Tuesday, October 7, 2008
From The New York Times Rain Forest Tribe’s Charge of Neglect Is Shrouded by Religion and Politics By SIMON ROMERO Published: October 6, 2008 PUERTO AYACUCHO, Venezuela — Three years after President Hugo Chávez expelled American missionaries from the Venezuelan Amazon, accusing them of using proselytism of remote tribes as a cover for espionage, resentment is festering here over what some tribal leaders say was official negligence that led to the deaths of dozens of indigenous children and adults. Some leaders of the Yanomami, one of South America’s largest forest-dwelling tribes, say that 50 people in their communities in the southern rain forest have died since the expulsion of the missionaries in 2005 because of recurring shortages of medicine and fuel, and unreliable transportation out of the jungle to medical facilities. Mr. Chávez’s government disputes the claims and points to more spending than ever on social welfare programs for the Yanomami. The spending is part of a broader plan to assert greater military and social control over expanses of rain forest that are viewed as essential for Venezuela’s sovereignty. The Yanomami leaders are wading into a politicized debate about how officials react to health care challenges faced by the Yanomami and other Amazonian tribes. In recent interviews here, government officials contended that the Yanomami could be exaggerating their claims to win more resources from the government and undercut its authority in the Amazon. Meanwhile, the Yanomami claims come amid growing concern in Venezuela over indigenous health care after a scandal erupted in August over a tepid official response to a mystery disease that killed 38 Warao Indians in the country’s northeast. “This government makes a big show of helping the Yanomami, but rhetoric is one thing and reality another,” said Ramón González, 49, a Yanomami leader from the village of Yajanamateli who traveled recently to Puerto Ayacucho, the capital of Amazonas State, to ask military officials and civilian doctors for improved health care. “The truth is that Yanomami lives are still considered worthless,” said Mr. González, who was converted to Christianity by New Tribes Mission, a Florida group expelled in 2005. “The boats, the planes, the money, it’s all for the criollos, not for us,” he said, using a term for nonindigenous Venezuelans. The Yanomami leaders offer a far different image of the tribe than those found in anthropology books, which often depict it in Rousseaulike settings with painted faces and clad in loincloths. There are about 26,000 Yanomami in the Amazon rain forest, in Venezuela and Brazil, where they subsist as seminomadic hunters and cultivators of crops like manioc and bananas. They remain susceptible to ailments for which they have weak defenses, including respiratory diseases and drug-resistant strains of malaria. In Puerto Ayacucho, they can be seen wandering through the traffic-clogged streets, clad in the modern uniform of T-shirts and baggy pants, toting cellphones. Earlier this decade, the anthropology world was consumed by claims by the writer Patrick Tierney that American scholars may have started and exacerbated a measles epidemic in the late 1960s that killed hundreds of Yanomami. And claims of medical neglect emerged before Mr. Chávez expelled the American missionaries, who numbered about 200. They administered care to the Yanomami with donated medicine from the United States and transported them to clinics on small propeller planes using dozens of airstrips carved out of the jungle. New Tribes, the most prominent of the expelled groups, has denied Mr. Chávez’s charges of espionage but declined to comment for this article, citing the tense relations between Venezuela and the United States. Mr. González and other Yanomami leaders provided the names of 50 people, including 22 children, who they said died from ailments like malaria and pneumonia after the military limited civilian and missionary flights to their villages in 2005. The military replaced the missionaries’ operations with its own fleet of small planes and helicopters, but critics say the missions were infrequent or unresponsive. The Yanomami leaders said they made the list public after showing it to health and military officials and receiving a cold response. “They told us we should be grateful for the help we’re already being given,” said Eduardo Mejía, 24, a Yanomami leader from the village of El Cejal. The official in charge of transportation in Amazonas’s interior, Gen. Yomar José Rubio of the 52nd Infantry Brigade in Puerto Ayacucho, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. But other officials here questioned the claims. “The missionaries were in Amazonas for 50 years, creating dependent indigenous populations in some places, so their withdrawal was bound to have positive and negative effects,” said Carlos Botto, a senior official with Caicet, a government research institute that focuses on tropical diseases. “But one cannot forget that the Yanomami and other indigenous groups have learned how to exert pressure on the government in order to receive food or other benefits,” he said. “This does not mean there aren’t challenges in providing them with health care, but caution is necessary with claims like these.” The dispute has also focused attention on an innovative government project created in late 2005, the Yanomami Health Plan. With a staff of 46, it trains some Yanomami to be health workers in their villages while sending doctors into the jungle to provide health care to remote communities. “We have 14 doctors in our team, with 11 trained in Cuba for work in jungle areas,” said Meydell Simancas, 32, a tropical disease specialist who directs the project from a compound here once owned by New Tribes Mission. Dr. Simancas said that more than 20 Yanomami had been trained as paramedics, and that statistics showed that doctors had increased immunizations and programs to control malaria and river blindness across Amazonas. The Yanomami leaders complaining of negligence acknowledged Dr. Simancas’s good intentions. But they said serious problems persisted in coordinating access to doctors and medicine with the military, which the Yanomami and government doctors both rely on for travel in and out of the rain forest. Dr. Simancas suggested the claims of the dozens of deaths originated in the village of Coshilowateli, where a holdout American evangelist group, Padamo Mission, has fought expulsion by arguing that its leaders cannot be expelled because they hold Venezuelan citizenship. “There is subjective data that could be worth investigating,” Dr. Simancas said, referring to Coshilowateli, “but it comes from a community in a situation of political tension.” Michael Dawson, a leader of Padamo Mission, denied the claims of negligence were exaggerated or politically motivated. He also said they originated not in Coshilowateli, but in villages where the Yanomami were converted to Christianity by missionaries Mr. Chávez had expelled. “It is easier for them to just blame us rather than admit they have really not helped the Indians much,” said Mr. Dawson, 53, who was born and raised among the Yanomami. “Every name on the list is a verified case of an emergency where repeated requests for help went out over public airwaves via ham radio.” For their part, Yanomami leaders point to what they consider to be a broad pattern of neglect and condescension from public officials. “They put pictures of Yanomami everywhere, on tourist brochures, in airport lobbies, even on ambulances here in Puerto Ayacucho,” said Andrés González, 38, a Yanomami leader. “That’s where they want us, in pictures, not positions of power,” he said. Meanwhile, the Yanomami who do make it here for medical care stay at a squalid compound once owned by foreign missionaries who were expelled in 2005. In the property’s trash-strewn yard, women cook manioc in steel pots over a fire, under the shade of a mango tree. The men lounge in hammocks slung in an open-air shed. Pedro Camico, 36, said he traveled here from El Cejal after one of his children died of malaria; she was not on the Yanomami leaders’ list of 50 dead. He stood by his son, Misael, 4, also sick with malaria but with the hope of recovery through medicine here. “I have one child dead and another alive, but I am here with my son,” Mr. Camico said. “I am one of the lucky ones.”
