Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday Night Miscellany

Tonight, I'm feeling spooky - this could not possibly have anything to do with the fact that I'm watching a Dateline NBC special on Michael Jackson, could it? Out of Kansas, a tale of the teenagers with all-black eyes... Not so scary - a little boy has published a book called "Soul Survivor" and the families of all involved say they believe this is definitely a case of reincarnation. Join with me now in saying they all wish for a big "cha ching..." A collection of scary tales at American Folklore... Whoa! This one scared me! The Haunted School... The image of a "ghost sailor" playing chess - with a doggie looking over his shoulder. Technically it is the left shoulder, but looking at the photograph, it is on the ghost's right side, where the shoulder would be, if there really was a shoulder, except there isn't...

2009 U.S. Open Chess Championship

I received the July, 2009 edition of Chess Life Magazine in the mail today. The lovely Jen Shahade (a former U.S. Women's Chess Champion and current editor of the USCF's Chesslife Online) is on the front cover. I think women should always be on the cover of Chess Life Magazine. (Photo of Jen Shahade from her website). Curiously, I noticed for the first time in the lower right hand corner that the magazine sells "on the stand" for $3.95. Where? I've never seen it offered for sale anywhere - and I am a frequent habitutee of Borders and Barnes & Noble... Anyway, I must not allow myself to get distracted, darlings! I have a complaint about the "TLA" pages in Chess Life Magazine. The print is smaller than ant poop! Well, at least I assume it is, because I've never seen ant poop, but you can be sure it's very tiny, as ants are tiny creatures! But even with my magnifying glasses on, I cannot read most of the TLA announcements in Chess Life! Geez, guys, considering that a lot of old fogeys like me read Chess Life Magazine (rather than visiting the online version of Chess Life, which I generally don't have time to do when I'm online because I'm doing so many other things online, like playing chess -), can't you do us all a favor and make the frigging print a little bigger? Please? The BIG news about this event, as far as I'm concerned, is that GM Alexandra Kosteniuk (now residing in Florida with her nuclear family), will be playing in the event! But since there is no official website for the event, one has no idea just what players have signed up to participate thus far! For such a PRESTIGIOUS EVENT (Jerry Hanken's words in an article in this month's Chess Life Magazine) shouldn't it have it's own dedicated website? I don't disagree that this is a great event. It should be treated accordingly! Maybe a dedicated website is in the cards down the line - I sure hope so. And if it is, I sure hope the USCF makes it easy to find! A Google search under 2009 U.S. Open Chess Championship did not yield any dedicated website on the first page of search results, but did yield a lot of unrelated stuff. I was able to FINALLY decipher the url for the website for this event, ta da! Here's some of the poop, er, scoop: 110th United States Open Chess Championship A Heritage Event August 1-9, 2009 August 4-9, 2009 August 6-9, 2009 Indianapolis, Indiana Prize Fund $50,000 based on 500 paid entries - else proportional - $40,000 Guaranteed!! [80% of each prize]. Top five players qualify for the 2010 US Championship! A one section tournament with Class prizes. All schedules merge after Round 6. Prizes[Projected] Top Places: $8000-4000-2000-1500-1000-800-600-500. Clear winner - $200 bonus. If tie for first, top two on tiebreak play speed game [W - 5 min, B - 3 min and draw odds] for bonus and title. Class Prizes: Top Master (2200-2399): $2500-1200-800-500. Top Expert: $2500-1200-800-500. Class A: $2500-1200-800-500. Class B: $2500-1200-800-500. Class C: $2000-1000-600-400. Class D: $1500-700-500-300. Class E & Below: $1500-700-500-300. Unrated: $800-400-200. Half Point Byes: Must commit before round 4; up to 3 byes allowed for 2000/up2 byes for 1400-1999, one bye for Under 1400/Unr Zero point byes are always available in any round if requested at least two hours before the start of the desired round! Entry Fee: Online, $135 by 5/15, $155 by 7/29 By mail, $137 postmarked by 5/15, $160 postmarked by 7/23 By phone, $140 by 5/15, $160 by 7/29 At site, all $180 GMs are free

A Beautiful Chess Park Needs Some Help

Here are photos of the design award-winning chess park in Glendale, California. Will city politics result in the slow death of a beautiful chess park? FROM THE MARGINS:A few moves at Chess Park By PATRICK AZADIAN Published: Last Updated Monday, June 29, 2009 10:10 PM PDT It took a stroke of genius for park-starved Glendale to turn an unused alley linking a city parking lot into a pocket park. The 4,500-square-foot Chess Park is a space devoted to its namesake, with five illuminated oversized chess pieces standing guard over the 16 concrete tables. Glendale residents may not think much of the park, but as is sometimes the case, people don’t always appreciate the jewels they have in our own backyards. The park came to my attention through a modern and well-respected architectural magazine. I had to read the review to the end to realize the photos and more-than-complimentary commentary was about our own Chess Park. I had to do a double-take of the stylish photos. “Wow!” was my immediate reaction. The park received the 2006 General Award of Design Honor from the American Society of Landscape Architects. A juror described the park as “Fun, fabulous and quirky. Exactly what an urban pocket park should be: playful.” The Glendale Chess Club was instrumental in making the park a reality. They had approached the city as a group to request a designated space where its club and others could play. The city found a solution by utilizing the undeveloped Brand Boulevard passageway. In a unique and progressive partnership, the city brought the landscape architects together with the Chess Club to ensure the design program met the organization’s playing needs and celebrated the rich history and traditions of chess. The final design for the park found its roots in the history, evolution and rituals of chess and its unique pieces. Ideas of form, function and meaning of the game as an instrument of culture drove the development of the park elements. More importantly, and beyond its architectural and artistic virtues, the park’s existence is a tiny symbol of victory of intellect over consumerism. In an age where grand malls, chain coffee shops and video games are defining our free time, the concept of a park dedicated to developing young minds and bringing people together is quite noble and should be appreciated. The park did and still has its detractors. Ironically, the $540,000 price tag was not a major argument against the construction of the park. The budget had already been earmarked before the park’s concept had been realized. The main crux of the argument against the park was the idea that the park could attract the “wrong crowd.” This same argument is as valid for green spaces, malls and the ever-growing number of coffee chains around town. The difference being, the Chess Park’s premise is to encourage thinking and strategizing during a game that is well-respected around the world. Yet, despite the well-intentioned purpose of the park and the occasional chess tournaments, the park is rarely utilized to its maximum potential. The construction of the park was initially highly politicized, and anyone wanting to support and promote the park at this point may find themselves alienating powerful lobbying blocs in the city. Moreover, although the initial idea of the park took creative thought and leadership to execute, once the project was completed, the creative thought on how to utilize the park virtually dried up. Years ago, one of the main critics of the park observed that the park is too hot, has no shade and no restrooms, making it inconvenient for regular use. I find myself in the odd position of agreeing, but not for the sake of confirming the “I told you so” viewpoint. Despite its award-winning design, it is possible that the park also lacks some of the essential conveniences to make it a viable alternative for people to come together. The beauty is that if managed correctly, residents wouldn’t have to spend money on a cup of coffee or shop for the latest fashions to have fun. Chess Park can be an intellectual, architectural and artistic symbol for our city. Concurrent with earmarking budgets for new projects for arts and culture, we should also learn to best use what we already have. With the right type of planning, leadership and minor improvements, Chess Park can begin to fulfill its potential by developing young minds, bringing people together and becoming a hip venue. It will take some courage on behalf of city officials and residents to make this happen. The alternative is the slow death of a beautiful idea.

Sophie Matisse Limited Edition Chess Sets

Sophie Matisse Paints Limited Edition Chess Sets for the Beyond the Border International Contemporary Art Fair Beyond the Border International Contemporary Art Fair announces “The Art of the Game” exhibition by Sophie Matisse, great-granddaughter to famous painter Henri Matisse. San Diego, CA July 01, 2009 -- Beyond the Border International Contemporary Art Fair (BTB) announces “The Art of the Game” exhibition by Sophie Matisse, great-granddaughter to famous painter Henri Matisse. This exhibition will feature five uniquely painted chess sets, each featuring a distinctive design and edition number. Each chess set can be purchased for $16,000 at The Beyond the Border International Contemporary Art Fair, San Diego, scheduled for September 2-4, 2009 at The Grand Del Mar. “We are honored to have Sophie Matisse’s exquisite exhibition on display at our fair,” said Ann Berchtold, executive director and founder of BTB. “The four chess sets have their own unique imagery but also come together to create a unique design. Chess had been an important family tradition to Sophie growing up and this body of work became a tribute to that memory for her.” Sophie Matisse was born in 1965 in Boston. She is daughter to famous sculptor Paul Matisse, granddaughter to famous art dealer Pierre Matisse and great-granddaughter to Henri Matisse, French painter and godchild to Marcel Duchamp.Like her great-grandfather Henri Matisse, she embraces the decorative potential of her pictures. Like her step-grandfather Marcel Duchamp, she rejects the notion that decoration is all they need to offer. Indeed, if she dreams of anything, it is to reconcile the two statements presented above into a singular, harmonious visual entity—a work of art that not only pleases our senses, but that also challenges our intellect. She studied at College of Art in Boston, Massachusetts, and at École des Beaux-Arts in 1990 in Paris. Some of her extraordinary works are "Lions Den" from 2005, "Queen Easter" 2005 as well as "The 100 Smiles of the Mona Lisa" from 2000, "Real to Surreal" from 1999. Sophie Matisse is represented by Francis Nauman Fine Art in New York. Lugano Diamonds is proud to be a main sponsor of the Exhibition “The Art of the Game” by Sophie Matisse. San Diego’s first Beyond the Border International Contemporary Art Fair (BTB) is a 3-day contemporary art fair that will include national and international galleries featuring over 500 works by jury-selected established and emerging contemporary artists from all over the world, exhibiting in The Grand Del Mar’s expansive ballroom accompanied by numerous luxury exhibitors and food and wine events. The event will showcase over $4 million in artwork coupled with sponsors such as Maserati, Modern Luxury Media, Qualcomm, Christie’s, The American Institute of Wine and Food, The California Bipolar Foundation, Lugano Diamonds, and many others. BTB anticipates ATTENDANCE OF over 3,000 new and established collectors over the three days. The public is invited to attend the event, which marks the first time these national and international galleries with investment-grade art will be presented in San Diego. Go to the BTB website to purchase VIP Tickets and Day Pass tickets: http://beyondtheborder-art/.

