Sunday, March 7, 2010


Oy!  Are they going to hang her?

Story from The Mail Online
Woman who found coin worth £2,000 in garden becomes first to be prosecuted for not reporting treasure
By Andy Dolan and Dalya Alberge
Last updated at 12:27 PM on 27th February 2010

A woman who found a 700-year-old coin in her garden as a child has become the first person to be convicted of failing to hand in suspected treasure.

Kate Harding, 23, was prosecuted under the Treasure Act after she ignored orders to report the rare find to a coroner.

A court heard the silver piedfort marking Charles IV's ascension to the French throne in 1322 was discovered by Miss Harding 14 years ago as she worked in the garden with her mother.

Following her mother's death a short time later, Miss Harding kept the 1.4g item as a memento until she eventually approached museum experts with it last year who identified it as a piedfort, but she did not inform the coroner.

The exact use of piedforts is unknown. They are generally thicker than coins and were not used as currency. Experts have suggested they were used as guides for mint workers or as reckoning counters for officials.

Only three others have been found in the UK. One found in 2007 was bought by the British Museum for £1,800.

Under the Treasure Act 1996, treasure is defined as any single object at least 300 years old which is not a coin but has a precious metal content of at least 10 per cent.

The Act gives a finder 14 days to inform the local coroner of potential treasure and creates an offence of failing to carry out that duty where this is not followed.

Ludlow magistrates heard how Miss Harding had ignored calls and letters from Ludlow Museum advising her to report the piedfort to the district coroner once it had been identified last February.

Museum staff then notified Anthony Sibcy, the coroner for South Shropshire, who informed police. Miss Harding initially claimed she had lost the piedfort, the court heard.

Defending Miss Harding, Brendan Reedy said she had failed to notify the coroner because of ' disorganisation' on her part and that the artefact had a sentimental value to her.

Miss Harding, who lives with her boyfriend on the outskirts of Ludlow, admitted having an object that is believed to have been treasure and not reporting it to the coroner.

She faced up to three months in jail or a fine, or both, but walked free from court on Wednesday with a conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £25 of the £300 costs.

"One Step Beyond" Stuff - Three Suicides in Busted Antiquities Theft Ring

This is just scary and too fricking weird! I do not believe in conspiracy theories or curses.  What the heck is going on here?  This is just too much for me to believe that these deaths are merely coincidences...

Source in artifact case apparently commits suicide
By PAUL FOY and MIKE STARK (AP) – 5 days ago

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah businessman who worked a two-year sting operation for federal officials investigating looting of American Indian relics across the Southwest has died, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot.

It appears to be the third suicide connected to the case.

Ted Dan Gardiner, an antiquities dealer and former grocery store CEO, shot himself Monday at a home in the Salt Lake City suburb of Holladay, police said.

Gardiner, 52, worked with the FBI and the federal Bureau of Land Management in a sweeping case that led to felony charges against 26 people in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.

Gardiner's father and his son told The Associated Press on Tuesday that they could not explain his death. Federal authorities declined comment.

Two defendants — a Santa Fe, N.M., salesman and a prominent Blanding, Utah, physician, James Redd — committed suicide after their arrests in June.

Gardiner offered in 2006 to help federal authorities set up what turned into a long-running sting operation in the black-market trade in prehistoric relics. Court papers say he was typically paid $7,500 a month for secretly recording transactions across the Southwest for more than two years.

Gardiner provided prosecutors with hundreds of hours of video showing suspects admitting they took artifacts from federal and tribal lands, according to court documents.

The case broke open in June when about 150 federal agents descended on the Four Corners region. In the small town of Blanding, Utah, agents raided homes of 16 people, including a math teacher and brother of the local sheriff. Most were handcuffed and shackled as agents confiscated stone pipes, woven sandals, spear and arrow heads, seed jars and decorated pottery.

The arrests prompted outcry from southern Utah residents — many claiming federal officials were heavy-handed. One man served a year in federal prison for threatening to track Gardiner down and beat him with a baseball bat.

Two of the 26 defendants — Redd's wife and daughter — pleaded guilty last year. The rest pleaded not guilty.

Gardiner was still being paid for helping agents prepare for court cases, and he was to receive more money if he had testified. Gardiner had received $162,000 in payments plus expenses, for a total of $224,000, when most of the arrests were made in June.

Federal authorities and Gardiner, who also ran an artifact authentication business, have insisted he was never in trouble with the law.