Joseph Needham was a sometimes contributor to the Initiativ Gruppe Koenigstein (IGK), a group of chess historians and chess afficianados founded in Germany some ten years ago. Needham's raison d'existence was not discovering who first invented chess or the even more obscure subject, the origins of the game. He was a historian, but his focus in writing about ancient China was about what the Chinese did, and did not do, in science and technology. Some years ago at Goddesschess we hunted down what Needham wrote about the origins of chess at a university library in Montreal, Canada that housed a collection of his monumental work, Science and Civilisation in China. Check out Needham's articles. Here is a review of the Needham biography, from The Timesonline. uk: October 1, 2008 What the West makes of Chinese science Early China's scientific achievements and Joseph Needham, their controversial advocate John Keay Until fifty years ago, it was widely assumed that China had no tradition of scientific thought and innovation. Meticulous observation and reasoned deduction were taken to be European traits, as was the application of scientific principles to industrial production. The Chinese were supposed to be good at imitating, not originating; and the notion that the West’s scientific and industrial revolutions owed anything to the East’s inventiveness seemed laughable. We now know better. Ancient China’s precocity in almost every field of scientific achievement has since been acknowledged – in medicine, metallurgy, ceramics, mechanics, chemistry, physics, mathematics. Ridicule has turned to awe, tinged with trepidation. This dramatic reversal is credited to one man, the redoubtable Dr Joseph Needham, plus a small team of devoted disciples and a monumental work of scholarship. All three provide rich matter for Simon Winchester’s Bomb, Book and Compass, while the stature of Needham’s great work may be judged by the appearance of a new volume on ferrous metallurgy, the twenty-fourth in his Science and Civilisation in China series. Fifty years since the first volume appeared, and thirteen since Needham died, the work of assessing pre-Qing China’s scientific achievement goes on. “Sci[ence] in general in China – why [did it] not develop?”, wondered Needham in an aide-memoire jotted down in 1942. Later touted as “the Needham question”, this conundrum about why so promising a tradition failed to generate its own industrial revolution has never been satisfactorily answered – by Needham or anyone else. But the idea behind it – that China did indeed once excel in science – has generated an industry of its own. Mining the world’s most richly documented culture for references to scientific and technological practice now provides employment for a host of scholars; many of them enjoy the resources on offer at Cambridge University’s specially built Needham Research Institute; and seldom has there not been a volume of Science and Civilisation in China making its stately progress across the print floor of the University Press. For revealing how, in almost every conceivable field of scientific endeavour, the Chinese had preceded other nations, Needham was hailed as “the Erasmus of the twentieth century”, fawned on by the Left and feted by international academe. The Fellows of Caius College, Cambridge, made him their Master; Beijing, no less than Taipei, showered him with honours. Yet, boisterous and headstrong, Needham was not without his critics. Cambridge had cause to resent his long absences and reluctance to teach. Washington steadfastly refused him entry following his endorsement of Communist claims that US aircraft had dropped cholera-infected rats on North Korea. Forums designed to further the cause of international understanding were something of a deathtrap for Needham. He was hoodwinked by his Maoist friends – and by a Soviet-laid germ-trail in respect of the rats. It was not until the Cultural Revolution that his faith in Communist China began to waver. His flaws and foibles were legion, and it is these that seem to have recommended him to that connoisseur of bookish eccentricity, Simon Winchester. Bomb, Book and Compass (these being some of the undisputed products of Chinese invention) is no more a standard biography than was The Surgeon of Crowthorne (Winchester’s book about William Minor and the OED). Instead, Winchester delivers a masterly narrative, rich in description and quirky asides, and as undemanding as it is compelling. Needham, we learn, though a distinguished embryologist, self-taught sinologist and general polymath, was susceptible to distractions. He was keen on steam engines, morris dancing, singing and swimming in the nude. A Communist in all but party membership, he yet remained a devout Anglo-Catholic; and a dedicated husband in so far as his compulsive womanizing permitted. Nearly half of Winchester’s book is devoted to the years (1943–6) that Needham spent in China as the head of a wartime agency called the Sino-British Scientific Co-operation Office. Winchester insists it had nothing to do with intelligence gathering and was solely concerned with offering encouragement and materials to scientific institutions uprooted by the Japanese invasion. But it does seem to have involved more adventurous travel than the distribution of books and laboratory equipment strictly required. Though based in Chongqing, the capital of unoccupied China, Needham was seldom there. It was his first visit to China and would be his only extended residence in the country; he was determined to make the most of it. His three major journeys, one by truck to Gansu in the north-western desert, another by road to Yunnan in the south-west, and a third mainly by rail to Fuzhou in the south-east, were as notable for what he learned about Chinese science as for what he imparted to it. Indeed, the immense collection of books and artefacts that he brought back probably outweighed the largesse he distributed. Shipped to Cambridge, they would provide the raw material for Science and Civilisation in China and the core of the Needham Research Institute’s extensive library. Winchester has retraced these expeditions exhaustively. He makes good use of the reports submitted at the time, and writes of China with real affection. The Man Who Loved China, which is the title of his book in the US, could as well apply to the author as the subject. But all this leaves little room for the rest of Needham’s career, which is sketched in the broadest of strokes, and none at all for the ongoing debate over the methodology of Science and Civilisation in China. Needham’s purpose was to demonstrate not just the scale of early China’s scientific achievement, but its importance in the development of world science. Even his disciples have had difficulty with this. In his handsome contribution on ferrous technology – Part Eleven of the fifth volume, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, in Science and Civilisation in China – Donald B. Wagner dissociates himself from Needham’s faith in both “the essential virtue of Progress” and “modern natural science as a measure of historical value”. Like others, he is also unhappy with Needham’s extraction of Chinese science from its geographical, cultural and social context and his categorization of it into essentially Western disciplines – chemistry, physics, biology, etc – that were unfamiliar to the Chinese. And finally, though he wrestles with the Needham dictum that the West owed its eventual technological superiority to the East, Wagner concludes that in respect of iron, “the results are not by any means conclusive”. Unfazed by such apostasy, Needham stuck to his task well into his nineties (he died in 1995). He devoured every available text and interrogated every known authority for the earliest Chinese references to any relevant technology. Finding that these generally predated anything in other cultural traditions, he then awarded to China a precedence based on priority and offered conjectures as to how this technology might subsequently have spread to other receptive societies. He was, in short, a committed diffusionist; he made no allowance for the possibility of independent invention and parallel development elsewhere. He also made no allowance for the profusion and antiquity of Chinese textual sources compared with those of other cultures. The doubtful nature of references to ferrous technology in, for instance, India’s historiography does not prove that this material was unknown there; witness the famous iron pillar at the Qutb in Delhi. It merely affirms the comparative paucity of the textual resources available for pre-Islamic India. Notching up these Chinese “inventions and discoveries” and awarding to each a date based on the earliest known reference became something of an obsession for Needham. Several such listings appear in his published works and have since been adapted by admirers; Winchester reproduces a representative example. But while one can hardly quarrel with “Blast furnace – 3rd century b.c.”, “Book, printed, first to be dated – a.d. 868”, or “Crank handle – 1st century b.c.”, the whole exercise invites ridicule with the inclusion of items such as “Wheelbarrow, sail-assisted – 6th century a.d.”, “Great Wall of China – 3rd century b.c.”, or “Bookworm repellent – no date”. For reducing the painstakingly researched and elegantly written tomes of Science and Civilisation in China to the level of general knowledge trivia, Needham himself must bear much blame. But what Donald Wagner’s new volume well demonstrates is the extent to which recent archaeology, while modifying some of Needham’s conclusions, generally supports the veracity of the textual testimony and so the value of his life’s great work. Simon Winchester BOMB, BOOK AND COMPASS Joseph Needham and the great secrets of China 336pp. Viking. £20. 978 0 670 91378 7 Donald B. Wagner SCIENCE AND CIVILISATION IN CHINA Volume Five: Chemistry and Chemical Technology Part Eleven: Ferrous Metallurgy 478pp. Cambridge University Press. £120 (US $220). 978 0 521 87566 0
From The Washington Post DYING INSIDE Behind the Bluster, Russia Is Collapsing By Murray FeshbachSunday, October 5, 2008; Page B03 The bear is back. That's what all too many Russia-watchers have been saying since Russian troops steamrolled Georgia in August, warning that the country's strongman, Vladimir Putin, was clawing his way back toward superpower status. The new Russia's resurgence has been fueled -- quite literally -- by windfall profits from gas and oil, a big jump in defense spending and the cocky attitude on such display during the mauling of Georgia, its U.S.-backed neighbor to the south. Many now believe that the powerful Russian bear of the Cold War years is coming out of hibernation. Not so fast. Predictions that Russia will again become powerful, rich and influential ignore some simply devastating problems at home that block any march to power. Sure, Russia's army could take tiny Georgia. But Putin's military is still in tatters, armed with rusting weaponry and staffed with indifferent recruits. Meanwhile, a declining population is robbing the military of a new generation of soldiers. Russia's economy is almost totally dependent on the price of oil. And, worst of all, it's facing a public health crisis that verges on the catastrophic. To be sure, the skylines of Russia's cities are chock-a-block with cranes. Industrial lofts are now the rage in Moscow, Russian tourists crowd far-flung locales from Thailand to the Caribbean, and Russian moguls are snapping up real estate and art in London almost as quickly as their oil-rich counterparts from the Persian Gulf. But behind the shiny surface, Russian society may actually be weaker than it was even during Soviet times. The Kremlin's recent military adventures and tough talk are the bluster of the frail, not the swagger of the strong. While Russia has capitalized impressively on its oil industry, the volatility of the world oil market means that Putin cannot count on a long-term pipeline of cash flowing from high oil prices. A predicted drop of about one-third in the price of a barrel of oil will surely constrain Putin's ability to carry out his ambitious agendas, both foreign and domestic. That makes Moscow's announced plan to boost defense spending by close to 26 percent in 2009 -- in order to fully re-arm its military with state-of-the-art weaponry -- a dicey proposition. What the world saw in Georgia was a badly outdated arsenal, one that would take many years to replace -- even assuming the country could afford the $200 billion cost. Something even larger is blocking Russia's march. Recent decades, most notably since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, have seen an appalling deterioration in the health of the Russian population, anchoring Russia not in the forefront of developed countries but among the most backward of nations. This is a tragedy of huge proportions -- but not a particularly surprising one, at least to me. I followed population, health and environmental issues in the Soviet Union for decades, and more recently, I have reported on diseases such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic ravaging the Russian population. I've visited Russia more than 50 times over the years, so I can say from firsthand experience that this national calamity isn't happening suddenly. It's happening inexorably. According to U.N. figures, the average life expectancy for a Russian man is 59 years -- putting the country at about 166th place in the world longevity sweepstakes, one notch above Gambia. For women, the picture is somewhat rosier: They can expect to live, on average, 73 years, barely beating out the Moldovans. But there are still some 126 countries where they could expect to live longer. And the gap between expected longevity for men and for women -- 14 years -- is the largest in the developed world. So what's killing the Russians? All the usual suspects -- HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, alcoholism, cancer, cardiovascular and circulatory diseases, suicides, smoking, traffic accidents -- but they occur in alarmingly large numbers, and Moscow has neither the resources nor the will to stem the tide. Consider this: Three times as many Russians die from heart-related illnesses as do Americans or Europeans, per each 100,000 people. Tuberculosis deaths in Russia are about triple the World Health Organization's definition of an epidemic, which is based on a new-case rate of 50 cases per 100,000 people. Average alcohol consumption per capita is double the rate the WHO considers dangerous to one's health. About 1 million people in Russia have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, according to WHO estimates. Using mid-year figures, it's estimated that 25 percent more new HIV/AIDS cases will be recorded this year than were logged in 2007. And none of this is likely to get better any time soon. Peter Piot, the head of UNAIDS, the U.N. agency created in response to the epidemic, told a press conference this summer that he is "very pessimistic about what is going on in Russia and Eastern Europe . . . where there is the least progress." This should be all the more worrisome because young people are most at risk in Russia. In the United States and Western Europe, 70 percent of those with HIV/AIDS are men over age 30; in Russia, 80 percent of this group are aged 15 to 29. And although injected-drug users represent about 65 percent of Russia's cases, the country has officially rejected methadone as a treatment, even though it would likely reduce the potential for HIV infections that lead to AIDS. And then there's tuberculosis -- remember tuberculosis? In the United States, with a population of 303 million, 650 people died of the disease in 2007. In Russia, which has a total of 142 million people, an astonishing 24,000 of them died of tuberculosis in 2007. Can it possibly be coincidental that, according to Gennady Onishchenko, the country's chief public health physician, only 9 percent of Russian TB hospitals meet current hygienic standards, 21 percent lack either hot or cold running water, 11 percent lack a sewer system, and 20 percent have a shortage of TB drugs? Hardly. On the other end of the lifeline, the news isn't much better. Russia's birth rate has been declining for more than a decade, and even a recent increase in births will be limited by the fact that the number of women age 20 to 29 (those responsible for two-thirds of all babies) will drop markedly in the next four or five years to mirror the 50 percent drop in the birth rate in the late 1980s and the 1990s. And, sadly, the health of Russia's newborns is quite poor, with about 70 percent of them experiencing complications at birth. Last summer, Piot of UNAIDS said that bringing Russia's HIV/AIDS epidemic under control was "a matter of political leadership and of changing the policy." He might just as well have been talking about the much larger public health crisis that threatens this vast country. But the policies seem unlikely to change as the bear lumbers along, driven by disastrously misplaced priorities and the blindingly unrealistic expectations of a resentment-driven political leadership. Moscow remains bent on ignoring the devastating truth: The nation is not just sick but dying. Murray Feshbach is a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a research professor emeritus at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.