Chess Mentor: Orrin Hudson

Posted on Fri, Jul. 3, 2009 Mentor to troubled kids, he's making all the right moves By JULIA TERRUSO Philadelphia Daily News When Orrin Hudson speaks, it's hard to tell whether he's talking about chess or life: Make every move count. Surround yourself with smart players who can make you better. You will win or lose based on the decisions you make. Hudson, 46, a two-time city chess champion now living in Birmingham, Ala., has a surplus of catchphrases, raps and inspirational sayings that he uses to keep young people out of trouble. Today he returns to Philadelphia after 10 years to compete in the World Open chess tournament, which runs through Sunday at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel, 17th & Race streets. Hudson was here in 1999 to compete in the same tournament, his last chess competition, coming in fifth overall and winning $200, at the old Adam's Mark Hotel on City Avenue. A former Georgia state trooper, he started a youth program in 1999 called Be Someone, after hearing about a deadly shooting at a Wendy's in New York. "I heard about that and I said, 'Evil prevails when good people do nothing.' " Since then, he has committed his life (and most of his income) to fighting educational disparities and youth violence. Through Be Someone, he has spoken throughout the country, and estimates that he has reached 20,000 children through his chess boot camps and motivational lectures. Hudson uses pop-culture references and high-energy rap/poetry to keep kids engaged and on the right track. One such kid was Robert Curry, of Atlanta. Curry was skipping school, his grades were bad, and he was hanging around with gang members. His mother, Debra, said that she couldn't sleep at night, afraid that he might not come home. "In my vision, I saw my son either dying far too early or I saw him in jail," she said in a phone interview this week. "I was so desperate for a solution." She needed an intervention for her son, and after hearing about Hudson on TV, she gave him a call at 1 a.m. and asked for his help. Hudson began tutoring Curry in chess - and in life - in summer 2004. Curry admitted ambivalence at first: What could this man with his corny catchphrases about chess do to help him? But after nine months, Curry said, he started making better decisions. His grades rose. He recalled one night when some old friends came around wanting to take him for a ride and he opted not to, thinking that it could be dangerous. That night, the friends wound up in jail after the cops pulled them over and found illegal substances in the car. "Orrin used to always say, 'People don't think. You've got to stop and think.' And this one time, I did that and it actually worked," Curry said by phone from Atlanta. Curry said that the procedural aspects of chess also helped him make it through school, get his GED and then into Georgia Perimeter College. "He said: 'Here's where you are; here's where you need to go. See it in your head; put it down on paper and get to that point,' " Curry said. Hudson also had a troubled youth. He grew up in the Birmingham housing projects with 13 brothers and sisters. He was stealing and hanging around with the wrong crowd, when a high school teacher, James Edge, introduced him to chess and a whole new way of thinking. "He said to me: 'Orrin, you cannot fly with the eagles if you're scratching with the turkeys. You gotta get yourself around people who are doing great things, making the right moves.' " Hudson said that he owes his life to Edge and is dedicated to paying it forward. Today, he'll go against chess players from around the world, although he's admittedly out of practice. It hasn't been much of a challenge playing with young men for the last 18 years. But the odds have been against Hudson before: When he was young, people told him that he wouldn't amount to much, and he was ranked last in the two chess championships that he eventually won. "I beat some people who had much higher ratings, and it's because nature is neutral," he said. "I teach the kids that." "You have everything you need to win the game. It's not about blame, it's about your aim. If you make the right move, you can get the right results. You win or lose based on the decisions you make."
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What a great story! Good luck to Mr. Hudson in the World Open! The "Be Someone" website.

2009 U.S. Junior Chess Championships

(I obtained information from the USCF website and the WSCA website) Yippee! My hometown is hosting both the 2009 U.S. Junior Chess Championship (Closed) and the 2009 U.S. Open Junior Chess Championship. I am very happy to see an impressive line-up of the USA's most promising young chess talents competing in this year's Closed Championship (July 13 - 16): 1. IM Alex Lenderman (2654) 2. IM Sam Shankland (2564) 3. IM Ray Robson (2553) 4. IM Salvijus Bercys (2503) 5.FM Elliott Liu (2405) 6. FM Joel Banawa (2392) 7. FM Michael Lee (2384) 8. Maxx Coleman (2182, winner of the 2008 Junior Open) Alex Lenderman and Sal Bercys are among the chessplayers whom I happily followed during a year in their lives in "The Kings of New York" - a smashing good read! You don't have to "know" chess in order to appreciate the story the book tells. At stake are spots in the World Junior and the 2010 U.S. Championship. This tournament is right after the U.S. Junior Open , also in Milwaukee (July 10-12), which is divided into three sections: Under 21, Under 15 and Under 11. Frank Berry will act as chief arbiter. Time control is G/90+30sec/move increment. The games will be broadcast on the Internet Chess Club and CLO coverage will include players bios and reports from Alex Betaneli. I was not able to locate more information about prizes for the U.S. Junior-closed, the selection process, etc., and I am assuming it will be held at the same hotel complex as the U.S. Junior open, but I'm not sure! Here is more information about the U.S. Junior Open: 2009 U.S. JUNIOR OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP FOUR SIDE EVENTS ! ! ! ! (Entry Fee: $20 per event.) BLITZ: Friday at 7:00 pm. BUGHOUSE: Saturday at 7:00 pm. SIMUL: Saturday at 7:00 pm. PARENTS and COACHES TOURNEY: 3SS G/30 (not rated) Sat. 10:30 am - 2:15 pm - 3:30 pm. NEW LOCATION: RAMADA CONFERENCE CENTER MILWAUKEE 6331 South 13th Street, Milwaukee, WI 53221 Chess Rate of $79 is Valid until July 1st. Reserve Early at 414-764-1500 In an effort to bring more Regional and National USCF events to Wisconsin, WI Chess Academy, along with Vaja International Chess Academy and the Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Association bring another USCF event, the 2009 U.S. Junior Open Championship to Milwaukee, Wisconsin over the July 10th - 12th, 2009 weekend! The entry fee for players is $35 advance, or $50 after July 9th. Cash Only at site. SPECIAL OFFER: Only $30 per player if 4 or more players pre-register together! More info. To register on-line, click on the "Tournaments" button at the top of this page, find the U.S. Junior Open Championship listing, then click on the red "Register" text link, follow the directions, and fill in the necessary information.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The True Origins of the Koran

