have been the first time they could permanently store information. "Symbols enabled people to share information beyond an individual lifespan. It was a watershed moment," says Nowell.

One huge question remains, of course: what did the symbols actually mean? With no Rosetta Stone to act as a key for translation, the best we can do is guess at their purpose. Clottes has a hunch that they were much more than everyday jottings, and could have had spiritual significance. "They may have been a way of relating to supernatural forces. Perhaps they had special symbols for special ceremonies, or they may have been associated with the telling of special myths," he says.

One intriguing aspect is their possible use in deception. "Once symbolic utterances are recognised, communication becomes more flexible," says Davidson. "One result is that ambiguity can be introduced for concealing truths."

With no key to interpret these symbols, though, we can't know whether ancient humans were giving false directions to rival tribes or simply bragging about their hunting prowess. Our ancestor's secrets remain safe - at least for now.
Doodler or da Vinci?

When our ancestors painted beautiful works of art, were they intending them to be viewed by others, or did they just paint for their own pleasure?

The Lascaux caves, in the Dordogne region of France, may have the answer. There you can see a painting of a red cow with a black head high on one of the walls. Up close the cow appears to be stretched from head to toe, but when viewed from the ground the cow regains normal proportions. This technique, known as anamorphosis, is highly advanced, and suggests the painter was considering his audience as he painted the cow.

Our ancestors probably took the quality of their work very seriously. Recent work by Suzanne Villeneuve, from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, shows that the images painted with the most skill tend to occur in places where large numbers of people would have been able to see them, while poorer-quality images were more likely to be in smaller cubby holes. In most cases it seems that only the "Leonardos" of the day were allowed to paint the big spaces.
Kate Ravilious is a journalist based in York, UK

Scholastic Chess in Kenosha, WI

Allan Cargille of the Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Federation sent me info on an upcoming scholastic tournament:
Christ Lutheran Academy
Chess Tournament
Saturday March 20, 2010

Location: Messiah Lutheran Church (Parish Hall)
2026 22nd Ave, Kenosha, WI 53140

Format: K– 4 and K – 8 divisions, Wisconsin-rated, 6 round Swiss, G30.
WSCF membership not required. Rounds 1 may be G25.

Awards: K–4: Three Team Trophies. Individual trophies to top three players; and medals to all
K–8: Three Team Trophies. Individual trophies to top three players; and medals to all.

Award Ceremony may begin between 4:00 and 4:30.

Entry: $10 per player for advance registration, $15 on site registration

Check-in from 8:00 to 8:30 am. Round 1 begins around 9:30 or before. Players not having arrived at the
school by 8:30 will begin play in round 2. Please check in as early as possible. For advance registration,
register online at before 11:00 pm on Thursday March 18th.

Registration fee will be paid at the tournament.  Make checks payable to Christ Lutheran Academy.

Coaches and parents only at registration table, please. Coaches, please do not register until all of your
players have arrived. Please have them arrive by 8:15.

Please note new on site registration and check in times. !!!!!

Lunch: Available for purchase on-site.

Supervision: At least one designated adult supervisor must be present at all times during the tournament to oversee your school’s team, or individual participants who are in K through 8th grade.

Bring: Pencils and clocks if you have them. Questions: Contact the tournament host Tom Chryst at
262- 752- 0785 or or WSCF at bob or

Chess Notation: Chess notation encouraged in all divisions. Students without notation decrease their
ability to resolve chess disputes. Documentation helps students to study their games and to make their game
fair in case a disagreement occurs.

Inclement Weather: In case of inclement weather check the WSCF website or call 262-573-5624 for
information on a later start time, postponement or cancellation.

* WSCF reserves the right to cancel divisions or combine divisions based on actual attendance.

Isis Interregnum

Articles of interest from Isis.

'Tyrant king palace found'
Full story:
Rome, February 25 - A palace built by the family of Ancient Rome's last tyrant king (Etruscan Tarquin clan) has been located in an ancient city south of the capital, archaeologists said Thursday.

Green Energy Break-Through
February 25 Allheadlines news
Bloom Energy's Compact Bloom Servers produces 100 kilowatts of electricity by converting air and a fuel source such as natural gas or biogas into electricity via an electrochemical process instead of by burning the fuel. If it uses fossil fuel to generate power, it is still 67 percent cleaner than a typical coal-fired power plant, according to the company.

Microbes Leave Gold on Corpses, May Complicate Forensics
February 25
Scientists find that bacteria can sprinkle gold dust onto the hair of corpses, which suggests microbes could deposit arsenic and other poisonous metals on bodies as well, potentially complicating criminal and archaeological investigations.
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