Saturday, September 6, 2008

What Does This Mean?

Undeciphered languages - they fascinate me. There are, for instance, the mysterious symbols of the Indus Valley civilization which the ancient Sumerians called "Melluah"; there are the symbols on both sides of the Phaistos Disc; and then there is Linear A, the script of the ancient Minoans. (Image: Linear A Tablet, End of Late Minoan IB (ca. 1450 B.C.), clay, mended, Palace at Kato Zakros, Archive, Siteia Archaeological Museum)
What does it mean? What were they saying?
NEW YORK.- The exhibition "From the Land of the Labyrinth: Minoan Crete, 3000–1100 B.C." presents more than 280 artifacts and works of art from the ancient land of Crete, most of which have never been shown outside Greece. These fascinating objects seen together bring to life the story of Crete’s luminous Minoan culture, the first palatial civilization to establish itself on European soil.
The exhibition brings to light aspects of Minoan daily life during the second and third millennia B.C., including social structure, communications, bureaucratic organization, religion, and technology.
In eleven thematic sections, the exhibition maps chronologically the establishment and great achievements of Minoan culture. Here the viewer can explore the historical and cultural context of this celebrated society and gain insight into its mysteries, such as the legends surrounding the reign of King Minos of Knossos, who commissioned the fabled Labyrinth of Greek mythology.
Information gathered from the study of the Early, Middle, and Late Minoan periods—also known as the Prepalatial, Protopalatial, Neopalatial, and Postpalatial periods—is largely based on objects excavated from the island’s burial grounds and settlements. The exhibition pieces together the culture’s past by focusing on such objects as gold jewelry deposited in the rich tombs of the elite, inscribed clay tablets that reveal the basic elements of the Minoan economy, ceremonial vessels found in both palaces and tombs, and votive figures of clay, symbolic offerings to protective deities. All of these intriguing objects are on loan from the archaeological museums in Crete, in collaboration with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture.
The island of Crete is equidistant from the three continents of Africa, Asia, and the European mainland. As a result of this advantageous location, the Minoans experienced a period of active trade with the other civilizations around the Mediterranean basin and maintained control over the sea routes. They exported timber, foodstuffs, cloth, and olive oil and in turn imported tin, copper, silver, emery, precious stones, and some manufactured objects. For their basic needs, however, the Minoans were entirely self-sufficient.
Archaeological evidence from the Prepalatial period reveals the great changes that took place in the social structure of Early Minoan society. The rise of local elite populations, for instance, led them to commission and display different types of objects in order to convey and celebrate their social identity and rank. This kind of social differentiation gradually led to the formation of a palatial society during the Middle Minoan or Protopalatial period about 1900 B.C. Urbanization and increasing economic wealth brought about bureaucratic change, including the rise of powerful social classes and ruling groups. Major palaces were built at Knossos and Malia in northern Crete, at Phaistos in the south, and at Zakros in the east. These palaces were large building complexes that served as centers of religious, economic, and social life for their inhabitants. The architecture and the layout of the palaces communicated a dynastic message, enhanced by prestigious objects and symbolic expressions of the rulers’ power.
With the palaces came the development of writing, probably as a result of record-keeping demands of the palace economy. The Minoans used a hieroglyphic script most likely derived from Egypt and a linear script, Linear A, which may have evolved from the language of the eastern Mediterranean and has yet to be deciphered. In the section of the exhibition entitled Scripts and Weights, examples of this mysterious script will be displayed, exemplified by the Linear A Tablet shown here. This sun-dried clay slab dates from the end of the Late Minoan I period and exemplifies the administrative records that listed products, goods, and people. Inscriptions have also been found on various important objects, such as double-sided axes, pottery, seals, and stone vessels. The exhibition includes as well tablets in Linear B script, which was deciphered in the 1950s by M. Ventris and J. Chadwick. The symbols of this script reflect an early form of the Greek language that was spoken by the Myceneans, who had arrived in Crete by the second half of the fifteenth century B.C.

British Museum to Open New Egyptian Gallery

Hmmm, okay, we are definitely going back to London in 2010 just to visit the British Museum. Don and I made a whirlwind visit of only 5 hours or so en route to Madrid in 2002, and we've always wanted to go back. The little bit we were able to see just whetted our appetites for more more more... We gave London a good hard look (a really good hard look), for the 10th anniversary of Goddesschess (May 6, 2009), but weighing relative costs of the dollar versus the euro, we opted to return to New York, which The Goddesschess Four visited for five days in 2005. It wasn't long enough, and so we'll be returning to New York, New York in May, 2009, this time for a full week! We're already making up a list of "must - see" while we're there for our second visit. We're also planning at least one day trip (and possibly two), to Washington, D.C. by Amtrak - we MUST visit all of the national monuments and also the Smithsonian. Library of Congress, the Capitol Library - oh my - two days just isn't going to be long enough... Anyway - back to London - this sounds absolutely fantastic! The original article is from New Egyptian Gallery at the British Museum to Open in Winter Saturday, September 6, 2008 LONDON.- This winter the British Museum will open a new Ancient Egyptian gallery centered round the spectacular painted tomb-chapel of Nebamun. The paintings are some of the most famous images of Egyptian art, and come from the now lost tomb-chapel of Nebamun, an accountant in the Temple of Amun at Karnak who died c. 1350 BC, a generation or so before Tutankhamun. They show him at work and at leisure - surveying his estates and hunting in the marshes. An extensive conservation project – the largest in the Museum’s history – has been undertaken on the eleven large fragments which will go on public display for the first time in nearly ten years. The tomb-paintings were acquired by the Museum in the 1820s and were constantly on display until the late 1990s. Since then, the fragile wall-paintings have been meticulously conserved, securing them for at least the next fifty years. The project has provided numerous new insights into the superb technique of the painters called by one art-historian ‘antiquity’s equivalent to Michelangelo’ - with their exuberant compositions, astonishing depictions of animal life and unparalleled handling of textures. New research and scholarship have enabled new joins to be made between the fragments, allowing a better understanding of their original locations in the tomb. They will now be re-displayed together for the first time in a setting designed to recreate their original aesthetic impact and to evoke their original position in a small intimate chapel. The gallery will include another fragment for the same tomb-chapel on loan from the Egyptian Museum, Berlin. Drawing on the latest research and fieldwork at Luxor, a computer ‘walk-through’ of the reconstructed tomb-chapel will be available in gallery with an interactive version online. Next to the paintings, 150 artefacts show how the tomb-chapel was built, how it remained open for visitors, and also the nature of Egyptian society at the time. Most of the objects are contemporary with Nebamun and reflect those depicted in his paintings. Some, however, contrast with the idealised world-view that is shown on elite monuments like the tomb-chapel and show that most people’s experience of life was not necessarily all about leisure and prestige as in the paintings. Spectacularly luxurious objects, such as a glass perfume bottle in the shape of a fish, are juxtaposed with crude tools of basic survival, such as a fishing net, to suggest that most of what we know of Ancient Egypt is about the small wealthy elite. The gallery is on the upper floor of the Museum next to the galleries of Ancient Egyptian funerary archaeology (the ‘mummy rooms’) which are the most popular galleries in the museum. This gallery will provide a new ‘must-see’ highlight for the Egyptian collections. The gallery is generously supported by the R & S Cohen Foundation.

Susa Site to be Spared!

Good news from CAIS in a press release regarding this earlier story. Sometimes the good guys win, but not often enough, not often enough. ICHTHO Forced to Put a Stop on the Construction of Hotel in Susa 06 September 2008 LONDON, (CAIS) -- Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (ICHTHO) was forced by the media and Iranian cultural figures to place a ban on the construction of the multipurpose hotel complex in the perimeter of the ancient city of Susa in southeastern Iran. “The project was banned following a series of investigations by CHTHO’s experts,” Shush Cultural Heritage Centre (SCHC) director Mohammadreza Chitsaz told the Persian service of CHN on Friday. “The owner of the project can file a legal claim, however the owner is to be provided with a reciprocal parcel of land based on an agreement with the Shush Municipality,” he added. “It’s obvious that the hotel will never be built at the venue,” he emphasised. The construction of the hotel began in May of 2007 with the excavation of a 100x100 meter area to a depth of 6 meters following authorisation of the project by the director of Khuzestan Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Department and the backing of Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei director of ICHTHO. Ancient strata and shards which are believed to be part of a Parthian and Sasanian dynasties’ cemetery were totally destroyed during the construction. The strata and a large number of artefacts were destroyed and the earth excavated by loaders has been transferred to an unknown location by trucks. In his July press conference, ICHTHO Director Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei hopelessly tried to relinquish himself from responsibility and asked his office to investigate the case in order to determine the people responsible for damages to the site. It was Rahim-Masahaei himself who is also the Islamic Republic’s vice-president who endorsed the hotel construction and attended the commencing-ceremony. Under pressure from cultural figures and the media, he later claimed that he was not aware of Susa’s archaeological importance. The project was previously abandoned because it is located in an area that is also claimed by the Khuzestan Province Road and Transport Office. An expert with ICHHTO who wished to remain anonymous told CAIS: “What ICHTHO has put an stop on? Nothing. The damages has already been done, and 10,000 sq.m. of our history were razed. People like Mashaei are making a mockery of our nation and our heritage. How is it possible that a director of the organisation responsible for the protection of Iranian heritage is not aware of Susa’s historical and archaeological importance?” “Of course these people are aware of their crimes, because he was brought to power by his friend Mahmood Ahamadinejad to ensure the destruction of our country’s pre-Islamic heritage, and perhaps gather some wealth for himself in the process by taking bribes from wealthy but ruthless and irresponsible construction companies”, the expert concluded. Susa was an ancient city in the Elamite, Achaemenids, Parthian and Sasanian dynastic empires of Iran, located about 150 miles east of the Tigris River in Iranian province of Khuzestan. As well as being an archaeological site, Susa is also mentioned in the Old Testament as one of the places where the Jewish prophet Daniel lived. His tomb is located in the heart of the city of Shush. Susa is one of the oldest known settlements in the region, probably founded around 4000 BCE, though the first traces of human habitation dates back to 7000 BCE.