From Barbara Walker's "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets" (Image: The Goddess Kore, from the PARTHENON, temple of the goddess Athena on the Acropolis. From the 6th century BCE. Photo Greek National Museum, Athens. Notice the artistry - are those just braids in her hair, or are they intertwined with serpents?) Koran Mohammedan scriptures, often erroneously thought to have been written by Mohammed. Moslems don't believe this.(1) But many don't know the Koran was an enlarged, revised version of the ancient Word of the Goddess Kore, revered by Mohammed's tribe, the Koreshites (Children of Kore), who guarded her shrine at Mecca. The original writing was done long before Mohammed's time by holy imams, a word related to Semitic ima, "mother."(2) Like the original mahatmas or "great mothers" in India,the original imams were probably priestesses of the old Arabian matiarchate. It was said they took the scriptures from a prototype that existed in heaven from the beginning of eternity, "Mother of the Book" - i.e., the Goddess herself, wearing the Book of Fate on her breast as Mother Tiamat wore the Tablets of Destiny. Sometimes the celestial Koran was called the Preserved Tablet.(3) There was some resemblance between this and other legendary books of divine origin, such as the Ur-text, the Book of Thoth and the Emerald Tablet of Hermes. As in the case of the Judeo-Christian Bible, the Koran was much rewritten to support new patiarchal laws and to obliterate the figures of the Goddess andher priestesses. See Arabia. Notes: (1) Encyc. Brit., "Mohammed." (2) Campbell, Oc.M., 443. (3) Budge, A.T., 52. *************************************************************** Kore Greek Holy Virgin, inner soul of Mother Earth [Demeter - The Divine Mother, she of the mare's head whose mane was entwined with serpents -- see earlier entry on Delphi]; a name so widespread, that it must have been one of the earliest designations of the World Shakti or female spirit of the universe. Variations include Ker, Car, Q're, Cara, Kher, Ceres, Core, Sanskrit Kaur or Kauri, alternate names for the Goddess Kali. Neolithic Asia knew a mysterious Goddess Ker, or Car, ancestress of the Carians.(1) Her city in the Chersonese was Cardia "the Goddess Car." Kardia became the Greek word for "heart," as cor became the Latin; both descended from the Goddess who was the world-heart. The same syllable is found in words for maternal blood relationships: Gaelic cairdean, kinship; Turkish kardes, maternal siblings.(2) The Goddess became Kardia ton kosmos: "Heart of the World."(3) Shrines of Karnak in Egypt and Carnac in Brittany were sites of gigantic temples and funerary complexes over 5000 years ago, dedicated to Kar or Kore. France had similar shrines in similarly-named locations, Kerlescan, Kercado, Kermario.(4) The last name combined the pagan Virgin with the Goddess Mari, who was sometimes her daughter, her mother, or herself, like Kali embodied in Kel-Mari.(5) Inhabitants of Carnac, and of Carnantum on the Danube, called themselves in Roman times the Carnutes, "people born of the Goddess Car."(6) In Egypt's early dynastic period there was a place called Kerma (Mother Ker) in Nubia, where mass sacrifices took place. A similar name, Kara, was held in reverence by several early Egyptian rulers. Egyptians spoke of an eastern land called Kher [possibly - Kehmet? -- land of the Mother Kar?], and called Palestine the country of Kharu.(7) Car or Carna was known to the Romans as "a Goddess of the olden time," whose archaic worship was connected with Karneia festivals of Sparta and the classic Roman Carnival.(8) Sometimes she was Carmenta, "the Mind of Car," who invented the Roman alphabet.(9) An extremely old temple on the Caelian Hill was dedicated to her.(1) A later variation of her name was Ceres, origin of such words as cereal, corn, kernel, core, carnal, cardiac. In the east this ancient Goddess was everywhere. Some said she was Artemis Caryatis, mother of the Caryatides of the Laconian temple of Caryae.(11) The Tyrian seaport of Caraalis (modern Cagliari) was sacred to her.(12) One of Israel's oldest shrines, the "garden" called Mount Carmel, was her place and that of her baalim (gods).(13) Kore was a great power in Coptic religion, with a flourishing cult at Alexandria in the 4th century A.D. Her festival, the Koreion, was held each January 6 , later assimilated to Christianity as the feast of Epiphany. [I believe this is the date the Holy Spirit in the form of "tongues of fire" was said to have descended upon the heads of loyal disciples of the LORD Jesus Christ who had gathered together in a room in Jerusalem to commemerate the 40th day after his death. This is an extremely ancient tradition that pre-dates Christianity and Islam. We have seen recently in Iran that people gather together to mourn the loss of a decedent 40 days after his or her death. The number "40" is mentioned several times in the Bible - according to Jewish tradition, this denotes a "long indeterminate period of time" but this is probably a later gloss-over of this number sacred to the Goddess]. Kore's festival celebrated the birth of the new year god Aeon to the Virgin, whose naked image was carried seven times around the temple, decorated with gold stars and the sign of the cross. The priests announced to the public that the Virgin had brought forth the Aeon.(14) The Koreion passed into British tradition as the Kirn, or Feast of Ingathering, which the church later changed to the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy. Kirn was a cognate of the Greek kern or sacred womb-vase in which the grain god was reborn.(15) [I assume this is also related to cairn, sacred burial place of the dead, and to the word corn - a food of the gods in the New World, and related words such as kernel. I find it very interesting that earlier this evening I blogged an article about an intact Elamite "jar burial" -- perhaps another ancient tradition that is related to this equally old Mother Goddess.] Here again, the Kore or Ker was a virgin mother. The Goddess's harvest instrument, a moon-sicle, represented even the Christian versin of the festival.(16) The classic myth of Kore's abduction by Pluto was another instance of a god's usurpation of the Goddess's power, according to Gnostic sources. "Plutonius Zeus...does not possess the nourishment for all mortal living creatures, for it is Kore who bears the fruit."(17) Kore's resurrection represented the seasonal return of vegetation. She was also the World Soul animating each human soul, and looking out of the eyes. Reflection in the pupil of an eye was known as the Kore or "Maiden" in the eye. To the Arabs, it was the "baby" in the eye. The Bible calls either a daughter or a soul "the apple of thine eye" (Proverbs 7:2); and of course, every apple had a Kore. [Perhaps this belief is the source for the phrase in Bryan Adams' mega-hit song from "Don Juan DeMarco" When You Really Love a Woman, "...when you can see your unborn children in her eyes, you know you really love a woman... ." Notes: (1) Graves, W.G., 373. (2) Farh, W.P., 144. (3) Cumont, A.R.R.P., 72. (4) Encyc. Brit., "Carnac." (5) Braffault I, 474. (6) J.H. Smith, D.C.P., 39. (7) Erman, 228, 278. (8) Dume'zl, 386, 389. (9) Graves, G.M., 1, 280; 2, 137. (10) Encyc. Brit., "Carna." (11) Graves, W.G., 372. (12) Masa, 43. (13) Encyc. Brit., "Carmel." (14) Campbell, M.I., 34. (15) Neumann, G. M., 132. (16) Brewster, 424. (17) Robinson, 305.

Ancient Thracian Sanctuary Discovered...

...by spelunkers! Wow, it looks like a spectacular place. As majestic as any medieval cathedral. Just looking at this photograph sent shivers up and down my spine. This is definitely a sacred space/sacred place (it's got rock/stone/water in or nearby and it was [or is - like Lourdes] revered by people as a special place of worship). Now that it's been publicized, it won't take long before it's plundered. Unfortunately, enough information was provided in the article to enable determined looters to find it. I sure hope the archaeologists are already there and that guards have been put in place, with orders to shoot to kill. (That's how I feel about looters - they are barbarians, destructors of everything good, and should be killed on sight). From Novinite.com Bulgarian Speleologists Discover Unique Thracian Sanctuary July 1, 2009, Wednesday Speleologists from the city of Veliko Tarnovo have discovered an absolutely unique Thracian sanctuary in Northern Bulgaria. The news has been announced by Evgeni Koev from the speleological club "Dervent" based in Veliko Tarnovo. The speleologists came across the Thracian sanctuary several days ago as they were studying cavern objects along the Danube. Koev has preferred not to reveal the exact location of the sanctuary, which in his words is similar to the so called "Womb Cave" near the southern city of Kardzhali. It includes tombs, niches, and an altar. There also drawings of humans on the walls of the cave which look differently depending on the intensity of the sunlight falling on them. Koev believes that the fact that the sanctuary is located in a very inaccessible area has saved it from treasure hunters; in his words, the complex is in an excellent condition. [Not for long.]

7,000 Year Old Bulgarian Settlement Discovered

Novinite.com July 2, 2009, Thursday Bulgarian archaeologists have discovered a 7 000-years-old settlement close to the northeast city of Shumen. The village dates back to the Stone-Copper Age, and is located in the locality of Chanadzhik, near the village of Sushina and the Ticha Dam. The archaeologists have discovered over 300 finds, most of which are made of marble. "These items are extremely rare. They were worn by very specific people. These are decorations that were not available to the masses. There are also others that are made of clay or bone," explained Stefan Chohadzhiev, an archaeology professor at the Veliko Tarnovo University, as quoted by bTV. The most valuable find of the archaeologists, however, is a fortification that protected the village mound from the west. According to Ivan Babadzhanov, an archaeologist from the Regional History Museum in Shumen, the fortification probably consisted of a stone wall; the items discovered there are Chalcolithic (Copper Age) ceramics.

Garbage Children?

Did ancient residents in the south of Vietnam dispose of very young dead children (and newborns) as if they were garbage? Here's the report: Ancient child deaths uncovered Friday, 03 July 2009 Australian National University An archaeological excavation in southern Vietnam of a site more than 3000 years old has shed new light on how the death of young children was viewed by community members and uncovered the oldest clear evidence of rice agriculture in the region. The excavation, led by Professor Peter Bellwood and Dr Marc Oxenham from the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology, studied a site 3-4000 years old named An Son. The research team’s findings suggest that death in young children was so common that community members were unlikely to revere the death of their offspring until they had survived for more than five years. “The burial of a new born baby without any associated grave goods and positioned within discarded kitchen material may suggest high levels of infant mortality, as well as a reduced emotional investment in very young children that may not live long anyway,” said Professor Bellwood. “On the other hand, the burial of a 12 year old child with high quality ceramics and stone tools might mean children that survived the danger years – birth to five years old in most cases – could be revered by family or community members in death.” The excavation has also revealed the oldest clear evidence of rice agriculture in southern Vietnam and uncovered the varied diets and agricultural practices of the pre-historic community. “While this excavation has revealed the earliest clear evidence of rice agriculture in southern Vietnam, their diets were extremely broad,” said Dr Oxenham. “A wealth of animal bones – some probably domesticated – attest to the dietary breadth of these early Vietnamese, including species of cattle, pig, deer, freshwater crocodile, shellfish and reptile and amphibian remains. “We also found a large number of stone adzes, many shouldered to accommodate long-since rotted wooden handles. That suggests a significant amount of forest clearance was occurring, presumably to increase the area of cultivatable land.” The excavation team has also found a large quantity of pottery from humble cooking vessels to massive, ornately-incised and patterned ceramics. The research team worked with students from ANU in collaboration with the Centre for Archaeological Research, Hanoi and members of the An Son village community. The work is part of a four year ARC-funded project, The Creation of Southeast Asian Peoples and Cultures, 3500BC to AD500.
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How could Dr. Bellwood or anyone, for that matter, make such claims on the basis of two burials?

