Saturday, April 3, 2010

Dogs Being Set Up as Scape-Goats

You can just see it coming - it will all be the dogs' fault because they didn't sniff out "remains" properly when wholesale multi-million dollar development starts at the contested sites and further evidence of "Native American" settlements, including burials, are uncovered.  If taxpayers think money is being ill-spent now in utilizing these specially trained sniffer dogs, just wait until they - via the governmental authorities involved - are sued by various NA tribes seeking to recover millions MORE for irreparable damage to their ancient heritage sites.  Will angry taxpayers insist on lynching the sniffing doggies in effigy - or worse - hunt down the offending dogs and kill them, one by one? Only in America...

Story from Peninsula Daily News (Washington state, USA)
By Paul Gottlieb
Last modified: March 31. 2010 12:27AM
Dogs in shoreline archeological survey stick up noses at most locales, but find some areas interesting

PORT ANGELES -- The four forensic canines who patrolled 50 acres of Port Angeles' waterfront late last year for buried Native American remains indicated 93 percent of the area was of "no or insufficient interest," according to a statement released by the city late Tuesday.

None of the dogs alerted at their top level, defined as "on top of a burial," according to the statement.

"In summary, very few areas studied along the waterfront contained enough historic human remains scent to cause specially trained canines to alert to a statistically accepted level," said the statement, released by city spokeswoman Theresa Pierce.

The study, conducted under a $19,200 contract with the Institute for Canine Forensics of Woodside, Calif., showed the remaining 7 percent of the study area was ranked from "some interest by at least one dog" to "great interest by at least two dogs."

The location of the 7 percent that interested the dogs was not announced in the city statement.

Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles said the survey, which she said late Tuesday she had not seen, indicates good news for development interests.

"I think it is good, and hopefully it relieves a lot of the surrounding areas about the potential out there in that aspect," she said.

"Economics is greatly needed in our area."

Charles added that a protocol is in place that ensures the protection of full and isolated remains should they be discovered when development occurs

A shoreline survey conducted last summer by city archeologist Derek Beery showed a medium to high statistical probability that Native American artifacts or remains are present under half of Port Angeles' waterfront.

It encompassed 872 acres and showed general areas of archaeological interest, Beery said at the time.

"The dogs are just one small component of the overall predictive model," city Planning Director Nathan West said Monday.

"There's basically 10 different components of the predictive model that make this come together," West added.

Beery would not be interviewed about the canine project on Monday or Tuesday, saying Monday he would issue a press release on the dogs' findings.

He was not available for comment once the statement was released, which was after City Hall closed to the public on Tuesday.

The area patrolled by the dogs did not include the 75-acre site of the former Rayonier pulp mill east of downtown, Nippon Paper Industries USA west of downtown and an unidentified business.

Rayonier was built on the site of the Elwha Klallam village of Y'ennis, and Nippon was built near the ancient village of Tse-whit-zen.

Representatives of Rayonier and Nippon refused to allow the dogs on their properties when the canines were in Port Angeles from Nov. 30 through Dec. 4.

Charles downplayed the significance of those refusals, saying remains are already known to exist at those sites.

The canine-survey study area included 2,049 units of 100 square meters each


The results were as follows, according to the release:

• 1,900 units were of "no or insufficient interest," or 92.7 percent of the study area, or 46.35 acres
• 83 units were of "some interest by at least one dog," or 4 percent; 2 acres.
• 56 units were ranked "interest by at least two dogs," or 2.8 percent; 1.4 acres.
• 10 units were ranked "great interest by at least two dogs," 0.5 percent, with no acreage given.

The five-year city archaeologist position and the canine study are funded with $7.5 million in settlement money the state of Washington paid the city when Tse-whit-zen was discovered in August 2003 during construction of the state Department of Transportation's failed graving yard project.

"In conjunction with the settlement agreement, we've been asked to focus on the most innovative technology out there to best ascertain the high, medium and low probability areas where cultural resources are in terms of the shoreline," West said.

Macedonian Coins Discovered

Hmmm, take a good hard look at this photo of one of the coins recovered as mentioned in the story below. It does not strike me as a male warrior astride a horse, I think it depicts a female. But hey, what do I know :)  An Amazon - a depiction of one of the mounted female warriors so fearsome they struck terror into the hearts of the archaic all male Greek army? 

Macedonian Archaeologists Discover Ancient Coins near Ohrid

31 March 2010 | Around 20 coins with the image of the father of Alexander the Great, Philip II of Macedon, and “other ancient Macedonian rulers” were found by archaeologists during excavations along the road between the south-western Macedonian towns of Ohrid and Struga, national media reported today.

In addition to the coins, a space with around 1,000 arrows was also discovered, Director of the Cultural Heritage Protection Office Pasko Kuzman told the Alsat-M television station.

The archaeological find was made in the vicinity of the Cyclops Fortress, which – according to Kuzman, dates to the 358 BC when Philip II passed through the area with his army. The fortress, he added, was a strategic military position for the ruler’s army.

Although Philip II of Macedon’s biggest claim to historical claim is perhaps his fathering of Alexander the Great, the ancient Greek personage (382 – 336 BC) was a great ruler and military strategist in his own right, who largely realised his expansionist vision.

Sacred Bees Were Integral to Rosslyn Chapel

Fascinating - a home for the buzzing bees was purposefully built into the Chapel!  Guess we shouldn't be surprised that this ancient symbol of the Goddess (bee) was incorporated into this benchmark of symbolism, whose mysteries have yet to be deciphered to this very day.

From BBC News
Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Tuesday, 30 March 2010 12:35 UK
Rosslyn Chapel was haven for bees

An ancient chapel has revealed a new mystery with the discovery of a 600-year-old hive built into the stones.

Builders renovating Rosslyn Chapel, which was made famous in The Da Vinci Code, found the "unprecedented" hive while dismantling a rooftop pinnacle.

The bees entered the hive through a hole in a carved flower crafted by the chapel's master stone masons (photo, right).

The 15th Century Midlothian building is undergoing a £13m conservation and site improvement project.

