Friday, February 22, 2013

2013 Reykjavik Open


The 2013 Reykjavik Open is taking place February 19 - 27, 2013.

There are several chess femmes playing in this event (227 registered players).  Here are the top females by rating:

WGMHuang QianCHN24780w
WGMTan ZhongyiCHN24660w
IMKrush IrinaUSA24600w
WGMGuo QiCHN24310wU18
IMGuramishvili SopikoGEO24140w
WGMWang JueCHN23750wU18
WGMMammadova GulnarAZE23690w
WGML'ami AlinaROU23620w
WGMKashlinskaya AlinaRUS23500wU20

Current standings, after R5:

28 WGMTan ZhongyiwCHN246603.514.09.510.25248653.53.000.50105.0
WGMHuang QianwCHN247803.514.09.59.75244153.53.380.12101.2
WGMGuo QiU18wCHN243103.513.59.59.50253653.52.471.031010.3
WGMWang JueU18wCHN237503.513.08.57.25238253.53.070.43156.4
WGML'ami AlinawROU236203.512.07.58.25225442.52.78-0.2815-4.2
WGMCherednichenko SvetlanawUKR230703.511.07.58.252276432.790.21153.2
WGMMamedjarova TurkanwAZE228003.511.07.06.50227153.53.080.42156.3
IMGuramishvili SopikowGEO241403.
WGMMammadova GulnarwAZE236903.
WGMSaduakassova DinaraU16wKAZ231203.

2000 Year Old Caucasus Burial Yields Treasure

Story from Live Science

Treasure-Filled Warrior's Grave Found in Russia

Date: 20 February 2013 Time: 01:36 PM ET
Hidden in a necropolis situated high in the mountains of the Caucasus in Russia, researchers have discovered the grave of a male warrior laid to rest with gold jewelry, iron chain mail and numerous weapons, including a 36-inch (91 centimeters) iron sword set between his legs.
That is just one amazing find among a wealth of ancient treasures dating back more than 2,000 years that scientists have uncovered there.
Among their finds are two bronze helmets, discovered on the surface of the necropolis. One helmet (found in fragments and restored) has relief carvings of curled sheep horns while the other has ridges, zigzags and other odd shapes.
Although looters had been through the necropolis before, the warrior's grave appears to have been untouched. The tip of the sword he was buried with points toward his pelvis, and researchers found "a round gold plaque with a polychrome inlay" near the tip, they write in a paper published in the most recent edition of the journal Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia.
The remains of three horses, a cow and the skull of a wild boar were also found buried near the warrior.
"These animals were particularly valuable among barbarian peoples of the ancient world. It was [a] sign of [the] great importance of the buried person, which was shown by his relatives and his tribe," wrote team member Valentina Mordvintseva, a researcher at the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences Institute of Archaeology, in an email to LiveScience. The animal bones and pottery remains suggest that a funeral feast was held in his honor.

Without written records it is difficult to say exactly who the warrior was, but rather than ruling a city or town, "he was rather a chief of a people," Mordvintseva said.

The necropolis is located near the town of Mezmay. Grave robbers discovered the site in 2004 and rescue excavations began in 2005.

Who used the necropolis?

Based on the artifacts, researchers believe the warrior's burial dates back around 2,200 years, to a time when Greek culture was popular in west Asia, while the necropolis itself appears to have been in use between the third century B.C. and the beginning of the second century A.D.

Researchers were careful to note that the artifacts cannot be linked to a specific archaeological culture. Mordvintseva points out that "this region is very big, and not sufficiently excavated," particularly in the area where the necropolis is located. "[I]t is situated high in mountains. Perhaps the population of this area [had] trade routes/passes with Caucasian countries — Georgia, Armenia etc.," Mordvintseva writes in the email.

While the people who used the necropolis were clearly influenced by Greek culture, they maintained their own way of life, said Mordvintseva. "Their material culture shows that they were rather very proud of themselves and kept their culture for centuries."

