It was the Queen of Sheba that first drew Louise Schofield -- an archaeologist and former curator at the British Museum -- to the Gheralta plateau in northern Ethiopia. She'd heard tell of a 20-foot stone stele carved with an inscription and a symbol often linked to the biblical queen: a sun and crescent moon.
"The story of the Queen of Sheba has a central place in the heart of all Ethiopians, so I became interested in the story myself," she recalls (Sheba is thought to be located in parts of Ethiopia).
It was this initial visit that ultimately led her to discover the 2,000-year-old remains of a character she fondly refers to as "sleeping beauty."
The grave was discovered at the stone stele, in an area that was once part of the ancient kingdom of Aksum, which today encompasses Ethiopia and Eritrea. Inside, Schofield's team found the skeleton of a woman posed in a resting position, with her chin laid gently on one hand. A Roman-era bronze mirror was placed before her face. The corpse was surrounded with glass vessels (to catch the tears of the dead), as well as a bronze cosmetics spoon and a lump of kohl eyeliner.
"She must have been very wealthy, and probably well-loved to be placed in this position, and judging by all the items of finery around her," surmised Schofield.
The dig also uncovered several other graves, all of which had several bodies buried beneath. In some, she found the remains of large warriors clad who each wore an iron bangle.
"We think they were warriors from a battle," she says.
The unusual find suggests trade between Rome and Aksum started at least 200 years earlier than previously believed.
As the dig is less than a month old, there's still a lot of information yet to come in about this restful lady. A bone expert wasn't able to ascertain her age at the time of death because the pelvis -- which usually provides a close approximation -- had been consumed by termites. Schofield hopes that analysis of the teeth will provide some answers.
"There was something very personal about the way she was lying," Schofield says. The remains were also found surrounded by clay containers that likely contained food or drink (these have also been sent off for analysis).
"The food, drink and cosmetics were all presumably left for her to use in the afterlife. She was pre-Christian and that's how people buried their dead then," says Schofield.
Shofield has a bit of the Midas touch when it comes to extraordinary finds. She also recently uncovered a Roman-era perfume flask in the same cemetery, although by chance. The archaeologist is also the director of London-based NGO The Tigray Trust, and the item was first brought to her attention by a local farmer she knew through the organization.
"I had been showing around a member of the Peace Corps who had been working in a nearby town (around the site), and we'd been out in the blazing sun for 8 hours, when a farmer I knew said his friend found something old, and he'd been keeping it for me," she recalls.
"I was apologizing to the Peace Corps guy. I told him, 'it could be an old coffee pot, but you never know, it could be the Queen of Sheba's perfume flask.'"
2012 Goddesschess Canadian Women's Closed Chess Championship
Hales Corners Chess Challenge XIX April 12, 2014 Milwaukee, WI Prizes for female players in Open and Reserve sections and paid entry to next HCCC for top female finisher in each section. This is Goddesschess' 12th HCCC!
2014 Grand Pacific Open Easter Weekend, 2014 Victoria, BC Prizes and sponsorship for chess femmes
Goddesschess Fighting Spirit Award
2013 U.S. Women's Chess Championship
Hales Corners Chess Challenge XVIII October 12, 2013 Milwaukee, WI Record prize money awarded to chess femmes - $800! In honor of National Chess Day and the one year anniversary of the passing of our webmaster, researcher and writer, Don McLean, additional prizes of $150 were awarded to the top two male finishers in each Section. Milwaukee Summer Challenge II June 15 - 16, 2013 Milwaukee, WI Prizes for the chess femmes and funding a best game prize
2013 U.S. Women's Chess Championship May, 2013 St. Louis, MO Goddesschess Fighting Spirit Award awarded to Anna Zatonskih Hales Corners Chess Challenge XVII April 13, 2013 Milwaukee, WI Goddesschess prizes totaled $540: $180 paid to female players in the Open $290 paid to female players in the Reserve $70 paid for the top female players' entry to Challenge XVIII in October, 2013
2013 Grand Pacific Open Easter Weekend March 29 - April 1, 2013 Victoria, BC Prizes for female players and additional sponsorship to support appearance of a WGM
Hales Corners Challenge XVI
Prizes for Chess Femmes
2012 Milwaukee Summer Challenge July 14-15, 2012
Prizes for Chess Femmes
Hales Corners Challenge XV
Prizes for the Chess Femmes
2012 Grand Pacific Open
Open Prizes for Top 5 Women
Hales Corners Challenge XVI October 20, 2012
2012 Goddesschess Canadian Women's Chess Championship (Zonal) August 4 - 11, 2012
Milwaukee Summer Challenge by Southwest Chess Club July, 2012
I'm one of the founders of Goddesschess, which went online May 6, 1999. I earned an under-graduate degree in history and economics going to college part-time nights, weekends and summer school while working full-time, and went on to earn a post-graduate degree (J.D.) I love the challenge of research, and spend my spare time reading and writing about my favorite subjects, travelling and working in my gardens. My family and my friends are most important in my life. For the second half of my life, I'm focusing on "doable" things to help local chess initiatives, starting in my own home town. And I'm experiencing a sort of personal "Renaissance" that is leaving me rather breathless...