The discovery was made when two pinnacles, which had been made unstable by nesting jackdaws, had to be taken down stone by stone and rebuilt.

Malcolm Mitchell, of Page Park Architects, said: "It was a big hollow about the size of a gas cylinder and the hive had obviously been abandoned."

'Teasing' masons

It is believed that the bees left the hive when a canopy was put over the chapel during renovation works. Another pinnacle had a similar hollow, but no access hole.

"Master masons built these in, whether it was under direction or not. What you find at Rosslyn is there are so many irregularities and nuances in the stone work and it's as if the stone masons are teasing us from the past," Mr Mitchell said.

"These hives were never intended to be a source of honey. They were there purely to protect the bees from our inclement weather."

"There doesn't seem to be any precedent.

"Bee hives in the past were normally portable. Often they were made of wicker baskets or ceramics, but the intention was that you would have access to them.

"At Rosslyn they are there purely for the bees."

He said there appeared to be a coating to protect the sandstone from the insects, which can damage masonry.

The hive has been sent to local beekeepers in an attempt to identify the type of insect that made them. It is hoped the bees will return once the renovation works are complete.

Several unusual findings have been made during the project, including two skeletons.
I hope the bees return, too.  They are a very old sign that the Great Mother Goddess has blessed a place.  Did you know that in ancient times, bees were almost always kept by women?  In England, even into the late 19th century, female beekeepers were considered embued with certain powers, including the ability to foretell the future.  I understand that it was said that the bees, who daily saw the secrets of the community on their busy rounds of collecting pollen from local gardens, would confide their secrets to their beekeeper as they returned to the hive in the evening to settle in for the night.  I do not know if this is true, but the character "Queenie" Turrill, as poignantly portrayed in the BBC televisied series "Larkrise to Candleford" by actress Linda Bassett, was clearly depicted as having an almost surreal connection with the bees in her hives, and could foretell certain events that would affect the community based upon the collective behavior of her bees. 

Check out The Bee Goddess.

It's no joke that once again in 2010 there is bad news about the continuing mysterious deaths of countless bee colonies through what is euphimistically called "colony collapse disorder."  Without the bees to pollinate our crops, we are toast, people.  Toast.  A world without bees is a sterile world cast into a downward spiral of famine, starvation and the death of millions of people and animals through lack of food - fruits, vegetables, grains, flowers.  Meanwhile, the scientists argue about what is causing the deaths of billions of our bees, bicker bicker bicker and not a fricking thing is being done to actually SAVE the bees.  Like - DUH! 

"The Last Supper" Foods Deciphered?

It's certainly not ham - biblically proscribed as "unclean," which is what I stuff myself with every Easter!  By the way, the painting depicted to the right is de la Roca's "Last Supper," not Da Vinci's famous painting - but notice the foods/beverages on the table.

Public release date: 30-Mar-2010
Contact: Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins
University of Montreal

Leonardo Da Vinci's 'The Last Supper' reveals more secrets
Universite de Montreal researchers decode food served in legendary painting
Montreal, March 30, 2010 – The Last Supper – relentlessly studied, scrutinized, satirized and one the world's most famous paintings – is still revealing secrets. Researchers Olivier Bauer, Nancy Labonté, Jonas Saint-Martin and Sébastien Fillion of the Université de Montréal Faculty of Theology have found new meaning to the food depicted by Leonardo Da Vinci's famous artwork.

"We asked ourselves why Da Vinci chose those particular foods, because they don't correspond to what the Evangelists described," says Bauer. "Why bread, fish, salt, citrus and wine? Why is the saltshaker tipped over in front of Judas? Why is the bread leavened?"

The four researchers don't buy into the farfetched hypotheses introduced by Dan Brown in his best-selling book, The Da Vinci Code, yet they agree the artist included symbols and commentary in his depiction. He purposely attempted to confuse and fool the observer with contradictory symbols and double-meanings.

For instance, a fallen saltshaker is traditionally a sign of bad luck. The researchers question if instead of indicating the mischief of Judas, the fallen saltshaker could suggest his rehabilitation. He could have been chosen to play the role of the traitor. And why is he the only one with an empty plate? It could mean he is full and mischievous or that he is the only one who isn't fooled?

The fish has also been the topic of several studies. It is clearly a reminder that Jesus spent most of his life around Lake Tiberias and that he selected his Apostles among local fishermen. Yet it isn't clear whether the fish is herring or eel. Some argue Da Vinci was deliberately ambiguous about the species of fish. Eel in Italian is aringa, although when it is spelled arringa it means indoctrination. And herring in northern Italy is renga, meaning he who denies religion.

The painting continues to fascinate and mystify. Its restoration, which took place between 1979 and 1999, has brought to light new details that along with new technology has spurred a new wave of research and interpretation of one of the world's most famous artworks.

Lebanese "Sorcerer" Convicted of Witchcraft Faces Death Sentence

Unfortunately, this isn't an April Fools' joke although the story was published on April 1, 2010.  I posted about this man's arrest earlier but right now I cannot find it so no link to the earlier story is provided.  Sorry.

Lawyer: Saudi could behead Lebanese for witchcraft
By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writer Bassem Mroue, Associated Press Writer – Thu Apr 1, 11:02 am ET
BEIRUT – The lawyer of a Lebanese TV psychic who was convicted in Saudi Arabia for witchcraft said Thursday her client could be beheaded this week and urged Lebanese and Saudi leaders to help spare his life.

Attorney May al-Khansa said she learned from a judicial source that Ali Sibat is to be beheaded on Friday. She added that she does not have any official confirmation of this. Saudi judicial officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

A Lebanese official said Beirut has received no word from its embassy in Riyadh about Sibat's possible execution. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The Saudi justice system, which is based on Islamic law, does not clearly define the charge of witchcraft.

Sibat is one of scores of people reported arrested every year in the kingdom for practicing sorcery, witchcraft, black magic and fortunetelling. These practices are considered polytheism by the government in Saudi Arabia, a deeply religious Muslim country.