Unified Police Lt. Don Hutson says a preliminary autopsy shows Gardiner's gunshot wound was probably self-inflicted. An officer fired a round during a standoff Monday night, but it didn't hit Gardiner.

Deputies were called to Gardiner's home Saturday night on a report that he was suicidal, Hutson said. Gardiner's gun was taken away and he was transported to a hospital for a mental health evaluation. Gardiner used another gun Monday night.

Gardiner's father, Dan Gardiner, declined further comment Tuesday, handing over the phone to one of Ted Gardiner's sons, who said, "We don't know any more than you." The son declined to give his name.

Ted Gardiner ran his father's business, Dan's Foods Inc., for a decade before selling the grocery chain to another company in 2000. The sale brought the family millions of dollars, but Ted Gardiner also had financial problems.

In 2007, he was dunned for more than $400,000 by federal and state tax authorities, according to public records. Gardiner, who spoke to the AP in a series of interviews last summer, said the debt was mostly a result of the proceeds he received from the sale of a Dan's Foods building in Park City.

Federal agents and the U.S. attorney's office refused to confirm that the Ted Gardiner who died Monday was the same Ted Gardiner who worked the artifacts case. He shared the same name, date of birth and address of the man identified in court documents as the government's informant.

"We have never talked about the source. No comment," said Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Salt Lake City.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

More -

Informant's death throws artifacts case into doubt
By PAUL FOY (AP) – 4 days ago

SALT LAKE CITY — The death of a lone undercover operative in a federal crackdown on the black market for ancient American Indian artifacts has thrown plans for a first trial into doubt.

U.S. Attorney for Colorado David Gaouette says he's reviewing the evidence left for a trial that was to start March 29.

Antiquities dealer Robert B. Knowlton is accused of selling a prehistoric pipe and two knives to the Utah businessman who secretly recorded hundreds of hours of videotaped sales with 26 defendants in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.

Gaouette says he's reviewing ways to use the videotape without live testimony from Ted Gardiner, who shot himself Monday after a police standoff. Gaouette wasn't certain if Knowlton's trial will start as scheduled.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

More -

From The Los Angeles Times
Informant in federal Indian artifacts case is dead
Antiquities dealer Ted Gardiner shoots himself in a Utah home, apparently the third suicide among people connected to the case that resulted in 24 arrests last year.
March 04, 2010|By Nicholas Riccardi

Reporting from Denver — An antiquities dealer who was an informant for a sweeping federal case against people who allegedly looted Indian artifacts has killed himself, police said, apparently the third suicide among people connected to the case.

Ted Gardiner, 52, allegedly shot himself Monday night as a SWAT team headed to the house where he was staying in Holladay, Utah. Gardiner had spent 2 1/2 years working as an undercover informant for federal authorities investigating illegal trafficking of artifacts in the Southwest.

Prosecutors last year indicted 24 people on charges of illegally excavating and selling the items.

Shortly after the arrests in June, suspect Dr. James Redd killed himself. Weeks later, another defendant, antiquities dealer Steven Shrader, also committed suicide.

"When the other two suicides occurred, it bothered him deeply," Gardiner's son Dustin told the Salt Lake Tribune.

Police said they were called Saturday night to the house where Gardiner was staying because he was threatening suicide. He was taken to a hospital, spent the night and was released.

But Monday at 6 p.m., he grabbed a gun and retreated to his room in the house, alarming his housemates, who again called authorities. Gardiner fired on the first officer who arrived, then shot himself, said police Lt. Don Hutson.

Can You Read 15th Century Gothic?

A text mystery?  I find it absolutely amazing that this text, dated to the 15th century, cannot be deciphered.  What am I missing here?  This isn't Linear A or the Phaistos Disk, for Goddess' sake!  Ohhhhh, now I get it - it's English!

Search on to decipher Gothic text
Saturday, 6 March 2010

A Gothic inscription recently discovered hidden behind a monument at Salisbury Cathedral is now thought to date from the 15th Century. [Digitally emhanced photo of the actual inscription.]

The text was found in January when experts moved the Henry Hyde monument from the south aisle wall to clean it.

Archaeologist Tim Tatton-Brown said: "The basic questions of what exactly the words are and why it was written on the cathedral wall remain unanswered. It would be wonderful for us to solve the mystery."

He added: "I originally surmised it dated from the 16th Century, bearing in mind the monument was erected soon after 1660. Our researches now suggest it was written a century earlier and therefore pre-dates the Reformation.

