Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tartarus = Tortoise!

I always thought "Tartarus" was Hell - not really the Devil-with-pitchfork and eternal fire roasting one's butt kind of place (although some people really do deserve such a place for eternity!), but a place similar to my old Catholic conception of Purgatory, which was where unbaptised babies went when they died, a sort of dread place, not really described.  As a young girl in a Roman Catholic school (I was 8), I remember being herded into St. Rose's Chruch on November 2nd to pray for the poor lost souls in Purgatory.  I also remember that there was a formula, although I no longer remember the formula - but it was this: if I said a certain number of prayers in a certain period of time, I saved one soul from Purgatory.  To my eyes it seemed we all prayed our butts off to save those poor souls.  We were limited in time - I think it was 3 hours - and then we were herded out of the church by our nuns back to school to finish the day.  We were not allowed to finish the day in church, I don't know why -- although as an adult I figure the nuns must have thought we weren't really praying after a certain point, we were just pretending!  Well, I did pray my butt off - just in case - but even at 8 years of age I had my doubts :)  On the other hand, I did not want to be personally responsible for even one small unbaptized baby spending an eternity in Purgatory if I could save it with my prayers.  I guess it was evident even then that it was my destiny to become a pagan Christian. 

Whatever...  So - knock me over with a feather, darlings, when I popped open my edition of Barbara G. Walker's The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.  I randomly selected the "T's" tonight and came upon the entry for Tartarus:

Greek name of the underworld, related to tartaruga, "tortoise," because archaic Hindu tradition claimed the earth was supported by Vishnu in the form of a tortoise. The tortoise was a totem of the Underground God, sometimes incarnate in Pan or Hermes who invented the tortoise-shell lyre to create universal harmony.(1) In alchemy, the Underground God became spiritus tartari, spirit of Tartarus, a description of tartaric acid, or simply tartar.

(1) Jung & Kerenyi, 78.
The old legend about the tortoise being the foundation of the earth is Indo-European. Duh! I guess I already knew that, but reading it again tonight turned on new light-bulbs in my brain.

Is this connected to the ancient Chinese Lo-Shu legend that introduced the world's oldest known 3x3 perfect magic square?

4 9 2
3 9 7
8 1 6

(Image: by Linda Braatz-Brown). Sum the rows up across, down, diagonally, they all equal 15.  If you sum the "1" and "5" together you get "6."  All those sixes.  Demonology! 

The Lo-Shu, according to Tony Smith, dates back to 4,200 years ago (c. 2200 BCE).

Notice how there are thirteen "divisions" on the shell of the tortoise.  Thirteen is a number sacred to the Great Goddess. 

Croatian Women Chess Events

Can anyone here read Croatian? I sure can't, I'm just guessing - but judging by the use of the word "Dama" which I know in other languages has a feminine connotation ("dame," "lady," "queen"), and based on the names, I figured these events were female only.

I found these events held in February, 2010 in Croatia while looking for results/cross-tables for the European Women's Chess Championship at

Đakovo - 5. šahovski turnir "Dama" i 3. šahovski turnir "Mala dama"
27.-28. veljače 2010.
Šahovski klub "Dama" Đakovo organizirao je 5. šahovski turnir "Dama" i 3. šahovski turnir "Mala dama". Mjesto igre: hotel Blaža. Sustav natjecanja: švicarski sustav u 7 kola, 30 minuta + 30 sek po potezu. Pobjednica "Dame" je Borka Frančišković (ŠK Liburnija, Rijeka), a pobjednica "Male dame" je Tamara Ljikar (ŠK Vukovar '91). Rezultati|Dama|Mala dama|Partije PGN|

Here are the results:

5. ženski šahovski turnir "Dama"
Rk. Name FED RtgI RtgN Club/City Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 WIM Frančišković Borka CRO 2216 2231 Šk Liburnija, Rijeka 6,0 22,0 29,5 5
2 WIM Šolić Kristina CRO 2170 2178 Šk Lucija, Rijeka 5,5 22,0 31,0 5
3 WGM Medić Mirjana CRO 2314 2289 Šk Lucija, Rijeka 5,0 21,0 30,0 4
WIM Šargač Rajna CRO 2201 2199 Šk Đuro Đaković Holding, Slavo 5,0 21,0 30,0 4
5 MK Mrakovčić Karmen CRO 1689 1993 Šk Draga, Rijeka 5,0 17,5 25,0 4
6 Mahmutbegović Nadina BIH 1564 0 4,0 16,0 21,5 3
7 WFM Berke Ana CRO 2127 2118 Šk Rijeka, Rijeka 3,5 20,5 28,5 3
8 WFM Šulc Gordana CRO 1894 1942 Šk Slavonac, Našice 3,5 19,5 27,0 3
9 NM Kruljac Petra CRO 2092 2104 Šk Lucija, Rijeka 3,5 18,5 24,0 3
10 Jaćimović Sara BIH 1875 1875 Šk Posavac, Ruščica-Sl.Brod 3,5 17,0 23,5 3
11 MK Kukić Lora CRO 1730 1980 Šk Krk, Krk 3,5 14,5 20,0 2
12 MK Kanceljak Dalia CRO 1939 2009 Šk Rijeka, Rijeka 3,0 19,0 27,0 2
13 MK Iveković Ivana CRO 1929 1930 Šk Liburnija, Rijeka 3,0 18,0 23,5 2
14 Čačić Marija CRO 1632 1765 Šk Polet Buševec 2,5 17,5 23,0 2
15 MK Grgić Neomi CRO 1639 1953 Šk Radnik, Velimirovac 2,5 13,0 17,0 2
16 III Turk Vesna CRO 1765 1658 Šk Ivan Dvoržak, Rovišće-Zrins 2,0 15,0 21,5 2
17 I Dumančić Nelica CRO 0 1725 Šk Donji Miholjac, Donji Mihol 1,5 15,0 20,5 1
18 MK Puljić Blanka CRO 0 1829 Šk Donji Miholjac, Donji Mihol 0,5 13,5 18,5 0

