Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday Night Miscellany

Hola darlings! Ohmygoddess! It's been so fricking cold this week. Although I swore up and down that I would NOT turn on my heat until at least the end of October, yesterday morning it was so chill in the house that I flipped on the furnace switch and set the temperature to 64 (it was 60 degrees in the house at the time). I heard the furnace kick in, and settled down with my coffee and newspaper in anticipation of soon feeling some dampness creep out of the house as the heat did its job. Only - it never happened. The furnace cycled and shut down. Oh shit. I've had this problem before - it's the ignition system. Because of the safety features, if ignition does not result in a spark within a certain period of time, the furnace shuts off, the gas doesn't flow. That's good for my health and safety, at any rate. The problem is, these ignition systems are particularly sensitive to "irritants" such as dust and, in my basement which suffers from perennial dampness, corrosion. Cha ching! The cash register is already clicking away in the background. Yesterday was a work day in Hell, I didn't even have a chance to crack open the telephone book to see what kind of heating/furnace service I might be able to get out after 6:00 p.m. or on a Saturday; today at 3:30 p.m. I finally had a brief lull and placed several telephone calls, none of which were answered except the last one - quite promptly - to a very expensive service I've used in the past. $59 just to pull up in the driveway (not even get out of the truck). The first 15 minutes at "diagnostic" is $65, and $65 per 15 minutes thereafter. Once the diagnosis is set, I'm then given an on the spot estimate for what needs to be done and how much it will cost. Decide - like the famous line from the song "I WANNA KNOW RIGHT NOW...." Geez - I should have gone into HVAC! Or - duh - I should have hired a concierge service to do the shopping for me, to see if there was someone out there cheaper (there no doubt is, even after paying the concierge fee). Well - next time... As if dealing with a recalcitrant furnace isn't bad enough (at least it didn't break down when it was 20 below zero, like it did in January, 1997), I've been on a "balanced meal and increased physical activity" plan since September 15th, which happens to be the date the latest season of "The Biggest Loser" (har!) debuted on network television. In one of those ridiculous things that somehow always connect together, our local PBS station was running fundraising specials and I happened to catch part of a show one Saturday afternoon that told me, plain as could be, if I only cut back my calories by 225 a day and increased my physical activity to burn an additional 225 calories a day, I would lose one pound a week with very little effort. Yeah, right. One night in the bathroom, looking in the mirror at my naked bad self for the umpteenth time in my life, I went "oh yechy", and determined to lose some of this post-menopausal weight gain. I set what I thought was a modest goal of losing 10 pounds in 5 weeks. The sixth week begins on October 20th, when I will have my big weigh-in, a Monday. If I've lost 10 pounds, I'll have a Big Mac (no kidding - that's my big reward I set for myself). It's uncanny how I've tracked the contestants on "The Biggest Loser." The first week was big - just like on the show - I lost 5 pounds! Eek! The second week, the dreaded "plateau week," I lost zero pounds. Eek! I stepped up the physical activity (I do NOT exercise) and tried to cut back even further on the caloric intake. I am NOT writing things down in a log book, and I'm still sucking wine like there's no tomorrow, but I AM eating more salads and vegetables and have cut way down on the fatty meats and unneeded carbs. I'm also making an honest attempt every morning to have a breakfast and, wonder of wonders, it actually works - what the nutrician dudes say about breakfast being the most important meal of the day. It does sustain one through hectic, frantic mornings until lunch time. So, this is the third week. I weighed myself on Monday and I'd managed to lose another 1/2 pound. Hmmmm. More physical activity. I weighed myelf yesterday. Lost another 1/2 pound! Yippee! But I didn't trust it. And so I weighed myself again this morning and yep, I have not lost 7 whole frigging pounds! Only 3 more to go and 2 whole weeks to do it! I am STOKED! I now realize that I will make my goal, perhaps even ahead of time. Then the really hard part starts, the NEXT 10 POUNDS! Let me tell you, though, except for a bit of a loosening of my autumn jacket (which I first purchased 25 pounds ago), I don't notice any difference in the Body Splendid, and neither has anyone else. It will take that next 10 pounds to tip the scales, no pun intended. Some by-lines from The New York Times to pass the time: U.S. Shed 150,000 Jobs; Ninth Straight Monthly Drop. Yeah - but the "experts" say we're not in a recession. Oh no, of course not. Top Psychiatrist Failed to Report Drug Income - now what kind of drugs do you suppose they're talking about here... Explosion Kills 7 Russians in South Ossetia. Pay back is a bitch, and it's probably just beginning, Miniputin. The NEW MIDDLE CLASS DEFINED BY THE REPUBLICAN PARTY: Assets of $1,000,000 or more. Yeah, sure, Sarah Palin is just a hockey mom, a regular joe who can't speak English properly. Take THAT, all you wimpy exurbian soccer moms out there. From the Daily Grail: Just hide for 14 days after a nuclear explosion near you and you, too, will survive. The respected voices of the BBE say so. BBC releases pre-recorded blurbs to be used in the event of a nuclear war. The Enemy Within: 2,000 Years of Witch-Hunting in the Western World. A new book about the evil that lurks within all men to demonize those who are not like us. Speaking about the evil that lurks within, yeah I freely admit it and I don't care - I think John McCain stinks. Wants to tax me for the health insurance benefits that my employer partially pays for, does he? Wants to give me a lousy frigging $2,500 "credit" (which never goes into my pocket) to "buy" health insurance coverage in exchange for my employer dropping my health insurance coverage, does he? My plan costs about $8,000 a year (and believe me, it's not the top of the line plan), I pay $150 a month toward that coverage this year. Next year, it will be more, and my options will be fewer as my employer tries to force everyone, regardless of age and health status, to "health savings accounts." Tell me, Mr. McCain, where the hell am I supposed to come up with the other $5,500 to pay for my health insurance, heh? My wages aren't going to increase by that amount once my employer drops my coverage (my employer would be insane not to drop coverage once the government starts "paying" for it, after all). The man is insane, absolutely positively insane. He is a menance to the middle and working classes in this country, and he doesn't even KNOW it!

Barbados Women's Chess Champion Named

From the Rashida Corbin!! the new Chess Queen Web Posted - Fri Oct 03 2008 RASHIDA Corbin is the new Barbados ladies national chess champion. She was victorious in the recently concluded CGI/BOA National Chess Championship. Rashida scored an impressive six points out of a possible seven points. She won six games while lsoing one game. Rashida, back from a short lay off from competitive chess, demonstrated her superior theoretical knowledge and easily clinched the title. A former champion and national player since her junior days, Rashida should add a wealth of experience to the ladies squad in training for the World Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany. The defending champion, Corrine Howard, finished in second place on 5 1/2 points ahead on the tie break of Juanita Garnett also on 5 1/2 points. The tournament was keenly contested with Corrine Howard handing Rashida her only loss of the tournament. There was also a major upset in round two when the unheralded Cheri-Ann Parris inflicted a painful defeat on Comarie Mansour. Final standings: Rashida Corbin 6 (no FIDE rating) Corrine Howard 5.5 (no FIDE rating) Juanita Garnett 5.5 (no FIDE rating) Cheri-Ann Paris 4 Comarie Mansour 3 Katrina Blackman 3 Cherise Austin 1 The ladies squad will attend 2 training lectures as part of their preparation for the Olympiad. The first one will be conducted by International Master Kevin Denny tomorrow at 4 p.m. The following Saturday, October 11, at 4 p.m. Fide Master Dr. Philip Corbin will be the presenter. The venue for both seminars is Bridge House, Cavans Lane, The City. The sessions are open to the public at a cost of $10.