"Study of this by specialist academics is leaning towards the text being written in the 15th Century, a period when English was, for the very first time, being used just occasionally in preference to Latin which was then the norm."

Dr John Crook, an independent historian, said: "There are clearly several lines of a large textual inscription. There seems to be a phrase, 'and we are c…', but so far we have not been able to work out more.

"If anyone thinks they can identify any further letters from the enhanced photographs, please contact us via Salisbury Cathedral website and I can trace them in."

The conservators' work on The Hyde Monument has now been completed, the monument has been put back on the wall and the text is once again hidden from view.
Experts pin hopes on public to decipher 500-year-old English inscription discovered in church
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:40 AM on 02nd March 2010

What is believed to be the first ever example of English written in a British church has been discovered. Problem is, no-one can read it.

The 500-year-old inscription was found on a wall in Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire, hidden behind a monument dedicated to an aristocrat.

The faded black lettering was discovered in January but experts have now asked for help from the public in a bid to make sense of the inscription.

Conservators came across the writing when they were preparing to clean a 350-year-old monument to Henry Hyde, a local aristocrat who was 'martyred' in the English Civil War for his support of King Charles I.
The text on the cathedral's south aisle wall had been whitewashed over with lime, which is why it is hard to read.

Tim Tatton-Brown, the cathedral’s archaeologist, said: 'The cathedral’s conservators quite unexpectedly found some beautifully written English text behind the Henry Hyde Monument on the cathedral’s south aisle wall.

'It was discovered when the monument was temporarily removed as part of the ongoing schedule of work.
'I originally surmised that the text dated from the 16th century, bearing in mind that the monument was erected soon after 1660.

'However, our researches now suggest it was written a century earlier and therefore pre-dates the Reformation.

'Study by specialist academics is leaning towards the text being written in the 15th century.

'This was period when English was, for the very first time, being used just occasionally in preference to Latin, which was then "the norm".'

Sir Henry had been buried there in 1650 after his execution. The monument was put up in 1660 and refers to him as ending life 'kissing the axe ... to suffer the envied martyrdom of Charles I'.

Mr Tatton-Brown added: 'My guess is that it is a biblical text, put there in the Elizabethan period when the nave was fitted out with high pews for people to sit in to listen to the "new" sermons preached there.

'Inscriptions of the Bible, the Word of God, would have been written on the inside walls of the building following the Reformation, having been translated into English in Cranmer’s bible.'

Although in the 15th century the clergy stuck to Latin, English was increasingly spoken by wider society, including the ruling class. The royal court used the language from 1413 onwards.

Experts in deciphering similar messages have attempt to find the meaning of the inscription but have so far failed.  Dr John Crook, who produced a digitally-enhanced image of the text, said he had found one line which read 'and we are c...' but the rest was illegible.

He added: There seems to be a phrase but so far we have not been able to work out more. 'If anyone thinks they can identify any further letters from the enhanced photographs, please contact us via the Salisbury Cathedral website.

'The basic questions of what exactly the words are and why the text was written on the cathedral wall remain unanswered. It would be wonderful for us to solve the mystery.'

Dr Crook also believes there are likely to be other inscriptions in the cathedral, which have since been lost or painted over. He said: 'It would be too much of a coincidence that the only one happened to be behind this monument.'

The inscription has now been re-covered by the Henry Hyde monument, as scholars said it would be better protected.

An interesting sidebar:

So, what would English have been like in the 15th century?

The era saw the development – and finally dominance – of an English language that we would recognise today.

Not only were peasants using it, but the ruling class, who were still largely descended from the 1066 Norman invaders, increasingly spoke it too.

Revolutionary: Caxton's printing press
Middle English, which more closely reflected its Saxon roots than today’s language, was already used in Parliament (from the 1360s) and the royal court (from King Henry V, who acceded in 1413).

Latin, however, remained the official language of the clergy, making the use of the inscription at Salisbury Cathedral all the more fascinating.
It perhaps reflects a growing confidence in users of the tongue during a time of great upheaval as men from lower levels in society came into positions of power.

The advent of William Caxton's printing press in the 1470s also led greater standardisation, with more recognisable forms of grammar and syntax.

So, as a wider public became familiar with a standard language, the era of Modern English was truly underway.

Ivory Bangle Lady Revisited

Original post on February 27, 2010.