Later Thursday, a dozen people demonstrated near the Saudi embassy in Beirut's western neighborhood of Qureitim. Four of the men wore masks to look like executioners and carried a wooden gallows with a cloth bag hanging from it.

One of the men carried a small banner that read in Arabic: "Don't kill."

Al-Khansa said she has called upon Saudi King Abdullah to pardon Sibat, a 49-year-old father of five. She also says she is in contact with Lebanese officials about the case.

She added that Sibat did not make predictions in Saudi Arabia and was neither a Saudi citizen nor a resident in Saudi and therefore should have been deported rather than tried there.

Sibat made predictions on an Arab satellite TV channel from his home in Beirut. He was arrested by the Saudi religious police during his pilgrimage to the holy city of Medina in May 2008 and sentenced to death last November.

"Ali is not a criminal. He did not commit a crime or do anything disgraceful, " al-Khansa said. "The world should help in rescuing a man who has five children, a wife and a seriously ill mother."

She added that Sibat's mother's health has been deteriorating since her son was sentenced to death.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said last year that Sibat's death sentence should be overturned. It also called on the Saudi government to halt "its increasing use of charges of 'witchcraft,' crimes that are vaguely defined and arbitrarily used."

Last year, the rights group presented a series of cases in the kingdom, including that of Saudi woman Fawza Falih, who was sentenced to death by beheading in 2006 for the alleged crimes of "witchcraft, recourse to jinn (supernatural beings)" and animal sacrifice.

On November 2, 2007, Mustafa Ibrahim, an Egyptian pharmacist, was executed for sorcery in the Saudi capital of Riyadh after he was found guilty of having tried "through sorcery" to separate a married couple, Human Rights Watch said.

Qing Ming Festival

So there I was at the office Friday working my fingers off (this is one of our busiest seasons - TAX SEASON), when I receive this email:

Subject: Happy Qing Ming Festival

Dear friends,

On behalf of myself and the firm, I would like to wish you a Happy Qing Ming Festival (清明节). The Qing Ming Festival is an annual Chinese holiday during which local families gather to honor ancestors through song, dance and Spring flowers. Qing Ming is also a time during which many young Chinese couples start courting!

Please note that our Hong Kong offices will be closed from April 2nd to 6th (China Time Zone) for the this holiday. Should you have any cases that require our immediate action, please provide us instructions as soon as possible.

I hope to see you all in Boston at this year's International Trademark Association (INTA) Annual Meeting. Please connect with me through one of my social networks (below) to receive an exclusive invitation to the firm's INTA booth where you can pick up one of our great giveaways!

Best regards,
I have left off the To/From and the signature block at the bottom of the email, but otherwise this is exactly what I received.

It is a mystery, because I do not know the person who sent me this email and as far as I am aware, I have never had any contact with the particular firm.  And Hong Kong?  I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone - still do.  This email has got me wondering if I have an alter-personality who has been showing up at the office during those black-out periods...

Okay...whatever.  The celebration sounds charming - I'm always ready for a party with family and friends, love waxing nostalgic -- I've been doing alot of that lately while I'm on the hunt for ancestors for the Family Tree at -- and I'm always in the mood for spring flowers and courtship by some hunky dude!
So, Happy Qing Ming!

Happy Easter!

I am hot on the trail of some French Newton side of the family ancestors, thanks to help from Rose, who is married to a descendant of my Grandfather Newton's sister!  We "met" at

This is an amazing journey.

But I promise later today I will do more posts - Isis has sent me a ton of stuff and I have some items I want to post about, too.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these chocolate bunnies :  I feel like a cannibal looking at them...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tracing the Family - Update

Wow!  I have been very fortunate that other descendants of the Balenger/Belanger lines through Jean Baptiste Balenger (Balenger) (b. 1787 Yamaska, Quebec, Canada; d. May 12, 1838 in Bay Settlement (Town of Scott), Brown County, Wisconsin, USA) have done thorough research.  Today I added a full line of ancestors through Jean Baptiste back to 1586 Normandie, France (paternal line) and via a maternal line all the way back to 1530 Bourgogne, France.

This is all very very mind-boggling.  I am still having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that there is a paper trail of my ancestors nearly 500 years long.  In my first post, I had traced my particular  Balenger/Belanger line through Jean Baptiste and Angelique Forcier, and then traced the Forcier line all the way back to France:

Guillaume Forcier b. 1623; d. 1690 St. Aubin France m. Sebastienne Gaultier b. 1625, d. 1674 France -- parents of Pierre Forcier b. 1648 in St. Aubin, Nantes, Bregagne (?), France; d. 5/18/1690 in Indian attack St. Francois Du Lac, Quebec, Canada.  He was the first Forcier in this line to tracel to the New World.

Nicolas Girard b. 1610; d. 1671 m. Francoise Huon b. 1620 d. 1725 (she was 105 years old???) -- parents of Marguerite Marie Girard b. 1643 Boulogne Ser Mer, Picardie, France; d. 8/7/1695 Quebec, Quebec, Canada.  Marguerite Marie Girard married Pierre Forcier after both families had emigrated to Quebec, Canada.

Here is the information on Jean Baptiste Balenger (Belanger):

Jean Baptiste Balenger (Balenger) (my great-great-great grandfather)
b. 1787 Yamaska, Quebec, Canada;
d. May 12, 1838 in Bay Settlement (Town of Scott), Brown County, Wisconsin, USA

Son of
Chrysostome P. Belanger b. 2/20/1751 Lislet Sur Mer, Lislet, Quebec, Canada; d. 3/3/1798 Yamaska, Quebec, Canada m. Marie Louise Dit G Godin b. 12/30/1754 Quebec, Canada; d. 3/19 or 3/20/1794 Quebec, Canada

Son of
Pierre Belanger b. 2/4/1727 Canada; d. 10/3/1792 France m. Marie Francoise Bernier b. 7/16/1730 Canada; d. 10/10/1804 Canada.  This line did not continue any further in this particular geneaology.

