Saturday, June 20, 2009


(Times reported are New York time) 4:54 p.m. New York Times Op-Ed columnist Roger Cohen was out on Tehran’s streets on Saturday and has filed this account of what he witnessed. Here is some of what he reports: I don’t know where this uprising is leading. I do know some police units are wavering. That commander talking about his family was not alone. There were other policemen complaining about the unruly Basij. Some security forces just stood and watched. “All together, all together, don’t be scared,” the crowd shouted. I also know that Iran’s women stand in the vanguard. For days now, I’ve seen them urging less courageous men on. I’ve seen them get beaten and return to the fray. “Why are you sitting there?” one shouted at a couple of men perched on the sidewalk on Saturday. “Get up! Get up!” Another green-eyed woman, Mahin, aged 52, staggered into an alley clutching her face and in tears. Then, against the urging of those around her, she limped back into the crowd moving west toward Freedom Square. Cries of “Death to the dictator!” and “We want liberty!” accompanied her. There were people of all ages. I saw an old man on crutches, middle-aged office workers and bands of teenagers. Unlike the student revolts of 2003 and 1999, this movement is broad. [...] Later, we moved north, tentatively, watching police lash out from time to time, reaching Victory Square where a pitched battle was in progress. Young men were breaking bricks and stones to the right size for hurling. Crowds gathered on overpasses, filming and cheering the protesters. A car burst into flames. Back and forth the crowd surged, confronted by less-than-convincing police units. I looked up through the smoke and saw a poster of the stern visage of Khomeini above the words, “Islam is the religion of freedom.” Later, as night fell over the tumultuous capital, from rooftops across the city, the defiant sound of “Allah-u-Akbar” — “God is Great” — went up yet again, as it has every night since the fraudulent election, but on Saturday it seemed stronger. 3:09 p.m. The BBC has posted accounts from several eyewitnesses of today’s events in Tehran, including this one, from someone identified as Siavash: I was part of the protest in Valiasr Square. When we got there, there were riot police and plain clothes guards shooting at people, I could see that people had been shot and were on the ground. There were also water cannons. We decided to head towards Azadi Square, and there were guards on motorbikes and attacking people with batons. There were thousands of people out on the streets the police were using tear gas - the whole experience was terrifying. Towhid (Unity) Square looked like a battle ground. There were lots of female protestors - I saw a guard attack one women and then she went back up to him and grabbed him by the collar and said ‘why are you doing this? Are you not an Iranian?’ - he was totally disarmed and didn’t know what to do but her actions stopped him. There were no ambulances around - people were helping each other - helping the wounded - taking them to safety away from further attacks. Another opposition supporter who contacted the BBC said: We will continue to protest and we have several reasons to do so. First because we demand our rights. Second because were not afraid. Third - we will not be fooled. And fourth - in this way, the true face of this regime will be revealed to the whole world. 2:19 p.m. The video of a young woman who was apparently shot in Tehran today has been uploaded to many Web sites and Facebook pages this afternoon. One of our readers comments: Make special note of that unarmed innocent Girl shot and bleeding from her mouth, nose, eyes, ears…..hundreds of copies just went up on Youtube. The tide of the ‘79 revolution was turned overnight by a similar front-page photo of a Soldier at point blank range shooting an un-armed protester. Update 1:45 p.m. CNN has aired a very graphic and disturbing video clip which was uploaded to YouTube and Facebook on Saturday, showing a young woman who has been shot, bleeding profusely. (WARNING: Please be advised before you click on the link below that these are truly horrifying images.) On both Facebook and YouTube, the video comes with this explanation, written by someone who says that he was present when this video was shot and describes what it shows: Basij shots to death a young woman in Tehran’s Saturday June 20th protests At 19:05 June 20th Place: Karekar Ave., at the corner crossing Khosravi St. and Salehi st. A young woman who was standing aside with her father watching the protests was shot by a basij member hiding on the rooftop of a civilian house. He had clear shot at the girl and could not miss her. However, he aimed straight her heart. I am a doctor, so I rushed to try to save her. But the impact of the gunshot was so fierce that the bullet had blasted inside the victim’s chest, and she died in less than 2 minutes. The protests were going on about 1 kilometers away in the main street and some of the protesting crowd were running from tear gass used among them, towards Salehi St. The film is shot by my friend who was standing beside me. Please let the world know. Again, we have no way of knowing when or where the video was shot, or if this reader’s account is accurate, due to the intense restrictions on first-hand reporting imposed on the press inside Iran. More. President Obama said it best: The world is watching.

The Never-Ending Question...

(Image: Famous medieval chessplayer Paolo Boi and "Satan" as a seducing woman) Since the first days of Goddesschess, I've been fascinated by the eternal debate, variously phrased (usually in negative terms toward females): "Why can't women play chess as well as men?" Over time, we gathered together various articles and writings from the internet and called it "The Ever-Changing, Never-Ending Question" under Chess and Gender. Famous male chessplayers Fischer and Kasparov, among others, disparaged the chessplaying skills of females. (Both later modified their views on female chessplayers, allowing that at least some females could play as well as a man. They totally ignored the intriguing question of why all men -- as superior players -- didn't play equally well.) Chessbase has now weighed in on the subject in an article by newly-weds WGM Natalia Pogonina and Peter Zhdanov: Women and men in chess – smashing the stereotypes. It's light-hearted, but not light-weight. In particular, the couple have zeroed in on the very thing that could change the entire tenor of this never-ending discussion: how the question is framed. Personally, I think they're on to something significant by recognizing that more women than men do not play chess because women are, in general, more mature and intelligent than men. The question could thus be framed as "Why don't more men waste less time playing chess and contribute more to the betterment of society?" Yeah. I like how that sounds. The more serious question underlying this light-hearted discussion is why so many males have such a fear of recognizing females as equals; so much fear, in fact, that it has been institutionalized in patriarchal religious "laws" that give tremendous power to females as "temptresses" and "sinners" who lead poor, weak-minded, weak-spirited males astray along the path to Perdition. Geez, guys!

Whoa! Numbers Phenomena!

(Image: From the Egyptian "Book of the Dead." I cannot "read" it but I think the numbers of "four" and "three" speak for themselves).

For all you people who have experienced this -- you go to bed, you're tired, you fall asleep. You wake up; its dark in your room. You roll over and glance at the clock and try to focus your eyes (LOL!), and the clock says 11:11, or 10:10, 3:33, 5:55, or - I'm really good at this one - 4:44.