Tie Break1: Buchholz Tie-Breaks (variabel with parameter)
Tie Break2: Buchholz Tie-Breaks (variabel with parameter)
Tie Break3: The greater number of victories

3. kadetski šahovski turnir "Mala dama"
Rk. Name FED RtgI RtgN Club/City Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 I Ljikar Tamara CRO 0 1896 Šk Vukovar '91, Vukovar 6,5 22,0 30,5 6
2 MK Turk Tajana CRO 1751 1933 ŠK Ivan Dvoržak, Rovišće-Zrinski To 6,5 21,5 31,0 6
3 I Rožić Lucija CRO 1516 1806 Šk Polet, Buševec 5,0 21,5 30,5 5
4 II Alaber Maja CRO 0 1743 Šk Ericsson-Nikola Tesla, Zagr 4,5 19,5 27,0 4
5 II Kovačević Nina CRO 0 1717 Šk Donji Miholjac, Donji Mihol 4,5 16,0 25,0 4
6 II Blažeka Mihaela CRO 0 1781 Šk Polet, Buševec 4,0 23,5 32,0 4
7 III Blažeka Ivana CRO 0 1670 Šk Polet, Buševec 4,0 21,0 29,5 4
8 III Babić Lora CRO 0 1617 Šk Donji Miholjac, Donji Mihol 4,0 17,5 25,0 3
9 I Samardžić Ana CRO 0 1842 Šk Ericsson-Nikola Tesla, Zagr 4,0 16,5 25,5 3
10 III Medek Martina CRO 0 1690 Šk Ericsson-Nikola Tesla, Zagr 3,5 17,5 25,0 2
11 III Pernar Iva CRO 0 1651 Šk Osnovnoškolac, Velika Gorica 3,5 17,5 24,0 3
12 III Mićan Josipa CRO 0 1669 Šk Piškorevci - Slavonica 3,5 17,0 25,0 3
13 Lijić Kristina CRO 0 1600 Šk Radnik, Velimirovac 3,5 15,5 21,0 2
14 IV Alaber Marina CRO 0 1620 Šk Ericsson-Nikola Tesla, Zagr 3,0 18,5 25,0 1
15 Pušić Lucija CRO 0 1600 Šk Osnovnoškolac, Velika Gorica 3,0 16,5 24,0 2
16 Šapina Ružica CRO 0 1733 Šk Piškorevci - Slavonica 3,0 14,5 20,0 2
17 Blažinkov Valentina CRO 0 1600 Šk Piškorevci - Slavonica 3,0 13,5 19,0 2
18 Mićan Karmela CRO 0 1600 Šk Piškorevci - Slavonica 2,5 14,5 19,5 1
19 Blažević Marija CRO 0 1600 Šk Piškorevci - Slavonica 2,0 13,5 18,5 1
20 IV Vrtarić Dora CRO 0 1630 Šk Piškorevci - Slavonica 2,0 12,0 19,5 1
21 Pepić Katarina CRO 0 1609 Šk Piškorevci - Slavonica 1,5 12,5 18,0 0

Tie Break1: Buchholz Tie-Breaks (variabel with parameter)
Tie Break2: Buchholz Tie-Breaks (variabel with parameter)
Tie Break3: The greater number of victories

Brzopotezni turnir "Dama" 2010
Final Ranking after 11 Rounds
Rk. Name FED Rtg Club/City Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 MK Ljikar Zoran CRO 2209 Šk Sladorana, županja 10,5 52,00 0,0 10
2 Jaćimović Sara BIH 1875 ŠK Posavac, Ruščica-Sl.Brod 8,5 36,75 0,0 8
3 FM Aščić Pero CRO 2309 Šk Đuro Đaković Holding, Slavo 7,5 35,25 0,0 7
4 I Babić Andrija CRO 2027 Šk Sladorana, županja 7,0 33,50 0,0 6
5 I Lešić Krunoslav CRO 2010 Šk Sladorana, županja 6,5 24,50 0,0 6
6 MK Šolić Zdravko CRO 1932 ŠK Amater, Strizivojna 5,5 24,00 0,0 4
7 FM Macanga Branko CRO 2068 Šk Piškorevci, Piškorevci 5,5 22,75 0,0 5
8 WFM Šulc Gordana CRO 1894 ŠK Slavonac, Našice 5,0 15,50 0,0 5
9 MK Puljić Blanka CRO 1829 Šk Donji Miholjac, Donji Mihol 3,0 13,00 0,0 2
10 Jacimovic Dragan BIH 0 3,0 12,00 0,0 3
11 MK Raguž Ivanka CRO 1923 Šk Dama, đakovo 2,5 8,75 0,0 2
12 II Blažeka Mihaela CRO 1781 Šk Ericsson-Nikola Tesla, Zagr 1,5 6,00 0,0 1

Tie Break1: Sonneborn-Berger-Tie-Break variable
Tie Break2: The results of the players in the same point group#results against
Tie Break3: The greater number of victories

2010 European Individual Women's Chess Championship

Standings after Round 7 (only top contenders shown, out of now 150 players). There are 4 more rounds to go (11 total). Can Socko hold off the posse breathing down her neck???

Rk. Name FED RtgI Pts
1 GM Socko Monika POL 2465 6,0
2 GM Stefanova Antoaneta BUL 2555 5,5
3 GM Arakhamia-Grant Ketevan SCO 2447 5,5
4 IM Cmilyte Viktorija LTU 2485 5,5
5 WGM Galojan Lilit ARM 2380 5,5
6 GM Cramling Pia SWE 2523 5,5
7 IM Dembo Yelena GRE 2457 5,5
8 GM Kosintseva Tatiana RUS 2524 5,0
9 IM Muzychuk Anna SLO 2533 5,0
10 GM Sebag Marie FRA 2506 5,0
11 IM Muzychuk Mariya UKR 2444 5,0
12 WGM Zhukova Natalia UKR 2492 5,0
13 IM Khurtsidze Nino GEO 2434 5,0
14 IM Rajlich Iweta POL 2459 5,0
15 IM Romanko Marina RUS 2409 5,0
16 IM Moser Eva AUT 2437 5,0
17 IM Skripchenko Almira FRA 2456 5,0
18 GM Hoang Thanh Trang HUN 2487 5,0
19 IM Javakhishvili Lela GEO 2500 5,0
20 WGM Savina Anastasia RUS 2391 5,0

SPICE Spring Invitational

IM Irina Krush is back at SPICE!  She is the lone woman playing in this exciting event, and she is gunning for a second GM norm.  To earn it, she will need to score 6.0 in 9 rounds - a tall order.  I am rooting for her.  Good luck to Irina. 