2008 Women's World Chess Championship

Round 3 play-offs from 13:10 CET Welcome to the live coverage of the World Women Chess Championship on! Elena Sedina of Italy shocked the Chinese prodigy Yifan Hou in the yesterday's game to even up the score and proceed to tiebreaks. Today, in the rapid game one, Sedina attempted to use the poisonous Qxd4 again, but Yifan avoided the pin with an early a6. 13:20 CET Meanwhile, Shen Yang and Nadezda Kosintseva are testing the Nimzo-Indian once again, only this time Kosintseva deviated from the earlier game and played the "mainstream" 6...b6. Sister Tatiana, who was eliminated by Alexandra Kosteniuk, is in the playing hall to give moral support to Nadezda. 14:00 CET Yifan Hou wins the first rapid game with Black pieces! The devastating 36...Rb1! proved that Black was faster in the mutual pawn race. The second game will start 10 minutes after Shen-Kosintseva finishes. 14:10 CET The dominating Black Knight on f4 must have caused a strong headache to Shen Yang. She couldn't solve all the problems and Nadezda Kosintseva wins the first game with a checkmate on g5. Stay tuned for the 2nd rapid tiebreak! 14:35 CET The second tiebreak game is ongoing. In spite of the lead, Yifan Hou goes sharp against Sedina's French defence, using the once-favorite line of Alekhine and Fischer. 14:40 CET Nadezda Kosintseva is taking a cautious route with Ruy Lopez Exchange variation. Still, we have to remember that Antoaneta Stefanova won the other day with Black in this same Qf6 line. 15:30 CET Shen Yang strikes back! The two will now proceed with blitz games. Ruy Lopez Exchange didn't score well for White thus far. 15:35 CET Yifan Hou wins the second rapid game as well and qualifies for the Quarterfinals. 15:55 CET Severe time trouble in the first blitz game between Yang and Kosintseva! Both players are down to 30 seconds (there is increment). Kosintseva played the beautiful 35...Ne4!!, with idea 36. fxe4 Rd2 (and White's own e4 pawn covers Bc2 diagonal), but the problem was that Yang is not forced to take. 16:05 CET Excellent endgame technique by Shen Yang, who is now leading 1-0. Kosintseva has to win the next game in order to reach the Armageddon. 16:50 CET After the long struggle, the second blitz game ended in a draw and Shen Yang advances to the next round! Both Chinese players have survived the tiebreaks. Results: Elena Sedina - Yifan Hou 0-1, 0-1 Shen Yang - Nadezda Kosintseva 0-1, 1-0, 1-0, draw Quarterfinal pairings: Anna Ushenina - Alexandra Kosteniuk Humpy Koneru - Shen Yang Yifan Hou - Lilit Mkrtchian Antoaneta Stefanova - Pia Cramling

Goddess statue found in western Iran

From Press TV Sat, 06 Sep 2008 13:50:25 GMT The first phase of archeological excavations at Sheikhi Abad mound in Iran's Kermanshah Province has yielded the statue of a goddess. The statute, which resembles a figurine previously found in Kermanshah's Sarab-Mort, is believed by experts to be a valuable source of information. Iranian and British archeologists, who studied the site for the first time in the past fifty years, also discovered nearly 50 botanical samples that can shed light on some of the mysteries of the Neolithic Age. Skeletal remains of red deer, goat, ram and fish were also found at the site, which archeologists hope will elucidate how animals were domesticated in those days. Previous studies had dated Sheikhi Abad mound to nine to ten thousand years ago. Archeologists believe the site was home to the earliest human settlers.
Unfortunately, I could not find a photo of the artifact, nor of the earlier figurine referred to from Sarab-e Mort.

Ancient Mouse

Bronze Age mouse offers clues to royal shipwreck 04 September 2008 news service REMAINS of a long dead house mouse have been found in the wreck of a Bronze Age royal ship. That makes it the earliest rodent stowaway ever recorded, and proof of how house mice spread around the world. Archaeologist Thomas Cucchi of the University of Durham, UK, identified a fragment of a mouse jaw in sediment from a ship that sank 3500 years ago off the coast of Turkey. The cargo of ebony, ivory, silver and gold - including a gold scarab with the name of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti - indicates it was a royal vessel. Because the cargo carried artefacts from many cultures, its nationality and route is hotly debated, but the mouse's jaw may provide answers. Cucchi's analysis confirms it belonged to Mus musculus domesticus, the only species known to live in close quarters with humans (Journal of Archaeological Science, vol 35, p 2953). The shape of the molars suggests the mouse came from the northern Levantine coast, as they are similar to those of modern house mice in Syria, near Cyprus. And, when generations of rodents live aboard ships, they evolve larger body shapes. Yet this mouse was roughly the same shape and size as other small, land-dwelling mice of the time, suggesting it boarded just before the ship set sail. From issue 2672 of New Scientist magazine, 04 September 2008, page 21

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday Night Miscellany

I'm full of "whys" this week; I haven't been sleeping well and I'm depressed. I wonder why? Sarah Palin is in the news. Meet the Alaskan Fifi, the Republican right-wingers' newest and cutest attack dog. She's trainable and has sharp teeth. Why did this 44 year old mother of 4 NOT use birth control when the risks of having a Down Syndrome child are well known for women over 40? Even if she didn't want to use an IUD or a diaphragm or - God forbid - birth control pills for - whatever reasons - there's still self-control (I.E., ABSTINENCE) and the good old fashioned rhythym method. Isn't ABSTINENCE what they preach? Did she not know about the odds of having a Down Syndrome child at her age? Did she know, but not care? Did she think that God wouldn't allow her to HAVE a Down Syndrome child? Did she not think at all, just eat, screw and be merry, for tomorrow al-Qaida may kill us all before we kill them? I have major problems accepting this woman's life-affecting lapse in judgment and her self-indulgent hubris. The same applies to Mr. Fifi's judgment because, after all, it takes two to tango, and as the father of four children and the husband of a middle-aged woman he should have been aware of what the risks were. Do a loving mother and father force a 17 year old girl into a shot-gun wedding because their daughter got knocked up by an 18 year old jock who has nothing going for himself except - well, nothing? Is this the newest and latest morality out of the Republican Party - that bastion of righteousness and family values? Just what family values are being taught here? IS THE REPUBLICAN PARTY NOW SAYING IT IS JUST PEACHY KEEN FOR TEENAGE GIRLS TO SCREW AROUND AND GET PREGNANT AND FOR THEIR BOY FRIENDS (OR STATUTORY RAPISTS) TO DO IT? Is their message NOW about forgiveness of sin (for we all know that the flesh is weak no matter how willing the spirit may be) and reconciliation? If Chelsea Clinton was the pregnant, unwed daughter of a Vice-Presidential candidate, would the Republicans THEN be saying "this is a private, family matter"? Ah, Bristol. How does it feel at 17, I wonder, to have the whole rest of your life planned out for you by your parents, depending upon what track your mom's political career takes? Will you try and hold out to not marry the 18 year old dude who got you pregnant until after the election, in the hope that if McCain/Palin loses, you won't have to commit after all? Do you really think you'll be allowed to do this? Well, you know what they say: "If you're old enough to do the crime, you're old enough to do the time."
Here is another really sad story. And no - I did not hunt it down because it features an elephant, which is the symbol for the Republican Party.
Elephant cured of heroin addiction Four-year-old Asian elephant treated with massive methadone doses Sep 04, 2008 02:04 PM The Associated Press BEIJING – An Asian elephant that became addicted to heroin at the hands of illegal traders will return home after a three-year rehab program, Chinese state media said today. Xiguang, a 4-year-old male Asian elephant, became addicted after he was captured by smugglers along the Chinese-Myanmar border in March 2005. The traders fed the elephant bananas laced with heroin as bait and to pacify the creature, the official Xinhua News Agency said. When Xiguang was found two months later along with six other captured elephants in China's southwest, he was suffering from withdrawal and was sent to a protection center in China's tropical Hainan island. Xiguang received daily methadone injections in doses five times larger than those given to a human and has now fully recovered, Xinhua said. He is expected to return to the Yunnan Wild Animal Park in the capital of Yunnan province, Kunming, on Saturday. The Asian elephant is threatened with extinction, according to the World Wildlife Fund conservation group, with only 25,600 to 32,750 left in the wild of Asia's tropical forests – fewer than a tenth of the number of wild African elephants.