Mystery Burial in Sicily

From the University of British Columbia website: UBC Reports Vol. 54 No. 10 Oct. 2, 2008 UBC Dig Uncovers Roman Mystery By Lorraine Chan UBC archaeologists have dug up a mystery worthy of Indiana Jones, one that includes a tomb, skeletons and burial rites with both Christian and pagan elements. This summer, Prof. Roger Wilson led excavations at Kaukana, an ancient Roman village located near Punta Secca, a small town in the south-eastern province of Ragusa in Sicily. Combing through the sand-buried site, the 15-member team made a series of startling discoveries. Central to the mystery was finding a tomb inside a room in a house dating from the sixth century AD. Wilson explains that tombs during this period are normally found only in cemeteries outside the built-up area of a town, or around the apse of a church. And since the building was substantial with mortared walls and internal plaster, this would have been likely a tomb for the wealthy. “It’s extremely unusual to find an elite burial set inside a house in the middle of a settlement, even as late as the sixth century,” says Wilson, who heads UBC’s Department of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies. The UBC initiative -- in collaboration with Prof. Giovanni Di Stefano of the Superintendency for the Cultural Heritage of Ragusa -- is the first major exploration of this historic site since 1972. Locals first stumbled upon the late Roman village during the 1960s when a bulldozer preparing for new houses uncovered the tops of some 24 ancient buildings. Only a few, among them a church, were explored at the time, by renowned Italian archaeologist Paola Pelagatti. Wilson directed students from UBC and Sicily in their painstaking work, focusing on what proved to be an “exceptionally well-preserved” structure on the south side of Kaukana, only yards from the beach. The walls uncovered stand nearly six feet high. Once the cover was lifted off the tomb, one team member spent 10 days sieving the contents with great care. Two skeletons were found. One was of a woman between the ages of 25 and 30, with teeth in excellent condition and no signs of arthritis. “She was in pretty good nick, so we know this wasn’t a peasant working in the field,” says Wilson. The other skeleton was a child of indeterminate sex between the ages of five and seven. The position of their bones showed that the woman had been laid to rest first. The tomb was then re-opened to bury the child and the woman’s spinal column was pushed to one side. A hole in the stone slab covering the tomb allowed visitors to pour libations for the dead. “This shows that the long-established, originally pagan, rite of offering libations to the dead clearly continued into early Byzantine times,” observes Wilson. Yet, the presence of a Christian cross on a lamp found in the room and on the underside of a grave slab suggests that the deceased were Christian. As well, the skeletons were wrapped in plaster, a practice believed to be Christian for preserving the body for resurrection. “It is the first plaster burial recorded in Sicily, although the practice is known from Christian communities in North Africa,” says Wilson. What also intrigued the archaeologists was learning that the tomb was opened one further time, an intrusion that disturbed the bones of the child and caused its skull to be placed upside down. Wilson says he wondered whether it was grave robbers in search of expensive jewelry or other loot. “But the tomb was tidied up again afterwards.” Around the tomb was plentiful evidence of periodic feasting in honour of the dead. The archaeologists found cooking pots, glass and several large clay containers (amphorae), of which one is virtually intact. These would have been used to carry oil and wine to the site. The team also found the remains of two hearths where meals had been prepared. As well, the room was designed with niches along one wall. Wilson says a knife, seafood, and fragments of stemmed goblets and other glass vessels were left on these shelves, “as though placed there after the last party.” UBC’s snapshot of late Roman and early Byzantine life has stirred considerable interest among the Italian media and historians worldwide. With support for three years of study from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Wilson says the team is eager to further unravel the skeins of history. When they return to Kaukana next summer, they will attempt to solve the riddles encountered this first year. “Along with questions of when the house was built and whether it was still occupied when the tomb was inserted, we want to find out why the woman and child were buried in the tomb at all.” Last reviewed 03-Oct-2008
How about - were the woman and child related? Will DNA tests be done to determine this? Was nothing else found in the tombs to aid in identifying what rituals (if any) may have occurred or what class the deceased may have belonged to? Wh

Mycenaean warrior used 'imported sword'

Confirmation of ancient trade is always good; however, the trade talked about in this article is rather late in the proceedings. Trade was going on at least 1400 years before, among Egypt, the city-states in Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley cities, as well as the population centers on the Persian Plateau. There is a wee bit of evidence suggesting trade with ancient China too, long before it became a unified "state" in 22o BCE and the silk road became regularly travelled. A cache of ancient Egyptian maces dating to circa 3400 BCE was discovered in northwestern China a few years back (I read about it in 2001); and a remnant of silk fabric which, at the time, could only have come from China, was recovered in an ancient Egyptian queen's tomb. Over time declines in contacts would arise due to natural disasters and war (such as when the Hyksos attacked and conquered part of Egypt in the 17th century BCE, the explosion of the volcano on Thera in circa 1550 BCE, etc.) that then had to be re-established and built-up once again. This cycle may have occurred several times in pre-history and in historical times, but no evidence remains today. Finds such as this Myceanean sword from Italy are therefore priceless in assisting historians in attempting to fill in so many of the large blanks in our collective past. Many chess historians espouse the theory that chess was a gradual synthesis of several different board games that were played among the merchants of many different cultures travelling along the silk road (and in the centers of trade along the way), and in this way was also spread from west to east (or vice versa :)) From 03 October, 2008 03:02:49 A Mycenaean warrior who died in western Greece over 3,000 years ago was the proud owner of a rare gold-wired sword imported from the Italian peninsula, a senior archaeologist said on Thursday. "This is a very rare discovery, particularly because of the gold wire wrapped around the hilt," archaeologist Maria Gatsi told AFP. "To my knowledge, no such sword has ever been found in Greece," said Gatsi, head of the regional archaeological department of Aetoloakarnania prefecture. Tests in Austria have confirmed that the bronze used in the 12th century BCE, 94-centimetre (37-inch) sword came from the Italian peninsula, she said. The Mycenaean remains were discovered in July 2007 near the town of Amphilochia, some 300 kilometres (186 miles) west of Athens during construction work on a new motorway, Ionia Odos. Archeologists also discovered a second bronze sword with a bone handle, a bronze and iron dagger, a pair of greaves (armoured plates), an arrowhead, a spear point, a golden kylix or wine cup and a bronze boiler in the grave. The finds confirm the Mycenaeans were trading with other civilisations in the Mediterranean basin. The dagger is also considered a rare discovery because of the combination of metals used. Conquerors of the Minoan civilisation, the Mycenaeans flourished between the 17th century BCE and the 12th century BCE, occupying much of the Greek mainland and establishing colonies in Asia Minor and on Cyprus.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ninja Squirrels

From the Princetonian Beware the ninja squirrels By Anu Kahn Contributor Published: Thursday, October 2nd, 2008 I would love to ramble on about a million and one different Princeton perks and privileges: the food, the dorms, the people, the clubs, the culture and maybe even the classes. None of these topics, however, strikes me as particularly shocking. Honestly, only one thing about Princeton has really shocked me. The squirrels. I hail from lovely suburban Massachusetts and have stared down my fair share of furry, tree-dwelling, bushy-tailed rodents, but the Princetonian squirrels are a breed apart. They are not only plentiful but also disturbingly large and freakishly aggressive. During the second week of school, I was ambling down to Frist Campus Center, minding my own business, when I saw a squirrel scamper onto my stretch of sidewalk. Right behind the squirrel, walking toward me, was a well-dressed, middle-aged gentleman. Here was my dilemma: I could continue walking toward the squirrel and hope that it wouldn't attack me, or I could swerve into the elder gentleman's path, forcing him to walk on the street but putting a wide berth between the squirrel and me. I did what any polite Princeton student would do: I swerved in front of the unsuspecting passer-by, keeping one eye firmly fixed on the furry little beast to my left. The gentleman, observing the squirrel, chuckled. For some reason, he didn't seem surprised that I had risked pushing him into the street to avoid an apparently harmless woodland creature. This episode was only the beginning of my misgivings about Princeton squirrels. After that incident, I started seeing squirrels all over campus. I'd never noticed before, but they seem to have the run of the place. If I had a nickel for every time I've seen one of those fleet-footed devils leap out of a tree, I'd have an awful lot of nickels. Neither tree, nor bush, nor grassy knoll is safe from squirrelly invasion. Moreover, not they have pure strength in addition to their strength in numbers. By some freak of New Jersey nature, the Princetonian squirrels have reached roughly the size and weight of small puppies. (Note to Paris Hilton: perfect accessory for next season's Coach tote?) Far more terrifying than the sheer volume of squirrels and far more disturbing than their Schwarzenegger-esque size are the apparent ninjas of the campus squirrel community: the black squirrels. If you've seen one, you know the terror they can inspire with just a flick of their beady black eyes or a mere twitch of their ebony flanks. Last week, I was walking past Alexander Beach when I saw a runty squirrel scratching around for some nuts. Like the dastardly villain from a Charlie Chaplin film, a black squirrel darted out from behind a tree, ran down the runty squirrel, stole his stash of nuts and fled the scene. I watched the whole process, utterly aghast. The most important thing I've learned in my first few weeks at Princeton is simple: Beware the ninja squirrels. Now you've been warned as well.
My squirrels come when I whistle for them...