Round 1 action begins this afternoon.  Susan Polgar's blog and will be providing coverage. (Hmmm, as of the time of making this post, I could not find any link to coverage of the SPICE Spring Invitational at the Monroi website).  Here are the match-ups for Round 1:

2:00 pm - 6:30 pm Round 1 (FIDE ratings listed)
IM Krush (2461) - GM Finegold (2534)
IM Antal (2511) - FM Yang (2378)
IM Kuljasevic (2552) - GM Kraai (2508)
FM Hansen (2415) - IM Ippolito (2466)
IM Papp (2542) - GM Becerra (2538)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Isis Interregnum

Isis sends the following links to interesting news stories:

1,000-Year-Old Massacre Uncovered in England
By Rossella Lorenzi
Fri Mar 12, 2010 02:31 PM ET
A macabre and forgotten episode from the Dark Ages has been uncovered by British researchers after they examined dozens of beheaded skeletons.

Mystery surrounded the identity of the victims since they were discovered by accident last June near Weymouth, Dorset, England, when workers at a 2012 building site, stumbled across a burial pit.

The grave contained a mass of bones and 51 skulls neatly stacked in a pile.
Motherhood Takes a Blessed Turn at the Taronga Zoo (Sydney, Australia)

Things are really crappy out there in the world right now, but this is a great feel good story.  The elephant piece in Chaturanga - Chatrang - Shatranj (and let us not forget Xiang Qi which some call "Elephant Game") is the venerable ancestor of the Bishop in western chess.  Elephants pods are governed by the oldest females - a matriarchal society. Goddesschess holds elephants in very high regard.

It all started out with this sad story:

A mother's heavy burden as baby elephant dies
March 9, 2010
PERHAPS the other female elephants could tell that things were going seriously wrong.

Early on Sunday morning, when Taronga Zoo's 18-year-old Asian elephant, Porntip, was in the deepest throes of labour, their behaviour suddenly changed and they lost interest in the birth.

A day later, the keepers and veterinarians providing round-the-clock care to the first-time mother reached the sad conclusion that her baby had died after a difficult and protracted labour.

The zoo's senior vet, Larry Vogelnest, said the calf had presented in an ''upside-down'' position never seen by vets before, which made birth impossible.

Its front feet were coming first, and its heavy head was pulled down by gravity, trapped up against the pelvis.
A caesarean section on a 3000-kilogram elephant was never an option, because of the very high risks.

''And there is very little we can do to manipulate the calf,'' said Dr Vogelnest, adding that the 100-kilogram baby was surrounded by another 150 kilograms of fluid and tissue.
Elephant mum 'told' herd baby had died
March 9, 2010
It was the dead of night, the baby's heart had stopped and all those present knew it only too well. A low subsonic rumble, entirely inaudible to human ears, drifted out across Sydney Harbour, heralding the tragic news.

Nobody quite knows the exact message communicated.

No one quite knows the emotions it contained.

But it is certain that when an unborn baby elephant at a Sydney zoo died last Sunday, the rest of its herd instantly knew and fully understood what had happened.

Amazingly, the group of six elephants would have heard the baby's heartbeat stop - even though it was still inside its mother, a leading elephant breeding expert says.

The calf's death at Taronga Zoo is a tragic blow to Australia's fledgling breeding and conservation program. But it offers a rare insight into the psychology and physiology of these highly intelligent creatures, some aspects of which we still don't fully understand.
Alive and kicking: the 100kg miracle they'll never forget
March 11, 2010

HE is set to rewrite the textbooks.

Sydney's ''miracle'' Asian elephant calf, born alive two days after he was declared dead in the womb, is the first elephant known to have survived such a protracted and difficult labour as his mother, Porntip, underwent.

He apparently confounded his keepers and veterinarians - and fellow elephants - by going into a coma during the nine-day ordeal.

The newborn was showing encouraging signs of doing well yesterday, following his surprise arrival at Taronga Zoo at 3.27 am, but was still under round-the-clock intensive care in the heated elephant barn.
Taronga's 'miracle' elephant 'doing well'
March 11, 2010
The "miracle" Asian elephant calf who was born alive after he was believed to have died in his mother’s womb is making good progress today.

The calf, who was monitored by the zoo's keepers throughout the night and today weighed 116 kilograms, has started to suckle from his mother, Porntip, without help and tried to run.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bulgarian Archaeologists Make Breakthrough in Ancient Thrace Tomb

From the Sofia News Agency
March 11, 2010, Thursday

One of Bulgaria’s top Ancient Thrace sites, the Starosel Tomb, has been dated to the 4th century BC after years of research.  Image: A coin found nead the Starosel tombs shows the doubleheaded labrys, the coat of arms of the family of Amatokos II. Photo by BGNES

With German help a team of archaeologists of the Bulgarian National History Museum led by Dr. Ivan Hristov has managed to estimate the timing of the construction of the largest underground temple on the Balkan Peninsula, the Starosel Tomb, located in the Hisarya Municipality, Plovdiv District.

In the summer of 2009, the archaeological team took samples from a stake in the middle of the tomb where gifts to the Greek goddess of the hearth Hestia were laid.

The radio carbon dating analysis carried out in Heidelberg, Germany, in the laboratory of Dr. Bernd Krommer, have shown that the stake was burned in the period after 358 BC, when the temple was constructed, and the earth was heaped on top of it to form a burial mound.