2008 Women's World Chess Championship

From, Round 3, Game 2: 11:25 CET The trend from the previous days continues - Stefanova, Yifan Hou, and Pia Cramling have not lost a single game. What's more, Yifan Hou has a perfect score until now, not letting any chance to her opponents. Many wonder how she reached this high performance level in the past months. The key is surely in the multiple tournaments she is playing. Especially valuable was the World Junior Chess Championship, where she played in the junior section. 14:25 CET Very untypical situation in the game Sedina - Hou Yifan. Sedina has always been in time trouble during this tournament. However, now she has 1 hour and 11 minutes, for only 37 minutes of Yifan Hou. Can this game be the surprise of the day? 15:30 CET Harika and Mkrtchian have opposite color bishops on the board. However, Mkrtchian is 2 healthy pawns up, andd adding the rooks into the picture Harika might have chances for saving the game. 15:50 CET As Harika's king got blocked, there was no way to stop the white pawns. Mkrtchian qualifies for the next round! Harika played very well and she will surely be an important factor in women chess in the next years. 16:15 CET Koneru has launched a dangerous attack against the king of Hoang Thanh Trang. 16:24 CET Opposite color bishops draw in Ruan Lufei - Pia Cramling. Cramling has qualified to the next round! Good performance by Ruan Lufei as well. 16:25 CET No way to stop Koneru's attack and India will have a representative in the next round! Good games by the Hungarian player as well. 16:30 CET 3P + Queen for Hou Yifan vs 5P + Queen for Elena Sedina. 16:47 CET The "b" pawn is unstoppable and Kosteniuk qualifies to the next round by winning the Russian derby. 17:00 CET Stefanova wins against Gaponenko and with full 2-0 progresses to the next round. 17:03 CET Elena Sedina brings the surprise of the day! The much lower rated Italian player scores a full point and goes to tiebreaks with Yifan Hou. 17:15 CET Very heavy battling in Ushenina - Mateeva and N. Kosintseva - Shen Yang. 17:25 CET Anna Ushenina wins convincingly the match 2-0 and goes on to the next round. At the same time Shen Yang and Naddezhda Kosintseva draw again and will see each other in tomorrow's tiebreaks. 17:50 CET Tomorrow's tiebreak: Yifan Hou - Elena Sedina and Shen Yang - Nadezhda Kosintseva. Live results Anna Ushenina - Svetlana Matveeva 1-0 - Ushenina advances Humpy Koneru - Hoang Than Trang 1-0 - Koneru advances Elena Sedina - Hou Yifan 1-0 - tie breaks Antoaneta Stefanova - Inna Gaponenko * - Stefanova advances Ruan Lufei - Pia Cramling 1/2 -1/2 - Cramling advances Lilit Mkrtchian - Harika Dronavalli 1-0 - Mkrtchian advances Nadezhda Kosintseva - Shen Yang 1/2-1/2 - tie breaks Tatiana Kosintseva - Alexandra Kosteniuk 0-1 - Kosteniuk advances

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Don't Judge a Rook by It's Lover

From Don’t judge a rook by its lover Published: September 04, 2008 1:00 PM Updated: September 04, 2008 4:27 PM When I Google ‘homeless people’ in my brain, my memory bank serves up two indelible hits. One of them is an incident that happened to me in 1983 in downtown New York. Coming out of the Iroquois Hotel I asked the doorman for the nearest subway stop. He raised an elegant, white-gloved hand to point me in the right direction. I remember that immaculate white glove, index finger extended, because right behind it, just ever-so-slightly out of focus, was a street hobo hunched over a heat grate. He was living in a cardboard refrigerator carton. Twenty-five years ago, and homeless people were already unremarkable – at least in New York. My second ‘homeless moment’ happened yesterday in downtown Vancouver while I was stopped at a crosswalk waiting for pedestrians to cross. I must have been engrossed in some dreary mental daydreaming because one of the pedestrians – a street person by his grubby garb – stopped right in front of my car and stared at me. When he got my attention he put his right thumb and index finger to the corners of his lips and pushed his face into a grin. “Smile,” he was telling me. Somebody without a home and probably no idea where he would eat that night – somebody I’d been too self-obsessed to even notice – was urging me to ‘cheer up.’ Yet another timely reminder of how easy it is to ‘disappear’ the homeless – and also how dangerous it is to judge anybody just by the way they look. Suppose, for instance, I could whisk you to Dupont Circle, a rather grungy urban park in downtown Washington, D.C. Chances are that sooner rather than later we’d run into Tom Murphy. Tom’s a regular in the park and not, frankly, much to look at. He’s 49 but appears older. He usually wears a grubby sweater, a pair of Nike sweatpants that are out at the knee and running shoes well past their best-before date. Oh, Tom is also black, unshaven and hirsutely disorganized under his ratty St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap. Chances are even better that when we meet him, Tom will be more than somewhat thick of tongue and/or bloodshot of eye because, to quote from the Mr. Bo-jangles song, he ‘drinks a bit.’ It would be childishly easy to dismiss Tom Murphy as just another urban bum waiting for his welfare cheque. And it would be wrong. You may have noticed that Tom likes to sit by one of the many stone chessboards that adorn Dupont Circle … Perhaps you think it would be generous of you to offer to play a few easy moves with him. Don’t get comfortable. Tom Murphy will whip your butt before you’ve warmed the chair. Tom Murphy will not only beat you at chess, he will do it in ten minutes or less. He is not just a chess genius, he is a wizard at a hyper-fast form of the game called ‘Blitz’. In Blitz, each player has a maximum of five minutes to make all his moves. At the end of ten minutes a buzzer goes and the game is over. David Mehler, who runs Washington’s Chess Center, has been watching Tom Murphy for years. “He has a very fast mind,” Mehler told a Washington Post reporter, “and he sees combinations quickly. He calculates very quickly.” Just how good is Tom Murphy? Good enough to rate the title of ‘expert,’ which is the second-highest ranking in North America. In 2005 he entered a Blitz Championship and came in 15th. In the world. If he bought himself a suit and tie, a shave and a haircut, Tom Murphy could probably earn a decent living as a chess professional – certainly as an instructor. But he prefers life in Dupont Circle among the pigeons and the other indigents. There, he plays for booze money, charging anywhere from two to five dollars a game against all comers. Maybe Tom Murphy’s presence in the park serves another purpose too. Maybe, like the homeless guy in front of my car, teaching me to Get Over Myself – maybe he serves to remind us not to judge a book by its cover. Or a rook by its lover. After all, if a scruffy vagrant with holes in his socks can clean your clock at one of the most difficult games in the world, what else don’t you know about him? Arthur Black is a syndicated columnist.

I'm Jealous!

Readers here know I'm a HUGE fan of Katherine Neville's best-selling novel, "The Eight," from which I've posted some interesting chess-related passages. It was "The Eight" that got me started on this path 10 years ago, and I still shake my head in wonder over how it all came about. Alas, Katherine! I saw last night that Neville's formerly very user-friendly website that was filled with interesting tid-bits on her research and details of her life has been transformed into a corporate bloggy-type thing that I don't care for. All the really GOOD stuff has disappeared! Eek! What happened to the research on the centaurs and volvos? This has been a fairly recent development I think, because I last visited her website in June, looking for news of the much-anticipated sequel to "The Eight" - called "The Fire" and it was still the same then. How disappointing. How sad. Now "The Fire" has been announced to much hoo-ha, which is great, but I feel the former Katherine her fans all knew and admired all these years between best sellers has been lost forever. What the hell happened? On the other hand, I am looking forward to the release date of October 14 and I eagerly pre-ordered my hard copy of "The Fire" last night online through Barnes & Noble. It was only this morning that I realized that I had already pre-ordered the book back in June. Eek! So now I will receive two volumes of "The Fire." Not to worry - I have just the person in mind to receive an unexpected gift... Like many of my other favorite books, I've read "The Eight" several times now and I get something new out of it every time. My Ballantine paperback edition, published in 1990, is yellowed, dog-earred, heavily underlined and filled with coffee and wine stains. LOL! And so, to be able to continue the story after all these years - twenty years! I await "The Fire" with even more anticipation than I did the release of the next Harry Potter novel, and that's saying a lot. Last night I saw at Susan Polgar's chess blog that she will be a special guest/hostess of a very special occasion introducing "The Fire" to the reading public to be held in Washington, D.C. and Katherine Neville is the guest of honor. I'm so jealous! Of course, I couldn't afford what I'm sure would be a hefty contribution to attend. Sigh. Oh well. I'll pacify myself with reading "The Fire" by the fireplace with several bottles of fine wine and lots of candles, smooth jazz playing in the background. The best news of all, though, is this announcement at the bottom of the invitation SP published last night: A portion of the first edition proceeds of THE FIRE are donated to SPICE, Grandmaster Susan Polgar's Institute for Chess Excellence at Texas Tech. This is really a coup for Susan Polgar and for SPICE and Texas Tech. I believe it will result in a nice financial dividend for SPICE.

2008 Women's World Chess Championship

Here are the pairings for Round 3 - now down to 16 players (photo from this round): Svetlana Matveeva - Anna Ushenina Hoang Than Trang - Humpy Koneru Hou Yifan - Elena Sedina Inna Gaponenko - Antoaneta Stefanova Pia Cramling - Ruan Lufei Harika Dronavalli - Lilit Mkrtchian Shen Yang - Nadezhda Kosintseva Alexandra Kosteniuk - Tatiana Kosintseva I'm just checking in at to read the blog-by-blow action that is updated every 15 minutes or so: 15:50 CET We saw that coming, Hoang Thanh - Koneru draw. 16:25 CET Yifan Hou (playing Elena Sedina) and Antoaneta Stefanova (playing Inna Gaponenko) continue destroying the opposition at the World Women Chess Championship. Both won before the time control, proving the great form they are in. 16:50 CET IM Anna Ushenina (playing Svetlana Matveeva) scores important win with Black pieces! White position quickly collapsed after the tactical shot which earned Ushenina a pawn on the 23rd move. Updated at 12:52 my local time: 17:15 CET Shen Yang and Nadezda Kosintseva have agreed to a draw after reaching an endgame with reduced material. 17:25 CET Long time top female player Pia Cramling of Sweden wins the first game against Ruan Lufei of China. 17:40 CET Dronavalli - Mkrtchian draw. Excellent result for Armenian player, having in mind that she mixed the colors and prepared to be White today! 18:10 CET Alexandra Kosteniuk could not win the endgame with split pawns and the draw was agreed in the position that resembled the game of other Kosintseva - Nadezda. Results: Svetlana Matveeva - Anna Ushenina 0-1Hoang Than Trang - Humpy Koneru drawHou Yifan - Elena Sedina 1-0Inna Gaponenko - Antoaneta Stefanova 0-1Pia Cramling - Ruan Lufei 1-0Harika Dronavalli - Lilit Mkrtchian drawShen Yang - Nadezhda Kosintseva drawAlexandra Kosteniuk - Tatiana Kosintseva draw Round three, game two, is taking place on Friday at 7:00 EST/13:00 CET.

Harika Wins!