Czar Nicholas and Family Vindicated

Hmmmm, interesting. I wonder if this is a Miniputin move that may come back to bite him in the butt (along with the ill-advised invasion of Georgia). How do they KNOW relatives of the Romanovs won't file suit for reparations against the war crimes committed by the Bolsheviks, the benefits of which have flowed to the neo-USSRists? Stay tuned... (Photo: The Czar and his family, 1914). From The New York Times Court Rehabilitates Status of a Czar and His Family By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ Published: October 1, 2008 MOSCOW — Russia’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of full rehabilitation for Russia’s last czar and his family on Wednesday, officially recognizing the Romanovs as victims of “unfounded repression” 90 years after they were executed. The ruling is the latest step in Russia’s post-Soviet reinterpretation of history, which has seen a new embrace of a monarchy once castigated for brutality and backwardness, accompanied by both nostalgia for and damning reconsiderations of seven decades of Soviet rule. Soviet historians constructed accounts that emphasized blaming Nicholas II, or “Bloody Nicholas,” for famines, wars and social collapse. But as Russian nationalism has strengthened after the fall of the Soviet Union, Nicholas has increasingly been depicted as a thwarted visionary and a beacon of the Russian Orthodox faith. The church, which sanctified the Romanovs in 2000 and was itself persecuted in the Soviet era, welcomed the court’s decision. “It is an important step to remove from our history the heavy burden of this crime against the czar’s family,” said the Rev. Vsevolod Chaplin, a church spokesman. “In one way or another the perceptions of society toward Nicholas II and his family are changing,” Father Chaplin said. “More and more people are becoming free of the sharp clichés that were imposed in the recent past.” In its decision on Wednesday, the court reversed a ruling of last November, when it decided that the Romanovs were not eligible for rehabilitation because their execution was a criminal act, not one of political repression. The new ruling “recognizes their unfounded repression and rehabilitates the members of the royal family,” said Pavel Odintsov, a spokesman for the court. “This is a final decision,” he added. In July 1918, under Lenin’s orders, the czar, his wife, Aleksandra, and their children, Olga, Tatyana, Maria, Anastasia and the 13-year-old heir to the throne, Aleksei, were shot to death in the basement of a house in Yekaterinburg, a city in the Ural Mountains in central Russia. Several members of the family’s staff were also killed. The killings by the Bolshevik government were meant to solidify its hold on power in the midst of an intensifying civil war. The Romanovs’ bodies were likely doused in acid to mask their identities before being buried in secret graves. The remains of Nicholas and Aleksandra and three of the five children were discovered in 1991 in the waning days of the Soviet Union, and interred in 1998 in St. Petersburg, in a special chamber in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, where many other Russian royals are buried. The remains of the two other children were missing until August 2007, when an archaeologist in Yekaterinburg unearthed bone fragments not far from where the other Romanovs had been buried. The authorities announced this year that DNA testing had confirmed that the remains belonged to Aleksei and Maria. Other members of the royal family had been posthumously rehabilitated. In 1999, four Romanov princes killed by the Bolsheviks, including the son of Aleksandr II — the Russian czar blown up by revolutionaries in 1881 — were found innocent of criminal wrongdoing. In July, thousands of Russians took part in events to mark the 90th anniversary of the family’s execution, and calls for the restoration of the monarchy can be heard despite today’s Kremlin-managed political landscape. The ruling Wednesday seemed to echo that nostalgia. “This decision shows the supremacy of law and the victory of justice over evil and tyranny,” said German Lukyanov, the lawyer for Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, a Romanov descendant who first filed a suit for the rehabilitation three years ago. Mr. Lukyanov said that in the coming months he would file suits on behalf of other Romanovs who had yet to be rehabilitated, including the czar’s brother, Mikhail, and several other members of the dynasty. It is still unclear why the Russian government took so long to rehabilitate the czar. Some have suggested Russia’s current leaders feared that Romanov descendants would seek to reclaim property confiscated by the Bolsheviks, while others have speculated that recent leadership changes in the country could have played a role. Yet, past decisions — including the earlier rehabilitation of those responsible for organizing the family’s execution — are less important than what comes next, said Edvard Radzinsky, a Russian historian and the author of “The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II.” “We have two graves that symbolize the revolution: the dirty hole into which the Romanovs were thrown, and the mausoleum of the one who ordered this,” Mr. Radzinsky said, referring to the red pyramid on Red Square that houses Lenin’s preserved body. “The closing of the first grave,” he said, “should lead to the closing of the second.”
If you believe in a grand overarching conspiracy theory, then settle in for a long haul yet. The "royals" - descendants of the kings and queens of old, can afford to play a game of wait and see/cat and mouse. Russian politicians will come and go, and so will political systems, but the royals remain forever...

Istanbul Artifacts Back To 8,500 BCE

Significant finds may re-write the history of the Anatolian Peninsula. This, at least to me, fills in a missing puzzle piece. We KNOW that Catal Hoyuk dates back at least as far. It makes sense that a settlement of equal age would be located close to or on the Mediterranean (as it then stood). Archaeological find puts back settlement of Istanbul 6,000 years 16:23 02/ 10/ 2008 ANKARA, October 2 (RIA Novosti) - Turkish archaeologists have found artifacts showing that Istanbul, earlier believed to be founded 2,700 years ago by the Greeks as Byzantium, is 8,500 years old, local media said. The Al-Watan newspaper said the excavations in Istanbul, which have gone on for four years, have uncovered four skeletons, as well as wooden and ceramic pieces, shedding new light on the history of the Turkish city. The discovery was made two months ago at a depth of six meters below sea level at the site of an ancient settlement. Ismail Karamut, who directs Istanbul's Archaeological Museum, said the finding would force historians to rewrite the country's history. Istanbul, Turkey's largest city with a population of around 12 million, was the country's capital until 1923, when the government moved to Ankara. The city, historically known as Constantinople, was given its modern Turkish name in 1930.

Treasure Trove in Vladimir, Russia!

Pre-Mongolian Hoard Discovered in Vladimir 2.10.2008 Archeologists working in Vladimir have found a hoard of jewelry dating back to the 13th century. The treasure was found in Gertsen Street, near the former cinema Mir. The hoard consisting of beads, crosses, and pendants was wrapped up in fabric with a gold thread and hidden inside of a jug. The digging place where the jewels were discovered had once been part of the Vetshany Town located to the east of the Vladimir Kremlin. Throughout the whole history of archeological research of Vetshany Town the historians found four pre-Mongolian hoards, the last of them discovered in 1998. The latest find is the fifth one. Source:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Taste of Honey

A lengthy but entertaining article about this ancient history of the bee at Andrew Gough's Arcadia. This is identified as a "bee" next to the "signature of Hapshepsut" by Gough. Hapshepsut was one of the most famous of the female pharaohs of ancient Egypt, who ruled during the 15th century BCE. I'm not necessarily buying everything Gough has to say on the subject of bee worship in antiquity, but he does bring a refreshing slant to the subject of a very important little living being, one which this world cannot long survive without (unless we come up with nano-bees or something like that will take over the process of pollinating kajillions of plants and food crops every year...)

Follow-up: "Christ the Magician" Cup

Key point of interest in this article for me is the reference to the "soothsaying" ritual of using the cup to divine from oil poured on water in Egypt, a practice that dates back to ancient Mesopotamia. So now we know the possible use of the cup (it wasn't for morning coffee): Earliest reference describes Christ as 'magician' By Jennifer Viegas updated 9:23 a.m. CT, Wed., Oct. 1, 2008 A team of scientists led by renowned French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio recently announced that they have found a bowl, dating to between the late 2nd century B.C. and the early 1st century A.D., that is engraved with what they believe could be the world's first known reference to Christ. If the word "Christ" refers to the Biblical Jesus Christ, as is speculated, then the discovery may provide evidence that Christianity and paganism at times intertwined in the ancient world. The full engraving on the bowl reads, "DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS," which has been interpreted by the excavation team to mean either, "by Christ the magician" or, "the magician by Christ." "It could very well be a reference to Jesus Christ, in that he was once the primary exponent of white magic," Goddio, co-founder of the Oxford Center of Maritime Archaeology, said. He and his colleagues found the object during an excavation of the underwater ruins of Alexandria's ancient great harbor. The Egyptian site also includes the now submerged island of Antirhodos, where Cleopatra's palace may have been located. Both Goddio and Egyptologist David Fabre, a member of the European Institute of Submarine Archaeology, think a "magus" could have practiced fortune telling rituals using the bowl. The Book of Matthew refers to "wisemen," or Magi, believed to have been prevalent in the ancient world. According to Fabre, the bowl is also very similar to one depicted in two early Egyptian earthenware statuettes that are thought to show a soothsaying ritual. "It has been known in Mesopotamia probably since the 3rd millennium B.C.," Fabre said. "The soothsayer interprets the forms taken by the oil poured into a cup of water in an interpretation guided by manuals." He added that the individual, or "medium," then goes into a hallucinatory trance when studying the oil in the cup. "They therefore see the divinities, or supernatural beings appear that they call to answer their questions with regard to the future," he said. The magus might then have used the engraving on the bowl to legitimize his supernatural powers by invoking the name of Christ, the scientists theorize. Goddio said, "It is very probable that in Alexandria they were aware of the existence of Jesus" and of his associated legendary miracles, such as transforming water into wine, multiplying loaves of bread, conducting miraculous health cures, and the story of the resurrection itself. While not discounting the Jesus Christ interpretation, other researchers have offered different possible interpretations for the engraving, which was made on the thin-walled ceramic bowl after it was fired, since slip was removed during the process. Bert Smith, a professor of classical archaeology and art at Oxford University, suggests the engraving might be a dedication, or present, made by a certain "Chrestos" belonging to a possible religious association called Ogoistais. Klaus Hallof, director of the Institute of Greek inscriptions at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy, added that if Smith's interpretation proves valid, the word "Ogoistais" could then be connected to known religious groups that worshipped early Greek and Egyptian gods and goddesses, such as Hermes, Athena and Isis. Hallof additionally pointed out that historians working at around, or just after, the time of the bowl, such as Strabon and Pausanias, refer to the god "Osogo" or "Ogoa," so a variation of this might be what's on the bowl. It is even possible that the bowl refers to both Jesus Christ and Osogo. Fabre concluded, "It should be remembered that in Alexandria, paganism, Judaism and Christianity never evolved in isolation. All of these forms of religion (evolved) magical practices that seduced both the humble members of the population and the most well-off classes." "It was in Alexandria where new religious constructions were made to propose solutions to the problem of man, of God's world," he added. "Cults of Isis, mysteries of Mithra, and early Christianity bear witness to this." The bowl is currently on public display in the exhibit "Egypt's Sunken Treasures" at the Matadero Cultural Center in Madrid, Spain, until November 15. © 2008 Discovery Channel

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Goddess Chamunda Mata

Ohmygoddess! There evidently was a horrid stampede outside a temple in Jodhpur today that killed more than 150 people, and yet this article makes no mention of the victims other than to use an old myth as a possible explanation for the tragedy! Incredible, absolutely incredible. Here is the story, from The Telegraph of Calcutta Legend ‘back’ to claim young blood Sacrifice story on city lips RAKHEE ROY TALUKDAR Jaipur, Sept. 30: Jodhpur residents see in today’s stampede a parallel with the sacrifice of a young man that Chamunda Mata had, according to legend, demanded when her temple was built. Legend has it that when Rao Jodha, the Rajput ruler who built the city of Jodhpur, installed her idol in the temple in 1460, the goddess appeared in person and asked for bhakh (sacrifice). When the ruler and the priest asked what she wanted as sacrifice, the goddess is said to have asked for someone with 32 teeth intact. This was taken to mean a young man and the priest’s son, Mehran, was sacrificed, according to the legend. Mehrangarh Fort, where the temple is located, is said to be named after him. Since most of the 147 victims today were men between 15 and 25, local residents were talking of the legend of Mehran’s sacrifice. Rao Jodha had brought Chamunda Devi’s idol to Jodhpur from the Parihar capital of Mandore. The goddess was the deity of the Parihar dynasty founded by Harichandra in the sixth century, Mahendra Lalas, a long-time Jodhpur resident and AIR employee, said. The Parihars established the state of Marwar, with its capital in Mandore near Jodhpur, and ruled for more than six centuries. Goddess Chamunda’s blessings were thought to have brought luck to the Parihars, who ultimately lost control of Mandore to the Rathores in the 13th century. Rao Jodha of the Rathore line shifted his capital from Mandore to Jodhpur. He started building Mehrangarh Fort in 1459 and then thought of moving the deity, too, hoping she would bring him luck. Since then, Jodhpur residents revere Chamunda Mata and a visit during Navratri is thought to bring luck for the year ahead. A temple to another Rajput deity, Nagecha, also stands in the Mehrangarh campus but it is the Chamunda temple that draws the crowds, with queues more than 2km long during Navratri.
Here is another news report about the same stampede - only passing mention of the victims, the focus is on more legends surrounding the Goddess!

