Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Muslim Mother Seeks Justice for Her Dead Son

In a murky situation, a mother challenges official police reports surrounding the death of her son. (Photo: Ishrat Jahan's mother and sister) Setback to Modi as Guj HC decides to set up an SIT to probe Ishrat's encounter Submitted by admin3 on 8 August 2009 - 11:36pm. By Staff Correspondent Ahmedabad: In another severe setback to the Narendra Modi government, the Gujarat High Court has decided to set a up a team of three high ranking police officials on the lines of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the truth behind the encounter of Ishrat Jahan and three others on the outkskirts of the city on June 15, 2004. This was announced by Justice KS Zhaveri on Friday on a petition filed by Ishrat’s mother Shamima Kausar. Justice Zhaveri directed the state government to submit a list of all the officials of the rank of additional director general of police (ADG) by August 12 so as to take a decision on the names of those to be included in the team. In her petition filed through advocate Mukul Sinha in October 2004, Shamima had demanded CBI probe. However, the court rejected the demand to hand over the case to CBI saying that it was not possible for CBI to conduct all investigations. However, it decided for a probe by a team of police officials of the level of ADG. In her submissions, Shamima said that investigations by the Department of Crime Branch (DCB) of Ahmedabad police was not fair. DCB official Parikshita Gurjar, who had conducted the probe after the encounter, had concluded that it was a genuine encounter and filed a summary in the POTA court, requesting for closure of the case. But Shamima, in her petition, disputed the findings of Gurjar and said that Gurjar’s findings intended to support the theory of the police officials involved in ‘fake’ encounter. Police officias, like in other encounter cases after 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the state, had floated the theory that the four were on a mission to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The police, in its FIR lodged in DCB police station, had alleged that Ishrat Jahan, her husband Javed Pillai alias Gopinathan Pillai (who converted to Islam to marry Ishrat) and two Pakistanis – Akbar Ali Rana and Zeeshan Jouhar Abdul Ghani – were Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives. But Shamima disputed it, saying it was a fabricated case by the Gujarat police and her daughter was not linked to any terrorist organization. She demanded a fair probe, saying she did not believe Gujarat police version. The police FIR itself raises doubts about the claims of the police. According to FIR (a copy of it is in possession of, an intelligence was received by Ahmedabad city police about Pakistan-sponsored terrorists planning to attack Modi in Gandhinagar around mid-June in 2004. According to intelligence received, terrorists were to start from Mumbai by road and then drive straightaway to Gandhinagar. But if it is true that police had received the intelligence, then why did it wait to intercept them in Ahmedabad? Why it did not make a bid to intercept them at the entry point in Gujarat or on the way at Surat, Ankleshwar, Bharuch or Vadodara because there was a possibility of the terrorists of having changed the route at the last moment and this would have defeated the Ahmedabad police plan to encounter them. In fact, this question was raised by Justice Zhaveri himself while asking for the list of the ADGs. Another point that strengthens Shamima’s suspicion that it was a staged encounter is the police claim in the FIR that one of the terrorists got down from the car and took position with an AK-47 assault rifle. But, surprisingly, none of the police team received even a scratch while all the four terrorists got killed in retaliatory fire by police, a standard version used by police in all fake encounters. Yet another point that raises suspicion about police version is that police have not so far found the owner of the car (MH02-JA-4786) in which the four alleged `terrorists’ travelled from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. In the same way it failed to trace the ownership of the motorcycle that was allegedly used by Sohrabuddin, also gunned down in an encounter in Ahmedabad by the same police officials, including D G Vanzara and Dr. Narendra Amin. Both Vanzara and Amin are currently imprisoned in connection with Sohrabuddin’s encounter and facing trial. Cf. coverage at Indian Express.

2009 Asian Youth Chess Championships

India wins 23 of 26 medals. Wow! Story from the Press Trust of India Indians sweep Asian Youth Chess C'ship STAFF WRITER 18:25 HRS IST New Delhi, Aug 8 (PTI) Indians swept the Asian Youth Chess Championships, clinching eight gold, seven silver and eight bronze medals here today. The Indians took home 23 of the 26 medals at stake in the event which was held at Tivoli Garden Resort. K Priyadharshan (Open Under-16), Shiven Khosla (Open Under-14), Diptayan Ghosh (Open Under-12), Mitrabha Guha (Open Under-8), Saranya J (Girls' Under-14), Srija Seshadri, Monnisha GK (Girls' Under-12) and Khushi Dharewa (Girls' Under-8) were the gold medallists for India. Shyam Nikil (Open Under-18), Harshal Shahi (Open Under-10), Aryan Chopra (Open Under-8), Pon N Krithika (Girls Under-18), Rucha Pujari (Girls Under-16), Ivana Maria Furtado (Girls' Under-10) and Arpita Mukherjee (Girls' Under-8) won silver medals. In the girls' Under-12 section, India's Srija Seshadri and Monnisha jointly won the title while in both sections of Under-8 India swept all the medals.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Shira Chess Challenge: Portugal Class 2 Day 2

Hola! Regular followers know that my chess friend, Shira Evans, is currently visiting an orphanage in Portugal, teaching the children there so many amazing things! Shira has put up a new You Tube video showing some of the events surrounding Class 2 on Day 2. The joy of discovery (the Leapster devices) and the joy of discovering how to use the Leapster is evident in the face of each and every child as they work through the lessons Shira leads. Please follow along as the children learn how to express themselves by drawing a picture on a Leapster screen -- Shira is the founder and President of Computer Labs for Kids, a non-profit organization, that provides laptops and age-appropriate electronic tools, as well as lessons on how to use them, to indigent children around the world. Shira hasn't played "serious" chess for awhile, but a few years ago, she had a rating in excess of 1700 and was one of the highest-rated (maybe the highest-rated) female players in the state of Wyoming. And then, she made a decision to quit playing, except for an occasional pick-up game, as she focused on her career. That career led Shira to Chicago where she was involved in a program that provided computers to schools serving under-privileged children. Out of that experience grew Shira's desire to do more for kids in need. The same drive and determination that compelled Shira to excel in chess have been applied to the Computer Labs for Kids Foundation. Since January, 2009, Shira has visited orphanages in India (Agra), Israel (Ashkelon), and now she is in Portugal. At each of these places Shira has provided lessons to the children on how to care for and use the lap-top computers and Leapsters she has distributed to them, free of charge. Needless to say, the program has been a big hit with the children! You can read more about Shira's Foundation and how I first met Shira (and then reconnected with her after several years) by clicking on the labels for this post. By the way, that photo is of the Cheyenne Chess Club, 2005. Shira is the tall, fashionably attired chess femme wearing the checkerboard-patterned jeans on the right in the group photo. That year she finished in a solid 9th place (out of 19 players) in the 2nd Tri-State Championship with 2.0/4. Shira and I are going to play a three-game chess match - just for fun for ourselves, and also we hope to raise some money for Shira's Computer Labs for Kids. Please follow along as our chess match looms ever closer - I'm blogging about it.

