Saturday, December 13, 2008

Blast from the Past: Joobji Female Burials

May, 2007 discovery back in the news: From Press TV Iran's Joobji relics, rare artifacts Fri, 12 Dec 2008 14:01:08 GMT Iranian archeologists say relics found at the country's Joobji archeological site are among the rarest of their kind in the world. “Several coffins, bronze crockery, braziers and golden buttons were found at the site which are considered exceptional in kind,” Joobji archeology team director, Arman Shishehgar announced at Iran's 10th International Archaeology Conference. The relics were found in an Elamite tomb, which was discovered during construction work in 2007. The tomb was mostly ruined and its stone structure was buried in a mound, 230 meters above sea level. According to Shishehgar, two bronze coffins were found in the tomb, with the skeletal remains of two women that were buried facing north. Archeologists also found rings, bracelets, armlets and brooches in the coffins, which are similar in make to Achaemenid era jewelry. Excavations also yielded a white faience seal, bearing a human image which resembles the seals found in western Iran and Susa. Joobji archeological site is located in the ancient city of Ramhormoz in Iran's southwestern Khuzestan Province. Iran's 10th International Archaeology Conference is being held in the country's southern city of Bandar Abbas in Hormozgan Province. TE/HGH
An earlier story from May, 2008:Ramhormoz graves may be Elamite royal burials: experts Tehran Times Culture Desk TEHRAN -- A team of archaeologists studying two graves discovered in the city of Ramhormoz in southern Iran said that they bear their remains of a girl and a woman who were most likely members of an Elamite royal family. The team led by Arman Shishegar was assigned to carry out a series of rescue excavations in the Jubji region of the city in Khuzestan Province in May 2007 after the Khuzestan Water and Waste Water Company stumbled on two U-shaped coffins containing skeletons of a girl and a woman along with a great number of artifacts during a grading operation. The girl was about 17 years old and the woman was between 30 and 35 years old at the time of death, Shishegar told the Persian service of CHN on Tuesday. The girl was discovered wearing a golden bracelet embellished with pieces of agate on her wrist. The bracelet bears the female name Ani-Numa. During the rescue excavations, the archaeologists found five rings of power among the coffins’ artifacts, which were usually used by royals in Mesopotamia. [Note: The Islamists in control of the Iranian government would NOT have been thrilled by this evidence of pre-Islamic "cultural contamination"]. One of the rings, which bears the name of King Shutruk-Nahhunte of Elam (c. 1185–c. 1155 BC) in a cuneiform inscription was previously surmised to belong to the king, but Farzan Foruzanfar, an anthropologist of the Cultural Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO), rejected the theory during his latest studies, Shishegar said. Due to the large quantity of valuable artifacts found in the coffins, the archaeologists believe that the girl and the woman had most likely been Shutruk-Nahhunte’s relatives or family members, he added. Another of the five rings, which bears a cuneiform inscription, was handed over to two ancient languages experts but their studies led to different results. One of them deciphered the inscription as a female name but the other said it was the name of a local official. According to Shishegar, the divergence of opinions is a result of the deformed shape of the ring. Since the grading operation was continued even after the extraordinary discovery, the graves’ site has been almost completely bulldozed. [Islamists hard at work destroying evidence of prior Iranian culture and civilization]. A golden armlet with floral motifs, two golden bracelets bearing deer-head patterns at each end, some ornamental stones with floral decorations, 155 golden buttons of various sizes, several statuettes of goddesses, a golden necklace, golden plaques with floral motifs, 99 golden necklace beads, 23 golden necklace pendants of various sizes, three marble stone dishes, earthenware and bronze dishes, several bronze bracelets, a fish-shaped goddess ornament, and a number of other artifacts have been discovered at the site. All the relics were transferred to Tehran to be stored at the National Museum of Iran. Shishegar said the items are currently in danger, but the report did not provide any explanation of his statement. [Duh! Of course they're in danger - of being sold on the illegal antiquities market and being substituted with inferior copies.] Photo: One of the five rings of power discovered in the Jubji region of Ramhormoz, Khuzestan Province - WRONG! This is NOT a finger ring, given the obvious size of the depicted object, it is an arm bracelet.

1st Nanjing Super Tournament

Hola! I've got the driveway shoveled out (at last) - just in time for the sleet/rain. Geez! It took a good hour and it wasn't easy work, but with each shovelful I'm getting stronger and slimmer :) Isis called this morning from Las Vegas - it was 60 degrees F there and she was going outdoors to do some gardening. Geez! dondelion and I will be seeing Isis and Michelle over Christmas - can't wait for some relative warmth! Yesterday it was in the single digits temperature wise here and seven or eight below zero (windchill), but exactly as the weather man forecast, a warm front blew in from the southwest and it was a balmy 25 degrees F or so when I went out at 7 AM to fetch the newspaper. The ice was melting on the driveway! The only drawback is the precipitation, which started when I was about half-way finished with the remainder of the icy snow on the driveway, and strong non-stop winds out of the southwest. Whew! Gusts are up to 40 mph and at times were strong enough to blow icy snow right back in my face, ACH! The very first Nanjing Super Tournament is taking place in China and it's boring, darlings, boring. No young, new, exciting players (unless you count Bu, but he's already at the elite player level), the same old, same old. Snore. All chess dudes, too. The prizes are rich, but that's about all that can be said for this event. Except - Well, take a look at this photo. Does this not seem just a bit - hinky - to you? It does to me. Just what, exactly, are the little girls supposed to represent, heh??? VERY weird, having those big hairy chessplaying guys holding the hands of the little girls with painted faces. Rather like miniature courtesans - oh goddess, what a perverse idea. But that's what I thought when I saw this photo. Guess I have a sick mind - or maybe not so sick, having read some about what goes on in the world when it comes to the objectification and sexual exploitation of children. Now I'm not saying that was the implication in this display - but - what, exactly, was the point? And the grown-up lady in the background in the long red gown - what is she? A chaperon? Or a madam? Okay - guess I've watched Moulin Rouge one too many times. Or maye not enough...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Night Miscellany - One Day Late

Hola darlings!

Unbelievable news stories out this past week - I couldn't make up some of this stuff if I tried. Yeah, I know I keep saying that, but it's true!

Asshole in Charge of Zimbabwe Denies Cholera Epidemic - even as more and more graves are being dug. The hapless and helpless UN says the whole country could be consumed with the epidemic while Mugabe denies there is a problem. What's the old saying - a picture is worth a thousand words... I would not be surprised if an entire generation of Zimbabweans are wiped out by the epidemic. It's always the children and women who suffer the most - sonsofbitch men who run the world could care less, of course. Well - they will care - A WHOLE LOT - when there aren't any women left to rape, er, marry and breed more chattel (children) to work the fields and use for cannon fodder in endless wars. Get this, the Zimbabwean government is now claiming that the cholera epidemic is a plot by the British Government! I do not understand, no, I will never understand, why someone with a rifle has not taken out Mugabe to end that particular problem in Zimbabwe. President-Elect Obama, please appoint Tom Clancy as head of the CIA.