Manmade - or Not?

Traces of Ancient Civilization Discovered in Chelyabinck Region (Russia) September 29, 2008 Amazing enormous constructions of stone - megaliths - some of them weighing up to 20 tons, were erected in the Isle of Vera, Lake Turgoyak of Chelyabinsk Region. Researchers have long tried to solve the puzzle of this enigmatic structure. Cooperation of archaeologists and divers has allowed finding out a lot of new things and create many more questions. “First divers went underwater around Turgoyak Lake and then we followed them” - scientist Stanislav Grigoryev says - “the greatest sensation was to see a megalith at the depth of about two meters under water surface. The point is it had been practically impossible to create it underwater. It means that in those times there was a neck of land here and the present day island was a peninsula. During close examination we found some parts that remind of hand-made blockwork”. Source: *********************************** I don't know - need more photographs and measurements. This could just be natural eroded rock formations, somewhat like the Grand Canyon, for instance. No age given, either.

Interesting Assessment of Ancient Greek Tales

An interesting perspective on the war-oriented characteristics of the ancient proto-Greek society portrayed in the ancient epics The Iliad and The Odyssey. Compare to this earlier post about a much later civilization, the Vikings. It's all about the women... Excerpted from Hidden histories 'The Odyssey' and 'The Iliad' are giving up new secrets about the ancient world By Jonathan Gottschall September 28, 2008 In his influential book, "Troy and Homer," German classicist Joachim Latacz argues that the identification of Hisarlik as the site of Homer's Troy is all but proven. Latacz's case is based not only on archeology, but also on fascinating reassessments of cuneiform tablets from the Hittite imperial archives. The tablets, which are dated to the period when the Late Bronze Age city at Hisarlik was destroyed, tell a story of a western people harassing a Hittite client state on the coast of Asia Minor. The Hittite name for the invading foreigners is very close to Homer's name for his Greeks - Achaians - and the Hittite names for their harassed ally are very close to "Troy" and "Ilios," Homer's names for the city. "At the very core of the tale," Latacz argues, "Homer's 'Iliad' has shed the mantle of fiction commonly attributed to it." But if the Trojan War is looking more and more like a historical reality, there is still the question of whether the poems tell us anything about the motives and thinking of the people who actually fought it. Do the epic time machines actually take us back to the Greek culture of the Late Bronze Age? It is almost certain that they do not. Homer's epics are a culmination of a centuries-long tradition of oral storytelling, and extensive cross-cultural studies of oral literature have established that such tales are unreliable as history. Homeric scholars believe that the epics were finally written down sometime in the 8th century BC, which means that the stories of Achilles and Odysseus would have been passed by word of mouth for half a millennium before they were finally recorded in what was, by then, a vastly changed Greek culture. Facts about the war and the people who fought it would have been lost or grossly distorted, as in a centuries-long game of "telephone." Scholars agree that the relatively simple and poor culture Homer describes in his epics is quite sharply at odds with the complex and comparatively rich Greek kingdoms of the Late Bronze Age, when the war would have taken place. But even if the epics make a bad history of Greece in 1200 BC - in the sense of transmitting names, dates, and accurate political details - scholars increasingly agree that they provide a precious window on Greek culture at about the time the poems were finally written down. Moses Finley, who believed that the epics were "no guide at all" to the history of the Trojan War, did believe they were guides to Homer's own culture. And by turning an anthropological eye to the conflicts Homer writes about, we are now learning far more about what that culture was really like. . . . Reconstructing a prehistoric world from literary sources is rife with complications. But there are aspects of life in the Homeric era upon which most scholars agree. Homer paints a coherent picture of Greek attitudes, ideology, customs, manners, and mores that is consistent with the 8th century archeological record, and holds together based on anthropological knowledge about societies at similar levels of cultural development. For instance, we can trust that the Greeks' political organization was loose but not chaotic - probably organized at the level of chiefdoms, not kingdoms or city-states. In the epics we can see the workings of an agrarian economy; we can see what animals they raised and what crops, how they mixed their wine, worshipped their gods, and treated their slaves and women. We can tell that theirs was a warlike world, with high rates of conflict within and between communities. This violence, in fact, opens an important window onto that world. Patterns of violence in Homer are intriguingly consistent with societies on the anthropological record known to have suffered from acute shortages of women. While Homeric men did not take multiple wives, they hoarded and guarded slave women who they treated as their sexual property. These women were mainly captured in raids of neighboring towns, and they appear frequently in Homer. In the poems, Odysseus is mentioned as having 50 slave women, and it is slave women who bear most of King Priam's 62 children. For every slave woman working a rich man's loom and sharing his bed, some less fortunate or formidable man lacks a wife. In pre-state societies around the world - from the Yanomamo of the Amazon basin to the tribes of highland New Guinea to the Inuit of the Arctic - a scarcity of women almost invariably triggers pitched competition among men, not only directly over women, but also over the wealth and social status needed to win them. This is exactly what we find in Homer. Homeric men fight over many different things, but virtually all of the major disputes center on rights to women - not only the famous conflict over Helen, but also over the slave girls Briseis and Chryseis, Odysseus's wife Penelope, and all the nameless women of common Trojan men. As the old counselor Nestor shouts to the Greek hosts, "Don't anyone hurry to return homeward until after he has lain down alongside a wife of some Trojan!" The war between Greeks and Trojans ends in the Rape of Troy: the massacre of men, and the rape and abduction of women. These events are not the rare savageries of a particularly long and bitter war - they are one of the major points of the war. Homeric raiders always hoped to return home with new slave-concubines. Achilles conveys this in his soul-searching assessment of his life as warrior: "I have spent many sleepless nights and bloody days in battle, fighting men for their women." Historical studies of literature are sometimes criticized for ignoring, or even diminishing, the artistic qualities that draw people to literature in the first place. But understanding how real history underlies the epics makes us appreciate Homer's art more, not less. We can see Homer pioneering the artistic technique of taking a backbone of historical fact and fleshing it over with contemporary values and concerns - the same technique used later by Virgil in "The Aeneid," by Shakespeare in his history plays, and by Renaissance painters depicting the Bible and classical antiquity. And understanding Homer's own society gives us a new perspective on the oppressive miasma of fatalism and pessimism that pervades "The Iliad" and, to a lesser but still palpable extent, "The Odyssey." While even the fiercest fighters understand that peace is desirable, they feel doomed to endless conflict. As Odysseus says, "Zeus has given us [the Greeks] the fate of winding down our lives in hateful war, from youth until we perish, each of us." A shortage of women helps to explain more about Homeric society than its relentless violence. It may also shed light on the origins of a tragic and pessimistic worldview, a pantheon of gods deranged by petty vanities, and a people's resignation to the inevitability of "hateful war." Jonathan Gottschall teaches English at Washington & Jefferson College. He is the author of "The Rape of Troy: Evolution, Violence, and the World of Homer," and he is currently at work on a novel of the Homeric age called "Odysseus, A True Story." © Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.