Friday Night Miscellany

Hola Darlings! Right to it tonight -- Is there really Aramaic writing (in Hebrew letters) on the Shroud of Turin? A Vatican researcher, Barbara Frale, told Vatican Radio July 26 that her own studies suggest the letters on the shroud were written more than 1,800 years ago. The article goes on to say that Frale, who is a researcher at the Vatican Secret Archives, has written a new book on the shroud and the Knights Templar, the medieval crusading order which, she says, may have held secret custody of the Shroud of Turin during the 13th and 14th centuries.She told Vatican Radio that she has studied the writings on the shroud in an effort to find out if the Knights had written them."When I analyzed these writings, I saw that they had nothing to do with the Templars because they were written at least 1,000 years before the Order of the Temple was founded" in the 12th century, she said. Okay... Can culture be embedded in DNA? A study using Zebra finches says "yes." Hmmmm, maybe -- I'd like to read more about this. Where is it? Cf. every bit of information in David Shenk's "The Genius in All of Us" blog. I respect David Shenk's opinion. He is a man who knows how to thoroughly research and submerge himself in a subject. Among other best-selling books, Mr. Shenk wrote THE IMMORTAL GAME: A History of Chess-- or How 32 Carved Pieces on a Board Illuminated Our Understanding of War, Art, Science and the Human Brain. This is, bar none, the best non-fiction book on chess I've read. An interesting article about intra-species communication (specifically - bees) when brought together from opposite ends of the world. Why can't people do this? We are supposed to be at the top of the "evolutionary scale", aren't we???

2009 Arctic Chess Challenge

GM Susan Polgar's blog is providing lots of coverage on this event in Tromso, August 1 - 9, 2009. GM Polgar is a special guest at this year's Tournament. Official website. The news I'm interested in at the moment is that after Round 8, GM Monika Socko (go, Monika, go!) is tied for first place with IM Marijan Petrov and IM Ray Robson (go Ray, go!) of the USA with 6.0. Oy! Who do I root for? Both of them, of course! In Round 6 they faced each other, eek! Here is commentary from the Chess Phantom (ahem) who is blogging about the 2009 Arctic Chess Challenge and providing lots of photographs: The game that was on every ones lips was, of course, US Wonderboy Ray Robson versus GM Monika Socko on first board. Both with 2750+ performances, and they are the true stars of this tourment so far! With a victory one of them even could get a 1 point gap to the rest of the field with a few draws going their way - but quite the opposite happened. IM Ray Robson got what looked like a clear edge to me - with an advantage in both space and piece activity where he possessed the half open b-file. And no doubt white had the advantage but it wasn't so easy to make progress, as analyses shows, because of the quite closed pawn formation. Robson played for an attack but he had to accept the draw when he reached the time control at move 40. Then he had used all his time, and he even was in some time trouble, even though it looked quite controlled. Our two Stars of the tournament are still unbeaten with 6/7! They share a 3-way tie with IM Petrov with Socko first, Petrov second and Robson third on tiebreaks. It's funny how Monika keeps it in the family when her husband under performs [ouch!]. She really deserves all the credit in the world being the only player in the field with a 2700+ performance!!!

2009 Asian Youth Chess Championships

Interim rankings. G-U18 (after 6 rounds): 1 WFM Nakhbayeva Guliskhan KAZ 2172 5,0 2 CM Bhakti Kulkarni IND 2203 5,0 3 WFM Pon Nkrithika IND 2208 4,0 4 Tokhirjanova Hulkar UZB 2138 4,0 5 Manasa K IND 1964 4,0 6 Isayeva Aynur TKM 1929 3,5 7 WFM Mitali Madhukar Patil IND 2041 3,0 8 WFM Uthra P IND 2063 3,0 9 Vardkar Mariam IRI 1811 3,0 10 Zamani Behabadi Nazanin IRI 1864 3,0 11 Sathya Priya S V IND 1920 3,0 12 WFM Thilakawardana Supeshala SRI 1801 2,5 13 Dhara Gupta IND 1876 2,0 14 WFM Al-Zarouni Kholoud Essa UAE 1837 1,5 15 Lokunarangoda Jalashi SRI 1589 1,0 16 Davoodi Yasaman IRI 0 0,5 G-U16 (after 8 rounds): 1 WFM Hoang Thi Nhu Y VIE 2119 5,5 2 WFM Pujari Rucha IND 2033 5,0 3 WFM Nguyen Thi Mai Hung VIE 2219 5,0 WFM Hejazipour Mitra IRI 2098 5,0 5 Qurbonboeva Sarvinoz UZB 1941 5,0 6 WFM Vo Thi Kim Phung VIE 2073 5,0 7 Enkhtuul Altanulzii MGL 2051 5,0 8 Bharathi R IND 2087 5,0 9 Anu Bayar MGL 1845 4,5 10 WCM Gagare Shalmali IND 2135 4,5 11 Velieva Hurma TKM 1960 4,5 12 Asgarizadeh Minoo IRI 1947 4,0 13 Roy Pallabi IND 2058 4,0 14 Zhylkaidarova Sholpan KAZ 1913 4,0 15 Khalaji Hanieh IRI 1914 4,0 16 Preetika Tayal IND 1917 3,5 17 Shangarayeva Daiana KAZ 1888 2,5 Ranasinghe S D SRI 1852 2,5 19 Gunawardena D SRI 0 1,5 20 Choden Sonam BHU 0 0,0 G-U 14 (after 8 rounds): 1 Saranya J IND 2001 7,0 2 WFM Khademalsharieh Sarasadat IRI 1977 7,0 3 Priyanka Kumari IND 2041 6,0 4 Nandhidhaa Pv IND 1878 5,0 5 Bagheri Taleghani Nadia IRI 1783 5,0 6 Pratyusha Bodda IND 1974 4,5 7 Atabayeva Gozel TKM 2001 4,5 8 Anjana Krishna S IND 1904 4,5 9 Bayarmaa Bayarjargal MGL 1959 4,5 10 Vanessa D`souza IND 1856 4,0 11 Premanath Dinushki SRI 1770 4,0 12 Norovsambuu Badamkhand MGL 0 4,0 13 Do Hoang Minh Tho VIE 1931 3,5 14 Rathore Sonakshi IND 1956 3,5 15 Azadvari Zahra IRI 1834 3,5 16 Kahramonova Mohinur UZB 1842 3,5 17 Sydykova Myrzagyl KGZ 0 3,5 18 Arunima Kalra IND 1633 3,0 19 WCM Nguyen Ngoc Thuy Trang VIE 0 2,5 20 Selvaratnam Navodya SRI 1695 2,5 21 Basnayake I U SRI 1701 2,0 22 Manabayeva Aiya KAZ 0 0,5 There are also G-U12, G-U10 and G-U 8 sections, whew! I'll report on all sections when the tournament has concluded.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Shira Chess Challenge: Portgugal Class 2 Begins

