Saturday, March 20, 2010

Is There a Common Link Between These Ancient Blue Hues?

I've no idea.  I'm not suggesting that the recipe for either blue travelled from Old World to New World or vice versa.  I'm wondering is there an underlying chemical conection or similarity in the composition of the minerals in the clay and/or rocks that the Maya used to produce their cobalt blue color and the minerals in the rocks the ancient Egytians used to produce their cobalt blue color? 

Mar 16, 2010
Archaeologists: Maya Blue pigment recipe moved around
An archaeologist reports the ingredients of "Maya Blue" pigment beloved by Central America's ancients may have been widely mined, not traded as previously suggested.

In the Journal of Archeological Science report, Leslie Cecil of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, reports on "palygorskite" minerals, the chief ingredient in the bright and long-lasting pigment, found at the archaeological site of Ixlú in the Petén region of Guatemala. Maya Blue was widely used by the classic Maya of Central America to decorate buildings and wares, making the cobalt color a signature of the pyramid-building culture. (Image: Photo by Lori Polette. Elsevier. JAS)

Rather than emerging from one of seven mines already discovered in Mexico, the mineral traces back to a nearby site in Guatemala, a first sign that the color's recipe was traded widely outside the Yucatan, and that the ritual burning required to manufacture the pigment also was used by Maya further south as well.

"Geochemical analyses demonstrate that the Ixlú pigment has the traditional Maya Blue structure, but it was manufactured from clays in central Petén, Guatemala," says the study. "If Maya Blue was being used in the southern Maya lowlands as it was in the northern Maya lowlands, then it should not seem too shocking that some southern lowland Maya (perhaps ritual specialists) may have learned the technology and specialized knowledge behind the manufacture of Maya Blue."

By Dan Vergano

(History:  Scientists Figure Out Secret of Maya's  Blue Paint, February 27, 2008) 

In Search of Key Blue Ingredient in Ancient Egyptian Pottery
ScienceDaily (Mar. 19, 2010) — Jennifer Smith, PhD, associate professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, was belly crawling her way to the end of a long, narrow tunnel carved in the rock at a desert oasis by Egyptians who lived in the time of the pharaohs.

"I was crawling along when suddenly I felt stabbed in the chest," she says. "I looked down and saw that I was pressing against the broken end of a long bone. That freaked me out because at first I thought I was crawling over bodies, but I looked up and saw a sheep skull not too far away, so I calmed down. At least the bones weren't human."

What was she doing in the tunnel?

The answer: seeking an uncontaminated sample of a mineral that might have been the key ingredient in the blue used to decorate "blue painted pottery" popular among the Egyptian elite during the New Kingdom (1550 to 1079 BCE).

Colleague Colin A. Hope, an expert in blue painted pottery, had asked if she wouldn't help him pin down the source of the blue pigment by sampling and analyzing material fromt he mine.

Hope and Smith, together with Paul Kucera, a doctoral student at Monash University who first identified the mines, describe the pottery, the mines and the mineral in a chapter of Beyond the Horizon, a festschrift for the Egyptologist Barry A. Kemp,

'Generic geologist'

In the wastes of the eastern Sahara, nestled against the limestone escarpment that separates the desert from the Nile Valley, lies the Dakhleh Oasis. This fortunate spot, where deep water is able to reach the surface along fractures and faults under its own pressure, has been continuously inhabited for a very long time -- perhaps as long as 400,000 years.

During that period there were roughly four glacial cycles and, although Egypt itself was ice-free, the local climate oscillated from hyperarid to semi-arid as the Earth's orbital position drove changes in the location of the tropical rainfall belts.

Smith studies the impact of these climate fluctuations on ancient oasis dwellers.

But Smith is also the "generic geologist" as she puts it, for the Dakhleh Oasis Project, a long-term study of the oasis that covers the entire stretch of Dakhleh history, from the Neolithic through the Pharaonic, Roman, Islamic and modern settlements, and employs -- off and on -- more than 50 specialists.

"The dig house is open from November until March," Smith says.

As generic geologist, Smith was asked to help with a material-sourcing puzzle that she says was "way outside her period." During the 2007 season, Colin A. Hope, PhD, associate professor and director of the Center for Archaeology and Ancient History at Monash University in Australia, asked her whether a mineral found at the oasis could have been used to color the blue painted pottery.

It was a small question but an intriguing one.

Blue painted pottery

Most Egyptian pottery is undecorated, but during the New Kingdom, the period when Egypt is at the zenith of its power, a variety of pottery was elegantly decorated in a distinctive pale blue.

The pottery has been found at many sites in Egypt, and also in the Middle East and in Sudan.

The largest deposits, however, were found at New Kingdom sites in Egypt, including Malqata (the palace complex of Amenhotep III), Amarna (the remains of the city built by the Akenaten, the famous pharaoh who moved the capital from Thebes and established his own religion), the cemetary at Deir el-Medineh (the village where artisans who worked on the tombs in the Valley of the Kings during the New Kingdom lived), and the Great Temple of Amun (patron of kingship during the New Kingdom).

"Walking over some sites, it is only a matter of minutes before several shards of blue painted pottery or cobalt blue glass or faience can be collected," Hope, who has written extensively about the pottery, says.

Given the restricted use to which the pigment was put and the archeological sites where remnants were found, Hope believes it was probably available only to artisans associated with major royal residences.

The pale blue is distinguishable at a glance from the brilliant blues and blue-greens of the faience glazes common from the 3000 BC onward. Faience, probably most familiar in the form of the small statue of a hippo nicknamed William that is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, was made by adding ground copper to ground quartz to create what ceramists today call Egyptian paste.

But it is difficult to create durable patterns with copper pigment on pottery, says Hope. "Copper-based pigments must be applied in thick layers and were added after firing, so they tended to flake off when an object was handled. Instead of copper, the colorant used on most of the blue painted pottery is cobalt, which was fired onto the pots.

Where did the cobalt-bearing mineral come from? Analysis of the paint showed that the cobalt was accompanied by trace amounts of zinc, nickel and manganese, a mixture of elements distinctive enough to serve as a chemical fingerprint.

The mines of Dakhleh

At the height of its power, the Egyptian administration of the Nile Valley sponsored mineral exploitation of the Valley and surrounding desert regions. As early as 1980, it was suggested that the cobalt might have come from the desert oases at Dakhleh and Kharga.

In the lower foothills of the oasis escarpment at the western end of Dakhleh, four mine shafts were meticulously hand-cut into the rock. Steps carved along the shafts allowed a safe descent. The shafts provided access to horizontal galleries, some as long as 15 meters, that followed horizontal veins of the mineral alum.

A few centimeters thick, the alum veins are fibrous, pale gray to pink in color and slightly astringent.

Alum is both the term for a specific compound and for a class of compounds, all of which contain two negatively charged sulfate groups and two chemical elements or groups bearing a positive charge. The specific compound is hydrated aluminum potassium sulfate but many other elements or groups can substitute for the aluminum and potassium, and cobalt is one of these.

Alum was probably exploited for a variety of purposes in ancient times, some having nothing to do with color. The Egyptians, for example, used alum both to whiten skins during tanning and to prepare cloth to absorb dye.

Alum is still used today in styptic pencils to stem bleeding and in recipes for pickling cucumbers. More recently, it has been in vogue as a "crystal deodorant" that is sold as more natural than older deodorant products.

Was the Dakhleh Oasis alum used as a general-purpose astringent, or did it have the same chemical fingerprint as the blue paint on the pottery?

Analyzing the alum

To find out, Smith needed to sample the alum and analyze its composition. "I wanted to get relatively unaltered samples," she says, "which is why I was crawling to the end of a gallery. The galleries were small enough you couldn't really crawl on your hand and knees: you had to belly crawl."

Smith brought the samples she collected back to Washington University where she ran them through a variety of sophisticated analytical instruments. "When we characterize a natural mineral," she says, "we want to know two things: its chemical composition and then how the elements that make it up are arranged, or its crystal structure."

In the case of the Dakhleh alum, the crystal structure was of little use because it would have been destroyed in preparing the paint. Only the composition could connect the alum to the pottery.

Smith's results showed that the alum did contain cobalt, although they weren't particularly rich in this element. The cobalt, however, was accompanied by trace amounts of manganese, nickel and zinc, the same mixture of elements found in the blue paint.

Surprised by the low concentration of cobalt, Smith wondered if the ancient artisans hadn't found a way to concentrate it on site. One sample she collected, a crust at the edge of a partially flooded mine shaft, had a higher cobalt content than the others. Because sulphate dissolves easily and the mines were much more likely to have been flooded in the past, she wondered whether the cobalt was mined not by chipping it out of the rock but instead by ladling water out of the mines and collecting the sediment left over when the water evaporated.

"But this is wild arm waving given the amount of data," Smith says.