I love the enthusiasm of the Indian press when its reports on its chessplayers. The type size for the article title was even larger than what I can produce here! From Harika wins tie-break, enters pre-quarters of World Chess September 4th, 2008 - 5:07 pm ICT by IANS - Nalchik (Russia), Sep 4 (IANS) India’s Dronavalli Harika, the women’s world junior champion, eliminated Anna Muzychuk of Slovenia in the tie-breaker of the second round to move into the pre-quarter finals of the Women’s World championships here. Harika, who had shared points after the regulation matches, both of which ended in a draw, won with white pieces in the second tie-break game here Wednesday night. Earlier the two drew the first game. The 1.5-0.5 win carried Harika into the third round, which is the pre-quarter finals, where she meets Lilit Mkrtchian of Armenia, rated 2436, as against Harika’s 2461. Harika said that she was very happy to win against Anna Muzychuk, as the Slovenian player was considered a dark horse in the tournament. Also Harika was playing a rapid tie-break at this level for the first time and she felt this would be a good exercise for future challenges. World No. 2 Koneru Humpy, who had a bye in the second round, meets Thanh Trang Hoang of Vietnam (rated 2487) in the third round. On ratings and current form, Humpy, rated at 2622, the highest in this tournament, should win comfortably. If Humpy wins, she will meet the winner of China’s Yang Shen and Russian Nadezhda Kosintseva, who beat Nisha Mohotoa in first round. Defending champion Xu Yuhua has already been knocked out of the tournament. The following are the pre-quarter final pairings: Svetlana Matveeva (Russia) vs. Anna Ushenina (Ukraine); Hoang Than Trang (Hungary) vs. Humpy Koneru (India); Hou Yifan (China) vs. Elena Sedina (Italy); Inna Gaponenkpo (Ukraine) vs. Antoaneta Stefanova (Bulgaria); Pia Cramling (Sweden) vs. Ruan Lufei (China); Harika Dronavali (India) vs. Lilit Mcrtchian (Armenia); Shen Yang (China) vs. Nadezhda Kosintseva (Russia); Alexandra Kosteniuk (Russia) vs. Tatiana Kosintseva (Russia).

GM Dibyendu Barua Backs Tata Motors

Unless you own ADRs in Tata Motors (part of the multinational conglomerate run by the Tata family out of India), you probably won't be familiar with this story. I own some shares in TTM, so I've been following closely the development of the $2,500 car (plus $300 value-added tax in India) called the Nano, designed specifically to appeal to the growing Indian middle class by providing an economical, small but roomy and efficient automobile that can handle the local roads. The Nano, which debuted at an international car show in January to rave reviews, has been awaited with eager anticipation by the buying public in India. Alas, the gigantic factory that Tata undertook to build in India has run into trouble and is behind schedule and, in fact, Tata has now said it it considering walking away from the project entirely because of intense local opposition stirred up by outside organizers. So far, Tata has invested some $330 million USD in the project and approximately 800 local people are working on/at the facility. Relocating production of the Nano to another state would delay it's commercial debut by at least a year. There are two prongs to the objections of the West Bengal objectors: the first is that local farmers who had land confiscated or condemned for the factory complex claim they did not want to sell but were forced to sell, or they were not adequately compensated for their acres, or both; the second is that some locals and some outside protestors who have taken up the cause, don't want ANY economic development of any kind whatsoever to take place in their state, they want things to stay the same way they've always been. It is a compelling story of the clash between the past and the present/future, the kind of story that went on in Europe beginning some 400 years ago and in America some 300 years ago, the clash between an agrarian way of life and the forces of industrialization and development. In India, it's being played out over the Nano factory in West Bengal and no doubt in hundreds of other small villages and towns all across India - and in China, too. Of course, in China, the protestors would have all long since been arrested and shipped off to various work camps for 20 years (those who weren't killed by local police, that is). By all accounts, the factory is a 21st century model of efficiency and economies of scale, with factories of parts suppliers to have been built along-side the massive Nano manufactory buildings, and ultimately would have supplied 10,000 to 15,000 local jobs. The protests started at the same time as construction of the Tata facilities did in 2007. But in recent days, the highway around the facility has been blocked by about 5,000 protesters throwing rocks at cars and buses, intimidating Tata workers and outside reporters alike. Will Tata really throw in the towel in West Bengal and walk away from its investment? Press reports indicate that leaders within the local Communist-party controlled government want Tata to stay, and indeed, realize the importance of moving forward with economic development while states all around West Bengal are eagerly pursuing the benefits of economic development for their citizens. West Bengal has been left behind, so to speak. At the same time, it appears that the protests have paralyzed the local government from doing anything except providing some police to guard the perimeter of the Tata facility in an attempt to quell any excessive actions by the protesting crowds. If any kind of forum is being provided by the local government for the protesters to address their grievances, I haven't read about it. I also haven't read anything about what the Indian national government is doing, if anything, to mediate the situation. It is against this background that I saw today's article, and wanted to publish it here, because it provides a glimpse into what people other than the protesters and Tata officials are thinking about what's been going on. With the great surge of popularity of chess in India and the success of its chessplayers on the international scene, will Dibyendu's comments have an affect? From The Chess hero Dibyendu Barua bats for Nano September 4, 2008 Kolkata (PTI): After cricketer Sourav Ganguly, chess Grand Master Dibyendu Barua on Thursday appealed to the intelligentsia of West Bengal to raise their voices in support of the Nano small car project. "Whatever is happening in Bengal for the past few days is a shame on us. What has happened to the Bengali intelligentsia? Can't we see that if we still keep a mum, we will end up losing a project like Nano? Is that what we want?" he asked. He said it was high time that people of the state realise that the Nano car project will usher in a positive era for the industry in West Bengal. "We all know that West Bengal is lagging behind in the field of industry; we do not have enough manufacturing industry which generates most of the job opportunities. "Tata is such a brand which is not only known for its credibility and corporate social responsibilities, but it has a magnetic force that would attract many more industrialists in West Bengal," Baru said. Giving en example of Jamshedpur which turned from an unknown place to a model town, he said the Tatas brought in a sea-change wherever they set up factories. "So, I would earnestly appeal to all of you to please come forward, raise your voice and raise it for good reasons. Save Nano factory. Save our future," he said.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Malcom Pein Comments on Women's World Chess Championship

From the Georgia on their mind By Malcolm Pein Last Updated: 12:01am BST 03/09/2008 Six Georgian players have boycotted the Fide Women’s World Championship which got under way at Nalchik in the south western Russian province of Kabardino-Balkaria. Your correspondent does not turn down all expenses paid trips often but he made an exception in this case. A call came out of the blue from Fide offering a free trip at a time of my choosing but a little research made up my mind. The region has been somewhat unstable even before the Russian assault on Georgia and this also convinced the American Irina Krush and the French player Marie Sebag to cancel their participation. In all, eleven of the sixty four invitees did not play round one of the knockout competition.

Violence and Mayhem in Nalchik

Oh yes, Fearless Leader Kirsan and the Russian organizers of the Women's World Chess Championship assured the world that Nalchik is a safe and peaceful place. That's BULLSH*T. Fresh off the press at The New York Times: 2 Journalists Are Attacked in Russia By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: September 3, 2008 Filed at 8:51 a.m. ET ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) -- One journalist was shot and killed and another was left with a fractured skull after a beating in Russia's troubled North Caucasus, and police and co-workers said Wednesday the two men were likely targeted for their work. The attacks on an Islamic TV reporter and an opposition newspaper editor are the latest violence to renew fears about the safety of journalists in Russia. A third journalist was shot by police on Sunday -- a killing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said represented ''a further deterioration of media freedom in Russia.'' In the North Caucasus city of Makhachkala, Islamic TV reporter Telman Alishaev died at a hospital Wednesday morning, one day after being shot by two men as he sat in his car, Interior Ministry spokesman Mark Tolchinsky said. Alishaev, who hosted a religious-themed program in Dagestan, had produced documentaries and written extensively about Wahhabism -- a severe strain of Islam that is the main sect in Saudi Arabia, Shamil Guseinov, another Interior Ministry official, said. Meanwhile, police in the North Caucasus city of Nalchik said Wednesday that three people, one in a mask, assaulted Miloslav Bitokov outside his home Tuesday evening, along with another man. Bitokov was hospitalized with skull injuries. Colleagues at Bitokov's newspaper ''Gazeta Yuga'' said he had been threatened previously for publishing articles critical of local authorities. Both Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkariya, where Bitokov was killed, are located near violence-wracked Chechnya. Rights groups say authorities in both regions have stepped up pressure against opposition groups and independent media in recent years. Also targeted have been devout Muslims who practice outside of officially sanctioned mosques and are frequently labeled by authorities as being ''Wahhabis.'' Russia has long been considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. More than a dozen reporters have been slain in contract-style killings since 2000 including Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist killed in 2006 after winning acclaim for reporting on atrocities in Chechnya. On Sunday, the owner of an independent Web site in another Caucasus region, Ingushetia, was shot and killed by police and his body dumped by the side of the road, his colleague said. Magomed Yevloyev ran a Web site that was intensely critical of Ingush authorities. Hundreds of angry mourners gathered Monday in Ingushetia's main city of Nazran to mourn Yevloyev's death in a rally that turned into an anti-government demonstration. Prosecutors say Yevloyev was accidentally shot while sitting in a police car after he tried to take away a police officer's gun. [Yeah, right.] ^------ Associated Press Writer Arsen Mollayev contributed to this report from Makhachkala.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Female Sarmatian Burial Uncovered

The translation on this is a little iffy, lol! I doubt very much the lady had an iron awl "stuck in her head." On the other hand, the presence of a mirror among the burial goods indicates someone of very high status, possibly even a priestess. Hopefully more details will be forthcoming: 02-09-2008 17:51 Archeologists found woman's burial of Sarmatian epoch in one of burial mounds of Chutovo district, Poltava region According to director of the centre of protection and research of the archeological monuments of the department of culture of the Poltava Regional State Administration Oleksandr Suprunenko, the woman was very influential. The things found next to her prove this, namely a bronze mirror, a dagger and iron scissors as well as a unique silver brooch. Besides, an iron awl was stuck in the woman's head. Sarmatians is a general name of the people that dominated in the Ukrainian steppes after collapse of the Scythian state. According to Herodotus, the Sarmatians originated from Amazonians who married Scythian men.