The analysis of the lab research and of the events which happened at that time have given archaeologist Ivan Hristov grounds to conclude that the temple in the village of Starosel, in the so called Chetinyova Mound, and the nearby Thracian ruler’s residence under Mount Kozi Gramadi were built during the reign of the Thracian King Amatokos II (359-351 BC), of the Thracian Odrysian state (5th-3rd century BC.

The family coat of arms of King Amatokos was a doubleheaded ax, or a labrys. Symbols of a labrys were discovered on several items around Starosel, including Thracian coins.

Before Dr. Hristov’s analysis, the researchers of Ancient Thrace believed that the Starosel tomb and underground temple complex were built by King Sitalces (445-424 BC), the third ruler of the Odrysian State.

The Thracian objects in the region of Starosel were also in operation during the reign of King Teres II (351-341 BC).

The archaeologists believe that the region was the power center of Ancient Thrace in the 4th century BC. It was destroyed during the rise of the Macedonian state of Philip II in 342-341 BC.

The Bulgarian archaeologists have reconstructed the so called “Holy Road” of the Thracians leading to their underground temples in Starosel, and are determined to continue revealing its secrets.

Archaeologist Ivan Hristov is preparing a book on the Chetinyova Mound in order to tell the story of the Temple of the Immortal Thracian Kings there.

Hatching the World Egg...

The official first day of Spring will be here soon.  Unusually (at least as far back as I can remember, which isn't very far these days), spring has sprung in Wisconsin very early this year.  With the advent of the month, temperatures were in the low to mid-30s, and then sprang up to the high-30s.  After a sunny Saturday and Sunday, for the past four days the temperatures have been consistently in the 40s -- today when I left the office at 5 p.m. it was 49 degrees F!  But it is clouds and gloom, rain and lots of fog, ground fog caused partly by the quickly disappearing snow cover that was a couple feet deep in some parts of the city (and in my front and back yards) - oh, and FOUL AIR ALERTS (that is not the official terminology) for the past week, with no signs of disappating due to some strange convection of upper-air currents.  Being seasoned Wisconsinites, we are alll expecting the other shoe to drop, probably in April, perhaps on Easter.  Yep, we're all expecting the Big Blizzard.  LOL!  And then flooding.  And then a new cryptospiridium outbreak (like we had in 1993, the last unseasonably warm and early melt-off in March). 

That's spring in Wisconsin.  This year we've got an April Easter.  I don't seriously start hoping to work outdoors (although I yearn to from the end of February onward, sigh) until the beginning of May, if we're lucky weather wise.  I still remember in 1990, while this house was half-built, another early spring.  The trees were fully leafed out, including a massive Norway Maple near my south lot line.  Boom - on May 15th a huge ice storm.  I lost a quarter of that tree, and that loss started a slow decline that ultimately ended in my having the tree entirely removed in 2001.  I was relatively lucky, though.  Trees were devastated throughout the state, we lost trees hundreds of years old.  Entire gardens were wiped out too, for the season, crushed under the cold wet weight of the ice.

But let us hope for better things this year, Jan, old gal! 

This article made me happy, anyway.  I guess I'm just feeling bitchy because my doctor insisted on putting me back on cholesterol medication, and after resisting for the last 6 months she said look, lose 42 pounds or go on the meds.  So I'm supposed to fricking wave my magic wand and lose 42 pounds just like that, after I lost 15 since the summer of 2008 and have kept it off.  The woman is a Nazi! 

The Vernal Equinox: Hatching The World Egg
Donna HenesUrban shaman, eco-ceremonialist and ritual expert
Posted: March 11, 2010 10:07 AM

2010 European Individual Chess Championship - Women

GM Monika Socko has taken command of this tournament (150 women).  Will someone catch her?

Standings after Round 6:

Rk. Name FED RtgI Pts.
1 GM Socko Monika POL 2465 5,5
2 GM Stefanova Antoaneta BUL 2555 5,0
3 IM Cmilyte Viktorija LTU 2485 5,0
4 WGM Galojan Lilit ARM 2380 5,0
5 IM Kosintseva Nadezhda RUS 2554 4,5
6 GM Arakhamia-Grant Ketevan SCO 2447 4,5
7 IM Muzychuk Mariya UKR 2444 4,5
8 GM Kosintseva Tatiana RUS 2524 4,5 
9 IM Muzychuk Anna SLO 2533 4,5
10 WGM Zhukova Natalia UKR 2492 4,5
11 IM Rajlich Iweta POL 2459 4,5
12 GM Dzagnidze Nana GEO 2479 4,5 
13 GM Cramling Pia SWE 2523 4,5
14 IM Khurtsidze Nino GEO 2434 4,5 
15 WGM Nebolsina Vera RUS 2310 4,5
16 IM Kovalevskaya Ekaterina RUS 2438 4,5
17 IM Dembo Yelena GRE 2457 4,5 
18 IM Skripchenko Almira FRA 2456 4,5 
19 WGM Savina Anastasia RUS 2391 4,5
20 WGM Zawadzka Jolanta POL 2404 4,0
21 GM Sebag Marie FRA 2506 4,0
22 IM Romanko Marina RUS 2409 4,0
23 IM Moser Eva AUT 2437 4,0
24 IM Gvetadze Sopio GEO 2342 4,0
25 GM Hoang Thanh Trang HUN 2487 4,0
26 IM Sedina Elena ITA 2334 4,0
27 IM Javakhishvili Lela GEO 2500 4,0 
28 IM Gaponenko Inna UKR 2472 4,0
29 IM Matveeva Svetlana RUS 2373 4,0
30 GM Peng Zhaoqin NED 2401 4,0 
31 IM Ushenina Anna UKR 2452 4,0
32 WFM Ziaziulkina Nastassia BLR 2188 4,0
33 WGM Manakova Maria SRB 2315 4,0
34 WIM Molchanova Tatjana RUS 2369 4,0
35 WIM Schut Lisa NED 2224 4,0

Some of the players I try to keep an eye on:

51 IM  Melia Salome (GEO 2467) 3.5 (My guess is she is very tired, as she had had a very hard schedule since the first of the year, in addition to earning her IM title and improving her ELO by over 100 points!)
85 WGM Calzetta Ruiz Monica ESP 2296 3,0
93 WIM Paikidze Nazi GEO 2322 3,0
142 WIM Kazimova Narmin AZE 2212 1,5 (awwww, she's having a horrid tournament)

FYI, Prize List (for Open and Women's).  The Women are playing for half-pay, but actually that's better than usual :)

Blast from the Past: The God with the Upraised Arm

I visited the Daily Grail tonight because I wanted to receive a small dose of strange/weird but instead almost immediately my eyes lit upon this essay. Excellent! It was originally posted in 1999, long before this blog existed, and a scant few months before the Goddesschess website first came into being (on May 6, 1999).  Image:  Adda, Syrian storm god, 14th century BCE.