Respected Wall Street Investment Manager/Market-Maker Defrauded Investors of Billions: Does it feel any different for someone who thought he/she was a billionaire to suddenly realize they don't have any money left than it does for the average wage-earner in this country ($45,000 a year), struggling to make ends meet, having their 401(k) wiped out in a few days by the October stock market crash and the value of their home decrease by 40% (or more) over two years? Somehow, I just can't rummage up much sympathy for the billionaires who may no longer be so because they entrusted their money to a lying fraud.

This dude may have defrauded investors of up to $50 billion. Ironic, isn't it, that the Republicans in the House blocked legislation to lend $14 billion to the Big Three automakers because the United Auto Workers Union representing the average Joe workers refused to accept some ridiculous concessions the Republicans wanted to impose on money that is a LOAN to the auto makers (what about some concessions and give-backs from the millionaire fat cats who managed the companies all the way into the ground???), and this Wall Street dude lost $50 billion through lying and cheating his clients! The Republicans are up in arms about the hairy Democrat Governor from Illinois with the unpronounceable name who is being charged with attempting to "sell" President-Elect Obama's now vacant Senate seat for personal gain, but the Wall Street dude who ripped people off for $50 billion doesn't merit a mention by any of the Republican Congressmen or Senators. Hmmmm.... Where is Elliott Spitzer when you need him? Oh - the fat cats sure got rid of him, didn't they... No New York attorney general sniffing around the Wall Street boobies now. I expect Bernard Madoff will plead diminished capacity by reason of Alzheimers, or some such, and he'll never spend a second in prison.

My heart bleeds (not) for the fat cats who got ripped off by one of their own. The Wall Street Journal coverage today said Madoff was turned in by his own sons. Wonder what the motive was behind THAT move? Greed? Trying to save what's left of the family company for themselves and their posterity? Did they actually have - consciences? Geez, what a concept - uber-rich SOBs having a conscience! Madoff put us his Manhattan penthouse as security for his $10,000,000 bail. Yeah, it just breaks me up. Cough, cough. The last thing he wanted to do before he got arrested was dole out some of the last $200 to $300 million left in bonuses for his loyal employees, friends and family. My heart just bleeds.

Some of the Wall Street Regulars figured Madoff was cheating - and they (all unnamed, of course) specifically invested with Madoff BECAUSE they figured he was cheating -- they thought he was trading on "insider" information. They just didn't figure that he was cheating with a classic Ponzie scheme. I mean - how outre, darlings! A Ponzie scheme! Har!

Health Care in Canada - here's hoping whatever plan the Obama Administration comes up with isn't like what they have in Canada - euuuuuwwwwww! Within months of each other, horrendous stories about people who arrived for emergency treatment ending up dying in the waiting rooms:

  • September 23, 2008: The 45-year-old arrived by taxi at the Health Sciences Centre around 3 p.m. Friday from the Health Action Centre, a community health centre in central Winnipeg, where he had an earlier appointment, officials said. He was found dead after midnight Sunday.
  • December 12, 2008 inquest into death that occurred on January 11, 2008: Man arrives at emergency clinic blue in the face, with difficulty breathing and in obvious distress, told to sit down. He died sometime while seated, and someone in the waiting room dialed 911 in an attempt to learn how to do CPR on the man. Unbelievable explanation as to why no one on the medical staff acted to remove the now deceased patient from the waiting room - the doctor who took (and evidently found n0) pulse thought it would be treated by the police as the scene of a crime. Evidently dying for lack of care in an emergency clinic in Montreal is now a crime. Oh those Frenchies, what will they think of next???

Albinos in Tanzania are being targeted for blood and body parts in aid of black magic. What century are we living in???
Time to dance around the room for 30 minutes to songs such as Love Shack (B-52s) and get my aerobic work-out in. 'night.

2,000 Year Old Woman Found in Chosun!

Wow - what do those people eat? Drink? Smoke? Oops - headline neglects to indicate that the 2,000 year old woman is DEAD and is a SKELETON. LOL! 2,000-Year-Old Woman Found in Incheon (Korea) December 11, 2008 A well-preserved adult female skeleton dating back 2,000 years ago has been unearthed in Yeongjong Island, Incheon. The Korea Institute for Archeology and Environment, an agency specializing in unearthing and studying buried cultural properties, on Wednesday said it unearthed the skeleton lying supine with its head facing northwest in a burial mound at the bottom layer of a shell mound relic site in Unnam-dong, Jung-gu in District 2 of Yeongjong Haneul Town in the Incheon Free Economic Zone. "In light of the size of the femur, we presume that the skeleton once belonged to a 153.6 cm-tall adult female,” the institute said. “She is presumed to have given birth to two to three babies. A long egg-shaped maroon earthen jar which was discovered near the skeleton contained apparent fragments of an infant's skull and lower jawbone.” It said the finds will provide a lot of information for archeological research about people in an era about which little is known. Pieces of earthenware dating to the early days of the Three Kingdoms Period from centuries before Christ's birth to the third and fourth centuries were also excavated from this shell mound. Also found there were coins made in the Chinese Han Dynasty [circa 220 BCE - 220 CE].

Ancient Chariot Burial in China

(Photo from article below - shows parts of a chariot and the remains of two horses) I'm always interested in news of chariot burials. The 'ruhkh' piece (in middle Persian) was a chariot; the 'shah ruhkh' was the King's Champion, originally the most powerful piece on the chessboard. The King's Champion is the stuff of legend in ancient Persian tales of valor and battle. Today, the name of the 'ruhkh' lives on in western chess as the "rook" - although the piece was converted to a tower or "castle" in western terminology; and in northern India and Pakistan many men are named after the 'shah ruhkh' including famous Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan. As far as I am aware, popular theory today says that the ancient Chinese independently came up with the invention of the wheel, the spoked wheel and the war chariot. (Not sure of the dating on this.) From my own reading and research I know that the eight-spoked wheel war chariot was first invented in what is now modern Armenia around 1800 BCE and spread quickly across the lands. (It was the expertise of the Hyksos with war chariots and horse teams that led to the defeat of part of the Egyptian empire and the rule of Egyptianized Hyksos kings for about 200 years, starting around 1650 BCE). It is usually war chariots and the specially bred and trained horses who pulled those war chariots that are buried with the bodies of elite warriors, priestesses, kings and queens, that have been excavated, no matter in what region of the world. The size of this discovery is simply - staggering! Article from Tomb fit for Chu king, archaeologists agree Chinese archaeologists have reached a consensus that the master of a tomb dating back 2,400 years, was a king of the State of Chu in the Warring States Period (475 to 221 BC). "The tomb is the largest and best preserved found to date from the State of Chu in the Warring States Period," Liu Binhui, an expert in Chu culture with the Hunan provincial museum, who had carried out research in Jingzhou for more than 20 years before transferring to Hunan, said. The tomb has a 131-m-long horse and chariot chamber, the longest ever found from the period, the Wuhan Evening News reported yesterday. Excavation of the chamber is about half complete, with 43 chariots and more than 100 horses unearthed, Liu said. "Three chariots were equipped with six horses," he said. "That reflects the rank of the tomb's owner. Only kings were allowed to drive chariots with six horses during the Warring States Period." The consensus came at an archaeological forum dedicated to the discussion of the tomb's occupant on Wednesday after more than two years of excavation from the tomb compound, which is located in Jingzhou, Hubei province. "All of the evidence leads to the conclusion that the tomb belongs to a king of the State of Chu," Liu said. Meanwhile, archaeologists have also found 92 graves that might have been for people buried with the dead, a custom of the State of Chu, he said. Since its discovery in 1979, archaeologists have identified the main mound, about 100 ancillary tomb tumuli, more than 30 horse and chariot pits arranged in a row and a surrounding ditch. Formal excavation started in August 2006, he said. Ever since its discovery, archaeologists have shown great interested in the occupant of the tomb, which covers an area of 60,000 sq m. More than 1,300 jade items were put on display in Jingzhou in September last year, the largest exhibition of jade articles in China. Xu Wenwu, a professor with the Changjiang University, made an even bolder assumption. "The great probability is that the tomb is of King Zhao of Chu, named Xiong Zhen, who was the last king of the state," he said. In all, 11 kings ruled Chu.