4:44 and 11:11 show up more often than not during my restless nights but the one that really bugs me is 5:55, because my alarm is set to go off at 6 a.m. 5:55 drives me nuts! Do I put my head back down on the pillow and "rest" for another five minutes, drifting off into la-la land where I'm half awake/half asleep and have wild dreams? But then the clock radio blares and I'm jarred awake, bleary-eyed and groggy? Or do I lay there tense and irritated and already pissed off at the world in general as I wait for the clock radio to click to 6 a.m. and "wake up" to the latest bad news and atrocities they always report? Do I get up before the alarm goes off, something I am always loath to do because it gives extra precious minutes to that "work world" that I hate?

I came across this while checking out the latest at The Daily Grail. I haven't listened to the broadcast - I haven't listened to any broadcasts by Binnall of America so I cannot give a recommendation - but this one sounds fascinating, and it comes with a very lengthy overview of what was discussed on the radio show, which you can download or listen to online:

Marie Jones & Larry Flaxman (2 Hours, 3 Minutes) (Program link)
Longtime friends of the program, Marie Jones & Larry Flaxman, return to the show for a fun-filled and informative edition of BoA:Audio. We'll be talking about the 11:11 phenomenon along with the esoteric elements of numbers in general. ...

I gave a VERY brief summary, above. They talk about 2012 for awhile, evidently. I've got to tell you, I don't think there's anything to all the "2012" nonsense that's been buzzing around certain parts of the internet, and even talked about in newspaper articles. If I'd been alive when 1000 CE rolled around, I'd have been much more likely to think something momentous would happen then - the transition between all those nines (999) and the Big One (1000 -- one followed by three zeros, eek!) It didn't.

Ahhh, this post about numbers takes me back to those heady days of the old Art Bell (Coast to Coast) discussion board and Mark Borcherding, our resident expert on numerology and all things Maya. It was Mark who recommended Bonnie Gaunt's book "Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid: Window on the Universe" that revealed a whole new world of numbers of which I'd been ignorant! That book, in turn, led me to the very best book I've ever read about numbers and their meaning: Michael Schneider's "A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe: The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Sciences - A Voyage from 1 to 10."

Numbers - people spend their entire lives studying them, trying to understand them - mathematicians, physicists. I can tell you that I sure don't and probably most of humankind doesn't, either! Oh, I know that we have a generally universal agreement on basic counting systems, for instance, one-two-three... And we have agreed to certain rules about calculations, such as one plus three equals four, and two multiplied by two equals four, things like that. But I have read that there are still some isolated tribes in South America who have no words that are akin to what numbers "mean" to us. What is it like to live in such a society, where there are no such things as "numbers?" I can't even imagine it, when I stop at the supermarket nearly every day to pick up milk, bird seed, wine, bread, or whatever, and for each and every item there is a "price" - a number - and if I don't have the symbolic "cash" to pay for the items I want to buy, I cannot obtain them. Then I am very upset and angry, and hungry and thirsty. Geez! And then "credit cards" were invented out of plastic. Double Geez!

Did You Have an "Imaginary" Friend as a Kid?

I did. Her name was Merriweather, and I didn't think she was imaginary at all because I could see her quite clearly, although no one else could except, perhaps, my sister Debbie who maybe saw her at least a couple of times when she was with me. Looking back with the eyes and experience of an adult, I know now she wasn't imaginary. "Seeing" things runs in our family. I think my sister, who was terribly shy as a child, just didn't want to be seen as strange by the other kids - there was a "mob" of us who went to St. Rose's grade school and we'd walk together every day. I had no such problem. I loudly declared what I saw and dared anyone to call me a liar! Merriweather was an "older" woman, but nearly anyone would be old to me at that time because I was in 4th grade, probably 8 years old. She was also "tall", again most any adult would have seemed tall to me at the time, because I was a small kid (I was only 5'1" at age 15 and did not reach my adult height of 5' 3-3/4" until my mid-20s). She wore her hair in an upswept do with curls in the front, and a long sleeved gown with a small "train" in the back, that would trail around behind her when she moved. I don't recall that she ever spoke to me, and she never frightened to me, so I'm thinking she was not what the following article calls an "NCC." I think now that Merriweather was a probably a "ghost," and from my recollection of her costume, perhaps from the late 19th or early 20th century. I only saw her in a certain location (a long-vacant store front that we passed every day on the way to school) - she didn't follow me around or appear in my room at night, for instance. Not sure now how I knew her name, since she didn't talk to me. Hmmm... What I like about this article is that it does not assume that children who "see" things are just "imagining" it! Invizikids: Imaginary Childhood Friends Maybe I wrote about this before? Seems familiar. If so, apologies!

Face to Face with Priestess Meresamun

Modern technology at work! Here are two renditions (center and right) of what Meresamun may have looked like, based upon CT scans of her mummy. The image on the left is from her mummy cartonnage case and at the time of Meresamun's death, would not have been intended to be a true representation of what she looked like (that happened much later in Egyptian history) but was, rather, an idealized image. Getting By On Her Looks "Priestess of Amun" by Eti Bonn-Muller Using crystal-clear 3-D images from Meresamun's historic scans, two forensic artists reconstruct the face of a 2,800-year-old Egyptian priestess She was more than just a pretty face. The ancient Egyptian Meresamun, who lived around 800 B.C., was a working girl, a priestess-musician who served Amun, the preeminent deity of Thebes. Her mummified remains, sealed 2,800 years ago in a skintight coffin of cartonnage (layers of linen and plaster), were examined by researchers at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute in September 2008 using the latest in CT scanning technology, a "256-slice" machine that produced startlingly vivid images. For months, she has since been the immensely popular subject of the Oriental Institute Museum's exhibition, The Life of Meresamun: A Temple Singer in Ancient Egypt. Now, the headline-making CT images have helped two individuals--each working separately with 3-D STL (stereolithography) images of Meresamun's skull produced from the scans, but using different techniques--reconstruct Meresamun's face. Michael Brassell is a Baltimore-based forensic artist for NamUs (pronounced "name us"), the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System established by the National Institute of Justice. He created traditional hand-drawn pencil sketches (digitally colored for an "artsy" effect), using the exact same methods he employs when helping the police track down a cold-case victim. Josh Harker, a forensic artist who lives in Chicago and was originally trained as a sculptor, worked digitally, leveraging the latest software and imaging technology. "I was delighted to have two very different techniques," says Emily Teeter, an Egyptologist at the Oriental Institute Museum and curator of the Meresamun exhibition. "How often do you look at a police sketch in the paper--of some creep or some unfortunate missing person--and say, 'Yeah, I wonder if they really looked like that?' But there is a lot of similarity between the two reconstructions." The main differences, she points out, are in the shapes of the chin and the nose. "But they both have the same overbite, very much the same cheekbones, and the same shape of the eyes." Rest of article at Archaeology (online).