Now there is a problem, because on a separate genealogy by another descendant of Jean Baptiste Belanger, Chrysostome P. Belanger is the son of Pierre Balenger b. 5/3/1719 Lislet, Quebec, Canada; d. 5/4/1774 Y, Picardie, France m. Anne Clair Fournier b. 1/1/1722 Michigan USA; d. 8/7/1763 Yamaska, Quebec, Canada!  This geneaology line continues as follows:

Son of
Francois Balenger b. 12/12/1686 Quebec, Canada; d. 11/12/1727 Quebec, Canada m. Genevieve Cloutier b. 2/4/1689 Quebec, Canada; d. 5/23/1759 Quebec, Canada.

Son of
Louis Belanger b. 12/18/1654 Canada; d. 10/1/1724 Canada m. Marguerite Lefrancois b. 2/2/1665 Canada; d. 10/29/1735 Canada.

Son of
Francois Belanger b. 10/1612 France; d. 10/25/1685 Canada m. Marie Barbe Guyon b. 3/18/1624 St. Jean, Mortagne, Perche, France; d. 11/27/1700 Cap St. Ignace, Quebec, Canada. This is the first Belanger in my particular family line to arrive in the New World from France.

Son of
Francois Belanger b. 1585 Normandie, France; d. 1640 Normandie France m. Francoise Horlays b. 1590 Normandie, France; d. 1612 Normandie, France.  This is the end of this line of research.

However, there is research further back in the line of Marie Barbe Guyon, the wife of the first Belanger in my particular family line to arrive in the New World from France (Francois Belanger b. 10/1612 France; d. 10/25/1685 Canada):

Daughter of
Jean John Guyon b. 9/18/1592 France; d. 5/30/1663 Canada; no mother listed.

Son of
Jacques Guyon b. 1/6/1578 France; d. 9/29/1623 France; no mother listed.

Son of
Mathurin Guyon b. 1530 Bourgogne, France; d. 1/6/1578 France. (He died the day his son was born?  Wow - wonder what the story is behind that).  Married Mathurine Robin b. 1592 Perche, France; d. 4/16/1662 Canada.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dead Babies Wash Up on Chinese Beach

Dead babies wash up on Chinese beach
Two mortuary workers were detained and two senior hospital staff were sacked in eastern China after the bodies of at least 21 infants and foetuses were found in a river.
Published: 9:25PM BST 30 Mar 2010

At least eight bodies had tags indicating they were from the hospital of Jining Medical University in Shandong province, Xinhua news agency reported.

Authorities were quoted by Beijing News saying the corpses could have been those of aborted foetuses or babies who had died of illness. They were found on the outskirts of the city of Jining.

Xinhua quoted a spokesman for the city government as telling reporters that two mortuary workers had been sacked in connection with the incident and were in police custody.

Naming the two workers as Zhu Zhenyu and Wang Zhijun, Xinhua quoted the spokesman as saying that the two had been paid to dispose of the bodies.

“Investigations by police and health authorities show that Zhu and Wang had reached verbal agreements privately with relatives of the dead babies to dispose the bodies and charged fees,” the spokesman, Gong Zhenhua, said.

“They subsequently transported the bodies secretly to the Guangfu River, but they had failed to bury the bodies completely,” he was quoted as saying.

The river was not a source of drinking water for the city and municipal tests found it had not been contaminated, Xinhua reported. [Yeah, right. One has to now wonder how many other bodies and body parts were dumped into the river.  I don't believe for an instant that any of these bodies were "buried" and somehow became "uncovered."  And that is just an outright lie about the river not being a source of drinking water.  Right now China is experiencing a SEVERE drought of several years' duration and ALL rivers are being used as sources of drinking water, right while unprocessed chemical pollutants and unprocessed human waste continue to be dumped into them at record rates.]

Two senior officials, Li Luning and He Xin, director and deputy director of the hospital’s logistics department, were removed from their posts, and a vice president of the hospital, Niu Haifeng, was suspended, Gong said.

The incident exposed “a serious loophole in the hospital’s management and indicates a lack of ethics and legal awareness of some hospital staff,” Gong said. “It exerts a very negative impact on society and teaches us a profound lesson.”

He said the city government had ordered health authorities to immediately launch a general overhaul of body treatment at all local hospitals.

One of the bodies had been bundled into a plastic bag marked “hospital waste”, Beijing News said.

Abortion is common in China, where at least 13 million births are terminated every year, due in part to the nation’s so-called “one-child policy,” which limits most urban couples to just one offspring.

The family-planning rules are widely blamed for fuelling abortions of female foetuses in China, where boys are traditionally favoured.

Reports of poor treatment of patients – both living and dead – in China’s underfunded hospitals are also not uncommon.

Last June, a hospital in central China’s Hubei province was found to have dumped the bodies of two adults and six aborted foetuses at a construction site after failing to locate relatives of the dead, state media reported. [Question: How could an aborted foetus not have a relative? Is the mother not a relative?]

A bag containing severed human limbs was also discovered in the case, in the city of Xiangfan.
This is just one incident that has been "discovered" and reported (shocking, actually, that it was allowed to make the news) - multiply this about 10,000 times and you will begin to get a picture of what is really happening in China these days - day in and day out.

Men Owe Women for 'Creating Beer'

From the
Men owe women for 'creating beer' claims academic
One of man’s great pleasures might be a pint of beer at the local – but an academic has claimed it would never have existed without the entrepreneurial skills of women.
By Nick Britten
Published: 1:47PM BST 30 Mar 2010

Jane Peyton, 48, and author and historian, said women created beer and for thousands of years it was only they who were allowed to operate breweries and drink beer.

The drink is now almost exclusively marketed to men - with television characters such as Homer Simpson the epitome of the beer-loving male.

Yet Miss Peyton said that up until 200 years ago, beer was considered a food and fell into the remit of women’s work. It was only then that men began drinking it and it became what is considered a very male drink.

Miss Peyton has conducted extensive research into the origins of beer for a new book, and discovered to her surprise that a woman's touch was found on beer throughout the ages.