The people of Goddesschess are generally a pretty unified group because of our shared vision, but with strong personalities disagreements occasionally do happen and when they do well, watch out. dondelion and I are in the middle of one right now, stemming from this week's Random Round-up that he put up at Goddesschess on Sunday night. He thought it might be - well, I don't know what - to publish our email exchanges on the subject. To show that we're human and we disagree? Oh, I've got it - to show that he's a numbnut and I'm a bitch, and that the road to putting together a website (for 10 years in May, 2009) isn't always a piece of cake... So, here are our email exchanges - he's an hour eastward of my location, so keep that in mind with the time stamps: 10/5/08 11:52 p.m. HOLA! RR is up a bit late - and so was I. Getting this week's edition done was a marathon 12 hour event. My head hurts!!! Maybe my hat is on too tight? must hit the sack!Cheers to all and congratulations on the new homestead Georgia! a bientot Don I didn't see this email until I got home from work last night. 10/6/08 6:01 p.m. Hi Don, I'm sorry you put so much effort into this week's RR. I have many complaints about it. The horns depicted in the photo from the Persian dig, those ARE horns, NOT a goddess. That's the reason I did not publish the photograph at the Goddesschess blog when the story first showed up, because it's perfectly clear they are antelope or deer horns, NOT a carved goddess. I looked for the other references including any published photographs from the other dig mentioned and could not find a photograph of any goddess recovered at either Persian dig. This makes me extremely suspicious. Next, the link to "Ishtar" is to a general message board and it's impossible to determine under which subject "Ishtar" may have posted - what about a link directly to her post? But why go that way at all? Using an unknown poster as authority for anything??? None of those photographs are provenanced! They could be total fakes or totally misrepresent what she says they are representing. Frankly, that one goddess does not looked "horned" to me at all - the ancients certainly knew how to depict horns, Don. If those "globs" on either side of her head are anything, it's coiled up hair, rather like Princess Leia's style. I do NOT believe the "Sorcerer" painting is an authentic representation. Why the big difference in clarity between the image you published at Goddesschess RR and the image published at the link you gave, which is fuzzy and faded? Did you check to see if there are any other photographs of this image on the internet from better sources? Also, I think there are decent authorities out there to cite with respect to the well-known belief of shamans being able to "transform" into animals, why cite to a blog? Thank you Ishtar? Who IS this person? For all you know, you could be thanking someone we would NOT want to give any credibility to whatsoever. Please Don! And then you jumped to Anahita? Sorry to be so picky and critical. I don't think it's a good job, not up to the caliber of other RRs you've done. It looks and feels strained and uncertain and does not hang together for me. I'd much prefer you just stick to reporting archaeological news then trying to do "themed" presentations that take a hell of a lot more explanation and material to hang together than what's available for you at RR. (rest of email on another subject) Jan 6:01 p.m. P.S. "Ishtar" is wrong about the date of the Venus of Willendorf - she is at least 25,000 years old, not 13,000 years old. Don's reply: 10/6/08 7:54 p.m. Hi Jan Well - I knew what I was doing had some risk involved. I took it on faith that the published article (as per your C/P of the description - which i verified by checking the actual press release) was indeed a "goddess" - and it could well be, given the prevalence of horned goddesses in general and the pics Ishtar included in her post at Archaeologica drew a number of solid comparisons that Noury's PHd research confirmed. For some reason I couldn't pick up the page url from the actual section she posted on and just gave the generic url. There would have been problems with the exact page anyway, since a reader at g-chess would have had to scroll down the Archaeolgica site to find the exact reference to her post on their message board. If anything, I should return there, log in and let her know that her info impressed me enough to rearrange it on our R&R page with few edits. I did find one canard - but the rest was solid enough. BTW, there is no mention of the Wallendorf [sic] Venus made in any section of of Ishtar's entry. She is referring to a similar Indian icon which I recognized is dffferent from the much older one you are referring to. Combined, they propose a 19,000 year carry over of one singularly important tradition. Pretty amazing - but no less so than the use of antelope horns as a pan-global signature for shamans in general. I closed in on some Siberian and Tlingit info, found several shaman's antlers and thought it would be redundant to include more of the same at R&R. The date, provenance and so forth of the Indian goddess icon I could not verify independently. I merely took it on faith that she was being truthful since the rest of her synopsis was - to the best of my knowledge - accurate and displayed understanding of iconic sharing and evolution among primordial Egyptian, Persian and Indian cultures. I was skeptical about the "horns" of this Indian gal as well. Nonetheless, this is a good example of how iconic form can morph into approximation. Details of the self same "cleft" are almost of secondary importance since I could have explained that two headed or forked icons represent the two genders responsible for all creation - the demiurgic yin-yang/ linga-yoni aspect of the whole chain of earthly procreation and that the image therefore implied hermaphroditic characteristics as well - a common theme in ancient ritual art. It is also of specific interest to goddeschess because the entwining serpent aspect contracts around Ganesha (al pil) and is part of his personal myth. How he acquires this ancient property is explained in Indian religious lore - and it is actually a humorous tale. Now we have specific evidence that Genesha recalls pre-neolithic iconography and so, this indian icon is therefore very important to the background of chess and chaturanja. Will other readers "get" this? Maybe yes maybe no. Also the "mala" beads representing the entwining snakes fall into the same category of iconic license. Aside from the Indian "devi" we already know Hathor's menat necklace, menat offerings and the expository ritual framework of senet are conjoined in a way that suggest "chess". How many people know this? Probably very few. It was frustrating trying to find any further info on the Kermanshah "horns". I dug deep and just got clones of the same article. Ishtar's commentary was the only one to venture anything pertinent or interesting. Better than nothing - and a fair appraisal of how the iconic Mary is sanitized and shorn of earlier shamanic traits via latter day athropomorphism. Some people will get this and some wont. At least we have not offended anyone with that inclusion. Besides, it states a fact. I chose the artistic re-rendering of the Trois Freres pic for clarity - but could have selected the original I suppose. I was handling lots of data and his page provided a shortcut with good visual content. Click the thumbnail pic on the source page and it opens up into a much larger one. I took the large one and scaled it down. It might not be the original, but the info about it was accurate. Anahita was not a blind leap onto nowhere. Noury's article clearly states that her icon is found at Kermanshah where these ancient "horns" appear. Is it coincidence that Anihita's earliest representations appear in the same location? In any case, this reference draws the entire gist of this week's RR full circle and makes a statement about Avestan incorporation of Anahita's myth as being, like Ganesha, a syncretic compoound of earlier orientations - which is of course, very apropos to the idea of a Persian origin of chess. Is she, like other goddess, a possible representation of the actual chess board itself? Her titulary aspects do not conflict with that assumption and I was deeply gratified to find a PhD who could include significant details Wikipedia missed. Now I think we should post this e-mail up at the blog and include a reciprocal url at g-chess. At least that give g-chess readers a means of grappling with the same problems you faced.... I think it's cool that we have internal controversy and show how we can deal with it in a constructive way. I suggest you post something to the effect that "Jan Xena Calls Wallace to the Carpet and Wallace Respectfully Replies". It's OK to do that you know. You ARE entitled to shout "Off with his head!!!" - (lol!) and it might actually be a good thing to show that we actually do question one another from time to time... genuine human behavior at the very least... What say you? a bientot Don Are you getting bored yet? No? Here's my reply: 10/6/08 8:11 p.m. Yes, I will publish my email and your response at the blog. Here is a direct QUOTE from Goddesschess that specifically refers to the VENUS OF WILLENDORF with a date of 13000 BC. You cannot trust a person who cannot get his or her dates correct about such an iconic and well known goddess symbol, Don. It's 25000 BCE, NOT 13000 BCE. So don't tell me that I'm imagining things that aren't there. Learn to read your own work, mister. But it doesn't make sense that we have preserved images of goddesses going back to the 13000 BC (Venus of Willendorf) but none for the most famous of all until more than three centuries after the Christian era began. 