Fascinating Neolithic Carvings

This is from a blog at The photographs are not the best. The first one does remind me of a Trypillian culture iconic motif - also known as a "bird" goddess (the pointy head is indicative of this type of carving - some people call them "lizard" heads, a headdress or dressed hair? but this could just be erosion too - looks like there are the remnants of ears and some kind of face) - also looks rather Cyclaic. It's hard to tell what else the first photo is attached to - it's just a head shot. Shot #2 is okay, but is shot #3 a close-up of the face of #2 - or a different rock carving? How close are the rock carvings of shots #1 and #2? So many questions! Stonehenge Found in Carpathians August 28, 2008 There are more than ten prehistoric rocky sculptures in Carpathians. Scientists compare them to English Stonehenge. Scientists do not know who and when cut out these sculptures, but they are sure that such historic evidences are rare for Europe. Sculptures were found in village Snidavka, Kosov region. Archeologists always knew that there were rare sculptures in the mountains. However, any explorations were forbidden during the Soviet time. But when the exploration was allowed there were no money. Research started only three years ago, and ten rocky rarities were immediately found. This sculpture could have become the gold mine for tourist business. But it has never become. 14-meter sculpture of a pregnant woman is the most valuable discovery of archeologists. It might not have analogs in the whole world. According to archeologist Mykola Kogutyak, the sculpture is 5-6 thousand years BC old. “It is the interweaving of north Black Sea civilizations,” he said. Scientists do not know who and when cut out these sculptures. Ones say they belong to Trypillya culture, others mention more ancient civilizations, but both camps are sure that these are heathen symbols. In August scientists are holding international conference to define the fate of the mountain treasures. Archeologists stand for creation of historic and cultural reserve in Carpathian. Then it will change completely not only the tourist map of Ukraine, but of the whole Europe.

Chess News

I've updated my coverage of the Women's World Chess Championship at Chess Femme News. I've stuck my neck way out and made predictions about who I think will make it through the Round 2 play-offs to Round 3. Gulp. Goddesschess' latest edition of Random Round-up is also up and running for the next week. I sent off my September, 2008 edition of Chessville's L'echecs des Femmes yesterday, but it hasn't been published yet, maybe not until this weekend. Enjoy!

Aztlan on a Pacific Island?

An interesting article about the mythical Aztlan and how the concept has been warped by Mexicans who want to migrate (legally or illegally) to the United States. Pacific island claims to be the roots of Mexico Location of Aztec homeland has been sought and debated By JEREMY SCHWARTZ Cox News Service Aug. 30, 2008, 5:34PM MEXCALTITÁN, MEXICO — In the pre-dawn darkness, the fishermen return with nets brimming with plump shrimp and tie up their canoes behind homes of mud and wood. It's a way of life that's hardly changed over the past 1,000 years in Mexcaltitán, an isolated Pacific coastal island that's been dubbed the Venice of Mexico because its sunken streets become canals during the rainy season. But embedded in that humble daily ritual may lie clues to one of the hemisphere's great historical mysteries: Where did the mighty Aztec civilization come from? For local officials and some historians, Mexcaltitán is nothing less than the mythical Aztlán, birthplace of the ancient Aztecs. Immigration flashpoint According to legend, the Aztecs left an island in 1091 and wandered for two centuries before settling in what is now Mexico City. There, they founded the legendary city of Tenochtitlan, an island city of canals and floating gardens, and lorded over an empire that stretched from Guatemala to northern Mexico before the Spanish conquered them in 1521. But the location of Aztlán is no mere academic exercise: the term has become a flashpoint in today's raging U.S.-Mexico immigration debate. Entering "Aztlán" in an Internet search is to be immersed in a fierce, often nasty, ideological battle over immigrant rights. Historians and archeologists are bitterly divided over the location of Aztlán, or even over whether the place ever existed. With some theories placing the Aztec homeland in the U.S. Southwest, Utah or California, the notion has become fraught with political overtones. For decades, the idea of an Aztlán located within the United States was an important part of the growing Chicano pride movement. Anne Martinez, a University of Texas history professor, said the embrace of Aztlán reflected a desire by Mexican-Americans to forge a clear geographical link, and thus a belonging, to the United States. "It was also the idea that wherever Mexicans are outside of Mexico that that is Aztlán," she said. "That we take Aztlán with us." 'Powerful idea' Today, the term is more likely to be used by anti-immigration groups warning of a reconquista, or reconquering, of the Southwest U.S. by Mexican immigrants. The Just Build the Fence blog defines Aztlán as "the enemy encamped within our own borders." "(Aztlán) is a very powerful idea," said Mexican archeologist Jesús Jáuregui, a leading expert on Aztlán theories. "It can mean something different to each person." In Mexcaltitán, located in the Pacific state of Nayarit, clues that this was once Aztlán are tantalizing. In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs (who called themselves the Mexica), Aztlán means "place of whiteness" or "place of herons." And the village is indeed a favorite haunt of white herons, which nest in the surrounding lagoon, as well as seasonal blooms of white water lilies. Héctor Apodaca, a guide at the village's museum, argues that local fishing holes have the same names as Aztec places like Toluca. Apodaca says that Cora Indians, who were among the last indigenous groups to be subdued by the Spanish and speak a version of Nahuatl, still come to the island every year to make offerings. "That's because they believe that this was a ceremonial center of the Mexica," Apodaca said. A living replica Others point to Mexcaltitán's striking physical resemblance to Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital whose ruins sit under Mexico City. Some historians say Mexcaltitán's circular shape and cruciform design are similar to that of Tenochtitlan, which Spanish conquistador Bernal Diaz described as "an enchanted vision." Tenochtitlan was destroyed in 1521, long before the invention of the camera, and officials in Mexcaltitán say their village is the closest thing to a living replica. Local officials are so certain that Mexcaltitán is Aztlán that they've dubbed the state of Nayarit the "cradle of Mexicaness" and changed the state's official seal to include a diagram of the Aztecs' departure from Mexcaltitán. But despite the local certainty, historical debate rages on. No definitive archeological evidence has yet been uncovered to prove Mexcaltitán's connection to Tenochtitlan. Jáuregui, the Mexican archeologist, believes Aztlán is more myth than place and says the official sanctioning of Mexcaltitán as Aztlán stemmed from political, rather than historical reasons. He said that during the 1960s and 1970s, Mexican officials grew alarmed by Chicano and Mexican-American assertions that the ancient homeland actually sat outside the boundaries of Mexico. He argues that such a possibility embarrassed and potentially undermined what has become Mexico's creation myth. And the state of Nayarit, traditionally one of the poorest in Mexico, was in need of a tourism boost. "Mexcaltitán is a beautiful place," he said. "But that's a lot different than saying it's Aztlán." In Mexcaltitán, any collective memory of the Aztecs' presence there seems to have been lost. Antonio Osuna Carbajal, a Mexcaltitán fisherman, smiles slyly when asked if his home is Aztlán. "That's what they tell us," he said. "But the bad thing is that the older generations didn't leave us any writings or anything like that."