Stormy Weather!

Not the Lena Horne song - the real deal! Last night was tornado warnings and flooding and strong winds, lots of thunder and lightning! Between about 7 p.m. last night and when things finally calmed down around 10 p.m. (although it continued raining moderately) we got 4-5 inches of rain in my area, but that wasn't even close to the record-breaking rains falling further to the west where at one point it was raining 14 inches an hour! (That's in addition to the 3-4 inches we received Thursday night-Friday morning). Strong winds too - I had to clean up a rather messy storm-tossed yard filled with leaves and downed branches from my mini grove of trees (back yard) this morning, and the deck was a wet soggy mess, but I didn't lose any major branches, the trees all stayed upright and there was no hail, so no damage to the siding. Polish Fest down at the lake front (it opened yesterday) would have been pelted, too, unfortunately. Today has dawned sunny, hot, but much less humid, and there is a breeze that will help dry things up a bit. The swimming pool that had appeared in my back yard last night is gone this morning, thank Goddess! Flooding continues along streams and rivers locally as the cresting water makes it way toward Lake Michigan. People will flock toward the lake front today and tomorrow to enjoy the great weather, so hopefully there will be a good turnout for the simul with GM Josh Friedel at the Southwest Chess Club tent this evening (sign up starts at 5:00 p.m.) The grass needs to be cut but it's full sun in the front (I missed the shady window between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m.) and too shady in the back yard and still too wet in both yards; I'll cut the front this evening after 6 p.m. when the sun swings around to the back of the house, giving me shade to work in, and I'll save the back yard cutting for tomorrow. I cleaned off the deck and it just needs to dry off. I'll settle there later with the lap top to enjoy this great weather while it lasts. These hot breezy dry days don't show up too often! While the elements were raging about me last evening, I was working on an article for Chessville - stay tuned.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Land of Firdousi

For those of you who have been following events the past week in Iran, the land where it is quite possible the game of chess as we recognize it first became amalgamated, I've been following the blogs at The New York Times and the This is from The Lede at The New York Times tonight: Update 6:21 p.m. A Twitter feed that seems to be associated with the Moussavi campaign posted this message one hour ago: Mousavi & Karoubi ask supporters NOT to attend Friday prayers (which is being delivered by supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei) Update 6:09 p.m. Iran’s Press TV reports that the country’s Supreme Leader will be leading the prayers on Friday at a university in the capital: Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei will lead this week’s Friday prayers in Tehran University. “The massive turnout of the Iranian nation in the Friday prayers congregation will manifest the solidarity and unity among Iranians,” IRNA quoted Iran’s Friday prayers headquarters as saying. The Guardian reports that Iran’s chief cleric, who also heads its government, “is expected to combine a call for calm tomorrow with a warning of severe consequences if protests continue.” I don't know what is going to happen tomorrow, but I don't have a good feeling. I hope I am wrong.


(Image: From Nigel Pennick, "Secret Games of the Gods," Pythia, c. 400 BCE. Notice the 3x3 checkered board motif in the border, that dates back to at least 6,000 BCE in the lands around the Mediterranean. The "roof" of the embrasure where the Pythia is installed is also checked, perhaps replicating the older checkerboard-patterned palenques for deceased kings and special warriors used in archaic Greece and, even earlier, the checkered ceilings of the enclosures holding the mummies of ancient pharaohs. Notice also the eight-pointed "rosette" on the side of the Pythia's stool, which I assume is matched by another on the other side. The 8-point rosette is long associated with the goddess Inanna, who travelled to the Land of No Return and entered the underworld to retrieve her deceased lover/son, and successfully returned. The Pythia holds a shallow bowl or dish in her left hand and an oracle branch in her right hand. The holding of the dish or bowl in her left hand is significant. In "Christian" times, left-handed people, particularly females who were left-handed, were often persecuted and/or killed as "witches.") A selection from Barbara Walker's "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Legends." Delphi "Womb"; Greece's oldest, most famous oracle, where Mother Earth was worshipped under the name of Delphyne, the Womb of Creation, along with her serpent-son and consort Python.(1) At various times the oracle was said to belong to the Sea-goddess, or the Moon-goddess, various designations of the same primal Mother, whoses priestess-daughters, the Pythonesses, controlled the rites. Eventually the patriarchal god Apollo took it over, retaining the Pythonesses, but claiming to have placed the serpent in his underground uterine cave, whence came the oracle's inspiration. Apollo murdered the priestess Delphyne, and held the oracle until it was closed by the Christian emperor Thedosius. After him, Arcadius had the temple entirely destroyed. Notes: (1) Graves, G.M., 1, 80.
Compare to this information from Wikipedia entry on Delphi: The name Delphois starts with the same four letters as δελφύς delphus, "womb" and may indicate archaic veneration of Gaia, Grandmother Earth, and the Earth Goddess at the site.[4][5] Apollo is connected with the site by his epithet Δελφίνιος Delphinios, "the Delphinian." The epithet is connected with dolphins (Greek δελφίς,-ῖνος) in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (line 400), recounting the legend of how Apollo first came to Delphi in the shape of a dolphin, carrying Cretan priests on his back. The Homeric name of the oracle is Pytho (Πυθώ).[6] Notes 4, 5 and 6 (referenced above): (4) Fontenrose, Joseph, The Delphic Oracle: Its Responses and Operations, with a Catalogue of Responses (1978). pp.3-4. "Such was its prestige that most Hellenes after 500 B.C. placed its foundation in the earliest days of the world: before Apollo took possession, they said, Ge (Earth) [Gaia] and her daughter Themis had spoken oracles at Pytho. Such has been the strength of the tradition that many historians and others have accepted as historical fact the ancient statement that Ge and Themis spoke oracles before it became Apollo's establishment. Yet nothing but the myth supports this statement. In the earliest account that we have of the Delphic Oracle's beginnings, the story found in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (281-374), there was no Oracle before Apollo came and killed the great she-dragon, Pytho's only inhabitant. This was apparently the Delphic myth of the sixth century". (5) Farnell, Lewis Richard, The Cults of the Greek States, v.III, pp.8-10, onwards. "The earth is the abode of the dead, therefore the earth-deity has power over the ghostly world: the shapes of dreams, which often foreshadowed the future, were supposed to ascend from the world below, therefore the earth-deity might acquire an oracular function, especially through the process of incubation, in which the consultant slept in a holy shrine with his ear upon the ground. That such conceptions attached to Gaia is shown by the records of her cults at Delphi, Athens, and Aegae. A recently discovered inscription speaks of a temple of Ge [Gaia] at Delphi. ... As regards Gaia, we also can accept it. It is confirmed by certain features in the latter Delphic divination, and also by the story of the Python." (6) Odyssey, VIII, 80 The legend about Apollo assuming the shape of a dolphin carrying Cretan priests on his back is a classic gloss of patriarchal take-over of a goddess shrine - blatant, actually! I don't think I've read a clearer example of this type of masculine glossing over of older matriarchal and/or goddess-oriented myths. Foreign invaders brought their alien war-gods with them, and took over what was there before. Sadly, a story oft-told throughout history. Today we call it propaganda.