2008 Chess Olympiad: Armenian Women's Team

Article from 17:11 12/12/2008 WOMEN CHESS TEAM SATISFIED BY THEIR RESULTS Women chess team of Armenia gained the sixth horizontal in World Chess Olympiad in Dresden. The representatives of the team say they have had a successful participation but the most important victory has been the game with Azeri team who has been defeated by 4-0 points. “I am content of the results. It has been the most successful result we have ever gained. If we were luckier then we could have even better results,” says Arsen Eghiazaryan, the trainer of the team in a press conference. The champion of Armenia Lilit Galoyan gained 6.5 points from 10 possible ones, the second was champion of Europe Nelli Aghinyan – 5.5 points from 9 ones, and the third was Lilit Mkrtchyan – 8 points from 11 ones. The Armenian Women's Team: IM Elina Danielian. She will be joined by IM Lilit Mkrtchian, WGM Nelly Aginian, WIM Siranush Andriasian, and L. Galoian.

I Love Christmas!

This is a photo of my grand-niece, Taylor, and grand-nephew, Austin, the children 0f my youngest niece, Kristen. No tears this year on Santa's lap! They are grandchildren of my youngest sister. They're so cute - carrying on the tradition of those gorgeous Newton genes :) My Christmas tree is looking good - I've been tweaking the decorations here and there. One of my favorite places to shop, Boston Store (currently owned by Bon Ton), has been featuring discount coupons in the newspaper every few days, and I've been getting some very good bargains as a result, because the coupons are on top of discounts already in place. Yesterday I scored a very nice Nine West tote bag that retailed for $55 for $33 and change after various discounts. I've my eye on a few more glitzy Christmas ornaments too - now being discounted at 40% plus 10% coupon discount. I may shop tomorrow after I leave the office - yep, it's that time of year, tax accounting, CLE reports due on 12/31 and the uber-rich getting GRAT trusts in place and funded prior to the end of the year; now is an ideal time to fund such trusts, because of depressed asset values, lowering the gift taxes due if the transfers exceed $12,000 per donee per year. A heat wave is due through just before sunrise tomorrow. By Sunday it's supposed to get all the way into the mid-40's - but with rain. That's a big BUT, because the temperature will drop Sunday night. You know what that means. ICE. LOTS AND LOTS OF ICE. I'm already planning what I'm going to do with my day off on Monday, cuz I won't risk life and limb trying to walk the 3/4 miles to the bus stop on ice! It's bad enough out there as it is! Although it's been below zero with windchills the past couple of days, it has been sunny, enough to melt snow and ice on the sidewalks which promptly freezes again after sundown at 4:17 p.m. Try walking on that! Oh Goddess! Anyway, that great big Moon is out there tonight - it's so bright I swear my neighbors have left on their patio lights, but it's the Moon! Far too cold, though, to attempt to snap pics outside. I've already got tender spots, chafing and peeling skin on my face from the cold weather, and no amount of super moisturizers can cure it. Arggghhhh!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Article from UBPost Recently Uncovered Skeleton Offers Clues on Chinggis Khaan Era Written by William Kennedy Thursday, December 11, 2008. AN ANCIENT female skeleton discovered along the Tuul River, some 55 kilometers outside Ulaanbaatar, may be more remarkable for when she lived rather than who she was. After examining earrings and rings discovered amongst the remains, Kh. Lkhagvasuren, an archaeologist who heads the Mongolian Historical and Cultural Heritage Center, said this week that the woman was likely a contemporary of Chinggis Khaan. The discovery is an important one for the discipline and for Mongolia as physical evidence from that period remains rare. “Few people have found anything from the 13th century,” Lkhagvasuren said, “especially that close to the Tuul river.” While an examination of the skeleton—specifically the skull and waist—revealed that it belonged to a teenage female, not much else is known about the young woman’s life. The body was buried in a wooden coffin—thought in some circles to be a common Mongol practice at the time—and the trinkets found with it suggest the woman was neither wealthy nor powerful in life. While it would be too much to assume the woman had direct contact with Chinggis Khaan himself, it might not be a stretch to imagine that she knew his one-time patron and later rival Ong Khan. Ong Khan, known as Wang Khan in Chinese History, made his fall camp in the area where Lkhagvasuren and his students—the archaeologist is also President of Chinggis Khaan University—discovered the young woman’s skeleton on a crisp October day. Those conditions and a picturesque setting offered some clues about why Ong Khaan chose the site, known as Khonkhor, where surrounding hills afford protection from the wind—though permitting enough breeze to keep the bugs at bay—and the Tuul peacefully intersects a plain on which animals still graze today. This idyllic landscape may also explain why the site’s importance begins well before the 13th century. In fact, many groups historically residing in present day Mongolia decided to set up camp in the exact same spot. Not far from the young woman’s body, for example, Lkhagvasuren and his students uncovered the remains of a Hu Nu man, possibly a chief, buried 12 feet deep in hard earth. Objects dating to the early Bronze Age have also been discovered at the site, making it of particular interest to the Historical and Cultural Heritage Center. With its wealth of artifacts, Khonkhor has also attracted the interest of the US State Department, which runs a program supporting archaeological research around the world. “The US government feels it’s important to promote preserving historical and cultural sites around the world,” said Marissa Maurer, the Public Affairs Officer for the US Embassy in Mongolia. This dig, she said, was deemed important enough to receive a US$29,800 grant. Inspecting the project’s recent discoveries at Chinggis Khaan University last week, US Ambassador Mark Minton offered his congratulations and support to the project team. “It’s very interesting work,” he said. “We’re very happy we can support it and now that we see the results, we’re very glad we did.”Of course, the money has been a boon to the Historical and Cultural Heritage Center, used to bring high-tech equipment, including computers powered by propane, to the site. Compared to previous expeditions where all discoveries had to be trucked back into Ulaanbaatar for analysis, Lkhagvasuren said this project is “easy.” Computers alone, however, will not reveal Mongolia’s human record, but then, Lkhagvasuren has plenty of experience. “I’m not a very famous or good archaeologist, but I’ve been working at it since I was 12 years old,” he said. “I have a lot of practice.” Lkhagvasuren and his team hope to use all tools at their as they continue the project into next year. With any luck, they may piece together more Mongolia history, especially, Lkhagvasuren hopes, the 13th century.