Gold treasures

This way of life includes a fondness for gold-working. The warrior's burial included more than a dozen artifacts made of the material. Perhaps the most spectacular find was a gold fibula-brooch with a rock crystal at its center. Although the brooch was only 2.3 by 1.9 inches (5.8 by 4.8 centimeters), it had several layers of intricately carved decorations leading toward the mount.

"Inside the mount a rock-crystal bead has been placed with a channel drilled through it from both ends," the researchers write.

The team was surprised to find that two of the warrior's swords (including the one pointing toward his pelvis) had gold decorations meant to be attached. In one case a short 19-inch (48.5-cm)-long iron sword had a gold plate, with inlayed agate, that was meant to adorn its sheath. Until now, scholars had never seen this type of golden sword decorations in this part of the ancient world, the researchers write. The "actual fact that these articles were used to decorate weapons sets them apart in a category all of their own, which has so far not been recorded anywhere else ..."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chess for Kids 4th Annual All Girls Tournament (Sonoma County, CA)


Girls chess tournament draws 40 competitors

2013 Grand Pacific Open

Hola darlings!

Goddesschess, among others, is once again providing sponsorship for this great Open in British Columbia held over the Easter holiday (March 29 - April 1, 2013).  It attracts a large contingent of Canadian and American players, including chess femmes, and the larger portion of our sponsorship money is dedicated to prizes for them.  More information and register online!

WGM Kateryna Rohonyan is registered to play in this year's GPO!  Rohonyan has a FIDE rating of 2296.  Now a resident of Seattle, Washington, she has played in several Washington State Chess Championships, and participated in the 2007, 2008 and 2010 U.S. Women's Chess Championships. 
At 2012 Canadian Open
During part of her chess career, Rohonyan played in college as the recipient of a chess scholarship, moving to the US in 2004.   She participated for several years in the U.S. Chess League, and has played in a FIDE Women's World Chess Championship.  She was also a member of the bronze-medal winning U.S. Women's Chess Olympiad Team in 2008

These days Rohonyan makes her living in the computer software industry and playing competitive chess has devolved to a lesser role in her life.  It is therefore wonderful to see Rohonyan registered for the 2013 Grand Pacific Open!  Rohonyan's last FIDE-rated event was the August, 2012 Canadian Open in Victoria, BC, where she scored 5.0/8

Not sure of the count of chess femmes at this time - I saw 5 names (in addition to Rohonyan) that I identified as chess femmes - there may be more but sometimes I'm not so good with names :)  As of February 19th, 61 players pre-registered.  Keeping fingers crossed for a great turn-out of chess femmes. Goddesschess prizes are awarded in addition to any other prizes that a female player may win:  $80, $70, $60, $50, $40.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What Killed Anna Maria de Medici?

From Archaeology Magazine
February 14, 2013

Cause of Death Sought for Anna Maria de Medici

Frans van Douven, Doppelbildnis Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz und
Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici (1708)

MANNHEIM, GERMANY—Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, the last of the powerful Medici family, died in 1743 after a long and painful illness. It had been thought that she suffered from syphilis or breast cancer, but newly released photographs of her remains, taken in 1966 after severe flooding in Florence, show her skeleton to be mostly intact, thus ruling out late-stage syphilis. Biological anthropologist Albert Zink of the European Academy of Bolzano, Italy, will analyze a bone sample collected in 1966. “Full DNA sequence information may allow us to identify any susceptibility genes for breast cancer, but we don’t yet know if the sample is of sufficient quality for this since the tomb environment had been very damp,” he said.

Rare Treasures Found in Bronze Age Dartmoor Burial

From BBC News Online
17 February 2013 Last updated at 22:43 ET

'Amazing' treasures revealed in Dartmoor bronze age cist

A rare and "amazing" burial discovery dating back 4,000 years has been described as the most significant find on Dartmoor and has given archaeologists a glimpse into the lives of the people who once lived there.

