Monday, January 7, 2008

An Uplifting Story and a Horror Story

A poor married couple in Turkey change their mind about having an abortion and give birth to a rising chess star. From The Turkish Daily News Monday January 7, 2008 Gülizar Öztürk was convinced that she should not have a third baby when she was pregnant with Kübra. Just on the road to the doctor to get abortion, she and her husband Durak had a change of heart. They got out of the minibus and returned to their single-room house, the house that Kübra was brought up in. Kübra Öztürk's life changed drastically in 1998 when she was in the second grade in Ankara's Kayaş Elementary School. After the foundation of a chess club in the area, chess teacher İslam Osmanoğlu scouted for talent in schools, and that was when Kübra was marked for her talent. Eight months after she started playing, Osmanoğlu took her to her first tournament, the World Championship in Spain, where Kübra finished 44th. “When I took the 44th spot, I felt that there was something weird,” recalled Öztürk. “I was an eight-year-old playing with 10-year-olds!” It became “weirder” when she finished third in age-10 category in the Turkey championship the following year, when she was nine. After 1999, she clinched six titles in Turkey, and in the last two years, she has won two European titles. Rest of story. ****************************************************************************** When I checked my "chess" email addy this morning (I usually don't check it over the weekends) I found a press release from Evidently it was sent to everyone who has anything to do with chess - bloggers, website owners, etc. So, I'm sure that by now, it's been heavily reported by bloggers and (I assume) chess news websites. Still, I'm reporting it, as an example of a chess horror story. All of the following was reported at Unfortunately, none of the stories seem to have dates on them, but since I received the press release email on January 6, 2008, I assume the story(ies) was/were released on and since that date: Ugly story at Vandoeuvre Open false accusations, refusal of shaking hands, and ridiculous behavior by players IM Oleg Krivonosov, GM Vladimir Lazarev and IM Ilmars Starostits make accusations of cheating against Anna Rudolf Interview with Anna Rudolf Interview given after Vandoeuvre Open, where she earned WGM and IM norms They know I'm going to play on the Cappelle-la-Grande Open, so Krivonosov promised to accuse me there as well. The tournament hasn't even started and I'm already cheating! There's an update today (tonight) at Chessdom: Anna Rudolf's Case Update Personally, I don't care about a player refusing to shake hands with another player. There may be issues of personal hygiene involved, for instance (I sure wouldn't shake hands with some of the male players I've seen photos of, YECH - and everyone knows according to published surveys that most men don't bother to wash their hands after using the washroom). FIDE, after making some noises in the direction of propriety, probably won't make a big issue of this "non-shaking of hands" in Ms. Rudolf's case because, frankly, FIDE doesn't give a rat's butt about the rank and file players or the people who write about them. Hell, FIDE doesn't care about its bread and butter players, the "super GMs". Why would it do anything for Ms. Rudolf? The issue that I think has so far not been adequately addressed is the fact that an accusation of cheating can be made with inpunity and WITH NO EVIDENCE. The player who makes the accusation with no evidence to support the accusation gets away with it, and the player who is accused evidently has no recourse, but has to suffer through the slander, slurs, and ongoing suspicion every time he or she plays a good game! This has nothing to do with male and female players, per se, but it has everything to do with deliberate manipulative, vicious behavior on the part of the accuser. The psychological impact of an accusation of cheating against an innocent player is devasting. For the record, Anna Rudolf who plays under the Hungarian flag, has an ELO of 2273. She finished in 9th place in this tournament, with 6.0, after losing the last game (Round 9), to one of her accusers, IM Starostits. Just take a look at the draws that were given out among the top five or six players in the final crosstable. I'm no expert, but it looks to me as if the "old boys' club" was at work to block out Anna Rudolf from finishing in the top ranks. The fact is, without his win over Anna Rudolf in Round 9, IM Starostits would have ended up with either 5.5 (if he lost) or 6 points (if he drew), and Anna Rudolf would have finished ahead of him in the final standings, with either 7 (if she won) or 6.5 points (if she drew). In the hardscrabble world of the tournament circuit where so many no-name IMs are trying to make a living competing for a limited pool of prize money, why NOT accuse an opponent of cheating? What does an accuser have to lose by such behavior in the present climate? NOTHING. Those girlie men chess players - can't take a whupping by a woman. Geez!

Evil Killers Become Prison Chess Pals

The only thing scarier than the thought of these guys playing chess all hours of the day and night is the fact that this is a true story - I couldn't make something like this up if I tried. From the Daily Jan 7 2008 By Amy Devine TWO of Scotland's worst killers have struck up a bizarre jail friendship over games of chess. Kriss Donald murderer Zeeshan "Crazy" Shahid and Marmion pub assassin Jamie Bain are close pals in the segregation unit of Glenochil prison. The evil pair keep their fellow jailbirds awake at night by shouting chess moves to each other through the walls of their cells. Bain, 23, also became best buddies with Crazy's sadistic brother, Imran "Baldy" Shahid, in Edinburgh's Saughton jail last year. And after the baby-faced gunman was transferred to Glenochil, near Alloa, he quickly found he had alot in common with Crazy. A jail insider told the Record: "Bain and Crazy are very friendly indeed.When they aren't locked in their cells they spend all their time at their doors talking. "They both have chess boards and spend hours and hours playing. They try to outwit each other with never-ending games. "They even shout out moves to each other at night, and the other cons have to play music on their radios to block out the noise and get some sleep." Bain clearly is not choosy about the company he keeps. The Record told last March how he became close to Baldy Shahid in Saughton even though no other cons would talk to him. A source said: "Baldy has nobody so he's chummy with Bain." Bain and Baldy whiled away their time trying to outdo each other with tales of the crimes they had committed. The source said: "The two of them have bodies piled up everywhere, the amount of folk they're supposed to have killed." Baldy, 30, and Crazy, 29, were caged in 2006 for the horrific racist murder of 15-year-old Kriss Donald in Glasgow. A gang led by Baldy snatched the nine-stone schoolboy off the street in Glasgow simply because he was white. As the thugs bundled Kriss into their car, he screamed: "I'm only 15! I'm only 15! What did I do?" The gang drove Kriss around Scotland for four hours before stabbing him 13 times and setting him on fire while he was still alive. Baldy, Crazy and a third gang member, Mohammed "Becks" Mushtaq,28, fled to Pakistan after the murder and spent more than a year on the run. Pakistani police tracked them down and they were flown back to Scotland, where they were convicted of racially aggravated murder. Judge Lord Uist told them they had carried out "a pre-meditated, cold-blooded execution" and had shown no remorse. Baldy was caged for 25 years, Crazy got 23 years and Becks was told he will serve at least 22 years. Cold-blooded Bain walked into the Marmion bar in Edinburgh with a sawn-off shotgun in 2006 and blasted former boxing champ Alex McKinnon to death. Bain also shot Alex's brother-inlaw James Hendry, who survived because his body fat stopped the shotgun pellets. The attack came after a yearlong feud between Bain and the family of his girlfriend Dionne Hendry, who is James's sister. Bain, a small-time crook in the Gracemount area of the capital, had beaten up Dionne and feared he would be attacked in revenge. He was high on cocaine at the time of the shootings and hid his face behind a horror moviestyle hockey mask. Alex, a former Scottish bantamweight champ, left a wife and a young daughter. Dionne, the mother of Bain's two children, stood by him after the shootings. Bain was sentenced to a minimum of 22 years but has been given leave to appeal. His accomplices, Richard Cosgrove, 21, and Ben Young, 19, got 20 and 19 years respectively. The Scottish Prison Service refused to discuss Bain's friendships, saying: "We do not comment on individual prisoners."

Did a Tsunami Wipe Out Minoan Civilization?