I'll Be Looking At The Moon...A BIG ONE TOMORROW

Biggest Full Moon of the Year tomorrow, December 12, 2008. The Moon Goddess will be putting on her Holiday Clothes and wowing all of us mere mortals with Her most spectacular display of the year. We're supposed to have clear skies here, so I'll be looking at the Moon... From Published: 13:50 EST, December 10, 2008 Biggest Full Moon of the Year It's no illusion. Some full Moons are genuinely larger than others and this Friday's is a whopper. Why? The Moon's orbit is an ellipse with one side 50,000 km closer to Earth than the other: see diagram (not copied here). In the language of astronomy, the two extremes are called "apogee" (far away) and "perigee" (nearby). On Dec. 12th, the Moon becomes full a scant 4 hours after reaching perigee, making it 14% bigger and 30% brighter than lesser full Moons we've seen earlier in 2008. A perigee Moon brings with it extra-high "perigean tides," but this is nothing to worry about, according to NOAA. In most places, lunar gravity at perigee pulls tide waters only a few centimeters (an inch or so) higher than usual. Local geography can amplify the effect to about 15 centimeters (six inches)--not exactly a great flood. Okay, the Moon is 14% bigger, but can you actually tell the difference? It's tricky. There are no rulers floating in the sky to measure lunar diameters. Hanging high overhead with no reference points to provide a sense of scale, one full Moon looks much like any other. The best time to look is when the Moon is near the horizon. That is when illusion mixes with reality to produce a truly stunning view. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging Moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. On Friday, why not let the "Moon illusion" amplify a full Moon that's extra-big to begin with? The swollen orb rising in the east at sunset may seem so nearby, you can almost reach out and touch it. But you still won't be able to see Armstrong's footprint. Not even Hubble can do that. The Moon is 384,400 km away (on average). At that distance, the smallest things Hubble can distinguish are about 60 meters wide. The biggest pieces of left-behind Apollo equipment are only about 9 meters across and smaller than a single pixel in a Hubble image. What you will see is the world around you. This is both the brightest and (in the northern hemisphere) the highest-riding full Moon of the year. If you go outside around midnight it will be close to overhead and act like a cosmic floodlamp making the landscape absolutely brilliant, especially if there's snow. Full moons are always high during winter and, indeed, the solstice is right around the corner on Dec. 21st. Source: Science@NASA, by Dr. Tony Phillips
Article from Mmegi Online December 11, 2008 Keinyatse's fools mate MONKAGEDI GAOTLHOBOGWE Staff Writer If it was a tournament, Boitumelo Keinyatse would have suffered several fool's checkmates after the chain of blunders he has made as Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) president. Last week, he suffered ultimate humiliation when he was suspended by his own committee because he was implicated in the theft of a motor vehicle spare wheel at Yarona Country Lodge (YCL), one of the sponsors of BCF tournaments. The secondary school teacher is said to have colluded with a YCL worker to get the spare wheel in August. The worker has since been fired after the matter was reported to the police.The incident saw YCL terminate a sponsorship with BCF. It is not just the stolen spare wheel at the lodge that is keeping Keinyatse's head spinning. BCF officials have told Mmegi Sport that with two weeks left before submission of audited books to the Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC), the BCF's accounts remain in disarray. "I am willing to be quoted on this one. The BNSC is very strict on this issue. They do not allocate funds to a sports code with no audited books. My fear is once the BNSC is forced to take that route, it is usually for a period of five years, and chess will suffer because of this," said BCF official Alex Mpuisang. Since Keinyatse and his committee took over, the BCF has failed to organise annual coaching workshops that are usually conducted during school holidays. The tradition has been to host such events twice a year. The African Junior Championships in Gauteng, South Africa takes place on December 28 but the Botswana team has not been announced. Besides, questions abound about BCF funds given to BCF secretary Kefilwe Miti to pay a coach that was supposed to train the Botswana Olympiad team. Miti who took the money to Germany maintains that a certain Peter Long was hired to coach the team. He told Mmegi Sport last week that they engaged the expert hence the improvement of the Botswana teams. However, last Friday, top player Phemelo Khetho told Mmegi Sport that they had no coach in Germany. Another top player who represented Botswana at the Olympiad said on condition of anonymity that Long arrived two days after the event started. "He was presented to us as our coach. But we did not think that was the right time to have a new coach, considering that we were in the middle of the tournament. He did not coach us (men). I understand among the women, only Gorata Sebetso was willing to work with Long," the player said. The chess community is also unhappy that after the team did so well at the Olympiad, Keinyatse's committee failed to receive them with pomp and glory. There was no press release from the chess office recognising the country's outstanding performance at the Olympiad.

Chess Set Exhibition: Detroit Institute of Arts

Exhibition Master Pieces: Chess Sets from the Dr. George and Vivian Dean Collection December 26, 2008 - May 17, 2009 (Photo: butterfly piece from exhibition) This exhibition includes more than two dozen sets from the world-renowned collection of Dr. George and Vivian Dean. Ranging from the 16th to the 20th centuries, these chess sets represent exquisite examples from Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. Featuring a wide range of materials and designs, the pieces and boards demonstrate how differently artists throughout history and across the globe have interpreted the game of chess. The artists’ superb craftsmanship and creativity are explored, with sections featuring ivory and porcelain examples, including sets by Sèvres and Meissen. Some sets include tiny insects, sea creatures, and a variety of precious bejeweled objects. Several themes are explored in the exhibition, including the ideological oppositions that the game of chess has been used to evoke, such as Good vs. Evil or Communism vs. Capitalism; the fascinating stories of set ownership, such as one commissioned from Fabergé and another once owned by Catherine the Great; and the variety of artistic styles, including abstract and modern. Some of the modern artists featured are Man Ray and Salvador Dalí. This exhibition has been generously supported by Dr. George and Vivian Dean. Additional support has been provided by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the City of Detroit.

Tania Sachdev Interview

From The Times of India Online We can win a medal at Olympiad: Tania Sachdev 12 Dec 2008, 0107 hrs IST, Sudeshna Chakraborty,TNN (Photo: Tania Sachdev, Round 8, Dresden Olympiad)In the recently concluded Chess Olympiad in Dresden (Germany), where the Indian women team finished 15th, Delhi-based Grandmaster Tania Sachdev scored a creditable 6.5 points from 11 games. After the Olympiad, she participated in an open tournament in Croatia and finished second where she lost in the tie-breaker. Tania spoke to TOI about her Olympiad experience and much more. Excerpts from the interview: How would you sum up your Olympiad performance and the tournament in Croatia? Olympiad has always been a dream for me. This year when I got selected in the national team, I knew that I had the opportunity to prove myself. I had huge expectations and the experience was enlightening. Olympiad is about so many things - the stiff competition, the chance to play with the bigwigs, the heartbreaks. The Croatia tournament was an Open GMs meet. Since I was in Europe, I thought I might as well play there too. The tournament has fetched me six Elo rating points, so I’m happy. Tell us about your experience in playing on the top boards? The competition is very intense when you play on the top boards. Besides the intensity of the games, one feels much more patriotic and much more accountable when pitted against the best. After the sixth round, I was exhausted having to play consistently on top boards. But that’s where your game gets better... one emerges enlightened after a satisfying game against a stalwart. Are you happy with India’s performance? Have we narrowed the gap with the top teams? Definitely the level of play has accelerated in India. We played consistently both in the men’s and women’s sections. India stands a very good chance of winning a medal in the next Olympiad. We are very close to it. Since you are from Delhi how much your exploits will help chess grow in the Capital? During my initial years, there were hardly any chess tournaments or coaching centres. Slowly the scenario has changed. There are many players now and I expect many more to pick the game as more tournaments are being held today than before. You often say that you require sponsors. Have you got any help from the Delhi Chess Association (DCA)? Sponsorship in sports is a big problem except cricket. But DCA has always helped me in arranging sponsors. What do you think should be done to make the sport bigger? The biggest problem with chess is that it is not a TV-centric sport. One cannot enjoy watching it. But there is so much talent in India that it surely deserves corporate sponsorship and media attention. Where do see yourself in another three years? As a World Cup winner.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Philippines "Goddess on Stage" Didith Reyes Dies