Monday, September 29, 2008

New Artifact Found Near Bosnian "Pyramid"

The reported on this today, from Philip Coppens' website: September 29, 2008 A small pyramid for science, a big discovery for the Bosnian Pyramid (from Road News) An archaeological site in Donje Mostre, in the Bosnian Valley of the Pyramid, has unveiled a Neolithic artefact that has been dated to 6000-3000 BC. The discovery was made by students of the German University of Kiel on September 23, and was announced by Zilke Kujundžic, who is actually one of the main opponents to the pyramid project, having filed numerous petitions for the work to be stopped, claiming the entire project is a hoax. (Image from article). We need to specify she actually labelled the object a pyramid. The small ceramic pyramid – in some reports also referred to as a benben stone, because of apparent visual similarities with such stones in Egypt – is a major discovery, showing that local people, millennia ago, created ceramic objects in the shape of a pyramid. One can only wonder why, noting that Donje Mostre is also the location where giant rectangular stone blocks have been found, some of which are definitely manmade. Nevertheless, being the extreme (one might argue irrational) critic she is, Kujundžic has refused to admit she might be wrong, stating that the find is “not related” to the nearby pyramids. Meanwhile, Kujundžic was also accused of not having shared the discovery with the local Visoko museum. It is no doubt divine irony that some of the best archaeological evidence for the reality of the pyramids, has been unearthed by one of its fiercest opponents.
Hmmmmm... I'm all for a more serious effort to investigate and excavate the "pyramid" shaped hill in Bosnia. On the other hand, showing us an artifact like this is distinctly NOT helpful, not even when publicized by Philip Coppens. First of all, assuming this artifact is not a fake plant, it's pretty damn obvious from the photograph that it was scrubbed clean. Sacrilege! Second, no word at all about it's relative dimensions, although we can see it's about hand size - but who's hand? Third, what are those imprints? Is that writing? Art work? If it is writing, what kind of writing? What the hell does it say? Any guesses? Fourth, no link was given to a press release in the Bosnian press or a linked citation to a place where we can find further information on this object. Where was the announcement made? On e-Bay? Fifth, the photo is blurred. I cannot help but wonder whether that was done on purpose! Sixth, why the 3,000 year spread in the age of the object? Surely the initial field reports could narrow down this date range by an examination of the strata surrounding the excavation. Ridiculous! This kind of flash and tease stuff does not help people interested in advancing a serious inquiry! Now, about ben ben stones, here's a quick summary from Wikipedia: The Benben stone, named after the mound, was a sacred stone in the solar temple of Heliopolis. It was the location on which the first rays of the sun fell. It is thought to have been the prototype for later obelisks, and the capstones of the great pyramids were based on its design. Their tips (pyramidia) were probably gilded. The phoenix, the benu bird, was venerated at Heliopolis, where it was said to be living on the Benben or on the holy willow. According to B. Kemp the connection between the benben, the phoenix and the sun may well have been based on alliteration: the rising, weben, of the sun sending its rays towards the benben, on which the benu bird lives. Utterance 600 of the Pyramid Texts speaks of Atum as you rose up, as the benben, in the Mansion of the Benu in Heliopolis (Hart, p.16). (Image from Paradigmshift, which has some interesting commentary and comparisons between the ancient Egyptian imagery and ancient Indian imagery of the creation myth; the stone is identified as a capstone found at Dashur and said to have been the capstone of the Bent Pyramid, no provenance given or where the photo was taken).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Auction Watch

What is this - one of only 64 known versions (tsk, tsk) of the painting "The Peaceable Kingdom" failed to sell at a recent Christie's auction (estimated value $4 million to $6 million USD). Are the uber rich feeling the pinch of the market crash, just like the rest of us poor schmucks whose 401(k) plans have tanked while the Wall Street Whizzes pissed all over us, laughing all the way to their numbered Swiss bank accounts? Ah, gee, poor babies. Even the Sackler Trust is divesting some of its fine collection - they say that it is to acquire capital in order to explore possible new purchases (ahem). Yeah, right. The world of Christie's and Sotheby's fine art and collectibles auctions are not for the likes of yours truly. But it's fun reading about them, sort of like reading about the discovery of new life on Venus or Pluto. From The New York Times Antiques Lions Gather With Lambs at Christie’s and Sotheby’s By WENDY MOONAN Published: September 25, 2008 At Christie’s and Sotheby’s It’s a big week for Edward Hicks at the auction houses. Christie’s had a version of his allegorical painting “The Peaceable Kingdom” (1835-40) for auction on Thursday. Estimated at $4 million to $6 million, it didn’t sell. On Friday Sotheby’s will have a smaller, earlier one, from the collection of Edward Peerman Moore, a naval commander in the Pacific theater in World War II who died in 1968, and his wife, Barbara Bingham Moore, who worked during the war as a decoder for the cryptography department of the Navy. She died this year. The 127-lot sale is expected to total $7 million. The Moores’ “Peaceable Kingdom” is dated 1829-30. On the painting’s left side Quakers hold banners proclaiming peace. On the right a sheep, fox, cow and leopard surround a child hugging a lion. (Later versions have more animals.) The picture has its original frame with an inscription in Hicks’s hand. “There are 64 known versions of the painting but only five with this particular composition, and two of them are in museums,” said Nancy Druckman of Sotheby’s. The Moore collection also features antiques from all the major colonial cabinetmaking centers. Highlights include, from Philadelphia, two sets of fine Queen Anne side chairs and a rare Queen Anne compass-seat footstool; from Massachusetts, a Chippendale mahogany chest-on-chest and Simon Willard wall clock; from New York, a spider-leg drop-leaf table; from Rhode Island, a Chippendale mahogany block-front desk and bookcase and several colorful maritime paintings by Thomas Chambers. (On Saturday the Philadelphia Museum of Art will open “Thomas Chambers, 1808-1869: American Marine and Landscape Painter.”) For Lot 20 Sotheby’s removed the upholstery from a Philadelphia wing chair, from around 1770, so collectors could study its serpentine frame and flaring wings. “People love to see the inside,” said Erik Gronning, an Americana specialist at Sotheby’s. “The chair is in amazing shape. There is no significant restoration.” He said it would have been considered a status symbol in its day: “It has bold claw feet, C-scroll arms, a high crest and strongly carved shells on the knees.” And, most important, it hasn’t been messed with. “Mrs. Moore left things as she found them, whatever condition they were in,” Mr. Gronning said. The estimate is $300,000 to $800,000. SACKLER’S CHINESE AT AUCTION Theow H. Tow, deputy chairman of Christie’s Americas and Asia, has announced an auction of 150 works of Chinese art from the Arthur M. Sackler collections in a single-owner sale at Christie’s in New York on March 18. Mr. Tow said the archaic jades, bronze vessels, ceramics, weapons, pieces of classical furniture and classical paintings had been in storage for years. “We have a good working relationship with the trustees of the Arthur M. Sackler Collections Trust, and we will be part of the process of picking which things go into the sale and which will be loaned to other institutions,” he said. The sale is expected to raise $4 million. Dr. Sackler (1913-1987), a New York research psychiatrist who made his fortune in medical advertising, medical trade publications and over-the-counter drugs, collected widely and developed a strong taste for Chinese art. He was also a philanthropist, endowing galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Princeton University, the Smithsonian and the Royal Academy in London. He established museums at Harvard and at Beijing University. The trust, which includes members of the Sackler family, said it was divesting “to consolidate and redefine their holdings of art from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections” and was “selling this particular group of objects in order to explore options to make appropriate acquisitions.” As a preview Christie’s is showing, by appointment, “Birds and Ducks,” a set of four large hanging scrolls by the painter Bada Shanren (1626-1705). Christie’s estimates the set will sell for $300,000 to $500,000. “Bada is widely known — the Met has a couple of his paintings — and our scrolls are in very good condition,” said Elizabeth M. Hammer, Christie’s specialist in Chinese paintings. “The ink is not very faded, and the scrolls are satin, so the color didn’t change.” A son and grandson of painters, Bada wanted to be a poet and painter, but as a member of the Ming imperial family, he had to flee to a monastery for safety when the Manchus took control in 1644. He served as a Buddhist priest for 30 years, then left the monastery to paint. He was eccentric, perhaps mad, which may or may not explain the purposeful ambiguity in his work. The scrolls at Christie’s depict lotus, plantain and bamboo in a rocky setting populated by birds in different poses. “Glaring eyes, the ‘white eyes’ of anger, stare out from fish, birds and animals,” Richard M. Barnhart writes about Bada’s style in “Master of the Lotus Garden: The Life and Art of Bada Shanren” (Yale University Press). “Fish are transformed into birds, rocks into lotus, ducks into plantain, and a bleak impassioned world of exiles in their own country is given form.” Mr. Barnhart continues: “Trees are stunted and broken, like men’s lives, and the lotus holds within itself virtue, redemption and rebirth in another realm.” Now widely admired in the West, Bada was only rediscovered by the Chinese after the fall of the Manchus in 1911. Mr. Barnhart called him a “major inspiration for Chinese masters of our time.”

Matilde of Canossa a/k/a Matilda of Tuscany

This image shows Matilde of Canossa (a/k/a Matilda of Tuscany), sometime during her life (1046-1115 CE) and some high bishop mucky-muck in the Roman Catholic Church sitting his bad old butt on the back of a dog. What a jerk!

The caption on this image says "Enrico IV invoca l’abate di Cluny e Matilde perché intervengano in suo favore presso Gregorio VII a Canossa. Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana."

 There were many very powerful women throughout history, and the late Middle Ages were no exception. Marilyn Yalom wrote about many of them in her informative and entertain book "The Birth of the Chess Queen." It's not explicitly stated in the article, but I presume (given the title below), that this is a precise of a new exhibit being shown at the Casa Del Mantegna in Mantua, Italy.

 From on September 21, 2008

  Matilde of Canossa: The Papacy and the Empire Opened at Casa del Mantegna MANTUA.- The two universal powers dominating Europe in the Middle Ages, the Empire and the Papacy, the bishops, the cities, the nobles, the peasants...

 An insight into the society of the first two centuries after the year 1000 has been provided casting new light on the life of Matilda of Canossa, “la comitissa” or “the Great Countess” who kept control of the key territories between Rome and the Alps, including those at the heart of the Padan plain crossed by the Po River and the lands along the Apennines.

