Friday, November 23, 2007

Robert Fischer, Chessplayer, Hospitalized

He doesn't like to be called "Bobby." I was visiting Susan Polgar's chess blog and saw a post about Fischer being hospitalized. Did a quick Google search and the first thing that popped up with Mig's post at his Daily Dirt chess blog about the subject. It seems that Fischer has been hospitalized for some undisclosed physical ailment (ceased walking and put on a lot of weight in a short of period of time, sounds like out of control diabetes???) - for at least a week, quite possibly more. That's all I will deduce from the reports (all in Spanish). So why in Spanish? Fischer lives in Iceland now, so why aren't there any reports out of Iceland? Maybe I'll put this in my "hmmmmm" category.

Games of the North American Indians

A traditional "woman's game", "Jump the Creek," description taken from Native American Technology and Art website:

Kiowa Indians in Oklahoma traditionally played a stick game of "Ahl", literally meaning ‘wood’, with four willow stick dice. The original version of this game, recorded by Stuart, was played on a large cotton cloth over a yard square. In the center of the cloth was a flat boulder, called the "Ahl" stone. Traditionally considered a woman’s game, using their pointed awls to mark their positions, this version substitutes a wooden board with pegs for the players. The game has two players; one "kneels" along the west half of the north-south creek, and the other is stationed along the east half of the north-south creek.

Two "awl" pegs, one white and one brown, represent the respective players. Each player places their peg at their starting position, which are the western and eastern starting banks of the south creek. The western player moves their awl peg clockwise around the board, and the eastern player moves their peg counter-clockwise, as shown by the arrows on the board.

There are four stick dice that determine the number of spaces a player will move. Three of the sticks have flat sides marked in red with plain white rounded backs; The fourth dice, the ‘trump’ stick, is called ‘sahe’ by the Kiowa because of it’s green painted flat side. When a player reaches or passes their starting bank at the south creek they win a stick counter. Counters may also be taken from an opponent.
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The website acknowledges that information was gathered from Stewart Culin's "Games of the North American Indians." Culin's book is a fantastic resource - a comprehensive catalog of all kinds of games that Culin discovered in his research of North American Indians around the turn of the last century. Culin, primarily an ethnographer, leaves much to be desired in his descriptions of games. He doesn't delve into the origins of the games or into their history; he was more interested in recording the existence of the games.

It seems pretty clear that once the "Native Americans" came into contact with the "Europeans," the NAs adopted and adapted Euro games to their own use, and so Culin acknowledged in his work. However, the ahl game seems to be pre-Euro. Here is what Culin wrote about the game:

Kiowa. Oklahoma. (Cat. no. 16535, 16536, Free Museum of Science and Art, University of Pennsylvania.)

Set of four sticks of willow wood, called ahl (wood), 10 inches in length, five-eights of an inch in width, and three-eighths of an inch in thickness (figure omitted), nearly hemispheric in section, with one side flat.

Three of the sticks have a red groove running down the middle on the flat side, and one has a blue stripe. The last has a burnt design on the reverse, as shown in the figure [omitted], while the backs of the others are plain. The flat sides are also burnt, with featherlike markings at the ends.

A cotton cloth, 41 by 48 1/2 inches, marked as shown in figure 133 [omitted, but similar to illustration at beginning of this post] called the ahl cloth; a flat bowlder, called the ahl stone; two awls, sharpened wires, with wooden handles, 6 3/4 inches in length; eight sticks, 8 3/4 inches in length, to be used as counters [figure omitted].

These objects were collected by Col. H. L. Scott, U.S. Army, who furnished the following description of the game, under the title of the zohn ahl (zohn, creek; ahl, wood), commonly known as the ahl game.

The ahl cloth is divided into points by which the game is counted. The curved lines are called knees, because they are like the knees of the players. The space between the parallel lines 1 and 1 and 20 and 20 [north-south line] is called the creek, and the corresponding spaces between the parallel lines at right angles are called the dry branches [east-west line]. The sticks are held by the players in one hand and struck downward, so that their ends come on the ahl stone [in the center of the cloth] with considerable force. If all the sticks fall with the sides without grooves uppermost, the play is called white, and counts 10. If all the grooved sides come uppermost, it is called red, and counts 5. Both of these throws entitled the player to another throw. If one grooved side is uppermost, it counts 1; two grooved sides, 2, and three grooved sides, 3. The game is played by any even number of girls or women (never by men or boys), half on one side of the N-S line and half on the other [E-W line]. The flat ahl stone is placed in the middle of the cloth, and the players kneel on the edge. The two awls are stuck in the creek at 1 1 [south]. The player at A [SW] makes the first throw, and the throwing goes around the circle in the direction of the hands of a watch, each side counting the results of each throw on the ahl cloth by sticking its awl just beyond the mark called for by the results of the throw. The moves are made in the opposite directions [that is, the player who starts her awl from the SE side goes counter-clockwise direction]. If in counting any awl gets into the creek at N, that side must forfeit a counter to the other side and be set back to the creek at S. [Problem: there are no counters in the game, other than the awl held by each side. So, does this mean that the awl on the side that lands in the creek must start over? I can't think of another way this might be played, unless there are playing pieces in the game that are not described as part of the equipment]. That side is then said to have fallen into the creek, the object being to jump over. If in their passage around the circle the two awls get into the same division, the last comer is said to whip or kill the former, who forfeits a counter and is set back to the beginning. [Again, are we talking about sending back the other player's awl to the beginning, or are other pieces somehow involved, that were not described in the game?] The counting continues until one gets back to the creek at S. The one first at S. receives a counter, and if there is more than enough to take it to the creek the surplus is added to the next round; that is, the creek is jumped, and the awl put beyond it as many points as may be over. When one side wins all the counters, it conquers. If the game should be broken up before this event the side which has the greater number of counters is victor.

Colonel Scott further states:

The Kiowa have a custom of wetting the fingers and slapping them several times on the stone before a throw, and calling out "red, red," or "white, white," according to the number they desire to count; or, if but "one" should be required to throw the opposite party into the "creek," some one puts her finger into her mouth, and drawing it carefully across the top of the stone, calls out "parko, parko" ("one, one"). Often before the throw the thrower will rub the four sticks in a vertical position backward and forward several times between the palms of the hands, to insure good luck.

The Comanche have a similar game which they play with eight ahl sticks, and the Cheyenne and Arapaho are said to have a game which they play with ahl sticks which are 2 feet or more long.

Great Year for Archaeological Discoveries in Britain

From BBC News online

Last Updated: Thursday, 22 November 2007, 17:00 GMT

Enthusiast unearths Iron Age comb

A 2,000-year-old Iron Age comb unearthed in Warwickshire is one of nearly 60,000 archaeological finds made by members of the public in a year.

The comb, found in Tanworth-in-Arden by metal detector enthusiast Russell Peach, was one of the most notable of the antiquities unearthed in 2006.

The copper-alloy comb was possibly left there between 25AD and 75AD.
Three-quarters of the finds were unearthed using metal detectors; the rest were found by accident.

Details of the discoveries were contained in the Portable Antiquities Scheme Annual Report, launched on Thursday at the British Museum.

'Living thing'
Other notable finds include a copper-alloy Roman horse and rider figure, which was found in Cambridgeshire.

A total of 58,290 finds were recorded by the project during the year 2006/2007, taking the number of finds recorded over the past decade to more than 300,000.

Culture Secretary Margaret Hodge said: "This report brings home to us once again the extent and richness of our 'hidden heritage'.

"As public interest in it continues unabated, I am pleased to acknowledge the many thousands of responsible metal detectorists and amateur archaeologists who continue to help make the past a living thing for present and future generations."

Under the Treasure Act 1996, people who find gold and silver objects more than 300 years old have a legal obligation to report them to the authorities.

Because the comb is made of copper-alloy and not gold or silver it does not qualify as a treasure find.

Important archaeological sites have been discovered as a result of the objects recorded, including Anglo-Saxon burial sites in Derbyshire, Suffolk and Warwickshire.

Another story with photos of the artifacts (posted at beginning of this post is at the Daily Mail, November 23, 2007 - scroll down for the coverage (article posted in full in prior post):

The copper alloy comb, which dates from AD25 to AD75 is thought to have been used for horses and has been described by the British Museum as a "phenomenal thing".

The museum encourages the portable antiquities scheme, a voluntary code to encourage metal detector owners in England and Wales to report finds to local museums.

The scheme is so successful that as many 300,000 finds were reported in its first decade.

No separate information was provided about the "Roman horse and rider" in this article, only the photograph of the objects. Are the really "Roman?" Perhaps they date to the Roman period, but my first impression upon seeing them was of Scythian art. Okay, so I'm crazy! I'd like to see further research on this.

