Friday, October 26, 2012

Evidence of Viking Outpost Found in Canada

Evidence of Viking Outpost Found in Canada

Sharpeners may be smoking guns in quest for New World's second Viking site.

Heather Pringle
for National Geographic News
Published October 19, 2012
Part of our weekly "In Focus" series—stepping back, looking closer.

For the past 50 yearssince the discovery of a thousand-year-old Viking way station in Newfoundlandarchaeologists and amateur historians have combed North America's east coast searching for traces of Viking visitors.

It has been a long, fruitless quest, littered with bizarre claims and embarrassing failures. But at a conference in Canada earlier this month, archaeologist Patricia Sutherland announced new evidence that points strongly to the discovery of the second Viking outpost ever discovered in the Americas.

While digging in the ruins of a centuries-old building on Baffin Island (map), far above the Arctic Circle, a team led by Sutherland, adjunct professor of archaeology at Memorial University in Newfoundland and a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, found some very intriguing whetstones. Wear grooves in the blade-sharpening tools bear traces of copper alloys such as bronze—materials known to have been made by Viking metalsmiths but unknown among the Arctic's native inhabitants.

Taken together with her earlier discoveries, Sutherland's new findings further strengthen the case for a Viking camp on Baffin Island. "While her evidence was compelling before, I find it convincing now," said James Tuck, professor emeritus of archaeology, also at Memorial University.

Archaeologists have long known that Viking seafarers set sail for the New World around A.D. 1000. A popular Icelandic saga tells of the exploits of Leif Eriksson, a Viking chieftain from Greenland who sailed westward to seek his fortune. According to the saga, Eriksson stopped long enough on Baffin Island to walk the coast—named Helluland, an Old Norse word meaning "stone-slab land"—before heading south to a place he called Vinland.

In the 1960s two Norwegian researchers, Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Ingstad, discovered and excavated the Viking base camp at L'Anse aux Meadows (map) on the northern tip of Newfoundland—the first confirmed Viking outpost in the Americas. Dated to between 989 and 1020, the camp boasted three Viking halls, as well as an assortment of huts for weaving, ironworking, and ship repair.

Viking Yarn
As reported in the November issue of National Geographic magazine, Sutherland first caught wind of another possible Viking way station in 1999, when she spotted two unusual pieces of cord that had been excavated from a Baffin Island site by an earlier archaeologist and stored at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec.

Sutherland noticed that the strands bore little resemblance to the animal sinew Arctic hunters twisted into cordage. The cords turned out to be expertly woven Viking yarn, identical in technique to yarn produced by Viking women living in Greenland in the 14th century.

The discovery prompted Sutherland to scour other museum collections for more Viking artifacts from Baffin Island and other sites. She found more pieces of Viking yarn and a small trove of previously overlooked Viking gear, from wooden tally sticks for recording trade transactions to dozens of Viking whetstones. (Also see "Viking Weapon Recycling Site Found in England.")

The artifacts came from four sites, ranging from northern Baffin Island to northern Labrador, a distance of a thousand miles (1,600 kilometers). Indigenous Arctic hunters known as the Dorset people had camped at each of the sites, raising the possibility that they had made friendly contact with the Vikings. [See my prior post tonight regarding Dorset culture and possible bear cult.']

Intrigued, Sutherland decided to reopen excavations at the most promising site, a place known as Tanfield Valley on the southeast coast of Baffin Island. In the 1960s U.S. archaeologist Moreau Maxwell had excavated parts of a stone-and-sod building there, describing it as "very difficult to interpret." Sutherland suspected that Viking seafarers had built the structure.

Clues Etched in Bronze, Brass, and Iron
Since 2001 Sutherland's team has been exploring Tanfield Valley and carefully excavating surviving parts of the mysterious ruins. They have discovered a wide range of evidence pointing to the presence of Viking seafarers: pelt fragments from Old World rats; a whalebone shovel similar to those used by Viking settlers in Greenland to cut sod; large stones that appear to have been cut and shaped by someone familiar with European stone masonry; and more Viking yarn and whetstones. And the stone ruins bear a striking resemblance to some Viking buildings in Greenland.