Elamite Jar Burial Transferred to Museum for Safekeeping

I hope it will be safe in the museum; you never know what the fundamentalist nut-cases who are running Iran may do. They've already flooded out countless ancient Persian ruins with their "dam building" projects and bulldozed others into rubble with their "road building" projects. Still others have been vandalized by bajis - the asshole thugs who think their shit doesn't stink. Ha! I've written about the Iranian government's deliberate destruction of pre-Islamic Persian culture many times in this blog. This was reported by CAIS from a report on Mehr News: Elamite Jar Burial Transferred to Haft-Tappeh Museum Wednesday, 01 July 2009 00:00 LONDON, (CAIS) -- Iran’s most intact jar burial, which dates back to the Elamite era, was transferred to the Haft-Tappeh Museum last week. Containing a skeleton in fetal position, the jar was discovered during the latest excavation carried out several months ago at Haft-Tappeh, a major Elamite site near Susa in Khuzestan Province, the Persian service of CHN reported on Tuesday. “This is the first time such an intact jar burial has been unearthed,” director of the Restoration Department of the Haft-Tappeh and Chogha Zanbil Center Kazem Borhani said. “Urgent actions were taken to preserve the artefact in situ in order to safely transfer it to the centre for restoration,” he stated. A piece of the jar has been removed to enable visitors to see the skeleton inside it, Borhani explained. An anthropologist has begun a series of studies to determine the gender of the skeleton, which is believed to date back to the Middle Elamite period (c. 1500-1100 BCE).

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New Reconstructions of the “Mykenaia”

From The American Journal of Archaeology (online) Volume 113 No. 3 July 2009 Abstract of an article by Bernice R. Jones. (Figure: Fig. 21. Reconstruction B of the Mykenaia with outline of the Striding Lady from Thera (drawing by R. Ruppert (modified from Doumas 1992, pl. 6). This study presents evidence for reconstructing two frescoes, including the well-known "Mykenaia," found at the Southwest Building at Mycenae. It argues that the Mykenaia did not depict a seated goddess facing right but a life-sized, standing woman striding to the left and that the other fresco portrays a half-life-sized enthroned woman, likely a goddess, facing right and holding a miniature female figure. The reconstructions are based on detailed examinations, drawings, and photographs taken to scale of the fragments and on comparanda. The argument is based on the innovative use of both experimental costume replications and digital imaging that superimposes details from other well-documented frescoes onto the fragments to test possible poses and details. The reconstructions proposed here are based on costume details depicted by the frescoes and on textual data, including intriguing Linear B ideograms. These reconstructions are then set within the larger spectrum of cult scenes in Aegean art, and some details of the dress worn in these frescoes are connected to Aegean cult.
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There are lots of reconstructed images and other images to view. The outfit on the image pictured above (left) is very typical of what females of the Mycenaean culture wore: a tight-fitted short-sleeved blouse that buttoned under the breasts, on the ribcage and followed the natural line of the woman's waist downward, except in this instance the breasts appear to be covered by a very sheer fabric. Otherwise, the cinched-in waist and the bell-shaped, multi-layered skirt, are very much like that depicted on the so-called "Snake Goddess" (image right) which I believe dates to about 1650 BCE (not working from my notes tonight, so that may be wrong). Compare the images!
Notice the checkerboard patterns on the reconstructed image. The patterns remind me of similar patterns I've seen on lots of funereal objects and in tomb paintings from ancient Egypt.

Naked Goddess to be Carved into Hillside

This earth-shattering (ahem) story was reported in the Telegraph.co.uk: Giant naked goddess to be carved into hillside (400 metre long naked "Green Goddess", which was designed by artist Charles Jencks, and will be carved into the Northumberland landscape. Photo: PA ) A 400-yard naked "Green Goddess" is to be carved into the Northumberland landscape, under a new plan revealed by a mining company. Published: 11:46PM BST 01 Jul 2009 Dubbed the "Goddess of the North", Northumberlandia will be made from two million tonnes of earth dug out from an open cast mine in Cramlington, and tower 112ft into the northern sky. The Goddess, designed by artist Charles Jencks, will recline over the Shotton open-cast mine and form the centre piece of a new public park at the site. The open-cast mine, which began coaling earlier this year, will produce around 3.4 million tonnes of coal, two million tonnes of shale and 750,000 tonnes of fireclay during its eight-year lifetime. The entire development is estimated to cost around £2.5 million, and work will begin on the sculpture next year. Plans for the sculpture, which will be visible from the A1, were originally blocked by Northumberland County Council 2006 after 2,500 people objected to the proposals. But after a successful appeal to the Government by the Durham based The Banks Group, which runs the mine, the Goddess will now be able to go ahead. Northumberlandia represents an "attempt to provide a tangible, early and permanent benefit for south-east Northumberland", said The Banks Group. Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at the firm, said: "Our duel aims with Northumberlandia were to create an outstanding artistic landmark which stands alongside the region's other main tourist attractions and to provide high quality leisure facilities for the local community, and we believe this final design will succeed on both counts. "Northumberlandia has already garnered interest and responses from people right around the world, and we're very excited to now be unveiling the project's final form. "It will take around 20 minutes just to walk all the way around her, and the design has been enhanced with more paths to allow visitors to the park to easily ascend the figure. "As well as the artwork itself, the surrounding landform park will offer important nature conservation and public health benefits, giving both local people and visitors an ideal place to exercise, picnic and enjoy themselves." "This artwork could not exist without the adjacent mining operation, and the sculpture will be part of the long-term local legacy that we always wanted the Shotton scheme to leave." Bob Downer, chief executive at the Blagdon Estate, which owns the land earmarked for the sculpture said the project was "bold and exciting". "Northumberlandia is a unique opportunity which will provide an exciting location for many future generations to come," he said. Northumberland County Council was unable to comment, but county councillor Wayne Daley told the BBC the Goddess was "ridiculous". "If we wanted something like this why didn't we just ask Jordan to open a theme park," he said. "It really is ridiculous to think that something like a naked woman, who is only there as a result of all of the slag and the coal from the mine, is a good way of attracting people to Cramlington."
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Er, well, I don't know about you, but I think she's ugly.

Shira Chess Challenge!

Ohmygoddess, darlings. I'm not going to survive this. I'm not. I hope all of my faithful followers will commune and write a really fabulous epitaph for me, for I feel sure I'm soon to expire. For those of you who don't dig poetic crap, that means kick the bucket. Croak. DIE. aHHHHHH, I'm dying, Egypt, dying..... The good news is that Kelly a/k/a ChessDaddy has been amazingly patient with me - I'm shocked! Shocked and Awed! Tonight he instructed me to download a later version of Chessbase Lite. Skeptical all the way, I did as he instructed and it downloaded seamlessly. I ran into a hitch when I had to reboot my computer, which refused stubbornly to reboot! I solved that problem by kicking off the safety plug thingy that I've got all the techy stuff plugged into. I counted down from 10 and then kicked it back on. Amazingly, the computer booted up in much less time than ever before! Even more amazing, after re-downloading the data base thingies that Chess Daddy sent to me on June 24th, I opened up the Chessbase Lite 2007 program and hitting "open" and then "open" again (as Chess Daddy had previously instructed me to do, except there was no such function in the prior Chessbase Lite program I'd managed to download), I was able to download the data base thingies with no problem whatever! Now, of course, I have to figure out a number of things: (1) How to get rid of the old Chessbase Lite program that I previously downloaded. Mysteriously, it did not show up in my list of "programs" when I opened up the thingy to add/delete programs. So, where the hell is it? If I cannot find it, how do I get rid of it? (2) How to use those data bases I have now successfully downloaded to the Chessbase Lite 2007 program. (3) How to find the time to study everything that Chess Daddy has decreed I MUST. Oh Goddess. I'm already having nervous breakdowns over the two games I'm currently playing. I'm trying to do everything that GM Susan Polgar advised in her prescient Sunday article in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and it's exhausting! And driving me crazy. And at the end of the day, I cannot escape this haunting, mocking feeling that I've no idea whatsoever what I'm doing. I'm scared to death every time I make a move! This cannot be normal! Help!

Southwest Chess Club: Coming Up...

This week's lecture (tomorrow night) (6:00-7:00 pm) will be given by Allen Becker. ANTHONY PARKER, as defending Club Champion, will be giving a SIMULTANEOUS EXHIBITION from 7:00 - 10:00 pm. This is a Free Event. Here is our major upcoming event for the summer: Southwest Chess Club Championship: July 9, 16, 23, 30 and August 6 & 13 6-Round Swiss in One Section. Game/100. USCF Rated. EF: $7 (must be a member to participate). SWCC Membership $10 (can join prior to first round). (Two ½ point byes available in rounds 1 through 5 if requested at least 2-days in advance; no byes available for round 6.) TD is Becker; ATD is Grochowski. Thursday events are held at St. James Catholic Church in the lower level of the Parish Center building (immediately in front of the church). The address is 7219 South 27th Street in Franklin. Parking in rear, enter through south door.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Judit Polgar Sighting at 9 Queens!

Upcoming event: The Unive Tournament in Hoogeveen takes place 16th-24th October 2009 with a new sponsor. The main four player tournament has: Vassily Ivanchuk, Judit Polgar, Sergei Tiviakov and Anish Giri. There is an open alongside. Details http://www.univechess.nl/ Unive Tournament Hoogeveen (NED), 16-24 x 2009 cat. XVII (2663) Ivanchuk, Vassily g UKR 2746 Polgar, Judit g HUN 2693 Tiviakov, Sergei g NED 2697 Giri, Anish f NED 2517
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For a great chess lesson on using decoys from one of Judit Polgar's games as black against GM Yasser Seirawan (white), check out this page at 9 Queens. Hmmm, I think I need to study this really hard... 9 Queens is putting together a chess work book using games and puzzles exclusive from and by women: Coming Soon If you’d like to see more tactics like this from world-class female players, you’re in luck! We are putting together a workbook highlighting the lives and games of some of the best female chess players in the world, including Judit Polgar, Humpy Koneru, and Alexandra Kosteniuk. More information about how to get a workbook will be available soon! The workbook is due out in October. For further information, send email.