Discover Magazine 01.04.2008 Did a Tsunami Wipe Out a Cradle of Western Civilization? Like the Indian Ocean disaster, this wave was a mass killer. by Evan Hadingham The effects of the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004 are only too well known: It knocked the hell out of Aceh Province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, leveling buildings, scattering palm trees, and wiping out entire villages. It killed more than 160,000 people in Aceh alone and displaced millions more. Similar scenes of destruction were repeated along the coasts of Southeast Asia, India, and as far west as Africa. The magnitude of the disaster shocked the world. What the world did not know was that the 2004 tsunami—seemingly so unprecedented in scale—would yield specific clues to one of the great mysteries of archaeology: What or who brought down the Minoans, the remarkable Bronze Age civilization that played a central role in the development of Western culture? Europe’s first great culture sprang up on the island of Crete, in the Aegean Sea, and rose to prominence some 4,000 years ago, flourishing for at least five centuries. It was a civilization of sophisticated art and architecture, with vast trading routes that spread Minoan goods—and culture—to the neighboring Greek islands. But then, around 1500 B.C., the Minoan world went into a tailspin, and no one knows why. 1939, leading Greek archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos pinned the blame on a colossal volcanic eruption on the island of Thera, about 70 miles north of Crete, that occurred about 1600 B.C. The event hurled a plume of ash and rock 20 miles into the stratosphere, turning daylight into pitch darkness over much of the Mediterranean. The explosion was recently estimated to be 10 times as powerful as the 1883 eruption of Krakatau in Indonesia, which obliterated 300 towns and villages and killed at least 36,000 people. So extreme was the Thera eruption that many writers linked it to Plato’s legend of Atlantis, the magnificent island city swallowed up by the sea. Marinatos’s theory was bolstered in 1967 when he dug up the ruins of Akrotiri, a prosperous Minoan town on Thera that had been buried in volcanic ash. Akrotiri became famous as a Bronze Age Pompeii because the ash preserved two-story dwellings, exquisite frescoes, and winding streets almost intact. On further examination, though, the ruins did not confirm the theory. It turned out that the pottery on Akrotiri was not from the final phase of Minoan culture; in fact, many Minoan settlements on Crete continued to exist for at least a generation or two after the Thera cataclysm. Archaeologists concluded that the Minoans had not only survived but thrived after the eruption, expanding their culture until they were hit by some other, unknown disaster—perhaps some combination of fire, earthquake, or foreign invader. Thera’s impact, it seemed, had been overestimated. But startling new evidence is forcing archaeologists to rethink the full fury of the Thera explosion, the natural disaster it may have triggered, and the nature of the final blow to the once-great Minoan civilization. Each summer, thousands of tourists encounter the Minoans at the spectacularly restored ruins of Knossos, an 11-acre complex four miles south of Crete’s capital, Heraklion. Late-19th-century excavations by Sir Arthur Evans revealed Knossos to be a vast, intricately engineered, multistory building, complete with flushing toilets, statuettes of bare-breasted priestesses, and frescoes of athletes vaulting over bulls. In 1900, Evans discovered an impressive stone throne, from which he believed the legendary King Minos and his descendants had presided over Bronze Age Crete. In the 1980s, however, a new generation of archaeologists, including Joseph Alexander “Sandy” MacGillivray, a Montreal-born scholar at the British School at Athens, began questioning many of Evans’s assumptions. Smaller-scale versions of Knossos have turned up at nearly every Minoan settlement across Crete, and scholars now suspect there was no single king but rather many independent polities. MacGillivray also became interested in how the civilization ended. At Palaikastro, in the island’s far northeastern corner, MacGillivray and his colleague Hugh Sackett have excavated seven blocks of a Minoan town of perhaps 5,000 inhabitants, their plastered and painted houses arranged in a network of tidy paved and drained streets. One striking find was the foundations of a fine mansion, paved with fancy purple schist and white limestone and designed around an airy central courtyard “of Knossian pretensions,” as MacGillivray puts it. “But after the house was destroyed by an earthquake, it was abandoned and never rebuilt, and that preserved some things we had a hard time explaining.” The house was dusted with a powdery gray ash, so irritating that the diggers had to wear face masks. Chemical analysis showed that the ash was volcanic fallout from the Thera eruption, but instead of resting in neat layers, the ash had washed into peculiar places: a broken, upside-down pot; the courtyard’s drain; and one long, continuous film in the main street outside. It was as if a flash flood had hosed most of the ash away, leaving these remnants behind. Some powerful force had also flipped over several of the house’s paving slabs and dumped fine gravel over the walls—but this part of the site lies a quarter of a mile from the sea and far from any stream or river. That wasn’t the only oddity. Another building “looked like it had been flattened, the whole frontage facing the sea had been torn off, and it made no sense. And we asked ourselves, could a wave have done this?” MacGillivray says. Rest of article.

Television Documentary Leads to Massive Looting

From Destroying the Dragon Kilns A television documentary and better transportation have brought illegal treasure hunters to Minqing County with devastating results for the region's ancient kilns. By JING XIAOLEI In Yiyou Village, Minqing County in south China's Fujian Province ancient ceramic bowls, kettles and cups litter the ground. The ancient treasures are relics from the Song and Yuan dynasties and date back almost a thousand years. Villagers had lived in peace with the relics beneath their feet for many years, although the proliferation of them left a lack of land to grow crops on. That peaceful coexistence ended one day with the arrival of a film crew from China Central Television (CCTV), making a travel program. The program alerted people across China to the village's hidden treasure, and soon illegal treasure hunters began to descend. These plundering diggers targeted areas where trees did not grow or where plants were sparse with their picks and hoes. They took away intact ceramics and threw broken scraps away, said villager Lin Side. "The ancient kilns in Minqing became much more famous after the television program was broadcast. Many came to visit them, but there were also some who came with a bad purpose," said Lin Hua, a member of the villagers' committee. "Such cases had happened occasionally in the past, but now the illegal excavation was organized and sometimes they even brought professional detection and excavation tools." Critical situation Ascending the hills around the village, many holes can be seen by the side of the path surrounded by ceramic scraps. There was once a kiln here as big as 200 square meters, and the area is covered with ceramic scraps. "This used to be well preserved but now it is ravaged," Lin noted. In 2004, a valuable old kiln that experts consider rare in the country was discovered in Yiyou Village. Now the kiln lies partially damaged and could collapse completely if nothing is done to protect it. Aside from illegal digging, the unlawful purchase of ancient porcelain has added to the damage to the kilns. The main income source of local villagers comes from growing oranges, which do not sell well. The value of porcelain makes its collection and sale attractive, even though it is illegal. Locals often sell porcelain finds to passing tourists with the price ranging from dozens to thousands of yuan. One local young villager said that many households in his village sold porcelain. But according to a local official Lin Xian, most of the buyers are non-natives who come from northeast China. Quite unique Minqing County has long enjoyed the reputation of being a rich land for porcelain production. In 1985, Chinese pottery and ceramics expert Feng Xianming traveled to Minqing County to identify kilns dating back to the Song and Yuan dynasties. In Dongqiao town alone, there are more than 20 hills where some 100 kilns can be found. "It was not rare to see such large-scale kiln sites back in the Song and Yuan dynasties," said Lin Yuexian, the curator of the museum in Minqing. Minqing was one of the most important places for the production of blue-and-white porcelain in ancient China, added Lin. The kiln stoves in Minqing were quite unique as they were lined up along the hillside and took the shape of a dragon, which gave the area's kilns the name of dragon kiln. In 2004, a 140-meter-long dragon kiln was found in Yiyou Village. Experts say that the ceramics of Minqing were mostly sold to Japan and Southeast Asia. In 1991, the Fujian Provincial Government listed the kilns in Minqing as a province-level cultural relic site. Nevertheless the old kiln site was not kept in good condition. The museum in Minqing had only two people to take care of all the cultural relic protection work in the county with an annual budget of merely 20,000 yuan ($2,750), according to museum curator Feng Xianming. On the one hand, the kiln relics cover a vast area and are exposed to the open air, so it takes much work to protect them; on the other hand, there is scant awareness of cultural heritage preservation among the villagers. In the past the kilns were kept in good condition because of poor transportation to the region. Nowadays, as more roads have been built, the kilns face a growing threat. "It's a critical situation for us that there's a heating trend for relic collection. Illegal excavation, and the trade between villagers and relic dealers have brought the situation to a critical level," noted Lin. For the present the county has already formed patrol teams to guard the kiln relics, and awareness of cultural heritage protection has been boosted in the area through education. The general environment for the protection of cultural relics in China has been improving in recent years. China has already participated in four international treaties for the preservation of cultural relics. The Law on Cultural Relics Protection was revised in October 2002 to institute regulations on the transfer and exchange of cultural relics for the first time. But according to Gan Mantang, a sociologist from Fujian University, the Minqing case is a miniature of the situation of the nation's cultural relic protection in rural areas. A comprehensive system is needed to shelter these non-renewable cultural treasures, said Gan. The government should increase investment and manpower to preserve relics and punish those who cause damage to them. People should raise their level of heritage protection awareness as well. Experts should also develop a complete and sound protection plan, he added. (Beijing Review January 7, 2008)

Vandals with an Agenda

Payvand's Iran News ... 01/06/08 Vandals smash column bases of Susa Apadana Palace TEHRAN, Jan. 6 (Mehr News Agency) -- Column bases of the Apadana Palace of ancient Susa in Khuzestan Province have recently been demolished by vandals. The palace's remaining column bases have been broken into two pieces and inscriptions on the artifacts have been obliterated, the Khuzestan Cultural Heritage Lovers Society (Tariana) spokesman Mojtaba Gahestuni told the Persian service of CHN on Sunday. The stone inscriptions have been severed and scattered around the ancient archaeological site, he added. "The reason for the destruction of the artifacts is not clear," Gahestuni remarked, adding, "The incident probably results from the vandals' ignorance of the historical significance of the relics." He went on to say that many problems are caused by the lack of appropriate fencing around the site which covers about 360 hectares. "The Khuzestan Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Department undertook the installation of rods around the zone, but the measure was inadequate and has not prevented unauthorized people from entering the precinct," Gahestuni explained. According to Gahestuni, the use of concrete and iron rods for demarcation purposes has even led to some damage to the area. The Apadana Palace is also being threatened by the construction of a preparatory school on its perimeter. In early December, Tariana sent letters to President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, asking him put a stop to the project. The school building, which is to be four stories tall, will spoil the horizontal view from the palace ruins. In addition, the historical metropolis of Susa, which has been inhabited for over 7000 years, is being spoilt by Shush Municipality's construction of a passenger bus terminal in the city's southern section. Experts have previously given warning of the chaotic situation at the site, pointing out that such disorder has facilitated the illegal activities of smugglers who have managed to carry out excavations in search of valuable artifacts. ... Payvand News - 01/06/08 ... ********************************************************************************* While the fellow who gave the interview couldn't come right out and say so, we all know what the agenda is of the radical Islamists in power - to destroy as much of the ancient culture of pre-Islamic Persia and the evidence for it as possible - to wipe it out of the memories of the next generation of young Iranians.