8:18 p.m. P.S. Precisely because you could NOT find any confirmation that the deer horns were, in fact, a goddess, SHOULD mean that you do not assume they were! We could get away with that bullshit in the early days when we didn't know any better, but we do know better now, don't we, after 9 years on the internet, and it's a cop out to use that photo and call it a goddess just because you wanted to - without stating up front that this is your opinion that these horns ARE the goddess carving referred to in the article. Bad form, Don. Don's reply, 10/6/08 8:35 p.m. Right - c.23,000 BCE. ?i just spotted it - and made a correction. It could have been a typo -? To verify the other figure - I dialed "Mehrgarh horned goddess" into a search and?found this... which is not a decisive match for Ishtar's Indus pic - - but - important nonetheless - the boobies my dear - they are consistent with the bishop and the canopic Egyptian piece and the Minoan art I have in tow... ? http://www.razarumi.com/documents-archive/mother-goddess-indus-valley/ THe Indian figure ?found - ?Archeological evidence from related cultures suggests that Indus Valley mythology was centered in the idea of female power and Goddess cults. There is direct evidence of Goddess dominance on Indus seals, which, like the seals of ancient Sumer, bring together goddesses, sacred snakes, and such symbols of male power and virility as horned bulls and rams and mythical animals such as unicorns. There is also ample indication on the seals of rituals involving sacrifice to what appears to be a horned goddess. At the ruins at the ancient settlement of Mehrgarh, dating back to as early as 6000 BCE, goddess figurines have been discovered that would seem to confirm the importance of the female power during the 600–2500 BCE period.? (source) [remainder of email on another topic] My reply: 10/6/08 8:53 p.m. That goddess figurine has more in common with the "bird" goddesses I've posted images at This and That that you continue to ignore. 23000 BCE is not the date of the "Venus" of Willendorf. How soon you forget - in July you published at Random Round-up a link to the - I believe - 100th anniversary of her discovery. Don't try to excuse shoddy posting with a typo. 13,000 BCE is wrong, and you know it. If that is wrong, what else did that person post that is also wrong. Our job these days is to not only tweak interest - it is also to verify. We aren't virgins in the woods anymore, and can't get away with bullshit - and shouldn't try and foist that off on our readers. [remainder of email on another topic] Jan Don's reply: 10/6/08 8:38 p.m. Jan - the article explicity stated the horns were a 'goddess". If I had included nothing else but the info from the article you provided that assumption would have been published at g-chess nonetheless... and Ishtar is also wondering about how antlers could be a goddess... My reply: 10/6/08 8:56 p.m. No, Don, it did not. Read it again. Don's reply: 10/6/08 8:53 p.m. More context of the "two headed - two horned" goddess here...http://www.crystalinks.com/induscivilization.html Crystallinks - but generally OK for general info... Harappa - in teracotta - srcoll [remainder of email on unrelated topics] Me: 10/6/08 9:00 p.m. Here is the text of the article: The first phase of archeological excavations at Sheikhi Abad mound in Iran's Kermanshah Province has yielded the statue of a goddess.The statute, which resembles a figurine previously found in Kermanshah's Sarab-Mort, is believed by experts to be a valuable source of information. Iranian and British archeologists, who studied the site for the first time in the past fifty years, also discovered nearly 50 botanical samples that can shed light on some of the mysteries of the Neolithic Age. Skeletal remains of red deer, goat, ram and fish were also found at the site, which archeologists hope will elucidate how animals were domesticated in those days. Previous studies had dated Sheikhi Abad mound to nine to ten thousand years ago. Archeologists believe the site was home to the earliest human settlers. Show me, exactly, where it says the goddess statue, was in the form of deer horns? IT DOES NOT. It DOES say that "skeletal remains of red deer...were also found at the site". Nothing to link the goddess statue to the remains of red deer. Jan Don: 10/6/08 9:47 p.m. "Show me, exactly, where it says the goddess statue, was in the form of deer horns? IT DOES NOT. It DOES say that "skeletal remains of red deer...were also found at the site". Nothing to link the goddess statue to the remains of red deer." I'm not sure what you mean by this. First off, I began with the press release. I didn't make that "horned" assumption, but the article leads directly towards it by publishing the pic in concert with the claim - however disputable. As I mentioned, and as is clear from the iconography of surrounding cultures - albeit much later - there is ample credence to that "horned" assumption as well - and granted, it could be many things but there is plenty of leeway and really lots of ways to interpret the symbolic aspect of a "Y" figure - like the Dogon "ladder" or the indigenous Egyptian "Y" which was her national symbol. It has obvious celestial connotations vis a vis "the descent of matter" from cosmic sources and it could even be related to the Ka upraised arms or the Minoan snake goddess... [portions of email deleted that were not on topic] I'm snarly - yeah - but I have a budding cold and reserve the right to be a stubborn old prick sometimes... If we want to rejoin the issue at RR there is always next week and endless opportunity to question the things the press feeds us... Me - things are getting quite testy now - can you tell: 10/6/08 9:01 p.m. Why not stop trying to justify copying and pasting shoddy work and fix the damn column. Write an article about your findings regarding horns and the goddess and publish it at Goddesschess, and put the energy you've spent trying to prove me wrong (which you did not) to good use. Jan And for good measure: 10/6/08 10:09 p.m. Jan - the article explicity stated the horns were a 'goddess". Those are your words, not mine. As far as the photograph goes, it does not show a goddess figurine - it shows a set of horns and a lot of dirt. Read the article again. Don't tell me that I don't know how to read, Don. The evidence tonight indicates that I read quite accurately, and you can't read your way out of paper sack. Jan The final word on the matter, from Don: 10/6/08 10:15 p.m. end ai kent spelz two gud neder... LOL! I haven't replied. This will be one of those disagreements that is never resolved.
The results are in! Tom Fogec from the Southwest Chess Club (Hales Corners, WI) emailed me with the awards for the chess femmes who played in the Challenge this weekend: Here are the results. We explained about all of the chessgoddess.com prizes at the beginning of the tournament to all in attendance. We had 6 chess femmes enter Hales Corners Challenge VIII over the weekend. Five were in the Reserve Section and one in the Open Section. Because there was only one female in the Open Section, we wanted to honor your request that no one receive the award by default. I explained to the woman in the Open Section that the $50 prize award would be awarded to the top scoring female in either section. She did go on to be the top scoring female in either section with 3 points in four rounds. She was also the sole winner of the Class A prize, and finished tied for Fifth Place overall. There was excitement heading into the final round as there were three females going into the last round with 2 points, and one won, one drew, and one lost. We then awarded the $25 prize to the highest scoring female in the Reserve Section. Top Scoring Female in either section is Nicole Niemi with 3.0 points, who was also the sole winner of the Class A prize and finished in Fifth Place in the Open Section. Top Scoring Female in Reserve Section is Joanna Huang with 2.5 points. There's more! $25 each will be awarded to games for one chess dude and one chess femme based on the judgment of a committee of volunteers who will meet this weekend and go over the games to make their decisions. Here is a link to the full results for the Open and Reserve Sections. Congratulations to the winners of the Goddesschess prizes for best chess femme results!
Monday, October 6, 2008
Swedish archaeologists uncover Viking-era church Published: 3 Oct 08 17:18 CET Online: http://www.thelocal.se/14738/20081003/ The remains of a Viking-era stave church, including the skeletal remains of a woman, have been uncovered near the cemetery of the Lännäs church in Odensbacken outside Örebro in central Sweden. “It’ a unique find,” said Bo Annuswer of the Swedish National Heritage Board (Riksantikvarieämbetet) to the Nerikes Allehanda newspaper. “The churches that have found earlier have been really damaged. Now archaeologists uncovered four posts which mark the church, and the burial site. Such an undisturbed site is unique.” Stave churches, common in medieval northern Europe, are constructed with timber framing and walls filled with vertical planks. The site was excavated late in the summer following an examination of the area in preparation for the building of a new parish home. The discovery has raised a number of questions among archaeologists who wonder about the social status of the person whose remains were discovered in the church, which archaeologist estimate is from the 11th century. “Not just anyone was buried in the middle of a church; it hints that the person was someone very special. In modern times it was fairly common for priests to end up in a church. But commoners were kept outside the church,” said Annuswer. Annuswer added that the discovery will serve as important source of information about churches and graves from the era. “This is an undisturbed environment which shows how people buried bodies and what sort of objects people had with them in their graves,” he said. David Landes (firstname.lastname@example.org/+46 8 656 6518) **************************************** What will the body itself reveal? Perhaps she was buried there for centuries before the church was built, and the builders didn't know she was there. Or perhaps she was a particularly important chieftan or even a "priestess". The Viking peoples who adopted Christianity evidently had a "loose" concept of what constituted appropriate worship, and with respect to this particular church and its congregants, perhaps it extended to the concept of a female priest. I hope further information is published on this story as it is developed!