Nearly 7,000 years ago in Mesopotamia and Sumeria, so important were their skills that they were the only ones allowed to brew the drink or run any taverns.

And in almost all ancient societies beer was also then considered to be a gift from a goddess, never a male God.

Between the eighth and tenth centuries AD the Vikings spread terror by rampaging through Europe, fuelled by women-made ale.

Women were the exclusive brewers in Norse society and all equipment by law remained their property.

And Ancient Finland also credits the creation of beer to the fairer sex, with three women, a bear's saliva and wild honey the apparent first ingredients.

In England ale was traditionally made in the home by women. They were known as brewsters or ale-wives and the sale of the drink provided a valuable income for many households.

It quickly became an essential staple of the diet and even royalty indulged in the tasty beverage.

Queen Elizabeth I, like most people of the era, consumed it for breakfast and at other times of the day.

But by the start of the late 18th century and the Industrial Revolution, new methods of making beer meant women's contribution slowly started to decline and be forgotten, until now.

Miss Peyton said: “I know men will be absolutely stunned to find this out, but they've got women to thank for beer.”

Mysterious Lead Coffin Uncovered in Italy

I looked through the article (quickly, I admit) and I didn't see a suggested age for this remarkable find - although since speculation is that it might contain a Bishop (among other possible types of decedents), it would have to be during the Christian era - but that doesn't make sense since Gabii is called a "pre-Roman" city (Etruscan???).  I hope the results of the planned tests are published - I want to know what's inside as badly as the archaeologists do!

Mar. 29, 2010

An archaeological mystery in a half-ton lead coffin
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—In the ruins of a city that was once Rome's neighbor, archaeologists last summer found a 1,000-pound lead coffin.

Who or what is inside is still a mystery, said Nicola Terrenato, the University of Michigan professor of classical studies who leads the project—the largest American dig in Italy in the past 50 years.

The sarcophagus will soon be transported to the American Academy in Rome, where engineers will use heating techniques and tiny cameras in an effort to gain insights about the contents without breaking the coffin itself.

"We're very excited about this find," Terrenato said. "Romans as a rule were not buried in coffins to begin with and when they did use coffins, they were mostly wooden. There are only a handful of other examples from Italy of lead coffins from this age—the second, third or fourth century A.D. We know of virtually no others in this region."

This one is especially unusual because of its size.

"It's a sheet of lead folded onto itself an inch thick," he said. "A thousand pounds of metal is an enormous amount of wealth in this era. To waste so much of it in a burial is pretty unusual."

Was the deceased a soldier? A gladiator? A bishop? All are possibilities, some more remote than others, Terrenato said. Researchers will do their best to examine the bones and any "grave goods" or Christian symbols inside the container in an effort to make a determination.

"It's hard to predict what's inside, because it's the only example of its kind in the area," Terrenato said. "I'm trying to keep my hopes within reason."

Human remains encased in lead coffins tend to be well preserved, if difficult to get to. Researchers want to avoid breaking into the coffin. The amount of force necessary to break through the lead would likely damage the contents. Instead, they will first use thermography and endoscopy. Thermography involves heating the coffin by a few degrees and monitoring the thermal response. Bones and any artifacts buried with them would have different thermal responses, Terrenato said. Endoscopy involves inserting a small camera into the coffin. But how well that works depends on how much dirt has found its way into the container over the centuries.

If these approaches fail, the researchers could turn to an MRI scan—an expensive option that would involve hauling the half-ton casket to a hospital.

The dig that unearthed this find started in summer 2009 and continues through 2013. Each year, around 75 researchers from around the nation and world, including a dozen U-M undergraduate students, spend two months on the project at the ancient city of Gabii (pronounced "gabby").

The site of Gabii, situated on undeveloped land 11 miles east of Rome in modern-day Lazio, was a major city that pre-dates Rome but seems to have waned as the Roman Empire grew.

Studying Gabii gives researchers a glimpse into pre-Roman life and offers clues to how early Italian cities formed. It also allows them broader access to more substantial archaeological layers or strata. In Rome, layers of civilization were built on top of each other, and archaeologists are not able or allowed to disturb them.

"In Rome, so often, there's something in the way, so we have to get lucky," Terrenato said. "In Gabii, they should all be lucky spots because there's nothing in the way."

Indeed, Terrenato and others were surprised to find something as significant as this coffin so soon.

"The finding of the lead coffin was exhilarating," said Allison Zarbo, a senior art history major who graduates this spring.

Zarbo didn't mind that after the researchers dug up the coffin once, they had to pile the dirt back on to hide it from looters overnight.

"The fact that we had to fill the hole was not so much of a burden as a relief!" Zarbo said. "For academia to lose priceless artifacts that have been found fully in context would be very damaging to our potential knowledge."

Students spent most of their time pick-axing, shoveling, and manning the wheelbarrows, said Bailey Benson, a junior who is double majoring in classical archaeology and art history.

"By the end of the day, not even a 20-minute shower can remove all the dirt and grime you get covered in," Benson said. "It's hard but satisfying work. How many people can say they uncovered an ancient burial?"

This research is funded in part by the National Geographic Society. The managing director of the project is Jeffrey Becker, assistant professor of classics at McMaster University. The field director leading the coffin studies is independent researcher Anna Gallone. The Italian State Archaeological Service (Soprintendenza di Roma) is authorizing and facilitating the project.

Aha!  More information from the National Geographic:

Lead "Burrito" Sarcophagus Found Near Rome Ancient coffin may hold a gladiator or a Christian dignitary, experts say.
Christine Dell'Amore
National Geographic News
Published March 29, 2010

A 1,700-year-old sarcophagus found in an abandoned city near Rome could contain the body of a gladiator or a Christian dignitary, say archaeologists who are preparing to examine the coffin in the lab.

Found in a cement-capped pit in the ancient metropolis of Gabii, the coffin is unusual because it's made of lead—only a few hundred such Roman burials are known.