The God with the Upraised Arm

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The "Salado Problem" Solved - It Was Women Seeking Peace

Pottery Leads to Discovery of Peace-seeking Women in American Southwest
Posted on: Wednesday, 10 March 2010, 11:57 CST

From the time of the Crusades to the modern day, war refugees have struggled to integrate into their new communities. They are often economically impoverished and socially isolated, which results in increased conflict, systematic violence and warfare, within and between communities as the new immigrants interact with and compete with the previously established inhabitants. Now, University of Missouri researcher Todd VanPool believes pottery found throughout the North American Southwest comes from a religion of peace-seeking women in the violent, 13th-century American Southwest. These women sought to find a way to integrate newly immigrating refugees and prevent the spread of warfare that decimated communities to the north.

First discovered in 1930’s Arizona, Salado pottery created a debate among archaeologists. According to VanPool, the Salado tradition is a grassroots movement against violence. The mystery of the pottery’s origin and significance was known as “the Salado problem.” This southwestern pottery was found among three major cultural areas of the ancient southwest: the ancestral Puebloan in northern Arizona and New Mexico, the Mogollon of southern New Mexico and the Hohokam of central and southern Arizona, all with different religious traditions. Even though the pottery was found in three different cultural areas, the pottery communicated the same, specific set of religious messages. It was buried with both the elite and non-elite and painted with complex, geometric motifs and animals, such as horned serpents. Instead of celebrating local elites, the symbols in Salado pottery emphasized fertility and cooperation.

“In my view, the fact that the new religion is reflected solely in pottery, a craft not usually practiced by men, suggests that it was a movement that helped bring women together and decreased competition among females,” said VanPool, who is an assistant professor of anthropology in the MU College of Arts and Science. “Women across the region may have been ethnically diverse, but their participation in the same religious system would have helped decrease conflict and provided a means of connecting different ethnic groups.”

Salado pottery dates from the 13th to 15th centuries in which there was major political and cultural conflict in the American Southwest. Brutal executions and possible cannibalism forced thousands of people to abandon their native regions and move to areas of Arizona and New Mexico. Another source of conflict appeared after the female refugees and their children arrived in their new homelands.

“Conflict was defused through the direct action of women who sought to decrease the tensions that threatened to destroy their communities,” VanPool said. “The rise of the Salado tradition allowed threatened communities to stabilize over much of modern-day Arizona and new Mexico, altering the course of Southwestern prehistory. Given that the Salado system lasted from 1275 to around 1450, it was most certainly successful.”

VanPool’s research has been published in Archaeology magazine. A more extended version has been published as a chapter in Innovations in Cultural Systems: Contributions from Evolutionary Anthropology, published by MIT Press (2010).

Pushing Back the Record of Human Habitation

Two articles on discoveries in different parts of the world - boom boom - new knowledge is exploding!

Czech archaeologists find oldest settlement in Arbil, north Iraq
ČTK | 8 March 2010
Plzen, West Bohemia, March 5 (CTK) - An expedition of Czech archaeologists has found remains of an about 150,000-year-old prehistoric settlement in Arbil, north Iraq, which has been the so far oldest uncovered in this part of northern Mesopotamia, team head Karel Novacek told reporters Friday.

Ancient secrets uncovered
March 10, 2010 06:18am

A STUNNING archaeological discovery at Brighton [Tasamania] could change scientific understanding of human occupation.

The discovery of artefacts that could be among the oldest in the world has prompted the State Government to consider adding a multi-million-dollar bridge to its Brighton bypass plans.

In a new development set to rock the scientific world, the artefacts found in the path of the proposed bypass could be twice as old as previously thought.

The discovery of the remains, that preliminary estimates show could be at least 40,000 years old, would give the scientific world a unique glimpse of a previously unknown period of human occupation this far south on the planet.

Another article on the Tasmania discovery.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

1400+ Year Old Mayan Fountain Uncovered

Okay - is this planned?  When, exactly, is the latest Pirates of the Caribbean due in theatres - the one that has to do with the search for the Fountain of Youth???  [Cue spooky music from ...] is this a conspiracy of the Disney kind???

Well, maybe I'm just letting my imagination run wild...

This is a fascinating find - and it's about damn time the architects of the New World get the same kind of acclamation that those in the Old World routinely receive.

Mar 08, 2010
Maya fountain unearthed by archaeologists
Add plumbing to the mysterious arts of the ancient Maya, investigators report. In a Journal of Archaeological Science study, anthropologist Kirk French and civil engineer Christopher Duffy of Penn State report on a conduit designed to deliver pressurized water to Palenque, an urban center in southern Mexico, more than 1,400 years ago.

"The ancient Maya are renowned as great builders, but are rarely regarded as great engineers. Their constructions, though often big and impressive, are generally considered unsophisticated," say the study authors. However, they add, "(m)any Maya centers exhibit sophisticated facilities that captured, routed, stored, or otherwise manipulated water for various purposes."

Palenque, founded around 100 A.D., grew to some 1,500 temples, homes and palaces by 800 A.D., under a series of powerful rulers. "With 56 springs, nine perennial waterways, aqueducts, pleasure pools, dams, and bridges – the city truly lived up to its ancient name, Lakamha' or "Big Water"," says the study.