As for the comb being a "horse comb" - please! Why would a comb used on horses be so beautifully decorated - and have that hole in the middle of the crown, just begging for ribbons or a colorful scarve to be threaded through? Only a male archaeologist would call this a "horse comb." It takes a woman to recognize a lady's comb when she sees one. This is no different in basic design than the combs the donas and maidens in Spain wore in their hair more than a thousand years later, or the combs that ladies used to keep their "do's" in place throughout history. Geez!

Woman's Skeleton Excavated in British Roman Garrison

She's not exactly a "lost lady of Rome." She might be Roman, or she might be a Romanized native. Only DNA tests will tell us for certain. And she wasn't lost. She was buried in a quite expensive (at the time) lead coffin, which indicates that she was a woman of status and wealth; if she'd been a truly "lost" lady, it's unlikely she would have been buried in such a manner! Explicit photos of the lady's remains are included in the article, but are not published here. Found in a farmer's field: The 2,000-year-old skeleton of the lost lady of Rome By CHRIS BROOKE - Last updated at 09:14am on 23rd November 2007 In her lifetime she was a member of a wealthy family based in a bustling British outpost of the world's mightiest empire. The imperial glory has long faded. But, almost 2,000 years on, archaeologists have discovered a corner of an English field that is forever Rome. They have unearthed a coffin containing a remarkably well-preserved skeleton in the village of Aldborough, near Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire - once the site of a major Roman town, Isurium Brigantium. The archaeologists, conducting a two-week excavation project, were searching for Roman artefacts with a metal detector when they found the 6ft lead coffin inside a stone chamber only 12in below the surface of a barley field. The skeleton is believed to date from between the 2nd and 4th centuries, and is largely intact. It is over 5ft long and even has a full set of teeth. Experts have yet to scientifically age or sex the remains, but are confident it is a woman from a well-to-do family - her status reflected in the expensive coffin. Analysis of the skeleton may yield fascinating information about her lifestyle and diet.

Goddess Palanchowk Bhagawati

From Rising Nepal
(Image: A depiction of Bhagawati, not the Bhagawati from Palanchowk. This goddess, sitting on a lion, possibly reflects Greek artistic influences from the areas settled by soldiers from Alexander the Great's army, the influence of which was incorporated into the great artistic tradition of modern-day Pakistan and northwestern India. Bhagawati is also often depicted seated on a tiger.)

Goddess Palanchowk Bhagawati [ 2007-11-23 ]
Bishowa Nath Kharel

Nepal is a land of beauty. There are countless beautiful places in Nepal, which is really gifted by God. One of these places is Kavre Palanchowk. It is a 55 km three hour drive from Katmandu to Palanchowk Bhagawati temple on the Arniko Highway. This noted historic temple of Goddess Bhagawati is located at a hilltop some 10-km north of Panchkhal. One can really enjoy the panoramic view of the landscape all around. On Saturdays and Tuesdays many worshippers come to this temple from the different places of Nepal. It is said that Palanchowk Bhagawati, Naxal Bhagawati and Shobha Bhagawati are sisters and Palanchowk Bhagawati is the eldest among them.

This temple is said to have been constructed during the reign of Man Deva, a famous Lichhavi king. The temple houses a three feet high idol of Goddess Bhagawati (Kali) artistically carved in black stone, which is so attractive and rich in art and craft. In the middle ages, the seven areas Banepa, Panauti, Nala, Dhulikhel, Khadpu, Chaukot and Sanga comprised a political unit. Now all these places lie in Kavre Palanch district.

There is a story about how this temple lies here. One day the people of Buchakot dreamt that Goddess Bhagawati told them to take her to the north. Then the local people of Buchakot took her to the north with great respect. On the way, they had to rest at the present Palanchowk Bhagawati site. The next day they tried to pick the idol up it but they were unable to lift it off the place. Then, the temple was built there.

On full moon day and Dasain or Durga Puja, there is the festival in Palanchowk Bhagawati. A Bajrachaya member of Mokha Tole of Kathmandu has been the priest of Palanchowk Bhagawati from ancient days. It is believed that the face of the Goddess sweats whenever there is going to be some unprecedented event in the country. On Bhadra 5, 2045 B.S. sweat was observed right before the earthquake. Earlier in 2029 B.S., before the army plane crash near Dhulikhel, sweat was seen on the face. It is the responsibility of the government and the nation to preserve and develop such historical and religious places.
About the Goddess Bhagawati (a/k/a Kali):

Westerners are perhaps most familiar with Kali from her depiction as a bloodthirsty goddess to whom people were sacrificed and children were enslaved in the Indiana Jones movie "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But the goddess is not so limited. As we’ve learned during the recently concluded celebrations of Kali Durga, this goddess has at least ten different aspects (one aspect for each day of the Kali Durga or Puja Durga celebrations, many of them beneficial and benign. Things get yet more complicated, because Bhagawati is one of the forms of Devi or Shakti, created out of the fiery breaths of the gods Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva to slay the buffalo-demon Mahisasura, whom they were unable to overcome. She is usually depicted riding a lion or tiger, each of her multiple arms bearing a weapon.

Bhagawati shares in common with other primeval goddesses a trinity of essential aspects of virgin-bride, mother-creator, and crone-witch. What the Mother creates she may also choose to destroy – a reflection of the harsh realities of living in a world where "Mother Nature" was often seen as cruel and heartless, and where she yet reigns supreme today. Don’t believe me? Just reflect for a few moments upon the 2004 tsunami that killed a quarter of a million people, the massive destruction and untold suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina; and the problems being caused by the prolonged drought in parts of the southwestern and southeastern United States, Africa and Australia. It is not Kali’s fault that mankind, in its ignorance and arrogance, has attempted to "appease" the goddess through human sacrifice; and, keep in mind, Kali is certainly not the only goddess to whom lives were sacrificed. This kind of practice demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of the fundamental nature of the goddess.

Whenever someone writes that a goddess "demanded" human sacrifice – don’t believe them without doing further research; chances are they are either misogynists or are "born-again" zealous reformist types dedicated to a patriarchal god - or they have been seduced by the seeming "logic" of such beliefs. Both types of goddess bashers have been quite successful in rewriting the history of the goddess over the past 2000 years!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

T'was the Night Before Thanksgiving...

and outside the house, the snow is roaring, burying a mouse... Okay, so I'm not a poet. Hey, the Packers are on tomorrow, we're 9 and 1, life is good. We're playing the Lions - in their den. I don't expect it to be easy, but at the end of the day, I expect a Packers victory. It's a blizzard out there, folks, with the wind howling like a banshee out of the northwest and rattling the windows, tearing branches off the trees, 1 to 3 inches of the wet sticky stuff are expected by morning, so shortly I'm going to head downstairs and settle down in front of the fireplace with a good book. Ahhhhh. I don't know if I'll be online tomorrow. In the morning I'll be making my whipped sweet potatoes for a get-together with some of the family later in the afternoon, and settling in to watch the Packers on t.v. at 11:30 a.m. In the afternoon at my sister Debbie's place I'll be circulating among kitchen, living room and rec room, helping get the meal together, socializing with relatives, and watching whatever football game is on at 2:30 p.m. and yelling and screaming at the big screen TV with assorted nephews and brothers-in-law. So, I'll say it now. I truly appreciating how much I have to be thankful for. A snug roof over my head with central heat (and central air in the summer) that turns on automatically, a fireplace that works and uncensored books that I can buy for myself - or borrow for free from the local public library. A warm blanket to snuggle in as I settle in before the fire on a plush sofa. Electricity upon demand to provide my reading light - by a compact fluorescent bulb. Later tonight, a cushy bed with featherbed beneath and ultra-plush blankets above. Hot and cold running water to scrub up in and, hey, clean water to drink and cook in that won't give me dysentery. A refrigerator full of non-spoiled, edible food. Money in the bank. A beautiful complexion that is 15 years younger than my chronological age. And who cares about that anyway? All those old rules from the time of my grandmothers - and even my mother - have been overturned. Today, 60 is the new 40 - hmmm, actually, today I think 60 is the new 30... Tomorrow I'll meet with family and enjoy love, warmth, companionship, comfort, comradery. Ohmygoddess, I'm really blessed. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

2007 World Youth Chess Championships

I checked to see how Ray Robson (USA 2368) is doing. In the Under 14 Category (135 players), after Round 4, Ray is in third place (!!!) with 4.0. Ahead of him, also with 4 points each, are (1) S.P. Sethuraman (IND 2427) and (2) IM Sanan Sjugirov (RUS 2422). Michael Anthony Yee (USA 2135) is in 9th place with 3.5. Christian T. Tanana (USA 2166) is in 50th place with 2.5. Victor C. Shen (USA 2117) is in 54th place with 2.0. Alec Getz (USA 2121) is in 62nd place with 2.0. How are the American girls doing? In the Under 16 category (93 players), WFM Abby Marshall leads the US femmes in 12th place with 3.0. WFM Alisa Melekhina is in 21st place with 3.0. Louiza Livschitz is in 45th place with 2.0. Courtney Jamison is in 48th place with 2.0. In the Under 14 category (114 players), in 10th place is Yang Dai with 3.5. In 67th place is Gayatri Vempati with 2.0. Jennie Liu is in 103rd place with 1.0.