The discovery of the White Horse Hill cist has increased the number of bronze age beads
found on Dartmoor from eight to more than 150, including two amber beads

The discovery of a bronze age granite cist, or grave, in 2011 in a peat bog on White Horse Hill revealed the first organic remains found on the moor and a hoard of about 150 beads.

As the National Park's archaeologists levered off the lid they were shocked by what lay beneath.

The park's chief archaeologist, Jane Marchand, said: "Much to our surprise we actually found an intact cremation deposit [human bones] which is actually a burial alongside a number of grave goods.

"What was so unusual was the survival of so many organic objects which you never usually get in a grave of this period, they've long since rotted away."

Amongst the grave goods was an animal pelt, containing a delicate bracelet studded with tin beads, a textile fragment with detailed leather fringing and a woven bag.

Ms Marchand said: "The whole thing was actually wrapped up in an animal pelt of fur. As we lifted it up very carefully a bead fell out and the thrill of realising that actually this is a proper burial, this is a bead which belonged to a burial.

"That's what's so exciting, you wouldn't expect to find any archaeology somewhere like this stuck out on this peak hag. You'll never be able to top this ever."

Despite there being about 5,000 remnants of buildings and 200 burial cists on Dartmoor the moor has offered up few of its secrets.

English Heritage archaeologist Win Scutt said: "A lot of it's to do with robbing, some people have actually robbed the stone, some have robbed the artefacts.

"But the biggest loss we've got is all the organic stuff, the bones have all been dissolved by the acid soil up here. The flowers, the gifts of drink and food which would have gone in, most of their life was organic, it was stuff that would rot away.

"If we could get the perishable items, the organic materials, it would really shine a big light into pre-history."

This discovery has provided a rare glimpse into history with an ear stud or libret found in the bag while it was being examined at the Wiltshire Conservation Lab.

Ms Marchand said: "I don't remember studs being recorded at any other excavation from this period. I've worked on Dartmoor for over 20 years and never anticipated getting anything like this.

"It's just amazing, it suddenly brings them to life and actually you feel much closer to them because this is someone who likes their jewellery, I like jewellery, and actually you can identify with that side of things.

"We're only at the beginning really I just can't wait for the results to start coming in."

How long have we used body paint and tatoos?

Hola darlings!  I've been wanting to post items, but there has not been much lately that I've deemed of sufficient interest, ach!  But this article is interesting, if perhaps reaching too far into the realms of speculation -- ha ha, that's funny, coming from me :) 

I'm a little familiar with some of the discoveries at Blombos cave(s).  I recall reading some years ago about the discovery of tiny marine shells with delicately pierced holes through them -- for what purpose?  The guess was that they may have been strung on something and used as necklaces or perhaps bracelets, although they might also have been stitched somehow to clothing directly as a talisman or decoration.  One can speculate endlessly, of course!  The ochre may have been used to "paint" the dead to assist them on their journey to the after-life; perhaps it was used for other purposes -- what if it was offered to the sea gods, for instance, in payment for taking bounty from the sea?  What if only shamans could "wear" it?  We don't know, and we probably never will know.

The Blombos cave(s)' oldest discoveries date back perhaps 100,000 years ago.  Far later in man's history, there is plenty of evidence that ancient Egyptian women possibly used some form of tatooing, or maybe body paint (?), to accentuate their pubic area.  I don't specifically recall seeing any images of ancient Egyptian men similarly adorned but that's not to say it isn't out there.  In between 100,000 years ago and 5,500 or so years ago is a LONG time.  People all over the place were tatooing and/or painting themselves.  Check out some of the fascinating images at Wikipedia's entry "The History of Tatooing."  See also:

Smithsonian online:  Tatoos: The ancient and mysterious history, January 1, 2007.  Skin Stories - the Art and Culture of Polynesian Tatoo
National Geographic Magazine: Tatoos - Pigments of the Imagination, December 2004.

