Monday, June 7, 2010

Ark of the Covenant: Interesting Twist!

Story from
Published 15:36 30.05.10
Latest update 15:36 30.05.10
Scholar's Ark of the Covenant claims spark African storm
Tudor Parfitt claims 700-year-old bowl-shaped relic is a copy of the sacred object made by one of Israel's lost tribes that may have wound up in Southern Africa.
By The Associated Press

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Tudor Parfitt has spent years chasing a theory that a lost tribe of Jews wound up in Southern Africa. But his latest leap has landed him in a minefield.

The subject at hand is this British scholar's contention that the remains of a 700-year-old bowl-shaped relic which he tracked down in a Zimbabwe museum storeroom in 2007 could be a replica of the Ark of the Covenant that carried the Ten Commandments. (Image source).

According to African legend, white lions of God and a two-headed snake guarded the "drum that thunders" in a cave in southwestern Zimbabwe's sacred Dumbwe mountains. Parfitt's theory has sparked fierce reactions from some Zimbabwean scholars, who suspect a plot to superimpose foreign origins on what is purely a product of African culture.

Having long disappeared from public view since its discovery in the 1940s, the artifact is now on display at the Harare Museum of Human Sciences. It is about 45 inches by 24 inches in diameter and 27 inches tall with a pattern of shallow engraving on the outside that could have held gold threads. Scorch marks on the base inside were possibly left by primitive gun powder.

Parfitt, a professor of Modern Jewish Studies at the University of London's prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies, says he first heard of the vessel during his two-decade search for Jewish tribes lost in Africa.

At the center of that research is a southern African ethnic group variously called Lemba, Remba or waLemba. Parfitt says 52 percent of them carry a Y chromosome known as the Cohen Modal Haplotype (CMH) - unique to ancient priestly Jewish communities and raising the possibility they are descended from Aaron, Moses' brother. Other groups in Zimbabwe have no CMH.

The waLemba are also set apart from other tribes by such Jewish customs as observing a weekly Sabbath, practicing circumcision, shunning pork and slaughtering animals by methods similar to Jewish kosher rules.

Parfitt acknowledges that theories counter to his are "wholly plausible," and the museum is careful not to take sides. The materials accompanying the exhibit that opened this year outline both the theories behind the relic.

One says the original Ark of the Covenant may have been destroyed when the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem in 586 B.C., that several copies likely were made and that one was taken to Ethiopia by Prince Menelik, the son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Another could have found its way to ancient Zimbabwe, says the exhibit.

The other posits that it is a purely African relic, and that according to legend, was made by waLemba craftsmen for royal elders to give them magical powers.

In the Zimbabwean Shona language, the artifact is called "Ngoma Lungundu," the "drum that thunders," while the waLemba call it "the voice of God."  Parfitt says that according to oral tradition, the waLemba could have been among peoples who left Judea in biblical times and migrated through Yemen to east Africa, Ethiopia and beyond, bringing the ark with them.

Eminent Zimbabwean historian Rob Burrett disputes Parfitt's theories.

"He is on the wrong track. Wooden drums - ceremonial drums and war drums with great powers similar to those attributed to the ark — are an integral part of African culture," Burrett said.  The genetic test "doesn't prove anything," he said, noting that early European explorers of the east African coast found a strong presence of Arab and Jewish traders moving into the African interior. "These people were certainly not celibate and would have created mixed-blood communities along the way," Burrett said.

African traditionalists believe the Ngoma is a royal drum so powerful that it imploded and was rebuilt on the original wooden base 700 years ago. Indeed, a splinter from the top of the artifact has been carbon-dated to about 1300, making it probably the oldest surviving wooden object in southern Africa.

Only carbon-dating of the entire object, including its scorched base, would resolve the debate, but Zimbabwe authorities are reluctant to let that happen. In a nation striving to eradicate tribalism, a result favoring Parfitt's claims might stir tribal divisions by implying the waLembas' origins are not truly African.

"Everyone has placed this object in a context of their own," conceded Giles Mutsekwa, co-minister of home affairs, the body in charge of archives and antiquities.

One context that arouses anger in Zimbabwe is race. During the colonial era, Europeans defended white-supremacist ideas by arguing - wrongly - that Africans could not have built advanced civilizations such as the massive citadel of stone houses called Great Zimbabwe. Harald von Sicard, the Swedish-German missionary who discovered the Ngoma, theorized in the same vein — that the artifact couldn't have been crafted by Africans. Burrett describes von Sicard as "an old-fashioned, Old Testament" preacher whose views bordered on racism.

Parfitt says he spent weeks living in a waLemba community looking for clues about the ark and getting nowhere. He says he was about to give up when he met a retired train driver in a bar in the southern city of Bulawayo. The man said he recalled hauling a boxcar of artifacts 440 kilometers (275 miles) from Bulawayo to the capital, Harare, for safekeeping during the country's war of independence.

Parfitt searched the Harare museum in 2007, and there it was - in a dusty storeroom littered with mouse droppings. But after he published his findings a year later, controversy flared.

"Some people thought it was all a sinister plot and I was interfering. There was open hostility," he said.

Tempers erupted at a February meeting on the topic at the main Zimbabwe university, with one Zimbabwean academic, historian and former education minister Aenias Chigwedere, storming out of the discussion, denouncing the presence of the British scholar.

Ken Mufuka, a professor of history from Zimbabwe who teaches at Lander University in South Carolina, called Parfitt a "publicity-monger" and "a charlatan" in a newsletter published in Harare.

Burrett, who is also an associate researcher at the Bulawayo museum, said the furor is rooted in the nation's more recent political history.

"There is a fear of undermining the post-independence myth that we are one people, not divided by tribe or origin," he said. "It's as though we are in denial of having a multicultural society."
Here is an article on the subject from a few years ago:  article from Time Magazine, published on February 21, 2008.

The Oriental Institute Has a Blog!

Well, the OI may have a dozen blogs - but I found this one tonight!!!!

The Oriental Institute: Fragments for a History of an Institution

Tres cool, check it out.  BTW, great graphic!

Evidence of Ancient Navigation?