This small exercise in archeological problem solving left her with a deep respect for the long-vanished miners.

"I look at all these different veins of sulfate and I don't know which are useful for which purposes without doing analyses, but they must have had ways of telling from observable properties which ones to mine. That's impressive," she says.
I found this article that contains chemical formulae for the various blue compounds found in the ancient world - fascinating stuff. Note the comment about the similarity between the ancient Egyptian and ancient Chinese formulae for blue.

Chemical Science Magazine (online)
Instant insight: True blue chemistry
23 November 2006
Heinz Berke, professor of inorganic chemistry at the University of Zürich, Switzerland, looks at the use of manmade blue and purple pigments by ancient civilizations
Colours are an intrinsic part of human life. They produce aesthetic stimulation and they fascinate. They are the means of expression in art and they form part of human culture.

In prehistoric times, only the so-called earth colours, colours provided by the surface soil, could be used as pigments. Blue is not an earth colour and so was not available to prehistoric humans as a pigment, nor is it provided by nature as a stable dye.

Necessity, as the mother of invention, stimulated several ancient civilizations to develop artificial blue and purple materials by chemical synthesis. Egyptian Blue (CaCuSi4O10), the first synthetic pigment, was used in ancient Egypt in the Mediterranean area, Mesopotamia and Persia from around 3000 BC until the end of the Roman Empire. Han Blue (BaCuSi4O10) and Han Purple (BaCuSi2O6) appeared in a relatively small area of northwestern China from around 800 BC until the end of the Han Period in 220 AD. Maya Blue, a chemical intercalation compound of indigo (C16H10N2O2) and the white clay palygorskite (a magnesium aluminosilcate mineral), was used in Central America to paint houses and decorate artifacts from around 400 BC. [I believe Maya Blue predates 400 BCE]

Advances in ancient pottery techniques, for making compact blue objects, and glazing techniques, such as polychromic tile glazing, were closely related to the development of blue pigments. Blue and purple had thus made man's life more pleasant and had become highly esteemed in ancient times.

In recent years, archaeology has profited greatly from progress in science. Advances in microanalytical techniques have allowed historical assignments to be made on the basis of hard scientific facts. The application of scientific techniques and methods to archaeology is called archaeometry.

The archaeometry of ancient pigments has gained support from x-ray analytical methods, Raman spectroscopy and electron microscopy. Many questions about how ancient pigments were made can now be answered. For instance, the mysterious finding of significant amounts of lead in all the samples of Han Blue and Han Purple that have so far been analysed - it is now known that lead additives were used to accelerate the decomposition of the barium mineral starting materials. Such detailed conclusions could only be reached on the basis of laborious scientific analyses applying modern scientific methodologies.

A possible technology transfer from Egypt to China is suggested by the chemical relationship of the Egyptian and Chinese pigments. For any transfer of knowledge and techniques, the areas of distribution of these pigments must have overlapped, but knowledge about the use of Egyptian Blue in Central Asia is still limited, so this question remains open. [I don't agree with the underlying assumptions.  We know there was trade - scattered and intermittent, but evidence exists for it nonetheless, over several thousand years - so it is quite possible the ancient peoples in the northwest area of China decided to develope their own blue pigment based on examples on Egyptian ware that came their way over the years.]

All the pigments described have one thing in common: they were all created by human inventive talent, which is strongest when there are situations of deficiency - even if the invention does not serve vital needs. In the case of blue pigments, chemistry was used as an opportunity. Chemistry was not only an opportunity for the people in ancient times and at the age of industrialisation, but still is an opportunity for the people of today. Seizing opportunities with chemistry means, according to the notable German chemist Justus von Liebig, to use 'silent force' and reach 'copious abundance'.

Read Heinz Berke's review on 'The invention of blue and purple pigments in ancient times' in issue 1, 2007 of Chem. Soc. Rev.

The invention of blue and purple pigments in ancient times
H Berke, Chem. Soc. Rev., 2007

DOI: 10.1039/b606268g

NOTE:  When I followed the DOI link (above) I found the following synopsis of Berke's article:
Heinz Berke

This tutorial review examines manmade blue and purple pigments appearing in antiquity. They were obtained by chemical synthesis from mineral starting materials and refer to chemical compounds: Egyptian Blue (CaCuSi4O10), Han Blue (BaCuSi4O10) and Han Purple (BaCuSi2O6), Maya Blue (x·indigo·(Mg,Al)4Si8(O,OH,H2O)24) and Ultramarine Blue (Na,Ca)8(AlSiO12)(S, SO4,Cl). [What is this Ultramarine Blue - what culture did it come from?  Is it common to all?  I ask because when I first saw the graphic for the example of Maya Blue in the first article in this post, I thought it was "marine blue."] The Egyptian and Chinese copper-based pigments are assumed to have been developed independently and are presumably an outcome of the historical developments in glazing techniques. A technology transfer from Egypt into China cannot be fully excluded but, based on the facts acquired up to now, looks less probable. [Really?]

Hales Corners Challenge XI!

It's coming soon! I can't believe how quickly the time has gone by, darlings!  I encourage everyone within reasonable traveling distance of Milwaukee, Wisconsin to come to the Hales Corners Challenge XI - it's a great event and very player-friendly. It's a tough schedule but it's all in one day too - you can travel in for the Saturday event, stay over and trek back home on Sunday. TEN Grand Prix points.

There is a new location this year - players, please take note and don't show up at the wrong hotel!

Goddesschess is once again sponsoring special prizes for the chess femmes but we're introducing a new prize structure - we're trying to encourage more chess femmes to play in the Open event.  The more chess femmes who play in the Open, the higher the prize amounts and the greater the number of prizes and their tamounts will be.  So ladies, it's up to you.  For Challenge XII, the number of prizes and their amounts for chess femmes will be increased too -  or decreased - depending on the number of you who come out and play in the Open in Challenge XI. Come on chess femmes, get your feet wet - the water is just fine.


Online version

Hales Corners Challenge XI
Sponsored by The Southwest Chess Club
Saturday, April 17, 2010

Two Sections – Open & Reserve (Under 1600)
FORMAT: Four Round Swiss System - Four Games in One Day
USCF Rated
TIME LIMIT: Game in One Hour (60 minutes per player)
ENTRY FEE: $35 – Open; $25 – Reserve
(both sections $5 more after April 14, 2010)
Comp Entry Fee for USCF 2200+: Entry fee subtracted from any prizes won
SITE REGISTRATION: 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
ROUNDS: 10 am -- 1 pm -- 3:30 pm -- 6 pm
Pairings by WinTD---No Computer Entries---No Smoking

1st—$325* 1st—$100
2nd—$175* 2nd—$75
A—$100 D—$50
B & Below—$75 E & Below—$40
* guaranteed
Goddesschess Prizes for Females: Up to $245 for Best Results by female chess players
For Female Players in the Open Section:
1 woman - no cash prize
2 women - one prize of $45
3 women - two prizes of $45 and $40
4 women - three prizes of $50, $45, $40
5 or more women - four prizes of $55, $50, $45, $40
Top finishing female - paid entry for Challenge XII when registration confirmed

For Female Players in the Reserve Section:
1st --$30
2nd --$25
Top finishing female - paid entry for Challenge XII when registration confirmed
Best Game Prize—Starting Out: Chess Tactics & Checkmates (DVD) by Chris Ward

Tournament Director: Robin Grochowski
Assistant Tournament Directors: Tom Fogec & Allen Becker

NEW SITE: Crowne Plaza Milwaukee Airport Hotel—6401 S. 13th Street—414-764-5300
I94 to College Avenue East exit, College to 13th (one block), turn right on 13th to hotel (two blocks on right)

ENTRIES TO: Allen Becker—6105 Thorncrest Drive—Greendale, WI 53129

QUESTIONS TO: Robin Grochowski—414-744-4872 (home) or 414-861-2745 (cell)

USCF I.D. Required -- Bring your own clocks – Sets and Boards Provided
Half point bye available in Round 1, 2 or 3 if requested prior to round 1; not available in Round 4.

Isis Interregnum

Isis has sent me links to several interesting stories this past week - sorry I did not post them last night, I got too involved in watching "Who Do You Think You Are?" and "Kitchen Nightmares."  I just love Gordon Ramsey - minus the vulgarity :)

This first story is absolutely unbelievable - except that it is, unfortunately, true.  Once again Islam demonstrates that it never progressed beyond the Dark Ages - has probably regressed! Disgusting and sad at the same time - killing someone for "telling a fortune" - geez. Talk about a religion with an inferiority complex.  If Allah is the Almighty God, He's not going to be afraid of whatever it is that fortune tellers predict because His Truth will ultimately prevail.  Of course, if Allah is a phoney-baloney god, it's no wonder the Mullahs are upset with the t.v. guy. 