Ingushetia Web Site Owner Killed by Russian Police

Another way to get rid of all opposition - label them "terrorists." The true terrorists are running things from the Kremlin. Hey, Kirsan, real safe region you chose to hold the Women's World Chess Championship in! Story from Russian police kill anti-government website owner September 1, 2008 The owner of an independent website critical of authorities was shot and killed by police today in a volatile province in southern Russia, his colleague said. The killing of owner Magomed Yevloyev could incite tensions in the province of Ingushetia west of Chechnya, which has been the site of frequent attacks on police and other officials. Police arrested Yevloyev today, taking him off a plane that had just landed in Ingushetia province near Chechnya, said the site's deputy editor, Ruslan Khautiyev. Police whisked Yevloyev away in a car and later dumped him on the road with a gunshot wound in the head, Khautiyev said. He said Yevloyev died in a hospital shortly afterward. In Moscow, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said in a statement that Yevloyev was detained by police and died in an "incident" while being taken to police headquarters for an interrogation. Markin did not elaborate, saying a check to clarify the circumstances of Yevloyev's death had begun. The committee is under the Prosecutor-General's office. Yevloyev has angered regional authorities with bold criticism of police treatment of civilians in the region. A court in June ordered him to shut his site on charges of spreading "extremist" statements, but it reappeared under a different name. Khautiyev said Yevloyev arrived in Ingushetia from Moscow on the same plane with regional president Murat Zyazikov. Police blocked the jet on the runway after it landed in Ingushetia's provincial capital, Magas, entered the plane and took Yevloyev out. Yevloyev's death is likely to further stir up passions in Ingushetia, which has been plagued by frequent raids and ambushes against federal forces and local authorities. Government critics attribute the attacks to anger fuelled by abductions, beatings, unlawful arrests and killings of suspects by government forces and local allied paramilitaries. In June, Human Rights Watch accused Russian security forces of widespread human rights abuses in Ingushetia, saying it has documented dozens of summary and arbitrary detentions, acts of torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions. It said officials in Ingushetia persecuted peaceful Muslims and government critics, marginalised opposition groups and stifled independent media. The New York-based rights group warned that the "dirty war" tactics against insurgents would likely further destabilise the situation in Ingushetia and beyond in the North Caucasus. Many in Ingushetia are intensely unhappy with Zyazikov, a former KGB officer and a close ally of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. An anti-government rally in Ingushetia in January drew hundreds of people who clashed with police. Immediately after Yevloyev's detention, his website urged Ingushetia's residents to gather outside the headquarters of a leading opposition group. AP
Coverage of the story from The Wall Street Journal:
A Muckraker's Slaying Leaves Russian Province Fearing Crackdown By ALAN CULLISONSeptember 1, 2008; Page A20
MOSCOW -- For months, the owner of a muckraking news Web site had stayed away from his home after receiving warnings to tone down his critique of Kremlin-backed authorities in the Russian province of Ingushetia, friends said.
But Magomed Yevloyev finally boarded a plane to return to Ingushetia this week, and there he encountered a surprise: The local governor was riding on the same plane, a few seats away from him in business class.
When the plane landed in Ingushetia, the governor was met by a Mercedes that whisked him away. And Mr. Yevloyev was arrested at the airport, deposited into a jeep and shot in the head. Local authorities say the killing was an accident.
Mr. Yevloyev's killing Sunday shocked the southern region of Ingushetia, where the local opponents of the Kremlin are already anxious because of years of kidnappings and violence that they blame on federal authorities. Now, with Russia projecting its might outside its borders with its military foray into Georgia, fears abound that the Kremlin's rule within Russia, and specifically in the restless North Caucasus, could get tougher.
Authorities say Mr. Yevloyev was shot in the head during a struggle, after he tried to grab a policeman's gun as they were bringing him to the local capital to be questioned about a bombing there.
The governor, Murat Zyazikov, issued a statement promising an investigation. "I personally didn't know him," Mr. Zyazikov said. "I think in this case what we're talking about is a human tragedy."
Over the past four years, Mr. Yevloyev had turned his Web site,, into the main source for news in Ingushetia, a predominantly Muslim province bordering on war-ravaged Chechnya. Mr. Yevloyev had emerged as a vociferous critic of Mr. Zyazikov, a security-service veteran. Mr. Yevloyev charged that Russia's FSB, the successor to the KGB, was operating with impunity in Ingushetia, rubbing out opposition members with hit squads that carried out extrajudicial executions.
Mr. Yevloyev's death casts a spotlight on a region where ethnic strife and brutal crackdowns by security services remain the norm despite Russia's claims that it has subdued Islamic separatists in Chechnya. Hundreds of demonstrators marched Monday in the Ingush capital to protest what they called his murder, demanding the ouster of the governor, Russian news agencies reported.
In an interview last year, Mr. Yevloyev said he started the news service as a hobby, when he worked in Ingushetia's prosecutor's office and began posting news items on a Web page. Mr. Yevloyev often gathered his real-time reports of firefights, killings and arrests from freelance contributors and residents who phoned in, and he carried with him four mobile phones to support the service. One mobile phone was for text messages, a second was for socializing, and a third was for business, he said. The fourth mobile phone, he said, was for "special friends."
Mr. Yevloyev claimed that some of his Web site's reports derailed some official abuses before they could come to fruition. In 2006, he said, contributors helped him document how Russian federal authorities had sent a special "liquidator" squad to Ingushetia that was preparing to assassinate people who had been identified as insurgents. The squad left Ingushetia, he said, after his Web site posted several items about its movements.
Ingushetia also been a hotbed for separatism. In June, Human Rights Watch accused Russian security forces of widespread abuses in the region against local Muslim groups as well as opposition activists and media. The group said it documented dozens of summary and arbitrary detentions, acts of torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.
Mr. Yevloyev's Web site was a chronicler of many of the alleged abuses. The government tried to shut it down by labeling it as "extremist" under Russia's toughened antiterror laws.
Last year, Mr. Yevloyev's site focused on Russia's parliamentary elections and accused the governor of overseeing vote fraud to curry favor with the Kremlin. The site posted observers at polling stations who estimated that turnout was about 8% -- far below the official tally of the regional government, which said that 98% voted overwhelmingly for the Kremlin-backed party.
The next week, the governor told a Russian magazine that the election-fraud allegations were "nonsense." He played down the kidnappings and killings, saying they only got attention because of an information war being waged against his administration by "those who want to weaken Russia."
With pressure rising this year, especially after a court ruled the site extremist, Mr. Yevloyev had stayed away from Ingushetia, according to his lawyer, Kaloy Akhilgov.
Mr. Akhilgov he said he spoke to Mr. Yevloyev by phone Saturday night, trying dissuade him from returning to Ingushetia. "I told him not to go there, that anything could happen to you," he said. "He said he wasn't a coward, and that his parents were there and his brother and sister and needed to see them." Aboard the flight to Ingushetia, Mr. Yevloyev and the governor didn't speak to one another, said Vasily Likhachev, a member of Russia's parliament from Ingushetia who spoke to Mr. Zyazikov on Monday. Mr. Zyazikov and Mr. Yevloyev "did indeed fly together on the same plane, but there were no arguments or any kind of conversation between them," he told the Interfax news agency.
An entourage of friends were awaiting Mr. Yevloyev at the airport in Ingushetia. The governor got off first, and was whisked away in a Mercedes, said Magomed Khazbiyev, a personal friend of Mr. Yevloyev and a leader of opposition to the local government. Then Mr. Yevloyev was escorted to an armored jeep of Russia's Interior Ministry, he said. A short time later, he turned up at a local hospital with a single bullet wound through the head, he said.
Mr. Khazbiyev said that Mr. Yevloyev was in police custody for 20 minutes at most.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Exhibit of Egyptian Queens