Unique Statuette of Virgin Mary Found

Czech archaeologists find unique Virgin Mary statuette November 21, 2007 (Unfortunately I couldn't find a photo) PRAGUE, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- Czech archaeologists uncovered a unique eight centimeter-long ceramic statuette of Virgin Mary with Jesus from the late 14th century in the center of Usti nad Labem of the Czech Republic, head of the archaeological research Marta Cvrkova said on Tuesday. Similar finds are very rare in the country, the Czech news agency CTK quoted Cvrkova as saying. The elaborated artifact, which was probably part of a family alter-piece, is only slightly damaged, CTK said. The faces of Virgin Mary and Jesus may have suffered damage during the Hussite Wars in the 15th century when the city of Usti was destroyed, as Hussites used to damage statues during their invasions, Cvrkova added. In the past few years archaeologists uncovered a 6,900-6,200 year-old round shrine from the Neolithic Age near the current finding site.

Newly Discovered Old Iranian Inscription

Two reports from CAIS on this discovery:

November 20, 2007

LONDON, (CAIS) -- By deciphering the newly discovered Old-Persian inscription in Kharg Island located in Persian Gulf which is believed to have belonged to Achaemenid dynastic era (550-330 BCE), five new words have been added to the Old-Persian lexicon.

This is for the first time that an Old-Persian inscription has been ever been discovered in Karg Island and five of the six words carved in this inscription, have never been seen before in any other Old-Persian inscriptions.

Speaking to the Persian service of CHN, Reza Moradi Ghias-Abadi, archaeologist and expert of ancient languages, who have succeeded to read the discovered inscription in Kharg Island through the pictures which have been sent by local people, said that the details and final result will be clarified by researches who will attend the area to study the inscription.

This Achaemenid inscription has been recently unearthed accidentally during the road construction activities in Kharg Island, northwest of Persian Gulf and in Bushehr province.

The inscription was carved on a piece of coral reef with the approximate size of one in one meter. Although this inscription has been separated from its original place, evidence indicates that it must have been carved on a coral cliff in the island and was not portable.

This cuneiform inscription is consisted of six lines which apparently each line is consisting one word in Old-Persian script.

The first four lines of this inscription have been separated by a narrow long line from the rest two lines. While all the Achaemenid imperial inscriptions were royal text and were carved very delicately, the appearance of this crude inscription shows that it must have been carved in a hurry.

The Old-Persian cuneiform which was called Aryan (OP. ariyā) was created during the reign of Darius the Great (r.549-485 BCE). However, some scholars believe that Aryan was invented by the first Iranian dynasty, the Medians (728-550 BCE), and then adopted by the Achaemenids as the imperial script. The script continued to survive, though in a corrupt form as late as the first century BCE.

The characteristic of Kharg inscription is a combination of both early and late Achaemenid period. Working on Kharg cuneiform inscription revealed that that the style of early Achaemenid period was implemented in writing the last two lines of the inscription and the late Achaemenid writing style was incised in the first four lines.

The inscription is also is being studied by the linguists at “The Research Centre of linguistics, Inscriptional and Manuscript Studies” (RCLIM) in Tehran. On Monday the RCLIM announced that any decipherment of the inscription by individuals considered to be unofficial and possibly wrong.
Old Persian was the vernacular tongue of the Achaemenid monarchs, but had already been spoken for a few centuries prior to the rise of the Achaemenid dynasty to power in 550 BCE. It is the oldest attested Persid language, which is classified in the group of Western Iranian languages. The Middle-Persian (Sasanid-Pahlavi) and New Persian, the lingua franca of Iran, are the direct continuation of the Old Persian evolution.
But - could it be a fraud???

LONDON, (CAIS) -- It is possible that five words have been added to our knowledge of the Old-Persian language by the recent discovery of a stone inscription on Kharg Island in the Persian Gulf, the Persian service of CHN reported on Tuesday.

The cuneiform inscription, comprising six words on six different horizontal lines inscribed on a piece of uneven rock encrusted with corals, has been found last week during a road construction project. Measuring about a meter square, the rock has become detached from its original terrain.

Initial studies show the artefact dates back to the Achaemenid dynastic era (550-330 BCE).

The first, second, fifth and sixth words are quite easily legible, but the third and fourth words are difficult to make out due to erosion, explained expert on ancient languages Reza Moradi-Ghiasabadi.

Moradi-Ghiasabadi has deciphered the inscription from photos sent to him by the locals.

According to Moradi-Ghiasabadi, the first word reads “aahe” or “ahe”, which means “was” or “were”. This word has frequently been observed in ancient Persian inscriptions. However, the other five words are new discoveries.

The second word reads “sakosha” or “sakusha”.

“This word obviously denotes a particular name, which has so far never been seen in any ancient inscription, but it is similar to words used by the Scythians,” Moradi-Ghiasabadi said.

Only two letters of the third word are legible and these read “hi”. Again, only two letters of the fourth word are decipherable and these are pronounced “ka” and “aa”.

The fifth word reads “bahanam”, for which no meaning has been found.

The sixth word seems to be damaged but the end of it reads “kha”.

The inscription has been made both quickly and carelessly and its writer has not used the cuneiform comma as every word has been inscribed on a separate line.

The artefact has three crown-shaped motifs incised in a side-ways fashion in the middle of the inscription and also at the beginning of the third and fourth lines. The motifs are similar to the crowns of some of the Sasanian king of kings.

Inscription’s authenticity doubtful

Moradi-Ghiasabadi urged that the object should first be examined for authenticity.

He cited some points which throw doubt on the genuineness of the inscription: careless and fast writing -- which is not commonly observed in previously discovered Achaemenid inscriptions -- slight layers of sediment on the edges and insides of the letters, multi-typography style of the inscription, unknown words and the use of strange motifs resembling the Sasanid Imperial crown in an allegedly Achaemenid artefact.

Extracted From/Source*: Mehr News

*Please note the above-news is NOT a "copy & paste" version from the mentioned-source. The news/article above has been modified with the following interventions by CAIS: Spelling corrections; -Rectification and correction of the historical facts and data; - Providing additional historical information within the text; -Removing any unnecessary, irrelevant & repetitive information.

All these measures have been taken in order to ensure that the published news provided by CAIS is coherent, transparent, accurate and suitable for academics and cultural enthusiasts who visit the CAIS website.

Rhyton To Be Returned To Iran

November 21, 2007

Image right: Ibex form rhyton, National Museum (referred to in the article. The rhyton to be retuned is apparently very similar.)

LONDON, (CAIS) -- Representative of ICHHTO is due to make a visit to Romania to bring back the ancient Iranian rhyton. Based on previous diplomatic and cultural negotiations between Iranian and Romanian officials the return of the artefact to Iran is being secured.

Announcing this news, Omid Ghanami, deputy head of the legal department of the ICHHTO told Persian service of CHN: “With following the case through the retrieval committee of ICTTO, this rhyton will be returned to its home country.”

Expressing his satisfaction with the trend of retrieval of Iranian historical relics due to its membership in UNESCO’s 1970 and 1995 conventions, Ghanami said that Iran is also following the case for redeeming its historic objects from Italy and UAE.

Regarding the characteristics of this rhyton, Masoud Nosrati, director general of Museums and Exhibitions at ICHHTO, said: “after studies were conducted on the images of the artefact provided by Romanians, the rhyton in form of an ibex, became evident that this historic object is Iranian and most probably was made in the northern parts of Iran.”

According to Nosrati, some other rhytons similar to this one have been discovered in Iran and one of the most similar ones was found in Kaluraz region in Gilan which is currently kept in Iran’s National Museum.

Deputy head of the legal department of ICHHTO or one of the other authorities of this Organization will travel to Romania next week to take this historic rhyton back to its home country.

Extracted From/Source*: Cultural Heritage News Agency (CHN)

*Please note the above-news is NOT a "copy & paste" version from the mentioned-source. The news/article above has been modified with the following interventions by CAIS: Spelling corrections; -Rectification and correction of the historical facts and data; - Providing additional historical information within the text; -Removing any unnecessary, irrelevant & repetitive information.