Still, some Arctic researchers remained skeptical. Most of the radiocarbon dates obtained by earlier archaeologists had suggested that Tanfield Valley was inhabited long before Vikings arrived in the New World. But as Sutherland points out, the complex site shows evidence of several occupations, and one of the radiocarbon dates indicates that the valley was occupied in the 14th century, when Viking settlers were farming along the coast of nearby Greenland.

In search of other clues to help solve the mystery, Sutherland turned to the Geological Survey of Canada. Using a technique known as energy dispersive spectroscopy, the team examined the wear grooves on more than 20 whetstones from Tanfield Valley and other sites. Sutherland and her colleagues detected microscopic streaks of bronze, brass, and smelted iron—clear evidence of European metallurgy, which she presented October 7 at a meeting of the Council for Northeast Historical Archaeology in St. John's, Canada.

Norse-Native American Trade Network?
Sutherland speculates that parties of Viking seafarers travelled to the Canadian Arctic to search for valuable resources. In northern Europe at the time, medieval nobles prized walrus ivory, soft Arctic furs, and other northern luxuries—and Dorset hunters and trappers could readily stockpile such products. Helluland's waters teemed with walruses, and its coasts abounded in Arctic foxes and other small fur-bearing animals. To barter for such goods, Viking traders likely offered bits of iron and pieces of wood that could be carved into figurines and other goods, Sutherland says.

If Sutherland is correct, the lines of evidence she has uncovered may point to a previously unknown chapter in New World history in which Viking seafarers and Native American hunters were partners together in a transatlantic trade network. "I think things were a lot more complex in this part of the world than most people assumed," Sutherland said. James Tuck agreed. "It's pretty convincing that there was a much larger Norse presence in the Canadian Arctic than any of us thought."

[....and in news about 20 years from now, those runes carved on a large stone in Minnesota will be proven to be REAL after all...]

Evidence of Possible Dorset Culture Bear Cult

Way cool!  Shades of Shardik...  This is a long article, settle in with a coffee.  It's a sort of overview of the discoveries of Jorgen Meldgaard in NE Canada during the 1950's-'60's. 