Hoard of Roman Coins Found in Bath

From this is uk 4.53: RARE ROMAN COINS FOUND 16:53 - 07 January 2008 A rare hoard of Roman coins has been found in Bath at the site of a new city centre hotel. Around 150 coins have so far been unearthed in the run-up to work on the new Gainsborough Hotel and Thermal Spa. But the Lower Borough Walls site is expected to yield more than 1,000 coins once the whole haul has been examined. The find has been greeted with excitement by archaeologists because some of the coins are thought to date from the middle of the third century, one of the most poorly represented periods for coins in Britain. The coins were discovered by Cotswold Archaeology while excavating the area around the site of the main pool of the new spa hotel, which is being created by Bath-based businessman Trevor Osborne. Richard Sermon, head of archaeology for Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: "The coins give us a great insight into the Roman monetary system, and provide a glimpse of life in third century Bath, a time of political and economic crisis throughout the Roman Empire. "The hoard reveals that the citizens of Aquae Sulis (the Roman name for Bath) were no different from people today - hiding their money under the mattress or floor boards."Under the Treasure Act the find has been reported to the Avon coroner - who will decide on its ownership. The copper and silver coins are described as being in mixed condition, with some stuck together as a result of corrosion. But two of the best preserved coins have been provisionally identified as Antoniniani, used during the earlier and middle years of the third century AD. One appears to be an issue of the emperor Phillip I, and was deposited against the inside face of a masonry wall in what is believed to be a small, oval pit, dug through the floor of a Roman building. The coins would originally have been stored in leather or cloth bags. Andrew Ryan, director of Bath Hotel and Spa Ltd, developers of the new hotel said: "We are delighted that such an important find has been made after extensive archaeological investigations on the site of the new Gainsborough Hotel. We hope that the discovery of the coins will further enhance knowledge of the history of Bath."


Our January thaw as struck with a vengence!

The temperature got up to 63 degrees today and with the rain that came along, what was left of the snow cover after this warm weekend has almost disappeared.

While I was at the office today, blissfully unaware of the fierce storms outside, at least one tornado hit in Kenosha County this afternoon and high winds and strong thunderstorms rolled through the area. The weather folks are calling this a once in 100 years event (except we had one in January in 1967). Right now things have calmed down, although the walk home from the bus tonight was a bit spooky. When I got off the bus it wasn't raining; I stopped at the supermarket; loaded down with two bags of groceries, of course it started raining when I was half-way across the large parking lot headed toward the street corner. Then it stopped. Then it started. Then it stopped again. Then it poured for about 1 second. Then it stopped. And so on and so on all the way home (9 blocks plus a bit once I hit the corner). Looking up, I could see areas of clear sky, and flashes of lightning, in between bursts of rain. A few minutes ago, it was pouring outside, now it has subsided again.

There were no tornadoes around here and I saw no evidence of wind damage on the walk home tonight, but Kenosha County and other counties to the west got hammered. The main worry here is flooding - and the fog. Yesterday there were two fatalities in the Madison area in two separate pile-ups on the highway "caused" by thick fog. Even as I was walking home I could see the ground fog rising due to the temperature differential.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Kumari

From The Times of India JUGULAR VEIN Divine rites 6 Jan 2008, 0000 hrs IST,Jug Suraiya Modi’s victory and Benazir’s assassination obscured perhaps an even more historic event in the neighbourhood: the ending of Nepal’s 250-year-old Shah dynasty. The constitutional change turning the mountain kingdom into a republic has been made and now only requires ratification by the new parliament. Few will shed tears for Gyanendra, who ascended the throne in dubious circumstances after the 2001 royal massacre and whose criminally inept handling of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal pushed the country to the brink of chaos. Gyanendra’s unpopularity was compounded by that of his loutish son, crown prince Paras, whose idea of an evening’s entertainment was to beat up innocent citizens with the help of his goons. The constitutional boot to royalty came just a couple of days before Paras’s 36th birthday, an apt nativity present. Serves the yob right. Well-wishers of Nepal can now only hope that that long-embattled, desperately poor country will finally get the democracy it deserves. As both a staunch republican and a long-time friend of Nepal, I had ambivalent feelings about the monarchy even before the egregious Gyanendra came to the throne. Did kings - even constitutional kings like Gyanendra’s murdered predecessor, Birendra - really have a place in the 21st century? But Nepal’s monarchy had a divine dimension beyond the day-to-day devices of democracy: the Hindu kingdom’s ruler was traditionally venerated as the ‘living Vishnu’, preserver of the country and its people. During Dussehra, long lines of devotees, many from the remote reaches of the land, would form outside the Narayanhity Royal Palace in Kathmandu to receive the tika from their god-king. I’d seen the worship in their eyes, glowing with the unwavering flame of faith. Faced with such belief, my republicanism felt like an interloper, a gatecrasher at a devout gathering. The news of the palace killings came as a bolt from the black, literally. It was 2 a.m. when the phone call from Dubby, my friend in Kathmandu, woke me. Could I somehow get the news into the following morning’s papers? Impossible. Well, at least you’re the first journalist in India to know what’s happened, said Dubby, a bitter knowledge that brought no solace. That night was the beginning of the slippery slope that would eventually lead to the downfall of the monarchy. I do not know how, if at all, the toppling of Nepal’s throne will affect another divine tradition of that country: the institution of the Kumari, the living goddess who complemented the god-king, on whom she would bestow her blessings once every year, ensuring his rule for another 12 months. Actually there’s not one, but three living goddesses; one in Kathmandu, and one each in Bhaktapur and Patan. But for all touristy purposes the Kathmandu Kumari represents the sacred sorority. The Kumaris - selected from the caste of silversmiths after having passed a series of spiritual tests (including the terrifying one of spending a night alone in a dark room with the severed head of a buffalo) - are anointed in early childhood and demit their divine office at the first sign of puberty. Earlier, it was believed that whoever married a former Kumari would die before the year was out, a cruel superstition which forced many ex-goddesses into prostitution. Thankfully, that taboo has been exorcised, and Kumaris can now safely make the transition to everyday housewives. But the Kumari remains a poignant parable of goddess, interrupted. I remember years ago going to see the then Kumari in Kathmandu. The living goddess, draped in gilded robes, sat on her throne, her heavily made-up face an ageless and inscrutable mask. In the dim light I saw that in one, tiny hand was a small, plastic toy helicopter, symbol of a lost childhood. With the monarch gone, will the living goddess be even more isolate in her sacrificial divinity? *********************************************************************************** It was believed that whoever married a former Kumari would die before the year was out... This belief seems to be right in line with ancient myths in the West about the "king" being sacrificed after six months or a year's blissful marriage to the sacred priestess. In some legends, the king would be torn to bits by frenzied female acolytes in a sacred grove, his heart pulled out and offered up for sacrifice on a sacred stone (altar) in the middle of the grove. In the Celtic tradition, I recall reading that in some instances the deceased "king's" head was preserved (I do not know in what manner) and used as an oracle by local elders - giving new meaning to Shakespeare's hommage in Hamlet "Alas, poor Yorick..."

A Scholastic Chess War in India?

Sunday, January 06, 2008 11:16:51 AM (IST) Mangalore: Chess Prodigy Denied Entry into National Chess Festival Daijiworld Media network – Mangalore (KD/NR) [I made some spelling corrections] Mangalore, Jan 6: Shabdik Verma of SDM school Ujire, a child chess prodigy has been denied entry once again to participate in the Asian School Chess festival by the All India Chess Federation (AICF). Shabdik studying in 4th standard at SDM school in Ujire, was fully prepared to go to Sri Lanka to take part in the chess competition for the Under-9 category. His father Rathna Verma Bunnu had made all the necessary arrangements to send his son to the competition. Bunnu had even purchased foreign currency worth Rs 1 lac for the forthcoming journey, as per the AICF notice. It is understood that he had even purchased a DD on November 29 and transferred it to AICF with the certification of South Canara Chess Association (SCCA). Therefore it came as a great shock to Shabdik and his family, as well as all his well-wishers when he was denied the opportunity to participate in the AICF. It is also said that he was practicing around 15 hours every day and was fully prepared to take part in the competition. According to the information given by organizers Shabdik was not selected for participation in the Sri Lankan tournament, as he had not played at the national-level chess festival in 2006. All said and done, depriving a talented youngster this opportunity to participate in the National-level chess festival 2007 is indeed a sad state of affairs. Many opine that the federation is not doing this for the first time. It has also done injustice to this child prodigy last year. Shabdik was to participate in the international tournament 2007 in Iran, even then he was denied an opportunity to participate. His father Bunnu being an advocate, has now by himself decided to raise his voice against the injustice done to his son and hence filed an appeal before the high court on the matter.

Blast From the Past: The Saga of the Persian Princess

A long, bone-chilling horror story.

From the archives of Archaeology Magazine online

Special Report: Saga of the Persian Princess
Volume 54
Number 1, January/February 2001
by Kristin M. Romey and Mark Rose

In a dangerous corner of the world, uneasy neighbors clamor for the gilded remains of a mummified noblewoman. Trouble is, she's a fraud.

The bizarre tale of a mummy adorned with a cuneiform-inscribed gold plaque identifying it as a 2,600-year-old Persian princess, perhaps, according to one translation, a daughter of the king Xerxes, began trickling out of Pakistan this past October. Found during a murder investigation, the mummy, an amalgam of Egyptian and Persian elements, had evidently been for sale on the black market for a cool $11 million. While archaeologists in Karachi tried to make sense of the mummy, a dispute between Iran and Pakistan broke out over its ownership. Afghanistan's Taliban regime hinted that they, too, might claim it. Then, one November day, thousands of miles from where the mummy lay in Pakistan's National Museum under the watchful eye of armed guards, ARCHAEOLOGY was shown documents identifying the Persian princess as a fraud.