Shira Evans has sent news from the Pirilampos orphanage in Olhos D’Água, Portugal. The class for the second group of the children has begun! Here's a video. The kids are so cute :) Shira's endeavor warranted an article in the local English-language newspaper, too. Shira sent a pdf of the article, I copied it here (since I have no idea if I can or how to post a PDF here): From the Algarve Resident (local English-language newspaper) American charity working with Algarve orphanage Friday, August 7, 2009 by LIZ GRIFFITHS Charity Computer Lab for Kids, which introduces young children to technology, has arrived in the Algarve. Computer Lab for Kids is currently working with children at the Pirilampos orphanage in Olhos D’Água, where the orphans will work with a children-friendly laptop, Leapster, on which they will be able to learn English and basic computer skills. Founder and president of Computer Lab for Kids, Shira Evans, told the Algarve Resident: "I selected the Leapster because of its popularity with children in the United States. The Leapster’s activities have built-in tutorials and adapt automatically to the child’s skill level. "Orphans, unlike other children, have limited access to expensive toys and computers, so we feel the need to provide something fun and educational," she said. The course is also aimed at helping the children become more confident and responsible."Our course is especially designed to increase self-esteem and responsibility," Shira Evans said. "Each child learns to be responsible for their own equipment by carefully going over how to handle the Leapster, troubleshooting techniques and other basics." On completion of the course, each child receives a certificate and their own Leapster computer, which enables them to continue to build on their skills and confidence in technology. Shira has been able to bring Computer Lab for Kids to the Algarve with the help of translator Reinier Hoeke, local advisors Hilde West and Pauline Van Wees and photographer Orlando Soria. Shira, who has previous experience working for Microsoft as a Regional Lead in California, decided to create the charity while setting up computer labs in the poorest schools in Chicago. "I noticed how much putting computers into the hands of children brightened their faces. I decided at that time it would be wonderful to set up a charity organisation that did just that – give technology to children who otherwise wouldn’t have it." Shira has also worked with two other orphanages this year in the Gaza strip in Israel and at an orphanage in Agra in India. "Everywhere I’ve been, the children have loved the programme and been very excited about participating and earning their computers," Shira Evans said. "The best feedback I’ve had has been the smiles and laughter. It’s a truly rewarding cause and I hope to do many, many more." Please visit Computer Labs for Kids at Facebook and the Computer Labs for Kids website. Details soon about the upcoming three-game chess match between Shira and Yours Truly.

Rooks Use Reasoning Power to Get the Worm!

"Bird brain," heh? That may be a compliment to some humans! Watch the videos in this article and judge for yourselves. These are some very clever corvids. I don't know what the scientists call it, but to me this demonstrates problem solving that involves thinking and reasoning skills that some humans still do not possess today! Well, the rook is a Goddess-affiliated bird :) (Image: Siren eimi, from vase painting) From BBC News Clever rooks repeat ancient fable Thursday, 6 August 2009 By Rebecca Morelle Science reporter, BBC News One of Aesop's fables may have been based on fact, scientists report. In the tale, written more than 2,000 years ago, a crow uses stones to raise the water level in a pitcher so it can reach the liquid to quench its thirst. Now a study published in Current Biology reveals that rooks, a relative of crows, do just the same when presented with a similar situation. The team says the study shows rooks are innovative tool-users, even though they do not use tools in the wild. Another paper, published in the journal Plos One, shows that New Caledonian crows - which like rooks, are a member of the corvid group, along with ravens, jackdaws, magpies and jays - can use three tools in succession to reach a treat. Floating feast The crow and the pitcher fable was used by Aesop to illustrate that necessity is the mother of invention. But until now, the morality tale was not thought to have a grounding in fact. To investigate further, a team from the University of Cambridge and Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL) presented four captive rooks with a set-up analogous to the fable. The birds were shown a clear tube containing a small amount of water. Floating upon it was an out-of-reach worm. And a pile of stones were positioned nearby. Dr Nathan Emery, co-author of the paper, from QMUL, said: "The rooks have to put multiple stones in the tube until the worm floats to the top." And the four birds did just that. Two, called Cook and Fry, raised the water-level enough to grab the floating feast the very first time that they were presented with the test, while Connelly and Monroe were successful on their second attempt. Footage of the experiments shows the rooks first assessing the water level by peering at the tube from above and from the side, before picking up and dropping the stones into the water. The birds were extremely accurate, using the exact number of stones needed to raise the worm to a height where they could reach it. In another experiment, the rooks were presented with a similar scenario. This time they were given a combination of small and large stones. Overall, Dr Emery told BBC News, the rooks opted for the larger ones, raising the worm to the top of the tube more quickly. He said: "They are being as efficient as possible." And when given a choice between a tube filled with water and another filled with sawdust, the birds were more likely to opt for the liquid-filled tube. The researchers say their findings suggest that Aesop's ancient fable may have been based on fact. They said: "In folklore, it is rarely possible to know with certainty which corvid is being referred to. "Hence, Aesop's crow might have easily been Aesop's rook." 'No surprise' Earlier this year, the same team revealed that rooks were able to use different tools to solve a variety of complex problems. Rest of article.

Maize Goddess Monolith Restored carried the story. Here is the press release from the Institudo Nacional de Antropologia e Historia (English pages) (photo from press release). Late Post Classic Maize Goddess Sculpture Restored August 4, 2009 Chicomecoatl monolith found recently in Zempoala municipality, Hidalgo, 500 years old, which represents the goddess of maize, was restored by National Institute of Anthropology and History specialists and now historical research has begun. The archaeological finding associated to Mexica culture dated between 1430 and 1520 was found in July 2009 by employees of a private company, notifying immediately the Hidalgo INAH Center, which proceeded to remove and guard it. The 60 centimeters tall sculpture represents the Mexica maize goddess, Chicomecoatl, linked to fertility. She carries 2 corncobs on each hand, and has an orifice in the chest, where a greenstone or “chalchiutlicue”, which represents the flower of life, was inlaid. Archaeologist Osvaldo Sterpone, in charge of moving the piece to Pachuca and who will coordinate historical research, mentioned that the orifice was covered with red colored lime that matched the stone that has to be identified yet. He remarked the stone sculpture was found near Santa Ana Archaeological Site. Sterpone commented that the sculpture may be dated in Late Post Classic period, when Mexica Empire controlled this region to obtain obsidian and other material that they traded. Restoration of Chicomecoatl, which presents an excellent conservation state, was in charge of Virginia Carrasquel, from Hidalgo INAH Center, who leaded cleaning, stabilization and preservation tasks before being exposed at Zempolala Community Museum for 2 days. After it returned to Hidalgo INAH Center, the piece was guarded at the cultural goods warehouse, where Chicomecoatl will be studied to determine the influence it had in the region. Regarding the context of the finding, archaeologist Sterpone mentioned that no other element associated to the sculpture was found in the sand mine located at San Pedro Tlaquilpan. “There are not regional archaeological studies about Chicomecoatl, so we will base on historical sources. In this sense, a similar sculpture was found during the 1970´s decade in Autonomous University of the State of Hidalgo” concluded the archaeologist.

Southwest Chess Club Action!