From Thaindian News Online:

Boffins find mystery seafaring ancestor in the Philippines
June 4th, 2010 - 6:07 pm ICT by ANI -

London, June 04 (ANI): Anthropologists have discovered a foot bone during an excavation of Callao cave in Luzon, which has led to researchers’ claim that humans reached the islands off south-east Asia at least tens of thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

Armand Mijares of the University of the Philippines Diliman, and his colleagues insist the bone is definitely human, and they are provisionally calling it a lightly built modern human.

Mijares pointed out that its shape was unusual, and its size fell within the ranges of Homo habilis and Homo floresiensis.

It suggests that humans arrived on Luzon, the largest and northernmost major island in the Philippines, at least 67,000 years ago.

“The arrival of people in Australia 50,000 to 60,000 years ago is a good comparison,” New Scientist quoted expedition member Florent Detroit of the National Museum for Natural History in Paris, France, as saying.

“It seems coherent for us to think that in; south-east Asia and Australia, humans had sea-faring capabilities by 60,000 to 70,000 years ago.” (ANI)

CONFUCIUS: His Life and Legacy in Art

Information from the China Institute in New York (a wonderful place, BTW):


His Life and Legacy in Art
ends June 13, 2010

During this final week, a fully illustrated scholarly catalogue of CONFUCIUS will be sold at half its original price.

CONFUCIUS: His Life and Legacy in Art
by Lu Wensheng and Julia K. Murray

Exhibition catalogue, 2010. Paperback; xvii, 117 pages: ill.
NOW $16.50 (50 % OFF the regular price of $33.00)

Please check our China Institute Store at GET DISCOUNT SHIPPING PRICES FOR ONLINE ORDERS.

Although the arts of Buddhism and Daoism are well known, the study of art forms related to Confucianism is only just beginning. Confucianism, a philosophy based on the teachings of Confucius (551 BCE - 479 BCE), pervades the customs of many Asian cultures from ancient times to the present day, but we are left to wonder, who is Confucius? In this ground-breaking exhibition, intriguing aspects of Confucius and Confucianism are explored through material and visual culture, explaining his teachings and ritual practices. Selected from the Shandong Provincial Museum and the Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong, the hometown of Confucius, this group of artworks, including paintings, bronzes, jades, books, costumes, stone carvings, and enamel vessels represent the first exhibition organized in the United States that illuminates Confucius as an historical figure and how he has been venerated for the past 2,000 years.

Gallery Hours:
Monday - Sunday 10am - 5pm
Tuesday and Thursday 10am - 8pm FREE admission from 6pm-8pm
Closed in between exhibitions and on major holidays.

Adults $7/ Students and seniors (with valid ID) $4/ Children under 12 FREE
Members of China Institute, Asia Society, and Channel Thirteen FREE

Experience the exhibition online at

Discover China Through Art (DCTA)

Our art education program combines an introductory video and hands-on workshop with a gallery tour for a complete experience of Chinese art and culture for groups of up to 30 people. To make reservations, please call 212-744-8181 x 147 or email

This exhibition is supported, in part, by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

China Institute
125 East 65th Street
New York, New York 10065

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Chicomecoatl and Chimalman

I think these two goddesses must be related - I found them in Barbara Walker's "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets" --

Mexican Goddess similar to Demeter, called Heart of the Earth, and ancestress of all peoples.  No god could equal her in power.  She was usually accompanied by a young savior son, a fertility-sacrifice.  Her angelic messengers were seven serpents.(1)

Neumann, G.M., 182.

Virgin mother of the Aztec savior Quetzalcoatl; one of "three divine sisters."  She was the same Triple Goddess worshipped around the world in Virgin, Mother, and Crone aspects.  See Trinity.

So it doesn't seem to make any difference - Old World or New World - the goddess archetypes are the same.

When Did "Bitch" Become a Bad Word?

I came across this website about cuss words in Hebrew which had me laughing. In looking over the list, several of the words had to do with females.  For instance, #shar-moota - slutty slut.  Er, just how does one be more of a slut than a slut is already?  Is a slutty slut like the Queen of Sluts?  What determines what makes one particular slut more slutty than another slut?  Is it the number of sexual encounters she has?  Something else (the mind pales at the thought of what that "something else" might be...) What makes a slutty slut?  Is there a name for a male slut - you know, the dudes who brag about those "marks on the bedpost" or "notches on the belt."  Is it something related to  gunk or the like???

There are two words on that list of Hebrew cuss words for bitch:  zonna - whore, bitch; and kelba - bitch. While my linguistics are rusty, I believe that kelba is from a Semitic root word (klb -- kalb or kelb) for dog and the addition of the "a" at the end denotes a female = bitch, the classic definition that exists yet today in English and used in dog-breeding circles to designate a "female dog." 

That got me to wondering - has BITCH always been a derogatory term for a female?  Or was it corrupted somewhere along the line?  Why would the ancient Semitic peoples use the term "female dog" in a derogatory sense as applied to human females, and when did this come about? 

According to my trusty "The Woman's Eycyclopedia of Myths and Secrets" by Barbara Walker:

[Bitch] became a naughty word in Christian Europe because it was one of the most sacred titles of the Goddess, Artemis-Diana, leader of the Scythian alani or "hunting dogs."  The Bitch-goddess of antiquity was known in all Indo-European cultures, beginning with the Great Bitch Sarama who led the Vedic dogs of death.  The Old English word for a hunting dog, bawd, also became a naughty word because it applied to the divine Huntress's promiscuous prietesses as well as her dogs.(1)

Harlots and "bitches" were identified in the ancient Roman cult of the Goddess Lupa, the Wolf Bitch, whose priestesses the lupae gave their name to prostitutes in general.(2)  Earthly representatives of the Wolf Bitch ruled the Roman town of Ira Flavia in Spain, as a queen or series of queens named Lupa.(3)

In Christian terms, "son of a bitch" was considered insulting not because it meant a dog, but because it meant a devil - that is, a spiritual son of the pagan Goddess.


(1) Potter & Sargent, 208.
(2) Murstein, 76.
(3) Hartley, 237.
Hmmmm, well, I don't think the term became an insult just during the advent of Christianity, although I think Walker raises some key points.