According to newspaper reports, Pakistani authorities learned of the mummy in mid-October, when they received a tip that Karachi resident Ali Akbar had a video tape showing a mummy he was selling. After interrogation, Akbar led police to the remains, which were being kept in the house of tribal leader Wali Mohammad Reeki in Quetta, capital of Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan Province, which borders Iran and Afghanistan. Reeki told police he had received the mummy from Sharif Shah Bakhi, an Iranian who allegedly found it after an earthquake in a nearby town. Reeki and Bakhi had agreed to sell the mummy and split the profits; Akbar's role is less clear. Reeki said an unidentified representative of an anonymous foreign buyer had offered 60 million rupees ($1.1 million) for the mummy, well below the 600 million rupee ($11 million) asking price. Reeki and Akbar were charged with violating Pakistan's Antiquity Act, which carries a ten-year maximum sentence; Bakhi remains at large.

The mummy was brought to the National Museum in Karachi as news of it spread quickly through the local and international press. In an October 26 press conference, clips of which appeared on NBC's evening news, archaeologist Ahmed Hasan Dani of Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad announced that the mummy, wrapped in Egyptian style and resting in a wooden coffin carved with cuneiform writing and images of the Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda, was that of a princess dated to ca. 600 B.C.

Museum officials shared results of a preliminary examination of the mummy and its inscriptions with a hungry press: her remains lay atop a mat coated with a mixture of wax and honey and were covered by a stone slab with additional cuneiform inscriptions; her name was Khor-ul-Gayan or Tundal Gayan; and she may have been the daughter of Karoosh-ul-Kabir, first ruler of Persia's Khamam-ul-Nishiyan Dynasty. Alternatively, Dani said, the mummy could be of an Egyptian princess, married to a Persian prince during the reign of Cyrus I (640-590 B.C.), whose body had been preserved following the custom of her own country. Various theories circulated about how it came to Quetta. National Museum curator Asma Ibrahim suggested it may have been looted from a tomb in the Hamadan region of western Iran or the southwestern Pakistani area of Kharan.

Shortly after the press conference, the Iranian Cultural Heritage Organization, claiming the mummy was of a member of the Persian royal family, said it would take legal action through UNESCO for its return. Salim-ul-Haq, director of Pakistan's Archaeological Department's Headquarters, retorted that the mummy was found in Kharan in Balochistan Province, "which is one hundred percent Pakistani territory. The mummy is property of Pakistan." At that point, Iran said it was cooperating with Interpol for the mummy's return. Pakistan's foreign minister warned against politicizing the issue, while the Taliban, the rulers of most of Afghanistan, demanded that their archaeologists play a role in deciding its ownership.

There were divisions even within Pakistan. A petition filed with the Balochistan High Court asked for the return of the princess to Quetta, claiming the police raid in which it was seized had been illegal and that the action had "spread panic among the people of Balochistan, who felt deprived of their cultural, historic, and valuable heritage." The Awan tribe of Balochistan, saying the inscriptions proved the princess belonged to the Awan royal family of Hika Munshi, asked that the mummy be moved immediately to the local Kallar Kahar Fossils Museum.

While the conflict continued, there were subtle signs the Pakistanis were not sure exactly what they were keeping under guard in their National Museum. The local press reported that insurance companies were reluctant to cover the mummy until its legitimacy was proven. Dani insisted it was of Egyptian origin, pointing out that mummification was not practiced in Iran or Iraq, and conceded that the cuneiform inscriptions may have been added by smugglers after the body was taken out of Egypt.

Possibly in response to Dani's assertions, Iran fired back, claiming that an Italian archaeologist had translated the inscription, presumably through examining photographs, and confirmed that the mummy was of a member of the ancient Persian royal family.

Two weeks after the discovery first hit the press, Oscar White Muscarella of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and author of The Lie Became Great: The Forgery of Ancient Near Eastern Cultures (see "Scourge of the Forgery Culture," this issue), visited ARCHAEOLOGY's offices, where we asked for his thoughts on the Persian princess. While unaware of the recent find, Muscarella volunteered that its description sounded remarkably similar to photographs of a gold-adorned mummy sent to him last March by a New Jersey resident on behalf of an unidentified dealer in Pakistan--in fact, they were the same.

Muscarella had received four photographs of a mummy in a wooden coffin, replete with golden crown, mask, and inscribed breastplate. An accompanying letter stated that the mummy was owned by a Pakistani acquaintance and was brought by Zoroastrian families many years ago from Iran to Pakistan. The author claimed that the mummy was the daughter of the Persian king Xerxes, referring to an attached one-page translation of the cuneiform inscription on the breastplate. The owners, he wrote, had a video of the mummy--most likely the same video found with Ali Akbar in Karachi--that could be sent to New York if the museum was interested in purchasing the princess.

Muscarella, who suspected immediately that the mummy was a fraud, contacted the translator of the inscription, a cuneiform expert at a major American university, and found out that the dealer's New Jersey representative had not given him the complete analysis of it. The inscription does indeed contain the line "I am the daughter of the great king Xerxes," as well as a sizeable chunk lifted straight from a famous inscription of the king Darius (522-486 B.C.) at Behistun in western Iran. The Behistun inscription, which records the king's accomplishments, dates to 520-519 B.C., substantially later than the 600 B.C. date proposed for the mummy. The second page of analysis listed several problems with the mummy's inscription that led the scholar to believe that its author wrote in a manner inconsistent with Old Persian. The inscription, he concluded, was likely a modern falsification, probably dating "from no earlier than the 1930s."

Convinced that the scholar's twentieth-century date was incorrect, the dealer's representative apparently sent a small piece of the wooden coffin to a carbon-dating lab. The results indicated it was approximately 250 years old "which cannot be called modern," complained the representative in a follow-up letter to the cuneiform expert.

Muscarella politely broke off communications with the man. Seven months later, police raided the house in Quetta and the Persian princess surfaced again--this time under the glare of the international press.

ARCHAEOLOGY has submitted Muscarella's documentation to federal authorities, who have forwarded the matter to Interpol. Hopefully, by the time this article goes to press, the dispute between uneasy neighbors in a dangerous corner of the world will be resolved. While the Persian princess may be a fraud, perhaps a genuine Egyptian mummy with forged Persian additions, she is a reminder of the powerful emotions that can be sparked by unprecedented, or unbelievable, archaeological discoveries.

Kristin M. Romey is assistant managing editor and Mark Rose is managing editor of ARCHAEOLOGY.

Blast From the Past: The Saga of the Persian Princess

UPDATES The plot thickens. Since our January/February issue went to press, there have been additional developments in the case of the princess mummy. Kristin Romey follows the trail. November 26, 2000: Taliban's Information and Culture minister Qudratullah Jamal announces that smugglers have confessed to finding the mummy in the southwestern Afghan province of Nimroz, on the Iranian border, before taking it to Pakistan. Citing the "good evidence" provided by the unidentified smugglers, Jamal insists at a press conference that "this property of Afghanistan should be returned to its people." Italian archaeobotanist Lorenzo Costantini angrily denies telling Iran's official news agency IRNA that he believed the mummy belonged to an ancient Persian royal family. "I never gave an interview to any Iranian journalist...I shortly talked on the telephone with an Iranian woman of the IRNA office at Rome," Costantini told Internews. "During the talk, I told her that the name of Xerxes was mentioned in the [coffins'] inscriptions...she asked, 'Who's he?' This small comment reveals the degree of knowledge of the person I was speaking to," he said. Preliminary results from a CT scan performed on the mummy at Karachi's Aga Khan Hospital indicate that the mummy is of a 20- to 21-year-old woman. Her death may have resulted from a broken spine. Radiocarbon dating of the mummy and her coffin is expected to be complete by the third week in December. November 28, 2000: Pakistani customs officials seized a cache of 12th- through 16th-century Balochi jewelry, valued at over $10 million, on a bus outside of Quetta. Smugglers were allegedly bringing the jewelry, from Quetta to Karachi for shipment abroad. November 30, 2000: Advocate Khalid Ahmed of the Balochistan High Court slams Karachi police for removing the mummy from the Baloch capital of Quetta, and blames the National Museum and an "Islamabad-based archaeologist" for their "thoughtless statements" that the mummy did not originate from within Pakistan's borders. Ahmed, a local social worker, insists that "any professional archaeologist" could prove that the mummy was excavated from the remains of an ancient settlement called Galuga in the Kharan district, approximately 400 miles southwest from Quetta. December 14, 2000: Pakistani English-language newspaper The Dawn features a small article titled "Museum keeps mum on mummy's fate": "After so many statements issued about the mummy...there is now a lull. Aga Khan Hospital sources confirmed that museum authorities have been given the CT scan report but the same has not been made public by the museum officials. This has created many doubts about the status and authenticity of the mummy." January 4, 2001: IRNA reports that an Iranian "expert delegation" has been dispatched to Pakistan to determine the origin of the mummy and states that if the delegation proves it is of "Iranian origin," its restitution will be negotiated via diplomatic channels. The report adds that "the mummy was already pronounced by a majority of archaeological experts as being of Iranian origin," quoting the nonexistent "interview" with hapless Italian paleobotanist Constantini once more. January 14, 2001: Citing the presence of of petrochemicals and detergents on the body, as well as pencil marks on the wooden coffin, a delegation from Iran's Cultural Heritage Organization (CHO) visiting Karachi declares the mummy a fake, according to IRNA. The delegation also notes that the inscription on the mummy's breastplate was authored by a person "not well familiar with ancient Iranian script and languages." A CHO analysis of the mummy's CT scan leads them to determine that the body belonged to a 21-year-old woman who was mummified no more than two years ago. Her organs were apparently removed and the cavities filled with powder. The report observes that "Despite efforts by Pakistani authorities to keep the room temperature constant to prevent the corpse from decomposing, it is nevertheless decaying fast." "Certainly, the finding is not a mummy," says Iranian archaeologist Mirabedin Kaboli, although he declared the corpse to be of "Iranian origin."And the Iranian government wants it back. "Since the beginning, Iran reserved the legal right to own the 'fake' or 'genuine' mummy and take it back through legal means in case sufficient evidence were obtained," says CHO legal expert Younes Samadi. IRNA claims that Pakistani archaeologist Ahmad Hasan Dani confirms the CHO's position. "I am satisfied with the findings of the Iranian team and support its views about the originality of the mummy," he allegedly states. The news agency also took the time to berate the hapless Constantini for his false conclusions. A Times of India article, however, reports that Pakistani authorities will wait for the results of unspecified tests being performed by German experts before they accept the CHO's conclusion, according to Saleem-ul-Haq, director of Pakistan's archaeology department. "I have also read in the newspapers that the mummy is a fake, but we have our own methods and we have to be sure about it," he said. Results were expected by the end of January, according to the article. April 17, 2001: Pakistan's National Museum curator Asma Ibrahim has issued an 11-page report declaring the mummy a fraud, and possibly a murder victim. Stay tuned for an update in the pages of ARCHAEOLOGY Magazine which will coincide with the premiere of a BBC documentary on this fantastic story. © 2001 by the Archaeological Institute of America