The October edition of JanXena's Les Echecs des Femmes is up and running at Chessville. Be one of the dozen people who read it every month :) At Goddesschess, dondelion has done a new Random Round-up - a very interesting one this week on headgear and horns and the Persian Goddess Anahita - modern Iranians still celebrate a holiday in her honor. Check RR out in the right-hand column under Axis Mundae.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
From The New York Times By CARLOTTA GALL Published: October 5, 2008 BAMIAN, Afghanistan — Far away from the Taliban insurgency, in this most peaceful corner of Afghanistan, a quiet revolution is gaining pace. Women are driving cars — a rarity in Afghanistan — working in public offices and police stations, and sitting on local councils. There is even a female governor, the first and only one in Afghanistan. In many ways this province, Bamian, is unique. A half-dozen years of relative peace in this part of the country since the fall of the Taliban and a lessening of lawlessness and disorder have allowed women to push the boundaries here. Most of the people in Bamian are ethnic Hazaras, Shiite Muslims who are in any case more open than most Afghans to the idea of women working outside the home. But the changes in women’s lives here are also an enormous step for Afghanistan as a whole. And they may point the way to broader possibilities for women, eventually, if peace can be secured in this very conservative Muslim society, which has been dominated by militia commanders and warlords during the last 30 years of war. In a country with low rankings on many indicators of social progress, women and girls are the most disadvantaged. More than 80 percent of Afghan women are illiterate. Women’s life expectancy is only 45 years, lower than that of men, mostly because of the very high rates of death during pregnancy. Forced marriage and under-age marriage are common for girls, and only 13 percent of girls complete primary school, compared with 32 percent of boys. The cult of war left women particularly vulnerable. For years now they have been the victims of abduction and rape. Hundreds of thousands were left war widows, mired in desperate poverty. Particularly in the last years of Taliban rule, even widows, who had no one to provide for them, were not allowed to work or leave the home unaccompanied by a male relative. Fear of armed militiamen left women afraid even to walk in front of the police station in the town of Bamian, recalled Nahida Rezai, 25, the first woman to join the police force here. “And I came right into the police station,” she said, admitting to some fears. At the beginning, she had some problems. “I received some threats by telephone,” she said. “But now I am working as a police officer, I think nothing can deter me.” Nekbakht, 20, joined the police force, too, and now helps her father, a casual laborer, support the family. They live in a single room tucked into the cliff face of Bamian valley, where homeless refugees have found shelter in caves inhabited centuries ago by Buddhist pilgrims. "It was very difficult to find a job,” she said. “We had economic problems, and with the high prices life was difficult. Finally, I decided if I could not find another job, I should go into the police.” After joining nine months ago, she likes the job so much she says she is encouraging other women to join, too. Indeed, growing economic hardship has helped drive some women to join the work force or to take other bold steps as they try to help their families cope with a severe drought, rising food prices and unemployment. That was the case for Zeinab Husseini, 19. Her father, with seven daughters and no sons, says he had little choice when he needed a second driver to help at home. “I like driving,” she said, seated at the wheel of her family’s minibus. “I was interested from childhood to learn to drive and to buy a car. I was the first woman in Bamian to drive.” But over all, it is the return to relative peace here that has allowed for women’s progress, said the governor, Habiba Sarabi, a doctor and educator who ran underground literacy classes during the Taliban regime. “If the general situation improves, it can improve the situation for women,” she said. She pushed to have policewomen so they could handle women’s cases, and there are now 14 women on the force, she said. Some of the changes in Bamian have been echoed in more conservative parts of Afghanistan. But even the success stories sometimes end up showing the continuing dangers for women who take jobs to improve their lot. In Kandahar Province, one of the most noted female police officials in the country, Capt. Malalai Kakar, was gunned down on her way to work on Sept. 28. In Bamian Province, Mrs. Sarabi, 52, has been the driving force behind women’s progress in public life. Her appointment by President Hamid Karzai three years ago as governor of Bamian was a bold move when jihadi leaders were still so powerful in the towns and countryside. Some opponents are still agitating for her removal, Mrs. Sarabi said. “It is not only because they are against women,” she said, “but they do not want to lose power, so they make trouble for the governor.” The people of Bamian say they accepted a woman as governor in the hope that an English-speaking, development-oriented technocrat like Mrs. Sarabi would deliver jobs and prosperity. In fact, the success of women’s Community Development Councils here has caught the attention of the World Bank, which has been a major donor to the programs and is looking to develop them further. Around the country there are 17,000 such councils, which choose local development projects and could be expanded to work on district and regional levels, said the bank’s president, Robert B. Zoellick, who visited Bamian this year. “They are very effective,” he said of the councils in a recent interview. “People feel they have an influence in the future.” The quiet work being done by women on the councils and in other jobs has helped turn things around for many in Bamian. Najiba, 48, is a woman in Yakowlang District who lost her husband in the notorious massacre by Taliban forces there in the winter of 2000-1. The Taliban fighters came on horseback, forcing the villagers and townspeople to flee in the night, leaving everything behind. Their shops and homes were set on fire while they sought refuge in the mountains. After the American intervention in Afghanistan and the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, they returned home to nothing, not even a roof over their heads. “I just had one skirt, and I was always patching it,” Najiba said. As the government began development programs in the provinces, Najiba was elected head of a newly formed women’s development council, representing her village and the neighboring village. Its job was to plan how to spend a government development grant. The men’s council decided the area needed a road, and flood barriers to save the farming land near the river. The women’s council wanted instead to buy livestock for each family, traditionally the women’s domain in Afghan households, to improve the food supply for families. The men won that debate. “We did not get the farming project,” Najiba said. “We are still suggesting it was valuable; we are trying to work on our projects so we don’t have to depend on the men.” The women got their way with the next project: solar panels to provide light to groups of four houses. That project has opened up all sorts of ideas, for computers, televisions and educational and election programs, she said. Women have participated in literacy and tailoring training programs, too. Najiba laughed as she explained: “We have changed our way of life. Now I have lots of skirts.” She added, “It all comes down to the council.” Now, women are taking courses run by nongovernmental organizations, getting educated and learning ways to improve their family incomes. Most important, the women have won over the men, she said. “Their minds have changed,” Najiba said. “They want to share decisions, not too far, but they want to give us some share.”
A review of a new biography on one of the most famous queens of all time. From Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune.com Cleopatra biography blasts old illusions Author challenges film portrayals of Egyptian queen as villainous vamp. By ALLEN BARRA, Special to the Star Tribune Last update: October 3, 2008 - 1:34 PM Cleopatra has generated more fame -- in the form of poems, paintings, books, plays and films -- per known fact than any woman in history. As Joyce Tyldesley phrases it in her fascinating and irresistible biography, "Cleopatra, Last Queen of Egypt," "it is clearly never going to be possible to write a conventional biography of Cleopatra." So Tyldesley has gone ahead and written one. An archaeologist, author ("Daughters of Isis"), and popular consultant for TV shows on ancient history, Tyldesley has chosen to re-create her subject by putting together the puzzle pieces of history that surround Cleopatra's life and legend. Neither an Egyptian by blood nor an actual Greek -- she could trace her ancestry on her father's side to the original Ptolemy, a general of Alexander the Great -- she was a fabulous hybrid of those cultures and several others which were native to the Egypt of the first century B.C. What she was not, Tyldesley argues, was the villainous vamp portrayed in the movies. Played by such actresses as Theda Bara, Claudette Colbert and Elizabeth Taylor, the movie Cleopatra derived from the overheated imaginations of such western writers as Plutarch, whose "Life of Mark Antony" influenced most later writers, including Shakespeare. Where Tyldesley's book differs from most modern accounts of Cleopatra's life and times is that her conclusions stem from an intimate knowledge of Egyptian culture rather than from Greek and Roman historians, to whom Cleopatra was a combination of sorceress and seductress. Charm and intelligence were almost certainly her most alluring traits and what first attracted Caesar to her. (Her money didn't hurt, either; according to Tyldesley, "Cleopatra was the wealthiest monarch in the world.") Cleopatra was, she concludes, "an intelligent and effective monarch who set realistic goals and who very nearly succeeded in creating a dynasty that would have re-established Egypt as a world super power." Roman historians, though, saw only "an unnatural, immodest woman who preyed on other women's husbands. From this developed the myth of the sexually promiscuous Cleopatra ... a harsh legacy indeed for a woman who probably had no more than two, consecutive sexual relationships." Readers who enjoy not only history but how it evolves into myth will find a feast in Tyldesley's book. You may be disappointed to find out that the Queen of Egypt did not first appear to Caesar unwrapped from an Oriental carpet, and it's unlikely that Cleopatra succumbed to the bite of an asp, but Tyldesley's theories as to what most likely did happen are at least as interesting as the folklore. Allen Barra writes about sports and culture for the Wall Street Journal. His next book is "Yogi Berra, Eternal Yankee," due in March 2009.