Update: The Topper Site, South Carolina

Hmmm, as far as I can tell, there is no new "news" in this account - reports from this site surfaced back in 2004 about evidence pushing back man's presence in North American to 50,000 years ago. It is interesting, though. I find it hard to believe that other than some archaeological evidence, DNA evidence points to a purely "Asian" origin for ALL so-called "native Americans." But they didn't get here 50,000 years ago. I believe the most recent "wave" of Asian immigrants (if present hypotheses are correct), arrived in northwest Canada from Siberia just a couple thousand years ago. And the "Clovis" people are popularly assumed to have arrived some 13,000 years ago. Did all of the people who made up the Topper encampment from 50,000 years ago, and all of their offspring, die off? Is the science wrong? And if so - whose science is wrong? What are we missing here? Sunday, Jun. 28, 2009 Archaeological treasure trove surfaces in S.C. By Liz Mitchell - The (Hilton Head) Island Packet HILTON HEAD — An archaeologist who’s been digging at the Topper Site in Allendale County for 11 years is uncovering new evidence that could rewrite America’s history. University of South Carolina archaeologist Albert Goodyear found artifacts at this rock quarry site near the Savannah River that indicate humans lived here 37,000 years before the Clovis people. History books say the Clovis were the first Americans and arrived here 13,000 years ago by walking across a land bridge from Asia. Goodyear’s discovery could prove otherwise. His findings are controversial, opening scientific minds to the possibility of an even earlier pre-Clovis occupation of America. The site is named for Beaufort County resident David Topper, a forester who led Goodyear to the site in the early 1980s. Goodyear only began intense examination of the site in 1998, after flooding of the Savannah River forced him from a nearby dig, according to several histories of the Topper site. Goodyear believes it was a factory for the Clovis people, where they came to make tools. He also believes it was used long before the Clovis arrived. So far, he’s found two sets of artifacts at Topper: • Stone flakes and tools made of flint and chert that date to the Clovis era • A fire pit containing plant remains that date to at least 50,000 years ago, which suggest man was in South Carolina long before the last ice age. “The controversy is heightened because that’s just about the time, according to old-world archaeologists, when our species were starting to move away from Africa and get into Australia,” Goodyear said. “That’s true, and there’s no reason to think it’s not... .. But the bottom line is are these artifacts really legitimately associated with 50,000-year-old sediments? And, based on our digging, I think the answer is yes.” Goodyear finished his 12th dig at the site earlier this month and said he’s found more artifacts there that were “undeniably human made” in the layers of dirt dating to pre-Clovis and Clovis eras. Dennis Stanford, head of the archaeology division and director of the Paleo-Indian Program at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, visited Topper earlier this month to observe the excavation. “The Topper site is probably one of the most important sites being excavated in the country today,” Stanford said in a news release. “It’s a whole new chapter of history unfolding. ... The Smithsonian stands for the acquisition and dispersion of science and knowledge to human communities, and that’s exactly what is happening here.” In the pre-Clovis layer, Goodyear found a “core,” which is rock altered by human hands that would have been used to quarry or make tools. This year, he also found more flakes and stone chisel-like pieces. In the Clovis layer, Goodyear found a scraper tool, which he has not seen before among Clovis artifacts. It suggests the people might have been skinning animal hides, which could mean they were living at Topper for a few months at a time, instead of just the few weeks they would need to make tools. “One scraper doesn’t prove anything,” he said. “But we’re wondering if there was another set of activities besides quarrying and making artifacts there. We are going to look at that next year. That would make Topper a much more complex site for Clovis.” Goodyear said the artifacts at Topper are “sort of the Clovis library.” “It’s what’s in their Sears and Roebuck catalogue,” he said. “From that tool kit you make inferences about what they are doing there. “What we are trying to get at is, how do these humans organize themselves across the South Carolina and Georgia landscape?” he said. “As we understand how the tools function and where they distribute, then we are going to be able to say, wow, they were much more sedentary than we believed, or they’re not and just use quarries to refill their gas tank.” Goodyear said Clovis artifacts have been found as far as 100 miles away. “We know they are moving,” he said. “But the question is, are there places where they’re staying for a while? We’re just wondering if there might be more to Topper than we know so far based on all of our digging.”
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Here's the old news from 2004: From Science Daily, November 18, 2004: New Evidence Puts Man In North America 50,000 Years

Illegal Antiquities Trade: Mesopotamian Vase

How will we ever solve this culture-destroying problem? Archeology 30.06.2009 Mesopotamian vase sheds light on Germany's artefacts trade A legal dispute surrounding an antique golden vase being held in a museum vault in Mainz shines light on the surprisingly important role Germany plays in the often shady world of antiques trading. The case sounds more like an esoteric crime novel than a simple legal tussle, involving as it does archaeologists, rare-coin dealers, customs officials, and the Iraqi embassy in Berlin. At its heart is a golden vase just six centimeters high that may or may not have its origins in ancient Mesopotamia. The vase is currently being held by Michael Mueller-Karpe, an archaeologist at the Roman-Germanic Central Museum in Mainz, Germany. Three years ago he was charged with providing the court with an expert opinion on the provenance of the object, which is at the center of a lawsuit over fencing illegally trafficked goods. Archaeologist refuses to comply Now Mueller-Karpe is ignoring a court order, and refuses to turn the vase back over to the customs officials who confiscated it. The Iraqi embassy in Berlin has asked him not to, he says. Apparently they believe the object is safer where it is. Contrary to reports in the German media, the Stuttgart Customs Investigations Office is not about to break into the vault at the Roman-Germanic museum and grab the vase by force. "I don't know how that rumor got started, but it's not true," said Dieter Peulen, the acting director of the Stuttgart Customs Investigation Office. He would, however, like to get the object back. "I've never seen anything like this before," said Peulen. "At the moment, [the vase] has been confiscated by customs. [Mueller-Karpe] doesn't own it. In my opinion, the court has requested him to give it back, and he should do so." The vase showed up in Germany years ago in the catalog of a Munich auction house, designated as a Mediterranean piece from the Roman Iron Age. But someone familiar with Mesopotamian art spotted it, and sued the auctioneer for breach of the Foreign Trade Law. Stolen objects transit through Germany As part of the suit, customs officials brought the object to the museum in Mainz to have its provenance checked. Mueller-Karpe said the vase is "most probably" around 4,500 years old, and believes it was stolen by grave robbers from the ancient royal cemetery in the city of Ur, Iraq. Its provenance may be researched further as the case moves through the courts, said customs official Peulen. International traffic in antiques and artefacts from Iraq has bloomed since the fall of Saddam Hussein. According to the Spiegel Online newsmagazine, of the 15,000 pieces that were robbed from the National Museum in Baghdad in the wake of the US invasion in 2003, just 6,000 have been returned. Many of the missing objects - and more stolen from grave robbers around Ur - make their way through German auction houses at some point on their travels. Indeed, the case sheds light on Germany's overall role in both antiques trading and antiques trafficking - a distinction that is often hard to make when it comes to the sale of ancient objects, experts say. 'Unfortunate' legal situation Germany was the last industrial country to sign a UNESCO convention on protecting cultural heritage, and its loose demands for documentation on exports of some ancient objects seen as being friendly to fencers and smugglers. "The legal situation in Germany is very unfortunate for us," the Iraqi culture attache in Berlin told Spiegel Online. The burden of proof, "especially for objects stolen by grave robbers," is too high, he said. "Even an expert opinion with a probability of provenance of 95 percent isn't enough for the courts." According to Mueller-Karpe, the two-handled vase - which he believes is a "miniature version" of a Sumerian-era vase that would have served a functional purpose - remains in the museum for the time being. He told dpa news agency that it would be too dangerous for him to give it back to customs authorities, since the Iraqis have threatened that anyone who is involved in helping fence stolen goods could face a sentence of up to five years in Iraq. Since he is frequently on archaological digs in Iraq, Mueller-Karpe said, the sentence threat means he would lose his opportunity to work. Author: Jennifer Abramsohn Editor: Kate Bowen

Ancient Writing: Cherokee Syllabary

From Archaeology Magazine Online. Sorry, I could not get the Cherokee syllable-figures to show up here. (Image: The earliest writing in the system developed by the Cherokee known as Sequoyah has been found in a Kentucky cave. (Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C./Art Resource) From the Trenches Ꮞ Ꮙ Ꮿ Was Here Volume 62 Number 4, July/August 2009 By Eric A. Powell The Cherokee known as Sequoyah. (Courtesy Fred Coy National Portrait Gallery) In 1819, Cherokee silversmith George Gist—better known as Sequoyah—completed work on the Cherokee syllabary, a written script in which each character represents a syllable. By 1825, most Cherokee had adopted the system and Sequoyah ( Ꮞ Ꮙ Ꮿ in Cherokee*) was hailed as a folk hero for inventing the first Native American system of writing in North America. Now University of Cincinnati archaeologist Kenneth Tankersley has discovered that Cherokee characters engraved alongside petroglyphs in a southeastern Kentucky cave are the earliest known examples of Sequoyah's syllabary, dating back to 1818, or perhaps even earlier. Tankersley, a member of the Cherokee Nation and Piqua Shawnee tribes, found the characters in a cave sacred to Native Americans as the burial place of Red Bird, a prominent Cherokee chief who was tomahawked to death in 1796 by two white men in a fur trading dispute. Red Bird was known to have created some of the petroglyphs in the cave, which include abstract ancient symbols as well as glyphs representing bears, bats, deer, and birds. Sequoyah had relatives who lived near the cave and he taught the syllabary to Cherokee boys studying at a local school called the Choctaw Academy. "It's likely that Sequoyah would have visited the cave at some point to pay respects to Red Bird," says Tankersley. "We also know that he visited caves for inspiration while he was working on his syllabary, and that he incorporated rock-art motifs into the system." Tankersley has identified 15 characters in the cave— Ꮢ, Ꮕ, Ꮇ, Ꮧ, Ꮐ, Ꮰ, Ꮋ, Ꮴ, Ꭵ, Ꮊ, Ꮶ, Ꮍ, Ꮗ, Ꮀ, Ꮻ— accompanied by a date carved in the same hand that could be 1818 or 1808. "The characters don't spell any words—they read almost like ABCs," says Tankersley, who is also intrigued by the ambiguous date. Accounts of Sequoyah's life agree that he started working on the syllabary sometime around 1809. If the characters in Red Bird's cave date to 1808, there is only one person who could have created them. "My gut tells me Sequoyah left these characters in the cave," says Tankersley. "But without a time machine, that's archaeofantasy. If it wasn't him, then it was someone Sequoyah taught at the Choctaw Academy, and who was practicing drawing them out just as we would practice our ABCs. Regardless, the person is leaving these characters alongside traditional symbols in a sacred place. For the Cherokee, this syllabary was sacred too." Tankersley points out that it's not surprising to find examples of Sequoyah's syllabary alongside petroglyphs. "In 1818 Cherokee were adopting the trappings of European life, living in three-story buildings, tending orchards, and eating off of china, but they were still visiting sacred places like Red Bird's cave and practicing their way of life," he says. "It's important to remember that Native American history and archaeology don't disappear after Europeans arrive." Eric A. Powell is deputy editor at ARCHAEOLOGY. *If you do not see the Cherokee characters, they are shown below: Sequoyah (oops, no they aren't) 15 characters © 2009 by the Archaeological Institute of America