Even odder, the 800 pounds (362 kilograms) of lead fold over the corpse like a burrito, said Roman archaeologist Jeffrey Becker. Most lead sarcophagi look like "old-fashioned cracker boxes," molded into a rectangular shape with a lid, he said.

The coffin, which has been in storage since last year, is about to be moved to the American Academy in Rome for further testing.

But uncovering details about the person inside the lead coffin will be tricky. For starters, the undisturbed tomb contained no grave goods, offering few clues about the owner. (See more temple and tomb pictures.)

What's more, x-ray and CT scans—the preferred methods of coffin analysis—cannot penetrate the thick lead, leaving researchers pondering other, potentially dangerous ways to examine the remains inside.

"It's exciting as well as frustrating, because there are no known matches in the record," said Becker, managing director of the University of Michigan's Gabii Project.

Unlocking the lead coffin's secrets could ultimately offer new insights into a powerful civilization that has lain forgotten for centuries, he said.

Roman Ally's Mysterious Decline

The newfound sarcophagus was the "most surprising" discovery made in 2009 during the largest ever archaeological dig in Gabii. Becker and colleague Nicola Terrenato received funding for the ongoing project from the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

Just 11 miles (18 kilometers) from Rome, Gabii was founded in the tenth century B.C., and it flourished for centuries alongside its growing neighbor, with which it shared a unique treaty of political friendship.

Walking through Gabii may have been a bit like a stroll through Rome, where the dense populace made the city crowded, noisy, and smoky in the daytime, and overall "unpleasant" to live in, Becker said.

However, by the second or third centuries A.D., Gabii had contracted dramatically, and by the ninth century it was no more.

The cause of the city's demise is unclear, but the "most obvious guess is that Rome's expanding power and territorial ambitions eventually eclipsed" Gabii, Becker said.

Lead Sarcophagus Holds "Somebody of Substance"

Mysteries about Gabii society make the newfound lead coffin especially intriguing.

Lead was a high-value metal at the time, so a full sarcophagus made out of the stuff "is a sure marker of somebody of some kind of substance," Becker said.

Past lead burials found throughout Europe have housed soldiers, elite members of the Christian church, and even female gladiators.

In fact, many lead coffins contain high-ranking women or adolescents instead of men, said Jenny Hall, a senior curator of Roman archaeology at the Museum of London, who was not involved in the new study.

However, the newfound sarcophagus' tentative age may make the gladiator scenario unlikely, said Bruce Hitchner, a visiting professor in classical archaeology at All Souls College at the U.K.'s University of Oxford.

The coffin dates back to the fourth or fifth centuries A.D., while the gladiator heyday was centuries earlier, said Hitchner, who was not part of the excavation team. (Related: "Ancient Gladiator Mosaic Found in Roman Villa.")

Coffin Had Unusual Downtown Location

What intrigues team leader Becker the most is the sarcophagus's placement—"smack dab" in the middle of a city block. A taboo against burying the dead inside city limits was deeply ingrained in the Roman religious mindset of the time, he said.

"I don't think it's, We're feeling lazy today, we're going to bury Uncle Joe in the tomato garden," Becker said. There may have been some major event that made people bury the body downtown—a possibility he intends to investigate during the next dig.

"As we seek to understand the life of the city, it's important for us to consider its end," Becker pointed out.

"To see someone who is at first glance a person of high social standing associated with later layers of the city ... opens a potentially new conversation about this urban twilight in central Italy."

Foot Bone Hints at "Extraordinary Preservation"

First, however, Becker's team hopes to find out more about the person inside the lead sarcophagus. The researchers' only hint so far is a small foot bone protruding through a hole in one end of the coffin.

Some lead burials have allowed for "extraordinary preservation" of human tissue and hair, Becker said, though the opening in the sarcophagus may mean that air has sped up decomposition of the body.

Still, early examinations reveal that the foot bone is "exceedingly" intact, Becker said: "Worst case, there's an exceptionally well-preserved human skeleton inside the wrapping."

Bones alone can tell scientists a lot about the person and his or her culture, said Bruno Frohlich, a forensic anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

"We put some kind of face to the bones—we make them alive in a way."

For instance, if the bones show evidence of diseases contracted long before death, that could mean the person survived an illness, and that Gabii society had the resources and knowledge to care for the sick, Frohlich said.

Lead Coffin too Dangerous to Open?

But Becker and his colleagues may not even get bones to work with, because the coffin may be too dangerous to open for both the living and the dead.

If the researchers decide to cut into the lead, cancer-causing lead dust could harm scientists, while exposure to bacteria could easily damage the corpse.

At the academy, a team will perform preliminary experiments on the sarcophagus, including an endoscopic exam that would feed a small fiber optic camera into the hole at the foot end.

If the experiments show that lead dust from cutting can be easily contained, the next step would be to find a "clean room"—similar to those NASA uses for experiments—in which to open the coffin, Becker said. (Related: "NASA 'Clean Rooms' Brimming With Bacteria.")

No matter who turns out to be inside the lead coffin, Becker is hopeful that the person wrapped in metal will turn out to be a window into history.

"To anybody with a passing interest in the human past, it's an exciting opportunity right there—to be able to say more about someone who lived and died at least 1,700 years ago."

Long Lost Pyramid Found?

Pyramid of Mystery Pharaoh Possibly Located
The long-lost tomb of the 4,300-year-old Egyptian pharaoh Userkare may have been located.
By Rossella Lorenzi | Mon Mar 29, 2010 05:42 AM ET
The missing pyramid of an obscure pharaoh that ruled Egypt some 4,300 years ago could lie at the intersection of a series of invisible lines in South Saqqara, according to new astronomical and topographical research.

Connecting the funerary complexes raised by the kings of the 6th Dynasty between 2,322 B.C. and 2,151 B.C., these lines would have governed the sacred space of the Saqqara area, in accordance with a number of criteria such as dynastic lineage, religion and astronomical alignment.

"We are talking of meridian and diagonal alignments, with pyramids raised at their intersections. The only missing piece in this sort of grid is the pyramid of Userkare," Giulio Magli, professor of archaeoastronomy at Milan's Polytechnic University, told Discovery News. His research will appear in the next issue of the journal Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry.