A sad story. SULTRY SINGER Didith Reyes found dead in shanty; 60 By Pocholo Concepcion, Maricar Cinco Philippine Daily Inquirer, Southern Luzon Bureau First Posted 01:52:00 12/11/2008 MANILA, Philippines—In her prime, Didith Reyes was “a goddess on stage,” says the composer of her signature song, “Bakit Ako Mahihiya.” And so it came as a shock to Reyes’ friends and fans when the sultry siren, best known for a string of love ballads and sensual performances in the 1970s and ’80s (including a wardrobe malfunction that well predated Janet Jackson’s), was found dead practically a pauper at a friend’s ramshackle home in Biñan, Laguna, Wednesday morning. The original Jukebox Queen, whose hits have remained videoke staple to this day, was 60. Without a Didith Reyes starting a trend, the likes of Claire de la Fuente, Imelda Papin and Eva Eugenio might not have risen to pop stardom. Reyes, Helen Sta. Maria in real life, apparently died of a heart attack, De la Fuente told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of “Her pancreas ruptured, parang binangungot,” said De la Fuente, who had been asked by Vic del Rosario, former head of Reyes’ now defunct record label, Vicor Records, to take charge of Reyes’ wake and funeral. Senior Supt. Manolito Labador, Laguna police director, said Reyes was found lifeless inside the house owned by Derly Antolin in Barangay Sto. Domingo at around 5 a.m. The house was a patchwork of plywood and sheets of tin, located on the edge of a middle-class neighborhood. In her statement to the police, Antolin said Reyes had been staying in her house for the past three days. Reyes showed up at her door on Sunday with bruises on her face and body, saying she had been sideswiped by a vehicle, Antolin said. The following Tuesday, Reyes asked Antolin to buy her antacid tablets for her stomach ache. Before rising to stardom as a solo artist, Reyes was as one of the vocalists in Time Machine and Circus Band, which were wildly popular in the 1970s. Her contemporaries in Time Machine included Celeste Legaspi and Anthony Castelo; Circus Band’s other famous members were Basil Valdes, Hajji Alejandro, Tillie Moreno, Pabs Dadivas and Jacqui Magno, among others. Femme fatale In 1975, Reyes recorded the single “Araw-araw, Gabi-gabi,” a song about sexual longing, which became a huge hit and eventually inspired a movie . More hit singles followed: “Nananabik,” “Bakit Ako Mahihiya,” “Hatiin Natin ang Gabi,” “Hindi Kami Damong Ligaw”— which established Reyes as a Jukebox Queen whose femme fatale image sent temperatures rising among the male population. “Bakit Ako Mahihiya” became her signature song. She became the talk of the town after she accidentally exposed a breast while singing “Nananabik” at the Famas Awards rites in 1977. That same year, she won the Gold Prize and the Best Performer Award in the Tokyo Music Festival. She sang a Japanese song and bested Morris Albert who sang his own composition, the now pop classic “Feelings.” “She was everyone’s fantasy,” entertainment writer and former record label executive Aster Amoyo told the Inquirer. “Grabe ang appeal niya (She had such a huge appeal). At that time, it seemed like she was the epitome of the pop singer as [a] luscious woman.” Reyes’ debut album, “Didith,” was a multi-platinum seller, Amoyo recalled. A la Judy Garland “She had a distinct voice that made her stand out from other singers of her generation,” said Pablo Vergara, who wrote “Bakit Ako Mahihiya.” “She was the perfect singer, beautiful, sultry. She was like a goddess onstage,” De la Fuente said. “Didith was a good person. When her career was still okay, she would often surprise me with gifts, like fresh fish,” said talent manager Norma Japitana. “I helped discover her.” “Her life was classic tragic show biz, a la Judy Garland. Men were running after her. She had a thriving singing career,” Japitana added. Another friend, who asked that she be identified only as Minda, remembered Reyes as a “beautiful” woman who would wear cheap accessories yet make them look like “expensive jewelry.” “Although many people were saying bad things about her, I know I knew her better as a person,” Minda said. Minda wondered why some of Didith’s friends in show business came when she died but never showed up during the time Didith needed them. Downward spiral Reyes’ decline, Amoyo noted, began in 1978 when she became unprofessional. “She did not show up at performances. What I know is that at the height of her popularity, she would throw a flat iron [at people who displeased her]. But she was very kind when she was not in a foul mood. She was the type of person who was easy to love,” Amoyo said in Filipino. Amoyo said she barely recognized Reyes during a meeting set up by a friend at a coffee shop in Greenhills, San Juan City, two years ago. “Para akong nalusaw sa itsura niya (I almost fainted when I saw her). She had aged physically, she had gained weight, she was limping due to a wound on her foot and she smelled badly,” Amoyo recalled. The Didith Reyes of her prime, who reportedly had an insatiable sexual appetite and had affairs with prominent businessmen, club owners and politicians, eventually went on a downward spiral. She got hooked on drugs and alcohol. Homeless Homeless, she once sought help from Amoyo and promised to mend her ways. Amoyo took her to Reyes Haircutters, whose owner, Les (a brother of beauty guru Ricky Reyes), promptly took her in. “But she was a pain in the ass,” Amoyo said with amusement. “She was always drunk, drinking gin straight from a plastic bottle. So I told Les just to let her go, but he just couldn’t do it immediately.” The last bit of news Amoyo heard about Reyes was that she was hospitalized and that Les paid the bill. Reyes left behind a son, Arvy, now married and living on his own. Before she become famous, she had been separated from husband Victor Reyes. Her last known relationship was with a 67-year-old man from Laguna, her live-in partner for seven years. Reyes’ remains were to be brought for viewing to the Mount Carmel Church on Doña Juana Rodriguez Avenue in New Manila, Quezon City, De la Fuente said.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New Membership Options for USCF

Whether we like it or not, there is now an option to go "magazineless" as a membership option for USCF - but hurry rates are going up on January 1! Say what? Right now, according to the December issue of Chess Life, "Premium USCF Membership Rate" for 1 year with magazine (adult paid online) is $41; if paid by mail or telephone it goes up to $49. Contrast the "Regular USCF Membership Rate" for 1 year without print magazine (online version only) adult (paid online) is $29; if paid by mail or telephone it goes up to $36. So - what is the USCF going to do with increases in the Premium Rates in 2009? Talk about a sucker bet, geez! I have no idea how much USCF is now earning for selling print advertising in its monthly magazine - but I can practically guarantee that the amount will go down once the magazine moves to "online only" version, which is the current fate of Chess Life once the new changes take place. Can you say USCF CUTTING ITS OWN THROAT. Bwwwwwwaaaaaaaahhhhhhhaaaaa!