Late notice - I didn't see the email until this morning. As part of the SWCC Lecture Series, tonight starting at 6:00 p.m. Allen Becker is giving a presentation on "Endgames." At 7:00 p.m. this evening, Round 5 of the Club Championship starts (a record 48 players taking part). Here are the top standings and key-match-ups: 1. Becker, John R (2)............ WI 2050 W25 D14 W7 W16 3.5 2. Veech, John (3)............... WI 2038 W26 W22 W5 D3 3.53 . Becker, Allen J (4)........... WI 2010 W15 W23 W4 D2 3.5 4. Hayes, Raymond C (1).......... WI 2100 W9 W21 L3 W17 3.0 5. Cirillo, Corrado (8).......... WI 1826 W37 W24 L2 W23 3.0 6. Grochowski, Andrew (9)........ WI 1788 W28 D16 W32 D8 3.0 7. Grochowski, Robin (13)........ WI 1680 W36 W33 L1 W24 3.0 8. Zhou, Jerry Zhexua (18)....... WI 1566 W29 -H- W31 D6 3.0 9. Gaddameedi, Vilas (25) ....... WI 1377 L4 W41 W21 W22 3.0 Top Boards for Round 5: 1. ___ Becker, Allen J (3.5,2010) ___ Becker, John R (3.5,2050) 2. ___ Hayes, Raymond C (3.0,2100) ___ Grochowski, Robin (3.0,1680) 3. ___ Cirillo, Corrado (3.0,1826) ___ Zhou, Jerry Zhexua (3.0,1566) 4. ___ Grochowski, Andrew (3.0,1788) ___ Gaddameedi, Vilas (3.0,1377) 5. ___ Seghers, Evan Char (2.5,1404) ___ Coons, James J (2.5,1843) 6. ___ Munoz, Daniel A (2.5,1840) ___ Joachim, Peter Jam (2.5,1398) 7. ___ Ireland, Johnathan (2.5,1778) ___ Huang, Joanna (2.5,1398)8 . ___ Luebbe, Justin Jos (2.5,1140) ___ Fogec, Thomas G (2.5,1623) 9. ___ Penkwitz, Robert (2.5,1486) ___ Seghers, Reid Nath (2.5,1099) Note that a new schedule will be published soon. August 6 Round 5, Club Championship August 13 Round 6, Club Championship Also coming up: August 20 Summer Actionade Cooler III 3-Round Swiss: Game/29 Minutes (G/30 possible if enough players). USCF Rated. EF: $5. (½- Point Bye available for only first round if requested prior to round) TD is Becker; ATD is Fogec SWCC's blog is now being updated weekly and you can find upcoming events and schedules there as well as at the Club's website.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

2009 Euro Chess Young Masters

As part of several events in this large tournament held in the Netherlands, twenty players face off in the 7-round "Young Masters Tournament." This year's Young Masters event features three chess femmes: IM Melia Salome (GEO 2441), WIM Sarah Hoolt (GER 2240) and WIM Lisa Schut (NED 2212). Here are the current standings (after Round 6): 1 4 Moranda, Wojciech 2545 4.5 2 1 Zhigalko, Sergei 2621 4.5 3 3 Geetha Narayanan Gopal 2575 4.5 4 11 Pruijssers, Roeland 2401 4.0 5 5 Giri, Anish 2518 3.5 6 2 Iotov, Valentin 2603 3.0 7 6 Melia, Salome 2441 3.0 8 8 Burg, Twan 2422 3.0 9 10 Van Oosterom, Chiel 2402 3.0 10 9 Ringoir, Tanguy 2406 3.0 11 7 Miedema, Roi 2432 3.0 12 16 Hoolt, Sarah 2240 2.5 13 14 Van Assendelft, Floris 2332 2.5 14 12 Kleijn, Christov 2377 2.5 15 15 Otte, Marijn 2298 2.5 16 13 Bok, Benjamin 2360 2.0 17 18 Rademakers, Evert 2154 2.0 18 17 Schut, Lisa 2212 1.0 Hmmm, I don't know what happened to the other two young masters! There's only 18 on the standings list.

Is This a 10,000 Year Old Map in Stone?

From Found: A pocket guide to prehistoric Spain 05 August 2009 by Charles Choi and Catherine Brahic Magazine issue 2720. MODERN humans have got it easy. Anyone with a computer can look up just about any location and within seconds bring up a map complete with step-by-step directions from A to B. The internet and centuries of map-making mean getting to, say, the prehistoric painted caves of France and Spain is child's play. "But imagine a group of hunter-gatherers, returning to an area they had not been to for a long time. How do you find a particular cave, especially if the vegetation has changed and its entrance may be masked?" asks independent archaeologist Paul Bahn. The answer may be that hunter-gatherers had their own maps. A team of archaeologists have matched etchings made 14,000 years ago on a polished chunk of sandstone in northern Spain to the landscape in which it was found. They claim to have the earliest known map of a region in western Europe - a prehistoric hunting map. The rock, roughly hand-sized and 14,000 years old, bears a mess of overlapping etchings. It was found in a cave in Navarre on the southern side of the Pyrenees and it took Pilar Utrilla of the University of Zaragoza, Spain, and colleagues the better part of 10 years to disentangle the lines and make sense of them (Journal of Human Evolution, DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.05.005). Rest of article. Examples of old maps from the article: The oldest map found in Europe, discovered in Pavlov in the Czech Republic, is about 25,000 years old. It depicts a mountain, river, valleys and routes around the region. A schematic 6200-year-old drawing of Çatalhöyük in Turkey may be the oldest known city map. The oldest known map of the world dates to 600 BC. It is inscribed on a clay tablet discovered in the city of Sippar in southern Iraq, is centred around Babylon and shows the world as a circle surrounded by "bitter water": the salty sea. The oldest complete star atlas, measuring 2 metres across, was discovered in China in 1907. It dates from the 7th century AD and marks the position of 1339 stars, including clearly recognisable groups such as Orion and the big dipper.

2009 Denker Tournament of High School Championships

A first in Denker history: a win by a female - Abby Marshall of Virginia. Congratulations to Abby. The USCF Chess Life Online has coverage: August 4, 2009: Abby Marshall: First Female to Win Denker! (one game you can play through) August 5, 2009: Abby Marshall on her Denker Win (two games you can play through)

Karvade Says "Nothing But Empty Promises"

Story from Chess champion Eesha Karvade says she received empty promises By: Kaumudi Gurjar Date: 2009-08-05 Place: Pune (Photo: From 2008 National "B" Tournament) Video Pune's own Eesha Karvade (21), the only girl from Maharashtra to become an International Master following her win over Yaroslav Zherebukh at the recently held chess tournament, International de Paris 2009, is upset that she has not received a single congratulatory call from the state sports ministry. Karvade, who is ranked 83 in the list of women grandmasters internationally and stands at the 17th spot among Asian women grandmasters, reached the stipulated 2,400 rating at the international tournament. "When I became a grandmaster in 2007, Laximikant Deshmukh, the then Maharashtra sports director, had assured me that I would be sent to a coaching camp and my tournaments would be sponsored. However, I have not received a single call from any state government official to congratulate me after my win," said Karvade. Costly affair "Training in chess is a costly affair and when a player reaches this level, coaching expenses can be as high as Rs 3,000 a day," said Dr Sanjay Karvade, Eesha's father. Her mother Dr Shubhada Karvade, told MiD DAY, "Eesha's primary training started when she was in Std V and with just one year of coaching, she reached the national level. We decided then that she would focus on chess as a career option. It was clearly a sound decision." Dr Shubhada added, "Her focus improved after she started training under Grandmaster Abhijit Kunte." Added Eesha, "When grandmaster Kunte is in the city, I make it a point to practice with him for three to four hours a day." Training Kunte explained that the going gets tougher as one reaches higher ranks."After one becomes a grandmaster, the player must train to develop new ideas and make them work on the board. The more experienced you are, the more capable you become of sensing danger. Practicing with her helps me as well," said Kunte. Next goal "My next goal is to reach a rating of 2,450 in the next six months at the Women Team Championship to be held in China. Kunte described Karvade's strongest point as her will power. "She is a true fighter who maintains her cool even when she is in a winning position," Kunte said.