When you look at this facial reconstruction, what race would you say this woman is?

Perhaps like lots of other people who read the initial news reports, when I read the article that said she was "African,"  I assumed Ivory Bangle Lady was a black African.

However, that may not be the case.  Upon reading further reports, I learned that the lady's DNA pointed to "mixed ancestry" and northern Africa, so she may have been part Berber, Arab, Egyptian, or some other culture living along the southern Mediterranean coast.  While there were no doubt black Africans living in such areas too, as far as I know the people who lived (and still live) in the countries bordering that side of the Mediterranean are mostly olive-skinned and are not Negro like the peoples of sub-Sarahan Africa.

So why did the reconstructionist create an image with dark curly/kinked hair, a slightly flattened nose and wide lips?  "Mixed ancestry" could mean European/Northern Africa rather than Northern Africa/Black African.  Were some pertinent details left out of the articles I read on February 27?

This article, from March 1st, contains further information on the origins of Ivory Bangle Lady:

Roman era York may have been more diverse than today
March 1, 2010 by Lin Edwards
( -- A new archaeological study in Britain has shown that its multi-cultural nature is not a new phenomenon, but that even in Roman times there was a strong African influence, with North Africans moving in high social circles.

The study, led by Dr Hella Eckardt of the Department of Archaeology at Reading University, used pioneering forensic techniques to study fourth century artifacts and bones in the Yorkshire Museum’s collections in York. The researchers used isotope analysis and forensic ancestry assessment to analyze the items, which included the “Ivory Bangle Lady” skeleton and goods buried with her.

The Ivory Bangle Lady remains were found in August 1901 in a stone coffin unearthed in Bootham, where a group of graves were found. The grave has been dated to the latter half of the fourth century. Items buried with the Lady included expensive luxury items such African elephant ivory bracelets, beads, pendants and other jewelry, a blue glass jug, a glass mirror, and Yorkshire jet. A rectangular bone mount, possibly for a wooden coffin, was also found in the grave. An inscription on the bone, “Hail sister, may you live in God,” suggests the woman held religious beliefs and may have been Christian. She is believed to have been one of the richest inhabitants of the city.

The researchers analyzed and measured the Lady’s skull and facial features, and looked at the chemical signatures of her diet. They also examined the burial site to build a picture of her social status and ancestry.

Dr Eckardt said the results showed the Ivory Bangle Lady was of mixed ancestry, and the isotope analysis suggested she may have migrated to Britain from a warmer climate. This evidence, along with the goods found in the ground, and the fact the burial rite was unusual, all point to the her having been of North African descent, arriving in Britain possibly via the Mediterranean, and she was of high social status.

The analysis of the Lady and other skeletons and artifacts contradicts the popular assumption about Britain in Roman times that African immigrants were usually males, of low status, and most were slaves, and shows that high status women from Africa were also present in the society. Dr Eckardt said the research on the Lady and other skeletons suggest the society was as diverse, and possibly more diverse than it is today.

The Roman Empire extended into the Near and Middle East, North Africa, and included Europe, and there were great movements of people throughout the Empire, both voluntary and involuntary. York (or Eboracum, as it was then known) was an important city of the period and eventually was named capital of “Britannia Inferior.” Emperor Septimius Severus, who was born in North Africa, was one of two Roman Emperors who visited Eboracum, and died there.

The paper is published in this month’s edition of the journal Antiquity. The skeleton and artifacts will be displayed in August as part of the Yorkshire Museum’s exhibition: Roman York — Meet the People of the Empire.
This article says [T]he ancestry assessment suggests a mixture of 'black' and 'white' ancestral traits and the isotope signature indicates that she may have come from somewhere slightly warmer than the UK.

 ...  "To date, we have had to rely on evidence of such foreigners in Roman Britain from inscriptions. However, by analysing the facial features of the Ivory Bangle Lady and measuring her skull compared to reference populations, analysing the chemical signature of the food and drink she consumed, as well as evaluating the evidence from the burial site, we are now able to establish a clear profile of her ancestry and social status," adds Dr Eckardt.

The Bangle Lady was a high status young woman who was buried in Sycamore Terrace, York. Dated to the second half of the fourth century, her grave contains jet and elephant ivory bracelets, earrings, pendants, beads, a blue glass jug and a glass mirror. The most famous object from this burial is a rectangular openwork mount of bone, possibly from an unrecorded wooden casket, which reads "Hail, sister, may you live in God", signalling possible Christian beliefs.