All these measures have been taken in order to ensure that the published news provided by CAIS is coherent, transparent, accurate and suitable for academics and cultural enthusiasts who visit the CAIS website.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

2007 World Youth Chess Championships

Some results after 3 rounds: In the Girls Under 18 Category (77 players), Ettie Nikolova (USA 2049) is in 38th place with 1.5. Julia Kerr (USA 2026) is in 48th place with 1.0. Elina Kats (USA Unr (?) ) is in 64th place with 1.0. In the Girls Under 16 Category (93 players), WFM Abby Marshall (USA 2208) is in 7th place with 2.5. Louiza Livschitz (USA 2005) is in 31st place with 2.0. Courtney Jamison (USA 1949) is in 37th place with 2.0. WFM Alisa Melekhina (USA 2208) is in 40th place with 2.0.

The Power of the Squirrel

This story showed up at the bottom of another story I was reading - I didn't discover it under a search for "squirrel - news". It's a sad story, so if you are bummed out today or likely to be, don't read this. Unfortunately, with squirrels being urban animals this kind of thing is often their fate. Squirrels briefly kill power in 2 cities Tue Nov 20, 6:30 AM ET ASHLAND, Wis. - It was an unlucky day for two squirrels and hundreds of Midwestern power customers. Brian Elwood, a spokesman for Xcel Energy, said a squirrel came in contact with an overhead transformer and knocked out service to 177 customers Monday. Power was fully restored in just under an hour, and repair crews found the remains of the "unfortunate squirrel," he said. By coincidence, another squirrel got into a substation 40 miles away in Ironwood, Mich., Monday morning and caused a temporary outage that affected about 1,400 customers in Ironwood and two nearby communities, Elwood said. The utility takes many preventive steps to keep the curious animals away from lines, he said, but they are one of the leading causes of outages, trailing only severe weather. "We kind of liken it to anyone who's had a bird feeder and tried to keep the squirrels out," he said. "They find a way." Rodney Johnson was stuck on an elevator at the city's Enterprise Center, where he works, when the power went out. "For a couple of minutes there, I wasn't sure if I'd make it to Thanksgiving," said Johnson, who said he is somewhat claustrophobic. "They kept talking to me while they were trying to open it up, though, so that helped." Once a firefighter opened the door, Johnson wasted no time in getting out. "I'm surprised I didn't knock him down," he said. ************************************************************************************* During our Goddesschess Celebration Holiday this July, one lovely morning Don and I were sitting out on the deck sipping coffee and relaxing. There is a utility pole on the lot line about 20 feet from the deck, along the north. It carries several tiers of wires, some thick, some so thin you can hardly see them unless you look a certain way; they march from my lot line across my yard and the yards of all my neighbors to the south, for about 2 blocks. I'm so used to them being up there I don't even notice them anymore. The thing is, the utility pole is rather close to a gigantic double trunked Chinese elm that overhangs the deck. One of the thicker wires acts as a sort of squirrel highway above and over the yards. The wires are within about 8-10 feet from the tree trunk and I can't tell you how many times I've seen a wire-travelling squirrel stop and take a leap from the wire to the tree. Unfortunately, sometimes squirrels will climb the utility pole and get zapped when they touch one of the things on the cross-bars of the pole that look the bolts that Frankenstein had in his neck - only much bigger. I don't know what they are, but they are "live" and carry current - enough to kill. In the 17 years I've lived here I only discovered one squirrel - unconscious. I moved him to an area where he was sheltered and kept my dogs (who were all alive then) away from him, and he eventually revived and went on his way. No such luck, though, for the squirrel who climbed up the pole while Don and I were out on the deck that morning. Things happened so quickly. I was facing the pole, Don's back was to it; I said something like "oh squirrel, get away from there" and Don, of course, didn't know what I was talking about. I motioned behind him and said there's a squirrel going up the pole and he's going to get fried and just as the words were out of my mouth there was a distinct "zzzzt" sound - a simultaneously little "yip" sound, and the squirrel fell. I sent Don to look and asked if he was breathing. Don said no, it doesn't look like it. We waited a little while and then I had him check again, and he said no. After I checked a third time, we got out the shovel and dug a grave. I wrapped the squirrel - who was quite hefty and had one teat (I wondered if she was a mommy and if she was, what would happen to her babies), in a plastic bag and we buried her deep enough so that the possum and racoon wouldn't be able to sniff her out and dig her up. Oh my. The weather was dark, dreary and misty/rainy today, and the story fit my mood. At lunch I think I depressed P as we ended up talking about mercury used in vaccines as a preservative (which really isn't necessary), and the possible link to the explosion in autism; the equal explosion in childhood food allergies and the potential link to genetically engineered foods (which we have no idea we're eating); and the crisis within the Inuit community due to PCBs and other chemicals changing the hormones of fetuses within the womb - from boys to girls. In one Inuit village no boy babies are being born anymore, and in many others the ratio of boy to girl births has plummeted. Real cheery stuff - not. Okay, time for a glass of wine. I had a 3.5 mile hike home from a doctor's appointment (I wasn't about to wait 40 minutes for the bus) and the bus and I arrived within half a mile of my house (where I would have gotten off if I had caught it) at the same time. Gee, Milwaukee, way to go to encourage people to use public transportation. Run a frigging bus once an hour. Well, at least I got my exercise in. And - get this - there's a snow advisory for tomorrow night. Great, just great.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra

A blast from the past - from the archives of Saudi Aramco World: Queen Zenobia Few men could match the brave deeds of the woman who ruled an ancient empire. The bright stars of the Syrian desert shone on Palmyra, capital of the caravan empire. White limestone colonnades, temples and palaces gleamed in the moonlight, and a hot dry wind stirred in the palm trees that gave the city its name. The soldier Yarkai, captain of the guard, wrinkled his nostrils as the breeze assailed them with the reek of the sulphur springs that had been supplying water to passing caravans for 20 centuries. Not all the primrose and oleander near Queen Zenobia's palace, where he was standing guard duty, could dispel the acrid fumes, but Yarkai was used to them. Any good Palmyrene had to be. Turning his head from the familiar pattern of streets he nightly covered on his rounds, he gazed uneasily toward a high, arched window in the castle's red walls. He knew that beyond the window was the beautiful, dark-haired woman who held the destiny of all Palmyrenes in her dainty hands. Yarkai admired his ruler, but it made him apprehensive to think that all the opulence and security of his native city, all the aspirations of a swiftly risen empire stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates, depended upon one daring, spirited and sometimes unpredictable queen. It was nearly midnight. Most of the palace windows were dark. No torches burned in the theater as they did when public discussions were under way or the Council of the People had met. The voices of the Greek, Phoenician, Persian, Parthian, Babylonian, Roman and Egyptian merchants had fallen silent in the agora, the central market place. He could hear muffled shouts in the caravanserai, where late-arriving camel trains were being unloaded and bedded down. The clatter of footsteps echoed in the streets as a group of men gowned in richly embroidered tunics, led by a white-robed priest with conical cap and mitre, hastened by on their way to late rites at the Temple of Bel. Palace, temple and most of the public buildings stood to the south of the broad-columned avenue that crossed the city from northwest to northeast. Once it had been nothing more than a caravan road, but now it was one of the most splendid boulevards in the world. Yarkai compared it in his mind to other great avenues, for as one of the famed Palmyrene archers he had been stationed in many cities, even in Rome. The street was more than 1,200 yards long, lined with tall Corinthian columns topped with capitals of gilded bronze, nearly 400 on each side. Each column was bracketed to hold statues of famous men—merchants, caravan leaders and chiefs of market—for the city did honor to commerce. Palmyra, he had learned long ago under his father's roof, had once been nothing but a mud-hut oasis called Tadmor, a tiny village at the junction of two great trading routes. Then King Solomon had erected a temple there—with the help of a jinni, some said—to direct the wealth of the far-off east toward his kingdom. But Tadmor remained an obscure desert outpost until some three centuries before Yarkai's time, just prior to the birth of Jesus. Then, suddenly, with a shift in world powers, Palmyra began to grow. Almost midway in the desert, 150 miles from Damascus and 190 miles—four days' journey by swift camel—from the Euphrates, it lay on the shortest route between the Phoenician coastal towns that gathered the rich merchandise of the western world and the Mesopotamian cities that commanded the fabulous eastern trade. To the west stood the mighty empire of Rome; to the east, the savage Parthians. Neither felt confident enough to wage war against the other. Swiftly, almost like a boom town privileged by both sides, Palmyra waxed rich and important as a trading center, a balance wheel and bulwark between two hesitant enemies. In 41 B.C. Mark Antony tried to capture Palmyra, but the citizens retreated beyond the Euphrates, bearing their valuables with them. Trajan granted the city honor, and years later Hadrian attempted to give it his name. Operating within the Roman Empire, it remained independent, free to make its laws and collect its levies. The city's camel corps rode out to escort and protect the caravans. Its merchants established their own trading centers from Babylon to the Danube, Rome and Gaul. Borrowing from cultures with which it came in contact, Palmyra made up its own: Iranian dress, weapons and furniture; Persian manners; Babylonian temples, houses and gods, and other gods, too, including the caravan deities, Arsu and Azizu. And everything tempered and refined by the tastes of the Latins and Greeks. But Palmyra had been content to remain a bulwark town, contributing to the greatness of others, until King Odenathus and his queen, Zenobia, came to the throne. Footsteps sounded on the tiles of the courtyard and Yarkai came alert. He recognized Worod, swift-footed messenger of Zabda, Zenobia's general. It was Zabda who had ridden at her side when she led her 80,000 troops into Egypt and garrisoned Alexandria with Palmyrenes, spread her empire over Syria and part of Asia Minor and northern Arabia, captured Hims and Antioch. His messenger spoke now in Arabic, the language of Palmyra's streets. "My message is for the queen. The Roman legions are marching southward!" Silently Yarkai pointed to the arched window. In her bedroom, a high-ceilinged chamber hung with tapestries, Zenobia ran her strong hands over a bolt of silk taffeta woven on a loom known only in China. Did she prefer it, she wondered, to the gossamer-thin wool with the Greek floral design? To one side lay the suit of iron armor and the helmet that transformed her into a soldier when the need arose. She knew that she must shortly don that armor. Emperor Aurelian was threatening her from the north. She must soon ride at the head of her troops to meet him. But for a while longer she would be a woman as well as a queen. Her mirror reflected a vivacious, dark-skinned face with large, black eyes. Her lithe body was garbed in robes of heavy purple silk and jewels. She recalled how she had come to the palace as a young second wife when her husband, Odenathus, had first started to establish Palmyra as a power in its own right and carried his conquests to the shores of the Red Sea. She had ridden to the hunt and the battlefield beside him and shared his ambition to make Palmyra the military as well as the commercial capital of the caravan world. Brave as Diana and beautiful as Venus men called her; known for her wisdom, too, for had not Longinus, the philosopher, the "walking university," come out of Athens to instruct her and make her worthy of any throne? Did she not know Greek, Egyptian, Aramaic and a little Latin? She had compiled a history as well, and was versed in Plato and Homer. But when Odenathus and his heir were treacherously murdered, she was forced to put aside her literary and artistic interests. She had rallied the sons of the desert, and they had ridden forth to bear arms for their heroic queen. She had led them into battle and conquered many lands and cities, establishing the title of "King of Kings" for her own young son, Waballath. The coins from Zenobia's mint bore Waballath's likeness on one side and, as a conciliatory gesture, Aurelian's on the reverse. But Aurelian struck his own coins, bearing the threatening words Restitutor Orientis (Restorer of the Orient). Proud Zenobia answered the challenge with an issue of new coins from which Aurelian's face had been removed and her own substituted. The act caused the Roman emperor to consider Zenobia a dangerous, insubordinate woman who must be put down. He and his legions were on the march. At any moment Zabda would send for Zenobia, and she must don her armor and lead out the cavalry. Unhappiness and foreboding oppressed her mind, and she thought, as she seldom did, of death and its prominence in Palmyra's religion. Tall rectangular tower tombs on the sands, vaulted underground chamber tombs, temple tombs in the city—all these were made splendid for the dead of leading families and banquets were held in them to honor the departed. Zenobia's mirror did not reveal the events soon to come. Worod's message proved true and Yarkai the soldier once again fought for his queen. But the gods of war turned away from Zenobia. Within the year Aurelian's newly developed light cavalry had outmaneuvered and defeated Zenobia's archers and heavy cavalry. The caravan empress herself was captured by a Roman patrol as she set out to appeal for troops from an ally. Her fate was never recorded. One legend has it that Zenobia, determined to prevent the humiliation of being paraded through the streets of Rome, starved herself and died en route. Another story relates that she was driven through the streets of the Eternal City bound in chains of gold, then was pardoned to live happily ever after in a villa at Tivoli. The fate of her city is, however, certain. Palmyra was sacked and despoiled by Aurelian, and it slowly went back to the desert again, to the cluster of huts it had been in Solomon's time. But even today there is a difference about it. Many of its splendid columns remain, and its ruined temples, and the memory of Queen Zenobia, certainly one of the world's most fascinating women. This article appeared on pages 12-13 of the May 1962 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.

In Honor of Thanksgiving Day

As most other Americans will, I'll be busy on T-day, darlings, watching the PACKERS v. LIONS on television, chowing down lots of good food with some of my siblings and mom, cooking up a storm, talking, laughing, drinking, having a ball, and eating way too much! My contribution last year was whipped sweet potatoes, based on a recipe I first tried out a few years ago. By popular demand an encore is requested this year, hooorrayyyy! Here is my recipe, darlings - but, be warned, this is very much a "by taste and texture" sort of recipe. Much depends on how much moisture is retained by the sweet potatoes and your individual taste as to the amount of seasonings used. I use canned sweet potatoes in light syrup (just to reiterate a point made in the recipe):

--2 large cans of sweet potatoes in light syrup (not sweep syrup) – 2 lbs. 8 oz. each --Juice from one orange (4 tbsp) --Finely zest the orange peel (start with one tbsp and add to taste) --½ stick butter – softened, not melted --4 tbsp Irish whiskey (may need to adjust more or less to how tight or loose the potatoes are) OR several drops rum flavoring – to taste --1 to 2 tsp vanilla (start with 1 and add more to taste) --½ cup milk, half and half, or cream (may need to add more, depending on how tight or loose the potatoes are) --½ tsp cinnamon (add to taste) --1/8 tsp ground nutmeg (add to taste) --Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: few drops of lemon juice (brightens the flavor)

Drain potatoes; mash and then whip until smooth-ish consistency is achieved

THEN: Add and stir in ingredients a few at a time, and whip intermittently, tasting often, and adjust ingredients to taste throughout process

End product should look rather like orange to dark-orange chiffon and have a light, fluffy, uniform texture

Spoon into large casserole dish.

If you used Irish whiskey to flavor, bake the casserole at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, to bake off the alcohol. Can be reheated in microwave.

If you used the rum flavoring, you don’t need to bake in the oven, you can heat through in microwave.

Oh oh - no no!

I don't like this, I don't like this at all. This could be the beginning of the slippery slope - the start of "political correctness." If the famous and fabulous bust of Nefertiti goes back to Egypt, you KNOW it will be the target of fascist Islamic radicals who would like nothing better than to destroy what they consider to be a "pagan" symbol of grace, beauty, dignity and sovereignty of the ancient Egyptian empire, which was the ANTIPATHY of all things Islamic. That Nefertiti is female makes her all the more a target, because Islamic radicals FEAR all things female, and HATE females above all other things. Bust of Queen Nefertiti may return to Cairo November 19 2007 at 02:02AM Cairo - Germany is willing to consider whether an ancient Egyptian statue at the centre of a row between the two countries can be returned to Cairo for display, Egypt's antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said on Sunday. Berlin has proposed to set up a joint committee with Cairo to examine whether the controversial bust of Queen Nefertiti currently housed in Berlin's Altes Museum can safely make the trip to Egypt for display within two years, he said." The letter that we received from Berlin says that the statue is very fragile," and that a joint Egyptian-German committee should decide if it can travel in the next two years, Hawass said. "The statue, in my opinion, is in good condition and should travel to Egypt within two years," Hawass said during a ceremony to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the German archaeological institute in Egypt. Cairo and Berlin have frequently clashed over the 3 400-year-old limestone bust, which was unearthed by German archaeologists on the banks of the Nile and taken to Germany under a 1913 agreement. Nefertiti, renowned as one of history's great beauties, was the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaton, remembered for having converted his kingdom to monotheism with the worship of one sun god, Aton. Hawass, the director of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, threatened earlier this year to ban future exhibitions of its ancient artifacts in Germany if Berlin refused to return the statue.Herman Panzinger, head of the German archaeological insitute, meanwhile told reporters that research was now under way in Berlin to determine "if one can transport Nefertiti or not". "When they have this result, they will discuss this with the Egyptians," he said. Hawass wants to display Nefertiti at the opening of the Akhenaton Museum in Minya, Upper Egypt. - Sapa-AFP