 The strength and loneliness of this outstanding yet emblematic woman of this era may be the starting point for a line of reasoning leading to the discovery of a world of deep transformation through a suggestive visual narration unfolding into gemmed crosses, seals, tapestries, ivories, jewels, sculptures, altars, swords and tools from the Italian and European museums. Through a display of archaeological finds which have never been shown before, paintings depicting scenes of the world and, not least, agricultural tools, this exhibition provides a picture of the landscape and living environment in the eleventh and twelfth century, also revealing the remains of the Roman roads, the route along the Po River and its affluents providing a network of navigable waterways, and the mountain passes of the Alps and Apennines.

 Matilda of Canossa, an outstanding figure under many respects, albeit profoundly linked to her world — has been one of the more influential women of her age. She was the sole heiress of a great feudal dynasty and made crucial political decisions which contributed to signalling the end of an epoch and led to the rise of communal life, urban cities and individual freedom. The years running from Matilda’s birth in Mantua, possibly in 1046, to her death, in 1115, were marked by a ferment of revolutionary ideas underpinning the Church’s reforms, the struggle over investitures and the dispute between the Papacy and the Empire.

The blood relationship with the Imperial family, the marriage relationships with the Dukes of Lorraine and the House of Welf, the alliance with Pope Gregory VII, the contacts with the Abbot Hugh of Cluny and with Anselm, Bishop of Lucca, were the key factors making Matilda and her “court” the linchpin of military disputes, mediations, strategies and even episodes having a great symbolic impact, such as Henry IV’s penitence that moved the Pope to grant him absolution at the Castle of Canossa, in January 1077. In Matilda’s life, her personal vicissitudes, the two unhappy marriages and the death of her baby daughter intertwined with succession and political decisions.

By virtue of the unconditional support to the Papacy she is remembered, lonely and powerful, as a heroine of the Church of Rome deserving to be buried in St. Peter’s Basilica (after the transfer of her remains from the Polirone abbey church, where she decided to be buried). Yet, due to such backing, she became an easy target for calumny and allegations on her private life. However, an ambivalent myth was born and, growing through fascinating legends, celebrations and smear, it survived until this day.
Hmmmm, sounds like I need to read up on this woman. You can find more information on the exhibit (there are three parts to it) and Matilda here.

Incredible Exhibit on Ancient Egypt

From New Gallery at the World Museum Liverpool Looks at the World of the Pharaohs Opens in December September 28, 2008 LIVERPOOL.- A major new gallery at the World Museum Liverpool looks at the incredible world of the Pharaohs and the remarkable culture that built the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Ancient Egypt, opening on December 2008, contains 1,500 fascinating exhibits from the museum’s world-class collections. One of its great treasures – the vividly-coloured belt of the last great Pharaoh, Rameses III – is going on display for the first time since before the Second World War. Dating from 1180 BC, the monarch probably wore it in battle while riding his chariot. This is a unique survival from the ancient world – there is nothing like it even in Tutankhamen’s Tomb. Among the items on display are the mummy said to have inspired H Rider Haggard’s classic fantasy adventure She, about a beautiful queen who lives 2,000 years waiting for her lost love before shrivelling up into a pile of dust. The best-selling Victorian author was a keen collector of artefacts and helped popularise Ancient Egypt. Visitors can 'unwrap' a mummy without it being touched using a computer interactive. Ancient Egypt follows the development of the kingdom from the time of Menes, the first king of Egypt who reigned around 3000 BC, tthrough the days of the Pharaohs, up to the time of the last ruler – the legendary Queen Cleopatra, who died in 30 BC – into the Greek and Roman periods. ************************************************************************************* For the record, Rameses III's woven belt is 3,180 plus years old. It is absolutely incredible that it survived - thank Goddess for the dry Egyptian climate that made this possible. Ancient textiles can teach us a lot about a civilization, including if and whether its techniques of weaving and use of materials spread to other cultures. Another remarkable cache of preserved ancient textiles was found in the Tarim Basin in far western China on the preserved "Mummies of Urumchi." Experts examined the weaving in those textiles and concluded that it shared distinctive similarities with methods originated far to the west in eastern Europe more than 4,000 years ago, probably making its way through trade and settlers moving from the west into the forbidding territory of the Tien Shen. I also spent some time, back in the '80's, (that's 1980's, not 1880's) reading a couple of H. Rider Haggard's novels, including "She." The linguistic phrasing is a bit antiquated (High Victorian), but the stories are absolutely fabulous and well worth reading. I have to say, though, that I DO NOT REMEMBER the Queen crumbling away into a dust pile at the end of the novel. Nope - I seem to remember that a young super hunky guy stayed behind and became her mate... I believe in one movie version Ursula Andress was actually played the Queen. she was hubba hubba back then.

The Secret Life of Used Clothes

Who knew? Wow! From The Afterlife of American Clothes Haitian entrepreneurs find value in our castoffs. Joanne McNeil August/September 2008 Print Edition When thrifty shoppers in Boston and Miami pick through secondhand shirts at local Salvation Army outlets or estate sales, they are as likely to meet Haitians as hipsters. Some of the immigrants will simply be collecting clothes to mail back to family in Port-au-Prince, but others are part of a large global network trading in used American goods. Haiti’s enormous, informal, and largely unregulated market in pepe—used items imported from abroad—plays an important role in the least developed country in the Americas. In 2002 The New York Times reported that of the approximately 2.5 billion pounds of clothes donated to charity in America each year, as much as 80 percent is shipped globally. The Times article inspired filmmakers Hanna Rose Shell and Vanessa Bertozzi to research the history of recycled clothing. From 2003 to 2007 they visited rag yards in Miami, dug through archives in London and Washington, D.C., and traveled to Haiti to see the international secondhand markets for themselves. The result is the recent documentary Secondhand (Pepe), which explores the global trade in used clothing. In the United States, demand for secondhand goods spiked during the Great Depression, but after World War II peddlers found themselves with excess supply. So the business went global. Third World countries arranged deals with U.S. thrift shops for items that otherwise would end up in the trash. Haiti started receiving shipments in the early 1960s. With the benefit of cheap items came the cost of serving as a dumping ground. Shell has described the city of Miragoane, which receives new pepe nearly every day, as “blanketed, literally, by a downy coat of secondhand clothing. It grows out of the ground and into the street, onto every surface, a sartorial network—buildings, barrows, man and machine-made structures, everywhere.” When you see a photo of Haiti, it likely depicts a street riot or some similarly violent situation—the island at its worst. Secondhand (Pepe) spends a great deal of time documenting the country’s landscape in more peaceful times: a spectacle of colors, rags strewn for miles all over the dirt roads like a college dormitory on laundry day. It is at once beautiful and messy, a reminder that the country has far worse problems to deal with than litter. Haitians, we learn, are extremely resourceful, finding new uses for items that might seem like rags to us but can be refashioned into tents or used as stuffing for upholstery. They’re repurposed in other ways as well. A seamstress laments, “Pepe makes it hard to sell my garments.” But she also proudly displays the alterations she made to her blouse—darts in the front and shorter sleeves. Costing about 13 cents, her shirt looks like something that could be sold in Manhattan for $40. “It’s all pepe, all the time,” one Haitian explains in the film. Almost everything they wear comes from the north. Pepe is sold on virtually every street corner in Haiti, yet it isn’t a free-for-all. Some vendors purchase goods by the bales for resale. Usually they have an agreement with an American charity shop, which sorts the items before making the sale. (Coats, for example, go to countries with colder climates.) Other dealers rely on relatives and friends in the United States and run off-the-books enterprises. One person combs the thrift stores for certain items, and another returns to Haiti several times a year to make the exchange. Some sellers specialize in a certain kinds of goods—just soccer jerseys, just sneakers, just bikinis. The film interweaves the story of Haiti’s pepe dealers with the memoirs of Bernard Schapiro, a Jewish Austrian immigrant who worked as one of the once-ubiquitous shmatte zamlers (“rag collectors”) of a century ago. In 1907 Schapiro’s father, arriving in Baltimore and speaking little English, got an old pushcart and started selling used clothes on the streets. Bernard took over, managing a warehouse for sorting and distribution. Now his grandson is president and CEO of Whitehouse & Schapiro, a major global business operation that trades used clothing. In Bernard Schapiro’s time, “fancy people” avoided the area around his warehouse. “In those days, it was believed that immigrants and their rags were contagious with all kinds of disease,” he explains. In Haiti, similarly, there is spiritual apprehension about the goods, fears that the previous owners are dead or even that they died in the clothes. As one woman explains in the film, “Women have had to face and dismiss a lot of very long-held beliefs that you couldn’t wear clothes that had been used before, that they had bad aura, had someone’s spirit…whatever it was that they carried with them. Especially if it was bad, because it was on their own shoulders when they did that.” To get over this fear, many buyers soak or dry clean the clothes (a wise procedure for secondhand shoppers in any country). In Miami and Boston, both of which are home to large Haitian immigrant populations, the pepe market is intergenerational, with children of workers who started in President Kennedy’s day now responsible for sorting or arranging the shipment of the clothing. Schapiro’s grandson employs Haitians in his Miami warehouses. While their history and political situation is vastly different from those of the Jewish peddlers of the early 1900s, Shell told me she met Haitian factory workers in Miami who were “very ambitious.” Perhaps the grandchildren of Haitian immigrant pepe dealers may achieve the same success as Bernard Schapiro’s grandson. It’s difficult to be as optimistic for the workers inside Haiti. During the food crisis of last spring, the Associated Press reported that some Haitians were surviving on cookies made of dirt and vegetable shortening. But a little industry is better than none. Those rags for sale on the streets of Port-au-Prince might pave the way for more trade and opportunity. On March 15, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act of 2008 (HOPE II), relaxing tariffs on Haitian textile exports. The legislation isn’t perfect; it’s bogged down with a provision requiring the amount of Haitian-made fabric to equal the amount of fabric woven in the U.S. But the initiative will create jobs and draw on the island’s great tailoring skills, acquired from years of altering secondhand clothes. The seamstress in Secondhand (Pepe) had trouble selling her unique designs in her own country, but judging from what she did with an old shirt, she could find buyers in the U.S. And then, perhaps, her clothes will one day find their way back to Haiti. Joanne McNeil blogs at