Hales Corners Challenge X!

It's early days yet, darlings, but I am pleased to announce that Goddesschess will be funding chess prizes just for the chess femmes who participate in this upcoming USCF Grand Prix event sponsored by my adopted chess club, the Southwest Chess Club (of Hales Corners):
There was a great turn-out for the Hales Corners Challenge IX in April, 2009 (107 players - a record!), and I was so happy to see so many chess femmes playing, particularly in the Reserve section. I'm greatly looking forward to Challenge X. I don't have dates yet, but I'm assuming it will be held around the same time this year that it was in 2008 (October), when Goddesschess first funded some special prizes (in Hales Corners Challenge VIII). For Challenge X, we first offered a somewhat increased level of funding for prizes for the chess femmes over those paid in Challenge IX. But after discussing it with further with my partners - as it was pointed out to me - the Reserve section attracted the most female players in both Challenge VIII and Challenge IX. We have therefore increased the number of prizes available to chess femmes who will be playing in both the Reserve and Open sections in Challenge X, and increased our prize fund by 80%, to $190. Details will be forthcoming when the Club publishes its official flyer! We would love to see the best turn-out yet of chess femmes for the Hales Corners Challenge X. Please spread the word. The more chess femmes who play in each Hales Corners Challenge, the more Goddesschess will increase its funding of special prizes just for them. Funding prizes for chess femmes in our now TWO adopted chess clubs is a way of showing our commitment to increasing the number of femmes who play in clubs and participate in their tournaments. To that end, you may have read here recently that we have adopted a club in Montreal, Quebec (Canada), which is hosting the 2009 Montreal Open Chess Championship to be held September 11 - 13, 2009 in Montreal: Club d'echecs Ahuntsic. Goddesschess is funding special prizes such for the chess femmes in the 2009 Montreal Open too. More info on the Montreal Open. Oh, we're just tickled pink - except pink doesn't show up too well against the white background of this blog so we're sticking with red for now :)

Shira Evans and Her Amazing Foundation: Update

Shira has her next project - in Portugal! She'll be headed there sometime toward the end of July/beginning of August. More details as I learn them. In the meantime, check out this video of Shira's recent Computer Lab with kids in Ashkelon, Israel. I wrote awhile ago that Shira invited me to a casual game of chess at the ICC, where she is a member. Having some knowledge of Shira's level of play, I declined, but then I got this brain storm (post-menopausal hot flash in the head) and I started brewing up something in my Magic Goddesschess Cauldron (in reality, a rather large dish that I borrowed from those fabulous Las Vegas Showgirls, Bambi and Candi). I'll let you know soon -- in the meantime, there's lots of other stuff to write about tonight. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Something is Brewing...

Darlings, I'm sorry I have not been paying as much attention to this blog as I usually do. I've been very busy (1) watching what is going on in Iran after the recent Presidential election and (2) plotting something chessly with the lovely Shira Evans -- up to my ears! I promise, all will be revealed soon at Chessville. In the meantime, please bear with me. Or is that - please bare with me? No - it has to be please BEAR with me. Grrrrrrrwwwwwllllll... Chess set image: from The Chess Piece. I can't tell which pieces are the King, Knight and Rook. The small bears are the pawns, and the sole femme on the board must obviously be the Queen, and lovely she is. So, who is the King?

Goddesschess Has a Makeover!

Hola darlings! Like any ageless Goddess, from time to time Goddesschess has a "make-over" of her home page to update Her look. In celebration of our 10th year online, dondelion has been working on a new look in top secret and now it has been - revealed! Access Mundae features recent additions to Goddesschess' selection of essays and articles on chess history, ancient board games, poetry, chess art, and chess sundry. Public Square features special announcements, Goddesschess sponsorships and - we'll see... Random Roundup features a wealth of archaeological and other information every week. Sometimes there's a theme, sometimes there are clues to follow a path. All materials are presented to provoke thought and encourage dialog. Now RR features its very own drop down menu so you can more easily access its archives! The Showcase and Classic Quotes features have been relocated to the center column. Showcase highlights matters and items of special interest to Goddesschess folks. Classic Quotes are - just that, all related to chess, of course :) They are changed out periodically (there's no set schedule) - so if you see one that you like, save it, because they aren't archived! As always, our left-hand navigation menu remains so you can zero-in on where you want to go and what you want to view. We encourage you to explore. Goddesschess is a treasure trove meant to be savored and enjoyed.

GM Josh Friedel at Polishfest! UPDATE!

Here is the current news I have from Allen Becker of Southwest Chess Club regarding GM Josh Friedel's simul this coming Saturday, June 20, 2009 at Milwaukee's beautiful festival grounds (Mayer Festival Park also known as the Summerfest Grounds) on Lake Michigan: GM Friedel will start his simultaneous exhibition sometime after 5:00 pm. Signups at the [Southwest Chess Club] booth will begin at 5:00 pm (the evening shift at the chess booth), and the simultaneous should start between 5:30-6:00, depending on the number of people signed up. Would love to see a huge crowd, forcing GM Friedel to wear rollerblades in order to get around the course of the simul! Okay, so call me a dreamer, lol! Come out come out, Milwaukee, and test your chess mettle against a home-grown GM (and I don't mean one of those cars from Detroit).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul

Damn! We missed it by about 7 weeks. The Met is hosting this fantabulous exhibit starting June 23, 2009 through September 20, 2009. I received the Summer 2009 Exhibitions and Programs calendar in the mail today and on the cover is this gorgeous carved ivory representation of a female riding a "fantastic creature." Personally, I think it is a simorgh -- or the inspiration for the meat-eating "gryphon" that Harry Potter flew! It's sort of a dragon, horse, bird. Unfortunately, my scanner is on the fritz - damn! It would break now! And a quick search didn't locate the photo, which is copyrighted anyway. Double double damn. Well, I'll figure out a way, but probably not tonight. Stay tuned...