Popular Archaeology
Volume 9, December 2012
Skin Decoration Goes Way Back, Suggests Researcher
(Online February 16, 2013)

About 1.5 to 2 million years ago, early humans, according to the prevailing view of most paleoanthropologists and archaeologists, evolved into nearly hairless primates to more efficiently sweat away excess body heat. But later, according to Penn State anthropologist Nina Jablonski in a report to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, humans may have begun to decorate skin to increase attractiveness to the opposite sex and to express, among other things, group identity.

Over thousands of years, humans used their skin as canvases of self-expression in a variety ways, including permanent methods such as tattooing and branding, as well as temporary, including cosmetics and body painting, according to Jablonski. But the determination of when this practice began to occur is somewhat more elusive than estimating the time when humans as primates actually began to lose their hair. "We find a lot of evidence of when humans began to lose hair based on molecular genetics," said Jablonski. But studying skin itself is difficult because it can be preserved only for a few thousand years, as opposed to bones, which fossilize and last millions of years. Nevertheless, while it is difficult to know when humans began to decorate their skin, some of the earliest preserved skin shows signs of tattooing, maintains Jablonski.

Decades of research in caves in Europe and South Africa, among other places, have evidenced the manufacture and use of ancient pigments by early modern humans, particularly as media for creating wall paintings. Many scientists suggest that the pigments were also used for body decoration, and the practice could go as far back as more than 100,000 years. A recent discovery of a prehistoric "workshop" in the South African cave of Blombos, for example, evidenced the manufacture of ochre in a cave where there was no evidence of any wall painting. The "workshop", consisting of abalone shells where ochre was stored and processed, combined with fat, crushed bone, quartz and charcoal to produce a pigment compound that was possibly used as paint for painting, decoration and skin protection, was dated to about 100,000 years BP. The dating corresponds to a time when early modern humans were thought to be on the threshold of thinking and expressing themselves in symbolic ways and laying the foundations for art and language.

But as ancient as body painting and tattooing could be, Jablonski makes the point that the age-old craft has implications for understanding the nature and behavior of modern humans today, as well. "We can paint a great design on our bodies and use those designs to send all sorts of messages or express group memberships," said Jablonski. "Usually it is something with deep meaning. When I talk to people about their tattoos they tell me they've spent months or years choosing a design that is incredibly meaningful and salient to them."

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hales Corners Chess Challenge XVII

It's coming up fast, darlings!

It's the 17th edition of the Hales Corners Chess Challenge put together by my adopted chess club, the Southwest Chess Club. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013
VENUE:  Comfort Suites Milwaukee Airport Hotel—6362 S 13th St—Oak Creek, WI—414-570-1111

TWO SECTIONS:  Open and Reserve (U1600)

FORMAT:  Four Round Swiss System -- Four games in one day, USCF rated

TIME CONTROL:  Game in 60 Minutes; 5 second delay

ENTRY FEE:  $40 Open; $30 Reserve. 
Both sections $5 more after April 10, 2013
Comp Entry Fee for USCF 2200+: Entry fee subtracted from any prizes won

SITE REGISTRATION:   8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

ROUNDS:  10 am -- 1 pm -- 3:30 pm -- 6 pm

Full details and registration form. 

Goddesschess is sponsoring special prizes for the chess femmes that are awarded in addition to any other prizes.  Open:  $40 per win, $20 per draw.  Reserve:  $20 per win, $10 per draw.  The top finishing female in each section will also receive a gift bag from Goddesschess. 

Taklimakan Desert Yields Fabulous Buddhist Ruins

Awesome!  From  Thre is a video but I was not able to embed it, I could not get the code to work right.  So, check out the video at the link (click on the title below).

Buddhist ruins discovered in Taklimakan desert

02-17-2013 08:37 BJT
The ruins of a Buddhist temple dating back 1,500 years ago have been discovered in China's largest desert--the Taklimakan in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. The findings offer valuable research material for historians studying the development of Buddhism in China.