Hmmmm, not exactly informative.  I could try and track down a more detailed report but, as I have discovered from past experience, these are usually written in such technical terms and jargon that I have no idea what it is the report is saying. 

A separate question entirely - what the hell was she doing in York?  My guess is that she was married to an officer in the Legion, or the wife of a wealthy merchant who had traveled in his younger days.  We'll never know - all we can do is dream up fascinating stories about how the lady of "mixed" descent arrived in York

Queen Elizabeth I and a Serpent

Well, knock me off my bar stool with a feather!

Portrait of Elizabeth I reveals she held serpent where a posy now appears
Behind the enigmatic smile: National Portrait Gallery to display 16th century work which has given up its secret after 400 years

Maev Kennedy,
Thursday 4 March 2010 13.27 GMT

Detail from the portrait of Queen Elizabeth I showing the outline of the coiled serpent she originally held. Photograph: National Portrait Gallery/PA

The queen wears a magnificent gown and a faint, enigmatic smile ‑ but then she knows what she really holds in her hands, a secret revealed again to the world after more than 400 years.

Many portraits of Elizabeth I show her holding a posy, a conventional symbol of virginity or virtue. The National Portrait Gallery has discovered that in this portrait Gloriana originally held a far more disturbing object ‑ a serpent twined around her fingers.

A serpent can sometimes represent wisdom and judgment, as in the serpent and staff symbol of medicine, but in Christian iconography it is more often a symbol of sin or even the devil. [And in antiquity it was a symbol for the Great Goddess, so it wouldn't have been a stretch for the artist to associate Gloriana, the Virgin Queen, with the Great Goddess, who was virgin/mother/crone.]

The unknown artist, painting around the late 1580s, clearly had a last-minute panic about the ambiguity of the image: the scaly blue-green and black serpent was painted out, and replaced with the safe ‑ if slightly oddly shaped ‑ posy.

Tarnya Cooper, curator of 16th century paintings at the gallery, who has led the research into several Tudor portraits about to be redisplayed, says the serpent is a unique attribute in portraits of the queen. "The portrait of Elizabeth I with a hidden serpent is a really unusual survival. Yet it is difficult to know exactly why the serpent may have been originally included, or how common this motif might have been. The queen certainly owned jewellery and costume including emblems of serpents, which were probably understood as a symbol of wisdom. However, no other portrait of Elizabeth appears to depict her holding a snake."

The gallery has owned the portrait for a century, but its condition is poor and it has not been on display since 1921. It will now be included in an exhibition opening later this month, Concealed and Revealed: The Changing Faces of Elizabeth I, of paintings made from the 1560s until just after the queen's death in 1603, which have all been altered in some way.

The x-rays that drove the serpent out of its lair also revealed another secret: the queen's exceptionally bumpy forehead is because of the inner woman trying to get out. The portrait was painted over an earlier, unfinished painting of another woman, probably by a different artist: the eyes and nose of the lost woman can just be seen in the queen's forehead.

Cooper said: "The recent technical analysis on these remarkable portraits has been critical to our understanding of Tudor painting."

The artist may never have seen the queen in the flesh ‑ and certainly, the art historians believe, never saw the serpent.
Information from the National Portrait Gallery:

Queen Elizabeth I
News Release

4 March 2010


Scientific detective work has revealed a mysterious coiled serpent in the hands of Queen Elizabeth I, which was painted out by the artist shortly afterwards, in a portrait at the National Portrait Gallery. It has also been revealed that this portrait of the queen, which has not been on display at the Gallery since 1921, was painted over an unfinished portrait of an unknown sitter. The revelations about this painting and three others of the Tudor queen will form a new display, Concealed and Revealed: The Changing Faces of Elizabeth I, from 13 March at the National Portrait Gallery as part of the Making Art in Tudor Britain project led by Dr Tarnya Cooper.

The portrait of Elizabeth I with the serpent (NPG 200) was painted by an unknown artist in the 1580s or early 1590s. Degradation over time has revealed that Elizabeth I was originally painted holding the serpent, the outline of which is now visible on the surface. Paint analysis has shown that the snake was part of the original design, painted at the same time as the rest of the portrait, and Elizabeth's fingers were originally clasped around the snake (as seen in the artist's impression). At the final stage of painting a decision was made not to include this emblem, and the Queen was shown holding a small bunch of roses instead. A serpent was sometimes used to represent wisdom, prudence and reasoned judgment - all fitting attributes for a Queen - but in the Christian tradition serpents have also been used to represent Satan and original sin. The removal of the snake may therefore have been due to the ambiguity of the emblem. The snake is mainly black, but has greenish blue scales and was almost certainly painted from imagination.