2008 Czech Coal Chess Match

The Czech Coal Chess Match took place in Marianske Lazne and features a Snowdrops vs Old-hands Scheveningen tournament with Anatoly Karpov. The experienced team won 17.5 - 14.5 against the Snowdrops women's team. Official site: Snowdrops vs Old-hands Marianske Lazne (CZE), 29 xi-6 xii 2008 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 Hort, Vlastimil g GER 2478 +7 +5 -3 +4 +7 +5 +3 =4 6.5 2685 2 Karpov, Anatoly g RUS 2651 -4 +3 =5 +7 +4 =3 +5 =7 5.5 2575 3 Cmilyte, Viktorija m LTU 2512 +8 -2 +1 =6 +8 =2 -1 =6 4.5 2539 4 Jackova, Jana m CZE 2360 +2 -8 +6 -1 -2 +8 =6 =1 4.0 2496 5 Ushenina, Anna m UKR 2496 +6 -1 =2 +8 =6 -1 -2 +8 4.0 2496 6 Olafsson, Fridrik g ISL 2440 -5 =7 -4 =3 =5 +7 =4 =3 3.5 2391 7 Nemcova, Katerina wg CZE 2369 -1 =6 +8 -2 -1 -6 -8 =2 2.0 2303 8 Uhlmann, Wolfgang g GER 2417 -3 +4 -7 -5 -3 -4 +7 -5 2.0 2241

Grave of Bronze Kurgan Warrior in Iran

Information from CAIS NEWS © Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World Grave of Kurgan Warrior Discovered at Khoda-Afarin Dam Reservoir 08 December 2008 LONDON, (CAIS) -- Iranian archaeological teams working at the reservoir area of the Khoda-Afarin Dam have recently discovered a burial site of a Kurgan warrior during their rescue excavations. A bull statuette, a number of ancient weapons, dishes, and bronze artefacts have also been found in the warrior’s grave, Archaeological Research Centre of Iran (ARCI) Director Mohammad-Hassan Fazeli Nashli told the Persian service of CHN on Sunday. “According to the archaeologists, the warrior enjoyed a special status among his people,” he added.The Kurgans were an Indo-European culture living in northern Europe, from Russia across Germany during the fifth, fourth, and third millennia BCE. A number of the people also immigrated to northwestern Iran and lived there around 1500 to 2000 BCE, when the Bronze Age was ending in Iran. So far, a total of 20 graves of Kurgans have been dug out at the site, nine of which were discovered during the recent excavations, Fazeli Nashli said. “Along with the bull, a number of grey pottery dishes bearing geometrical shapes and weapons such as a dagger, sword, and bayonet have been presented to the warrior in the grave,” he explained. The archaeologists had previously discovered Kurgan graves containing skeletons of a horse, sheep and other animals during the previous season of excavations last year. The warrior’s grave, which measures about 6 x 1.5 meters, has been constructed by mud and stones. The stones are larger in lower part of the grave and become smaller in upper part. “This is the first time the Kurgan people are being studied in Iran, however we don’t know much about their architecture and residential areas in Iran,” Fazeli Nashli noted. The teams have also discovered strata dating back to the Parthian and Achaemenid dynastic periods. They also hope to find signs of habitation by Kurgans in the strata. Five teams of experts are currently working at the reservoir area of the Khoda-Afarin Dam, which is home to many archaeological sites. The dam has been completed one year ago and its filling was postponed following an ARCI’s appeal for rescue excavations. However, it is not clear how the team can continue working at the site, because the dam was officially launched by the Islamic Republic’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, during his tour of East Azarbaijan Province last week.

Newly Discovered Ancient Culture in Mexico?

Mystery Pyramid Built by Newfound Ancient Culture? Alexis Okeowo in México City
for National Geographic News (Photo: National Geographic website) December 8, 2008
Several stone sculptures recently found in central Mexico point to a previously unknown culture that likely built a mysterious pyramid in the region, archaeologists say.
Archaeologists first found the objects about 15 years ago in the valley of Tulancingo, a major canyon that drops off into Mexico's Gulf Coast.
Most of the 41 artifacts "do not fit into any of the known cultures of the Valley of Tulancingo, or the highlands of central Mexico," said Carlos Hernández, an archaeologist at Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History in the central state of Hidalgo.
Many of the figures are depicted in a sitting position, with their hands placed on their knees. Some have headdresses or conical hats with snakes at the base, which could represent Ehécatl-Quetzalcóatl, the Aztec god of the wind. One figure shows a man emerging from the jaws of a jaguar. The sculptures are also made of flat stucco—a combination of fine sand, lime, and water—and painted blue or green to the give the appearance of jade.
All of the artifacts date to the Epiclassic period between A.D. 600 to 900. Some Mexican and foreign archaeologists have said the sculptures weren't ancient and thus false, Hernández said.
"But by linking all the characteristics that make them different, [such as their location in Tulancingo and time period], allows us to say that they should be considered as a product of a different culture [called Huajomulco]."
The culture is named after an area in Hidalgo.
Baffling Pyramid Some of the artifacts were also found near the mysterious Huapalcalco pyramid in Hidalgo, whose origin has been a source of debate among archaeologists.
The pyramid's proportions, along with smaller structures that were painted black and white, do not correspond to the Toltec or Teotihuacan cultures of the same area and time period.
The Teotihuacan people, who lived from 400 B.C. to A.D. 700, constructed one of the largest pyramid complexes in the pre-Hispanic Americas, which refers to cultures that lived on the continent before the Spanish conquest of the Western Hemipshere.
The Toltecs, who came afterward, were made up of several groups of South Americans that together formed an empire famous for its artists and builders in the Teotihuacan capital of Tula from A.D. 900 until the 1100s. The pottery found at the site—rough, cylindrical vessels that are gray and reddish-brown in color—is also not familiar to experts.
Based on the artifacts' discovery near the pyramid, "it is likely that the Huapalcalco pyramid has been built by people from this new culture," Hernández said.
Thomas Charlton, an archaeologist at University of Iowa, has worked in the state of Hidalgo. He said that ample evidence—including the new artifacts—links a new pre-Hispanic culture to the Huapalcalco pyramid.
"It's a reasonable hypothesis [that] near the Valley of Tulancingo, there is a site that looks like it existed between the fall of the Teotihuacan and the beginning of the Tula [Toltec]," Charlton added.
"We know that there's an occupation [from this time] near Tulancingo.
"After the Teotihuacan, there were all sorts of smaller states throughout Mexico. It's part of the cycle after the fall of an empire."
Creative Era Michael Smith, an archaeologist at Arizona State University, agreed. "The notion that there would be an independent culture in [the Epiclassic] period is not surprising at all," he said.
"It was a very creative period, with rich development."
Future excavations of Huapalcalco should solidify the link to a new pre-Hispanic culture, and help archaeologists glean clues about this lost time, Hernández said.
"The [Epiclassic] period is considered a time of dynamic development—new trade, cities, and development," said Arizona State's Smith, "but one we don't know much about."