Excavations reveal the 217-foot-long, spring-fed "Piedras Bolas" aqueduct underneath Palenque was designed to narrow at its end, producing a high-pressure fountain. It's the first example of deliberately-engineered hydraulic pressure in the New World, prior to the arrival of the conquistadors in the 1,500's. Now eroded, the conduit dates from 250 A.D. to 600 A.D.

"Palenque is unique in that it is a major center where the Maya built water systems to drain water away from the site," says archaeologist Lisa Lucero of the University of Illinois, by email. Most Maya centers stored water in reservoirs for the winter dry season. "Palenque, thus, is a unique site; we would not expect to find such water systems elsewhere. That said, there is lots of lit on the different kinds of water systems. For example, all centers with large plazas have drainage systems to keep the plazas dry during rain. "

The conduit lay underneath several households and could have stored water during the dry season, suggest the study authors. Another possibility, the conduit's flow may have, "created the pressure necessary for an aesthetically pleasing fountain, and perhaps served as an aid in the filling of water jars."

Archaeologists may have missed such technology elsewhere, concludes the study, not giving the ancients enough credit. " It is likely that there are other examples of Precolumbian water pressure throughout the Americas that have been misidentified or unassigned. The most promising candidate being the segmented ceramic tubing found at several sites throughout central Mexico," they suggest.

By Dan Vergano

42nd International Women's Chess Tournament

From Belgrade, Serbia
Official website
Standings after Round 7 (2 more to go!):

SN Name Rtg FED 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pts

1 IM Petrenko Svetlana 2268 MDA * 0 1 1 0 0 1 ½ 3½
2 WFM Eric Jovana 2183 SRB 1 * 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 5
3 WFM Stefanidi Maria-Anna 2125 GRE 0 0 * ½ 0 0 0 ½ 1
4 WGM Grabuzova Tatiana 2347 RUS 0 ½ ½ * 1 ½ 1 1 4½
5 WIM Petrovic Marija 2182 SRB 1 0 1 * 1 ½ 0 1 4½
6 WGM Benderac Ana 2299 SRB 1 ½ 0 * 1 ½ ½ 1 4½
7 Miladinovic Lena 2038 SRB 0 0 ½ 0 * 0 1 0 1½
8 WGM Voiska Margarita 2320 BUL 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 * ½ ½ 5
9 WGM Maksimovic Suzana 2272 SRB ½ 1 0 0 ½ 0 ½ * 2½
10 WIM Boric Elena 2263 BIH ½ ½ ½ 0 0 1 ½ * 3

2010 European Individual Chess Championship - Women

This is one tough event, judging from the scores. GM Monica Socko is perfect through R4, though, proving she has what it takes. But there is a long way to go...

Ladies' standings after Round 4:
Rk. Name FED RtgI Pts.
1 GM Socko Monika POL 2465 4,0
2 GM Arakhamia-Grant Ketevan SCO 2447 3,5
3 IM Cmilyte Viktorija LTU 2485 3,5
4 IM Muzychuk Anna SLO 2533 3,5
IM Skripchenko Almira FRA 2456 3,5
6 GM Cramling Pia SWE 2523 3,5 
7 GM Kosintseva Tatiana RUS 2524 3,5
8 WGM Galojan Lilit ARM 2380 3,5
9 WGM Chelushkina Irina SRB 2319 3,0
10 IM Muzychuk Mariya UKR 2444 3,0
11 GM Sebag Marie FRA 2506 3,0 
12 IM Kosintseva Nadezhda RUS 2554 3,0
13 IM Romanko Marina RUS 2409 3,0 
14 IM Rajlich Iweta POL 2459 3,0 
15 IM Moser Eva AUT 2437 3,0
16 GM Stefanova Antoaneta BUL 2555 3,0
17 IM Javakhishvili Lela GEO 2500 3,0
18 GM Dzagnidze Nana GEO 2479 3,0
IM Khurtsidze Nino GEO 2434 3,0 
20 WGM Zhukova Natalia UKR 2492 3,0
21 IM Gvetadze Sopio GEO 2342 3,0
22 WGM Savina Anastasia RUS 2391 3,0
23 IM Kovalevskaya Ekaterina RUS 2438 3,0
24 WGM Vojinovic Jovana MNE 2296 3,0
25 WGM Melnikova Yana RUS 2272 3,0
26 IM Paehtz Elisabeth GER 2486 3,0
WGM Kursova Maria RUS 2296 3,0
28 IM Dembo Yelena GRE 2457 3,0
29 IM Ushenina Anna UKR 2452 3,0 
30 WGM Cosma Elena-Luminita ROU 2346 3,0
31 IM Matveeva Svetlana RUS 2373 3,0 
32 WFM Ziaziulkina Nastassia BLR 2188 3,0
33 IM Bojkovic Natasa SRB 2384 3,0

There are an additional 116 players female players (yep, 116), who have 2.5 points and below.

As far as I could tell after scrolling through the men's list of players a few days ago, there were NO FEMALE PLAYERS.  Were the rules changed so that females can no longer enter what used to be an "Open?"  It was just a couple of years ago that GM Marie Sebag earned her third and final GM norm by scoring 6.5 in the Open (in reality, like 99% men) event.  But now it will be harder for women to score GM events if they are restricted to playing in the women's event, because (1) there are not as many GMs that one can be matched against in order to qualify for norms and (2) the scoring requirements will be much higher.

Am I just dreaming this?  Why would FIDE do such a thing? Do they think too many women are achieving the GM title now, and they want to rope the chess femmes back?  Can someone tell me I'm wrong?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Blast from the Past: Did Chinese Beat Out Columbus?

Did Chinese beat out Columbus?
By Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop
Published: Saturday, June 25, 2005

SINGAPORE — Did Chinese sailors really discover America before Columbus? A new exhibition sets the scene, presenting new evidence that lends support to the assumptions made in "1421: The Year China Discovered America" by Gavin Menzies.

"1421: The Year China Sailed the World," in Singapore in a special tent near the Esplanade (until Sept. 11), is primarily a celebration of Admiral Zheng He's seven maritime expeditions between 1405 and 1423. With a fleet of 317 ships and 28,000 men, Zheng He is generally acknowledged as one of the great naval explorers, but how far he actually went remains a matter of dispute.