Southwest Chess Club: Independence Swiss!

Sign up for a one day tournament this coming Sunday! Allen Becker has notified us of this great way to cap what promises to be a beautiful Independence Day weekend in Milwaukee:
Chessplayers, We are having a Swiss tournament this Sunday, to help fill a chess tournament void this holiday weekend. Note that due to insurance factors, all players must be club members (but you can join the club this Sunday, $10 per year, or Free for 18 and under or college students). We know this is last-minute publicity, but please consider coming to play. If you wish to indicate your intention to play, via email, that will be helpful to us. There is no "early" entry fee; you can sign up this Thursday at the club, or from 11:15 a.m.-11:45 a.m. on Sunday. Please note that we are in the lower level of the St. James Catholic Church's Parish Center building (immediately in front of the church). The address is 7219 South 27th Street in Franklin (just south of Rawson & 27th) . PLEASE Use the south driveway, and park in the south parking lot (the usual club lot). Here are the tournament details (with Flyer attached):
Independence Swiss Sunday, July 5, 2009 The Southwest Chess Club
** Club Members Only ** Can Join Club on July 5 FORMAT: Four Round Swiss System - Four Games in One Day USCF Rated (Dual Rated) -- ONE SECTION SWISS TIME LIMIT: Round 1: Game in 45 Minutes Rounds 2, 3, and 4: Game in 60 Minutes ENTRY FEE: $ 20 Checks payable to Southwest Chess Club (Club Membership: $10; Free if 18 or under or in college) SITE REGISTRATION: 11:15 a.m. – 11:55 a.m. ROUNDS: 12 Noon – 2:00 pm -- 5:00 pm – 7:15 pm Pairings by WinTD; no computer entries PRIZES 1st— $45 C $30 2nd— $40 D $30 A $30 E & Below $30 B $30 Overall prize structure based on 30 total entries; Class prizes awarded with minimum 3 players in each class. Tournament Directors: Allen Becker and Robin Grochowski SITE: Usual Club Location: St. James Catholic Church in the lower level of the Parish Center building (immediately in front of the church). The address is 7219 South 27th Street in Franklin, WI. PLEASE Use south driveway, and park in the south parking lot (the usual club lot). ENTRIES TO: Allen Becker —6105 Thorncrest Drive— Greendale , WI 53129 http://us.mc379.mail.yahoo.com/mc/compose?to=allenbecker@wi.rr.com 414-423-0206 (home) or 414-807-0269 (cell) Sets, Boards and Clocks Provided, but Bring your own clock Half point byes: available in Round 1, 2 or 3 if requested prior to round 1; not available in Round 4. _____________________________________________________________________________ Name: __________________________________________________ USCF ID#: ________________ Rating: _________ Expire Date: ___________ Address: ______________________________________ City: _____________________ State : _______ Zip: _________ Phone: ________________ e-mail Address: ________________

Monday, June 29, 2009

Musing on Stone Age Music

Reported here (and everywhere, it seems) was the latest about really old flutes discovered in Germany. This article wanders (and wonders) about really old music. You know what I'd really like to hear, a composition from the few remaining stone-age tribes in existence today, to get a feel for what music may have sounded like 30,000 years or so ago. Hmmm, with You Tube and whatnot, there should be something out there??? Anyone with a heads up, please let me know (if you read this). (Image: bones as musical instruments, image from Irish Musical Instruments). From The New York Times Pondering Prehistoric Melodies By DANIEL J. WAKIN Published: June 27, 2009 “I have a reasonable good ear in music,” says Bottom in Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” “Let’s have the tongs and the bones.” A Stone Age ancestor living near what is now Ulm, Germany, did Bottom one better. He took the hollow bone of a griffon vulture, carved five holes in it and made one of the first flutes known to exist. (Perhaps it was a she; there are lots of great women flutists.) [In fact, it has now been acknowledged that probably a majority of the cave artists were females; and it makes sense that, given the small size of the bone and ivory flutes that have been discovered, the smaller hands of female musicians would have plyed upon them, just like the smaller hands of female artists plyed the colors upon the walls of ancient caves where early people lived). This was at least 35,000 years ago — maybe even 40,000 years ago. Could it have been around the time of the birth of human-made melody, a period when speech perhaps began to develop? It must have been a fine improvement on the whack of tongs and bones. A report of the flute’s discovery last week gives rise to all sorts of speculation about the origins of music and how it creates a palpable link between us and our prehistoric predecessors. “It’s easier to think of them as conscious, autonomous individuals if they’re making music,” said Sato Moughalian, a New York-based professional flutist. “To make the step from just breathing to actually producing a sound requires a different sense of self.” At the least, the find delights flute players, who like to point out that their instrument (outside of percussion) is the most elemental of all. No reeds to blow past, no strings to make vibrate, no mouthpiece to buzz. “It’s very simple,” Robert Langevin, the principal flutist of the New York Philharmonic. “There’s no intermediate thing to produce the sound. Our way of breathing is similar to the way of singers.” And nothing is more natural to the human organism than breathing. Of course, Mr. Langevin and his colleagues play something much different than the cave flute. Their flutes are generally made of metal (sometimes even gold), have keys and pads that cover holes. They are also played sideways. The five-hole vulture bone flute has a notched end, across which the player blows. Its discovery was reported in an article in the journal Nature. Nicholas J. Conard of the University of Tübingen in Germany was one of the authors. He said an experimental archaeologist named Wulf Hein made a reproduction and recorded several tunes, including “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The flute’s basic scale replicates the notes accompanying the line “Oh say can you see,” Dr. Conard said. The flute and several other types found nearby indicate a high-level of musical and technological sophistication, he said. While the nature of the music they made at the time is unknown, “There had to have been Paganinis, Mozarts, Hendrixes,” he said. The discovery is also a reminder that music was present at the earliest flowering of human culture, an idea that musicians and music lovers can embrace with great joy, said Steven Stucky, a composer (who has written a double concerto for flutes and orchestra). “This must have been a fundamental part of life,” he said. It is, of course, impossible to establish how humans became musical. The song of birds and patter of rain may have provided examples. “Once humans got the musical bug going, I can imagine sort of looking at everything,” said Peter Schickele, the composer and alter ego of P. D. Q. Bach. “Can you hit it, can you blow it, can you make a sound out of it?” He added, “I’ve done a fair amount of that in my own life.” Dr. Conard suggested music strengthened and extended social bonds, perhaps contributing to the evolutionary survival of homo sapiens. The flute was found in an area also inhabited by Neanderthals, who — according to the archaeological record — did not appear to be very musical. About 10,000 years later, they fell extinct. [NOT a logical conclusion to this otherwise good article, but evidence of the author getting lazy and going for the easy punch line against "ape man" Neanderthal. Bad form, tsk tsk.]
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Wow - learn more about the ancient practice of using bones to make music: The Bones - Ancient to Modern, by Sue E. Barber