Blast From the Past: The Saga of the Persian Princess

Multimedia: Botching a Good Story Volume 55 Number 1, January/February 2002 by Kristin M. Romey In late October 2000, a mummy adorned with a gold crown and cuneiform plaque identifying it as the daughter of Persian king Xerxes (r. 486-465 B.C.) was found in a house in the western Pakistani border city of Quetta. The international press marveled at the idea of a 2,600-year-old mummified Persian princess, and Iran and even the Taliban stepped in to claim it as theirs. This magazine was the first to reveal that the princess was a modern fake ("Saga of the Persian Princess," January/February 2001). But this is not the story you'll get from The Mystery of the Persian Mummy, a British production from TV6 and the BBC expected to air on the Discovery Channel in late spring. Rather, the producers chose to tell the story of one scientist's quest to discover whether the unparalleled find--the first example of a mummified Persian royal--was an unparalleled fraud. Asma Ibrahim is the energetic curator of the National Museum in Karachi, where the mummy was stored and examined. She teaches herself cuneiform to read the mummy's inscriptions, oversees its CT scan, and assists in its autopsy. What Ibrahim fails to do, however, is answer the critical question: why would a Persian royal, a follower of Zoroastrianism, be mummified according to Egyptian ritual practice. The only evidence even remotely suggesting that Persians mummified their dead is from the fifth century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus, who wrote that Persians "embalmed" their dead in wax. Ibrahim cites a passage where Herodotus visits the Persian royal tombs and describes the sarcophagus of Cyrus the Great; but the account is second-hand and was actually written about 700 years later. A glaring omission in Persian Mummy is the international spat over ownership of the remains, a development that undoubtedly put considerable pressure on a cash-poor museum that was placing its hopes on what promised to be the region's archaeological find of the century. Outside of Ibrahim's office, tensions between Iran and Pakistan--uneasy neighbors to begin with--were rising sharply, with the Iranians, convinced that the mummy was stolen from their country, threatening to bring Interpol and UNESCO into the quarrel. The Taliban threw in their two cents, even claiming they had caught and punished the smugglers who had whisked her out of Afghanistan. Pressure would only increase a month later, in December, with the announcement in ARCHAEOLOGY, picked up by Pakistani newspapers, that the mummy was a modern fake. In the story presented by Persian Mummy, none of this happens; Ibrahim works in a vacuum. Where Persian Mummy excels is in conveying the creepiness of the whole situation. The 2,600-year-old princess turns out to be a middle-aged woman with dyed blonde hair who died of a broken neck in 1996. She was either murdered or her grave robbed promptly following her burial. Mummy expert Bob Brier graphically describes how her organs were improperly removed before her body was packed with baking soda and salt. At the end of the film, over shots of burqa-clad women hustling through dusty alleys with eerie music playing in the background, the narrator adds that two more "Persian mummies" have been offered for sale, and raises the specter of a "mummy factory" in "this wild border land." The bizarre tale of the "Persian Princess" is so much more than a single scientist ordering up CT scans and teaching herself cuneiform, and The Mystery of the Persian Mummy leaves this story--flabbergasting and fascinating on so many fronts--untold. © 2002 by the Archaeological Institute of America

Blast From the Past: The Saga of the Persian Princess

From BBC Online, a summary of a BBC television show about the Persian Princess mummy first shown on September 20, 2001:

As scientists investigated more closely, it became clear that this mummy had an even darker history. Computerised tomography (CT) scans and X-ray photographs of the body inside the mummy revealed that this was no ancient corpse but a woman who had died in the recent past, and that her neck was broken. An autopsy confirmed that this woman may indeed have been murdered to provide a body for the fakers to mummify - a body they intended to pass off as an ancient mummy for millions of dollars on the international art black market. And, finally there is evidence to suggest that they have done this not once but three times, raising the spectre of a mummy factory and the terrifying thought of yet more victims.

More gruesome details.

From David Meadows, who hosts rogueclassicism at the Atrium:

Remember that supposed Persian Mummy from a few years ago which turned out to be a hoax? Ever wonder what happened to it? Reuters (via Yahoo) gives the details:

After years of lying in cold storage, the mummified body of a young woman once thought to be an ancient Persian princess will be buried later this month by a Pakistani welfare group.

Found in Pakistan's southwestern city of Quetta in 2000, the body was at the centre of an archaeological and diplomatic dispute for two years before scientists at Pakistan's Atomic Research Council pronounced it just 20 years old.

Iran swiftly withdrew claims on the mummy that some people believed had been stolen by grave robbers from burial grounds of the Sasani dynasty, which ruled ancient Persia between the Fourth and Eighth Centuries.

Touted as a major archaeological find until it was debunked, Pakistan's provincial governments of Baluchistan and Sindh had also squabbled over whose museum had first rights. But when nobody wanted it, the Karachi-based Edhi Foundation, Pakistan's largest private social welfare organisation took in the homeless corpse.

"It has been lying in our cold storage mortuary for the last three years," Rizwan Edhi, the trust's administrator, said on Friday, adding that preserving the body had cost $8,000. "We will bury it later this month as no one is willing to claim it now." Posted by david meadows on Sat, Aug 06, 2005 at 7:08 AM

And so the sad tale ended with the burial of the young woman. Someone out there must know who she was in life, even if they were not willing to claim her in death. Shame, shame on the culture that would condone this kind of treatment of its women.

A Concise View of Prehistory

Colin Renfrew (one of my heroes), has a new book: From the Where it all started Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 03/01/2008 Tom Fort reviews Prehistory: The Making of the Human Mind by Colin Renfrew It's rather touching when an immensely learned figure attempts to educate a dimwit, like picturing Mr Gladstone in a stiff collar reading an improving tale to a child seated on his august lap. Here, the dimwit is me, the immensely learned figure is the archaeologist Colin Renfrew - Professor Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn - and the subject for the lesson is prehistory, the story of our species up to the first written records. Renfrew sets himself a daunting dual challenge: to give the general reader an account of how the concept of prehistory emerged and established itself as a branch of scientific archaeology; and to explore the question of how - in his words - 'did we come to be where we are now?' And all this in just over 200 modest-sized pages. In the first part, Renfrew ranges at speed over the history of the early excavations and the theories of human development that resulted. The crucial modern breakthrough came with the technique of radiometric dating, enabling clear local chronologies to be established. These demolished some cherished assumptions, showing, for instance, that Stonehenge and other European megaliths were far older than the Egyptian pyramids. At the start of the second part, Renfrew confronts what he calls 'the sapient paradox' - the belief that the emergence of our species, H. sapiens, triggered an accelerating development towards the birth of the first civilisations. He shows how DNA analysis has established our common origin in Africa, and argues convincingly that subsequent developments were determined not genetically, since the shared genotype had already been fixed, but through a process of learning, or 'the transmission of culture'. Here I wrestled with the discipline of 'cognitive archaeology', the study of how people used to think, deduced from the material remains. For a very long period those remains amount to very little: the odd axe-head or bead or cave painting. It was not until the transition from the hunter-gatherer, wandering phase to the first permanent or semi-permanent settlements - known by archaeologists as 'sedentism' - that the evidence began to build up in any quantity. Renfrew describes how this change made possible new kinds of what he terms 'material engagement' in the form of houses, ovens, grinding stones, ornaments and so on. Living in a settlement promoted group activity; thus the construction of a burial site such as Stonehenge would have required an enormous pooling of labour, with the eventual effect of creating a bigger community. The idea of property evolved, and with it the stirrings of inequality - the haves and have-nots. Certain substances - gold, jade, lapis lazuli - came to be seen as having an intrinsic value, and individuals able to accumulate such wealth acquired enhanced status and became rulers. As societies grappled with the cosmos, rulers took charge of the business of seeking harmony with the cosmic forces and devised expressions of their power and distinction in the form of their burial sites. None of this, Renfrew emphasises, amounts to a global pattern. Different societies took different paths, responding independently to their circumstances. Some left little or no record; those that did received the attention, dictating a selective analysis. Renfrew acknowledges this, but he is surely right to assert that the effort to form even a partial picture is still worthwhile. By the end of the book - which deals with the advent of writing and hence the potential for storing knowledge - I was certainly feeling the strain. But I got there, which in my view represents a considerable triumph for Colin Renfrew. The breadth of his expertise spans the planet. His inferences and assumptions are majestic, as are his rare admissions of bafflement. Thanks to him, I have gained a glimmering of understanding of how long we've been going and how far we have come. What even Prof Renfrew cannot tell us is how far we still have to go.