These historic findings shed light on the development of Buddhism in China. In total there are more than 3,000 pieces of relics. The most eye-catching are the mural paintings. They are executed in a Greco-Buddhist art style, which was seldom seen after the 6th century.

Archaeologist Dr. Wu Xinhua said, "It’s very unique. We’ve never come across such mural paintings in this area before. You can see the fusion of Western and eastern cultures alongside the spread of Buddhism in ancient China."

The treasures are all from a Buddhist temple located in the southern Taklimakan Desert. Excavation was completed in June last year. Experts believe the temple dates back to the Southern and Northern Dynasties, about 1,500 years ago.

Dr. Wu said, "The hall is the largest of its kind found in the Taklimakan Desert since the first archaeologist came to work in the area in the 20th century. The structure of the temple is very unique. We believe it is one of the earliest Buddhist temples in China."

The temple has become the point of convergence for scholars studying how Buddhism arrived in China from India, and its early development in the country.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Program Reconstructes Ancient Languages

From Berkeley U news.

Scientists create automated ‘time machine’ to reconstruct ancient languages
Yasmin Anwar, Media Relations February 11, 2013

Ancient languages hold a treasure trove of information about the culture, politics and commerce of millennia past. Yet, reconstructing them to reveal clues into human history can require decades of painstaking work. Now, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have created an automated “time machine,” of sorts, that will greatly accelerate and improve the process of reconstructing hundreds of ancestral languages.

In a compelling example of how “big data” and machine learning are beginning to make a significant impact on all facets of knowledge, researchers from UC Berkeley and the University of British Columbia have created a computer program that can rapidly reconstruct “proto-languages” – the linguistic ancestors from which all modern languages have evolved. These earliest-known languages include Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Afroasiatic and, in this case, Proto-Austronesian, which gave rise to languages spoken in Southeast Asia, parts of continental Asia, Australasia and the Pacific.

 ”What excites me about this system is that it takes so many of the great ideas that linguists have had about historical reconstruction, and it automates them at a new scale: more data, more words, more languages, but less time,” said Dan Klein, an associate professor of computer science at UC Berkeley and co-author of the paper published online today (Feb. 11) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research team’s computational model uses probabilistic reasoning – which explores logic and statistics to predict an outcome – to reconstruct more than 600 Proto-Austronesian languages from an existing database of more than 140,000 words, replicating with 85 percent accuracy what linguists had done manually. While manual reconstruction is a meticulous process that can take years, this system can perform a large-scale reconstruction in a matter of days or even hours, researchers said.
Not only will this program speed up the ability of linguists to rebuild the world’s proto-languages on a large scale, boosting our understanding of ancient civilizations based on their vocabularies, but it can also provide clues to how languages might change years from now.

“Our statistical model can be used to answer scientific questions about languages over time, not only to make inferences about the past, but also to extrapolate how language might change in the future,” said Tom Griffiths, associate professor of psychology, director of UC Berkeley’s Computational Cognitive Science Lab and another co-author of the paper.

The discovery advances UC Berkeley’s mission to make sense of big data and to use new technology to document and maintain endangered languages as critical resources for preserving cultures and knowledge. For example, researchers plan to use the same computational model to reconstruct indigenous North American proto-languages.

Humans’ earliest written records date back less than 6,000 years, long after the advent of many proto-languages. While archeologists can catch direct glimpses of ancient languages in written form, linguists typically use what is known as the “comparative method” to probe the past. This method establishes relationships between languages, identifying sounds that change with regularity over time to determine whether they share a common mother language.

"To understand how language changes -- which sounds are more likely to change and what they will become -- requires reconstructing and analyzing massive amounts of ancestral word forms, which is where automatic reconstructions play an important role," said Alexandre Bouchard-Côté, an assistant professor of statistics at the University of British Columbia and lead author of the study, which he started while a graduate student at UC Berkeley.
The UC Berkeley computational model is based on the established linguistic theory that words evolve along the branches of a family tree – much like a genealogical tree - reflecting linguistic relationships that evolve over time, with the roots and nodes representing proto-languages and the leaves representing modern languages.