From Exhibition Spotlights Women Who Were Queens of Egypt at Grimaldi Forum Monaco (Image - not from exhibit - Nefertiti, wife of Akhenaten, the "heretic" Pharaoh, from the Berlin Museum) August 31. 2008 MONACO.- Although endless exhibitions have been devoted to the subject, the Grimaldi Forum Monaco is going one unprecedented step further by being the first to turn the spotlight on those women who were Queens of Egypt through a 4000m² exhibition. The exhibition curator, Christiane Ziegler has collected together nearly 250 incomparable exhibits to illustrate the subject exhibits loaned by the world's most important museums in Cairo, New York, Berlin, Munich, London, Turin, Moscow etc and of course by the Louvre, where until May 2007 Ms Ziegler ran the prestigious Egyptian antiquities department. The spectacular display is designed by François Payet, who recreated Imperial Saint Petersburg for the Grimaldi Forum's 2004 exhibition chronicling the city's history from the reign of Peter the Great to that of Catherine the Great. The story unfolds theme by theme as visitors advance through the exhibition. Although the function of Egypt’s queens changed over the centuries, some features were unvarying: the status of women, the status of the royal family, women's living environment, their religious role, the symbols used in portrayals of them. These are the themes around which the main sections of the exhibition are built. But exhibition curator Christiane Ziegler also wanted to spotlight major figures such as Hatshepsut, Tiy, Nefertari and Cleopatra. They have found their place in the exhibition, along with the mythical aspect of Egypt's queens that still sets us dreaming. The exhibition starts with Cleopatra, the most popular Egyptian queen although she was actually of Greek origin. From the mythical image of Cleopatra now so familiar from films and advertising we move on to the historical figure revealed by archaeology and documents. The exhibition ends with another queen, less familiar to the general public: Queen Tausert whose tomb can now be visited in the Valley of Kings. She was the inspiration for Théophile Gautier’s well-known novel The Romance of a Mummy. Between these two, the exhibition takes visitors on a fabulous journey of discovery through Ancient Egypt and the many facets of its royal women. First, their social status. Their titles were based on their relationship to the reigning king: they were called “mother of the king” or “wife of the king”; in some cases a pharaoh gave the title of “wife of the king” to a daughter, otherwise princesses were “daughters of the king”. Visitors are shown how the pharaoh’s close links with several generations of women probably derive from Egyptian mythology, the mother/wife/daughter association being a symbol of perpetual creation. Thus the Egyptian queens played a fundamental role in the renewal of royal power and in the pharaoh’s survival in the afterlife. We then enter one of the most famous harems, at Gurob. Christiane Ziegler has entrusted this section to her assistant Marine Yoyotte, who is writing a doctorate thesis on the subject. The king had many secondary wives, some of whom were foreign princesses taken in marriage to strengthen alliances with neighbouring powers. Most of the royal household’s women and children lived together in institutions usually referred to as harems. A harem was both a centre of social activity and an economic hub, by no means shielded from the turbulence of political life. Echoes of palace plots hatched there from the age of the pyramids on have come down to us through the centuries. The next section focuses on the image of the queen. Portrayals of queens extol their beauty according to an aesthetic ideal that varied from one era to another. With very few exceptions the queens are shown in the bloom of youth, the luxury and refinement that surrounded them reflected in their clothing, an abundance of jewellery and the toiletry items with which they enhanced their beauty. Like the pharaoh, the queen mother and the pharaoh’s “great royal wife” were distinguished from common mortals by symbols borrowed from the gods. The exhibition then shows the queens’ religious role. Scenes of worship show queens performing rites alongside their pharaohs; using all their charms to please the gods, they shake sacred musical instruments rhythmically to create sounds pleasing to divine ears. Their presence reflects a theology in which the royal wife is truly the “other half” of the pharaoh, guarantor of balance in the world. We discover the particular importance of the queens and princesses known as “divine adoratrices of the god Amun”. These priestesses of Amun in Thebes became increasingly important over time. In the first millennium BC they were the primary religious authority and possessed considerable wealth. At that period they took a vow of celibacy and the succession was passed down by adoption; each conqueror appointed his daughter to this strategic position. Lastly, some queens, including Ahmes Nefertari whom we meet here, were deified after death. Nefertari was worshipped during the time of the Ramses, mainly on the left bank at Thebes. She was often worshipped in the company of her son, Amenhotep I. Did the queens exert a real influence on the governance of the country? This is the theme of the next section in the exhibition, addressed through several examples. Queen Tiy’s royal husband Amenhotep III seems to have listened to her advice and she conducted diplomatic correspondence with the greatest sovereigns of her time. Aahhotep, mother of Ahmose, probably acted as regent during a time of political upheaval. Hatshepsut is one of the few queens to have held absolute power, adopting the titles and appearance of a pharaoh. The Nubian example of the Kandakes, or “black queens”, of Meroe in modern Sudan shows that during some periods there was genuine power-sharing in the Nile valley. I. The myth: Cleopatra In the Western imagination, the Queen of Egypt is incarnated in Cleopatra. Why has she remained the most famous of all? The Romans have handed her story down to us in which all the ingredients of success are combined: love, power, wealth, dramatic death….Numerous artists have elaborated on this theme, taking inspiration from Pharaonic models popularised by scientific publications, but often situating the scenes in a dreamed Orient. Even today, the cinema, advertising and comics successfully exploit this mythical figure. Paradoxically, however, the best-known Queen of Egypt is a Greek descendant of Alexander’s generals. She is heir to a long line of attested sovereigns from the end of the fourth millennium before Christ - at the time when the Pharaonic institution was born. Very few of the Queens of Egypt are familiar to the public: Hatchepsout, Nefertiti, Nefertari, etc. Cleopatra was the last Queen of Egypt and also the last Pharaoh, since she exercised personal power, which was very rare for women. II. Mother, Wife or Daughter of the King: The Status of the Queens of Egypt The title of Queen is composed in relation to the reigning king: she is “mother of the king” or wife of the king.” Some “daughters of the king” (a title we would translate as “princess”) were given the title “wife of the king” by their father. All belong to this female galaxy surrounding the Pharaoh in which each daughter of the king can become wife and sister of the king, then mother of the king. Clearly, the Pharaoh’s intimate ties with several generations of women of the royal family must be sought in myths: the mother-wife-daughter association was conceived as a symbol of perpetual creation. For this reason, the Egyptian queens played a fundamental role in the renewal of royal power and in the survival of the Pharaoh in the beyond. II.1. The Mother of the King She has a very important place, is often seen at his sides and benefits from a specific cult. This major role appears starting from the time of the pyramids. At this time, theologians worked out the dogma of the divine nature of the sovereign, born of the union of a god with a woman. This is what is reported in a tale from the Westcar papyrus narrating the birth of three kings whose father is the sun god Rê and the mother a mere priestess: this wonder inaugurated a new dynasty. In the New Empire, the scenes of the theogamy sculpted on the walls of the temples (Deir el Bahari, Luxor, etc.) show the union of the queen and the god Amon who comes to visit her by borrowing the appearance of her husband, then the birth of the new king born of this mystical marriage. II.2. The Grand Royal Wife “She who sees Horus and Seth.” She is the mother of the heir prince. In principle, there is only one at a time. She can be seen beside the sovereign for the purpose of performing rites: sister or daughter of the king (problem of incest and of consanguine marriages). It is now known that royalty was not handed down by women, even though consanguine marriages strengthened the throne. According to the epoch and to personalities, the grand wife was more or less influential, and many of them remain unknown to us. Example: Nefertari, grand wife of Ramses II, to whom a small temple in Abou Simbel was consecrated. III. Secondary Wives, Harems and Concubines Many Pharaohs married princesses of foreign origin, thus strengthening alliances with their neighbours. A rich treasure of gold plate coming from the tomb of three secondary wives of Thoutmosis III bears witness that they bore names of Syrian origin. Documents from the New Empire, the Annals of Thoutmosis III and diplomatic correspondence from Amarna show that a large number or oriental women – daughters of the Pharaoh’s vassals – were delivered to the Court as a pledge of their country’s loyalty. They were accompanied by an army of servants. There were thus a great number of women in the king’s entourage. What became of this multitude or women? The grand wives no doubt lived in the capitals with the Pharaoh. Queen mothers and grand wives had rich domains at their disposal with their own personnel. It is probable that favourites benefited from similar endowments. And most of the women in the household were grouped together in institutions customarily known as “harems.” In our contemporary acceptance, the term is not suitable, but we shall use it for want of a precise translation. Judging by older examples, the “harem” (ipet nesout) formed the private apartments of the king. Contrary to what might be imagined, it was not a place of reclusion for eunuchs and concubines. Queens, princes and princesses lived there freely in the company of ladies of the Court or as “royal ornaments” together with an army of servants, nannies, private tutors, hairdressers and musicians who lived there with their families. The harem of Gourob was also an economic centre where linen was weaved and where wood, ivory, earthenware and vividly coloured glass were worked. It was also in the harem that, from the time of the pyramids, plots were woven, echoes of which have been handed down to us. The gamble was to conquer power. IV. The image of the queen: feminine beauty and divine attributes Representations of queens exalt their beauty in keeping with an ideal that changed over the epochs. Aside from very rare exceptions, they are portrayed in the bloom of youth in keeping with a convention peculiar to all Egyptian art. The luxury and refinement with which they are surrounded can be seen in the clothes, numerous jewels and toilet articles intended to enhance their beauty. Like the Pharaoh, the mother of the king and his “royal grand wife” are distinguished from the rest of humanity by emblems borrowed from the gods. They wear the neret crown (vulture remains), the cobra-ureus, the double feather and the sign of life ankh, marking their divine aspect. Do these attributes simply reflect the exceptional intimacy shared by the women of the royal family with the sovereign, son of the gods? Or do they demonstrate that there existed a feminine counterpart to the divine concept of Pharaonic royalty? It is the latter aspect that has been brought to light by recent studies. V. The Religious Role Cult scenes frequently show queens performing rites alongside the Pharaoh. Using their charm to conciliate the gods, they wave musical instruments about rhythmically: sistrums and sacred rattles whose music pacified and thrilled the divinities; the menat, whose rows of pearls banging together produced a rustling sound soothing to divine ears. Offered to the gods, these objects were a token of renewal and strengthened the seduction of their owner, which the texts describe as “mistress of the sistrum,” “lady of the menat” and “whose pure hands hold the sistrum to charm her father Amon with her voice […].” A major religious event was the feast of Sed or royal jubilee. The rare representations that have been kept of bas reliefs in Thebes and in Soleb for Amenhetep III, another series in Bubastis for Osorkon III, grant an important place to the Grand royal wife. Thus, Tiy appears there behind her husband Amenhetep III “like the goddess Maât before the god Rê,” the texts tell us. The comparison between the royal couple and the divine couple that presided over the creation of the world is strengthened several years later in the Amarnian epoch during which the beautiful Nefertiti is omnipresent with Akhenaton: in religious scenes where the cult seems to be co-celebrated by the king and the queen accompanied by their daughters; in official scenes where the couple receives homage from foreign countries; in scenes from private life where the royal couple is shown tenderly embracing or exchanging a kiss. The ostentatious demonstration of love that unites the couple here takes on a universal value and becomes a manifestation of the creative energy of the demiurge – a token of renewal of the terrestrial world. V.1. Queens or princesses: the divine worshippers Whether queens or princesses, the divine worshippers of the god Amon saw, their importance grow with time. Priestesses of Amon and of Thebes, they represented the principal religious authority during the first millennium and owned considerable wealth. They were then sworn to celibacy and succeeded one another by adoption, each conqueror placing his daughter in this strategic position. V.2. Deified queens: example – Ahmes Nfertari Evocation of this queen to whom a cult was devoted during the epoch of Ramses, mainly on the left bank of Thebes. She is often worshipped in the company of her son, King Amenophis I. VI. The Counsellor: example – Queen Tiy Queen Tiy has a personality out of the ordinary. Her rather disdainful pout and her wilful expression give charm to a number of her statues. She is included in numerous monuments in the company of her husband, Amenophis III. A lettered queen (an ex-libris from papyri having been included in her library), she maintained diplomatic correspondence with the greatest sovereigns of her time. A temple was dedicated to her in Sedeinga in Nubia as a counterpart to the one erected in Soleb for Amenophis III. Having outlived her husband, she stayed in the new city of Amarna where she is shown in bas reliefs sharing the life of Akhenaton and Nefertiti. VI.1. The Queen Regent: example – Queen Iahhotep Amosis, sovereign founder of the 19th dynasty, exalts the merits of his mother, Iahhotep. The text, inscribed on a stele of the temple at Karnak, sheds light on the decisive role played by the queen when Amosis was quite young: beyond doubt, his mother exercised the regency during a troubled period. Archaeology confirms the written tradition: in the tomb of Iahhotep I, discovered during the 19th century, were included gold pendants in the form of flies – supreme reward ordinarily reserved to the most valorous combatants. VI.2. The monarch: example – Queen Hatchepsout She is one of the rare sovereign women to have exercised absolute power, borrowing the titles and appearance of the Pharaoh. VI.3. Sharing of power The Nubian example: the “candaces” or “black queens” of Meroe (Sudan). VII . Epilogue: The novel of the mummy Few tombs of queens have been found, and most of them have been pillaged. The only funerary trousseaux that remain intact are those of Hetepheres, mother of Cheops, which, it seems, were buried once again in the vicinity of the grand pyramid, and of Iahhetep I, whose sarcophagus was discovered by Mariette on the left bank of Thebes. However, archaeologists have unearthed burial places of concubines and of secondary wives: the princesses of Illahun and of Dachour in the Middle Empire; Thoutmosis III in the New Empire. Nefertari’s tomb with magnificent painted décor has revealed only insignificant vestiges. Thus, it’s vain to try to reconstitute the furniture of a queen’s tomb. We prefer to conclude with a reference to Queen Taousert, whose tomb was found in the Valley of the Kings and which inspired Théophile Gautier for his famous “Novel of the Mummy.”