I won't pretend I've studied this - and I've got to get outside and prune some more hedges while the sun is shining so this is going to be conveniently short :) - but I think it is more a cultural thing.  The speakers of semitic languages (such as the cultures stemming from Mesopotamia, including the Hebrews) seemed to hold dogs in little regard while speakers of hamitic languages (such as the ancient Egyptians) and pre-Christian speakers of Indo-European languages seemed to hold dogs in higher regard.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Did I Find King David's Palace?

Prior articles on the subject:

Women in Archaeology: Kathleen Mary Kenyon-Follow up
Women in Archaeology: Eliat Mazar

Here's a special E-feature from Biblical Archaeological Review online, with an informative photo/slide show too:

Did I Find King David’s Palace?
by Eilat Mazar

This lengthy article is worth the read for anyone interest in "biblical" archaeology in that hot-bed of controversy, where so much as rolling over a stone causes an uproar - Jerusalem.

I found three things intriguing as I read - that Kenyon and Mazar excavated in Jerusalem some 40 years apart, that women are still a rarity in the world of archaeology (though no so rare as when Kenyon was doing her field work), and those "aeolic" style columns -- are those porpoise-heads depicted in the capitals?  Or are my eyes deceiving me???  Whatever the design was meant to be - or suggest - I find it most evocative. A circular spiral is much in evidence, as is a linear triangular "delta" or "V" in the drawing of the capitals in the article -- was not able to copy it here.  Both symbols have long been associated with the goddess - and that spiral - of course it brought to mind the Fibonnaci sequence of numbers that are encoded in all spirals found in nature. 

2010 Chicago Open

The Open attracted big name players besides the "usual" American GM contingent.  This year Loek Van Wely and Michael Adams were present and, I think, lent some luster to this otherwise ho-hum event.  While these GMs are perhaps no longer considered "super GMs" - they are very dangerous, wily veterans (YOUNG veterans because they've been on the circuit from young age) and they are great players.  They've been there, done that.  I've always had a crush on Michael Adams - fell madly in like with him during the 1999 FIDE Knock-Out World Chess Championship in Las Vegas.  He and the Kid - Dieter Liever-Nisipeanu - were so cute.  For that matter, I was pretty cute myself in 1999 :)

Van Wely won clear first place in the Open and took home a cool $10,200.  Adams finished in second place overall but tied with three other players with 7.0/9, so the money was split and he took home $2,425.  I was glad to see some of the chess femmes making marks for themselves. 

WIM Tatev Abrahamyan scored an IM norm and WGM norm and Viktorija Ni scored a WIM norm (Open).

Without further ado, here are the chess femmes who played in the Open and their final standings (I hope I didn't miss anyone).

WIM Tatev Abrahamyan 2290 2346 CA finished in 24th place overall (out of 149 registered players) with 6.0 and won $2250.

WIM Iryna Zenyuk 2276 2235 PA finished in 33rd place with 5.5 and won $140. (Photo by Betsy Dynako: Zenyuk on the left, Abrahamyan on the right).

Other chess femmes who played in the Open:
54 WIM Luciana Morales 2188 2197 PER 5.0
55 WFM Viktorija Ni 2159 2214 LAT 5.0
56 WIM Lorena M Zepeda 2152 2194 ESA 5.0
58 WIM Evelyn Moncayo 2122 2136 ECU 5.0
59 WIM Sonia Zepeda 2107 2106 ESA 5.0
115 Sarah Chiang 1808 1888 TX L68 L111 W99 W145 W107 L9 L52 L72 D118 3.5
130 WFM Liulia Cardona 2193 2183 CUB W147 D21 L11 L75 F79 H— H— U— U— 2.5
134 Tatiana Vayserberg 2061 2062 WI L30 L72 W33 W92 L70 D87 L67 L93 U— 2.5

You can find full standings for all sections at the official website.  USCF has several great photos of the Chicago Open players by Betsy Dynako. 

Southwest Chess Club Action!

Some summer action at my adopted chess club!!!

Summer Steamy Humid Swiss: June 10, 17 & 24
3-Round Swiss in Two Sections (Open and U1600). Game/100. USCF Rated.
EF: $5. (One ½-Point Bye Available for any round (except round 3) if requested at least 2-days prior to round).
TD is Fogec; ATDs Grochowski & Becker.

SWCC Simul Kickoff: July 1
John Becker (2009 SWCC Club Champion) will give a lecture and a simul. This is a free event.

SOUTHWEST CHESS CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP: July 8, 15, 22, 29 & August 5  12
6-Round Swiss in One Section. Game/100. USCF Rated.
EF: $7. (must be a member to participate). SWCC Membership $10 (can join prior to first round).
(Two ½-point byes available in rounds 1 through 5 if requested at least 2-days in advance; no byes available for round 6.)
TD is Becker; ATD is Grochowski.

Details can be found at the Club Calendar.

Darlings, it's not too early to start planning for the Hales Corners Chess Challenge XII!  We are totally revising our Goddesschess prize structure to award each and every chess femme who plays in the tournament for her wins and draws, no matter where she finishes in the standings.  We will publish details soon.

Gender Gap in New York's "Gifted" Schools

From The New York Times

Gender Gap for the Gifted in City Schools
Published: May 31, 2010

When the kindergartners at the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, one of New York City’s schools for gifted students, form neat boy-girl rows for the start of recess, the lines of girls reach well beyond the lines of boys.

A similar imbalance exists at gifted schools in East Harlem, where almost three-fifths of the students at TAG Young Scholars are girls, and the Lower East Side, where Alec Kulakowski, a seventh grader at New Explorations in Science and Technology and Math, considered his status as part of the school’s second sex and remarked, “It’s kind of weird and stuff.”

Weird or not, the disparity at the three schools is not all that different from the gender makeup at similar programs across the city: though the school system over all is 51 percent male, its gifted classrooms generally have more girls.

Around the city, the current crop of gifted kindergartners, for example, is 56 percent girls, and in the 2008-9 year, 55 percent were girls.

Educators and experts have long known that boys lag behind girls in measures like high school graduation rates and college enrollment, but they are concerned that the disparity is also turning up at the very beginning of the school experience.