Southwest Chess Club: Popular Lecture Series!

Whew! I was sooooo excited about the Southwest Chess Club's announcement that GM Jesse Krai will be manning the Club's chess booth at Polish Fest (at Milwaukee's beautiful lakefront festival grounds) this Saturday night that I forgot about this announcement (see post below)! Mea culpa! Our popular Summer Lecture series begins this Thursday, 18 June, at 6:00 pm. John Veech will be lecturing on The Art of the Swindle. John is Wisconsin's newest Expert. The Southwest Chess Club meets every Thursday night from 6:00 PM at the St. James Catholic Church in the lower level of the Parish Center building (immediately in front of the church). The address is 7219 South 27th Street in Franklin. The club opens at 6 PM, Tournament Games at 7 PM (we have a tournament in progress this Thursday, Round 2). Here is a map to the club. We are just south of Rawson on 27th, and close to I-94 in Franklin.

GM Josh Friedel at Polishfest!

Wow! Fantastic news! Southwest Chess Club (the "it" chess club in southeastern Wisconsin, JanXena says so) is sponsoring a booth at Polish Fest at the Summerfest Grounds on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan, June 19 - 21, 2009. GM Josh Friedel will be at Polish Fest Saturday night - June 20, 2009. Come to the booth and play GM Friedel for only $2. Don't miss this opportunity!! GM Friedel is one of our newest American GMs - American chess has been on a tear lately, producing GM Larry Kaufman (in 2008), GM Jesse Krai (2007), GM Josh Friedel (in 2008) and GM-elect Robert Hess (in 2009) over the past couple of years. GM Friedel earned his final GM norm at the 2007 Foxwoods Open, and was the first American player to earn a GM title in 10 years! Jesse, methinks you started something here... Goddess, I'm really tempted to visit and stand in line, paying $2.00 just to get my butt handed to me in six moves - but maybe I can last 19 or even 20, hmmm... SATURDAY NIGHT! What does that mean? What TIME Saturday Night? Guys, come on, this is very important to us femmes. We have to know how long we have to get ready and then get down there and then stand in line looking gorgeous - and if it's raining or something we have to bring along all our weatherproof armor (ironclad hairspray, for instance). That sort of stuff slows a femme down, so someone be a dear and post when the GM is going to be at the Southwest Chess Club booth! Hooray for GM Josh Friedel! Hooray for Southwest Chess Club! Please visit the Southwest Chess Club chess booth at Polish Fest at the Summerfest grounds this weekend.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Summer Solstice: Praying to Water

This is an absolutely fascinating article by astrologer Dan Furst, "Praying to Water: The Summer Solstice of June 2009," Date: 2009-06-15, at the Llewellyn Journal. I never thought about the Summer Solstice in terms of water and the Goddess until I read this article this evening. Wow! Excerpt: The hot water has been packing them in too, according to another Ellen Barry report on the famous Witch’s Well of Tuhala in Estonia.2 This spectacular hot spring has long been sacred to the local animist religions of Taarausk, centered on worship of the forest god Taara—it’s intriguing how many green deities from so many traditions bear versions of this sacred name—and Maausk, which means “faith of the earth.” Under the center of Tuhala, fifteen rivers flow through underground caverns, crashing and rumbling in sounds that are said to be ghost witches in their sauna, beating one another with birch branches until the Witch’s Well erupts, as it did this winter for the first time in three years. When it does, witches and shamans and students of magic come to do ritual, and mothers bathe their babies in the earth-scented mist and warm water. . . . I'm just wondering off the cuff if Taarausk, centered on worship of the forest god Taara—it’s intriguing how many green deities from so many traditions bear versions of this sacred name—and Maausk, which means “faith of the earth" might not be related to the sacred bull (tauro/toros/tauros), which is related to lunar "horns" (the crescent Moon), an archaic symbol of divine power worn by early goddesses around the world. How ironic, since the "bull" is a male animal, probably meaning that early iconographers totally misinterpreted what they were seeing through a patriarchal gloss! A tip-off to the "mother earth" identity of this goddess is the fact that she was worshipped in a forest -- sacred groves and, in desert areas, sacred trees, were icons of the Goddess. And then there is Ma or Ma-a (mother or mother-of, in just about all languages). It's clear from both words that "usk" means "earth." Thus, the "forest god Taara" and "Maausk" is really identifying a Mother Goddess of the Earth, who perhaps shows herself only during particular phases of the Moon, and the two words combined in archaic times in a local dialect to form a regional Earth/Moon Goddess. Could "Taara" also be related to the distant "Tara" in Ireland, the legendary seat of the very first Kings of the land, known in former days as the "Emerald (green) Isle?" Here is Ellen Barry's article at The New York Times. It made me sad. Tuhala Journal A Hole in the Ground Erupts, to Estonia’s Delight By ELLEN BARRY Published: December 8, 2008 TUHALA, Estonia — All day, people crunched through the frost-encrusted woods, in snowsuits, leather jackets and perilous heels, until they came to the spot where the water was churning. According to legend, the witches of Tuhala were taking a sauna underground, beating each other vigorously with birch branches, oblivious to the commotion they were creating on the surface. The famed Witch’s Well of Tuhala erupted last week for the first time in three years, attracting pilgrims from all over Estonia. Exhaling puffs of vapor in the slanting light, the visitors dangled pendants to test energy fields and held arthritic fingers perfectly motionless over stones. “Estonia is full of natural magic,” said Mari-Liis Roos, 37, a translator who had come to Tuhala with her husband and son. “It’s hard to describe. Sometimes you don’t want to explain these things, because it is so personal.” [I thought Mari-Liis' name is very interesting. Mari = Mother or Mother Earth and Liis could be a variant of Lily, a sacred symbol of many ancient goddesses]. Estonia has been bullied into a series of belief systems over the centuries, from Catholicism to Lutheranism to Russian Orthodoxy and Soviet Atheism. Seventeen years after gaining independence from the Soviet Union, Estonia is one of the world’s most secular nations; in the 2000 census, only 29 percent of its citizens declared themselves followers of a particular faith. That does not mean they are atheists. Craving an authentic national faith, Estonians have been drawn to the animistic religions that preceded Christianity: Taarausk, whose god was worshiped in forest groves, and Maausk, which translates as “faith of the earth.” Ancient beliefs have survived in the form of folk tales. In stories, the sins of humans reverberate in nature — lakes fly away to punish greedy villagers, or forests wander off in the night, never to return. Trees demand the respect of a tipped hat, and holes in the ground must be fed with coins. In the case of Tuhala, the physical world begs for such explanations. The settlement, believed to be 3,000 years old, sits on Estonia’s largest field of porous karst, where 15 underground rivers flow through a maze of caverns, audible but unseen by human inhabitants. [How do they know 15 rivers meet there? They must have been traced. Interestingly, 15 is one of the ancient sacred numbers.] One result is sinkholes large enough to swallow horses — the Horse’s Hole, as it is known, appeared in 1978 — or people, as in the Mother-in-Law’s Hole. Streams appear and disappear like phantoms. The most famous oddity is the Witch’s Well. Geologists believe that after flooding rains, underground water pressure builds to the point that water shoots up out of the ground, usually for a few days. Each time it happens, people travel great distances to see it. Ellu Rouk, 69, a thin woman with clear blue eyes, walked away slowly after a few moments by the well. She said she had a deep involvement with the natural world. Her special ally is a birch tree in her yard, so powerful that a malicious neighbor has plotted to kill it, she said. When she cuts roses and sets them in a vase, she said, they sprout roots. These dramas, she said, are an “inheritance” from her ancestors. “There is an old Estonian god, Taara,” Ms. Rouk said. “He lives. He exists. Though there are people who would like to get rid of him.” “Christians,” she added, “have no respect for nature.” Magic seems to be back in fashion, said Evi Tuttelberg, who lives in a 500-year-old farmhouse near the well. Ms. Tuttelberg, 80, used to laugh when her mother-in-law reported seeing flaming devils flying over Tuhala. In her mother-in-law’s day, people left offerings of money and food at the “sacred juniper” and spoke of secret underground chambers hidden in the fields. Then Estonia entered its long Soviet period, and witches and wood elves receded from public discourse. The same went for the Witch’s Well, she said. “No one used to talk about it,” she said. “It was just a hole in the ground.” But this year, it was a marvel. A fresh and loamy scent rose from the forest floor; electric-green moss sprang underfoot, and water had frozen into beads on bare branches. People wheeled their newborns all the way to the water’s edge and watched as mist rose from the cropland. Ants Talioja, whose family has owned the land for 11 generations, wandered around proud and distracted, like the headwaiter of a restaurant. When he stopped moving for a moment, though, his expression was pained. There are plans to build a limestone quarry about a mile and a half from the Witch’s Well, and Mr. Talioja said he feared that the project would drain the water that coursed mysteriously under Tuhala. That would mean this year’s eruption could be the last. Mr. Talioja, 62, was born over that flowing water, and he said he believed that it had given his family certain gifts; one woman in his family lived to the age of 105. The mining company has offered to pipe in fresh drinking water to compensate for the 1,000 wells that could run dry, he said. But it was clear from the grim expression on Mr. Talioja’s face that piped-in water was no substitute.
Is there a possible connection between this legend of the Witch's Well and the legends of the Celtic EACH UISCE (pronounced agh-iski), also AUGHISKY --known also as Cabyll Ushtey ("Highland Water Horse"). Also EACH UISGE (ech-ooshkya) -- and (agh-iski) The water-horse?