TV presenter gets death sentence for 'sorcery
'By Mohammed  Jamjoom, CNN
March 19, 2010 10:30 a.m. EDT
(CNN) -- Amnesty International is calling on Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to stop the execution of a Lebanese man sentenced to death for "sorcery."

In a statement released Thursday, the international rights group condemned the verdict and demanded the immediate release of Ali Hussain Sibat, former host of a popular call-in show that aired on Sheherazade, a Beirut based satellite TV channel.

According to his lawyer, Sibat, who is 48 and has five children, would predict the future on his show and give out advice to his audience.

The attorney, May El Khansa, who is in Lebanon, tells CNN her client was arrested by Saudi Arabia's religious police (known as the Mutawa'een) and charged with sorcery while visiting the country in May 2008. Sibat was in Saudi Arabia to perform the Islamic religious pilgrimage known as Umra.

Sibat was then put on trial. In November 2009, a court in the Saudi city of Medina found Sibat guilty and sentenced him to death.

According to El Khansa, Sibat appealed the verdict. The case was taken up by the Court of Appeal in the Saudi city of Mecca on the grounds that the initial verdict was "premature."

El Khansa tells CNN that the Mecca appeals court then sent the case back to the original court for reconsideration, stipulating that all charges made against Sibat needed to be verified and that he should be given a chance to repent.

On March 10, judges in Medina upheld their initial verdict, meaning Sibat is once again sentenced to be executed.

"The Medina court refused the sentence of the appeals court," said El Khansa, adding her client will appeal the verdict once more.

The case has been covered extensively by local media. According to Arab News, an English language Saudi daily newspaper, after the most recent verdict was issued, the judges in Medina issued a statement expressing that Sibat deserved to be executed for having continually practiced black magic on his show, adding that this sentence would deter others from practicing sorcery. Arab News reports that the case will now return to the appeals court in Mecca.

CNN has not been able to reach Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Justice for comment.

A new King Tut exhibit at the Met --
Tutankhamun's Funeral - A New King Tut Exhibition at New York's Met
Submitted by Ann on Thu, 03/18/2010 - 11:14
In 1908, more than a decade before the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb, American retired lawyer and archaeologist Theodore Davis made a remarkable discovery. While excavating in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, he unearthed about a dozen large storage jars. Their contents included broken pottery, bags of natron, bags of sawdust, floral collars, and pieces of linen with markings from years 6 and 8 during the reign of a then little-known pharaoh named Tutankhamun. The significance of the find was not immediately understood, and the objects entered the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art as a mystery. It was only several years later, after further excavations and study, that the Museum’s Herbert E. Winlock was able to identify them: the small cache contained the remains from the embalming and funeral of King Tut. These objects now get their own exhibition - Tutankhamun's Funeral - which runs at New York's Met until November 6th.

Wild Horses!  No - not the Rolling Stones' song covered by Susan Boyle and countless other singers -- the real deal - mustangs.  Turns out babies aren't the only ones who respond to rhythms:

Wild Horses Respond to Native American Drumming
Analysis by Jennifer Viegas | Thu Mar 18, 2010 01:44 PM ET
... One sunny afternoon, when they had finished their tasks, the students and a few elders within their group brought a tribal drum to the site, much to the surprise of the instructors and staff.

"It seemed to just be a spontaneous happening," Starr told me.

The students sat around the instrument and began to chant and drum.

"When this happened, the horses followed the drums and, mesmerized, made a semi-circle around the students," Starr said. "Most of the kids were so involved in the drumming that they didn't notice, even though the horses had gathered just 12 to 20 feet away. It was so moving that many of us watching were crying." ...

Chess Divas Simul for Haiti Relief

Sorry for the short notice -  I just learned about this right now (literally) at the USCF website:

Chess Diva Show Invites All Blitz Comers to Support Haiti Relief
March 18, 2010

Barbara and Lauren Goodkind of "Chess Diva" are taking on all blitz comers from March 20-21st in Palo Alto. Proceeds will benefit UNICEF for Haiti. Lauren told CLO that she was also happy to see so many other chessplayers raising money for Haiti and that "anyone can make a positive difference." See details of their event below.

Nationally ranked chess players Barbara and Lauren Goodkind, producers of the award winning local access TV show “Chess Diva,” will play 5-minute blitz games against the public. Non chess players will find it entertaining to watch! Parents, bring your kids!

•Dates: Saturday and Sunday, March 20th and 21st.
•Times: 10:00 to 4:30 on both days
•Location: Lytton Plaza at 202 University Ave, Palo Alto (next to Pizza My Heart)•Suggested Donation: $5 per 5-minute blitz game
•Good Cause: All proceeds will go to UNICEF for Haiti.

Read more about how chessplayers helped raise money for Haiti in CLO stories about Kapil Chandran's benefit simul, Ashkay Malhotra's 150 Games for Haiti Relief, FM Mike Klein's exhibition, expert Luke Harmon-Vellotti's exhibition, The Chess Without Borders Fundraiser and Daaim Shabazz's call for help. Daaim has also posted information on a fundraising effort for Sabine Bonnet and will contribute an upcoming article about the crisis and how it relates to the chess community in Chess Life Magazine.

Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Federation - News & Upcoming Events

Some news from the March, 2010 WSCF newsletter:

New WSCF Office
WSCF has opened an office in Milwaukee at 2803 N. Teutonia in the 53206 zip code area. The office is located in the " Coffee Makes You Black " building. The building was once a bank and was built in the 1920's. It has beautiful Greco Roman architecture and is very spacious. Come by for coffee or a game of chess during business hours of 8:30 to 6:00. The WSCF office is located on the second level.

Grant Funding Available
WSCF has received a donation to provide funding for student chess lessons. Please send an email or letter of intent to Bob Pattersoon-Sumwalt at or mail to P.O. Box 170843 Milwaukee, WI 53217.

REMINDER!  Here are two upcoming events exclusively for the chess femmes!

Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Federation’s
Saturday April 10, 2010

Sponsored by Acuity Insurance
Location: Acuity Insurance Corporate Office 2800 S. Taylor Drive Sheboygan, WI 53081

Three Sections K – 3 K – 6 Open (K-12) 5 Round Swiss G30
WSCF K - 3 Three Team Trophies. Individual trophies to top 5 players.
WSCF K – 6 Three Team Trophies. Individual trophies to top 5 players.
WSCF Open (K – 12) Three Team Trophies. Individual trophies to top 5 players
Medals to all participants.

K – 3 $ 100 to Champion
K – 6 $ 200 to Champion
Open $ 400 to Champion, $200 to 2nd Place, $100 to 3rd Place

No Entry FEE Register on line at before Thursday
April 8th at 11: 00 pm. There will be no onsite registration.

Each entrant, parents and coaches will receive a free lunch. Each participant will receive a
tournament T-shirt. Scholarships provided by Acuity Insurance.

Acuity will pay for buses to transport students from Kenosha/Racine, Madison and Green Bay.
Students living in Milwaukee can ride on a bus provided by Milwaukee Public Schools. Contact
WSCF at for more information.

8:15 – 9:00 Check in. 9:30 Round 1 9:45 Presentation and discussion lead by Bob
Patterson-Sumwalt on “Why Chess for Kids, Using Chess as an educational tool in the classroom and how to run a chess club” 11:00 – 3:00 Free Game Analysis 10:00 – 2:00 Free Lunch and Snacks. 3:00 – 4:00 Awards

At least one designated adult supervisor must be present at all times during the tournament to
oversee your school’s team, or individual participants who are in K through 8th grade.

WSCF reserves the rights to change the number of trophies depending upon number or registrations. Divisions maybe combined if the number of participants warrant. Inclement Weather: In case of inclement weather please go to the WSCF website before 7:30 am on April 10th to determine if the tournament is delayed, postponed or cancelled.

REGISTER for bus trip and hotel room (shared) to and from the USCF sponsored National All Girls Chess Championships to be held in Columbus, Ohio April 16 - 18, 2010.  This is for transportation and hotel only.  Registration for the event is through USCF website.

Friday, March 19, 2010

9 Queens - Upcoming Events!

Visit the 9Queens website!

Short notice for the 9 Queens Academy this Sunday in Tucson, Arizona - but if you are in the area and can make it, really worthwhile:

9 Queens Academy
For the ladies- do not miss a spectacular 9 Queens Academy this Sunday, March 21 from 2-4 pm at Bookmans on Grant and Campbell. National Master Leo Martinez will be teaching a tantalizing lesson on winning tempo in the opening, while expert Amanda Mateer will show you how to make the most out of exchanging pieces (especially the Queen). This workshop is free and open to female chess players of all ages and abilities. Many thanks to Bookmans for their continued sponsorship of our 9 Queens Academy Series.