Why more girls than boys enter the programs is unclear, though there are some theories. Among the most popular is the idea that young girls are favored by the standardized tests the city uses to determine admission to gifted programs, because they tend to be more verbal and socially mature at ages 4 and 5 when they sit for the hourlong exam.

“Girls at that age tend to study more, and the boys kind of play more,” said Linda Gratta, a parent at the Anderson School on the Upper West Side, one of the most selective. “But it’s a mixed bag. The day of the test, you could be the smartest boy in the world and just have a bad day.” She said that Timothy, her first-grade son, had approximately 10 boys and 18 girls in his class.

Biases and expectations among adults are often in play when determining which children count as gifted, and fewer boys appear to end up in gifted programs nationally. A 2002 study by the National Academy of Sciences reported that boys were “overrepresented in programs for learning disabilities, mental retardation and emotional disturbance, and slightly underrepresented in gifted programs,” said Bruce A. Bracken, a professor at the College of William & Mary who wrote one of the two exams that the city uses to test gifted children. He said the implications of the study were “disturbing.”

Dr. Bracken’s assessment, which makes up 25 percent of a child’s gifted score in the city, has been field tested for gender bias, and during a recent round of testing in Virginia, no gender differences in the score were recorded. But the longer Otis-Lennon Ability Test, the other 75 percent of the gifted exam, is “more verbal than some of the other tests,” which could play to girls’ strengths, said David F. Lohman, a professor and testing expert at the University of Iowa.

The city’s Department of Education mandated the use of the two tests for admission to gifted programs beginning in 2008; before that, individual schools and districts each devised its own criteria. These typically included a mix of standardized intelligence tests, interviews, observation and, for later grades, class work. The additional leeway in admissions sometimes led to an effort to create gender balance in classes.

“Up until about five years ago, there was more of a conscious effort to balance by gender,” said Estelle Schmones, who retired last year as a gifted teacher at Public School 110 in Manhattan. Like other educators and parents, Ms. Schmones noted that the number of girls in some gifted programs had been creeping up over the past several years.

David Cantor, the press secretary for the Education Department, said that any role the tests might play in contributing to the gender gap was not known, because the city did not tally the gender of those who took or passed the test, only those who enrolled in gifted classes. Still, Mr. Cantor said, “A good test for giftedness should be able to control for differences in what children have been exposed to, and for the early verbal development we see more often in girls.”

The imbalance stands in contrast with the gender makeup of the eight high schools, including Stuyvesant High School, the Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Technical High School, that use the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test to select students. All have more boys than girls, in keeping with research that shows that boys tend to catch up with girls, especially in mathematics, through middle school and, at the high end of the achievement spectrum, surpass them. (La Guardia High School, the prestigious school for music, art and the performing arts, has three girls for every boy.)

Whatever might be keeping young boys from entering gifted programs at equal rates might also be what can cause stumbles once they get in. For some of the boys, “their social and emotional development is not at the same level as their intellectual development,” said Donna Taylor, the principal of the Brooklyn School of Inquiry. She estimated that she spent about half her day helping her kindergarten and first-grade boys as they ran into trouble with issues like collaboration, self-control and sharing.

The difference could be observed one day last week in the lunchroom, where a cluster of boys sat at one end of a table, fooling around until one of them spilled a carton of chocolate milk. The girls sat calmly at the other end, eating meatballs without a stain on their sundresses.

Because the children are extremely bright, correcting their behavior sometimes comes with a twist.

During recess on Wednesday, Sidney, a kindergartner, got angry when Benjamin, a first grader, grabbed away a ball he was playing with. When Ms. Taylor got the boys together to talk over their feelings, Sidney tried to grab the ball back.

“Have you heard the expression, two wrongs don’t make a right?” she asked Sidney.

“Three lefts make a right,” he replied.

Part 2.

This is a Joke - Right? Political Hijinks in South Carolina

I don't often post about politics here and the following story is a good reason why I don't!  Turned my stomach, it did. I am still shaking my head in disbelief that people really say, do and believe incredibly stupid things.  The target in this case is a woman running for the GOP's nomination to run for governor of South Carolina.

From Yahoo
'Raghead' slur is new ugly twist in S.C. race
Fri Jun 4, 4:40 pm ET

Lee Atwater would be proud. Or ashamed. Or both.

Atwater, the famed GOP operative who ran George H.W. Bush's 1988 presidential campaign, was the universally acknowledged master of the political dirty trick — his was the diabolical mind behind the "Willie Horton" ad that did Michael Dukakis in — until a deathbed conversion in which he regretted the "naked brutality" of his career. Atwater was also a native of South Carolina, and in recent months his home state has been living up to his political legacy in ways he never could have imagined — most recently with a Republican state senator using the slur "raghead" for GOP gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, a Christian of Indian Sikh descent, and for President Obama.

South Carolina has always had a singularly mean-spirited and crafty political culture, especially on the GOP side, where dog whistles about race and religion come across loud and clear to its good ol' boy base. There were the rumors floated during the 2000 Republican presidential primary about a supposed illegitimate black child of Sen. John McCain, and there was the time in 1990 when political consultant Rod Shealy conspired to increase the turnout among anti-black white voters in the GOP primary by recruiting a black candidate (which he correctly reckoned would benefit his candidate) to run for Congress.

South Carolina has also of late become known for the sexual peccadilloes of Gov. Mark Sanford and the anti-Obama rage of one of its congressmen, Joe Wilson (he of the "You lie!" outburst during the president's address to Congress on health care).

And now the state's Republican primary for governor has tied those threads of political deviousness, sexual innuendo and white rage into an Atwaterian nightmare.

Front-runner Haley, an attractive "pro-family" candidate who has the backing of the tea party movement and Sarah Palin, has been the target of not one but two claims of infidelity to her husband — both lodged by conservative political operatives who claim to have slept with her. And on Thursday a state senator who is supporting one of Haley's opponents casually referred to her as a "raghead" and claimed that she is a Manchurian candidate launched by a "network of Sikhs" to take over the governorship.

During a visit Thursday to "Pub Politics," an online political chat show hosted from a bar in Columbia, S.C., state senator Jake Knotts said: "We already got one raghead in the White House; we don't need a raghead in the governor's mansion." Haley's parents are Sikhs of Indian descent; she has converted to Christianity but still attends Sikh religious ceremonies on occasion out of deference to her parents.