War Forces Archaeologists to Leave Indus Valley

...and leave it to the looters who don't give a flying fig about the historical significance of their "loot" -- all they care about is how much they can sell it for to a middle-man who, in turn, will sell it to an expediter who, in turn, will sell it to an expediter on the other side of the world who, in turn, will sell it to either a private collector or an unethical antiquities dealer who features "on the side" showings to wealthy individuals and less than ethical museum curators -- all off the books, of course. Indus Valley’s secrets to remain buried: Insecurity forces archaeologists to abandon excavations Daily Times.com.pk June 29, 2009 By Afnan Khan Archaeology Department official says embassies had been warning the experts to leave, Benazir’s assassination proved final straw LAHORE: Foreign archaeologists involved in excavation work to explore the Indus Valley Civilisation in Pakistan have left the country due to the war-like situation. The experts from the US, Europe and UK uncovered the mysteries of the Indus Valley Civilisation for the world during their research spanning decades. The teams, consisting of senior professors Dr Richard H Meadow, Professor JM Kenoyer, Dr Jean-Francois Jarrige and late Prof George F Dales, had conducted extensive research in different parts of Pakistan. A majority of the areas that were a part of the Indus Valley Civilisation became Pakistan after the partition of the sub-continent in 1947. Sources in the Federal Archaeology Department told Daily Times that the experts were working despite the tense security situation in the region after 9/11, but had to leave the country after the increase in the wave of violence and terrorism, which led to the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Final departure: “Their embassies were already warning them to be careful while working in the areas like Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Taxila, Mehrgarh and other areas in Pakistan, all of them finally left the country after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto,” an Archaeology Department official told Daily Times. The Indus Valley Civilisation, dating back to 2,600BC, mainly covered the area that is now Pakistan, with its traces in neighbouring countries like India, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. However, the sources said, the international experts were still keen on resuming the abandoned research work in the country, despite being worried about the security situation. They said the experts were wondering when, if ever, they would be able to resume their excavation. The sources said the researcher had now been compelled to focus only on the parts of the Indus Valley Civilisation in the Indian state of Gujarat, especially in the city of Lothal. This has deprived Pakistan of a chance to promote its soft image in the world. Prof Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, an internationally renowned authority on the Indus Valley, who had been researching in Harappa since 1986, told Daily Times that he spent a key part of his life working on the research work in Pakistan but was left with no other option but to leave the country after the assassination of Bhutto. Kenoyer said he was likely to visit Pakistan in 2010, in order to resume his high-profile research, but said the return totally depended on the law and order in the country. Federal Archaeology Department Northern Circle Director Salimul Haq told Daily Times that there was not a single foreigner working on any research or excavation project in the country. He said the department tried its best to facilitate the researchers, but their own embassies were sceptical about their stay in Pakistan. He said the local archaeologists were trying to take over the research work. Art historian Prof Dr Ajaz Anwar told Daily Times that local archaeologists lacked the expertise to continue the excavation work, as compared to experts from Harvard, Cambridge, Berkley and other globally acclaimed educational institutions. Anwar said the foreign explorers had been responsible for the excavations and explorations, and the locals had made almost no contribution. Anwar said the statue of the fasting Buddha, placed in the Lahore Museum, was damaged during its digging by the locals. He said the locals had stuck the broken arm of the statue with traditional cement, instead of using the appropriate material, despite the fact that it was damaging for the splendid piece of art. Famous historian Prof Dr Mubarak Ali said the departure of international archaeologists was a great loss for the country and the government should try to convince and facilitate these people to come back to Pakistan.

St. Paul?

Hmmmm, well, the Holy Father of Rome has announced to the world that bones discovered in a certain tomb in 2006 are, in fact, those of St. Paul the Apostle. This seems rather strange, since there was nothing in the article to indicate when or how theremains were moved from where they were, according to legend, originally buried, and where they ended up. Anyway, here is the article -- From Guardian.co.uk Pope claims human remains belong to St Paul Fiona Winward in Rome Monday 29 June 2009 Human remains found beneath the Vatican have been identified as belonging to St Paul, Pope Benedict XVI said, apparently laying to rest the mystery of a tomb first discovered in the city in 2006. Archaeologists found material and fragments of bone dating to the first or second century AD inside the tomb at the basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. Vatican experts claim the tomb's position, underneath the epigraph Paulo Apostolo Mart (Paul the Apostle and Martyr), at the base of the main altar is proof that it belongs to the apostle. The pope said the tomb had not been opened but that a probe inserted through a small hole had revealed traces of purple linen decorated with gold sequins, blue material and red incense grains as well as the remains. "Small fragments of bone were carbon dated by experts who knew nothing about their provenance and results showed they were from someone who lived between the first and second century," he said. "This seems to confirm the unanimous and uncontested tradition that these are the mortal remains of Paul the apostle," he said, adding that the discovery "fills our souls with great emotion". The pope made the announcement from the basilica as he celebrated the end of the Pauline year, which has marked the 2,000th anniversary of the apostle's birth. It also comes a day after Vatican archaeologists uncovered what they believe to be the oldest icon of St Paul in a Rome catacomb, dating to the late fourth century. St Paul was a Roman Jew who converted to Christianity after he saw a light on the road to Damascus. His letters in the New Testament are considered highly influential in Christian thinking. Tradition holds that Paul was beheaded by the Emperor Nero around AD 62-65 and buried in a vineyard over which the Emperor Constantine built a basilica in 324. St Paul Outside the Walls is the second biggest church in Rome after St Peter's.
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But - this Dutch expert says no no no... No proof that Vatican bones are St Paul's, says Dutch expert Europe News Jun 29, 2009, 16:28 GMT Dresden, Germany - Responding to the claim by Pope Benedict XVI that the bones of St Paul have been found in Rome, a Dutch expert, Rengert Elburg, said Monday this can never be proven. Elburg, an expert on archaeological study of old bones and organic remains for the government of the German state of Saxony, told the German Press Agency dpa in an interview, 'It's impossible to establish that it's him.' Even a genetic analysis of the bones in a sarcophagus marked as Paul's would reveal nothing, because there were no proven descendants whose DNA could be compared. 'But the bones could tell you the sex and age of death of the person,' he said. A face could be reconstructed if a skull were in the grave. 'But we don't know how Paul looked, so that doesn't help identify the body,' he said. Elburg said scientists were likely to check for links to the historical account of the beheading of St Paul, the author of copious letters and first interpreter of Christianity. 'Traces of beheading can be identified with absolute certainty,' he said. The cut was usually found between the third and fourth vertebrae. Elburg counselled maximum precision in opening the sarcophagus, saying, 'It will be comparable to opening the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh.' Fabric in a coffin could fall apart at a touch. He said dry, outside air would not damage fabric or the bones. The presence of any clothing was likely to depend on whether the sarcophagus had been hermetically sealed for 20 centuries. 'Roman fabrics in the time of St Paul were of very high quality. They had wool, linen and even silk,' he said. The pagan Romans embalmed their bodies, but Christians did not, he added. 'Doubtless nothing like that was done with this early Christian person,' he said. The Pope said Sunday that a probe through a tiny hole in the sarcophagus at the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Wall proved they contained remains from the time of Christ.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Triple Chess Goddess Has Spoken

...to me. Specifically - in the person of GM Susan Polgar, in her column in the Lubbock Avalanche Journal (online version). How does she DO that? This is really spooky... This week's column is geared to no less than - BEGINNERS. Such as yours truly. Oh, I know I know, I've been playing chess for nearly 40 years now, and never progressed a whit in my game in all this time. The only thing I think I know about chess at this point in my life is that the end-game usually means there are many less pieces on the board and one has more room to run. It isn't as if I don't know these things - except I don't really know them at all. So - Polgar: Try these basic chess principles to help you become a better player Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Sunday, June 28, 2009 Story last updated at 6/28/2009 - 5:30 pm Here is the question of the week: What are some of the most important things novice/ scholastic chess players need to know about chess? Chess is a very easy game to learn, but harder to master [you ain't kidding]. Here are some very important principles in chess that will help you become a better player. • Control the center • Develop your pieces as soon as possible • Castle as soon as possible • Keep your pieces protected • Have lots of fun. Win with grade. Lose with dignity And once you've got the hang of the above, you should also remember: • Every move should have a purpose. • What is the idea behind your opponent's move? • Always think before you move. There is no take back in chess. So make your decision carefully. • Learn to make plans. Planning is one of the most important elements of the game of chess. • Analyze your games and learn from your mistakes. Every player, from beginner to world champion, makes mistakes. It is very important to go over your games to find mistakes and learn from them. • Pace yourself wisely. Oh oh... I am in trouble. Big trouble. I can't keep all of these things in my head! I can't keep even half of them in my head. There's a reason why some people do not play chess, and I'm Exhibit #1.

Shira Chess Challenge!

Training Update: Those of you who follow this blog know that I am "in training" for an upcoming three-game match against Shira Evans, which will start on July 31, 2009. Periodically I will be reporting here on my training progress. This is my second Update. (First Training Update) Don't ask me how I did it darlings, because I have no idea! But somehow I did finally get the Chessbase Lite thingy that Chess Daddy had sent to me to download properly to my computer. Or I should say, I managed to get it unzipped using a free unzip program, as I had managed to get it downloaded during First Training Update. I can now open it and "virtually press" all of the buttons and everything, like opening and closing the program! Except I cannot figure out how to get the data bases into the thingy. No data bases, no training. There's nothing inside of the thingy to do. End of story. You may no doubt have deduced by now that I am technologically challenged, just as I am chessly challenged. That's what comes from learning chess at the ripe old age of 18 - NOTHING! So, I am now into Plan B, and scrupulously avoiding calling Chess Daddy to see if he can talk me through how to get the data bases into the thingy. Plan B is to play as much chess as I can squeeze in. I am playing "correspondence" chess. I have two games going at present. They are both in early days (very early days). One is going okay, I think. The other - ohmygoddess! Let me put it this way, I should have resigned on move 6. I started with a standard opening, 1. e2 to e4. But early on I moved my left hand knightess out, thinking that, you know, like "control the middle of the board." BAD MOVE. The other side proceeded to make a series of moves that had me moving my knightess all over the place while he (or she) was slowly and steadily developing pieces. I saw exactly what was happening and I was helpless to stop it. CHESS SUCKS. Well, okay, to be absolutely fair, chess is a fine game but JAN AS A CHESSPLAYER SUCKS. But rather than resigning, that old Newton stubborness came to the fore and I stuck with it; I finally got my knightess out of danger (temporarily) and have now also managed to move a few other pieces into some semblance of defense (flimsy) - which isn't saying much as I'm playing WHITE. EEK! I fully expect to go down in flames (soon) in this game, but not without the best fight I can muster. We Newtons do not know the meaning of the word surrender. Ha! I swear to the Great Triple Chess Goddess, POLGAR SISTERS, that I will NEVER EVER move my left knightess out on move 2 again. EVER. No matter how tempted I may be to do so. EVER. I can tell you this much - I am now really THINKING about each and every move I make before I make it. And thank the Triple Chess Goddess that this is correspondence chess because I really do get a "take back" because I've been making some really crappy moves and then looking at the board a 40th or more time and going OHMYGODDESS, WHY DID YOU MOVE THERE?