Ancient Trade Routes

From The Times Online December 17, 2007 Mesopotamia was a vital link on Roman-Indian trade routes Norman Hammond Archaeology Correspondent More than 60 years ago Sir Mortimer Wheeler proved that Roman pottery had made it all the way from Italy to India: the characteristic bright red of Samian ware, bearing the stamp of the Vibieni of Arezzo, showed up in his trenches at the ancient port of Arikamedu, on the southeastern coast near Pondicherry. Numerous other finds across India have since strengthened the connection, including many wine jars or amphorae. '' A new study now suggests that many of these came from Mesopotamia, not the Mediterranean, and that the triangular trade between India, the Persian Gulf and the ports of Roman Egypt on the Red Sea was much more complex than hitherto thought. “Roman amphorae, together with Roman coinage, are the most important artefacts for documenting exchange between the Roman Empire and India,” Dr Roberta Tomber says in Antiquity. “Since many Roman amphorae are well-dated and well-provenanced, they represent an untapped resource for the understanding of Indian Ocean contact.” More than 10,000 Roman coins are known from southern India alone, and although there are growing numbers of amphorae reported, identification is more problematic, Tomber says. Her survey has confirmed the presence of such wine jars from 31 sites, but at about half these sites it was also discovered that amphora sherds thought to be Roman were actually Mesopotamian in origin. In ten cases there were only Mesopotamian sherds present. These were in the form of “torpedo jars”, tall cylindrical peg-footed amphorae, common in Mesopotamia and the Gulf but not hitherto noted in India. Fragments of the rims and bodies could be mistaken for Roman wares made in Syria and Anatolia, as indeed they have been, and their dates span the Roman period from around the time of Christ onwards, although they also continue into early Islamic times in the seventh century. Torpedo jars are lined with bitumen to keep their liquid contents from evaporating, and may have been the dequre of Sasanian texts: if so, this suggests a wine-drinking clientele in contemporary India. They are found mainly between Karachi and Bombay in areas under Sasanian influence, and inland towards Delhi, and seem to have been imported into India throughout their period of manufacture in Mesopotamia. Some got as far as Sri Lanka and the east coast near Chennai (Madras), and others were found at ports on the coasts of Yemen and Somalia. Roman amphorae are found in a similar pattern, though rarely on the same sites: it would be interesting to know if they travelled in the same ships, Tomber notes. The port of Qana, on the coast of Yemen and an important point in the frankincense trade, may have been an entrepôt for both Roman and Mesopotamian goods arriving from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf respectively. It has not yielded the full range of Late Roman amphorae found in India, however, and other places may have played an equal role. The overall distribution of Roman amphorae and torpedo jars suggests three seaborne routes to India, Dr Tomber proposes. One ran direct from the Gulf, one direct from ports such as Berenike on the Red Sea coast of Egypt, and one via Qana. Western India was influenced by wave upon wave of invaders, from the Greeks to the Parthians, Scythians, Kushanas and Sasanians, and was at a nexus of trade routes. The recognition of Mesopotamian jars for finds formerly thought to be Roman has made the picture both clearer and more complicated. Antiquity 81: 972-988

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Mystery of Holy Grail Solved? NOT!

From the Evening Times online

I’ve cracked mystery of the Holy Grail
by Wendy Miller
Publication date 26/12/07

A GLASGOW historian believes he may have solved the world's most ancient mystery - and found the Holy Grail.

Mark Oxbrow is preparing to export his amazing discovery to the US leaving fans of book and movie blockbuster the Da Vinci Code with a new theory to consider.

During a trip to Paris, Mark, 36, from the West End, stumbled across what he believes is the real Holy Grail - and it's not a bloodline between Jesus and Mary Magdalene as claimed in the book and film.

While exploring medieval treasures in the Louvre, Mark found a green gem-encrusted serving dish which he thinks could have been used at the Last Supper.

Amazingly the French national treasure dates back to the time of Christ, matching descriptions of the Grail.

Mark's discovery is documented in a new book which has already sold thousands of copies - and is due to hit US and French bookstores in the New Year.

Mark's curiosity was aroused when he and wife Jill spotted the Patene de Serpentine tucked away in the medieval section of the Louvre Museum.

Back home Mark, a former Glasgow University lecturer, started to research the dish's origins, a trail that lead him closer and closer to the Holy Grail, the mystery which has confounded historians for centuries.

For hundreds of years now scholars and theologians have been unable to agree, even on the meaning of the Grail.

It used to be thought of as either the cup used to catch Christ's blood during his crucifixion or a dish used at the Last Supper.

Another theory is that the Grail is merely a Christian symbol while the Da Vinci Code controversially depicts it as the bloodline between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

French poet Chretien de Troyes wrote numerous stories about the Grail which Mark's research links to the Patene, used to serve mass wafers in the sacred ceremonies of the French royal court from the 12th century onwards.

Mark, a historian and folklorist, said: "It's impossible to prove 100% that the Patene de Serpentine is the real Holy Grail.

"But the Patene is a sacred medieval treasure that perfectly matches every detail of the earliest descriptions of the Grail.

"It was in the right place at the right time.

"There is certainly a lot of interest in the theory."

Dating back to 100BC and 100AD, the dish is also engraved with tiny golden fish, an early symbol of Christianity.

An A to Z of King Arthur and the Holy Grail by Simon Cox and Mark Oxbrow is out now on Mainstream Publishing priced £12.99.
"Christian" fish symbols engraved on a dish used at the pre-Christian Jewish ceremony of Passover? Yeah, right.

Anything attributed to Jesus (and/or martyrs) coming out of the so-called Christian medieval period is automatically suspect in my book. I was, however, intrigued by the name of this dish because of the "serpetine," and did some further research on it.

After reading more about the piece, it appears that the name "serpentine" is the name of the green stone used in the center of the dish. It could also, on an outside shot, possibly apply to the pattern of the stone inset in the gold "trim" around the green stone base of the dish, which rather resembles the "scales" on a serpent. I'm still not quite clear on all of this, even after reading this entry at the Louvre Museum:

Original website (in French). Babelfish translation to English (as best I can figure out):

Patène serpentine

The patène consists of a saucer serpentine encrusted with gold fish, probably dating from the first century and a mount of gold adorned with stones, which are developing between the grounds of silverware compartmentalized, an association that we found until the beginning of the eleventh century.

She [it] accompanied at Saint-Denis' cut of the Ptolemies, "kantharos agate which was adapted mount goldsmith similar to patène (Paris, National Library, Cabinet Medal).

The treasure of Saint-Denis

The Patene serpentine from the treasure of Saint-Denis. In sandyonisienne history, it was always associated with the antique vase-cameo of Sardonyx (white and orange agate), sculptured reliefs bachiques nicknamed Cup Ptolemies. Both served at religious ceremonies queens of France at Saint-Denis, from the fifteenth century, the abbey acting as the coronation place of queens. Both remained famous works together in the treasury until 1791. At that time, the chalice was tabled to the Cabinet of Antiques. Stolen in 1804, but he [it] was found without his mount, which had been fondue: it is always kept at Cabinet today Medal of the National Library. However, the integration patène collections of the Museum since 1793.

The serpentine patène

It consists of two distinct and different epochs. The quality of the size of the apparent patène best works of the ancient glyptique before the first century and the first century AD, marbled dark green of the serpentine is inlaid with eight small gold fish (including Both [two?] are missing), probably added at the time of the Roman Empire for the liturgical use of the object.

The patronage of Charles the Bald in Saint-Denis

At the Carolingian period, the kantharos of sardonyx was transformed into a chalice from adding a foot decorated with a circular node decorated with precious stones. The elegant dish stone lasts lived also set with a set of silverware compartmentalized where gemstones embedded around pearls, garnets, colored glasses. The border compartmentalized illustrates the art of goldsmiths of the court of Charles the Bald, whose art reflected other objects prestigious offered by the king in Saint-Denis as the cross and the altar of gold disappeared today.

Phillipines Chess

Tournament announcement at Sun Star Davao online: Sunday, January 06, 2008 Chess events set in Malita CASH prizes are up for grabs in the 2008 1st Benjamin Bautista Sr. Memorial Chess Open Tournament and 1st Quentin Tan Blitz Chess Open Tournament set on January 19 and 20 at the Malita Gymnasium, Poblacion Malita, Davao del Sur. National Master (NM) Elwin Retanal said the champion will pocket P10,000 while the runner-up will receive P5,000. The third and fourth placers will go home with P3,000 and P2,000, respectively. The fifth to 10th placers will get P1,000 each while the 11th to 15th placers will settle for P500 each. The 16th to 20th chessers will not go home empty-handed with P250 apiece. The chessfest is sponsored by former Rep. Claude P. Bautista, Mayor Benjamin Bautista, Rep. Franklin Bautista and NM Jonathan Tan. Interested players may contact Malita Chess Association president Jorge Alcoy at mobile number 0910-3725658 or NM Retanal (0919-6283436) or NM Tan (0918-8880086). (MLSA)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Looted Greek Statues

From The Charlottesville Daily

UVa to return looted Greek statues
By Brian McNeill
January 4, 2008

The University of Virginia announced Thursday that it will return to Italy two ancient Greek sculptures of the goddesses Demeter and Persephone - nearly three decades after they were looted from Sicily by tomb raiders.

The extremely rare and valuable acroliths - created around 525 B.C. out of cloth, wood and Greek island marble - were donated to UVa in 2002 and have been on display at the university’s art museum for the past five years.