According to the Columbia Free Times, Knotts also claimed that Haley was a plant being controlled by nefarious handlers:

Knotts says he believed Haley has been set up by a network of Sikhs and was programmed to run for governor of South Carolina by outside influences in foreign countries. He claims she is hiding her religion and he wants the voters to know about it.

The "raghead" remark seemed like an inevitable grace note in the gubernatorial primary. Knotts is supporting South Carolina Lieutenant Gov. Andre Bauer's candidacy, and this week a campaign consultant for Bauer named Larry Marchant came forward to claim he had a "one-night stand" with Haley — a married mother of two — at a school-choice conference in 2008. That allegation came just a week after Will Folks, a right-wing blogger and former campaign worker for Haley, claimed to have engaged in an "inappropriate physical relationship" with her.

Haley has categorically denied the charges and says she has been "100 percent faithful" to her husband. Bauer, who fired Marchant and says he has had nothing to do with the charges of infidelity, has chosen a curious approach to staying out of the fray: He's demanding that Haley take a lie-detector test to prove that she never cheated on her husband. Haley, meanwhile, has pledged that if she's elected, she will resign if proof ever comes out that she did sleep with Folks or Marchant.

Neither Marchant nor Folks has come forward with proof of their claims, though Folks has released phone records showing that he frequently spoke to Haley on the phone late at night and claims to have seen a photo, allegedly taken by a private investigator, of himself and Haley in a "compromising position."

As for Knotts, he has issued an apology for the "raghead" comment, claiming that it was "intended in jest" and that the "humorous content was lost in translation." Though the "Pub Politics" show was webcast, host Wesley Donehue, a South Carolina political consultant, Tweeted that "technical issues" prevented Knotts' remark from being archived on the show's site, so no video of it was immediately available. But he later Tweeted that he had his own version, as yet unreleased. (To add to the insular, high-school nature of the campaign's glorious disarray, Donehue was the person Folks accused of first peddling Folks-Haley rumors to the press, allegedly prompting Folks' confession.)

Even in his apology, Knotts managed to get another underhanded dig in at Haley, whom he says "is pretending to be someone she is not." Bauer used identical language in his statement challenging her to a lie-detector test. The implication that she is, as Knotts put it, "hiding her true religion." Meanwhile, the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody published a story Thursday saying her emphasis on her Christian faith has evolved over the years.

Haley has thus far used the bizarre attacks to her advantage, painting herself as a victim of a corrupt political culture, and has maintained a healthy lead in the polls. The primary is Tuesday, which leaves only three more days for Haley's opponents to systematically eviscerate the myth of the Southern gentleman.

— John Cook is a senior national reporter/blogger for Yahoo! News.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cleopatra Exhibit Now in Philadelphia

From The Philadelphia Inquirer Online

Posted on Sun, May. 30, 2010
The Last Queen of Egypt
An exhibit opening Saturday at the Franklin Institute has about 150 artifacts and focuses on the search for discoveries about the life of Cleopatra.
By Christopher Yasiejko

The two red granite statues, each more than 16 feet tall, entered the Franklin Institute one recent morning through soaring glass loading doors on the second floor. The great figure of a king went first, resting in a crate atop a metal pallet lifted by a crane. Soon he would stand beside an Egyptian queen, also from Cleopatra's Ptolemaic era - two monumental artifacts of her mysterious world.

A rigging crew and several Egyptians - present whenever their country's antiquities are in transit - worked quietly, pulling the statues inside, unpacking them, standing them upright.

It was a difficult, delicate task, but far simpler than it had been to retrieve the figures from the murky depths off the coast of Alexandria, where an excavation of mythical proportions continues to provide context for the enigmatic Cleopatra, last pharoah of Egypt before it became a Roman province in 30 B.C.

The sights and sounds of the underwater project, along with those of corresponding land excavations, are featured in "Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt," which opens Saturday and runs through Jan. 2, 2011. The 18,000-square-foot exhibition, which will travel to four other North American cities, includes about 150 artifacts ranging in size from coins to massive statues and weighing a total of 30 tons.

Arts and Exhibitions International organized the 2007 Tutankhamun show that drew more than 1.3 million visitors to the Franklin Institute. AEI chose to debut "Cleopatra" here because of that success and the institute's science focus: This is not a gallery show but a look at the process that has led to contemporary discoveries and, some believe, to the cusp of one of archaeology's most sought-after finds, the tomb of Cleopatra and her lover, Mark Antony.

Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities and familiar to viewers of documentaries about ancient Egypt, said the show was the first to focus on the search for the pair.

He and Kathleen Martinez, a Dominican archaeologist, five years ago began excavating inside the temple Taposiris Magna in Abusir, west of Alexandria. Among their finds was a foundation deposit that revealed the temple was built in the time of Ptolemy IV, one of 14 said to have contained a piece of the body of Osiris, god of the underworld.

Inside was a small temple dedicated to Osiris' wife, Isis, which Hawass says was built when Cleopatra ruled.

David Silverman is the curator in charge of the Egyptian collection at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, which has paired with the Franklin Institute for this exhibition and is offering a self-guided tour, "Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt." He said despite the tremendous amount that has been written about Cleopatra, little is known of her from material culture.

"The problem about the material that was written about her is it was written later . . .," says Silverman, whose first graduate student was Hawass. "Some parts are fairly negative, some of it is inaccurate, and then all of a sudden, a lot of it winds up being very romantic, and through rose-colored glasses."

Underwater archaeology, he said, requires a tremendous amount of conservation, some of which must be done before the artifacts - especially the porous ones - emerge from the sea.

On the deck of the Princess Duda, anchored off Alexandria above the sunken island on which Cleopatra's palace stood, the French diver and archaeologist Franck Goddio said in a phone interview Tuesday that the excavation was far from finished. He estimated that the project has revealed less than 1 percent of the submerged artifacts.

Goddio - who began the project in 1991, electronically mapped the site from 1992 to 1996, then began excavating - values the context his work is helping paint of the queen's life and times. But the discovery of statues and parts thereof often comes piecemeal.