Mysterious bear figurines baffle archaeologists

October 18, 2012 - 06:17
Small bear figurines have led researchers on the trail of hitherto unknown pre-Inuit rituals, indicating that these people practiced a bear cult.
By Ditte Svane-Knudsen
the 1950s, the now deceased Danish archaeologist Jørgen Meldgaard made a mysterious discovery in northeastern Canada:
A small, headless bear figurine, carved from a walrus tusk, was lying leaning up against the back wall of a stone fireplace in an old settlement. The bear had been positioned in a way that made it look as though it was ‘diving’ into the fireplace.
At the time, this little figurine didn’t cause much of a stir. It was just one out of a long series of discoveries that Meldgaard made during his field trips to the Igloolik region of Arctic Canada and Greenland in the 1950s and 1960s.
But when researchers at the Danish National Museum recently gained access to Meldgaard’s surviving diaries, records and photos, they realised that the discovery of the bear figurine was indeed quite sensational.
Humans and animals were close
Their examination of the material revealed that the small bear figurine could be an important key to understanding how people from more than 1,000 years ago viewed the relationship between animals and humans.
”The figurine provides us with information about some previously unknown 1,000-year-old rituals, which suggest that the Pre-Inuit, also known as the Dorset people, imagined that humans were related to certain animals in a way that’s very far from what we would imagine in today’s Western world,” says Ulla Odgaard, a senior researcher at the National Museum.
“Apparently, the Dorset people in Greenland and Canada didn’t see any antagonism between humans and animals,” she adds.
“Humans were not superior to animals; rather, it was a symbiotic co-existence. Bears and other animals functioned as mediators between mankind and the world of spirits.”
The Dorset way of thinking is also known from other early cultures
In other words, the finds reveal a belief in which animals – bears in particular – are our brothers, whose lives blend in with our own.
The way the Dorset culture viewed the relationship between humans and animals is known as animism – a phenomenon also known from other cultures.
“We know that the relationship between bears and humans has been crucial in all pre-modern cultures. This applies almost as far back in time as we can trace – all the way back to the very earliest renderings of the world that humans have created,” says Odgaard's colleague at the National Museum, Martin Appelt.
For instance, we see this relationship expressed in small carvings and cave paintings of humans and bears from the hunter-gatherer culture.
“Many cultures have combined human and animal features in their illustrations – e.g. a figurine of a bear with a falcon’s body, where the underside depicts a carved human head,” he says.  On many figurines from early cultures, the skeleton is cut so that it’s visible outside the body – and that’s also the case with Meldgaard’s bear figurine.
According to Appelt, this bears witness to a belief that the difference between humans and animals only lies in the skin they’re wearing, so to speak.
“So an animal is also a person – only with a different skin. And some of them have probably been regarded as spirits – i.e. people in a parallel universe to ours.”
The bear was something special
The apparent fact that bears were regarded as something special could be because the bear, along with man, is one of the few animals that were believed to transcend and travel between the worlds of land and sea.
Another explanation may be that humans and bears could change roles depending on the situation: sometimes it was the man who hunted the bear and sometimes it was vice versa.
The discovery of another bear was an eye opener
Meldgaard also found another bear figurine in a nearby settlement.  This bear stood upright with its head sticking up and the body half buried in the gravel.
Underneath it they found a fireplace, which suggests that this bear apparently was about to rise up from the fireplace.  The combination of both of the bear figurines’ interaction with the fireplaces led the Odgaard to believe that this could be a sign of rituals.
Carved bear figurines and the symbolism of rising and diving bears is also known in other parts of the world, for instance in Siberia, where resurrection rituals have been performed for millennia, says Odgaard.
Here, the bear was the mythical ancestor that every year travels to the upper world to secure the liberation of the animals’ souls, so that humans again can hunt them.
The fireplace was the gateway to other worlds
Legends from Siberia indicate that humans could communicate with the world of spirits through the fireplace. In other words, the fireplace may have been regarded as a gateway to other worlds. [Hmmm...sounds rather like the 'flue network' from the Harry Potter books...]
Bears are also known from Neolithic petroglyphs in Siberia and numerous finds of bear heads or headless bear figurines in the Arctic region. But none of these have been found in a ritual context like the two from Igloolik.
Bear figurines could explain lack of finds of burial sites
Since the ritual with fireplaces appears to stretch across time and space, the researchers believe the finds are of far greater importance than previously thought.
The bear figurines on the fireplaces are not only some of the few physical vestiges testifying to the Dorset culture’s view of life and death that archaeologist have ever come across.  The figurines may also help explain an old mystery – why archaeologists only rarely find burial sites from the earliest settlers in Greenland and Arctic Canada.
Dorset people may have dismembered their dead
Among the thousands of unique and spectacular objects that Jørgen
Meldgaard and his colleagues excavated in the Canadian settlements
in the 1950s and 60s, the many fine carvings made from walrus tusks,
reindeer antler and driftwood are particularly interesting to archaeologists.
These include small carvings of humans, human-like creatures and
various animals, but also figures which seem to contain traits from both
humans and animals. The figures reveal a belief in which animals – bears
in particular – are our brothers, whose lives blend in with ours.
(Photo: The National Museum of Denmark).
Although there’s no shortage of ancient Inuit tales about the special relationship between humans and animals, the oral sources tend to dry out once we start moving toward the millennia before the Inuit settled in Arctic Canada and Greenland.
“We have so far had glaringly few archaeological finds from pre-Inuit graves on other ritual elements that could increase our understanding of how the pre-Inuit people viewed their world,” says Appelt.
“This is where the bear figurines suddenly make many pieces fall into place. Suddenly we understand the many other figures with bear heads or headless bears in a completely different way.”
That the two bear figurines from the fireplaces have their skeletons carved on the outside of their bodies also confirms a suspicion the archaeologists have had that Dorset people probably dismembered their dead and scattered them out on the fields or sunk them in the sea, so they would end up as animal food – like we’re seeing in e.g. today’s Nepal and Tibet.
“This suspicion is compounded by the fact that the few bones we’ve actually found from the Dorset culture are not whole skeletons, but simple elements – a jaw, a thighbone, etc.  This suggests that the Dorset people had a completely different view of skeletons and bodies from what we have today – which the carvings of external skeletons on the bear figurines testify to.”
Rituals transcend space and time
Appelt says that the bear figurines from Igloolik are forcing archaeologists to think outside the box.
“We archaeologists prefer to work from the hypothesis that we can define various periods in history and that there is a clear division between space and time. But the figurines reveal that this is not the case here,” says Appelt.
“Some phenomena, such as animism and the rituals with the fireplaces and the dismemberment of the dead, transcend time and space – which is why you simply need to view them in bits of several 100,000 years if they are to be understood and make sense.”
Time and space not enough to understand the past
The archaeologist explains that when you look at archaeological finds across the world, there are so many overlaps where rituals transcend across cultures, time and space that there seems to be a connection.
"It’s very strange! And many archaeologists will surely find it unreasonable to think this way as an archaeologist – because how can things be connected in this way?” says Appelt.
”I don’t have the answer. There’s no answer book here. But I think the two headless bear figurines prove that it’s not always right to view history from within the narrow confines of time, space and traditions.
The next step for Odgaard, Appelt and their colleagues is to create an overview of Meldgaard’s records and publish the most important scientific findings.
The Dorset people in Greenland and Canada (c. 700 to 1,200 AD) is an archaeological term for a non-Inuit people group from Greenland.