With original artifacts, videos and interactive exhibits, "1421" aims to take visitors through Zheng He's life story, setting the historical and economic context of his voyages. Against this factual background, Menzies's theories are presented, along with new evidence, mainly maps, backing his claims.

The exhibition starts in Hunnan (China) in 1382, with a narrative space giving some background on Zheng He's youth. Zheng, a Chinese Muslim, was captured as a child in wartime by the Ming army and made a eunuch to serve at court. He became a scholar and a trusted adviser to the third Ming emperor, Zhu Di, who sent him on a mission to "proceed all the way to the ends of the earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas."

When the giant fleet returned in 1423, however, the emperor had fallen. With that change of leadership, China began a policy of isolationism that would last hundreds of years. The large ships were left to rot at their moorings, and most of the records of the great journeys were destroyed (though some argue the records still exist).

A lattice maze in the exhibition takes visitors through the internal turmoil dominating the early part of the Ming dynasty. In the main room, five giant masts and sails mark the admiral's first five voyages, each depicting the destination while highlighting important historical facts such as the trade of spices and teas and life on board the ships.

With 600 years of sailing experience, the Chinese had already developed many tools useful to sailing over great distances - like magnetized compasses and watertight bulkhead compartments of a kind the West would have to wait hundreds of years for. Importantly, Zheng He's ships, known as junks, included on-board vegetable patches, growing soybeans in tubes all year to provide protein and vitamin C, guarding sailors against scurvy.

Along with examples of spices and other goods that the fleet would have brought back to China, the visitors can find ancient artifacts like unusual animal-shaped money from Malacca (Malaysia) made of tin, which the Chinese produced as currency when their copper coins ran out. Shaped in the form of animals like crocodiles, turtles and chickens, these coins were exclusive to Malacca but have been found in shipwrecks throughout Asia.

Arguing that the Chinese had reached America 70 years before Columbus, Menzies's book caused a stir when it was published in 2002. "Columbus had a map of America, de Gama had a map showing India and Captain Cook had a map showing Australia, and it's not my saying; it's the explorers saying it," the retired British Royal Navy submarine commanding officer said in an interview. "None of the great European explorers actually discovered anything new. The whole world was charted before they set sail. So somebody before them had done it, and that was the basis of the book," he said.

Since then, the Web site he created to centralize evidence to substantiate his book has received more than 100,000 e-mails from people across the globe coming forward with "massive evidence" corroborating his claims, Menzies said. "It's no longer about my book. It's really a collective work."

Menzies, who is planning to revise his book by 2007 in light of the latest evidence, now believes that Zheng He was not the first to sail to America. "One of the mistakes I made in my book was to say that Zheng He did everything. He had a legacy. Most of the world had already been mapped by Kublai Khan's fleet," he said.

The exhibition shows copies of Kublai Khan's maps, recently found at the U.S. Library of Congress by an academic. The documents clearly show North America. Menzies said he believes the maps, which are currently being carbon-dated, are from the late 13th century.

The exhibition also presents copies of Korean maps from the collection of Charlotte Rees, which she inherited from her father, a third-generation missionary born in China. Rees's maps date from the 16th century, but they are believed to be replicas of Chinese maps dating to 2200 B.C. Menzies believes Zheng would have known of these maps and hence how to reach the Americas - although he had to improve the charts, which contained longitudinal errors.

According to Menzies, recent evidence has been found of what are believed to be wrecked Chinese junks in Florida, South Carolina, New York and Canada. More compellingly, Menzies says, a new archaeological site in Nova Scotia at Cape Dauphin, discovered by the Canadian architect Paul Chiasson and represented by photos at the exhibition, indicates an early Chinese settlement.

Chiasson, in an e-mail interview, said, "The position of the wall on the side of the hill (not the summit), the layout of the wall across the hilly topography and the relationship of a small settlement located within the wall to the overall enclosure all point away from a European origin and appeared to point to a Chinese origin."

While some archaeologists argue that the settlement could be Viking, Chiasson disagrees, pointing out that the nearest and largest evidence of any Viking settlement in the area is more than 700 kilometers to the north and that the Vikings were building much smaller outposts than the one discovered.

The site has just been surveyed by Cedric Bells, who has also worked on a New Zealand site believed to have Chinese junks. Bells has found canals, smelters, mines, Buddhist tombs, Islamic graves, barracks, all pointing to a very large settlement, Menzies said. "This site is unquestionably Chinese and unquestionably pre-European. I actually believe it's quite possible it was started by Kublai Khan and then further developed by Zheng He."

Carbon extracted from one of the mines is now being carbon-dated, and there are plans to request permission from the Canadian government for DNA testing and carbon-dating to be made on the bones found in graves.

The new evidence is likely to generate as much controversy as the book. Tan Ta Sen, president of the International Zhen He Society, believes the evidence shown in the exhibition is "opening doors" but needs to be further substantiated.

"The book is very interesting, but you still need more evidence," Tan argued. "We [the society] don't regard it as an historical book, but as a narrative one. I want to see more proof. But at least Menzies has started something, and people could find more evidence."
As you can imagine, lots of controversy ensued, particularly when archaeologist Paul Chiasson published a book in 2006 about his findings.

Who is right and who is wrong?  As archaeology so often teaches us, the answers we thought we knew 100 years ago, 50 years, even 25 years ago, are constantly being refined and re-examined, ofen with surprising results.  I expect that will be the case with Chiasson's findings, too, eventually.  Case study for skeptics:  the so-called Clovis points.  In early 2009 a major Clovis cache, now called the Mahaffey Cache, was found in Boulder, Colorado, with 83 Clovis stone tools. The tools were found to have traces of horse and cameloid protein, which were dated to 13,000 to 13,500 YBP, a date confirmed by sediment layers in which the tools were found and the types of protein residues found on the artifacts. Cf.  Monte Verde. 

Lots of questions yet to be "settled."  And who knows when, if ever, they might be! 