One morning last week, visibility underwater reached five feet. That, he said, "is very good for us" - typical visibility is seldom more than three feet, enough to spot a sculpted arm or elbow jutting from the sediment, which in some places covers the site to a depth of about 10 feet.

"You just see part of this artifact, and you discover it little by little," he said. "It's only by drawings on the surface" - and photography, and sophisticated mapping tools - "that we start to see what is there."

The island is believed to have slid into the Bay of Aboukir in the fourth century A.D., when an earthquake sent a tsunami crashing through the city. Goddio's crew has found two buildings there: the remains of Cleopatra's palace and a small temple devoted to Isis.

On Monday, Goddio found a foot-tall bronze statuette on the site of the Isis temple. His team continues to find elements of Cleopatra's era, and even the smallest provide context; depictions of gods reveal the periods during which the artifacts were created.

"It's not a static museum exhibition," Dennis Wint, the Franklin Institute's president and chief executive said of "Cleopatra." "It's an exhibition that is going to emphasize the process of exploration and discovery."

The work of Hawass and his crew is represented in the show's terrestrial portions. Inside the main entrance of the temple Taposiris Magna, they found many pieces of sphinx statues, which he said could mean the entrance was lined with "an avenue of sphinxes." Twenty-two coins were found, emblazoned with the face and name of Cleopatra.

("I think the reason why people think Cleopatra was ugly is because she was depicted with a big nose on the coins," Hawass said. "But you cannot really know . . . . I do not think Cleopatra was ugly at all because the lady captured the hearts of the two most powerful people on earth, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.")

Outside the temple, a large Ptolemaic cemetery was unearthed. Some of its many mummies were gilded, and all their heads were turned toward the temple, which Hawass said could mean an important person, or persons, were buried inside.

He didn't venture to estimate when the team might discover the tomb itself, but said the excavation project itself was significant: While many have searched for the tomb of Alexander the Great in Alexandria and Siwa, no one has looked for the tomb of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony.

"We know that Cleopatra built a palace and tomb . . . but both of these are now underwater in the harbor of Alexandria," he said. "We know from ancient writers that Cleopatra was never buried in her tomb. This is why we have turned our focus to the Isis temple . . .. If they were buried inside the temple, they would be symbolic of the husband and wife, Isis and Osiris, buried together."

Hawass' favorite piece, which he found inside the temple, is an alabaster head of Cleopatra. "When I held the head in my hand," he said, "I felt the magic of the queen, and I imagined what it would feel like if we found the tomb of Cleopatra and Mark Antony."

Mark Lach, designer of the hugely successful Tut exhibition and creative director of "Cleopatra," calls the current show's content "far richer."

"There's not a lot to know about Tut," he said, who "probably would've been an insignificant king lost to the pages of history if it wasn't for the discovery. We know a lot more about Cleopatra. We also don't know a lot about Cleopatra. We know who she is through movies and pop culture, but what's the real backstory? Well, what's amazing about the discoveries that Franck has made, this gives you her world."

Visitors will start with a 4½-minute introductory video. The screen then will rise to reveal a statue of Isis, considered to have been the archetypal mother of Egypt.

That's where the audio tour, featuring an actress speaking as Cleopatra, begins. It's free, the first time either Arts and Exhibitions International or the Franklin has included it within the ticket prices, which range from $19.50 to $29.50 for daytime entry.

A glass-floored walkway takes visitors through a room that includes artifacts underfoot, video projections of divers and the sounds of their communication. More than a dozen original videos were produced for the exhibit.

And though multimedia elements loom large in the show, an ancient papyrus document in a glass case reveals as much, detailing an exchange of wheat for wine to benefit an aide of Mark Antony's.

At the bottom is a note Cleopatra is thought to have scribbled. It says, in translated Greek, "Make it happen."

2010 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

It will be here before you know it!

When: July 9 - 19, 2010!
Venue: Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis - same venue as last year -received rave reviews from players and fans alike

A reminder - here are the final standings from 2009 U.S. Women's Chess Championship, featuring the richest prize purse ever - $64,000:

2009 U.S. Women's Championship Standings
# Name USCF FIDE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Score

1 Anna Zatonskih 2492 2462 ½ 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 8½
2 Camilla Baginskaite 2356 2317 ½ ½ 0 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 6½
3 Alisa Melekhina 2253 2220 0 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 0 1 1 5½
4 Irina Krush 2490 2458 0 1 ½ 0 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 5½
5 Tatev Abrahamyan 2342 2275 0 0 0 1 ½ ½ 1 1 0 4
6 Sabina Foisor 2379 2320 0 0 0 0 ½ 1 1 0 1 3½
7 Rusudan Goletiani 2437 2391 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 1 1 0 3½
8 Iryna Zenyuk 2271 2285 0 0 1 ½ 0 0 0 ½ 1 3
9 Battsetseg Tsagaan 2265 2258 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 ½ 1 2½
10 Yun Fan 2134 1935 0 0 0 ½ 1 0 1 0 0 2½

Format: 10 player invitational.  I haven't seen a final list of players yet, here are the criteria for selecting the invitees:
  • Last year's winner -- IM Anna Zatonskih, who dominated the field with an incredible performance of 8.5/9 and took home the $15,000 prize for clear first of $64,000 total prizes, plus $500 for Goddesschess' Fighting Chess Award, selected by GM Susan Polgar
  • The U.S. Women's Open Champion
  • The May 2010 supplement of the USCF's rating list will be used to determine the seven players who will be selected by rating for the 2010 U.S. Women's Championship
  • A wild-card selection
Here are the top 15 U.S. women listed this evening at the USCF website - kicker - this is the June list - who the heck was on the May Supplement???:

1 Zatonskih, Anna (12873912) NY USA 2518 - returning to defend her title with boxing gloves on

2 Krush, Irina (12543137) NY USA 2493 - "I'll be back..."
3 Goletiani, Rusudan (12807449) NY USA 2401
4 Baginskaite, Camilla (12716466) SD USA 2387
5 Foisor, Sabina-Francesca (14012260) MD USA 2356
6 Abrahamyan, Tatev (12851435) CA USA 2342
7 Melekhina, Alisa (12726115) PA USA 2323
8 Zenyuk, Iryna (12846035) PA USA 2305 - 2009 U.S. Women's Open CC - why would she refuse?
9 Battsetseg, Tsagaan (12719650) MD USA 2247
10 Ross, Laura R (12630804) NY USA 2217
11 Marshall, Abby (12784803) VA USA 2211
12 Epstein, Esther (12515912) MA USA 2210
13 Marinello, Beatriz (12537449) NY USA 2206
14 Airapetian, Chouchanik (12629918) WA USA 2147
15 Kats, Alena (12980885) NY USA 2108

We know that Zatonskih will be playing to defend her title, and Krush will be returning as well.  That leaves six players (not including the winner of the 2009 U.S. Women's Open CC) to qualify off the ratings list - I've highlighted them in purple -- plus a wild-card selection, and who knows who she may be! 