Sep 25, 2008 10:18 Updated Sep 25, 2008 10:19 Archeology: Dr. Eilat Mazar: The Bible as blueprint By ETGAR LEFKOVITS She has been at the forefront of a series of back-to-back Jerusalem archeological finds, including what she believes is the biblical palace of King David, a discovery which led her to international prominence. She has also been at the epicenter of a public campaign against Islamic destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount, and has repeatedly and unflinchingly criticized - and clashed with - the Israel Antiquities Authority for overlooking and turning a blind eye to the past desecration of Judaism's holiest site, which has earned her the reputation of something of a black sheep in the local archeological world. Meet Dr. Eilat Mazar. The no-nonsense 51-year-old mother of four, a strongly secular Zionist who comes from a venerated family of archeologists - the most prominent of whom was her grandfather, the pioneering Dr. Benjamin Mazar, who carried out the excavations around the Western Wall area after the 1967 war - has emerged as one of the country's leading archeologists. Over the last several years, her ongoing dig in the City of David just outside the walls of the Old City has proven to be a treasure trove. In addition to the potential biblical palace - which has been dubbed as the find of the century by some and dismissed by others in the bitterly competitive local archeological community - Mazar has discovered two seal impressions belonging to ministers of King Zedekiah which date back 2,600 years, as well as the remnants of a wall from the time of Nehemiah. Mazar, who is both revered and reviled by some of her colleagues for being a "biblical archeologist," says that the Bible is unquestionably the most important historical source for her work, since it contains a "genuine historical account of the past." "I work with the Bible in one hand and the tools of excavation in the other," she says. "The Bible is the most important historical source." Despite her early experience with archeology as a teenager under her family's tutelage, Mazar didn't decide to become an archeologist until after her army service, when she enrolled in courses at the Hebrew University, where she would eventually earn her Ph.D. She calls her university years - during which she had her first child - an "immense delight," a time when she and her fellow students would run to any place in the country where an excavation, no matter how modest, was under way. Balancing a career with family has not been easy. Mazar married right out of the army, had a child and then divorced. Later she found new love, archeologist Yair Shoham, and the couple had three children. Tragically, Shoham died suddenly of a heart attack in 1997 at 44. Mazar says her family is a critical component of her work. "My family gives me the strength to do what I do," she says. "I see my work as a complete life." Three decades after the thrill of her university years, the excitement is still palpable within - and radiates from - Mazar as she continually uncovers the past. "It's nice to touch your history," she concludes.
Hmmmm - I have to say it - I think only one of these artifacts resembles a penis. One looks like a proto-Egyptian scarab, two look like vulva or sea-shells (that were used for currency and also represented the female genetalia), and one looks like a hand tool, maybe an axe or an awl. Well, whatever - I'm no expert, darlings, and that's a fact. But the experts aren't so good at this stuff either! From Discover Magazine Blog Archaeological Surprise: Grave Site Full of Phallic Figurines September 8, 2008 Archaeologists excavating a burial site near Nazareth dating back to between 6750 and 8500 B.C. found the area littered with shells, axes, and other artifacts—no surprise there. But something else also caught their attention: a high number of phallic figurines. It’s not unusual to find reproductive-themed artifacts in grave sites from this period, says study leader Nigel Goring-Morris of the Hebrew University. But this period of history, not so long after the agricultural revolution, typically produced more female figurines, associated with the fertility of the land. Even though most of the 65 people buried in this 10 meters by 20 meters plot were young men, he says, the finding is an odd one. Goring-Morris speculates that these guys were trying to reclaim their manhood. With societies at the time moving from being hunter-gatherers to farmers, he says, men lost some of the macho feeling: Let’s face it, plowing a field just doesn’t get the testosterone flowing as much as killing a gazelle. There’s no real evidence that these men felt that way, but the possible alternative explanations for carving a bunch of phalluses are perhaps more unsavory. In any case, farming—and female fertility imagery—won out in the region. But every time a group of men jump in a freezing lake or embark on a disastrous camping trip to reassert their manhood, they can rest assured that they might just be carrying on a millennia-old tradition. Image: Nigel Goring-Morris
Gee, you don't say. Duh! I believe Neanderthals were just as human as we are - perhaps even more so. There's no evidence of which I am aware that Neanderthals killed each other and/or tortured animals as we do - supposedly "superior" Homo Sapiens Sapiens. From Discover Magazine Online Neanderthal Moms Had It Tougher Than Modern Moms September 9, 2009 A new analysis of the skulls of three Neanderthal babies shows that the cranium of a newborn Neanderthal was about the same size as that of a newborn Homo sapiens, and that the Neanderthal children grew faster than modern humans in the first few years of life. The report on the young skeletons, which date from between 45,000 to 50,000 years ago, adds fuel to the debate over how similar Neanderthal culture was to that of our early Homo sapiens ancestors. A big-headed infant skeleton found in Russia suggests that childbirth was no easy task for for Neanderthal women. Neanderthal mothers had slightly larger birth canals, but the prominent face of Neanderthal babies made it just as hard to push out as a modern human. This suggests that both groups had the social structures needed to help with childbirth [New Scientist]. In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science [subscription required], researchers analyzed the infant specimen and two toddler skeletons from Syria, and made 3-D computer reconstructions of the whole skeletons based on the available fragments — about 70 to 80 percent of the complete skeletons. They also studied the skeletons’ teeth to estimate their ages by their dental development [LiveScience]. The researchers’ analysis of the Neanderthal toddlers’ growth rate lead them to hypothesize that Neanderthal babies grew more quickly in their early years than Homo sapiens, which could have placed a burden on their mothers. “Neanderthals must have had a rich diet in protein and fat for children to fuel rapid growth in [their] brains,” said [anthropologist] Holly Smith. Mothers also likely had to consume vast quantities of calories to produce enough breast milk. This energy-intensive child rearing may have caused “somewhat longer interbirth intervals, or somewhat older mothers,” study co-author [Christoph] Zollikofer said [National Geographic News]. But while Zollikofer suggests that this disadvantage may account for the Neanderthals’ eventual disappearance from the world, other researchers say that he is drawing hasty conclusions.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Hola darlings! Ohmygoddess! It's been so fricking cold this week. Although I swore up and down that I would NOT turn on my heat until at least the end of October, yesterday morning it was so chill in the house that I flipped on the furnace switch and set the temperature to 64 (it was 60 degrees in the house at the time). I heard the furnace kick in, and settled down with my coffee and newspaper in anticipation of soon feeling some dampness creep out of the house as the heat did its job. Only - it never happened. The furnace cycled and shut down. Oh shit. I've had this problem before - it's the ignition system. Because of the safety features, if ignition does not result in a spark within a certain period of time, the furnace shuts off, the gas doesn't flow. That's good for my health and safety, at any rate. The problem is, these ignition systems are particularly sensitive to "irritants" such as dust and, in my basement which suffers from perennial dampness, corrosion. Cha ching! The cash register is already clicking away in the background. Yesterday was a work day in Hell, I didn't even have a chance to crack open the telephone book to see what kind of heating/furnace service I might be able to get out after 6:00 p.m. or on a Saturday; today at 3:30 p.m. I finally had a brief lull and placed several telephone calls, none of which were answered except the last one - quite promptly - to a very expensive service I've used in the past. $59 just to pull up in the driveway (not even get out of the truck). The first 15 minutes at "diagnostic" is $65, and $65 per 15 minutes thereafter. Once the diagnosis is set, I'm then given an on the spot estimate for what needs to be done and how much it will cost. Decide - like the famous line from the song "I WANNA KNOW RIGHT NOW...." Geez - I should have gone into HVAC! Or - duh - I should have hired a concierge service to do the shopping for me, to see if there was someone out there cheaper (there no doubt is, even after paying the concierge fee). Well - next time... As if dealing with a recalcitrant furnace isn't bad enough (at least it didn't break down when it was 20 below zero, like it did in January, 1997), I've been on a "balanced meal and increased physical activity" plan since September 15th, which happens to be the date the latest season of "The Biggest Loser" (har!) debuted on network television. In one of those ridiculous things that somehow always connect together, our local PBS station was running fundraising specials and I happened to catch part of a show one Saturday afternoon that told me, plain as could be, if I only cut back my calories by 225 a day and increased my physical activity to burn an additional 225 calories a day, I would lose one pound a week with very little effort. Yeah, right. One night in the bathroom, looking in the mirror at my naked bad self for the umpteenth time in my life, I went "oh yechy", and determined to lose some of this post-menopausal weight gain. I set what I thought was a modest goal of losing 10 pounds in 5 weeks. The sixth week begins on October 20th, when I will have my big weigh-in, a Monday. If I've lost 10 pounds, I'll have a Big Mac (no kidding - that's my big reward I set for myself). It's uncanny how I've tracked the contestants on "The Biggest Loser." The first week was big - just like on the show - I lost 5 pounds! Eek! The second week, the dreaded "plateau week," I lost zero pounds. Eek! I stepped up the physical activity (I do NOT exercise) and tried to cut back even further on the caloric intake. I am NOT writing things down in a log book, and I'm still sucking wine like there's no tomorrow, but I AM eating more salads and vegetables and have cut way down on the fatty meats and unneeded carbs. I'm also making an honest attempt every morning to have a breakfast and, wonder of wonders, it actually works - what the nutrician dudes say about breakfast being the most important meal of the day. It does sustain one through hectic, frantic mornings until lunch time. So, this is the third week. I weighed myself on Monday and I'd managed to lose another 1/2 pound. Hmmmm. More physical activity. I weighed myelf yesterday. Lost another 1/2 pound! Yippee! But I didn't trust it. And so I weighed myself again this morning and yep, I have not lost 7 whole frigging pounds! Only 3 more to go and 2 whole weeks to do it! I am STOKED! I now realize that I will make my goal, perhaps even ahead of time. Then the really hard part starts, the NEXT 10 POUNDS! Let me tell you, though, except for a bit of a loosening of my autumn jacket (which I first purchased 25 pounds ago), I don't notice any difference in the Body Splendid, and neither has anyone else. It will take that next 10 pounds to tip the scales, no pun intended. Some by-lines from The New York Times to pass the time: U.S. Shed 150,000 Jobs; Ninth Straight Monthly Drop. Yeah - but the "experts" say we're not in a recession. Oh no, of course not. Top Psychiatrist Failed to Report Drug Income - now what kind of drugs do you suppose they're talking about here... Explosion Kills 7 Russians in South Ossetia. Pay back is a bitch, and it's probably just beginning, Miniputin. The NEW MIDDLE CLASS DEFINED BY THE REPUBLICAN PARTY: Assets of $1,000,000 or more. Yeah, sure, Sarah Palin is just a hockey mom, a regular joe who can't speak English properly. Take THAT, all you wimpy exurbian soccer moms out there. From the Daily Grail: Just hide for 14 days after a nuclear explosion near you and you, too, will survive. The respected voices of the BBE say so. BBC releases pre-recorded blurbs to be used in the event of a nuclear war. The Enemy Within: 2,000 Years of Witch-Hunting in the Western World. A new book about the evil that lurks within all men to demonize those who are not like us. Speaking about the evil that lurks within, yeah I freely admit it and I don't care - I think John McCain stinks. Wants to tax me for the health insurance benefits that my employer partially pays for, does he? Wants to give me a lousy frigging $2,500 "credit" (which never goes into my pocket) to "buy" health insurance coverage in exchange for my employer dropping my health insurance coverage, does he? My plan costs about $8,000 a year (and believe me, it's not the top of the line plan), I pay $150 a month toward that coverage this year. Next year, it will be more, and my options will be fewer as my employer tries to force everyone, regardless of age and health status, to "health savings accounts." Tell me, Mr. McCain, where the hell am I supposed to come up with the other $5,500 to pay for my health insurance, heh? My wages aren't going to increase by that amount once my employer drops my coverage (my employer would be insane not to drop coverage once the government starts "paying" for it, after all). The man is insane, absolutely positively insane. He is a menance to the middle and working classes in this country, and he doesn't even KNOW it!