Sunday, November 18, 2007

For the Ladies

While I was scouting around for chess news, I came across an announcement at TWIC for the 2008 Gibtelecom Chess Festival. So far, several chess femmes have registered to participate in the "Masters" event, which promises them really tough competition. Entries are still be accepted, so additional chess femmes might be added to the line-up: GM Pia Cramling (SWE 2531) GM Zhu Chen (QAT 2531) WGM Zhao Xue (CHN 2530) IM Harika Dronavalli (IND 2480) IM Monika Socko (POL 2473) IM Victoria Cimilyte (LTH 2464) GM Antoaneta Stefanova (BUL 2463) IM Anna Zatonskih (USA 2458) IM Elizabeth Pahtz (GER 2452) WGM Natalia Zhukova (UKR 2452) WGM Sheng Yang (CHN 2450) WGM Nisha Mohota (IND 2416) WGM Tania Sachdev (IND 2413) IM Jovanka Houska (ENG 2404) WGM Sophie Milliet (FRA 2395) IM Cristina Foisor (ROU 2388) WGM Wang Yu A (CHN 2364) WGM Sabina Foisor (ROU 2359) IM Anna Zozulia (BEL 2343) WIM Kruttika Nadig (IND 2208) Mihaela Foisor (ROU 2029) Emilia Georgieva (BUL 1985) Ellisiv Reppen (NOR 1902) Lin Jin Jorgensen (NOR 1861) Maria Pitz Jacobsen (NOR 1803)

Follow-Up: A Controversy of Biblical Proportions

We did a post about this controversy on October 27, 2007: A Controversy of Biblical Proportions. Since that time, Nadia Abu el Haj has been awarded tenure (Barnard College, New York). Ralph Harrington writes about the controversy at the History News Network: 11-12-07 Was Nadia Abu El Haj Treated Fairly? By Ralph Harrington Dr. Harrington, an independent scholar with a degree in history from Oxford, was a lecturer in history at the University of York (1999-2003). Last week it was announced that Nadia Abu El Haj, a professor in the anthropology departments of Barnard College, New York, and its parent institution, Columbia University, had been awarded tenure. Such news from the world of academe would rarely make much of a public splash, but this had been no ordinary tenure process. In 2001 Abu El Haj had her first and, so far, only book published by Chicago University Press. Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society is an anthropology of archaeological practice. At its heart is an analysis of the process through which the science of archaeology as conceived and practiced in Israel has contributed to legitimizing through the construction of nationhood an illegitimate, non-national, colonial entity: the State of Israel. Between 2003 and 2007 this book became the focus of an Internet-based controversy. Supporters of Israel condemned her arguments and her scholarship; a petition was raised demanding that she be denied tenure; Facts on the Ground was chewed over on countless blogs and websites and Abu El Haj’s words interpreted in countless contradictory ways. Professor Abu El Haj can have little reason to feel that her first book has been ignored; but it cannot have been pleasant to have ones work called 'crank scholarship’ and 'a corruption of honest fact,' and to be described oneself as 'fraudulent,' a 'charlatan anthropologist,' and even 'a classic racist.' Nadia Abu El Haj also has the unenviable distinction of having her own personal name taken and registered as the Internet domain for a site dedicated to attacking her and damaging her reputation and her career; she is perhaps the first person who is not a politician or a convicted criminal to have been subjected to this disreputable treatment. There are good reasons to feel uneasy about the form taken by the campaign against Nadia Abu El Haj. My own view is that to be a scholar is to have in some degree a public role, and that one should be prepared for the public discussion of one’s work, for disagreement and argument, but that such discourse must remain civil if it is to be useful, and that many of Nadia Abu El Haj’s critics went beyond what was acceptable in their criticism and the language in which it was couched. That does not mean, however, that the criticisms themselves were entirely baseless. I would certainly argue that Facts on the Ground is a tendentious and flawed piece of work. This does not mean it is therefore unscholarly. Taken on its own terms, Facts on the Ground is a work of scholarship. It is an anthropological study, and it is unfair to criticize it as if it was a work of archaeology or history. The use of anonymous sources, something which has brought Abu El Haj much criticism, is accepted practice in anthropology (although various protocols govern its use [Awad, 933], and it is to be hoped that Abu El Haj followed these, particularly given the controversial nature of her material). Political commitment is also often clearer in anthropology than in, for example, history. Since the 1960s anthropology has been working off its guilt at having been, in its early history, implicated in colonialism and western domination. As a result it has shown a tendency to espouse radical political and social positions and to ally itself with 'disciplines, such as cultural studies, and theoretical approaches, such as post-colonialism, that did not carry anthropology’s original sin of cooperation with colonialism’ (Ribeiro, 371). Facts on the Ground carries all the hallmarks of this brand of anthropology: it is avowedly post-colonial, after the style of Edward Said, and is committed to a radically skeptical post-modernism. Understood on those terms – and personally I have little sympathy with either of these approaches – it is not a shoddy piece of scholarship per se, although there are some unsatisfactory aspects to the ways her arguments are put together (James Davila, in his excellent scholarly review of the book, highlights her use of 'argument by insinuation’, for example). In some of her published work Abu El Haj shows her ability to make careful and judicious use of primary source material and to engage in balanced and thoughtful argument (e.g. Abu El Haj 1998 and 2002); elsewhere a shallow polemicism shows through (e.g. Abu El Haj 2003 and 2005). The Duke University PhD thesis from which the book was derived is, according to the accounts of those who have read it, in the former category; Facts on the Ground itself is firmly in the latter. What gives the book its polemical quality above all is Abu El Haj’s particular emphasis on the colonial character of Israel – an emphasis that has implications for the attitude the book takes to the legitimacy of both the Israeli state and the Jewish people. The purpose of her book, she writes, is to analyse 'the significance of archaeology to the Israeli state and society and the role it played in the formation and enactment of its colonial-national-historical imagination and in the substantiation of its territorial claims’ (Abu El Haj 2001, 2; henceforth references to Facts on the Ground will simply consist of the page numbers in brackets). The colonial and the national must be considered together, she writes, if Israel, and the role archaeology has played in Israel, is to be properly understood: Rather than analytically arguing for Zionism’s colonial or national dimensions or, as is also common in scholarship on Israeli society, effacing the colonial question altogether, I insist on the articulation of the colonial and national projects.(4) And, as we have seen, she does indeed literally articulate them: 'colonial-national-historical imagination.' Interpreting Israel as a colonial, an inherently colonizing, entity, is not unproblematic, because it does not fit the colonizing model. Colonial America was subject to Britain; to what is Israel subject? There is no clear centre-periphery relationship, for Israel rules itself. It is its own centre and periphery, its own colony and metropole. Abu El Haj recognizes this problem: In contrast to other settler colonies, however, there never was an actual metropole for Jewish settlers in Palestine … the projects of settlement and of nation-building developed at one and the same time on a single colonial terrain … Palestine and Israel – the colony and the metropole – were, and are, the same place …(5) This acceptance that the supposed colony is also the colonizers’ metropole would seem to undercut the whole notion that Israel is a colony at all. One of the identifying characteristics of a settler colony is that the colonizers can go back where they originally came from – a notion that becomes less tenable as the settler generations pass, but that remains potent, particularly to opponents of the 'settler’ presence (Northern Ireland provides a notable example). But if there is no home nation to which they can return, how can they be considered colonizers at all in any realistic sense? Abu El Haj’s answer to this is that the whole notion of a Jewish nation is flawed. Israel is a Jewish state, but the Jews are not a nation; they are a religion. She makes this point explicitly: Zionism was born in Europe in the late nineteenth century and was fashioned within the terms and logics of European nationalism … The Jewish state, however, was not established in Europe itself, but rather on the colonial periphery. Agitating ultimately for the 'return’ of the Jews to Palestine (a place long resonant in Jewish religious practice and life), for the purpose of establishing a sovereign state, Zionism in effect furnished a political solution for Europe’s 'Jewish question' … The Jewish state was founded in a territory under colonial dominion. It was the British who first promised Palestine to the Jews as their national home, a pledge that ultimately precluded the possibility of its indigenous Arab inhabitants (some of whom were Jews) achieving sovereignty during the process of decolonisation to come.(4) I take three essential points from the foregoing. First, the idea of Jewish nationhood is a creation of the Zionist movement, which patterned its claim for a sovereign Jewish state on the prevailing European notions of nationalism. Second, the significance of Palestine as the Jewish homeland amounts to no more than the place being 'resonant' in Jewish culture. Third, any Jews who lived in Palestine before the establishment of Israel were in fact Arabs. There is thus is a religion of Judaism, but there is no Jewish people and there can be no Jewish nation: In the context of Palestine and Israel, religion as a marker of persistent colonial difference is only accentuated. Israel’s 'national majority,’ after all, was and is a religious group remade (emancipated in the context of Europe) by transforming religious difference into national form.(235) Once this aspect of the Abu El Haj thesis becomes clear, her interpretation of the role of Jewish archaeology also emerges with greater clarity. The critics who have argued that Facts on the Ground rejects the existence of ancient Jewish states in the land that is now Israel are, in a sense, missing the point. It would not matter whether those states had existed or not: their significance in the development of Jewish nationhood would in any case be nil, because there is no such thing. Hence assertions such as: As a nationalist tradition, Israeli archaeology did far more than dig in search of evidence of an ancient Israelite and Jewish past embedded in the land. It was driven by an epistemology that assumed nations, itself embedded in a specific conception of what history is, including the significant events of which it is made …(3) In insisting that the colonial is considered as part of the national, Abu El Haj is not merely saying that there is a colonial dimension to Israel; she is arguing that the colonial is all there is, for any claim that there is a genuine Jewish nationhood that is expressed through Zionism and through the state of Israel is false. Those critics who saw in Facts on the Ground a work intrinsically hostile to Israel were, in my judgement, correct. That does not justify all the accusations that were made against its author, nor all the tactics that were used by those seeking to damage her, even to silence her; but it can be argued that the high-profile controversy over Nadia Abu El Haj has brought the partisan and politicized state of academic middle east studies in the United States to the attention of the wider community. Nadia Abu El Haj has been granted tenure, which – regardless of her individual merits – is a good outcome for anyone who believes that professorship by plebiscite is a bad idea and that academic independence is a vital principle whether you agree with all the results or not. But such decisions tend to confirm the impression that Middle East Studies in the U.S. can simply be equated to anti-Israel studies, and this can only lead to a loss of credibility for the field and for academia as a whole. REFERENCES Nadia Abu El Haj, 'Translating truths: nationalism, archaeological practice and the remaking of past and present in contemporary Jerusalem’, American Ethnologist, vol. 25, no. 2 (May 1998), pp. 166-188. Nadia Abu El Haj, Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2001). Nadia Abu El Haj, 'Producing (arti)facts: archaeology and power during the British Mandate of Palestine, Israel Studies, vol. 7, no. 2 (summer 2002), pp. 33-61. Nadia Abu El Haj, 'Reflections on archaeology and Israeli settler-nationhood’, Radical History Review, no. 86 (spring 2003), pp. 149-163. Nadia Abu El Haj, 'Edward Said and the political present’, American Ethnologist, vol. 32, no. 4 (November 2005), pp. 538-555. Isabel Awad, 'Journalists and their sources’, Journalism Studies, vol. 7, no. 6 (Dec 2006), pp. 922-39. James R. Davila, review of Facts on the Ground at PaleoJudaica. Gustavo Lins Ribeiro, 'World anthropologies: cosmopolitics for a new global scenario in anthropology,’ Critique of Anthropology, vol. 26, no. 4 (2006), pp. 313-386.