Oy Goddess! We got hammered again starting last night and all today with not one but TWO storm systems that left a layer of frozen sleet and ice topped by three inches of slush and two inches of wet heavy snow. Now the temperature has dropped in the last hour from 33 to 21 degrees F. and will drop even lower, possibly into the single digits tonight. (Photo: Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, the storm today - that's not me but it could be me -- see below) We didn't get hit so much in Milwaukee County (ha - tell that to my aching arms, hips, legs and back) - I get a lot of drifting in my driveway because of the prevailing winds so I often end up with more than a foot of snow when it's snowed 4 inches, which is what happened today. Away from the lake and to the north, the outlying counties got A LOT MORE ice and snow. Now with the whipping winds having shifted from the northwest to the northwest, there is lots of drifting, which is saying something because the snow is so wet and heavy. So while technically this was not a blizzard, forget that technical b.s., IT WAS/IS A BLIZZARD IF YOU'RE OUT IN IT! I left the office just before 3 PM and got home at 4:20 - it's normally a 50 minute bus ride and a 10 minute walk. Do you like being pelted in the face with sleet? Despite hat, scarf wrapped Arab style around my face and tightly cinched hood (so it wouldn't blow off in the wind), that's what my walk was like going to the bus stop this morning and coming home this afternoon. I'm just grateful it wasn't a 20 below windchill! I'm surprised I have any skin left on my face at all, it felt like it was being scoured off by millions of ice pellets hitting me in thost 25 mph gusts of wind. But even though it was a sonofabitch walking out there, I was glad to arrive home while it was still semi-daylight outside, because I had to walk in the roads for the most part, the sidewalks either being drifted shut or plowed over - or the snowbanks were piled too high where the corners were supposed to be for my tired bod to climb over. Needless to say, it's dangerous climbing over snow banks because you might fall backward into traffic, and if you walk in the road because you absolutely cannot find what is supposed to be the sidewalk, you run the risk of being run down by some idiot who is going too fast for conditions, or some idiot who didn't clean his windshield good enough, or some idiot who hits a patch of black ice and cannot control his or her vehicle, or some idiot who just wants to take out a pedestrian because he's a crazy asshole and it makes him feel macho, or some idiot who is driving drunk. Fortunately, there were not too many cars on the road, and I did make it home safely. Obviously, since I'm sitting here writing this! I now have about 20 inches of snow in my front yard - this is turning out to be as bad a winter as last year, which was almost a record here - I keep harping on it but hell, over 100 inches of snow in four months is A LOT of shovelling, people! Anyway, when I got home, I started shoveling. I shoveled for an hour, and gave up when my arms gave out. I now have about a 3.5 foot wide pathway from my front porch 40 feet to the road, and I attempted to shovel out the snowbank in front of the mail and paper boxes so I can get my mail and newspaper! They won't deliver if they can't get to the boxes in their vehicles. Which means no matter how badly the plow piles up the snow, I have to get rid of it - somehow. Even earlier than last year, I have now started a snow pile on the road to the south of my driveway, about midway between my driveway and my neighbor's to the south. Last year that's where I planted the bomb that finally got rid of that damn plow and plowman who tormented me all last winter. This season - thus far - they've been a lot more careful about not piling 10 feet of snow at the base of my driveway. Thus, murder paid off... Let me tell you, making that snow pile is no joy. I pick up a shovel-full of snow, then walk 20 feet south and dump the snow. Repeat 300 times to get rid of the average pile of snow the plows leave behind in my driveway. That SOB plow and plow driver last year deserved it. And if they treat me badly this season, I'll get 'em again, I swear I will! The temperature drop tonight and over the next 3 days means everything that is not plowed/snowblown/shoveled tonight will turn to solid ice. Believe me when I tell you I am not looking forward to the walk to and from the bus stop the next several days! At least my Christmas tree is up. And I treated myself to a Big Mac and small fries last night. Back on healthy food today :)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday Night - Whew!

It's been a whirlwind weekend. I've been working on my Chessville column (still far from finished), I went shopping, shovelled out the driveway (finished the last part this morning in below zero windchill, brrrrrr), watched the Packers LOSE again, blogged, read the paper and clipped coupons, watched President-Elect Obama on Meet the Press, dragged out the artificial Christmas tree (what a fiasco that was - but in the end I managed to put all of the parts back together in a reasonable facsimile of a live tree), cooked a casserole, vacuumed, ate, started decorating the tree, am still decorating the tree... Now it's time for "The Cutting Edge" my favorite all-time figure-skating movie to come on commercial t.v., and so I'm signing off and will watch the movie downstars in the living room while I finish decorating the tree. This year I'm going with a more "minimalist" look than in prior years - no gold beads this year, no pearl beads this year, and probably only 2/3rd of all the ornaments I own will go on. I forgot how bright the tree is when plugged in! And with the lights around the ceiling-high round top window at the front of the house (I never got around to taking those lights down last year), I light up the entire neighborhood :) Good night, darlings.

Genetic Link Between Etruscans and Anatolia?

The dating seems strange - can't make it out. As far as I can tell KYA means "thousand(s) years ago." If this is correct, then the article is saying the genetic linkage between Anatolia and the Etruscans was first made between 2,300 years ago (plus or minus 400 years?) and 1,100 years (plus or minus 100 years?) History tells us that the Etruscans first became an identifiable civilization in Italy about 900-800 BCE (2,900 to 2,800 years ago). That would put the oldest date from the article (2,300 plus 400 years, or 2,700 BCE) near this date range: Abstract from the European Journal of Human Genetics Short Report 3 December 2008; doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2008.224 The Etruscan timeline: a recent Anatolian connection Francesca Brisighelli1,2, Cristian Capelli3, Vanesa Álvarez-Iglesias1, Valerio Onofri4, Giorgio Paoli5, Sergio Tofanelli5, Ángel Carracedo1,6, Vincenzo L Pascali2 and Antonio Salas1 1Unidade de Xenética, Facultade de Medicina, Instituto de Medicina Legal, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain 2Forensic Genetics Laboratory, Institute of Legal Medicine, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Rome, Italy 3Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK 4Institute of Legal Medicine, Universita' Politecnica delle Marche, Policlinico Torrette, Ancona, Italy 5Department of Biology, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy 6Fundación Pública Galega de Medicina Xenómica (FPGMX-SERGAS), CIBER enfermedades raras, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain Correspondence: Dr A Salas, Unidade de Xenética, Facultad de Medicina, Instituto de Medicina Legal, Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, 15782, Galicia, Spain. Tel.: +34 981 582 327; Fax: +34 981 580 336; E-mail: Received 14 April 2008; Revised 14 October 2008; Accepted 15 October 2008; Published online 3 December 2008. The origin of the Etruscans (the present day Tuscany, Italy), one of the most enigmatic non-Indo-European civilizations, is under intense controversy. We found novel genetic evidences on the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) establishing a genetic link between Anatolia and the ancient Etruria. By way of complete mtDNA genome sequencing of a novel autochthonous Tuscan branch of haplogroup U7 (namely U7a2a), we have estimated an historical time frame for the arrival of Anatolian lineages to Tuscany ranging from 1.10.1 to 2.30.4 kya B.P. (emphasis added) Short of paying $32 to download the current issue online, I guess I'll remain in the dark as to whether the authors are suggesting that ALL Etruscans can be traced back to Anatolia through this mitochondrial DNA or whether only a certain portion of Etruscans can be traced back to Anatolia through this DNA tag inherited from one's mother!