Padmini Rout Wins Prestigious Award Monday, August 03, 2009 Bhubaneswar: International chess player of Orissa Padmini Rout has won the prestigious Ekalavya Award for the year 2008. The Ekalavya Award Committee unanimously picked Padmini among the eleven short-listed candidates for the prestigious award at a meeting held here on Sunday. The Ekalavya award, instituted by the Indian Metals Public Charitable Trust ( IMPaCT), the charitable wing of IMFA Group, is given every year in recognition of outstanding performance in sports. The award carries a cash prize of Rs 100,000 and a citation. Besides the Ekalavya awardee, there are two other runner up awards carrying cash prizes of Rs 10,000 each. Padmini has a brilliant international track record for the past two years, winning second position in the Asian Junior Girls Chess Championship in December 2007 and securing third position in the under 14 girls' category of the Commonwealth Chess championship the same year. Besides Rout, international women athlete Shrabani Nanda and young rower Rohit Kumar Swain will also be conferred citations and prize money of Rs 10,000 each for remarkable performances in various International and National level championships in their respective fields during the two years from April, 2006 to March, 2008. This is the second consecutive year in which two of the three awards went to women candidates. Announcing the names of the award winners BJD MP Baijayant Panda and Trustee of IMPaCT said that IMPaCT has continuously pursued the recognition and fostering of excellence in sports and literature, besides contributing to the general welfare of the society at large. This award has been, and will carry on, attracting young talent, he added.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Asian Youth Chess Championships

August 2 - 9, 2009, New Delhi, India: Over 235 players from 14 countries, including India, are vying for honors in six age groups at the ONGC Asian Youth Chess Championships. The competition is being hosted by the Delhi Chess Association at 'Tivoli Garden Resort' in Under-8, U-10, U-12, U-14, U-16 and U-18 categories separately for boys and girls. Vietnam, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Bhutan, UAE, Indonesia and Mongolia have confirmed their participation. As always, the Indian press is eagerly reporting on events featuring their players (unlike the U.S. press, sad to say). Here is an article from The Times of India on July 30th (excerpted): The strong Indian squad with 65 players is expected to reap a big harvest from the event that offers 36 medals. In the last edition at Tehran, India won 6 gold, 5 silver and 10 bronze. The Indian Challenge will be spearheaded by World Under-14 Champion Vidit Gujarathi and World Under-12 Champion Sayantan Das. Grandmaster Salem A R Saleh of UAE who won Under-16 category in last edition will start as favourite in Under-18 category this year. The emphasis in this coverage is on the Indian players - as it should be. I don't understand American sports reporters (1) failing to report on such events and (2) if they do report on such events, failing to highlight improvements in American players' relative performances [that perhaps don't finish in medals or top money] from prior performances. Deciding that there is nothing to report because an American player (how egotisc) did not win a medal or even finish in the top 1o - or top 100 - is baloney! The lack of press coverage is a slap in the face to every chessplayer in the USA, including the memory of GM Robert J. Fischer, who was the last American World Chess Champion (1972-1975). We have excellent chessplayers in this country. WE HAVE A CROP OF VERY PROMISING YOUNG CHESSPLAYERS IN THIS COUNTRY. Why does almost everybody ignore them? ARGGGHHHH! Anyway, here is a press report from the Indian press earlier today (I haven't had time to check for updates) about how some of the Indian players doing after Round 3 from The Press Trust of India: STAFF WRITER 17:33 HRS IST New Delhi, Aug 4 (PTI) Tamil Nadu teenager Pon N Krithika beat her statemate P Uthra to emerge as the sole leader with a perfect score after three rounds of the Girls Under-18 section in the ongoing Asian Youth Chess Championship here today.In the Open section of U-18 category, P Shyam Nikil beat Ulziibayar Boldbaatar of Mongolia in the third round to share the lead with Grandmaster Salem A R Saleh of UAE with three points, who beat Indian medal prospect Debashis Das in a well fought third round match.But the shocking incident of the day was the non-appearance of top seed and former World Under-10 Champion Girish Koushik for his third round match against teammate Diptyan Ghosh as he failed to report for the match in time. HOLY CRAP! One of the young Indian players has run-afoul of that really STUPID new FIDE rule about being at the table "on time." This is a huge event. I can't keep up with reporting round by round, but I'll try to publish any reports on interim standings I do find, even if they are only about the Indian players :)

Shira Chess Challenge: Training Update!

Ohmygoddess, I'm exhausted, darlings! I have four chess training games currently going on. One of those games is with Chessdaddy, our first training game - barely started. That man is mean! MEAN! Ah, the first move of the Petrov defense... You MUST memorize some opening lines otherwise you'll never stand a chance of getting to a middle game, let alone an end game... Do you want to lose... The Petrov allows you to equalize taking each other's pawns and clearing out the center of the board, but THAT move was off-book. It is a mistake...(I only took the fricking pawn and he moves his Queen out like her shit doesn't stink. Read my lips - I'm not scared.) He paid no attention to my tentative opening comments, I made this move because of this (x-y-z). We're up to like four moves? And I thought I was the one who had watched "Searching for Bobby Fischer" too many times! OY! I think Chessdaddy is a BAD teacher. His approach is to to attempt to beat me down into nothingness (as dramatized by the Bruce Pandolfini character in the movie relentlessly beating down the Josh Waitzkin character) and then he'll try to recreate me out of whatever ashes are left. I tell ya, Chessdaddy, THAT AIN'T GONNA WORK ON THIS CHESS CHICK. I'm thinking now I am going to throw this game and then fire Chessdaddy's butt once and for all for yelling at me. Mean Chessdaddy, MEAN!