So, you ask, who was the winner of the 2009 U.S. Women's Open CC?  A young lady from India attending college here in the US, Saheli Nath, won with 5.0/6 but since she is not qualified to play in the 2010 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship, NM Iryna Zenyuk, who finished in clear second place with 4.5/6, won the spot -- I assume because she is a legal U.S. resident???  Can someone please clarify the rules for qualification of players in the U.S. Women's Chess Championship  - thanks!  Trying to find information at the USCF website is, well, let's just say I haven't found the "key" yet.

Who will be player ten???  It is also possible that one or more players on this list will, for various reasons, decline their invitations -- that is why I included the additional ranked women's players in the U.S.  That means that the next highest-rated female player who qualifies to participate would be invited.  Laura Ross - has your turn finally come???

Total Prize Fund:  AT LEAST $64,000 (promised to be more this year???) - not including special prizes/awards from independent sponsors

Yes, Goddesschess is again putting up prize money this year.  Stay tuned for details.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Follow-up: Oldest Mesoamerican Pyramid Tomb Found in Mexico

Prior blog post.

Is it just me?  I mean yeah, darlings, I'm getting a bit older now, but still - I don't seem to recall all the emphasis on the Mormons and BYU in the first article I read about this discovery that I'm now seeing in this article.  Talk about agendas, geez!  Question is - which agendas (agendae?) have priority???

I am also quite puzzled by conflicting references within this story that the a female was buried on a landing OUTSIDE the presumably dominant male's tomb but then a later statement in the article that the male and female were "buried side by side."  The archaeologist who made that statement obviously has an entirely different concept of what "side by side" means in the English language. 

To confuse things even further, the first article (prior blog post) seems to indicate that the female and male were buried in separate tombs of equal significance as far as artifacts and, at least implied, similar pomp and circmstance. 

Now tell me, how could someone buried on what amounts to a step outside of someone else's tomb be of equal significance with the person inside the tomb, unless the intepretations that we are being given in these reports are, er, shall we say, somewhat shaded?  To what purpose?

You can find the full article at Deseret News
BYU archaeologists discover ancient royal tomb in Mexico that may be oldest in Americas
By Sara Israelsen-Hartley
Deseret News
Published: Thursday, June 3, 2010 12:45 a.m. MDT

PROVO — Whoever they were, the two adults went out of this life in style — their bodies adorned with jade carvings shaped like monkeys and crocodiles, and their mouths filled with precious jewels and tiny seashells.

Archaeologists who recently discovered the final resting place of what may have been a royal couple in the ancient city of Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas, Mexico, believe this is one of the oldest pyramid tombs in Mesoamerica, dating back nearly 2,700 years.

. . .

The main tomb held an ornately decorated male and two sacrificial victims, with a similarly adorned woman, presumably the man's wife or lover, on a landing outside his tomb.

. . .

With a handful of unanswered research questions, Clark sent Bachand back in 2008 to continue excavating. And this season, they got lucky.

Besides the spectacular amount and quality of the artifacts, it's also the first time Clark, a well-respected Mesoamerican archaeologist, said he had heard of a male and a female buried next to each other, at least in this Mesoamerican time frame.   . . .

Ancient Australian Cave Art Found

wo reports, one from May 31, 2010, and one from today, with a great photo:

Painting believed to be Australia's oldest Aboriginal rock art
May 31, 2010, 7:56 GMT
Sydney - An Aboriginal painting of two giant emu-like birds could be Australia's oldest rock art, archaeologists said Monday.

The red ochre painting found in the far north of the continent could date back 40,000 years to the earliest days of its settlement.

Archaeologist Ben Gunn said Genyornis, the species depicted in the painting, became extinct 40,000 years ago.

'The details on this painting indicate that it was done by someone who knew that animal very well,' Gunn told the national broadcaster ABC. 'Either the painting is 40,000 years old, which is when science thinks Genyornis disappeared, or alternatively, the Genyornis lived a lot longer than science has been able to establish.'

Gunn said that near where the Genyornis depictions were found in Arnhem Land were paintings of other extinct animals, including the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger; the giant echidna; and giant kangaroo.

Technical difficulties and uncertainties make dating Australia's early rock art difficult, but Wes Miller, head of the Jawoyn Association, said the discovery confirmed his tribe had lived in the area for tens of thousands of years.

'It verifies that the Jawoyn people were living in this country for a very, very long time,' Miller said. 'People say it, but once again, this is clearly a demonstration of how long Jawoyn people have been in this country and other indigenous groups. It's great from that point of view. It's pretty exciting stuff.'

Here is today's update:

Bird rock art could be world's oldest
By: Emma Young | June-3-2010

A rock painting that appears to be of a bird that went extinct about 40,000 years ago has been discovered in northern Australia.

A ROCK PAINTING THAT appears to be of a bird that went extinct about 40,000 years ago has been discovered in northern Australia. If confirmed, this would be the oldest rock art anywhere in the world, pre-dating the famous Chauvet cave in southern France by some 7,000 years.

The red ochre painting was found in southwest Arnhem Land by a member of the Jawoyn Association, which represents the local traditional owners of the land. When Robert Gunn, an archaeologist brought in to document rock art in the area, saw the painting he immediately thought it looked like Genyornis, an emu-like, big-beaked, thick-legged bird that went extinct along with other Australian megafauna between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago.

"But I bit my tongue, and sent it off to a recognised authority, palaeontologist Peter Murray in Darwin, to see what he thought. When he confirmed that it probably was Genyornis, it was pretty exciting," Robert says.