Goddess: Baba Yaga

Ohmygoddess! I posted this photograph here on 6/24/09 because of my comment, which you'll be able to read below, about "babushkas." This is a photo from around 1960, and I remember that coat (it had brown velvet-covered buttons and brown velvet corded trim), so it was winter and very cold! That is my three younger sisters and me (I'm on the right, second row, my taller cousin Cookie is to my left, slightly behind), and two of my cousins - Cookie and Tootsie, daughters of one of my mother's sisters, Aunt Diane a/k/a Aunt Christine. Five of us are wearing babushkas. Notice the old television set to the far left and the very contemporary 1950's style drapes, LOL! Juliette Frette is back at with an article about the Goddess Baba Yaga, "Wild Woman:" Baba Yaga (pronounced bah-bye yegg-ah) is known as the Slavic "wild woman," a sacred old hag who is otherwise considered a goddess of birth and death. Although many goddesses cross-culturally seem to have some sort of reign over the beginnings and endings of life, this one has a unique image all her own. . . . Barbara Walker's "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets" does not have an entry under "Baba Yaga," "babau" or "Wild Woman." However, she does have an entry under HAG: Originally "Holy Woman," the Hag was a cognate of Egyptian heq, a predynastic matriachal ruler who knew the words of power, or hekau.(1) In Greek she became Hecate, the Crone or Hag as queen of the dead, incarnate on earth in a series of wise-women or high priestesses. Hebrew "wisdom" in Proverbs 8 is Hokhmah, from Egyptian heq-maa or Heka-Maat, the underworld Mother of widsom, law, and words of power.(2) Greek and Roman cognate hagia meant holy, especially as applied to the principle of female widsom, Hagia Sophia (see Sophia, Saint). Similarly in Israel, a haggiah was a holy day. Certain Jewish religious literature dating back to Israel's matriarchal period was probably written by wise-women, since it was called the Haggadah. Later patriarchal rabbis declared this material "not legal."(3) In northern Europe, the Hag was the death-goddess corresponding to Hecate, like the Hag of the Iron Wood whose daughter or virgin form was Hel.(4) Old Norse hagi meant a sacred grove, the Iron Wood, a place of sacrifice. Haggen meant to chop in pieces, which is what happened to sacrificial victims dismembered for a feast. [EEK! This gives entirely new meaning to Robert Graves' discussions about "king sacrifice" and the maenads I was reading about yesterday who participated in the Dionysian "orgies" where men were literally torn apart. Compare also the horse-Valkyries or horse-masked priestesses of Freya, known as volvas, who tore part the acient kings of Sweden in ritual sacrifice.] "Hags" may have been priestesses of sacrifice, like the Scythian matriarchs who butchered for their sacred cauldrons and read omens in entrails.(5) Northmen colonized Scotland, where a haggis or "hag's dish" was made of internal organs. Until the 19th century, people kept the New Year festival of Hagmena, Hag's Moon, going in disguise from house to house, begging cakes. A chronicler said: "On the last night of the old year (pecularliarly called Hagmenai), the visitors and company made a point of not separating till after the clock struck twelve, when they rose, and mutually kissing, wished each other a happy New Year." This is still the custom. But a contemproary clergyman said the Hagmena meant the Devil was in the house.(6) Devilish qualities were attributed to stone idols of the Hag, such as the famous Stone of Scone, still used at each British monarch's coronation. This stone once represented the Hag and her spinning wheel - i.e., Arianrhod, Goddess of the Wheel of Fate. A danish ballad said the Hag of Scone led the "swarthy Elves;" but she was turned to stone by an incantation of the missionary St. Olave: "Thou Hag of Scone, stand there and turn to granite stone."(7) Helvetian converts to Christianity were compelled to batter to pieces sacred stones in which their Goddess dwelt, reciting her formula, "Once I was the Goddess and now I am nothing at all."(8) In the 16th century, "hag" was synonymous with "fairy."(9) Old High German called a wise-woman Hagazussa, that is, a moon-priestess.(10) Though "hagiology" still means the study of holy matters and saints, the root word hag declined in its meanings. Shakespeare's verb hagged meant to be bewitched. His noun haggard meant a hawk, a harpy, or an intractable woman.(11) The Hag as death-goddess, her face veiled to imply that no man can know the manner of his death, was sometimes re-interpreted as a nun. Christianized legends were invented for these veiled figures.(12) Notes: (1) Book of the Dead, 351. (2) Budge, G.E. 1, 296. (3) Encyc. Brit. "Haggdah." (4) Sturlson, 39. (5) Wendt, 137. (6) Hazlitt, 296. (7) Wimberly, 36. (8) Thorsten, 336. (9) Scot, 550. (10) J.B. Russell, 16. (11) Potter & Sargent, 70. (12) Graves, W.G., 409.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Antiquities Theft