Russia's Scorched Earth Policy in Georgia

See "Book Burning" post below, for it is certainly related. From The Wall Street Journal SEPTEMBER 24, 2008 What the Russians Left In Their Wake in Georgia By MELIK KAYLAN Having devastated vast areas of its own lands in the Caucasus, such as Chechnya and Ingushetia, in order to "protect" them from instability, Moscow's obliterating shadow has settled deep over Georgia -- with the usual consequences. The full barbarism of Russian actions in Georgia may not emerge for years; much of the evidence lies behind the lines in terrain newly annexed by Russia. But some details are now beyond dispute. Alongside the various human atrocities, such as the bombing and purging of civilian areas, the invaders looted and destroyed numerous historical sites, some of which were profoundly revered by the Georgians as sacred building blocks in their national identity. This is especially true of the region around South Ossetia that served as a kind of cradle of early Georgian culture. The Georgian Ministry of Culture lists some 500 monuments and archaeological sites now mostly under Russian occupation and out of sight. After the interminable Soviet decades, the Georgians from 1990 onward made a special push nationwide to reconsecrate churches and build local museums to revive their own interrupted national narrative. No doubt that in itself acted as a kind of provocation to Russia's hair-trigger sensitivities over loss of empire. Using satellite imagery and interviews with refugees from the August invasion, the Georgian government is in the process of identifying damage to the most important monuments. Thus far the destruction includes severe bomb damage to the Museum of Prince Matchabelli, which housed the personal effects of the Georgian royal family's famed anti-Russian rebel, who was native to the region; destruction by arson of the church of St. George in Sveri, a rare 19th-century wooden structure; shelling damage to the 12th-century Ikorta church with its graves of revered Georgians; and extensive bomb damage to the monastery complex of Nikozi Church -- dating from the 11th century, it is perhaps the most important site of all. This is an extremely selective list, but it gives the reader an idea of why the area matters deeply to Georgians, and in a perverse way to Russian-backed militias allowed to plunder as they drove out residents at gunpoint and, according to eyewitness accounts, began looting buildings. Satellite imagery shows that specifically Georgian villages were extensively torched and in some places are being bulldozed flat. Here one should firmly scotch any budding moral equivalency arguments comparing Russian conduct in Georgia with allied conduct in Iraq or Kosovo. Whatever other mistakes have been made, the U.S. has meticulously avoided bomb damage to ancient sites and never has encouraged any allies to attack or obliterate the culture of rivals. To be clear, the U.S. simply does not harbor that kind of targeted animus toward the cultural patrimony of others. I was in the Georgian war zone during a chunk of August and with the help of local friends I was able to traverse occupied terrain via country roads and over hills on foot -- a highly dodgy undertaking as one moved into South Ossetia without Russian permits. Georgian refugees were still streaming out. Bodies and burned vehicles were left behind. To view the damage to Nikozi, my friends got me to a hillside at dusk for a short spell, before it got dark enough for night-vision lenses to pick us out, making it suicidal for us to move around. One could make out rubble and destruction in the village and the church complex. The church itself seemed unharmed, but the equally historic bishop's palace nearby appeared roofless and fire-damaged. In the advancing twilight, visibility was bad. But what I saw has now been confirmed by multiple eyewitness and other reports. The site of Nikozi Church dates back to the fifth century and is known to Georgians as the Church of the First Martyr. The story goes that St. Rajdeny was a Persian soldier of high rank stationed in the area under the Sassanid empire. He converted to Christianity and was tortured to reconvert to Zoroastrianism. He refused and died under torture, and his grave became a center of pilgrimage around which a church was built by Vakhtang Gorgaseli, the fifth-century Georgian king who founded Tblisi. A bishop's palace was added and the church rebuilt in the 11th century. The Soviets expunged all religious activity there with particular force because Stalin hailed from the nearby town of Gori, where they built the Stalin museum in his lifetime. At the Soviets' demise, Nikozi became again a center of pilgrimage for Georgians. And as the national church came back to life, Nikozi reacquired a bishop who revived the annual mid-August festivities in honor of St. Rajdeny. The fiercest aerial bombardment of the village took place this year on Aug. 12 and 14. Bishop Andrea Gvazava of Gori, who was helping conduct services at the church at the time, later told me that he had organized the evacuation of villagers but the bishop of Nikozi had stayed to face further bombing. There is some confusion over the condition of the church -- some say it sustained some fire damage and little else -- but the medieval bishop's palace was gutted and everything inside torched. New outbuildings to house a school were destroyed. Bishop Andrea believes that the complex likely suffered looting, because in Gori and outlying villages he and other priests were later robbed at gunpoint by Ossetian militias. In contrast, Stalin's museum in Gori, which I visited during the occupation, went unmolested except for the Georgian flag flying on the tower above -- a sniper had shot out its red St. George crosses. In fact, the museum became a center of pilgrimage for Russian soldiers who daily stood around having their pictures taken. The custodian, a sturdy elderly lady, also had refused to flee. She told me that teary-eyed Russian officers, drunk by evening as most Russian soldiers were, kept turning up and complimenting her for watching the place. They had hugged her and said: "He was a great man. He kept our country unified." Had they mentioned that he'd done so by decimating an entire generation of Georgians and by settling Ossetians in and around Tskhinvali, the source of all the present trouble? "They were alcoholics," she sniffed. Why hadn't she fled? "Because it is a piece of history, whatever you think of Stalin," she said, "and we have a responsibility to preserve it." Mr. Kaylan writes about culture for the Journal.

Book Burning

Burning books - the very thought raises the hairs on the back of my neck. I came out of the womb with a book in my hand, and I've never stopped reading. Reading is the primary way in which people take in knowledge. (Photo: Nazis burning books in 1933 Berlin, (c) Corbis) The only defense we have against those who present lies as truth is our own personal knowledge store. It really is true that knowledge is power. Therefore, they who control the knowledge control the power - a primary tenant that leads to censorship and intellectual suppression in authoritarian governments and of religious fundamentalists (whatever creed) the world over. As dondelion told me years ago, media carries the message; control the media, control the message. I gauge a person's character by how he/she feels about books. I look with suspicion and horror on anyone who talks about banning books in libraries just because they don't like the content. If John McCain wins the Presidential election in November and dies in office, our next President could ban books because she doesn't like their content. Now that is a thought more scary to me than Osama bin Laden or the threat of economic melt-down. Into an environment that is ripe for book-burning these days (just ask the Taliban and Sarah Palin) comes "A Universal History of the Destruction of Books: From Ancient Sumer to Modern Iraq" (Atlas, 367 pages, $25), which was reviewed by Eric Ormsby at The New York Sun: Book-Burning and Other Bibliocausts By ERIC ORMSBY September 24, 2008 The clay tablets of the Babylonians seem clumsy and strangely vulnerable. They weren't gathered in books or protected by bindings; they crumbled easily. And yet, they had one great advantage over all our media, from parchment to CDs: When baked by the sun or fired in kilns, clay tablets become virtually indestructible. Neither fire nor water nor hungry worms can wreck them. If they break, the shards can be pieced together again. As a result, thousands of ancient records incised in clay, from bills of lading to personal letters to such literary masterpieces as the "Epic of Gilgamesh," survive to this day. By contrast, of the 120 works attributed to Sophocles only seven complete plays and a handful of fragments are extant. Sappho wrote nine volumes of verse but only two whole poems of hers survive. And in fact, we ourselves aren't much better off than the Greeks. Books printed in the 19th century on acid paper crumble in our hands as we read them. Nor do we even know for sure what the actual life span of digitized records will be. To make matters worse, as Fernando Báez makes plain in "A Universal History of the Destruction of Books: From Ancient Sumer to Modern Iraq" (Atlas, 367 pages, $25), translated from the Spanish by Alfred MacAdam, the book has always been doubly inflammable. Its contents inflame hostile readers while its physical format is temptingly combustible. When conquerors put vanquished peoples to the sword they destroy their books too. The Mongols under Hulagu sacked Baghdad in 1258 and devastated its centuries-old libraries; the Christian missionaries who accompanied the conquistadors made bonfires of the Aztec and Mayan codices. And as recently as August 1992, Ratko Mladic, the Serbian commander, ordered incendiary shells deployed for three days to destroy the National Library of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo. In a perverse way, such murderous vandals paid tribute to the value of the book: They understood, however dimly, that conquest can't be complete until the entire written past of the conquered has been razed to the ground. Mr. Báez is the director of the National Library of Venezuela, and so this melancholy history of destruction is close to his heart. His title makes ironic allusion to Jorge Luis Borges's "Universal History of Infamy." This is all the more fitting since Borges himself not only served as director of the National Library of Argentina but in one of his most famous fictions conjured up the shadowy "Library of Babel," a fabulous repository "whose extent is infinite." Unlike Borges, who delighted in inventing titles which don't exist (but should), Mr. Báez describes books and whole libraries that fell prey not only to fire and flood but to sheer human malevolence. He is an eloquent chronicler of such "bibliocausts." Whether he is describing the systematic destruction of books carried out by the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang in 213 B.C.E. — only works on agriculture, medicine, and divination were spared — or the conflagration which incinerated the famed library of Alexandria, probably at the hands of a zealous Christian mob, in the fourth century C.E., Mr. Báez sets each act of destruction in its historical context. And he provides an excellent, if harrowing, array of illustrations. Lurid photographs of Nazi book-burning are set against crude images of those earlier pyres on which the writings of outcast and "heretical" groups, such as the Albigensians in medieval France, were consumed. Unfortunately, for all Mr. Báez's impassioned eloquence, this is an uneven book, and several chapters are marred by glaring errors. In the chapter on libraries in the Islamic world, for example, dates are given incorrectly, names are mangled beyond recognition, and historical events are misrepresented. Thus, the great wave of conquests that took early Muslim armies from the Arabian Peninsula to Spain in the West and India in the East within a century did not begin in 661 with the Umayyad dynasty — which Mr. Báez persists in calling the "Ommiads" — but was launched 30 years earlier; the great ninth-century translator from Greek into Arabic was Hunayn ibn Ishaq, not "Humayun Ibn Ishaq," and so forth. These are small mistakes but there are too many of them. Such breezy carelessness is especially disturbing in a book that laments the misuse of books. To his credit, Mr. Báez is no mere academic chronicler of what he calls, somewhat awkwardly, "biblioclasty." He has stood amid the ruins of great libraries in Sarajevo and present-day Baghdad and he has been active in efforts to rebuild their ransacked collections. Still, his infamous history leaves a lingering puzzle: Why does the destruction of books — inanimate objects, after all — provoke such a distinct sense of horror in us? In many cultures, of course, the book has been revered as a sacred artifact and even today we feel this; we'd rather give a book away than destroy it. But the true reason may lie deeper. Books are made out of words and it is words that define us. We are the rational, the speaking, animals. To burn a book is to aim a blow at the very meaning of what we are.