Known only from the king lists, Userkare was the second pharaoh of the 6th Dynasty and ruled briefly between Teti and Teti's son Pepi I. He took power after Teti was murdered, perhaps in a conspiracy he himself had maneuvered.

Little is known about this shadowy pharaoh.

"When Pepi I took control a few years later, Userkare disappeared from history. Finding his tomb might help understand those obscure years. The walls in his burial might also contain intact copies of the Pyramid Texts," Magli said, referring to the oldest known religious texts in the world that were carved on the walls and sarcophagi of the pyramids at Saqqara during the 5th and 6th Dynasties of the Old Kingdom.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tracing the Family - All the Way Back to 1600s France! EEK!

Edited on March 30, 2010 to correct some details and add a few more:

I have not been posting as much as usual lately, triggered by a sad family event, the loss of a beloved aunt, Lorraine Prondzinski, one of my mother's sisters.  Of seven Jablonski sisters, only two are now living, my mother, Caroline Newton, and Aunt Christine Gonawicka.  I've been busy busy busy doing other things -

Some comments were made at the funeral that reminded me of something that I had begun way back in 1976, during the celebration of USA's 200th birthday - and some misunderstanding that I had undertaken to do a family tree.  Not!  I had done a little writing about the family line - old stories that I remember Dad telling us, but nothing more.

I was raised with tales of the Newton family ancestry.  I don't remember if I've written about this here before, but this is the family history from Grandpa Newton's side, in a nutshell:  We were from France, we came over here sometime in the early 1700s and worked our way up the Mississippi River and eventually settled in northern Wisconsin where we became lumberjacks.  We may have some Cajun blood from our time in Louisiana.  I am not certain, but vague recollection is that we may have been kicked out of France - or left in a big hurry.  Were we criminals - or religious refuges?  I don't know.

Around the beginning of March I signed up at for a short free trial. I found some information there, but ran into a lot of dead-ends. I searched for my father's parents, and my mother's parents. I did not locate any information at all about my mother's parents - not even her birth certificate. Frustration. I was not able to locate anything at all about my grandmother Newton (Ida Belanger) other than a 1930 census record which confirmed information I already knew: she was married to my grandfather, she had (at that time) four children: my father, my Aunt Laurel, my Aunt Faythe, my Aunt Valerie. I found a lot of Newton records, but I had no way of connecting them to my grandfather Frank C. Newton, because I could not find an online record of his birth and so had no names of his ancestors.

I CAN tell you that there are a LOT of Newtons settled in west Texas and many of them have the name Frank or Francis, but I have no idea if they are relatives. 

Today - a day off from work, while I was digging around for my tax records I came across a copy of my father's World World II service records.  Lo and behold, I found more information there than I had found through numerous fruitless searches online at

My dad's service records contained two vital items: (1) a birth certificate and (2) his baptismal certificate.  I thus learned from my father's baptismal record that his father, Frank C. Newton, was born in Marinette, Wisconsin on January 2, 1894.  Before, I did not have a place of birth and I had not been able to confirm that his middle initial was "C" as I had found on another record.  Both of my father's records also confirmed that his mother was, indeed, Ida Belanger, who was born in Michigan - also a snippet of information (place of birth) I did not have before.

Following the path of the celebrities on the current program on NBC "Who Do You Think You Are?",  I signed up for a 14 day free trial at Not having had any previous success tracing my father's family, I decided to try searching for my paternal grandmother, Ida Belanger.

Unbelievably, I hit a gold mine immediately.  Several other people have researched the Belanger (a/k/a Balenger) family line.  I found Ida right away.  The most extensive work appears to have been done by a descendant of Ida Belanger's younger brother, John Belanger, who died in 1950 (before I was born).

I hit paydirt.  Oh my, did I ever!

The family line is very large and begs for other lines to be explored, but tracing back as straight as I can make it, here goes:

My paternal grandmother (the mother of my father, Francis John Newton):
Ida Belanger b. June 4, 1893; d. January 5, 1962
(possibly born in Michigan, although some records indicate Wisconsin;
she died in Hancock, Michigan while visiting family)
m. Frank C. Newton (b. 1/2/1894 in Amberg, WI; d. 6/8/1964 in Racine, WI) sometime before August 17, 1922, when my father (their oldest child) was born, but I don't have an exact date

Parents of Ida Belanger:
My great-grandfather: Edward Balenger, Jr. (also spelled Belanger) b. 1852 to 1855; d - unknown
(born in Scott, Brown County, Wisconsin, USA; died - unknown )
My great-grandmother: Mathilda A. Forsythe b. April 19, 1861; d. June 7, 1943
(born in Wisconsin; died in Racine, Wisconsin)

Parents of Edward Balenger (Belanger), Jr:
My great-great-grandfather: Edward Be'langer b. April 16, 1822 (or possibly in April, 1821 according to another line of research); d. October 26, 1906
(born in St. Michel, Yamaska, Quebec, Canada; died in Gladstone, Delta, Michigan, USA.  Note, another line of research done by another person indicates that Edward Be'langer died in Bay Settlement (Town of Scott), Brown County, WI.  I do know know why there is a discrepancy.)
My great-great-grandmother: Aurelia Marie Francoise Brunette b. October 10, 1831; d. August 30, 1907
(born in Notre Du Rosarie, St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada; died in Gladstone, Michigan, USA)
Married on May 30, 1846 in Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA.  A note about Aurelia Marie's name - another line of research done by another person indicates that her name was Marie-Aurelia Brunette.  This marriage was very fruitful.  According to one line of research I have discovered, Edward Be'langer and Aurelia Marie Brunette had the following children:  Mary b. abt. 1848 in Wisconsin; Joseph b. abt. 1850 in Wisconsin; Edward (my ancestor) b. abt. 1852 in Wisconsin; John b. abt. 1854 in Wisconsin; Louis b. abt. 1859 in Wisconsin; Isaac b. abt. 1862 in Wisconsin; Lucy Theresa b. abt. 1864 in Wisconsin; Alfred b. abt. 1866 in Wisconsin; Margaret b. abt. 1868 in Wisconsin; Michael b. abt. 1868 in Wisconsin (twin of Margaret?); Peter b. abt. 1870 in Wisconsin. 