Several stories about antiquities theft hit the news this past week. The losses that these thiefs have inflicted upon the rest of humankind is incalculable. In many instances, we will never know where the artifacts came from, their context, their stories, things that could help us learn more about our collective past as human beings. Arrests Made In Sale Of American Indian Artifacts by Howard Berkes June 10, 2009 (NPR -- National Public Radio) A two-year undercover sting aimed at a black market in ancient American Indian artifacts has led to federal indictments in Utah naming 24 people. The indictments unsealed Wednesday resulted in an early morning sweep in three states. About 150 federal agents, sheriffs' deputies and local and tribal police served arrest and search warrants in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. Archaeologists were along to help identify artifacts. "Today's action is a sad reminder that the stealing and destruction of archaeological and American Indian treasures from public lands is a highly lucrative business," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at a Salt Lake City news conference. "We will not tolerate that kind of activity in the United States." . . . ... and in a macabre twist, one of those charged has been found dead: Man indicted in artifact theft probe found dead Posted: June 12, 2009 02:59 PM CDT Authorities say a Blanding physician indicted in a federal investigation into the theft of ancient artifacts in the Four Corners region has been found dead. . . . 1,600 antiquities for Italy FBI sending back stolen artifacts found in Berwyn By Margaret Ramirez and Robert Mitchum Tribune reporters June 9, 2009 The secret collection John Sisto kept in his Berwyn bungalow had letters written by kings, Vatican documents penned by Catholic popes and even a handwritten book preface by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. In all, federal officials found an astounding treasure-trove of about 3,500 ancient artifacts, religious relics, rare manuscripts and other historic items after Sisto's death in March 2007. Federal officials said Monday that the results of a two-year investigation determined that 1,600 of those items were stolen from Italy and shipped to the U.S. to be sold. The items, with an estimated value of $5 million and $10 million, will be returned to Italy later this week, according to FBI spokesman Ross Rice. . . . Photo gallery of some of the stolen items at the Chicago Tribune Online True story of looted pottery may never be known Editors note: This is a mystery story involving precious artifacts stolen from ancient graves. In order to tell it fully it had to be divided into three chapters. The first part introduced the major characters and the second chapter involved what was stolen. Today's final chapter sums up the story. By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY June 10, 2009 (Mobile New Sun Online) AVON PARK -- Special agent Tim Carpenter is an art crime expert with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In March of 2009 he was called in by the management of the Crystal Lake Club after a large collection of pre-Columbian pottery was discovered in the home of Edgardo Sosa, a resident who had died in November of 2007 without any heirs. Normally, Carpenter told the News-Sun in a telephone interview, a case of this kind would be a criminal matter. Since an international treaty in 1972 and the Archeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 -- which is a U. S. law upgraded most recently in 1996, and designed to protect historical artifacts -- it is illegal to transport antiquities or own them without proper providence or permits. Even then, museums have found, some artifacts still have to be returned. . . .

Did Basket Weaving "Teach" Humans to Count?