The Dorset culture preceded the Inuit culture in Arctic North America. Archaeologists believe the people migrated from Siberia and Alaska between 4,000 years ago and until the birth of Christ.
Iniuit legends mention Tunitt (singular Tuniq) or Sivullirmiut (‘The first inhabitants’) as a people who were displaced by the Inuit.

Archaeologists, however, doubt whether or not the Inuit met with the Dorset culture, although there is a general consensus that the two groups have lived in the same area for a period.

Dorset culture became extinct around 1902 – probably as a result of a change in climate and living conditions, but also because they were ousted by the Inuit.

16th Unive (Hoogeveen)

For years, I always spelled Hoogeveen wrong. I usually came up with something similar to "Hogheven" - er...

This illustrious tournament has traditionally featured at least one strong female chessplayer.  For many years, it was, more often than not, GM Judit Polgar.  This year is no different - one of the higest-rated female players in the world is playing in the 16th Unive.  Current women's world chess champion GM Hou Yifan of China is in the invitational along with GM Hikaru Nakamura of the USA, and GMs Sergei Tiviakov and Anish Giri of the Netherlands (I think they are the highest-rated players in the Netherlands, but do not quote me on that!)  Giri is a young phenom.  Tiviakov transplated himself years ago and has been a steady performer for his new homeland.  Nakamura is the #1 player in the USA and one of the top-10 highest rated players in the world.

Here are the current standings, courtesy of coverage at The Week in Chess:

16th Unive Crown Hoogeveen (NED), 21-27 x 2012cat. XVIII (2687)
1.Nakamura, HikarugUSA2775**½.1½1½2806
2.Tiviakov, SergeigNED2656½.**½½½132753
3.Giri, AnishgNED26930½½½**½.22625
4.Hou, YifangCHN26230½½0½.**2562

Today, Hou Yifan drew her game with Nakamura, an impressive feat. 