Indian Mound Being Destroyed by Corrupt Politicians

Where are the safeguards against the CDA awarding contracts in exchange for bribes? And as per its usual mode of operation, Walmart, in the guise of Sam's Club, is at the heart of the matter. Unbelievable! Posted at the Institute for Southern Studies Alabama city destroying ancient Indian mound for Sam's Club By Sue Sturgis on August 4, 2009 8:43 AM City leaders in Oxford, Ala. have approved the destruction of a 1,500-year-old Native American ceremonial mound and are using the dirt as fill for a new Sam's Club, a retail warehouse store operated by Wal-Mart. A University of Alabama archaeology report commissioned by the city found that the site was historically significant as the largest of several ancient stone and earthen mounds throughout the Choccolocco Valley. But Oxford Mayor Leon Smith -- whose campaign has financial connections to firms involved in the $2.6 million no-bid project -- insists the mound is not man-made and was used only to "send smoke signals." "The City of Oxford and its archaeological advisers have completed a review and evaluation of a stone mound that was identified near Boiling Springs, Calhoun County, Alabama, and have concluded that the mound is the result of natural phenomena and does not meet the eligibility criteria for the Natural [sic] Register of Historic Places," according to a news release Smith issued last week. In fact, the report does not conclude the mound is a result of "natural phenomena" but says very clearly it is of "cultural origin." And while the University's Office of Archaeological Research does not believe the site qualifies for the National Register of Historic Places, the Alabama Historical Commission disagrees, noting that the structure meets at least three criteria for inclusion: its "association with a broad pattern of history," architecture "embodying distinctive characteristics," and for the information it might yield to scholars. The site is also significant to Native Americans. The Woodland and Mississippian cultures that inhabited the Southeast and Midwest before Europeans arrived constructed and used these mounds for various rituals, which may have included funerals. There are concerns that human remains may be present at the site, though none have been found yet. United South and Eastern Tribes, a nonprofit coalition of 25 federally recognized tribes from Maine to Texas, passed a resolution in 2007 calling for the preservation of such structures, which it calls "prayer in stone." Native Americans have held protests against the mound's demolition, and last week someone altered a sign for the Leon Smith Parkway that runs past the development to read "Indian Mound Pkwy." A local resident named Johnny Rollins told the Anniston Star how his Native American grandmother taught him that when she died he could "go to that mountain" to talk to her: "It seems like it's taking part of you away," he said of the demolition. "I always felt I had ties to that there." Since the media began reporting on the site's demolition, city officials have revised their story and are now claiming that dirt from the mound is not being used as fill, despite earlier statements to the contrary. But eyewitnesses say they have seen workers hauling dirt from the mound to the Sam's Club development. "I mean really, I went there, saw the giant trucks deliver the earth straight from the mound to the construction site, and I still can't believe what they are doing," writes the seventh-generation Alabamian behind the blog Deep Fried Kudzu. She shared the photo above showing roads for construction vehicles now cut to the top of the mound and has other photos and her story of visiting the site at the website.' Deepening the development's controversy is how the contracting has been handled. The force behind the project is Oxford's Commercial Development Authority, a public board that uses taxpayer money to lure businesses to the area. The CDA owns the land where the mound is located. Alabama law exempts CDAs from bid requirements, which means contracts can go to whomever the board chooses. A recent Anniston Star investigative series about the CDA revealed among other things that the group has awarded nearly $9 million in contracts since 1994 but has taken bids for none of them. The newspaper also detailed the financial ties between the CDA, firms it does business with, and Mayor Smith's political campaign. For example, the $2.6 million contract for preparing the Sam's Club site went to Oxford-based Taylor Corp., with the money for that coming in part from the sale of city property to Georgia-based developers Abernathy and Timberlake. Taylor Corp. owner Tommy Taylor, who has received thousands of dollars in city contracts for non-CDA work, donated $1,000 to Smith in 2004 and $1,000 in 2008, while Abernathy and Timberlake donated $1,000 to Smith's re-election campaign in 2004, the paper reports. More.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Mystery of the Venafro Chess Pieces - Part 2

I have been hunting around on the internet for further information about the Venafro chess pieces and the circumstances surrounding their discovery in 1932 in Venafro, Italy. A little bit of background information I learned - a very general overview - about Roman burial practices: Prior to about 550 BCE, burial was the preferred custom. Cremation became the favored practice of the Romans after circa 550 BCE, but with the rise of Christianity in the 3rd-4th centuries CE, burial once again became the preferred custom. In the cremation practiced by the Romans, the body would be burned and also some of the decedent's personal possessions. Wine was poured on the fire to put it out and cool down the ashes, after which a close relative (if not the wife or mother of the decedent) would gather up the decedent's bones and ashes and place them in an urn, which would then be entombed, placed in a memorial niche in a communal or family burial ground, or removed back to the home of a close relative. Burial sites were placed outside the city walls. The wealthy purchased private lots along roads and highways; the less well off were buried in community burial facilities (we call them cemeteries today) and the poorest of the poor were evidently buried in open pits with lots of others, and then burned. There is an ancient necropolis outside modern-day Venafro, but I cannot say if the urn burial of the story was discovered there. The following article by Michael Mark was published at Dr. Louis Cazaux's website on chess history. I briefly met Mr. Mark in Amsterdam in November, 2001 while attending the IGK Symposium on chess history held at the Max Euwe Center. I have excerpted the pertinent information Mr. Mark relates regarding the Venafro chess pieces: Ancient Boardgames in Perspective 20 April, 2007 The Beginnings of Chess Michael Mark   The second find is said to have been made in Venafro, the site of a small settlement in the district of Campobasso in southern Italy. It appears that in 1932 builders were sinking a well when, at a depth of about three metres, they shattered an urn, revealing human bones. At that stage the authorities were called in, and various objects were removed.(38) Either the authorities assumed or they were told by the builders that the chessmen came from within the urn, although their recent carbon dating to a much later period, to which I shall return, makes this improbable. The pieces are not objects which would have prompted builders to summon archaeologists had they been found at an earlier stage of the dig and it seems very possible that this was the case. The museum authorities in Naples, to whom the discoveries were handed, had no idea what they were. It was only some years later that they were examined and described in Elia 1939, where they were treated as Roman on the assumption that they came from the urn. Subsequently, Fuhrmann 1941 drew attention to similar pieces in glass in the Cairo Museum. These had previously been dated in Lamm 1930 to around the tenth century ad. According to Fuhrmann 1941, they were made using an art and technique which are pre-Islamic and of which there are no examples dating from later than the first centuries of the Roman empire. The basis for this assertion, however, is unstated and unclear, and according to Allan 1995 the marvered glass used for these chessmen was used in Egypt and Syria from about the twelfth century to the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries. Controversy over the Venafro pieces continued over half a century, until the museum authorities in Naples were persuaded to have them carbon-dated. This was carried out in laboratories in Naples and Sydney, using the accelerator mass spectrometry method on a fragment of about 1 gram taken from one of the major pieces, and the results were reported with a history of the pieces in Gli Scacchi di Venafro 1994. The results of the two tests, which correlated closely with each other, were that there was a 68% probability that the pieces were from the period ad 885–1017, with a 95% probability that were from one of the periods ad 781–-1044, ad 1104–1112 and ad 1147–1152. It is not clear from the report why the two later periods totalling thirteen years are included when the intervening periods of ad 1045–1103 and 1113–1146 are omitted. ************************************************************************************** Note 38: O. Elia (1939), ‘Un Gioco di Scacchi di Eta Romana’, Bolletino del Museo dell’ Impero Romano 10: 57–63. Here is the citation for the report on the carbon dating tests: Terrasi F., Campajola L., Petrazzuolo F., Brondi A., Cipriano A., D’Onofrio M., Hua Q., Roca V., Romano M., Romoli M., Tuniz C. and Lawson E. (1994) L’Italia Scacchistica 1064, 4860. I believe that both of these articles are in Italian, and so they would be of no use to me since I do not know that language. Is there any chance that there are English translations available of one or both items??? (Probably not, but I ask anyway). Or reports on the excavation in English???
Mr. Mark thinks it likely that workers on the site of the excavation for the well came across the Venafro chess pieces - at some level prior to where the burial urn was smashed into with the digging equipment - and he assumes one or more of the workers removed the pieces without calling the authorities. This kind of thing happens all the time when relics are come across while digging for sewers, wells, underground trains, etc. I've read lots of reports about items being tossed aside as part of rubble to be buried in a landfill or dumped into the ocean because contractors don't want to be bothered with shutting down their work for an archeological dig (time is money, as the saying goes). Or the pieces were spirited away by workers who (particularly today) were savvy that such items might have some kind of worth to somebody. Or some combination of both. Impossible to know without further information what may have been the case when the pieces were uncovered from the Venafro burial - statements from the workers, for instance (although any statements given may have been colored with the wish of obscuring the true circumstances of how the pieces were found, for reasons of self-preservation). Questions begetting more questions! Why, if one or more of the workers removed the pieces either with the intention of dumping them or hiding them as potentially valuable items, did one or more of those workers then turn the pieces over to the authorities? Were all of the pieces turned over to the authorities??? Is is possible that some savvy workman held back one or more of the pieces and that today, they are part of one or more private chess collections? Is it possible that one or more pieces still exist out there - somewhere - stashed away by one of the workers (possibly buried?) and then never recovered - waiting to be discovered for the next excavation project a thousand years from now?