Why Diffusionists Have a Bad Name

I happen to believe that diffusionism is a valid hypothesis and I think it's received a bad rap from traditional archaeologists who spout off about "simultaneous invention" when, every day, more evidence comes to light showing contact (sometimes extensive) between old world civilizations that weren't supposed to have been in contact with each other, and between old world and new world. When religious beliefs get thrown into the mix, however, all bets are off. This article demonstrates one reason why diffusionism has been discounted by scientists and given a bad name. Special Report Mormons, Mayans and Mystery The Book of Mormon's version of history continues to be challenged - and championed - by skeptics and faithful By Peggy Fletcher Stack The Salt Lake Tribune Article Last Updated: 11/17/2007 12:50:39 AM MST LDS biologist Trent Stephens thinks he may have triggered the change in the Book of Mormon's introduction that became public last week. Stephens' efforts came after a lifetime of hearing Mormon leaders and members talk in glowing terms about the link between American Indians and the Book of Mormon's small band of Israelites who sailed from Jerusalem to establish a civilization in the Americas. After centuries of warring among themselves, the book says, the last ones standing were known as "Lamanites." To the LDS faithful, Lamanites were real people with a real history. Every Mormon prophet since the church's founding in 1830 has taught that Indians descended from Lamanites. The perceived link explains the church's initial outreach to Indians in the northeast and later in Utah. It is why the church created an Indian Placement Program, urging members in the 1950s to care for those they saw as part of their religious family. Mormon missionaries working in Central and South America have always told potential converts the Book of Mormon is their ancestors' story. Sometime in the past decade, Stephens learned about DNA evidence suggesting American Indian origins were in Siberia, not the Middle East. It was no crisis of faith for Stephens, a former Mormon bishop and Idaho State University professor. He found lots of ways to explain the discrepancy. Besides, Book of Mormon Text makes no claim about lineage. The book's 1981 introduction was the only text that said "Lamanites were the principal ancestors of American Indians," and that could be changed. On March 23, 2004, Stephens told his LDS stake president in Pocatello that critics were using DNA evidence against the book, pointing to the introduction's wording. The leader recognized the problem and took it to the LDS Area Authorities, who took it to the LDS Missionary Committee in Salt Lake City. Sometime last year, LDS authorities instructed Doubleday, which published the only unofficial version of the Book of Mormon, to change its introduction to read: "Lamanites were among the ancestors of the American Indians." The move didn't satisfy critics, such as Simon Southerton, a former Mormon excommunicated for the arguments in his book, Losing a Lost Tribe: DNA, Native Americans and the Mormon Church. "The change raises more pressing questions for those seeking the truth. If science was right all along about the dominant Siberian ancestry of American Indians, are they also right about the timing of their entry?" Southerton wrote in an e-mail from his home in Australia. "There is abundant evidence, some now coming from the DNA research, that their Siberian ancestors arrived over 12,000 years ago. How does such a date fit with other LDS beliefs?" Rest of article.

Ancient History Plutarch Was Right

From U.S. News and World Report

Explaining the Oracle's Visions
Delphi, Greece
By Kent Garber
Posted November 16, 2007
Image: A fifth-century B.C. representation of Aegeus, king of Athens, consulting the Delphic Oracle.

(The Gallery Collection/Corbis)
When John Hale was an archaeology graduate student at Cambridge University in the 1970s, he was taught that the ancient Greek accounts of the events and rituals at the Oracle of Delphi were fundamentally flawed.

The Greek historian Plutarch had spoken of a spring that emitted "fragrance and breeze" into the Oracle's temple, driving the priestesses there into a frenzied trance and prompting them to deliver prophetic visions. But 19th- and 20th-century researchers, after decades of searching, found no physical evidence supporting Plutarch. "The French dug at Delphi in the 1890s and didn't find any gases," says Hale, director of liberal studies at the University of Louisville. "Other archaeologists had dug there and found no faults or springs."

But that's not the end of it. In the past 11 years, a series of more rigorous scientific investigations has challenged—and, in effect, reversed—the accepted orthodoxy, showing in modern detail how hydrocarbon gases, still present at the site, might explain the ancient Greek stories.

Credit for that goes to Hale and colleague Jelle de Boer, a Wesleyan University geologist, whose chance meeting led to research validating Plutarch's accounts. The two met in 1996 at a research site in Portugal; there, over a glass of wine, de Boer claimed to have seen a fault line at Delphi following an earthquake more than a decade earlier. Hale was skeptical. "This," he recalls thinking, "would rewrite archaeology, and Greek history, and its religion."

A deal was struck: They would travel to Delphi, to the rugged slopes of Mount Parnassus, and map out the terrain. They did and, on two separate trips, they discovered not one but two intersecting fault lines—the first running east-west (as suggested by de Boer), the second northwest-southeast. The base of the ancient temple stood squarely at their intersection. Recent seismic activity, they surmised, had revealed the hidden secret.

Fumes. The discovery of crisscrossing fault lines beneath the Oracle's grounds answered one question outright. If the gases of which Plutarch spoke were real, where did they come from? And it hinted at yet another: the unknown nature of their composition. De Boer posited that limestone deposits buried deep beneath the ground might have released hydrocarbon gases—specifically, methane, ethane, and ethylene—into the air.

Ethylene, in particular, piqued the researchers' interest. "Ethylene is what gives fruits their sweet smell," says Hale, "which seems to match the note that Plutarch had made of the odor [of the Oracle gases]." Ethylene also has a history of mental confabulation. "In low doses, ethylene can induce a trance," Hale says. "Early-20th-century researchers found that ethylene could produce an anesthetic state twice as fast as nitrous oxide."