3rd Annual Chess Fest
It's that time of year again! 9 Queens is thrilled to partner with the Hotel Congress to host the 3rd Annual Chess Fest on April 10 from 2-5 pm. This year's Chess Fest will be better than ever featuring: blitz tournament, free chess lessons, face painting, live music and a human chess match played on a life-size board. All activities are free and open to EVERYONE.

DNA Study of Dogs Points to Domestication in the Middle East

I thought I may have posted the earlier article from September, 2009, about a DNA study indicating that dogs were first domesticated in southern China - to be used as food!  Oh Goddess!  I think I was so appalled by the thought that I didn't post it, because I could not find a link anywhere in this blog to the story.  But here is a sampling of the coverage at the time the story of dog-as-food-in-ancient-China first broke:
Dogs First Tamed in China -- To Be Food?
John Roach for National Geographic News
September 4, 2009

Dogs Domesticated for Meat
Live Science
Submitted by Jeanna Bryner
posted: 08 September 2009 10:44 am ET

In Taming Dogs, Humans May Have Sought a Meal
The New York Times
Published: September 7, 2009

It seems, however, that there may have been an intermediary intermingling of already domesticated dogs that travelled from the Middle East into China with the local wolves, the offspring of which were then re-domesticated by the Chinese - for food!  Oh Goddess.

Well, I know, I know, different cultures and all that.  But - ohmygoddess! 

Here is the story about this new DNA study regarding domestication of the dog:

New Finding Puts Origins of Dogs in Middle East
Published: March 17, 2010

Borrowing methods developed to study the genetics of human disease, researchers have concluded that dogs were probably first domesticated from wolves somewhere in the Middle East, in contrast to an earlier survey suggesting dogs originated in East Asia.

This finding puts the first known domestication — that of dogs — in the same place as the domestication of plants and other animals, and strengthens the link between the first animal to enter human society and the subsequent invention of agriculture about 10,000 years ago.

A Middle Eastern origin for the dog also fits in better with the archaeological evidence, and has enabled geneticists to reconstruct the entire history of the dog, from the first association between wolves and hunter gatherers some 20,000 years ago to the creation by Victorian dog fanciers of many of today’s breeds.

A research team led by Bridgett M. vonHoldt and Robert K. Wayne of the University of California, Los Angeles, has analyzed a large collection of wolf and dog genomes from around the world. Scanning for similar runs of DNA, the researchers found that the Middle East was where wolf and dog genomes were most similar, although there was another area of overlap between East Asian wolves and dogs. Wolves were probably first domesticated in the Middle East, but after dogs had spread to East Asia there was a crossbreeding that injected more wolf genes into the dog genome, the researchers conclude in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.

The archaeological evidence supports this idea, since some of the earliest dog remains have been found in the Middle East, dating from 12,000 years ago. The only earlier doglike remains occur in Belgium, at a site 31,000 years old, and in western Russia from 15,000 years ago.

Humans lived as roaming hunters and gatherers for most of their existence. Dr. Wayne believes that wolves began following hunter-gatherer bands to feed on the wounded prey, carcasses or other refuse. At some stage a group of wolves, who happened to be smaller and less threatening than most, developed a dependency on human groups, and may in return have provided a warning system.

Several thousand years later, in the first settled communities that began to appear in the Middle East 15,000 years ago, people began intervening in the breeding patterns of their camp followers, turning them into the first proto-dogs. One of the features they selected was small size, continuing the downsizing of the wolf body plan. “I think a long history such as that would explain how a large carnivore, which can eat you, eventually became stably incorporated in human society,” Dr. Wayne said.

The wolf DNA in the study was collected over many years by Dr. Wayne from wolf packs around the world. A colleague, Elaine Ostrander, gathered much of the dog DNA by persuading owners at dog shows to let her take a scraping of cells from inside the cheek. The dog genome has been decoded twice: scientists at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., have sequenced the boxer’s genome, and Craig Venter, a pioneer of DNA sequencing, has decoded his poodle’s genome.

With these two genomes in hand, the Broad Institute designed a dog SNP chip, similar to those used to scan the human for genetic disease. SNPs, or “snips,” are sites of common variation along the DNA. Affymetrix, a SNP chip maker, manufactured the dog SNP chip for Dr. Wayne’s team, letting him have 1,000 chips free, though thereafter they cost $250 apiece. The dog SNP chip brought to light the close relationship between dogs and wolves in the Middle East and also the genetic relationship between various breeds.

Dr. Wayne was surprised to find that all the herding dogs grouped together, as did all the sight hounds and the scent hounds, making a perfect match between dogs’ various functions and the branches on the genetic tree. “I thought there would be many ways to build a herding dog and that they’d come from all over the tree, but there are not,” Dr. Wayne said.

His team has also used the dog SNP chip to scan for genes that show signatures of selection. One such favored dog gene has a human counterpart that has been implicated in Williams syndrome, where it causes exceptional gregariousness. Another two selected genes are involved in memory. Dogs, unlike wolves, are adept at taking cues from human body language, and the two genes could have something to do with this faculty, Dr. Wayne said.

An earlier survey of dog origins, based on a small genetic element known as mitochondrial DNA, concluded that dogs had been domesticated, probably just once, in East Asia. The author of the survey, Peter Savolainen of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, said he was not convinced by the new report for several reasons, including that it did not sample dogs in East Asia from south of the Yangtze, the region where the diversity of mitochondrial DNA is highest. Also archaeologists in China have been less interested in distinguishing dog and wolf remains, he said.

Two other experts on dog genetics, Carlos Driscoll and Stephen O’Brien, of the National Cancer Institute, said they believed that Dr. Wayne’s team had made a convincing case. “I think they have nailed the locale of dog domestication to the Middle East,” Dr. O’Brien said in an e-mail message from Siberia, where he is attending a tiger management workshop.

Dog domestication and human settlement occurred at the same time, some 15,000 years ago, raising the possibility that dogs may have had a complex impact on the structure of human society. Dogs could have been the sentries that let hunter gatherers settle without fear of surprise attack. They may also have been the first major item of inherited wealth, preceding cattle, and so could have laid the foundations for the gradations of wealth and social hierarchy that differentiated settled groups from the egalitarianism of their hunter-gatherer predecessors. Notions of inheritance and ownership, Dr. Driscoll said, may have been prompted by the first dogs to permeate human society, laying an unexpected track from wolf to wealth.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Unidentifiable Object Uncovered in Kent Excavation

Okay, it's round - it is composed of silver, bronze and wood, it's got holes in it.  What is it? 

17 March 2010
Saxon artefact found in Kent dig vexes technology

A Saxon object which was uncovered in an archaeological dig in Kent cannot be identified by experts.

The circular silver, bronze and wooden disk was found in a Saxon burial ground at The Meads, Sittingbourne, in 2008.

Despite using microscopes, X-rays and reading articles about burial grounds, the Canterbury Archaeological Trust (CAT) has been unable to identify it.

CAT believe that the object could be a decorative form of mount as it was discovered next to a sword.

Finds manager of CAT Andrew Richardson said: "We don't currently recognise it, but it may be a decorative mount on something, but we don't know what it's mounted on.

Shopping centre laboratory

"We'll analyse the wood on the back, to see what sort of wood it is and see whether it was attached to an item.

"We've been trawling thought the literature, and we'll look at its relationship to other finds in the grave and see if we can figure out by looking at the corrosion of objects how it relates to other items."

The disc was discovered with about 2,500 other objects at The Meads burial ground.

The items are currently undergoing a cleaning and identification process at a temporary laboratory in the Forum Shopping Centre by a group of experts and volunteers who have been specially trained.
Discovered "next to a sword."  Okay, well I suppose if it was mount of some kind on the sword it could have been knocked off during the burial process.  Or possibly it could have been pushed off some time after the burial due to earth shifts from freezing and thawing or some other force?  Just guessing here - I'm sure it wasn't the deceased who decided to wake up one day and just rip the thing off the sword.  That is, if it was on the sword to begin with.

When I first saw it, I thought it might have something to do with horse tack.  But we weren't given any dimensions in the article -

Huge 'Monkey' Statue of Thoth Uncovered in Egypt

This story was reported by The Singapore Straits Times...

Mar 16, 2010
Huge monkey god statue found
CAIRO - EGYPTIAN archaeologists have discovered a colossal ancient statue of the pharaonic deity of wisdom, Thoth, in the shape of a baboon, the council of antiquities said in a statement on Tuesday.

The four-metre tall statue was discovered in four pieces along with two statues while workers were lowering ground waters beneath Luxor to help preserve the city's pharaonic temples, the statement said. It dates back to the 18th Dynasty, which ruled Egypt until 1292 BC.

'It is the first time that a statue of Thoth, depicting him as a monkey, of this magnitude has been discovered,' Mansur Boraik, head of pharaonic antiquities in Luxor, told AFP.

The statues were discovered near the temple of Amenhotep III, who ruled until 1372 BC.