Ancient Navigators: Admiral Zheng He in Time Magazine

Searching for Zheng: China's Ming-Era Voyager
By Ishaan Tharoor Monday, Mar. 08, 2010

One of the more famous paintings of the medieval Ming dynasty, which ruled China for about three centuries, is that of a court attendant holding a rope around a giraffe. An inscription on the side says the animal dwelled near "the corners of the western sea, in the stagnant waters of a great morass." According to legend, the giraffe was found in Africa, along with zebras and ostriches, and brought back with the grand 15th century expeditions of Zheng He, China's greatest mariner.

More than half a millennium later, Zheng has become a potent symbol for modern China. In 2005, the country marked the 600th anniversary of the seven voyages from 1405 to 1433 undertaken by Zheng's vast "treasure fleets" with nationwide celebrations; the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing dramatized his explorations from Southeast Asia to the Middle East and the shores of Africa. On Feb. 26, China's Ministry of Commerce announced it was funding a three-year project with the assistance of the Kenyan government to search for Ming-era vessels that had supposedly foundered off the East African coast. "Historical records indicate Chinese merchant ships sank in the seas around Kenya," Zhang Wei, a curator for a state museum, told China's official Xinhua news agency. "We hope to find wrecks of the fleet of the legendary Zheng He."

There is more than historical curiosity behind these new efforts. For centuries after his expeditions, Zheng — a Muslim eunuch — slipped out of public awareness, obscured by the rise and fall of new dynasties. Talk of his exploits was revived briefly at the beginning of the 20th century as the fledgling Chinese republic sought to build a navy in the shadow of imperial Japan. But experts say his place as a patriotic national hero has been truly cemented only in the past two decades, parallel with China's geopolitical rise — and the growth of its significant economic presence in many African nations and countries around the Indian Ocean.

The legacy of Zheng's voyages — involving hundreds of ships, some exponentially larger than the three captained by Christopher Columbus decades later, in 1492 — is being invoked by the Chinese as historical proof of the difference between China's and the West's roles in the world. Though the unprecedented display of maritime power was meant to extend the Ming dynasty's reach over a network of tributary states, Zheng rarely resorted to the type of violent, coercive measures taken for centuries by European colonizers, especially in Africa. "Zheng's a nominal symbol of China's peaceful engagement with the world," says Geoffrey Wade, a historian at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore who has translated Ming records pertaining to the voyages. "With him, it's like the Chinese have an ambassador of friendship — a sign that they aren't going to hurt anybody."

In recent years, though, Beijing has come under criticism for an approach to Africa that is perhaps more bloodless than it is cuddly. China's support of autocratic regimes, from Zimbabwe to Sudan — where Beijing effectively built up an oil industry from scratch — has exposed the Asian giant to accusations of turning a blind eye to human-rights abuses as it goes about securing natural resources and political influence. China has pumped billions of dollars into infrastructure projects throughout the continent, tying up key contracts in resource-rich states like Angola and the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.

Yet as total annual trade between Africa and China has surpassed $100 billion, Beijing has won its fair share of admirers too, not least among them many Africans whose quality of life has been improved by an influx of cheap Chinese household goods. China has also established a network of "Confucius Institutes" in various African cities to disseminate Chinese culture, while more and more African exchange students are attending Chinese universities. A flotilla of Chinese warships is part of an international operation attempting to curb piracy off the shores of Somalia. "This discussion of Zheng He is being carried out in China at a higher and more expensive level not just to boost the glory of his personal story," says Barry Sautman, a specialist on China-Africa relations at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, "but as a particular cog in China's projection of itself into Africa."

Although the aura of Zheng's expeditions may somehow bolster China's budding soft power, it's unclear what lasting impact the visiting fleets had on medieval Africa. No durable trade ties were left in place. And while stories linger in Kenya's Lamu archipelago of a light-skinned community descended from shipwrecked Chinese sailors, the population there retains no trace of Chinese customs or language. "Not much endured beyond the legend," says Sautman. Indeed, scholars like Wade suggest the voyages themselves were something of an "aberration" in the wider context of Chinese foreign policy in that era, which for centuries was far more focused on staving off the threat of invasion along its fragile land borders.

Moreover, though Beijing plays up the voyages as a triumphant Chinese adventure, the journeys had a distinctly Muslim character. Zheng practiced Islam, as did Ma Huan, the main chronicler aboard the ships. It's likely they were guided to their many ports of call, such as Malacca, India's Malabar coast and Malindi in Kenya, by Muslim pilots of Arab, Indian or African extraction. "They were essentially following maritime routes that had been in use by people in the Indian Ocean for ages," says Wade. Many academics argue that the popular Arab-Persian tale of the Seven Voyages of Sinbad, littered also with snippets of Indian folklore, was derived from the real travels of Zheng He — making the mariner as much a pan-Asian protagonist as a Chinese one.

No matter the many layers of myth surrounding Zheng He, the Chinese are confident they'll uncover a Ming-era wreck near the Lamu archipelago, where bits of Ming ceramic ware have surfaced in the past, and that it will be their legacy that gets burnished when they find it. A team of Chinese archaeologists is expected to commence work in July. It won't be alone — last year, following a visit to Kenya by Chinese President Hu Jintao, a Chinese state petroleum company won concessions to explore more than 100,000 sq km of Kenyan waters for oil. That will be theirs too. Africa, after all, holds more for China these days than just exotic animals.
When Gavin Menzies' book was published in 2002, it caused an uproar when he said that during one of Zheng He's voyages his fleet reached the shores of North America.  Menzie's website.

Not only that - in this 2005 interview (as part of an article at The New York Times discussing the 2005 Chnese celebration of the 600th anniversary of Zheng He's voyage(s)), he discusses maps that Kubla Khan's fleet created clearly depicting America and said that Zheng He had those maps.  Holy Goddess!  What's more, there was definitely a settlement left behind - a Chinese settlement.  I'm doing a separate post on that.

So - just to stir things up a bit, and for fans of conspiracy theory, what would happen if the Chinese laid claim to a section of North America based on their record of earliest discovery?  There are probably websites out there that obsess on this and other weighty questions...

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:
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