Several chess femmes are playing in the Open (78 players).  There is one more round to go.  WGM Alina L'Ami, whom Goddesschess sponsored to play in the 2011 City of Montreal Chess Championships, is the top female thus far with 4.0/8 and is currently in 35th place overall.  Her husband, GM Erwin L'Ami, is tied for 2nd place with four other players, at 6.0/8.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hales Corners Challenge XVI: Photographs and Postscript

Hi all.

Hales Corners Challenge XVI was a great success from my perspective.  Darlings!  This is the very first time we ever had to SEND YOU MORE MONEY to cover all the prizes won by the chess femmes!  Like, totally HOO-RAY! 

This has been a very sad time for me, and earlier it was a very trying summer.  But right now is also a very happy time.  Last night Tom Fogec stopped by and personally delivered to me an autograph of GM Josh Friedel, written on the back of a flyer for Hales Corners Challenge XVI.  As you all know, Josh Friedel is one of our few American-minted GMs!  I had posted at the Hales Corners Chess Club blog some weeks before wondering if I might be able to get his autograph -- half joking at the time because of course I wouldn't have thought twice about barging right up to him with pen and paper in hand :)  Tom also told me that all of the chess femmes got together to have their photographs taken, those who played in the Open, and those who played in the Reserve, and that Allen Becker would be sending those to me. It brought good tears to my eyes.

Those photographs were in my email tonight when I got home from a night-out with those wild and crazy chicks with whom I share bus rides to and from work downtown, five days a week.  We are the Rocking Crazy Cougars (or is that Crazy Cougars in Rocking Chairs...), amongst other names, except for "Thelma" because she's only 32 and far too young to be in Cougar territory.  But we're teaching her how to hunt...

Oops, straying from the point here!  It was wonderful to be with supportive, caring friends.  I've had overwhelming support, in fact, and your sympathy and caring have been a life-line during a very dark time.  Of course, one does not just wave one's magic wand and get over the death of a dearly beloved friend, companion, husband-in-everything-but-on-paper, not to mention a business partner and key component of what makes up Goddesschess.  But with such overwhelming support of friends and fans and sympathetic hearts, one carries on.  I'm no doofus.  I know when I have it good.  As Elie-Mae timely reminded me, these are blessings and I didn't even recognize them, like DOH, Jan!  I've been so used to having such wonderfulness in my life, you see.

Okay, enough hokey stuff.  Hey, I'm here, I'm one tough broad even if I can't play myself out of a paper bag on a chessboard!  Of course that makes no sense to anyone who doesn't play chess...

I love these photos!  Thanks so much, chess dudes and chess femmes!

These are the 9 chess femmes who played in the Reserve Section. Oh, me bad.  I SHOULD recognize all of you, but I don't -- maybe a wee bit too much wine with those Cougars I went out with earlier tonight... or - and I plead guilty - just a crappy memory.
I DO recognize, on the far right, the beautiful Anne Ulrich (standing, with her hand on the chessboard), and to her immediate left is Pat Foat, who has two chessplaying sons -- hey Pat, good to see you again, sorry to have missed you in person! I do hope we'll have a chance to mix it up OTB at Challenge XVII, but if we don't, let's go out to lunch during the break and schmooze.  And next to Pat is my buddy Ellen Wanek a/k/a Elie-Mae, who runs chess programs in Sheboygan, WI.  Okay, all the rest of you chess femmes, you're young enough to be my granddaughters.  Hmmmm....  Please wear name-tags the next time I see you.  In LARGE PRINT, please.  Hugs to all of you and thank you SO MUCH for coming out and supporting this wonderful local tournament.  CHESS FEMME POWER!!!!

These are, of course, the beautiful ladies who played in the Open. Oh - please excuse Robin Grochowski on the left and Tom Fogec on the right.  Obviously they are no ladies, ahem.  You guys!  You crack me up!  The chess femmes from left to right:  Alena Huang; Rachel Ulrich; Anupama Rajendra; Sandra Pahl. Rah Rah, chess femme power! 