Serving the Goddess

A lengthy but worthwhile read from The New Letter from India Serving the Goddess The dangerous life of a sacred sex worker. by William Dalrymple August 4, 2008 “Of course, there are times when there is pleasure,” Rani Bai said. “Who does not like to make love? A handsome young man, one who is gentle . . .” She paused for a moment, looking out over the lake, smiling to herself. Then her face clouded over. “But mostly it is horrible. The farmers here, they are not like the boys of Bombay.” “And eight of them every day,” her friend Kaveri said. “Sometimes ten. Unknown people. What kind of life is that?” “We have a song,” Rani said. “ ‘Everyone sleeps with us, but no one marries us. Many embrace us, but no one protects.’ ” “Every day, my children ask, ‘Who is my father?’ They do not like having a mother who is in this business.” “Once, I tried to open a bank account with my son,” Rani said. “We went to fill in the form, and the manager asked, ‘Father’s name?’ After that, my son was angry. He said I should not have brought him into the world like this.” “We are sorry we have to do this work. But what is the alternative?” “Who will give us jobs? We are all illiterate.” “And the future,” Kaveri said. “What have we to look forward to?” “When we are not beautiful, when our bodies become ugly, then we will be all alone.” “If we live long enough to be old and to be ugly,” Kaveri said. “So many are dying.” “One of our community died last week. Two others last month.” “In my village, four younger girls have died,” Kaveri said. “My own brother has the disease. He used to be a truck driver, and knew all the girls along the roads. Now he just lies at home drinking, saying, ‘What difference does it make? I will die anyway.’ ” She turned to face me. “He drinks anything he can get,” she said. “If someone told him his own urine had alcohol in it, he would drink that, too.” She laughed, but harshly. “If I were to sit under a tree and tell you the sadness we have to suffer, the leaves of that tree would fall like tears. My brother is totally bedridden now. He has fevers and diarrhea.” She paused. “He used to be such a handsome man, with a fine face and large eyes. Now those eyes are closed, and his face is covered with boils and lesions.” “Yellamma never wanted it to be like this,” Rani said. “The goddess is sitting silently,” Kaveri said. “We don’t know what feelings she has about us. Who really knows what she is thinking?” “No,” Rani said, firmly shaking her head. “The goddess looks after us. When we are in distress, she comes to us. Sometimes in our dreams. Sometimes in the form of one of her children.” “It is not the goddess’s doing.” “The world has made it like this.” “The world, and the disease.” “The goddess dries our tears,” Rani said. “If you come to her with a pure heart, she will take away your sadness and your sorrows. What more can she do?” We had come to Saundatti, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, to see the goddess Yellamma—Rani Bai, Kaveri, and I. (The names of the two women have been changed.) We had driven over that morning from the town of Belgaum, through the rolling green plains of cotton country. The women, who had been dedicated to Yellamma when they were children, normally took the old slow bus to visit her temple, so they had jumped at the chance to make the journey in the comfort of a taxi. It was hot and muggy, not long after the end of the rains, and the sky was bright and cloudless. The road led through long avenues of ancient banyan trees, each with an intricate lattice of aerial roots. As we neared Saundatti, however, the green tunnel came to an end, and the fields on either side gave way to drier, poorer country. Trees, cane breaks, and cotton fields were replaced by strips of sunflowers. Goats picked through dusty stubble. Women in ragged clothing sold onions laid out on palm-weave mats set along the side of the road. After some time, a long red stone ridge appeared out of the heat haze. The ridge resolved itself into the great hogback of Saundatti, and at the top, rising from near-vertical cliffs, was the silhouette of the temple of Yellamma. Below, and to one side, stretched a lake of almost unearthly blue. It was here, according to legend, that the story had begun. Yellamma was the wife of the powerful rishi Jamadagni. The couple and their four sons lived in a simple wooden hermitage by the lake. Here the sage punished his body and performed great feats of austerity. After the birth of his fourth child, these included a vow of chastity. Every day, Yellamma served her husband, and fetched water from the river for her husband’s rituals. She used a pot made of sand, and carried it home in the coils of a live snake. One day, as Yellamma was fetching water, she saw a heavenly being, a gandharva, making love to his consort by the banks of the river. It was many years since Yellamma had enjoyed the pleasures of love, and the sight attracted her. Watching from behind a rock, and hearing the lovers’ cries of pleasure, she found herself longing to take the place of the beloved. This sudden rush of desire destroyed her composure. When she crept away to get water for her husband, she found, to her horror, that she could no longer create a pot from sand, and that her yogic powers of concentration had vanished. When she returned home without the water, Jamadagni guessed what had happened, and in his rage he cursed his wife. According to Rani and Kaveri, within seconds Yellamma had become sickly and ugly, covered with boils and festering sores. She was turned out of her home, cursed to wander the roads of the Deccan, begging for alms. Jamadagni belongs to that class of irascible holy men who fill Sanskrit literature with their fiery and unforgiving anger. In contrast, the goddess Yellamma, like Sita in the Ramayana, is a victim, suspected of infidelities she never committed, rejected by all. Though the story is full of sadness and injustice, devadasis—as those who have been dedicated, or “married,” to a god or a goddess are known—believe that the tale shows how the goddess is uniquely sympathetic to their fate. After all, their lives often resemble hers: they are cursed for crimes of love outside the bonds of marriage, rejected by their children, condemned like Yellamma to live on the roads, begging for favors, disfigured by sadness, and without the protection of a husband. I got a glimpse of the tensions in the devadasi’s life when we arrived in Saundatti. We had gone to a tea shop near the lake, at my suggestion. Devadasis are a common sight in Saundatti, where they often beg in the bazaars on Yellamma’s holy days of Tuesday and Friday. But they don’t usually brave the tea shops on the main street. Long before the glasses of hot sweet chai arrived, the farmers at the other tables had started pointing at Rani Bai, and gossiping. They had come from their villages to sell cotton at the market, and, having got a good price, were now in a boisterous mood. Although Kaveri and Rani Bai had the red tikka of a married woman on their foreheads, Rani Bai’s muttu—the necklace of red and white beads that a devadasi wears—and her jewelry, her painted face, and her overly dressy silk sari had given her away. Kaveri had once been beautiful, but the difficulties of her life, and the suffering she had endured, had aged her prematurely, and she no longer attracted attention. Rani Bai was different. She was in her late thirties, at least ten years younger than Kaveri, and was still, undeniably, lovely. She was tall and long-limbed, and had a large mouth, full lips, a firm brown body, and a lively manner. She did not keep her gaze down, as Hindu women generally do in the villages; instead, she spoke in a loud voice, and every time she gesticulated about something—and her hands were constantly dancing about as she talked—her bracelets rattled. She wore a bright-lavender silk sari, and had rings sparkling on each of her toes and up the curve of each ear. The farmers sat there as we sipped our tea, looking at her greedily. Before long, they were noisily speculating about the relationship she might have with me, the firangi, and her cost, what she would and would not do, and wondering where she worked and whether she gave discounts. Rani had been telling me in the car about the privileges of being a devadasi, about the way people respected her, how she was regarded as auspicious and was called even to upper-caste weddings to give her blessings. So when we finally fled the chai shop, to a chorus of laughter and bawdy remarks, her mood changed. As we sat under a banyan tree beside the lake at the edge of the town, she became melancholy, and she told me how she had come to this life. “I was only six when my parents dedicated me,” she said. “I had no feelings at the time, except wondering: why have they done this? We were very poor and had many debts. My father was desperate for money, as he had drunk and gambled away all that he had earned and more, and he said, ‘This thing will make us rich, it will make us live decently.’ “At that age, I had no devotional feelings for the goddess, and dreamed only of having more money and living a luxurious life in a pucca house with a tile roof and concrete walls. So I was happy with this idea, though I still didn’t understand where the money would come from, or what I would have to do to get it. “Soon after I had had my first period, my father sold me to a shepherd in a neighboring village for five hundred rupees”—about thirty-eight dollars at the time—“a silk sari, and a bag of millet. By that stage, I knew a little of what might lie ahead, for I had seen other neighbors who had done this to their daughters, and saw people coming and going from their houses. I had asked my parents all these questions, and repeated over and over again that I did not want to do sex work. They nodded, and I thought they had agreed. But, one day, they took me to another village on the pretext of looking after my sister’s newborn baby, and there I was forcibly offered to the shepherd. I was only fourteen years old. Rest of article.

Researcher: Ancient green beads were fertility amulets

From The Jerusalem By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH August 24, 2008 Residents of this part of the Middle East started making jewelry out of green-colored beads when they made the major transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, and they chose the color - instead of white, red, yellow, brown or black - specifically as an amulet for human and agricultural fertility. So claims new research by Dr. Daniella Bar-Yosef of the University of Haifa who said the beads' green hue - which had previously been used for making trinkets - became a symbol of renewal. Bar-Yosef, of the university's department of maritime civilizations, said archeological evidence collected by Naomi Porat of the Israel Geological Survey of Israel that large amounts of green-colored beads from this era have been found at eight sites around the country; beads of this color were not evident in previous eras. But the material from which the beads were made had to be brought in from distant locations about 100 kilometers away from where the beads were made. Their study has just been published in the Proceedings of the [US] Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Bar-Yosef said the green color was meant to symbolize the green of plants and trees in nature. The cultural change to farming, she continued, brought about higher human fertility rates, but the number of babies who died in infancy also increased. Thus it is also logical, she suggested, that green beads turned into amulets for female fertility and their delivery of healthy, viable babies. "Even today," concluded Bar-Yosef, "There are many cultures in which green jewels symbolize fertility and health. On the basis of our findings, we can suggest that the course of these beliefs is the beginning of the transition to an agricultural society."

Supporting Local Chess: Some Announcements

TEXAS Northeast Tarrant community calendar September 2, 2008 NORTH RICHLAND HILLS — Watauga Chess Club, 7 p.m., North Richland Hills Parks and Recreation, 6720 N.E. Loop 820. Free. WATAUGA — Chess club, 3-5 p.m., Watauga Public Library, 7109 Whitley Road. Ages 5-18. 817-831-6465. September 4, 2008 KELLER — Chess and other board games, 2-3:30 p.m., Keller Public Library, 640 Johnson Road. 817-743-4841. ILLINOIS Southtown Star September 6, 2008 chess/scraBble Homewood Public Library, 17917 Dixie Highway, hosts open chess and Scrabble for participants of all ages and abilities from noon to 4 p.m. the first and third Saturdays of every month. Information: (708) 798-0121, Ext. 222. FLORIDA September 1, 2008 Fruitland Park Chess Club, 7 p.m., Fruitland Park Community Room, next to the fire station. Details: Virgil Bell, 352-365-0750 or 352-326-5009. August 31, 2008 Chess Club, 1:30-3 p.m. at Weston Library, 4205 Bonaventure Blvd., Weston. Free. Call 954-389-2098.
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