Here are the final standings of the chess femmes who participated in the huge 694 players ORDIX Open (part of the Mainz Chess Festival) - the top finisher (a chess dude) is also included. Mamedyarov scored the most points ever (10.0) out of 11 round of this event. (Full results). Top female finisher was GM Kateryna Lahno, pictured here from the 2008 Mainz Chess Festival. 1. GM Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2717 AZE 10,0 45. GM Lahno,Kateryna 2481 UKR 8,0 48. WGM Sebag,Marie Rachel 2531 FRA 8,0 66. WIM Cmilyte,Viktorija 2470 LTU 7,5 72. WGM Zhukova,Natalia 2465 UKR 7,5 80. WIM Gara,Anita 2381 HUN 7,5 125. WGM Berend-Sakhatova,Elvira 2339 7,0 143. WGM Hrabinska,Myroslava 2267 UKR 6,5 152. IM Medvegy,Nora 2344 HUN 6,5 168. WGM Melnikova,Yana 2325 RUS 6,5 193. WFM Stangl,Anita,Dr. 2146 6,5 196. WIM Azarova,Nadezhda 2296 BLR 6,5 198. WGM Fischdick,Gisela 2238 6,5 234. WIM Caoili,Arianne 2199 6,0 252. Großmann,Susan 2015 6,0 253. WIM Dergatschova-Daus,Anna 2235 6,0 258. WGM Zakurdjaeva,Irina 2333 RUS 6,0 361. WFM Van Münster,Kirsten 2186 5,5 364. WFM Voigt,Ingrid 2104 5,5 378. WIM Lauterbach,Ingrid 2173 5,5 382. Renner,Gabriele 2023 5,5 398. Endress,Anna 2109 5,0 407. Leveikina,Jevgenija 2042 5,0 441. Janotta,Steffi 2058 5,0 462. Kind,Veronika 1969 5,0 468. Preiß,Veronika 1994 5,0 480. Voss,Chantal 1861 4,5 504. Zemke,Christine 1760 4,5 507. Medvegy,Judit 2033 HUN 4,5 543. Raab,Helen 1700 4,5 580. Biebinger,Eva 1590 4,0 592. Froehlich-Dill ,Astrid 1922 4,0 625. Vasquez Rodriguez,Ma Elena ESP 3,5 627. Berger,Nadja 1706 3,5 628. Riesch,Jennifer 1906 3,5 630. Roos,Karin 1861 3,5 644. Hock,Anna-Maria 1241 3,5 655. Perovic-Ottstadt,Sanja,Dr. 1443 3,0 666. Krings,Elisabeth 1398 3,0 673. Nimbler,Isabell 1369 2,5 682. Peschk,Kathrin 848 2,0

Tomb of Bulgarian Princess Discovered

Article from the Archeology works in Veliko Turnovo discover a princess Mon, Aug 03 2009 11:27 CET by Nick Iliev (Photo by Nadezhda Chipeva, showing the escarpments of Tsarevets, the seat of medieval Bulgarian monarch) The tomb of a Bulgarian princess was discovered in the northern Bulgarian town of Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria's medieval capital, the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) said. Archaeologists Nikolai Ovcharov and Hitko Vachev have excavated on August 2 what has been described as the grave of a Bulgarian princess, buried in the courtyard of the St St Peter and Pavel church in Veliko Tarnovo. According to the two archaeologists, they have concluded that the grave dates back to the 14th century or earlier, sometime after the reign of tsar Ivan Assen II. The princess was found wearing "luxurious clothes trimmed with golden ribbon; excellently crafted jewelry; a golden ring, earrings, silver and golden pins were also found around the buried body", the BNR said. Archaeologists have discovered over 100 artifacts since excavation work commenced two months ago at the St St Peter and Pavel as well as St Ivan Rilski churches in Veliko Turnovo. Most of discovered finds consist of golden jewelry. Once the items are restored, they will exhibited at the town's history museum in autumn 2009.
Not discussed in the article - why these churchyards are being excavated. Are the churches being renovated? Torn down? Or is something else going on here? This report makes me uneasy. Where does the line end between legitimate archaeological excavations of tombs and crass grave-robbing for treasure trove?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Mystery of the Venafro Chess Pieces