I'm too tired to put all the math here that Robin G. presented me with earlier today in an email. Suffice to say, I KNEW we'd owe money this time because of course - wouldn't you know it - after all the tournaments Goddesschess had been depositing funds ahead of time with the Southwest Chess Club to cover potential chess femme prizes during the Hales Corners Chess Challenges, and we always got refunds back -- THIS TIME -- YES, LET ME SHOUT IT OUT AGAIN --THIS TIME (Can I Hear A Gospel Choir, PLEASE! giving me a big HMMMMMMMM and an AMEN) -- WE DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH ON DEPOSIT! 

Woo woo! 

Thank you so much, chess femmes.  Smooches to all of you.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

2011 Deadly Earthquake in Spain Caused by Groundwater Removal

Evidence provided in the study.  And yet the energy industry in the USA refuses to acknowledge that increasing earthquakes in and around sites of oil removal where so-called "fracking" is being used (water being pumped into fissures deep underground) is likewise causing those increasing quakes although, according to the article "Scientists have known for decades that pumping water into the Earth can set off small earthquakes."  DUH!

When will we finally learn that when it's ALL about the money, it's NEVER good for mankind in general...

Deadly Spain Earthquake Triggered By Groundwater Removal

Groundwater removal triggered the unusually shallow and deadly earthquake that hit Lorca, Spain, in 2011, according to a new study.
Scientists have known for decades that pumping water into the Earth can set off small earthquakes. But this is the first time that removing water has been identified as an earthquake trigger, researchers said. Both the size and the location of the quake were influenced by groundwater pumping, the study found.
"The fact that the very tiny stress changes due to normal processes, such as the extraction of groundwater, could have an effect on very large systems such as faults, that's very surprising," said Pablo González, lead study author and a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.
The researchers were also able to precisely calculate the physical changes that generated the quake. The results will help seismologists better understand the physics that control when an earthquake starts and stops — an important step in predicting when and where a quake will occur, and its size.
"We need observations of this sort to calibrate physical models" of faults, said Jean-Philippe Avouac, a geologist at Caltech in Pasadena, Calif., who was not involved in the study. "The initiation and arrest of [fault] ruptures are something we are trying to constrain," he told OurAmazingPlanet.
Small quake, devastating effect
The May 5, 2011, earthquake was a relatively moderate magnitude 5.1. Quakes of this size usually don't cause significant damage in developed countries. A 2006 earthquake of magnitude 4.8 near Lorca did not cause any deaths.
But the 2011 quake ruptured only 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) below the Earth's surface, which meant the earthquake's energy was concentrated at the surface. Nine people were killed and dozens were injured, and both unreinforced masonry, like medieval churches, and modern buildings were damaged.
Thanks to previous research work in Spain, González suspected the quake's shallow epicenter could be related to groundwater extraction near Lorca. The groundwater table south of Lorca has dropped as much as 820 feet (250 meters) since 1960.

"When the tragic event occurred, we asked ourselves if the earthquake might be related to the subsidence. The earthquake was very shallow, and moreover, this pattern of subsidence was bounded by the fault," González told OurAmazingPlanet.

Linking subsidence to fault rupture

Using data from satellite imagery and GPS stations, González and his colleagues first confirmed the quake occurred on the Alhama de Murcia fault. Then, they calculated how the crust responded to removing the weight of the water. Releasing the load increased the stress on the Alhama de Murcia fault by a few tens of kilopascals — less than atmospheric pressure — the study found.

During the quake, the fault broke only in areas where removing groundwater increased stress on the fault. From this correlation, González inferred that the groundwater removal not only helped trigger the quake, but also controlled the size of the fault rupture and the earthquake's magnitude.
However, the amount of energy released by the quake far exceeded that built up by groundwater extraction. Thus, the earthquake released both stress caused by groundwater extraction and several centuries of regional deformation, the study concludes. Southeastern Spain is near the plate boundary region that separates the Eurasia and Africa tectonic plates.
The findings were detailed in the Oct. 21 issue of the journal Nature Geosciences.
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