Blast from the Past: Priest of Cybele Gravesite Found

The headline of this article from the is rather tastelessly sensational (what's new), but the article itself is extremely informative. It's a blast from the past that showed up in my weekly archaeological search today: Pagan transvestite priest? died after ritual castration? By David Keys Archaeology Correspondent Wednesday, 22 May 2002 Romano-British clergymen from exotic religious cults ministered to their congregants while dressed as transvestites weighed down with stone and bronze jewellery. A research report, published by the Council for British Archaeology yesterday, reveals that a pagan priest from Yorkshire was buried in the late 3rd century wearing what was probably full ritual regalia including a five-strand necklace of 600 jet beads, a jet bracelet, a brown shale armlet and a bronze anklet. He was buried immediately opposite a large stone building – possibly a temple. Investigations have been run by English Heritage and other archaeological organisations at the site, Bainesse near Catterick in North Yorkshire, over the past 20 years. They suggest that the building lay at the heart of a settlement strung out along more than half a mile of the ancient Roman Dere Street, which is now the A1 trunk road. Experts in Roman religion believe that the Yorkshire cleric belonged to the officially sanctioned and important religious cult of a mother goddess called Cybele, who originated in Anatolia, present-day Turkey. The cult was based on the great mother goddess and her toy-boy lover Attis who, guilt-ridden for having sexually betrayed her, went mad, castrated himself and, consequently, died. The cult's tradition dictated that its priests had similarly to mutilate themselves in painful solidarity with Attis, often using a piece of flint or a sharp fragment of pottery. Ritual clamps were then used to staunch the blood, but Cybelean priests often died in the process. Indeed, the Romano-British transvestite eunuch from Yorkshire probably perished from the wounds inflicted in just such an act. Osteological examination of his skeleton shows he died in his early 20s. The ritual self-castration, which was performed in a state of dance-induced ecstasy, was known in the Roman calendar as the "day of blood" and described by at least one Roman emperor as the "sacred harvest". The deity Cybele eventually became a universal goddess, viewed as mother of the gods, the goddess of everything from peace to war, from fertility to nature and from law to disease. In some respects, the cult of Cybele had certain similarities with early Christianity. Attis sacrificed himself and was resurrected from the dead. In the 4th century Attis became identified as a sun god, as was Christ at the time. And through Attis and Cybele, as in Christianity, the cult's followers were guaranteed immortality of the soul. The concept of priestly celibacy was also a common feature. Some 40 metres (130ft) from where the Yorkshire priest was buried was the substantial stone building. Its proximity to the burial, as well as an important feature of the structure – a subterranean chamber reached by a flight of stone stairs – suggests the building may well have been a temple of Cybele. Cybelean temples were unusual in having underground rooms, one for secret rites and another in which individuals wishing to achieve spiritual immortality bathed in the blood of ritually slaughtered sacred bulls. Other religious objects found near by include a bronze statue of a Roman god, a pair of bone dolphins, symbolising immortality, three small altars and a potentially ritual whetstone for sharpening cutting implements found immediately adjacent to the underground chamber. Inside the underground room itself were the remains of feasts held at least 16 centuries ago.

Christian Holidays Rooted in Ancient Traditions

dondelion reminded me yesterday - on St. Nicholas' Day - of some ancient Egyptian traditions - long long before there was Christ in Christmas. When I was a kid we celebrated St. Nicholas' Day as much as Christmas - it was always a big thing to go to bed the night before and see if we could stay up to catch St. Nick hanging a candy-filled stocking on our bedsteads. There were only four of us girls in those days (early 1950's) and we all slept in one large bedroom - two of us in a full-size bed, two of us in bunkbeds. Needless to say, none of us ever managed to stay away to catch St. Nick in the act; but, lo and behold, no matter how early the next morning we awoke, the stuffed stockings were always there! I don't think St. Nicholas' Day is related to the ancient Egyptian traditions but - hmmm, come to think of it, heck, it might be, as so much in our western society seems to come from there! Anyway, here are the special Egyptian days that dondelion pointed out:
  • December 6: "Bast guards the Two Lands; Day of offerings to the Shemsu (followers) of Ra"
  • December 23: The Egyptian Festival of the Great Heat; Feast Day of Het-Hert (Hathor)
  • December 25: Birth of Heru (Horus) the child of Aset (Isis); the Going forth of Wadjet singing in Heliopolis; the Day of Elevating the Great Netjert (Goddess) in all Her names & manifestations

Now if those don't sound like celebrations of the Virgin Mary, the birth of Christ and the singing of carols some 2600 years beforehand, I don't know what does!

Here are some Roman Catholic holy days and days of remembrance from around this time of year:

  • December 6: Feast of St. Nicholas (St. Nick's Eve is when the candy-stuffed stockings magically appeared on our bedsteads, much to our amazed eyes and hungry mouths the morning of December 6). According to Wikipedia, in 1809, the New-York Historical Society convened and retroactively named Sancte Claus (a/k/a St. Nicholas) the patron saint of Nieuw Amsterdam, the Dutch name for New York City
  • December 8: Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Virgin Mary is conceived miraculously by her mother, St. Elizabeth, thereby avoiding the taint of "original sin")
  • December 12: Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (a dark-skinned reincarnation of the Egyptian Goddess Het-hert [Hathor] as the Virgin Mary, standing on a "crescent Moon," not only denoting the ancientness of this lunar goddess, but also representing Hathor's ancient Horns of Power and Authority over mankind)
  • December 25: Christmas (celebration of the birth of the Christ)
  • December 25 - January 5: The Twelve Days of Christmas - ancient traditional end-of-year celebration from pre-Christian days -- lots of feasting, always-burning fires and lights were critical during this time, especially in the northern countries where the shortest days of the year were around the Winter Solstice
  • January 1: Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, The Mother of God (supposed to be a day of reflection and contemplation at the start of the New Year)
  • January 6: Feast of the Three Wise Men (the ancient Magi from Persia arrived in Bethelem some months after the birth of Christ, heralded by a "miraculous star" that appeared in the Eastern sky as a sign of this momentous birth; they brought expensive gifts with them and gave them to the parents of Jesus, who were subsequently forced to flee to Egypt - according to one tradition - when King Herod was hunting for the Christ child to kill him. Since Joseph and Mary were poor people, it was probably these gifts of gold, frankincense and myhrr that sustained the small family during their years in Egypt)
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