Another statue, of which only the upper half was found, depicted the king and the sky god Horus, represented as a falcon, antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said in the statement.

'The team also discovered an alabaster statue base that is expected to have been the base of one of Amenhotep III's statues,' he said.

A granite statue of the pharaoh Ramses III, who ruled about 3,000 years ago, was also found. -- AFP

European Individual Women's Chess Championship

Open mouth insert foot!  I spoke too soon about GM Monika Socko winning the Women's Bronze Medal.  Play-offs going on today.  I think I also mentioned board prizes in my post yesterday - well, duh, Jan - there are no board prizes because this isn't a team event. That's what happens when one is tired and trying to post and make sense.  Oh well.

So, I'm at the official website for the Championships trying to figure out who won the women's Bronze medal and I'm not finding what I need.  Then I checked to see who the qualifiers are for - not sure what the hell (either the Women's World Chess Championship or the World Cup - maybe the former since the last World Cup was last year and the previous WWCC was in 2008, won by GM Alexandra Kosteniuk in Nalchick [where?] - somewhere in the region where all the unrest has occurred in Russia).  Can't find them either. Then I check under "News" and find this:

... and for the bronze medal there were 5 player playing rapid tie-breaks. After 3 rounds, the 3rd place was won by the Polish Monika Socko.  ... 14 female players qualified for the World Championships.

I'm so glad Socko was able to confirm third place for herself.  She had a good tournament and really impressed me.  Not that impressing me means anything, darlings! 

So, that's about that for this year.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Host of Mummies, a Forest of Secrets

There is a reason The New York Times is one of the best newspapers in the world.  This article proves it for me - what a great article!  Bringing the mummies of the Tarim Basin out of PBS land (which, unfortunately, most Americans do not watch) into the popular press - and what a story they tell.  Best of all, an exhibition of the Tarim Basin mummies opens March 27 at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, Calif. — the first time that the mummies will be seen outside Asia, as part of a larger exhibit "Secres of the Silk Road."  Running through July 25, 2010.  Wow. 

The NYT article has an interactive feature over 17 minutes long and photographs, too.  Check it out!  Text is  below. 

Published: March 15, 2010
In the middle of a terrifying desert north of Tibet, Chinese archaeologists have excavated an extraordinary cemetery. Its inhabitants died almost 4,000 years ago, yet their bodies have been well preserved by the dry air.

The cemetery lies in what is now China’s northwest autonomous region of Xinjiang, yet the people have European features, with brown hair and long noses. Their remains, though lying in one of the world’s largest deserts, are buried in upside-down boats. And where tombstones might stand, declaring pious hope for some god’s mercy in the afterlife, their cemetery sports instead a vigorous forest of phallic symbols, signaling an intense interest in the pleasures or utility of procreation.

The long-vanished people have no name, because their origin and identity are still unknown. But many clues are now emerging about their ancestry, their way of life and even the language they spoke.

Their graveyard, known as Small River Cemetery No. 5, lies near a dried-up riverbed in the Tarim Basin, a region encircled by forbidding mountain ranges. Most of the basin is occupied by the Taklimakan Desert, a wilderness so inhospitable that later travelers along the Silk Road would edge along its northern or southern borders.

In modern times the region has been occupied by Turkish-speaking Uighurs, joined in the last 50 years by Han settlers from China. Ethnic tensions have recently arisen between the two groups, with riots in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. A large number of ancient mummies, really desiccated corpses, have emerged from the sands, only to become pawns between the Uighurs and the Han.

The 200 or so mummies have a distinctively Western appearance, and the Uighurs, even though they did not arrive in the region until the 10th century, have cited them to claim that the autonomous region was always theirs. Some of the mummies, including a well-preserved woman known as the Beauty of Loulan, were analyzed by Li Jin, a well-known geneticist at Fudan University, who said in 2007 that their DNA contained markers indicating an East Asian and even South Asian origin.

The mummies in the Small River Cemetery are, so far, the oldest discovered in the Tarim Basin. Carbon tests done at Beijing University show that the oldest part dates to 3,980 years ago. A team of Chinese geneticists has analyzed the mummies’ DNA.

Despite the political tensions over the mummies’ origin, the Chinese said in a report published last month in the journal BMC Biology that the people were of mixed ancestry, having both European and some Siberian genetic markers, and probably came from outside China. The team was led by Hui Zhou of Jilin University in Changchun, with Dr. Jin as a co-author.

All the men who were analyzed had a Y chromosome that is now mostly found in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Siberia, but rarely in China. The mitochondrial DNA, which passes down the female line, consisted of a lineage from Siberia and two that are common in Europe. Since both the Y chromosome and the mitochondrial DNA lineages are ancient, Dr. Zhou and his team conclude the European and Siberian populations probably intermarried before entering the Tarim Basin some 4,000 years ago.

The Small River Cemetery was rediscovered in 1934 by the Swedish archaeologist Folke Bergman and then forgotten for 66 years until relocated through GPS navigation by a Chinese expedition. Archaeologists began excavating it from 2003 to 2005. Their reports have been translated and summarized by Victor H. Mair, a professor of Chinese at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert in the prehistory of the Tarim Basin.

As the Chinese archaeologists dug through the five layers of burials, Dr. Mair recounted, they came across almost 200 poles, each 13 feet tall. Many had flat blades, painted black and red, like the oars from some great galley that had foundered beneath the waves of sand.

At the foot of each pole there were indeed boats, laid upside down and covered with cowhide. The bodies inside the boats were still wearing the clothes they had been buried in. They had felt caps with feathers tucked in the brim, uncannily resembling Tyrolean mountain hats. They wore large woolen capes with tassels and leather boots. A Bronze Age salesclerk from Victoria’s Secret seems to have supplied the clothes beneath — barely adequate woolen loin cloths for the men, and skirts made of string strands for the women.

Within each boat coffin were grave goods, including beautifully woven grass baskets, skillfully carved masks and bundles of ephedra, an herb that may have been used in rituals or as a medicine.

In the women’s coffins, the Chinese archaeologists encountered one or more life-size wooden phalluses laid on the body or by its side. Looking again at the shaping of the 13-foot poles that rise from the prow of each woman’s boat, the archaeologists concluded that the poles were in fact gigantic phallic symbols.

The men’s boats, on the other hand, all lay beneath the poles with bladelike tops. These were not the oars they had seemed at first sight, the Chinese archaeologists concluded, but rather symbolic vulvas that matched the opposite sex symbols above the women’s boats. “The whole of the cemetery was blanketed with blatant sexual symbolism,” Dr. Mair wrote. In his view, the “obsession with procreation” reflected the importance the community attached to fertility.

Arthur Wolf, an anthropologist at Stanford University and an expert on fertility in East Asia, said that the poles perhaps mark social status, a common theme of tombs and grave goods. “It seems that what most people want to take with them is their status, if it is anything to brag about,” he said.

Dr. Mair said the Chinese archaeologists’ interpretation of the poles as phallic symbols was “a believable analysis.” The buried people’s evident veneration of procreation could mean they were interested in both the pleasure of sex and its utility, given that it is difficult to separate the two. But they seem to have had particular respect for fertility, Dr. Mair said, because several women were buried in double-layered coffins with special grave goods.

Living in harsh surroundings, “infant mortality must have been high, so the need for procreation, particularly in light of their isolated situation, would have been great,” Dr. Mair said. Another possible risk to fertility could have arisen if the population had become in-bred. “Those women who were able to produce and rear children to adulthood would have been particularly revered,” Dr. Mair said.

Several items in the Small River Cemetery burials resemble artifacts or customs familiar in Europe, Dr. Mair noted. Boat burials were common among the Vikings. String skirts and phallic symbols have been found in Bronze Age burials of Northern Europe.

There are no known settlements near the cemetery, so the people probably lived elsewhere and reached the cemetery by boat. No woodworking tools have been found at the site, supporting the idea that the poles were carved off site.

The Tarim Basin was already quite dry when the Small River people entered it 4,000 years ago. They probably lived at the edge of survival until the lakes and rivers on which they depended finally dried up around A.D. 400. Burials with felt hats and woven baskets were common in the region until some 2,000 years ago.

The language spoken by the people of the Small River Cemetery is unknown, but Dr. Mair believes it could have been Tokharian, an ancient member of the Indo-European family of languages. Manuscripts written in Tokharian have been discovered in the Tarim Basin, where the language was spoken from about A.D. 500 to 900. Despite its presence in the east, Tokharian seems more closely related to the “centum” languages of Europe than to the “satem” languages of India and Iran. The division is based on the words for hundred in Latin (centum) and in Sanskrit (satam).

The Small River Cemetery people lived more than 2,000 years before the earliest evidence for Tokharian, but there is “a clear continuity of culture,” Dr. Mair said, in the form of people being buried with felt hats, a tradition that continued until the first few centuries A.D.