“We’re honored that we had them,” said UVa art history professor Malcolm Bell III. “We took good care of them. A lot of students saw them and learned from them. Now we’re happy to return them to Italy.”

The life-size acrolith statues were originally displayed inside a temple in Morgantina, an ancient Greek settlement near what is now the Italian city of Aidone. They are believed to represent Demeter, the Greek goddess of agriculture and grain, and her daughter Persephone, or Kore, the queen of the underworld.

UVa has kept mum about who donated the statues to its museum.

However, the New York Times reported in September that New York diamond merchant and philanthropist Maurice Tempelsman previously owned the acroliths.

Upon receiving the statues in 2002, UVa negotiated a deal to keep them for five years, with the understanding that they would be returned to Italy afterward. The Italian government endorsed the deal.

To mark the return of the sculptures, UVa will host a symposium Feb. 2 titled “The Goddesses Return.” Following the event - which will feature discussions on museum ethics, the antiquities market and archaeological preservation - members of the Italian police, called carabinieri, will escort the acroliths back to Italy.

“We’re very pleased and grateful and happy to be getting these magnificent statues back,” said Silvia Limoncini, a cultural counselor of the Italian Embassy in Washington. “It’s an example of the excellent relationship between Italy and the United States.”

Since their discovery in 1978, the two acroliths have traveled the world via the black market of looted antiquities. According to the New York Times, they were smuggled through Switzerland and surfaced in a London showroom in 1980. Tempelsman bought the acroliths from the London dealer for $1 million, the newspaper reported, adding that there is no indication that Tempelsman knew they had a potentially shady origin.

In the late 1980s, the statues were on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. But after an Italian prosecutor notified the museum that they were possibly illegally excavated, the acroliths were returned to Tempelsman.

According to a report in Forbes magazine, the Italian government began negotiating with Tempelsman in the 1990s for the return of the acroliths. Under the deal, the statues would be given to an institution, which would hold them for a time before turning them over to Italy.

The fact that UVa is returning the sculptures next month is a rare educational opportunity, said Elizabeth Hutton Turner, UVa’s vice provost for the arts and interim director of the art museum.

“This is a great moment for the university and a great moment for the museum,” she said. “It’s a lesson to our students that we can do the right thing and that we can be good stewards of antiquities.”

Upon the acroliths’ return to Italy, they will be displayed at a museum in Aidone. In the coming years, the sculptures will be joined by other priceless works of repatriated art from American museums. For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is returning 16 pieces of silver that were snatched from Morgantina. Also, the J. Paul Getty Trust is sending the museum a looted sculpture of Aphrodite.

The return of the acroliths is especially appropriate, Bell said, because the myths of Demeter and Persephone both involved themes of traveling and returning. After Persephone is kidnapped and taken to the underworld, her mother searches for her across the Earth. Meanwhile, Persephone returns to Earth once a year, heralding spring and rebirth.

“The idea of traveling is important in their cult, it’s important in their myth and now it’s important to the sculptures,” he said.
More coverage at BBC News online.

Oh for Goddess' Sake!

01/04/2008 13:34 MALAYSIA Taoist statue deemed “offensive” to Islam raises new controversy over religious freedom. Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The construction of the world’s tallest Taoist Goddess of the Sea statue has set off the latest row over religious freedom in Malaysia. The 36-metre (108-foot) statue of Mazu, known as Tin Hau in Hong Kong, should be erected in the fishing village of Kudat on Borneo Island. So far only the platform has been set; the statue itself is waiting some 200 km away in the port town of Kota Kinabalu. Local authorities had approved construction in December 2005 but Sabah state authorities stopped construction saying that the statue was “offensive to Muslim sensitivities.” Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang, who heads the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party, warned that if the row was not resolved it could hurt multiracial and inter-faith harmony in the hitherto tolerant Malaysia. “The insensitive controversy objecting to the building of the Mazu statue is created by a small group of Muslims with ulterior political objectives, which sets a dangerous precedent in undermining inter-religious goodwill in Malaysia,” he said. “All we want is for Mazu Goddess to protect us when we are at sea and our Muslim countrymen have nothing against,” said a local fisherman. After the state government halted construction Sabah’s mufti issued a fatwa saying the statue was “offensive to Islam” because it was too close to a mosque. Sabah’s deputy chief minister Chong Kah Kiat, an ethnic Chinese, resigned in protest and in early December took legal action challenging the order to stop construction. About 60 percent of Malaysia’s 27 million people are ethnic Malay Muslims; 25 per cent are Chinese and 10 per cent, Indians, mostly Hindu or Christian. Malaysian commentators and minority leaders have sounded the alarm over the growing ‘Islamisation’ of the country and the increasing polarisation of the three main ethnic communities, which mix much less than in the past. In recent weeks there have been other controversies, including a ban issued by the Ministry of Internal Security on the use of the word ‘Allah’ for God by the Herald, a Catholic weekly. Catholics and Protestants have also had their right to build places of worship severely restricted. ******************************************************************************* Does anyone else see a parallel to what's described in this article to what happened in the 1930's in Nazi Germany?

Friday Night Miscellany

Hola darlings! Tomorrow the "heat wave" is supposed to hit. Already today, when the temperature downtown showed "36" at noon, I could see the difference in the size and spacing of the icicles clinging to my gutters when I got home tonight. I am hopeful that by tomorrow night all the rest of the snow- as well as the ice dams clogging my gutters - will be gone after a warm sunny day. It's supposed to get up to 40 degrees F! From the - "what were they thinking department?": Why would ANYONE name a place MAGOG (as in the biblical Magog, a symbol for everything that is foul and evil on the face of the earth). Well, it's in Canada; even better, it's in QUEBEC. There's a lesson in there somewhere... From the "do I care?" department: (1) The Iowa caucus results (2) The North Dakota (or is it South Dakota? Wyoming?) caucus results - that haven't been compiled yet because the caucuses aren't until Saturday night. Now honestly, can't these people think of something better to do with their time on a Saturday night? Guess not... (3) President Bush is contemplating "doing something" about the economy. BWWWAAAAHAAAAAHAAAAAHAAAAAAA! (4) B. Obama is a BLACK man. (5) H. Clinton is a WHITE WOMAN. (6) The economists and Wall Street are first now recognizing that the U.S. economy is in bad shape. As Homer (Simpson, not the Greek guy) says, "doh!" (7) It's a monsoon in California - raining like the dickens along the coastal areas with high winds and snowing like the dickens in the mountains - and all those silly people out there who built their houses on stilts on cliffs are worried that their houses may fall down in mud slides. And all those silly people out there who built their houses in the snow-covered peaks and the valleys below them are worried about avalanches. Repeat Homer comment from (6) above. (8) Anything Brittny/Brittany/Britnay/whatever spelling variation you can think of. (9) Anything writers guild strike. (10) Anything that might qualify as #10 on this list. Wish I were in Wijk aan Zee.

"Ancient Civilization" Found?

Personally, I think it's - okay, I won't say it's baloney, I'll just say it's suspicious and leave it at that (for now). I wasn't going to report on this "find" of a supposedly heretofore unknown civilization near Lake Issyk (Tien Shan Mountains), but dondelion published a little blurb about it in our Random Round-up at Goddesschess last week. So, for what it is worth, here is a link to a story about it. What troubles me about this story is the lack of facts - this doesn't even qualify as a "tourist" or "amateur" slanted story - you know the type of story - basically entertaining "fluff." First, there are no dates given. Second, these expeditions and excavations(?) supposedly have taken place over eight years. After eight years on the job one would assume that there would be some BASIC information available about the discoveries. Why, then, such a lack of the most basic information in this story? Third, how come the ruins "next store" to the lake cannot be dated? The Scythians were a well known, distinctive group of people; if the Scythians were in the area, surely there are surviving artifacts that can be dated - even approximately would be better than leaving the reader dangling in mid-air! Why publish something like this in English without providing further information to back it up? Eight years of discoveries at this site - and we're first hearing about it now? I can - just barely in this day and age - accept that, because archaeologists are notoriously slow and paranoid about publishing their findings. But publishing this kind of story is - baloney.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Goddess Dances

Business Daily from THE HINDU group of publications Friday, Jan 04, 2008 Batool Aliakbar Lehry It was Sandhya Raman’s chance finding of a wealth of paintings at The Rasaja Foundation thatsparked off her interest in discovering the role of feminine energy in Indian mythology. The artworks, nearly 1,500 of them that were in a dilapidated condition, had been collected by the late artist, historian and critic Jaya Appasamy. The trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (creator, preserver and destroyer) dominate Hindu discourse. But where are the women, wonders Sandhya. “It is almost as if the power of creation, which is so quintessentially female, has been subsumed by a male culture,” says this 40-year-old Delhi-based costume and apparel designer. “It is Ammavara, the goddess who gave birth to the three, who is central to the evolution story.” Her questions led her and research partner Ratna Raman to revisit the Upanishads, Vedas and other texts to discover the latent feminine forces present in them. For instance, says Sandhya, “Everyone only eulogises Agni as the god of fire. But it is only after chanting ‘Swaha’, the name of Agni’s wife, that the offerings will be accepted.” She draws parallels with the subjugation of women in contemporary times and says her effort has been to rediscover the origin and power of feminine forces in the mythologies. The result: ‘Mythologies Retold’ — a 60-minute dance-drama conceptualised, produced and designed by Sandhya and featuring Bharatnatyam dancer Geeta Chandran. Having designed costumes for famous dancers such as Anita Ratnam and Sonal Mansingh, Sandhya was completely familiar with the art form of dance. “Dance is a very communicative art and inspires me. You can say so many things so effectively,” she says. Sandhya also runs a Rs 2.5-crore design company called Desmania, which she jointly set up with her husband. Mythologies Retold, her first such venture, also includes theatrical aspects, influences of Kuchipudi, slide shows and improvisations in costumes, sets, and lights. The paintings, currently in the custody of National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi, also form the backdrop for several scenes. Produced at a cost of Rs 10 lakh, the show celebrates the goddesses of earth, air, fire, space and water as the manifestations of feminine energies. The binding intellect, Buddhi, that guides the five senses is represented as a female. The production then questions what happens when women are removed from society and the feminine energy is alienated through acts like female foeticide, infanticide etc. The one-hour show opened in Delhi in September and is currently touring other parts of the country including Jaipur, Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata.