From the BarbadosAdvocate.com Rashida Corbin!! the new Chess Queen Web Posted - Fri Oct 03 2008 RASHIDA Corbin is the new Barbados ladies national chess champion. She was victorious in the recently concluded CGI/BOA National Chess Championship. Rashida scored an impressive six points out of a possible seven points. She won six games while lsoing one game. Rashida, back from a short lay off from competitive chess, demonstrated her superior theoretical knowledge and easily clinched the title. A former champion and national player since her junior days, Rashida should add a wealth of experience to the ladies squad in training for the World Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany. The defending champion, Corrine Howard, finished in second place on 5 1/2 points ahead on the tie break of Juanita Garnett also on 5 1/2 points. The tournament was keenly contested with Corrine Howard handing Rashida her only loss of the tournament. There was also a major upset in round two when the unheralded Cheri-Ann Parris inflicted a painful defeat on Comarie Mansour. Final standings: Rashida Corbin 6 (no FIDE rating) Corrine Howard 5.5 (no FIDE rating) Juanita Garnett 5.5 (no FIDE rating) Cheri-Ann Paris 4 Comarie Mansour 3 Katrina Blackman 3 Cherise Austin 1 The ladies squad will attend 2 training lectures as part of their preparation for the Olympiad. The first one will be conducted by International Master Kevin Denny tomorrow at 4 p.m. The following Saturday, October 11, at 4 p.m. Fide Master Dr. Philip Corbin will be the presenter. The venue for both seminars is Bridge House, Cavans Lane, The City. The sessions are open to the public at a cost of $10.
From the University of British Columbia website: UBC Reports Vol. 54 No. 10 Oct. 2, 2008 UBC Dig Uncovers Roman Mystery By Lorraine Chan UBC archaeologists have dug up a mystery worthy of Indiana Jones, one that includes a tomb, skeletons and burial rites with both Christian and pagan elements. This summer, Prof. Roger Wilson led excavations at Kaukana, an ancient Roman village located near Punta Secca, a small town in the south-eastern province of Ragusa in Sicily. Combing through the sand-buried site, the 15-member team made a series of startling discoveries. Central to the mystery was finding a tomb inside a room in a house dating from the sixth century AD. Wilson explains that tombs during this period are normally found only in cemeteries outside the built-up area of a town, or around the apse of a church. And since the building was substantial with mortared walls and internal plaster, this would have been likely a tomb for the wealthy. “It’s extremely unusual to find an elite burial set inside a house in the middle of a settlement, even as late as the sixth century,” says Wilson, who heads UBC’s Department of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies. The UBC initiative -- in collaboration with Prof. Giovanni Di Stefano of the Superintendency for the Cultural Heritage of Ragusa -- is the first major exploration of this historic site since 1972. Locals first stumbled upon the late Roman village during the 1960s when a bulldozer preparing for new houses uncovered the tops of some 24 ancient buildings. Only a few, among them a church, were explored at the time, by renowned Italian archaeologist Paola Pelagatti. Wilson directed students from UBC and Sicily in their painstaking work, focusing on what proved to be an “exceptionally well-preserved” structure on the south side of Kaukana, only yards from the beach. The walls uncovered stand nearly six feet high. Once the cover was lifted off the tomb, one team member spent 10 days sieving the contents with great care. Two skeletons were found. One was of a woman between the ages of 25 and 30, with teeth in excellent condition and no signs of arthritis. “She was in pretty good nick, so we know this wasn’t a peasant working in the field,” says Wilson. The other skeleton was a child of indeterminate sex between the ages of five and seven. The position of their bones showed that the woman had been laid to rest first. The tomb was then re-opened to bury the child and the woman’s spinal column was pushed to one side. A hole in the stone slab covering the tomb allowed visitors to pour libations for the dead. “This shows that the long-established, originally pagan, rite of offering libations to the dead clearly continued into early Byzantine times,” observes Wilson. Yet, the presence of a Christian cross on a lamp found in the room and on the underside of a grave slab suggests that the deceased were Christian. As well, the skeletons were wrapped in plaster, a practice believed to be Christian for preserving the body for resurrection. “It is the first plaster burial recorded in Sicily, although the practice is known from Christian communities in North Africa,” says Wilson. What also intrigued the archaeologists was learning that the tomb was opened one further time, an intrusion that disturbed the bones of the child and caused its skull to be placed upside down. Wilson says he wondered whether it was grave robbers in search of expensive jewelry or other loot. “But the tomb was tidied up again afterwards.” Around the tomb was plentiful evidence of periodic feasting in honour of the dead. The archaeologists found cooking pots, glass and several large clay containers (amphorae), of which one is virtually intact. These would have been used to carry oil and wine to the site. The team also found the remains of two hearths where meals had been prepared. As well, the room was designed with niches along one wall. Wilson says a knife, seafood, and fragments of stemmed goblets and other glass vessels were left on these shelves, “as though placed there after the last party.” UBC’s snapshot of late Roman and early Byzantine life has stirred considerable interest among the Italian media and historians worldwide. With support for three years of study from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Wilson says the team is eager to further unravel the skeins of history. When they return to Kaukana next summer, they will attempt to solve the riddles encountered this first year. “Along with questions of when the house was built and whether it was still occupied when the tomb was inserted, we want to find out why the woman and child were buried in the tomb at all.” Last reviewed 03-Oct-2008
**************************************How about - were the woman and child related? Will DNA tests be done to determine this? Was nothing else found in the tombs to aid in identifying what rituals (if any) may have occurred or what class the deceased may have belonged to? Wh
Confirmation of ancient trade is always good; however, the trade talked about in this article is rather late in the proceedings. Trade was going on at least 1400 years before, among Egypt, the city-states in Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley cities, as well as the population centers on the Persian Plateau. There is a wee bit of evidence suggesting trade with ancient China too, long before it became a unified "state" in 22o BCE and the silk road became regularly travelled. A cache of ancient Egyptian maces dating to circa 3400 BCE was discovered in northwestern China a few years back (I read about it in 2001); and a remnant of silk fabric which, at the time, could only have come from China, was recovered in an ancient Egyptian queen's tomb. Over time declines in contacts would arise due to natural disasters and war (such as when the Hyksos attacked and conquered part of Egypt in the 17th century BCE, the explosion of the volcano on Thera in circa 1550 BCE, etc.) that then had to be re-established and built-up once again. This cycle may have occurred several times in pre-history and in historical times, but no evidence remains today. Finds such as this Myceanean sword from Italy are therefore priceless in assisting historians in attempting to fill in so many of the large blanks in our collective past. Many chess historians espouse the theory that chess was a gradual synthesis of several different board games that were played among the merchants of many different cultures travelling along the silk road (and in the centers of trade along the way), and in this way was also spread from west to east (or vice versa :)) From howrah.org 03 October, 2008 03:02:49 A Mycenaean warrior who died in western Greece over 3,000 years ago was the proud owner of a rare gold-wired sword imported from the Italian peninsula, a senior archaeologist said on Thursday. "This is a very rare discovery, particularly because of the gold wire wrapped around the hilt," archaeologist Maria Gatsi told AFP. "To my knowledge, no such sword has ever been found in Greece," said Gatsi, head of the regional archaeological department of Aetoloakarnania prefecture. Tests in Austria have confirmed that the bronze used in the 12th century BCE, 94-centimetre (37-inch) sword came from the Italian peninsula, she said. The Mycenaean remains were discovered in July 2007 near the town of Amphilochia, some 300 kilometres (186 miles) west of Athens during construction work on a new motorway, Ionia Odos. Archeologists also discovered a second bronze sword with a bone handle, a bronze and iron dagger, a pair of greaves (armoured plates), an arrowhead, a spear point, a golden kylix or wine cup and a bronze boiler in the grave. The finds confirm the Mycenaeans were trading with other civilisations in the Mediterranean basin. The dagger is also considered a rare discovery because of the combination of metals used. Conquerors of the Minoan civilisation, the Mycenaeans flourished between the 17th century BCE and the 12th century BCE, occupying much of the Greek mainland and establishing colonies in Asia Minor and on Cyprus.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