Is Rhythm in our Genes?

Fascinating article about babies and music - specifically, rhythms in music.

Babies Are Born to Dance livescience Staff – Mon Mar 15, 3:25 pm ET
Babies love a beat, according to a new study that found dancing comes naturally to infants.

The research showed babies respond to the rhythm and tempo of music, and find it more engaging than speech.

The findings, based on a study of 120 infants between 5 months and 2 years old, suggest that humans may be born with a predisposition to move rhythmically in response to music.

"Our research suggests that it is the beat rather than other features of the music, such as the melody, that produces the response in infants," said researcher Marcel Zentner, a psychologist at the University of York in England. "We also found that the better the children were able to synchronize their movements with the music, the more they smiled."

To test babies' dancing disposition, the researchers played recordings of classical music, rhythmic beats and speech to infants, and videotaped the results. They also recruited professional ballet dancers to analyze how well the babies matched their movements to the music.

During the experiments, the babies were sitting on a parent's lap, though the adults had headphones to make sure they couldn't hear the music and were instructed not to move.

The researchers found the babies moved their arms, hands, legs, feet, torsos and heads in response to the music, much more than to speech.

Though the ability appears to be innate in humans, the researchers aren't sure why it evolved. [Yeah, well, if you buy the evolution thing, then this just doesn't make any sense at all, does it? I mean, what does having a sense of musical rhythym have to do with survival of the fittest and all that jazz? Oh, I made a pun, sort of.]

"It remains to be understood why humans have developed this particular predisposition," Zentner said. "One possibility is that it was a target of natural selection for music or that it has evolved for some other function that just happens to be relevant for music processing."

Zentner and his colleague Tuomas Eerola, from the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Interdisciplinary Music Research at the University of Jyvaskyla, in Finland, detailed their findings in the March 15 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

European Individual Women's Chess Championship

It's over - and a woman who earned one of the earliest GM titles back in the early 1990s won it with an incredible 9.0/11 - GM Pia Cramling!  Yaaaaaahhhhhh!  She played and defeated IM Viktorija Cmilyte who led going into the final round.  Well done.  And GM Monika Socko recovered enough to take over third place.

Here are the top finishers:

Rk. Name FED RtgI Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3 Rp n w we w-we K rtg+/-
1 GM Cramling Pia SWE 2523 9,0 0 61,5 74,5 2677 11 9 7,06 1,94 10 19,4
2 IM Cmilyte Viktorija LTU 2485 8,5 0 59,5 73,5 2622 11 8,5 6,56 1,94 10 19,4
3 GM Socko Monika POL 2465 8,0 0 63,5 77,5 2595 11 8 6,16 1,84 10 18,4
4 GM Kosintseva Tatiana RUS 2524 8,0 0 63,0 76,0 2595 11 8 7,01 0,99 10 9,9
5 GM Sebag Marie FRA 2506 8,0 0 60,5 73,5 2555 11 8 7,34 0,66 10 6,6
6 WGM Zhukova Natalia UKR 2492 8,0 0 60,5 72,5 2556 11 8 7,13 0,87 10 8,7
7 IM Dembo Yelena GRE 2457 8,0 0 57,0 69,5 2545 11 8 6,73 1,27 10 12,7
8 GM Stefanova Antoaneta BUL 2555 7,5 0 65,5 80,5 2552 11 7,5 7,42 0,08 10 0,8
9 IM Muzychuk Anna SLO 2533 7,5 0 63,5 77,0 2550 11 7,5 7,18 0,32 10 3,2
10 IM Kosintseva Nadezhda RUS 2554 7,5 0 61,0 74,5 2540 11 7,5 7,63 -0,13 10 -1,3
11 IM Muzychuk Mariya UKR 2444 7,5 0 61,0 74,5 2550 11 7,5 5,87 1,63 10 16,3
12 IM Khurtsidze Nino GEO 2434 7,5 0 60,5 74,0 2526 11 7,5 6,06 1,44 10 14,4
13 IM Skripchenko Almira FRA 2456 7,5 0 60,0 73,5 2514 11 7,5 6,59 0,91 10 9,1
14 IM Ushenina Anna UKR 2452 7,5 0 58,0 70,5 2511 11 7,5 6,58 0,92 10 9,2
15 IM Rajlich Iweta POL 2459 7,5 0 56,5 70,0 2477 11 7,5 7,16 0,34 10 3,4
16 WFM Ziaziulkina Nastassia BLR 2188 7,5 0 56,5 69,0 2543 11 7,5 2,48 5,02 15 75,3
17 IM Kovalevskaya Ekaterina RUS 2438 7,5 0 53,0 66,0 2457 11 7,5 7,12 0,38 10 3,8

Here's how some of my favorites did (out of 150 players):

36 IM Melia Salome GEO 2467 6,5 0 54,5 65,5 2369 11 6,5 7,82 -1,32 10 -13,2
I figure she's disappointed with her back-to-back losses in Rounds 9 and 10. She has lost ratings points, not a good thing. My guess is she was tired out from a heavy schedule since the beginning of the year.
88 WIM Kazimova Narmin AZE 2212 5,5 0 46,0 56,0 2226 11 5,5 5,03 0,47 15 7,1
98 WGM Calzetta Ruiz Monica ESP 2296 5,0 0 49,0 59,0 2193 11 5 6,01 -1,01 15 -15,1
105 WIM Paikidze Nazi GEO 2322 5,0 0 44,5 56,0 2169 11 5 7,24 -2,24 15 -33,6

GM Susan Polgar has reported at her chess blogIn spite of the loss in the last round, Cmilyte earned an 11 game GM norm. Her rating will also pass 2500. Zhukova also gained nearly 9 points which should put her rating above 2500. Since she already had 3 GM norms, she should be awarded the GM title shortly.

Lots more coverage, of course, at Susan Polgar's blog.

This is good news - we need more women earning GM titles and pushing their ratings up - way up - above 2600.  Yeah, I don't ask for too much, do I. 

Tie-breaks are tomorrow.  I didn't see any awards announced yet for board prizes and officially the medal winners haven't been announced either - at least, when I clicked on the link at the offical website, I got one of those error messages. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

European Individual Women's Chess Championship

Top chess femmes' standings after R10 (1 more to go - R11 will decide who gets the marbles):

Rk. Name FED RtgI Pts.
1 IM Cmilyte Viktorija LTU 2485 8,5
2 GM Cramling Pia SWE 2523 8,0
3 GM Socko Monika POL 2465 7,5
4 GM Sebag Marie FRA 2506 7,5
5 GM Stefanova Antoaneta BUL 2555 7,0
6 IM Muzychuk Anna SLO 2533 7,0 
7 GM Kosintseva Tatiana RUS 2524 7,0
8 WGM Zawadzka Jolanta POL 2404 7,0 
9 IM Moser Eva AUT 2437 7,0
10 WGM Zhukova Natalia UKR 2492 7,0
11 IM Skripchenko Almira FRA 2456 7,0 
12 IM Ushenina Anna UKR 2452 7,0
13 IM Dembo Yelena GRE 2457 7,0
14 WGM Savina Anastasia RUS 2391 7,0

Largest Statue of Thoth Yet Discovered

There has been a LOT of press out of Egypt and about discoveries in Egypt the last six weeks or so - just amazing.  Zahi is on a real blitzkrieg.  Wonder why.  It couldn't have anything to do with those anti-Jewish comments he made -- well, whatever.  He's doing a good job for Egypt, and I will not discount that.

I honestly cannot tell if this news release is a rehash of recent news or if it is news of totally new discoveries.  The information about the red granite statue of Thoth, though, is news to me!

Statue of King Tut's grandfather unearthed
Posted 4 hours 7 minutes ago

Egyptian archaeologists have discovered two red granite statues in Luxor, including one of Tutankhamun's grandfather Amenhotep III, who reigned about 3,350 years ago, Egypt's antiquities chief said.

The second statue was of the ancient Egyptian god of wisdom Thoth, Zahi Hawass said. At four metres high, it is one of the biggest statues of the deity yet discovered.

The statues, both more than 3,000 years old, were found at the funerary temple of Amenhotep III in Kom el-Hetan on Luxor's west bank.

Last month scientists said DNA tests and CT scans on a number of mummies indicated teenage King Tutankhamun was born of an incestuous marriage between Akhenaten and his sister, both the offspring of Amenhotep III.

Some of ancient Egypt's biggest monuments were constructed during the reign of Amenhotep III during the 18th Dynasty.

The pharaoh's funerary temple, the largest religious complex in ancient Egypt, was destroyed by floods.