Auction Watch

From Sotheby's, an auction held October 8, 2008. Arts of the Islamic World Sale: L08222 Location: London Auction Dates: Session 1: Wed, 08 Oct 08 10:00 AM LOT 84 AN IVORY CHESS PIECE, EGYPT OR SYRIA, 10TH-11TH CENTURY8,000—12,000 GBPLot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 17,500 GBP MEASUREMENTS measurements note4.5cm. height 4cm. diam. DESCRIPTION Of solid cylindrical form with rounded edges, one half of the top with a flat surface in keeping with the shape of the base, the other side split by the central raised boss, curves down each side, two large cruciform motifs incised on both the front and back, similar dot motif clusters on either side placed above the three band indentation wrapping around the object, drilled concentric circles to the base CATALOGUE NOTE This abstract form is an impressive example of a group of ivory chessmen with decorative patterns carved into the surface. Existent in the early Islamic centuries, this form has traditionally been associated with the arrival of the game from India. However it seems likely that both figural and abstract forms were already in use prior to this. This piece is a symbolic representation of both the 'King' and the throne which is demonstrated by the form of the chess piece. (Emphasis added) A related piece was sold in these rooms on 30th April 1998, lot 1. Closely comparable ivory pieces can be found at the British Museum (A. Contadini: 'Islamic Ivory Chess Pieces, Draughtsman and Dice' in Islamic Art in the Ashmolean Museum, ed. James Allan, Oxford, 1995, Part Im pp.111-154). Two more were excavated at Aachen in 1925 and are discussed with other examples by Manfred Eder (Bagdad-Bergkristall-Bernedictiner Zum Ex-orient des Schachspiels, Aachen, 2203 esp.pp.36-36 and 76-77). Further ivory pieces are exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum, Boston Museum of Fine Arts and a larger version was sold at Christie's, 11 April 2000. A similar 'King' can also be found in the Museum für Islamische Kunst, Berlin (Ernst Kühnel, Die Islamische Elfenbeinskupturen, Berlin, 1971, no.9, pl.V) Kühnel dates that piece to the eight or ninth century and attributes it to Egypt.

The Blenko "Chess Piece"

Gorgeous! From Heart of Glass blog: This stunning decanter made in 1959 stands just UNDER 15 " tall. The official Blenko color is referred to as Charcoal. The shape is fantastic, often referred to as the "Chess Piece". This was designed by Wayne Husted for Blenko in 1959, Blenko catalog #5922s. The base has the acid etched / sand blasted Blenko logo.

Ancient Wells in Cyprus

These wells are very old - dating back to 10,500 years ago to 9,000 years ago! There is a also a mystery surrounding the remains of a young woman found in one well: From Physorg.com June 24th, 2009 By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS , Associated Press Writer --> (AP) -- Archaeologists have discovered a water well in Cyprus that was built as long as 10,500 years ago, and the skeleton of a young woman at the bottom of it, an official said Wednesday. Rest of article (AP copyright). Coverage at BBC Online: Stone Age wells found in Cyprus Thursday, 25 June 2009 Archaeologists have found a group of water wells in western Cyprus believed to be among the oldest in the world. The skeleton of a young woman was among items found at the bottom of one shaft. Radiocarbon dating indicates the wells are 9,000 to 10,500 years old, putting them in the Stone Age, the Cypriot Antiquities Department says. A team from Edinburgh University has found six such wells, near the coastal town of Paphos. They are said to show the sophistication of early settlers. According to Thomas Davis, director of the Nicosia-based Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute, "the fact that they were using wells and that they tapped into the island's water table shows heightened appreciation for the environment". The latest five-metre (16-foot) shaft to be discovered had small natural channels in the bedrock at the bottom, confirming it was a water well. In addition to a poorly preserved young woman's skeleton the silted-up well contained animal bone fragments, worked flints and some stone jewellery. The wells were unearthed by an excavator at a construction site. They date from the time that permanent settlements first appeared in Cyprus, the Associated Press news agency reports.

The "Alexander" Sarcophagus

An interesting feature article from the Wall Street Journal online edition: Masterpiece/JUNE 28, 2009, 11:39 A.M. ET Who’s in the Alexander Sarcophagus? Not Alexander the Great, though he battles heroically in its high-relief friezes By JUDITH H. DOBRZYNSKI Sidon, a port city about 25 miles south of Beirut whose rich history dates to 4000 B.C., was among the most successful of the Phoenician city-states. In the fourth century B.C., it fell to Alexander the Great, entering a Hellenistic age that lasted for more than 100 years until the Romans took over. It changed hands several more times before becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century. So it is not surprising that when, in the mid-1800s, archaeologists started exploring Sidon, they found treasures. The French turned up (among other things) a sarcophagus that belonged to a Phoenician king named Eshmunazar II and sent it back to the Louvre. Later, a Turk named Osman Hamdi Bey, who had studied in Paris, became director of the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul and began leading his own excavations in Sidon. In 1887, his team hit upon more than two dozen sarcophagi. Many were stunning, including the Sarcophagus of Mourning Women, which shows 18 comely, elegant females in varying expressions of grief; it’s now in the Istanbul museum. But the star discovery was clearly a fantastically beautiful burial chamber depicting Alexander in battle and at hunt in high-relief. One glance told the Ottoman archaeologists that it was made for someone special. Given its date—fourth century B.C.—and its Hellenistic style, they proposed that it belonged to Alexander. It didn’t, everyone now says. Alexander’s tomb has never been found (though a few academics argue that a sarcophagus found in Alexandria and now at the British Museum is his; the British Museum disagrees). The specimen in question, which nevertheless became known as the Alexander Sarcophagus, was likely carved for Abdalonymos, a gardener of royal blood who was made Sidon’s king by Alexander in 332 B.C. (some scholars disagree about this, too). But there is no debate about its status as a masterpiece. The Alexander Sarcophagus sits in a place of honor at the Archaeological Museum and is unmistakably a work of the highest artistic order, among the most important classical antiquities ever discovered. It is totally intact and in almost perfect condition. Despite its 2,000-plus years, it bears traces of the garish reds, yellows and other colors it once wore. Made of Pentelic marble—the same stone used for the structures on the Acropolis—the sarcophagus tells a story on each of its four sides. Two are battle scenes; two show hunts. Alexander, with his determined visage and curly cropped hair, is instantly recognizable and decidedly heroic. In fact, while the depictions on the friezes are accurate as to the style of arms and dress and detailed reputedly even to the fingernails (I couldn’t get that close), and while they are realistic, not idealized figures, the overall result contains more than a dash of propaganda. The first and perhaps greatest panel depicts the battle of Issus in 333 B.C., the crucial moment when Alexander of Macedonia defeated Persia for primacy in Asia Minor. The Persian emperor Darius III had expected an invasion and, because Alexander’s reputation preceded him, chose to lead his own army. But though Alexander was outnumbered, he outmaneuvered Darius tactically; his troops waged a fierce and bloody battle, destroying the Persian army. On this frieze, Alexander rides a rearing horse, charging a Persian and trampling another one underfoot. The sculpture is so three-dimensional that it practically steps off the stone. Alexander, his face intense, makes eye contact with a Persian he targets with a spear (presumably made of metal, and missing, as are all the spears made for the sarcophagus); the Persian cowers in fear. Nearby, an equally fervent pair of warring foot soldiers are at each other’s throats. And so it goes throughout what could be construed as six scenes: Alexander’s army shows its muscles, literally (especially the leg muscles), while the Persians are covered in historically accurate trousers and head coverings that conceal theirs. You can read the agony on the face of a dying Persian, one among many scattered on the ground. Alexander’s army simply shows determination. On the opposite long frieze, however, things have changed. Alexander is now in control of a unified country, and the Greeks and the Persians, still easy to discern by their dress (some Greeks are nude, and all are bare-headed), are happily hunting lion and stag together. Again, Alexander rides a rearing horse, his mantle flowing in the wind, a dog near his feet. He encourages the Persian—perhaps Abdalonymos—ahead of him, whose horse encounters a hungry lion. The lion’s claws pierce the horse, and his jaw bites its stomach. But Abdalonymos attacks with a spear, while another Persian prepares to land a blow on the beast with an ax. The second most prominent figure in both scenes, some scholars believe, is Alexander’s close friend from Macedonia, Hephaestion. The two short sides are similar, if simpler. One depicts the Battle of Gazza in 312 B.C.; in the other, Persians, including another figure thought to be Abdalonymos, hunt a panther. The Alexander sarcophagus is shaped like a temple, with a pitched roof adorned with carved scale-like tiles. Gargoyles sit on the edges. Small friezes have been carved in the pediments. Between the roof and the friezes, and below them, panels are trimmed in vine leaves, Greek labyrinths and egg-and-dart motifs. The proportions work. No one knows who made this exquisite object. Some experts have suggested that the hand of as many as six sculptors can be detected, but the work is so consistently good that you could have fooled me. There was a painter, too. Near the sarcophagus in the Archaeological Museum, the Turks have placed a model displaying what one part of the sarcophagus, Alexander on his charging horse, would have looked like had its colors remained. To eyes now expecting Greek artifacts to be white marble, the magenta, red and gold seem to clash. But even then, it’s easy to see a jewel of a piece. —Ms. Dobrzynski writes about the arts for The Wall Street Journal and other publications and blogs at Real Clear Arts.
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