Keeping the Goddess in New Year's Eve

New Year's biggest bash January 01 2008 at 08:55AM Rio De Janeiro - More than 4 million people celebrated the start of 2008 in Rio de Janeiro with marathon parties on the beach. Half of them assembled on Copacabana beach, media reports said early on Tuesday, citing police estimates. A 23-minute fireworks display lit up the coast after midnight in a metropolis known as the Cidade Maravilhosa (or Marvelous City). Masses of people turned out despite nighttime temperatures up to 35 degrees, dancing on the sand before stages and filling promenades that had been blocked to traffic. By 3am (05.00 GMT), tens of thousands of revellers remained on the 2-kilometre-long Avenida Atlantica on the famous Copacabana beach and in the adjacent neighbourhood of Ipanema. Many slept off the festivities on the beach as well. More than 10 000 police officers were deployed to provide security, but the evening proceeded with no remarkable incidents except for a ricocheting bullet that injured a 63-year-old woman, media reports said. In honour of the goddess Yemanja, most people were clothed all in white and threw flowers into the sea so that the ocean goddess of the African-Brazilian Umbanda cult would fulfil their New Year's wishes. Others presented her with offerings of jewels, sparkling wine and expensive clothing on tiny wooden boats. Rio celebrated the New Year with a record number of visitors. More than 600 000 foreign and domestic tourists filled up 98 percent of the city's hotel rooms, the tourism office said. City leaders call Rio's celebration, which cost 10 million reals ($5,7-million), "the biggest party in the world", but millions of Brazilians also celebrate in their country's financial capital, Sao Paulo, where more than 2 million congregated alone at the music shows on the Avenida Paulista. - Sapa-dpa

2008 Asian Team Championships

The Asian Team Chess Championships are set to begin (January 2 - 10, 2008) As per usual, an Indian newspaper reported the event. Indian newspapers in general give excellent coverage to both domestic and international chess events in which Indian players are participating. From (January 1, 2008): VISAKHAPATNAM: Sasikiran and Neelotpal Das will head the India-A and India-B men’s teams respectively for the 15th Asian Team Chess Championship-2007 to be held at Swarnabharati Indoor Stadium from Jan 2 to 10. Dronavalli Harika and Swati Ghate will lead the Indian-A and India-B women’s teams respectively. While 15 teams from seven countries are taking part in the event, Wang Yue from China holds the highest rating with 2,703. The winners of the men’s championship will qualify for the the World Team Chess Championship conducted by the World Chess Federation. The event will be organised by East Coast Chess Association, All Vizag District Chess Association and Andhra Pradesh Chess Association. State Bank of India, Visakhapatnam Steel Plant and Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation are the sponsors. The video footage and images of these tournaments can be watched over the websites: or

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

News from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Some news from the January-February, 2008 Exhibitions & Programs Calendar. Of interest to Goddesschess, the museum has opened two new galleries: one for Oceanic Art (opened November 14, 2007) , and one for the Art of Native North America (also opened November 14, 2007). Despite spending nearly two full days at the Met during our Goddesschess anniversary trip in September, 2005, we did not have the time to devote to the art collections in the Africa, Oceania, and the Americas "Michael C. Rockefeller Wing." Perhaps next trip! The Met always has outstanding special exhibits. Through March 2, 2008: "Eternal Ancestors: The Art of the Central African Reliquary." dondelion is fascinated by African art, finding many motifs in common with those in ancient Egypt and Libya, including some votive iconography and the ever-present checkerboard pattern, that is nearly as old as man himself. And through February 18, 2008: "Gifts for the Gods: Images from Egyptian Temples." dondelion and I spent most of one full day just exploring the Egyptian Galleries at the Met - glorious, fabulous! I wish we could see this special exhibition. We believe that the most ancient art can teach us much today about the origins of board games, if only we take the time to study the cultural and religious beliefs underlying the art. Explore the Met online.

Oh, Those Fashionable Steppe Ladies

More fashion from the past.

Amy Eckhardt, director of the International Program at the University of Pittsburgh, models hemp dresses decorated with designs found on 5,000-year-old horse-bone figurines. (Courtesy Sandra Olsen/Carnegie Museum of Natural History)

This Old Thing?
Volume 61 Number 1, January/February 2008
by Sandra Olsen

And here we have a lovely daytime frock in handwoven hemp, featuring geometric details in vogue on the Eurasian steppe 5,000 years ago. This design is comfortable and practical to wear at work while milking the horses, sweeping out the pit house, or collecting dung for fuel.

As an archaeologist, I'd never before addressed the question of how prehistoric people made and decorated their clothing. But after a series of unexpected discoveries in northern Kazakhstan, my colleagues and I found ourselves particularly interested in the wardrobes of the ancient Botai people.

These early horse-pastoralists lived during the Copper Age, between 3700 and 3100 B.C., on the steppe of present-day Kazakhstan. They occupied a few permanent villages, the largest of which we now know as Botai, and lived in small, square semisubterranean houses.

Although the Botai people lacked innovations such as agriculture and the wheel, they were one of the earliest groups to domesticate the horse--and they had a sense of style too.

These ancient nomads left behind a clue to their fashion sense in the unlikely form of figurines made from horse toe bones. At the site, archaeologists from Petropavlovsk University in northern Kazakhstan recovered 45 of these figurines, mostly from houses. The Botai may have kept them in their homes to ensure protection by a hearth spirit. The shape of the nearly four-inch-long toe bones resembles a woman's torso, so it provides a natural framework for the figurines. We interpreted the incised lines on the bones as representations of dress or tunic designs.

Some of the fine carved lines on the figurines suggest the Botai decorated their clothing with embroidery, applique, or weaving; it's possible they even painted patterns on the garments. We found that geometric ornamentation was usually featured on the front of the piece, while rows of horizontal dashes running down both sides probably represented the seams. Necklines varied, but 10 of the figurines are depicted wearing V-necks.

At the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Deborah Harding, our anthropology collection manager, took handwoven hemp cloth from Hungary and made it into a dress with side seams and other features shown on the figurines. She chose hemp because it is native to Kazakhstan; it was also one of the most common fibers used in ancient times on the Eurasian steppe.

Our experimental garment raised more questions than it answered. For example, the length of our dress made the A-line (or flared bottom) skirt restrictive for bending, so perhaps a slit in back or on the sides would have been advantageous if one really did want to wear it while sweeping out a Copper Age pit house. Of course, it's possible they also wore these garments for special occasions. At the very least we think they probably regarded these dresses as fine enough to adorn their domestic goddesses.

Sandra Olsen is a curator of anthropology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
© 2008 by the Archaeological Institute of America

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

2008 is here with a roaring north wind, darlings! May the new year bring all of you many blessings, love, peace, and prosperity - and NO ice dams! It's not fit outside for man nor beast right now. The wind is howling, several inches of already fallen snow has landed in the corners of my porch and driveway, and the icicles I knocked down this morning are growing again. ICE DAMS! Fortunately, I stocked up on my supplies yesterday early evening, so I didn't have venture out today any further than the deck - to feed my critters. The office actually closed down early (3 p.m.) - I was in shock! I decided about 3:30 p.m. to make my exit. After jumping on the 3:51 bus and running my errands, I was home at 5:15 p.m. - and snuggled under my nice, warm sheets about 9:15 p.m., drifting off to dreamland. LOL! So much for my resolution to stay up until midnight and email everyone in my address book with new year greetings. This being winter in Wisconsin, change is constant and inevitable - the January thaw is coming early this year - as soon as this weekend, in fact, when RAIN is forecast and temperatures near 50 degrees F. Eek! Of course, darlings, you know what that means. ICE. Lots of ice. The ground is frozen, the more than foot of snow ground cover will have nowhere to go when the rains come. More ICE DAMS too. Sigh. My house hasn't sprung any leaks (that I know of) - yet. But the warmer air won't be here until Saturday. So, for the trek back to the office tomorrow and the rest of the work week, I will wear my heavy duty ankle-length down coat with hood and the super-sized mouton mittens under which I can comfortably fit gloved hands. This year, instead of the extra wool scarf, which I love for its beautiful blue and red plaid, but which is itchy, I have a four-in-one-fleece hoodie or, as they called them in the old days, a balaclava. With my 50 pound Sorel boots, I shall be toasty warm, although I won't be able to move faster than half a mile an hour... The Badgers lost the Outback Bowl - boo, hiss - the game was rigged, the referees were bribed, I just know it! Usually I take down the Christmas tree this day, but I just couldn't bring myself to do that this year. I am not yet ready to remove my beautiful tree for another year. Perhaps this weekend, when the January thaw rain is beating against the house from the southwest, I will feel motivated to pack everything away. Right now, I'm going to head downstairs, get a fire going in the fireplace, and spend the rest of my holiday watching television, eating good food, drinking Christian Brothers egg nog, and relaxing. I already feel incredibly decadent - I had a nice 3 hour nap earlier :) A final note - does anyone REALLY care about the Iowa caucuses other than the national television networks?
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