From the Princetonian Beware the ninja squirrels By Anu Kahn Contributor Published: Thursday, October 2nd, 2008 I would love to ramble on about a million and one different Princeton perks and privileges: the food, the dorms, the people, the clubs, the culture and maybe even the classes. None of these topics, however, strikes me as particularly shocking. Honestly, only one thing about Princeton has really shocked me. The squirrels. I hail from lovely suburban Massachusetts and have stared down my fair share of furry, tree-dwelling, bushy-tailed rodents, but the Princetonian squirrels are a breed apart. They are not only plentiful but also disturbingly large and freakishly aggressive. During the second week of school, I was ambling down to Frist Campus Center, minding my own business, when I saw a squirrel scamper onto my stretch of sidewalk. Right behind the squirrel, walking toward me, was a well-dressed, middle-aged gentleman. Here was my dilemma: I could continue walking toward the squirrel and hope that it wouldn't attack me, or I could swerve into the elder gentleman's path, forcing him to walk on the street but putting a wide berth between the squirrel and me. I did what any polite Princeton student would do: I swerved in front of the unsuspecting passer-by, keeping one eye firmly fixed on the furry little beast to my left. The gentleman, observing the squirrel, chuckled. For some reason, he didn't seem surprised that I had risked pushing him into the street to avoid an apparently harmless woodland creature. This episode was only the beginning of my misgivings about Princeton squirrels. After that incident, I started seeing squirrels all over campus. I'd never noticed before, but they seem to have the run of the place. If I had a nickel for every time I've seen one of those fleet-footed devils leap out of a tree, I'd have an awful lot of nickels. Neither tree, nor bush, nor grassy knoll is safe from squirrelly invasion. Moreover, not they have pure strength in addition to their strength in numbers. By some freak of New Jersey nature, the Princetonian squirrels have reached roughly the size and weight of small puppies. (Note to Paris Hilton: perfect accessory for next season's Coach tote?) Far more terrifying than the sheer volume of squirrels and far more disturbing than their Schwarzenegger-esque size are the apparent ninjas of the campus squirrel community: the black squirrels. If you've seen one, you know the terror they can inspire with just a flick of their beady black eyes or a mere twitch of their ebony flanks. Last week, I was walking past Alexander Beach when I saw a runty squirrel scratching around for some nuts. Like the dastardly villain from a Charlie Chaplin film, a black squirrel darted out from behind a tree, ran down the runty squirrel, stole his stash of nuts and fled the scene. I watched the whole process, utterly aghast. The most important thing I've learned in my first few weeks at Princeton is simple: Beware the ninja squirrels. Now you've been warned as well.
**********************************My squirrels come when I whistle for them...
Hmmmm, interesting. I wonder if this is a Miniputin move that may come back to bite him in the butt (along with the ill-advised invasion of Georgia). How do they KNOW relatives of the Romanovs won't file suit for reparations against the war crimes committed by the Bolsheviks, the benefits of which have flowed to the neo-USSRists? Stay tuned... (Photo: The Czar and his family, 1914). From The New York Times Court Rehabilitates Status of a Czar and His Family By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ Published: October 1, 2008 MOSCOW — Russia’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of full rehabilitation for Russia’s last czar and his family on Wednesday, officially recognizing the Romanovs as victims of “unfounded repression” 90 years after they were executed. The ruling is the latest step in Russia’s post-Soviet reinterpretation of history, which has seen a new embrace of a monarchy once castigated for brutality and backwardness, accompanied by both nostalgia for and damning reconsiderations of seven decades of Soviet rule. Soviet historians constructed accounts that emphasized blaming Nicholas II, or “Bloody Nicholas,” for famines, wars and social collapse. But as Russian nationalism has strengthened after the fall of the Soviet Union, Nicholas has increasingly been depicted as a thwarted visionary and a beacon of the Russian Orthodox faith. The church, which sanctified the Romanovs in 2000 and was itself persecuted in the Soviet era, welcomed the court’s decision. “It is an important step to remove from our history the heavy burden of this crime against the czar’s family,” said the Rev. Vsevolod Chaplin, a church spokesman. “In one way or another the perceptions of society toward Nicholas II and his family are changing,” Father Chaplin said. “More and more people are becoming free of the sharp clichés that were imposed in the recent past.” In its decision on Wednesday, the court reversed a ruling of last November, when it decided that the Romanovs were not eligible for rehabilitation because their execution was a criminal act, not one of political repression. The new ruling “recognizes their unfounded repression and rehabilitates the members of the royal family,” said Pavel Odintsov, a spokesman for the court. “This is a final decision,” he added. In July 1918, under Lenin’s orders, the czar, his wife, Aleksandra, and their children, Olga, Tatyana, Maria, Anastasia and the 13-year-old heir to the throne, Aleksei, were shot to death in the basement of a house in Yekaterinburg, a city in the Ural Mountains in central Russia. Several members of the family’s staff were also killed. The killings by the Bolshevik government were meant to solidify its hold on power in the midst of an intensifying civil war. The Romanovs’ bodies were likely doused in acid to mask their identities before being buried in secret graves. The remains of Nicholas and Aleksandra and three of the five children were discovered in 1991 in the waning days of the Soviet Union, and interred in 1998 in St. Petersburg, in a special chamber in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, where many other Russian royals are buried. The remains of the two other children were missing until August 2007, when an archaeologist in Yekaterinburg unearthed bone fragments not far from where the other Romanovs had been buried. The authorities announced this year that DNA testing had confirmed that the remains belonged to Aleksei and Maria. Other members of the royal family had been posthumously rehabilitated. In 1999, four Romanov princes killed by the Bolsheviks, including the son of Aleksandr II — the Russian czar blown up by revolutionaries in 1881 — were found innocent of criminal wrongdoing. In July, thousands of Russians took part in events to mark the 90th anniversary of the family’s execution, and calls for the restoration of the monarchy can be heard despite today’s Kremlin-managed political landscape. The ruling Wednesday seemed to echo that nostalgia. “This decision shows the supremacy of law and the victory of justice over evil and tyranny,” said German Lukyanov, the lawyer for Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, a Romanov descendant who first filed a suit for the rehabilitation three years ago. Mr. Lukyanov said that in the coming months he would file suits on behalf of other Romanovs who had yet to be rehabilitated, including the czar’s brother, Mikhail, and several other members of the dynasty. It is still unclear why the Russian government took so long to rehabilitate the czar. Some have suggested Russia’s current leaders feared that Romanov descendants would seek to reclaim property confiscated by the Bolsheviks, while others have speculated that recent leadership changes in the country could have played a role. Yet, past decisions — including the earlier rehabilitation of those responsible for organizing the family’s execution — are less important than what comes next, said Edvard Radzinsky, a Russian historian and the author of “The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II.” “We have two graves that symbolize the revolution: the dirty hole into which the Romanovs were thrown, and the mausoleum of the one who ordered this,” Mr. Radzinsky said, referring to the red pyramid on Red Square that houses Lenin’s preserved body. “The closing of the first grave,” he said, “should lead to the closing of the second.”
***********************************If you believe in a grand overarching conspiracy theory, then settle in for a long haul yet. The "royals" - descendants of the kings and queens of old, can afford to play a game of wait and see/cat and mouse. Russian politicians will come and go, and so will political systems, but the royals remain forever...
Significant finds may re-write the history of the Anatolian Peninsula. This, at least to me, fills in a missing puzzle piece. We KNOW that Catal Hoyuk dates back at least as far. It makes sense that a settlement of equal age would be located close to or on the Mediterranean (as it then stood). Archaeological find puts back settlement of Istanbul 6,000 years 16:23 02/ 10/ 2008 ANKARA, October 2 (RIA Novosti) - Turkish archaeologists have found artifacts showing that Istanbul, earlier believed to be founded 2,700 years ago by the Greeks as Byzantium, is 8,500 years old, local media said. The Al-Watan newspaper said the excavations in Istanbul, which have gone on for four years, have uncovered four skeletons, as well as wooden and ceramic pieces, shedding new light on the history of the Turkish city. The discovery was made two months ago at a depth of six meters below sea level at the site of an ancient settlement. Ismail Karamut, who directs Istanbul's Archaeological Museum, said the finding would force historians to rewrite the country's history. Istanbul, Turkey's largest city with a population of around 12 million, was the country's capital until 1923, when the government moved to Ankara. The city, historically known as Constantinople, was given its modern Turkish name in 1930.