Using an algorithm known as the Markov chain Monte Carlo sampler, the program sorted through sets of cognates, words in different languages that share a common sound, history and origin, to calculate the odds of which set is derived from which proto-language. At each step, it stored a hypothesized reconstruction for each cognate and each ancestral language.

“Because the sound changes and reconstructions are closely linked, our system uses them to repeatedly improve each other,” Klein said. “It first fixes its predicted sound changes and deduces better reconstructions of the ancient forms. It then fixes the reconstructions and re-analyzes the sound changes. These steps are repeated, and both predictions gradually improve as the underlying structure emerges over time.”

You can find the technical paper here.

Argument for Nefertiti as Tutankhamun's Mother

Tut's DNA analysis is back in the news, and interesting it is.


A different take on Tut: Egyptian archaeologist shares theory on pharaoh's lineage

February 12, 2013 by Alvin Powell

In recent years, DNA analysis has shed light on the parents of Egypt's most famous pharaoh, the boy king Tutankhamun, known to the world as King Tut. Genetic investigation identified his father as Akhenaten and his mother as Akhenaten's sister, whose name was unknown.    

French Egyptologist Marc Gabolde offered a different interpretation of the DNA evidence on Thursday. Speaking at Harvard's Science Center, Gabolde said he's convinced that Tut's mother was not his father's sister, but rather his father's first cousin, Nefertiti.

Nefertiti was already known to be Akhenaten's wife and in fact the two had six daughters. Gabolde believes they also had a son, Tutankhamun, and that the apparent genetic closeness revealed in the DNA tests was not a result of a single brother-to-sister mating, but rather due to three successive generations of marriage between first cousins.

"The consequence of that is that the DNA of the third generation between cousins looks like the DNA between a brother and sister," said Gabolde, the director of the archaeological expedition of Université Paul Valery-Montpellier III in the Royal Necropolis at el-Amarna. "I believe that Tutankhamun is the son of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, but that Akhenaten and Nefertiti were cousins."

Gabolde's talk, "Unknown Aspects of Tutankhamun's Reign, Parentage, and Tomb Treasure," was sponsored by Harvard's Semitic Museum and the Harvard Department of Anthropology. It was hosted by Peter Der Manuelian, the Philip J. King Professor of Egyptology.

Tutankhamun was a pharaoh some 3,300 years ago. He was made pharaoh at age 8 or 9 and ruled for about 10 years. In his talk, Gabolde covered some of the scarce known details of his life and his burial.

Tut's tomb, Gabolde said, was not intended as such. The real—and undiscovered—tomb, he said, was probably under construction when he died at 19, and is likely somewhere in the Valley of Kings, on the Nile. The place where he was actually buried was probably not intended for a royal burial but hurriedly prepared when Tut died unexpectedly, most likely of an infection that took hold when he broke his leg.

"Nobody could imagine he would die so young," Gabolde said.

Other details of Tut's life, which Gabolde has pieced together from carved images and inscriptions, include a military campaign in Syria, in which he likely didn't personally take part. Tut also was interested in Nubia, a region in southern Egypt and northern Sudan. Inscriptions on a fan that belonged to Tut showed him hunting ostriches, whose feathers were used to make the fan. In addition, Gabolde said, a staff found in Tut's tomb had inscriptions that showed it was made of a tall reed, cut by Tut himself in a city on the Nile delta.

 Gabolde also traced an ornament that was found with Tut when he was discovered in 1922, but had since disappeared. Gabolde said he believes the golden hawk-head clasp, part of a broad collar worn by Tut, is in a private collection, sold by Tut discoverer Howard Carter to pay for surgery later in his life. The rest of the broad collar was stolen during World War II, Gabolde said.
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