The Colossi of Memnon, two stone statues of the pharaoh reaching 18 metres high, are all that remain of the complex.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Oxford, Alabama: A Sad Conclusion

The story finally made The New York Times.  Too little, too late.  Not that I'm ever likely to, but Goddess strike me down with lightning should I ever put a toe in Alabama or spend one damn penny in such a place.  Photo: From NYT article.
Oxford Journal
When Scholarship and Tribal Heritage Face Off Against Commerce
Published: March 12, 2010

OXFORD, Ala. — Overlooking the Interstate and an outdoor shopping mall here stands a sad little hill, bald but for four bare trees and a scattering of stones.

Published: March 12, 2010

Lewis Chess Pieces Back in the News (Again)

This is turning into the never-ending story. Image from the British Museum.

European Individual Women's Chess Championship

Standings of the top ladies after R9 (2 more to go).  A big shake-up occurred, holy Goddess!  Socko was dethroned from first place after losing behind the white pieces to Viktorija Cmilyte.  Stefanova is right there in the mix.  Time is running out.

Rk. Name FED RtgI Pts.
1 IM Cmilyte Viktorija LTU 2485 7,5
2 IM Muzychuk Anna SLO 2533 7,0
3 GM Stefanova Antoaneta BUL 2555 7,0 
4 GM Cramling Pia SWE 2523 7,0 
5 GM Socko Monika POL 2465 6,5 
6 GM Kosintseva Tatiana RUS 2524 6,5
7 WGM Zawadzka Jolanta POL 2404 6,5
8 WGM Galojan Lilit ARM 2380 6,5
9 GM Sebag Marie FRA 2506 6,5
10 IM Romanko Marina RUS 2409 6,5
11 IM Ushenina Anna UKR 2452 6,5 
12 IM Dembo Yelena GRE 2457 6,5 
13 IM Muzychuk Mariya UKR 2444 6,0
14 WGM Zhukova Natalia UKR 2492 6,0 
15 IM Khurtsidze Nino GEO 2434 6,0 
16 IM Skripchenko Almira FRA 2456 6,0 
17 GM Hoang Thanh Trang HUN 2487 6,0
18 IM Sedina Elena ITA 2334 6,0 
19 WFM Ziaziulkina Nastassia BLR 2188 6,0 
20 IM Moser Eva AUT 2437 6,0
21 IM Rajlich Iweta POL 2459 6,0
22 WGM Savina Anastasia RUS 2391 6,0 
23 IM Javakhishvili Lela GEO 2500 6,0 
24 WFM Gunina Valentina RUS 2457 6,0 
25 IM Kovalevskaya Ekaterina RUS 2438 6,0
26 WGM Girya Olga RUS 2362 6,0
27 WGM Bodnaruk Anastasia RUS 2384 6,0
28 WGM Kovanova Baira RUS 2385 6,0

Unfortunately, Salome Melia lost her R 9 game:
11 16 IM Melia Salome GEO 2467 5½ 0 - 1 5½ WGM Zawadzka Jolanta POL 2404 32
This victory vaulted Zawadzka all the way into 7th place.  Salome dropped to 40th place.

Looks Ain't Everything

A real "it" girl - Cleopatra!  I find it amazing that people are still debating about her looks!  Geez, get over it.  The lady had "it" - she didn't need to look like Elizabeth Taylor.

From The Smart Set Blog/Drexel University
Tony's Secret Cabinet
Miss Cleo
Just how attractive was Cleopatra anyway?
By Tony Perrottet

If Hollywood epics have taught us anything about the ancient world, it’s that Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt was drop-dead gorgeous. The original femme fatale has only been played by sultry screen goddesses — Claudette Colbert, Vivian Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor. But just how beautiful was she? According to the ancient biographer Plutarch, men were hypnotized not by Cleopatra’s looks but by her wit and charm: Her beauty was “not of the incomparable kind that would astonish everyone who saw her,” he wrote, “but her conversation was irresistibly fascinating, and her character utterly mesmerizing.” She certainly knew how to make a memorable entrance: To meet Mark Anthony on the modern-day coast of Turkey, she arrived in a luxurious gondola dressed as Aphrodite and reclining on a gold bed as naked slaves fanned her with feathers. (The ancients did not share our sense of privacy; the minions would have kept fanning while the couple made love). She also had a sense of humor, apparently switching with ease from erudite bon mots to the dirty barracks-room jokes favored by her soldier beaus. And she knew how to dress for any occasion: She and her raucous lover Mark Anthony were rumored to have had a riotous time slumming in disguise around the waterfront bars of Alexandria.

So what did Miss Personality look like? The problem is that, after her defeat and suicide by cobra-bite, the Romans destroyed almost all statues of her. Cleopatra’s profile on many surviving coins, which were minted in Egypt during her lifetime, is downright ugly: Most depict her with a long, hooked nose that today would make her an advertisement for cosmetic surgery. Combined with a scrawny neck, she has what one curator has called “the features of a bird of prey.” But these coins cannot be taken as serious portraits: Minted during Rome’s civil wars, they were deliberately stylized to show the queen as a fierce and terrifying conqueror-goddess, not a pin-up girl.

Luckily, we do have a single marble bust that is definitely accepted to be of Cleopatra, although the nose is missing. Displayed in the Vatican Museums of Rome, it shows her as a “young, fresh, willful woman” (as one historian eagerly puts it), with large eyes that would have been accentuated with lavish applications of kohl, and full sensual lips with the hint of a smile. Her hair is pulled back into a bun and tied with a headband or diadem. She is not as Egyptian-looking as Hollywood likes to depict — Cleopatra was of Greek ancestry, the last of a dynasty begun by one of Alexander the Great’s generals — but it bears out Plutarch’s verdict that she was attractive without being Venus de Milo.

And Cleopatra’s nose? Throughout most of Western history, a regal schnoz has been regarded as a sign of strong character; it may actually have been exaggerated on coins to show her imposing nature. In the 16th century, the mathematician Pascal would remark: “Had Cleopatra’s nose been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed.” But he was actually admiring the queen’s forceful personality and intelligence, much as people might colloquially refer to impressive cojones today. • 8 March 2010

The Lemba - Black Jews in Zimbabwe

The Lemba are in the news.  This article gives a good overview of their story - fascinating!  I looked for an image (a drawing or photograph) of the ngoma lungundu but did not find one.

From BBC News
Monday, 8 March 2010
Lost Jewish tribe 'found in Zimbabwe'
By Steve Vickers
BBC News, Harare

The Lemba people of Zimbabwe and South Africa may look like their compatriots, but they follow a very different set of customs and traditions.

They do not eat pork, they practise male circumcision, they ritually slaughter their animals, some of their men wear skull caps and they put the Star of David on their gravestones.

Their oral traditions claim that their ancestors were Jews who fled the Holy Land about 2,500 years ago.

It may sound like another myth of a lost tribe of Israel, but British scientists have carried out DNA tests which have confirmed their Semitic origin.

These tests back up the group's belief that a group of perhaps seven men married African women and settled on the continent. The Lemba, who number perhaps 80,000, live in central Zimbabwe and the north of South Africa.

And they also have a prized religious artefact that they say connects them to their Jewish ancestry - a replica of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant known as the ngoma lungundu, meaning "the drum that thunders".

The object went on display recently at a Harare museum to much fanfare, and instilled pride in many of the Lemba.

"For me it's the starting point," says religious singer Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave.

"Very few people knew about us and this is the time to come out. I'm very proud to realise that we have a rich culture and I'm proud to be a Lemba.

"We have been a very secretive people, because we believe we are a special people."

Religion vs culture
The Lemba have many customs and regulations that tally with Jewish tradition.

They wear skull caps, practise circumcision, which is not a tradition for most Zimbabweans, avoid eating pork and food with animal blood, and have 12 tribes.

They slaughter animals in the same way as Jewish people, and they put the Jewish Star of David on their tombstones.

Members of the priestly clan of the Lemba, known as the Buba, were even discovered to have a genetic element also found among the Jewish priestly line.

"This was amazing," said Prof Tudor Parfitt, from the University of London.

"It looks as if the Jewish priesthood continued in the West by people called Cohen, and in same way it was continued by the priestly clan of the Lemba.

"They have a common ancestor who geneticists say lived about 3,000 years ago somewhere in north Arabia, which is the time of Moses and Aaron when the Jewish priesthood started."

Prof Parfitt is a world-renowned expert, having spent 20 years researching the Lemba, and living with them for six months.

The Lemba have a sacred prayer language which is a mixture of Hebrew and Arabic, pointing to their roots in Israel and Yemen.

Despite their ties to Judaism, many of the Lemba in Zimbabwe are Christians, while some are Muslims.

"Christianity is my religion, and Judaism is my culture," explains Perez Hamandishe, a pastor and member of parliament from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Despite their centuries-old traditions, some younger Lemba are taking a more liberal view.

"In the old days you didn't marry a non-Lemba, but these days we interact with others," says Alex Makotore, son of the late Chief Mposi from the Lemba "headquarters" in Mberengwa.