Robert thinks there are two possible interpretations: either this is among the oldest rock paintings in the world, or Genyornis went extinct later than anybody thinks.

Age old question
But there's no good archaeological or palaeontological evidence that Genyornis survived longer than about 40,000 years ago, says Bruno David, an archaeologist and rock art specialist at Monash University in Melbourne, who has seen photos of the painting and who has worked in the region. "If this is Genyornis, then it has to be more than 40,000 years old," he says.

Robert is now planning to record the site in much more detail, and next year Bruno and his team will excavate the area thoroughly. A rock fall created the exposed face on which the painting was made. By studying buried samples from beneath the fallen rock, the team should be able to work out the age of the rock face. If it is older than 40,000 years, this won't prove that the painting is that old, but it will support the idea that it could be.

Some rock art specialists strongly suspect that the painting is younger. The oldest pigment found on a rock anywhere in Australia is 28,000 years old, but the image is so covered with dust and other rocky accretions, it's impossible to know what it looked like.

The Genyornis site is a shallow shelter and most such paintings in Australia are thought to be less than about 5,000 years old; older ones are thought to have been eroded away by weather. The Chauvet artworks, in contrast, are deep inside a cave that was sealed for more than 20,000 years. However, some of the sandstone in Arnhem Land does have the advantage of being extremely hard and durable.

Cautious optimism

Bruno says it's important to be cautious. The features of the painted bird match the features of the extinct Genyornis very closely, but this might be a coincidence, he says. "It's possible that at some time in the past, people were painting animals that didn't necessarily match living species - or that the bird wasn't a physical bird, but an animal that was part of the local, ancestral Jawoyn Dreaming beliefs," he says. And if this is the case, the painting could have been made at any time in the past.

But either way it's exciting, he says. "If it's Genyornis, then it's of extreme significance. If not, it's very significant because it tells us something about the way people understood their landscapes."

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Southwest Chess Club: Action This Thursday!

Shake off the blahs after our beautiful holiday weekend and get ready to welcome the new weekend during this shortened work week (hooray!) by playing some brisk games this Thursday night - one night only action - at the Southwest Chess Club:

Heatwave Action III: June 3

3-Round Swiss in Two Sections (G/30 Minutes and G/29 Minutes). USCF Rated.
EF: $5. (½-Point Bye available for only first round if requested prior to round)
TD is Becker; ATD is Grochowski.

Southwest Chess Club's summer schedule, and directions to the Club's playing venue.

Ancient Female Clay Figurine Excavated in Japan

13,000-year-old clay figure found
May 31, 2010

OTSU--A clay figure believed to be 13,000 years old and one of the oldest in the country, was found in an archaeological site in Higashiomi, Shiga Prefecture, the Shiga Prefectural Association for Cultural Heritage said.

The tiny figure, 3.1 centimeters in height and 14.6 grams in weight, depicts a female torso with breasts and a waistline.

The figure, which was discovered at the Aidanikumahara archaeological site, is from an incipient era of the Jomon Pottery Culture, according to the association.

Another female clay figure from approximately the same era was found in Matsusaka, Mie Prefecture, in 1996.

Author Fudging on Gameboard Fragment in Article on Harappan Site

All was well reading this interesting article at Frontline online magazine (published by The Hindu):

The rise and fall of a Harappan city
Volume 27 - Issue 12 :: Jun. 05-18, 2010

...until the very end of the article, when a photograph of part of a gameboard carved on a block of stone, holding some game pieces, was published as "A game, apparently involving a puzzle, found at the site." No attribution of the photograph other than "ASI" was given, no discussion of the gameboard fragment, or the gaming pieces, or the circumstances under which this board was recovered, nor a suggested age for the artifacts, was given.  This is the photograph from the article, credited to ASI.  Now, I'm not saying it's so, but it almost does look like a photo that was cribbed from some museum's website.

Come on dude, who do you think you're kidding? That gameboard fragment certainly looks like a part of a 20-squares game, played in Sumer, Egypt and throughout the Middle East. The game pieces resemble Egyptian "spool and reel" game pieces. The existence of these fragments in Dholavira, now identified as one of the five largest Harappan sites, is fascinating and deserves further research. But the author took a cheap shot when he tossed the photograph of the fragmentary gameboard and pieces into this article, with no further explanation. A "puzzle" - yeah, right. I'm sure Indian archaeologists know about the 20-squares game, and about trade. Now THAT would be a story to develop - talk about the trade among the great cultures of the time and how games travelled with the merchants from place to place.

Leonard Woolley is credited with excavating perhaps the oldest-known examples of the 20-squares game, at Ur ("royal tombs of") dated to about 2600 BCE.  Unfortunately the wood that the boards was made out of had long disintegrated, but the intricately carved ivory, shell, stone and metal insets that decorated the boards were meticulously preserved, so much so that the gun-ho "archaeologists" of the day were able to reconstruct what they looked like.

A well-preserved wooden 20-squares gameboard (the serpent gameboard) was excavated from Shar-i Sokhtah near the borderlands of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the late 1970's I believe, and dated to about 2400 BCE.  Also known as the "Burnt City," Shar-i Sokhtah was a trading hub as well as a center of decorative arts and crafts.  Image:  "Evidence of Western Cultural Connections from a Phase 3 Group of Graves at Shar-i Sokhta", M. Piperno, S. Salvatori, Mesopotamien und Sein Nachbarn, Band 1, Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin 1997, pgs. 79-84, Tafel XXII. The illustration (Fig. 4) is described as "The wooden gaming board found in grave IUP 731 at Shahr-i Sokhta. The board features an engraved serpent [on a rectangular board] coiling around itself for 20 times, thus producing 20 slots for the game."

The Egyptians were fond of the game and often put it on one side of a dual-game board, with senet (30-squares) on the other side.  Image: Oriental Institute OIM 371, 20 square game.  Acacia wood, copper.
New Kingdom, Dynasties 18-19, ca. 1570-1069 B.C.

All of this is well-documented in archaeological archives, and one does not have to be a "games expert" to know about these famous finds or do an eyeball comparison of these boards to figure out what the stone gameboard fragment found at Dholavira most likely was. 
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