A spectacular discovery was made in 1932 - several Arabic style chess pieces in pristine condition, recovered from (I believe) an equally pristine Roman era grave. (Image: The Venafro chess pieces, from Louis Cazaux's website on chess). I expect the discovery caused a great sensation among chess historians because, up to that point, it had been assumed that H.J.R. Murray (A History of Chess), the god of chess history, was right in his assertion that chess was invented in northern India sometime in the 6th century CE. But here were those Venafro pieces, throwing Murray's assertions right out the window! Part of the mystery would not be solved until 1994 when a tiny piece of one of the bone chess pieces was analyzed using the latest carbon-dating techniques. From the Encyclopedia Moderna (online): The Venafro chessmen The Venafro chessmen, discovered in 1932 in the southern Italian necropolis of Venafro, are among the most controversial chess-related archaeological finds of this century. For more than 60 years, archaeologists have formulated a variety of hypotheses to explain how bone chess pieces of Arabic shape were discovered in a tomb of Roman age. Some scholars claimed that the chessmen were indeed of Roman origin. The chess pieces are preserved in the Archaeological museum of Naples, where a bone fragment of 2 grams was collected for AMS analysis. AMS radiocarbon measurements yielded a calibrated age of 885-1017 AD (68 % confidence level) (Terrasi et al., 1994), supporting the view that this game was introduced to Central Italy during the Saracen invasions of the 10th century AD. Great mystery, indeed! How did those Islamic style chess pieces get into a Roman era grave? I haven't read anything about that online. Why not? Too esoteric? I would have though this is a story ripe for lots of articles. I suppose it has now been concluded that the pristine (i.e., undisturbed) Roman era grave was not so pristine after all, as there would be no other way to account for the presence of the chess pieces, which at the earliest were dated to 885 CE, long after the Roman era had passed into herstory. They must have been buried in the grave sometime after they were carved. Or maybe the chess pieces are embued with the ability to time travel? Or a time traveller from the "future" buried the pieces during the time the grave was new? One can go on and on with suppositions about how the Venafro chess pieces got buried in that Roman era grave. But the question remains. Why would someone bury the chess pieces to begin with, whether they were buried in 885 CE or in 1017 CE or somewhere in-between? I can think of two reasons one would bury something like those chess pieces (there is no dispute that they are chess pieces). Several ancient (and not-so-ancient) cultures have buried sacrifices made to deities. Many obviously brand-new objects have been excavated over the years that were buried intact, but sometimes smashed into pieces and then buried. When it hasn't been obvious that the objects were "treasure trove," archaeologists and anthropologists have concluded that these items were sacrifices and/or devotional offers to various gods and goddesses. The other reason to bury something is to hide it from others. I am assuming that a rational person would not go through the trouble of burying something that he or she did not consider valuable or, in some other way, worthy of being preserved as a memorial. For instance, the container holding the ashes of my dog Spencer, who died in 1999, are buried under a memorial birdbath in my backyard. Whenever I look at the birdbath, and I see it every single day, I think of Spencerdog. Could the Venafro chessmen be something buried centuries afterward as a memorial to the person in that grave? This raises so many questions - among which is the most important - that whoever buried those chess pieces knew that they were burying them at so and so's grave. Speaking of which, I have no idea who was buried in that grave. I do not believe I have read that information in a single article about the Venafro chess pieces. Might that information provide a vital clue? I have read in many descriptions of the Venafro chess pieces that they were carved out of bone (some descriptions say they were topped with ivory). I never though about just what this means. Then this morning, I learned in a totally unrelated email from dondelion that the Venafro chess pieces were carved from deer horn. It just so happens that Carlos Lascoutx has been posting a lot of information about deer and horns the last few days - and I did a post in response this morning - which dondelion could not have known about. That Old Goddess Magic at work? Deer imagery goes back many thousands of years in pre-history. For instance, I blogged about an image showing a Shaman either transformed into a "deer-man" or wearing deer antlers, and I posted this article about an unnamed goddess excavated in Iran - she is a pair of red deer horns! So - what about checking on old "deer horn" chess pieces? I found several references to this material being used at Dr. Louis Cazaux's website (I was amazed, actually). This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive study. I found these under the heading of "The First European Chess Pieces" by scrolling down the page and looking at the captions under the thumbnail images: (1) Chariot, deer bone or antler, 10th c., found at Loisy, Musée des Ursulines,Mâcon (2) King (?), deer bone or antler, 10th c., found at Loisy,Musée des Ursulines,Mâcon (3) Rook, deer bone, 978-1070, Pineuilh, Gironde, France (4) Scandinavian Knight, Bishop, Pawn, deer bone, Beginning 11th c., Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum (5) Scandinavian or German Chessmen, deer bone, found at Ilot des Deux-Bornes, around Noyon, OiseBeg 12th c., Musée du Noyonnais, Noyon, France Several other pieces were identified as carved of "bone" but the type of bone was not specified. Perhaps this was not determined at the time the pieces were discovered and/or catalogued or tests to determine what type of bone have never been performed. I mean, what difference could it possibly make, right? Except it might be very important what materials were used to make old chess pieces. Just based on the admittedly unscientific information presented here by me and Carlos Lascoutx about antlers/horns/deer the significance of the ancient iconography is worth looking into further. Was there some ritual significance attached to using deer horn to carve chess pieces? Perhaps that is being too literal - how about a very old tradition of using deer horn to carve certain significant objects being passed on from generation to generation, and the reason why this was done had long since been lost under the gloss of Christianity and/or Islam? Sounds like a good PhD thesis! (antlers/deer/horns discussed in comments) (See image of deer horn goddess, above) See also

Is Berlin Museum's Hatshepsut a Forgery?

(Image from Wikipedia Commons, identified as: bust of the pharoah Hatshepsut, taken at the Altes Museum, Berlin (part of the Ägyptisches Museum Berlin collection), taken by Keith Schengili-Roberts in 2006. I think this is the bust referred to in the article, but I wouldn't swear to it on a stack of bibles). Egyptian bust in Berlin museum may be fake July 19 2009 at 04:35PM Berlin - An Egyptian bust acquired at vast expense by a Berlin museum more than two decades ago may be a forgery. The bust in brown granite of female Pharaoh Hatshepsut, who ruled Egypt for 22 years, is one of the draws at the German capital's Egyptian Museum and is only outshone by the limestone bust of exquisite Queen Nefertiti. Scientists at the Technical University of Berlin have discovered the Hatshepsut stone is rich in the minerals magnesite and siderite. No other bust from the Nile region is made of such rock, suggesting that the 16.5cm figure might be a modern fake. Asked for comment, Dieter Wildung, the recently retired director of the museum, said he had not been aware of the scientific study. The museum reportedly paid 1 million marks (R5.9 million) to buy the statue in 1986 from Robin Symes of Britain but Wildung declined to confirm its price."The purchase was long before my time," said Wildung, who became head of the museum in 1989 and retired two weeks ago. He criticised the media for "sneakily" going public with the report without clearance from the museum. Hatshepsut died in 1458 BC.
Why did they have the piece tested? Did someone on staff suspect it was a forgery? Surprisingly, this time I actually found answers to my questions! Check this post out from Google Groups, by Tom Flynn on July 21, 2009: University denies test on Egyptian bust in Berlin Posted : Mon, 20 Jul 2009 16:23:40 GMT Author : DPA Earth Times: Berlin - A German university denied Monday that it had analysed the bust of Pharaoh Hatshepsut, an Egyptian sculpture at a Berlin museum, or suggested the statue was a forgery. The bust of the female ruler is one of the icons of the Egyptian Museum in the city. It was acquired for 1 million marks (510,000 euros or about 715,000 dollars) two decades ago. A news report Sunday said a test of the stone suggested it might be a fake. But the Technical University of Berlin said it had never studied the bust's authenticity. Scientists had in December 2007 merely studied some tiny flakes of stone found on the statue. "The analysis found these flakes were made of rock rich in the minerals magnesite and siderite. Where these flakes came from has not been established," a statement by the university said. The German news magazine Der Spiegel had asserted such rock was not sculpted in any other known Pharaonic statue and that this implied the figure was fake. Hatshepsut ruled Egypt for 22 years till her death in 1458 BC. Her 16.5-centimetre-high brown granite bust is a key draw at the museum, along with a limestone bust of exquisite Queen Nefertiti. The Berlin museum has been criticized by Cairo officials for refusing to give Nefertiti's bust, regarded as a national treasure, back to Egypt. Link:
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