The Riace Warriors

From (Photo of the Riace warriors from the Reggio Calabria Museum, Warrior "B" is in the forefront, without the helmet described in the article). 2008-09-24 13:25 Riace riddle thickens Photo of find 'shows shield handle, ' sleuth says (ANSA) - Riace, September 24 - The riddle of an alleged theft from Italy's famed Riace bronzes has resurfaced 35 years after they were lifted from the Calabrian seabed. A photo of the 1972 find has reignited speculation that the two figures were stripped of a shield and possibly other objects - and even a companion who has never been seen. The photo was put on display recently by a Riace cultural association and spotted by Riace bronze sleuth Giuseppe Bragho', an amateur archaeologist who has long been arguing that the site was raided by art thieves. Bragho' says the snap, taken just after the statues were brought ashore, is ''unequivocal evidence'' that a shield was torn from the left arm of the so-called 'younger' statue. ''The photo clearly shows an object protruding from the statue's left hand. It's easy to guess that it was the handle of the shield that has never been discovered,'' Bragho' said. Bragho' said the photo should ''lend fresh impetus'' to an inquiry opened last year on the basis of his claims. The local sleuth, who has written a book outlining his suspicions, says he has ''tracked down and photographed a series of documents that indicate an alarming scenario''. He says a third statue - ''completely different from the other two'' - as well as two shields and a lance, were seen lying on the seabed by the finder, scuba diver Stefano Mariottini. Bragho' points to a statement made by Mariottini the day after he discovered the statues on 16 August 1972.In the statement, he refers to ''a group of statues'' Bragho' also highlights another section of Mariottini's statement in which he reportedly said he saw ''three statues, probably made of of them lying on its side with a shield on its left arm''. In addition, the expert has provided prosecutors with the name of a man who allegedly helped smuggle a shield and lance away from the scene of the discovery. ONE OF ITALY'S MOST IMPORTANT FINDS OF THE LAST 100 YEARS. The bronzes were discovered by Mariottini, an amateur scuba diver from Rome, during a holiday on the Calabrian coast. They turned out to be one of Italy's most important archaeological finds of the last 100 years. The statues are of two virile men, presumably warriors or gods, who possibly held lances and shields at one time. At around two metres, they are larger than life. The 'older' man, known as Riace B, wears a helmet, while the 'younger' Riace A has nothing covering his rippling hair. Both are naked. Although the statues are cast in bronze, they feature silver lashes and teeth, copper red lips and nipples, and eyes made of ivory, limestone and a glass and amber paste. Italy is renowned for its archaeological treasures but the Riace bronzes have attracted particular attention. This is partly because of their exceptionally realistic rendering and partly owing to the rarity of ancient bronze statues, which tended to be melted down and the metal reused. Mariottini, who spotted the statues 300 metres off the coast and eight metres underwater, said the bronze was so realistic he initially thought he'd found the remains of a corpse. When they first went on display in 1981, a million people came to see them and the pair were even featured on a commemorative postage stamp. Today the statues pull some 130,000 visitors each year to the Reggio Calabria museum housing them. How or when the statues sank to their watery resting place also remains a mystery, as divers uncovered no wreckage in the vicinity. While remains could have drifted to the seabed some distance away it is more probable that the statues were tossed overboard, either to lighten the ship's load in a storm or to prevent them falling into the hands of pirates. Italian cultural authorities recently sent a fresh scientific mission to the area after a US ship reported detecting traces of underwater metal near the spot the statues were discovered.

More on the Fake Christian Amulet

From the My suspicion is that the real problem is that the amulet is unique. Because it doesn’t fit their understanding of the period, they are determined to believe that it cannot be genuine. Here's the original post. Christian amulet that ruined my life is not a hoax Andrew Norfolk September 22, 2008 The archaeologist who discovered a silver cross exposed by scientists last week as a Roman “hoax” says he is convinced that the find is genuine. Quentin Hutchinson has remained silent since he found the early Christian Chi-Rho amulet while excavating a 4th-century grave near the Somerset town of Shepton Mallet in 1990. It was initially regarded as the earliest evidence of a Christian burial in Britain and was hailed as one of the archaeological finds of the century. But after tests by experts at Liverpool University, which concluded that the silver was of 19th-century origin, it has now emerged that doubts about its authenticity were voiced almost from the moment it was found. Mr Hutchinson, 46, has never before spoken publicly about his discovery of the tiny cross on Sunday, July 15, 1990. But now he says that it has ruined his life and he wishes that he had never found it. His integrity was called into question soon after the find, and the suspicion that he had planted the cross himself ended his professional career. He denies playing any part in a hoax and maintains that it would have been impossible for anyone to plant the amulet without disturbing the soil. In the absence of such evidence, he is convinced that the cross could only have come to be underneath the right femur of the skeleton of a middle-aged man, possibly a priest, if it had been buried with its owner more than 1,600 years ago. He believes that the experts must reconsider because the find may yet prove to be of great importance. In the summer of 1990, Mr Hutchinson, then 28, had been an archaeologist for four years and was a member of Birmingham University’s Field Archeology Unit. It had been asked to conduct a dig at the site of a proposed £6 million warehouse development. What they uncovered, beside the Fosse Way was evidence of a large Romano-British settlement, with roadside buildings, workshops, agricultural enclosures and industrial workings. There were also three 4th-century cemeteries, one of which – where the graves lay east to west – was thought to be Christian. Mr Hutchinson was asked to complete the excavation of one grave, which had been left by a colleague with the upper half of the skeleton uncovered but the lower half still hidden beneath compacted soil. “I began lowering the grave fill. You can always tell, from subtle differences in colour and texture, if there has been a disturbance. In this case, the soil was very clean, very compact. It did not look to have been disturbed in any way. The site director [Peter Leach] had already looked at it with me. There was absolutely nothing to suggest that it had been tampered with.” When Mr Hutchinson reached the upper right leg bone, he noticed a fleck of black and a bead, embedded in the soil next to the bone. He gently removed a fist-sized clod of earth surrounding the object and lifted it out. He found himself holding a small silver cross, 45mm long, and 39mm wide. The bead had been the tip of one of its four points. Heart racing, he hurried to Mr Leach, who wiped the remaining soil from the small disc at its centre. This revealed the Chi-Rho marking, an early Christian symbol formed by superimposing the first two letters, X and P, of the Greek word Christos, “the anointed one”. He said: “I thought, ‘Oh my God, what have I found?’ It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. Peter Leach said that nothing like it had ever been found in Britain. It was incredibly exciting.” Within days, word spread of the amazing find and Shepton Mallet seemed destined for fame as one of Britain’s earliest centres of Christian belief. Mr Hutchinson left Britain on a short holiday two months later. When he came back, his world fell apart. “My director called me into his office and told me that he had been asked by the British Museum to question my professional conduct because they were convinced that the amulet was a modern hoax.” Mr Hutchinson was asked if he had planted it. He angrily denied the accusation. The find remained, officially, genuine until last week’s tests but passion for archaeology – and trust in Britain’s archaeological establishment – left its finder many years ago. Shattered by the suspicions surrounding him, he resigned from the Birmingham team in 1991 and left the profession in 2000. He has subsequently worked as a teacher, in a post office and in a supermarket. He now wants a gathering of experts to thrash out the controversy. “I’m not an expert on Roman silver, so in that sense I can’t say whether the amulet is genuine, but what I do know is that it came out of an untouched grave. My suspicion is that the real problem is that the amulet is unique. Because it doesn’t fit their understanding of the period, they are determined to believe that it cannot be genuine. The truth is I wish I’d never found it, because it ruined my life.”
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