It has also been revealed that the same portrait was painted over the unfinished portrait of an unknown woman. X-ray photography shows a female head facing in the opposite direction and in a higher position than the queen. The eyes and nose of the first face can be seen where paint has been lost from Elizabeth's forehead. The identity of this original sitter remains a mystery, but the unfinished portrait was very competently painted and appears to be by a different painter. This discovery confirms that sixteenth-century panels were sometimes re-used and recycled by artists. The unknown woman appears to have been wearing a French hood, fashionable in 1570-1580s, suggesting that there may have been a period of a few years before the panel was re-used for the portrait of Elizabeth I.

The four portraits in the display, Concealed and Revealed: The Changing Faces of Elizabeth I, are all from the Collection of the National Portrait Gallery, and two have not been on display for decades. The portraits date from the 1560s until just after the queen's death and they have all changed in appearance in some way since they were created. Advanced scientific techniques have helped to unlock clues as to how they would have originally looked. Each has recently undergone in-depth technical analysis as part of the Gallery's Making Art in Tudor Britain research project. The display will examine why the changes took place and the evidence this tells us about portraits of Elizabeth I and artistic practices in this period.

Concealed and Revealed: The Changing Faces of Elizabeth I runs from 13 March - 26 September 2010 in Room 2 of the National Portrait Gallery.

Dr Tarnya Cooper says: ‘The recent technical analysis on these remarkable portraits has been critical to our understanding of Tudor painting. The portrait of Elizabeth I with a hidden serpent is a really unusual survival. Yet, it is difficult to know exactly why the serpent may have been originally included, or how common this motif might have been. The queen certainly owned jewelry and costume including emblems of serpents, which were probably understood as a symbol of wisdom. However no other portrait of Elizabeth appears to depict her holding a snake. The current condition of the picture has meant it has not been on display for decades, and this display provides an exciting opportunity to present it to the public alongside other key portraits.'

Further information on Making Art in Tudor Britain

For further press information contact: Eleanor Macnair, Press Officer, National Portrait Gallery, Tel 0207 321 6620 (not for publication) Email

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, London, WC2H 0HE. Opening hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday: 10am - 6pm (Gallery closure commences at 5.50pm) Late Opening: Thursday, Friday: 10am - 9pm (Gallery closure commences at 8.50pm) Nearest Underground: Leicester Square/Charing Cross Recorded information: 020 7312 2463 General information: 020 7306 0055 Website:

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Women: The Power Principle

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

From The Hindu Online
Women: The Power Principle

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

The Cleansing Breath

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

The Technique:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The left and right brain, yin and yang

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

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

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

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

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

An ode to women

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

42nd International Women's Chess Tournament

Belgrade, Servia
March 3- 11, 2010

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Tournament is sponsored by the Belgrade Assembly.

TABLE - After Round 4

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

Marija Radosavljevic, IA
Katarina Tadic, NA

2010 International Women's Day

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

Some websites:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top three female players today:

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

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

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

Susan Polgar National Opens for Boys and Girls

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

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

Schedule of events and play.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(The workshop is in Tucson, Arizona)

Because the most powerful piece on the board is YOU!

Get Involved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hales Corners Challenge XI!

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

Further information and entry form

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

For Female Players in the Open Section:

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

For Female Players in the Reserve Section:

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

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ancient Writing: How the Alphabet Was Born from Hieroglyphs

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Divorced Before Puberty

From The New York Times

Published: March 3, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Which judge are you looking for?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow-up: Queen Behenu Tomb Discovered

Prior post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tomb of Ancient Egyptian Queen Behenu Uncovered at Saqqara

From Yahoo News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women's World Chess Champion Becomes Champion for Peace

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


The Chess Queen Becomes Champion for Peace


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press contacts

Peace and Sport

Diego Garcés

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

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

Congratulations to GM Alexandra Kosteniuk. 

L'Bri Update: Day 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Stone Circles in Syria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Dynasty of Priestesses

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

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

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

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

History and Excavations

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

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

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

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

Eti Bonn-Muller is the AIA online senior editor.

Monday, March 1, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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