Interesting article. It's amazing how much we still don't know about events that are significantly profound to human civilization and that occurred relatively "recently" in terms of the human time line. Don't quote me on this, but I think evidence shows that the weaving of cloth (from wool, flax, animal hairs) and weaving of baskets, etc. (i.e., making wicker-work fences around crops to keep critters out, the making of larger wicker-work fences to keep critters in) probably occurred around the same time. It makes sense that the two skills would have been developed about the same time, as much the same technique in plaiting hair, weaving cloth and weaving a basket or a wicker fence is involved, although different materials are used. This article dates the earliest evidence of basket-making to about 10,000 years ago. I think woman was weaving much earlier than this -- doesn't Venus Willendorf exhibit some evidence of woven hair or wearing a woven head covering? (Check out these close-ups of the Venus of Willendorf we all know and love; see also this article that suggests weaving to make clothing occurred as far back as 26,000 years ago) We probably learned to "weave" (braid) our hair early on, just to keep it out of the way, thousands of years before hair pins (or scissors) were invented. It wouldn't have taken much of a leap to discern that if hair could be woven, so could a lot of other pliable materials... Story from Science Daily Basket Weaving May Have Taught Humans To Count ScienceDaily (June 8, 2009) — Did animals teach us one of the oldest forms of human technology? Did this technology contribute to our ability to count? These are just two of the themes due to be explored at a conference on basketry at the University of East Anglia. The event, which takes place today and tomorrow (June 5-6), is part of Beyond the Basket, a major new research project led by the university exploring the development and use of basketry in human culture over 10,000 years. Basketry has been practised for millennia and ranges from mats for sitting on, containers and traps for hunting, to fencing and barriers for animals or land, partitions and walls - all of which have been central to culture. Beyond the Basket is a two-and-a-half year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of its Beyond Text programme. The research will explore the role of basketry in human culture and focus on various parts of the world, both in the past and present, from Europe to Amazonia, central Africa and Papua New Guinea. The aim is to identify the mechanical traditions of making and the ways in which basketry is implicated in wider patterns of understanding, for example the order of society or the design of the universe. It will also show the impact of woven forms on other media, such as pottery, painting, and stone sculpture and architecture, and look at the future of basketry and the solutions it could offer to current issues, whether technical or social. Project leader Sandy Heslop, of the School of World Art and Museology at UEA, said: “Basketry is a worldwide technology and is the interaction between human ingenuity and the environment. It tends to make use of, and therefore has to be adapted to, local conditions in terms of resources and environment. “Without basketry there would be no civilisations. You can’t bring thousands of people together unless you can supply them, you can’t bring in supplies to feed populations without containers. In the early days of civilisations these containers were basketry. “We may think of baskets as humble, but other people and cultures don’t. They have been used for storage, for important religious and ceremonial processes, even for bodies in the form of coffins.” It is about 10,000 years ago that evidence for basketry starts to appear in North America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Today its uses and influences are still seen, from the bamboo scaffolding often used in Asia, to contemporary architecture, for example the ‘Boiler Suit’ - the name given to the ‘woven’ steel tiles encasing the boiler room at Guy’s Hospital in London. Mr Heslop said: “Beyond its practical uses, basketry has arguably been even more influential on our lives, since it relies on the relationship of number, pattern and structure. It therefore provides a model for disciplines such as mathematics and engineering and for the organisation of social and political life. “Given the range of uses of basketry the associations of the technology are very varied. Some are aggressive, others protective, some help create social hierarchies others are recreational.” The conference, Beyond the Basket: Construction, Order and Understanding, will look at various themes including: design and production, environmental issues, commercial and historical perspectives, weaving in architecture, and the mathematics of basketry, as well as more anthropological and archaeological topics. Among the speakers will be experts from North and South America, as well as the UK. Beyond the Basket will culminate in an exhibition and accompanying book in 2011. The exhibition will include ancient material recovered by excavation as well as more recent examples of basketry from around the world and will enable people to experience basketry directly. For further information about Beyond the Basket and to view images visit Adapted from materials provided by University of East Anglia, via AlphaGalileo.

Egypt to Villagers: MOVE YOUR BUTTS!

(Image: Old Qurna, from Tour Egypt, article by Lara Iskander, where she wrote: The old Gourna village is built over Pharaonic tombs, many of which were not discovered yet. The residents were famous for being able to bring up suspiciously authentic Egyptian monuments from their cellars. The antiquities [authorities] were having trouble controlling the tomb-robbing occurring in the areas of the Valley of the Kings, Queens and Nobles nearby. And so, the perfect solution seemed to be to move the seven thousand locals whose economy depended on tomb looting.) From the Times Online: June 13, 2009 Death of a village outside Luxor that lived off ancient tombs James Hider in Luxor Just outside the Valley of the Kings a set of ancient tombs has created a very modern controversy. Western archaeologists accuse the Egyptian Government of forcibly displacing thousands of people from a unique local community to open up the site as a new tourist attraction, while the authorities say that the villagers have damaged tombs and stolen mummies. The village of Qurna, on the outskirts of Luxor, arose more than a century ago when farmers on the banks of the Nile fled seasonal flooding and moved into the shelter of pharaonic tombs that dot the rocky bluffs above the river. People built elaborate houses of mud brick and wood around the caves and, with the advent of tourism, made a living showing visitors their in-house tombs and selling souvenirs. But five years ago President Mubarak decided that Luxor was becoming a slum, overrun with hawkers and unauthorised buildings that were obscuring and damaging its ancient treasures. He appointed a former army general, Samir Farrag, to clean up Luxor. “One of the first orders of the President was to transfer the people of Qurna,” said General Farrag, now the city’s governor. So arose the village of New Qurna, a grid of pink and cream concrete terraces farther into the desert, lacking the character of its predecessor but provided with running water, a post office, schools and sewerage for the 3,000 families moved there. Most families did not go willingly and they complain that the tiny modern houses have broken up traditional, sprawling households and squeezed them into stifling boxes with facilities scarcely better than those of their former primitive homes. “They just wanted us out. There’s no benefit for us to be here,” said Umm Mohammed Tayyeb, a mother of six, who complained that the water ran so infrequently that she had resorted to storing it in large earthenware urns, as she had done in the old village. Most villagers said that the authorities had forced them out of their old homes by turning off the electricity. More worryingly, some of the first houses built in New Qurna, two years ago, are already falling apart. “My kids sleep here — it could collapse on them,” said Ahmed Rustum, whose house, like those of his neighbours, is webbed with deep floor-to-ceiling cracks. [See, contra, this article at Tour Egypt, about how the village was designed and the materials used in its construction]. Some international experts on Egypt say that the Government is sacrificing a unique community to cash in on tourism. “The Egyptian authorities are now determined to sterilise the area, creating a kind of archaeological tourist park stripped of any trace of anything living or anything relating to the more modern [Roman onwards] history of the site,” said one expert from Britain, who asked not to be named for fear of being banned from the country. Ahmed Tayyeb, who earns his living by restoring tombs, denied that the old villagers had damaged the burial sites. He said that bull- dozers used to demolish many of the houses probably did far more damage, although General Farrag insisted that houses over tombs were demolished by workers using only sledgehammers. “It destroyed a unique way of life,” Mr Tayyeb said. Sabah Mahmoud, a resident of Qurna, said the international community had done nothing to protect the villagers, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), which has deemed the huge temple at nearby Karnak a World Heritage Site. “Unesco is asleep,” he said. [Is it UNESCO's responsibility to protect illegal squatters, even if they have been there 100 years?] The controversy over Luxor may hurt Egypt’s nomination of its former Culture Minister, Farouq Hosni, as the next head of Unesco. Mr Hosni’s campaign is already faltering after it emerged that he had publicly called for the burning of Hebrew language books in the Alexandria library. But Zahi Hawass, the head of the Egyptian Supreme Council for Antiquities, backs the Government. He said that Qurna residents had stolen treasures from the graves and even hidden mummies to display to tourists for cash. “Not all of these were good people. Some of them destroyed inside the tombs,” he said. Under the plans, a handful of the houses in Old Qurna will remain standing over their ancient tombs and be open to tourists. One is still inhabited by Umm Sayyid, a 76-year-old woman who was born and married in it and brought up her children and grandchildren there. She was unsentimental about moving, saying she would be ready to move if offered decent housing. One of her daughters muttered: “Don’t listen to what the men say. This house is too much work.”
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