"I feel special in my heart but not in front of others such that I'm separated from them. Culture is dynamic."

The oral traditions of the Lemba say that the ngoma lungundu is the Biblical wooden Ark made by Moses, and that centuries ago a small group of men began a long journey carrying it from Yemen to southern Africa.

The object went missing during the 1970s and was eventually rediscovered in Harare in 2007 by Prof Parfitt.

"Many people say that the story is far-fetched, but the oral traditions of the Lemba have been backed up by science," he says.

Carbon dating shows the ngoma to be nearly 700 years old - pretty ancient, if not as old as Bible stories would suggest.

But Prof Parfitt says this is because the ngoma was used in battles, and would explode and be rebuilt.

The ngoma now on display was a replica, he says, possibly built from the remains of the original.

"So it's the closest descendant of the Ark that we know of," Prof Parfitt says. [Well, that's just silly. If it was really Jehovah God's Ark of the Covenant, even if it blew up during battles would J.G. not miraculously restore it back to its former glory after the battle was over? What kind of God would not do such a miracle?]

Large crowds came to see the unveiling of the ngoma and to attend lectures on the identity of the Lemba.

For David Maramwidze, an elder in his village, the discovery of the ngoma has been a defining moment.

"Hearing from those professors in Harare and seeing the ngoma makes it clear that we are a great people and I'm very proud," he says.

"I heard about it all my life and it was hard for me to believe, because I had no idea of what it really is.

"I'm still seeing the picture of the ngoma in my mind and it will never come out from my brain. Now we want it to be given back to the Lemba people."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Amateurs COUNT!

Sunday, Mar. 14, 2010
Amateur archaeologist to be awarded top honors

When Larry Kinsella was farming the land that now is Pleasant Ridge Park in Fairview Heights, he used to get the tractor and cultivator going straight on a row and then jump off and look for arrowheads in the fresh-turned ground.

"Of course, you had to get back on before you reached the fence," he said.

But still, it was a harbinger of things to come when he would become immersed in amateur archaeology.

The nationally renowned flintknapper will receive the Don Crabtree Award next month at the Society for American Archaeology's annual meeting in St. Louis, April 14-18. The award is in honor of Crabtree, who is the dean of American flintknappers and among the first to establish experimental archaeology, which figures out how ancient people might have created things.

Kinsella said it was probably the most prestigious award an amateur can get.

"It's very flattering, he said. "Someone has to nominate you, and then they ask for letters of recommendation. I hear they have them from people all over the country. I hope I can find out so I can thank them."

Kinsella, who is 65, and his wife, Marilyn, a well-known storyteller, live next to Pleasant Ridge Park in Fairview Heights on land that used to be part of his father's farm.

"I've been interested in archaeology since I was about 19 years old," he said. "I would find arrowheads on the farm and it piqued my interest."

Now he is so well-known that professionals call him to find information. He got a call from an archaeologist around Chicago who was working on a stockade.

"He wanted to know how long it would take to cut five- or six-inch trees with a stone ax," Kinsella said. "That way he could figure out the man-hours in the stockade."

Having cut about 400 trees with a stone ax he had made, Kinsella was able to tell him. He also was amazed to learn that he didn't have to sharpen the stone ax even after all that.

Kinsella said his fascination started with collecting and proceeded when he got to wondering how anyone could make such fascinating work.

"In 1973, I saw a flintknapper at Cahokia Mounds," he said. "I was sitting there watching him for eight hours each day. So a buddy and I started trying. We found we didn't know anything."

That is how the Devil's Hole Knap-In got started. The 30th edition of the event will be in early June. Flintknappers from all over the country come to Pleasant Ridge Park to learn, share what they know and trade materials.

"For the first one we sent letters to every flintknapper we could find, asking them to gather," Kinsella said. "Six or seven showed. One of the guys was a counterfeiter who hoped we knew more than he did. He left right away."

Kinsella said that once you make an arrow point, you want to make the arrow to use it. Then you want to shoot it, so you have to make a bow. Then you find out there were atlatls before there were bows, so you have to make them. You're branching out in all directions.

"You get into primitive skills. You have to make cordage so you can string your bow," he said. "That gets you into processing sinews."

Eventually you become so fanatic that you ask your surgeon to operate on you using a flintknapped black obsidian knife rather than a scalpel. The surgeon politely passed, but Kinsella noted that it had been done before.

He formerly worked as a carpenter for his uncle's company, Kinsella Construction. Even then he was volunteering during evenings and weekends.

Now that he is retired, he is able to do what he really loves. Currently, he is working on a site in Chesterfield, Mo., as a part-time archaeologist on contract.

He is partly responsible for a new generation or artisans who, he said, are doing wonderful things.

"It used to be that people made fakes so they could sell them as real. Now they are made as collectibles with more exotic materials and marked and signed," he said.

Kinsella travels the country, going all over teaching at workshops and flintknapping gatherings.

"We want to pass on what we learned," he said.

Headless Man's Tomb

Poor soul.

Headless Man's Tomb Found Under Maya Torture Mural
"Material evidence" of the ancient images at Mexico's Bonampak site?
John Roach

for National Geographic News
Published March 12, 2010

The tomb of a headless man adorned with jade has been discovered beneath an ancient Mexican chamber famously painted with scenes of torture.

Found under the Temple of Murals at the Maya site of Bonampak, the man was either a captive warrior who was sacrificed—perhaps one of the victims in the mural—or a relative of the city's ruler, scientists speculate (interactive map of the Maya Empire).

Whoever he was, "the place of the burial tells us that the person buried there was special," said anthropologist Emiliano Gallaga Murrieta via e-mail.

Rest of story

Save the Cybele Temple

Bulgaria Archaeologists, Architects Move to Save Cybele Temple
Archaeology | March 12, 2010, Friday

A commission of archaeologists and architects is set on securing a National Monument status for the temple of Greek goddess Cybele in Bulgaria’s Balchik.

The absolutely unique Cybele temple was uncovered by accident in April 2007 at the construction site of a hotel owned by a local entrepreneur.

The special commission has been appointed by Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov in order to figure out how to preserve the temple.

The status of a National Monument is going to bring a total ban of any construction activities in the area of the Cybele temple.

Currently, the invaluable archaeological site lies in the open as it has not been properly conserved because of the dispute of the local authorities with the owner of the plot. The commission plans to build a temporary shelter over the temple.

“We agree to finance the conservation of the temple as long as the Ministry of Culture gives us the legal right to claim it. If we are delayed a bit more, next year there might be no temple to conserve,” the Balchik Mayor Nikolay Angelov has said.

In 2009, he came up with an initiative to expropriate the Cybele temple. However, the owner demanded EUR 1 000 per square meter, or a total of EUR 680 000. The construction of the hotel was halted, and the situation resulted in a stalemate as neither the Municipality, nor any private investor wanted to buy the plot.

The extremely rich temple of goddess Cybele is dated back to the 4th century AD. It is believed to have been shattered, though still well preserved, by an earthquake, or set on fire by barbarian invaders during the reign of Emperor Valens (364-378 AD).

European Individual Women's Chess Championship

Whoa! Standings of top players after R8 (3 more to go):

Rk. Name FED RtgI Pts.
1 GM Socko Monika POL 2465 6,5
2 IM Cmilyte Viktorija LTU 2485 6,5
3 GM Stefanova Antoaneta BUL 2555 6,0
4 IM Muzychuk Anna SLO 2533 6,0 
5 GM Kosintseva Tatiana RUS 2524 6,0
6 IM Khurtsidze Nino GEO 2434 6,0 
7 GM Hoang Thanh Trang HUN 2487 6,0 
8 GM Cramling Pia SWE 2523 6,0 
9 WGM Zhukova Natalia UKR 2492 6,0 
10 IM Dembo Yelena GRE 2457 6,0
11 GM Arakhamia-Grant Ketevan SCO 2447 5,5
12 IM Kosintseva Nadezhda RUS 2554 5,5
13 WGM Zawadzka Jolanta POL 2404 5,5 
14 IM Muzychuk Mariya UKR 2444 5,5
15 WGM Galojan Lilit ARM 2380 5,5 
16 GM Sebag Marie FRA 2506 5,5
17 IM Romanko Marina RUS 2409 5,5
18 WFM Ziaziulkina Nastassia BLR 2188 5,5
19 GM Dzagnidze Nana GEO 2479 5,5 
20 WFM Gunina Valentina RUS 2457 5,5
21 IM Javakhishvili Lela GEO 2500 5,5
22 IM Danielian Elina ARM 2491 5,5
23 IM Ushenina Anna UKR 2452 5,5
24 IM Melia Salome GEO 2467 5,5

Yaaaaahhhh! Salome Melia has pulled up within striking distance of the top - she's only 1 point out. Granted, there are 23 players in front of her.  But there are still 3 rounds to go.  Go - Salome!
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