The researchers contacted chemist Jeffrey Chanton of Florida State University to analyze water samples from natural springs discovered in the faults. The analysis detected low levels of ethylene, among other gases. "For the descriptions in the literature of what caused the [priestess] to come forward with her predictions, ethyl ene is the perfect gas," de Boer says.

Though scholars continue to debate the precise nature of the gas—an Italian team published a paper last year arguing that methane-induced oxygen deprivation was the culprit—Hale says the bigger point is that this debate is happening at all. "People were responding to very specific phenomena in the Earth's surface," he says. "Modern science confirms the validity of those ancient observations, and this is a great way of looking at ancient religion."

Nun Advocates Goddess Worship

I found this rather interesting:

Catholic University to Give Award to Goddess-Worshipping Theologian
Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson advocates calling God 'She Who Is'
By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

Miami, November 13, 2007 ( - The Department of Theology and Philosophy of Barry University which is run by the Dominican Sisters of Adrian, Michigan, will give an Award for Theological Excellence in January to radical feminist theologian Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson, a professor at Jesuit run Fordham University.

Sister Elizabeth, who advocates goddess worship, actively dissents from the Church's infallible teaching on the invalidity of women's ordinations and promotes the cause of world government and a one-world religion. In her book She Who Is (Crossroad, 1993) Sister Elizabeth announced "that the time has come to stop addressing God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to begin addressing Him as 'She Who Is.'" For this she won awards and a promotion to "Distinguished" Professor of Theology at Catholic Fordham University.

Here she joins the ranks of such notables as Sister Sandra Schneiders, IHM, professor of New Testament at Berkeley's Jesuit School of Theology, who has vilified the Faith for two decades. In Beyond Patching (Paulist, 1990) Schneiders wrote that "every aspect" of the Catholic faith "is not just tainted but perverted by the evil of patriarchy. It is not that the tradition has some problems; the tradition is the problem."

In an article in the National Catholic Reporter, Nov 17, 2000, Sister Elizabeth said women have long been "denied equality with men in access to sacred ties, places, actions and even identity," and "women have been consistently robbed of our full dignity as friends of God and prophets," by the likes of St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. She bemoans the church statements forbidding the ordination of women, that in her words, "locate the image of Christ in the male body rather than in the whole person being made christomorphic by entering into the dying and rising of Christ." That Jesus Christ was a man seems to elude her.

Sister Elizabeth endorses Call To Action, a radical anti-Catholic group founded in the 1960’s to agitate within the Catholic Church to overturn Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life, marriage and the meaning of the priesthood. The group has been excommunicated for “causing damage to the Church of Christ” (Giovanni Cardinal Battista Re, Apostolic Signatura) and being “totally incompatible with the Catholic faith” (Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, Lincoln, Nebraska).

When asked for a comment on the award being given to Sr. Elizabeth, the office of the Archbishop of Miami had difficulty finding someone who would make a statement.

Chess Player/Author Paul Hoffman on Cheating

From The Washington Post: DEPT. OF GAMBITS Winning by Rook or by Crook By Paul HoffmanSunday, November 18, 2007; Page B02 It's been a banner year for cheating scandals in sports. In baseball, allegations of steroid use and a federal indictment on charges of lying to a grand jury tainted Barry Bonds's record-breaking 756 home runs. In football, the New England Patriots got caught videotaping the defensive signals of the New York Jets. In cycling, the Tour de France became the Tour de Pharmacie when officials stripped Floyd Landis of the 2006 title after he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone. In Formula One racing, the leading team, McLaren Mercedes, was fined a bracing $100 million for stealing confidential technical specifications about rival Ferrari. I'm not much of a sports fan, so my couch-potato juices started flowing only when the cheating epidemic spread to chess. I've been playing since I was 5 years old and have spent untold hours practicing sequences of moves such as the Fried Liver Attack and the King's Gambit Accepted. Chess, I'd always thought, is an ennobling cerebral contest between two determined players armed only with their intellect and free of all drugs, except perhaps caffeine. So you can understand my chagrin when Azerbaijani adults attending the European Union children's championship last month accused the 8-year-old Russian winner of receiving illicit help from a third party during the game. Tournament organizers ultimately rejected the allegations and berated the adults for smearing the child's good name. Rest of article.

Blast from the Past - Judit at 1997 Hoogeveen

From the archives of The New York Times: CHESS Daring Judit Polgar to Attack Is an Invitation to Disaster By ROBERT BYRNE Published: December 9, 1997 Game in PGN: 1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.e3 Nf6 4.d4 d5 5.dxc5 e6 6.a3 Bxc5 7.b4Bd6 8.Nf3 O-O 9.cxd5 exd5 10.Nb5 Bb8 11.Bb2 a5 12.bxa5 Ne413.Be2 Qxa5+ 14.Kf1 Rd8 15.h3 Qb6 16.g3 Re8 17.Qe1 Na5 18.Bd4Qg6 19.Kg2 Nc4 20.Nh4 Qc6 21.a4 Ra6 22.Bg4 f5 23.Bxf5 Rf824.Bxc8 Qxc8 25.Ra2 Rh6 26.Qd1 g5 27.Nf3 g4 28.hxg4 Rxh129.Qxh1 Qxg4 30.Nh2 Rxf2+ 0-1 There are players who look, from time to time, as though they are spoiling for trouble. Take, for instance, Loek Van Wely, the Netherlands' top representative. Paired against Judit Polgar, the world's strongest female player, in the fifth round of the VAM International Tournament in Hoogeveen, the Netherlands, in mid-October, he either deliberately, or forgetfully, conceded her attacking chances in return for which survival would have meant a favorable endgame. But her strength lies in sharp, tactical play, and he did not survive. Perhaps next time he should scrawl his opponent's preferences on his shift cuff. In any case, Polgar's performance earned her the brilliancy prize. What began as an English Opening turned into an old-fashioned line of the Tarrasch Defense in which Van Wely chose to saddle his opponent with an isolated d5 pawn after 9 cd ed. He thus played for an advantageous endgame while conceding Polgar middle game attacking chances. Van Wely's 10 Nb5 let him reinforce his control of the d4 square for the blockade of the isolated pawn with a knight. But after 10 . . . Bb8, he should have developed with 11 Be2, so that after 11 . . . a5 he could have played 12 ba and castled immediately upon Black's recapture of the a5 pawn with 12 . . . Na5. After 14 Kf1, the white minor pieces were all well placed, but his king's poor situation made it difficult to unite his rooks. After 16 . . . Re8, Van Wely chose not to play 17 Qd5, probably because 17 . . . Bg3! 18 Ng5 (18 fg? Qe3 19 Bd4 Qe2 20 Ke2 Nc3 21 Kf2 Nd5 wins a pawn for Black) Ng5 19 Qg5 Be5 leaves the initiative in Black's hands. With 22 Bg4, Van Wely aimed to take pressure off his position by exchanges, but Polgar seized the opportunity to sacrifice a pawn to open lines with 22 . . . f5!? To play 23 Nf5?! would have been wrong because 23 . . . h5 24 Bh5 Bf5 25 Be8 Qe8 followed by 26 . . . Rg6 would have been too much force for the white king to withstand. After 23 Bf5 Rf8, it was useless to try a counterattack with 24 Be4 de 25 Qb4 (25 Kg1 Ne5 26 Rc1 Qf6 27 Be5 Be5 yields Black a powerful two-bishop game, which is not balanced by White's extra pawn) Ne5 26 Qe7 Qf6! 27 Qf6 Raf6 because the simultaneous threats of 28 . . . g5 and 28 . . . Rf2 cannot be handled. Polgar's breakthrough with 27 . . . g4! required Van Wely to defend by 28 Ng1 gh 29 Rh3 Nf2! 30 Rf2 Rf2 31 Kf2 Rh3 32 Nh3 Qh3 33 Qg1, but his problems would still have been insuperable. For example, 33 . . . Qf5 34 Kg2 Nd2 35 Qf2 Qe4 36 Kh3 Qh1 37 Qh2 (37 Kg4? h5 38 Kg4 h5! 39 Kf5 Qh3 40 Kg6 Qg4 41 Kh6 Nf3 42 Bf6 Kf7 weaves a mating net) Qf3 sets up decisive threats of 38 . . . Nf1 or 38 . . . Ne4. But Van Wely erred with 28 hg? and Polgar mauled him with 28 . . . Rh1 29 Qh1 (29 Kh1 Qg4 30 Kg2 Bg3! is no better) Qg4 30 Nh2 Rf2! Van Wely gave up in the face of 31 Rf2 Qg3 32 Kf1 Qf2 mate.
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