Lots of Belangers - and I'm probably related to most of them!

Parents of Edward Be'langer:
My great-great-great-grandfather: Jean Baptiste Belanger b. 1787; d. May 12, 1838
(born Yamaska, Quebec, Canada; died in Bay Settlement, Brown County, Wisconsin, USA)
My great-great-great-grandmother Angelique Forcier b. 7/10/1793; d. 1834
(born Yamaska, Quebec,Canada)
Note: I thought that Angelique and Jean Baptiste had only the one child, Edward, who is my particular Belanger and Forcier ancestor.  However, I have found a reference to another son of Angelique and Jean Baptiste: Joseph.  This information also says that Jean Baptiste was in Minnesota for awhile.  I do not have any further information on this Joseph Belanger. 

After Angelique's death in 1834, Jean Baptiste married again - Susanne Bibeau on June 16, 1835 in St. Francis du lac, Quebec, Canada.  Unfortunately, she died on May 12, 1838 in Bay Settlement, Brown County, WI.  Jean Baptiste then married again (marriage #3), Theotiste Rivard-dit-Laglanderie, on February 28, 1841.  She died on September 3, 1857.  But wait - according to one record I have, Jean Baptiste died May 12, 1838 - not his second wife.  So - who actually died on May 12, 1838?  Was it Jean Baptiste and therefore he could not have married wife #3, or was it Susanne Bibeau?

Susanne Bibeau and Jean Baptiste Belanger had two children:  Peter Belanger, b. abt. 1836, and Moyses Belanger, b. abt. 1837.  So, Edward had two half-brothers - and possibly he had one full-blood brother, Joseph (see note above).

No children are listed from the marriage of Theotiste Rivard-dit-Laglanderie and Jean Baptiste Belanger. 

Parents of Angelique Forcier:
My great-great-great-great-grandfather Pierre Francois Forcier b. August 13, 1758; d. 1835
(born in St. Michel)
My great-great-great-great-grandmother: unknown - not listed.  I found her, though, in another family line researched by another person:  Jeanne St. Germain.  They were married in St. Michel in 1785 but I have no further information at this time.
Parents of Pierre Francois Forcier:
My great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Francois Forcier b. April 19, 1724; d. March 17, 1781

Parents of Francois Forcier:
My great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Jacques Forcier b. 1682; d. 1750
My great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Jeanne Harel b. 1687; d. 1769

Parents of Jacques Forcier:
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Pierre Forcier b. 1648; d. May 18, 1690
(born St. Aubin, Nantes, Bregagne, France; died in St. Francois Du Lac, Quebec, Canada)
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Marguerite Marie Girard b. 1643 d. August 7, 1695
(born Boulogne Sur Mer, Picardie, France; died in Quebec, Quebec, Canada)

Parents of Pierre Forcier:
Guillaume Forcier b. 1623; d. 1690 St. Aubin, France
Sebastienne Gaultier b. 1625; d. 1674 France


Parents of Marguerite Girard (my 7x great-grandmother):
Nicolas Girard b. 1610; d. 1671
Francoise Huon b. 1620; d. 1725 (if these dates are correct, she died at 105 years of age).

So - this particular branch of the Belanger a/k/a Balenger line, via Angelique Forcier, who married into the Belanger/Balenger line, can be traced all the way back to Guillaume Forcier b. 1623 and Nicolas Girard b. 1610, in France.

I will see if I can find existing lines tracing the ancestors of Jean Baptiste Belanger.
So much more to learn...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jane Austen - New Biography "Jane's Fame"

From National Public Radio (NPR):

Biography Offers New Glimpses Of Jane Austen
March 25, 2010
It has been almost 200 years since Jane Austen's death but her books remain some of the most widely read in English literature. Claire Harman, author of the book Jane's Fame, about Austen's life, discusses her popularity.

Copyright © 2010 National Public Radio®. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.


Jane Austen has given us some our favorite love stories, movies and TV programs, and daydreams of characters like the rich and handsome Mr. Darcy. And quotations: It is a truth universally acknowledge that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife.

How did this spinster, born in 1775, who live most of her life in an English village, come to inhabit imaginations in the 21st century?

Claire Harman answers that question in her new book, "Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World."

For one thing, Claire Harman says, Jane Austen wrote in a completely new style.

Ms. CLAIRE HARMAN (Author): She really took out of the 18th century all the flimflam and the verbosity that had held it back, really, and reshaped the novel. I mean she modernized the novel single-handedly and before she was published.

WERTHEIMER: Modernized it how?

Ms. HARMAN: By making it shorter, more streamlined, funnier. She's such an intellectual and she's writing love stories, so you get a wonderful combination of very clear thinking, very astute analysis of society and of human nature. And her jokes are terribly funny.

WERTHEIMER: She was not writing about kidnappings and sword fights and...

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: ...all the sort of romantic and gothic-ee(ph) stuff that was current when she was young.

Ms. HARMAN: No, she didnt put in scenes of high drama, anything unrealistic. She kept to simple storylines, three or four families in a country village, credible characters. I mean they step out of those books as if we know them from everyday life today. I mean they are so well observed in such enduring types.

WERTHEIMER: Jane Austen was reasonably successful even in her lifetime, and then she had a kind of a trough - a period where no one read her. And it began to look as though her books would just die with her.

The biography that was written by her nephew, that helped just sort of propel her into a wider readership.

Ms. HARMAN: Oh, yes, very much so. I mean that was really lighting the blue touch paper for Austen's fame, because it dealt almost exclusively with Jane Austen's supposedly meek and genteel personality and hardly anything about the books. Suddenly readers who were vaguely aware of "Pride and Prejudice" and "Emma" and "Sense and Sensibility" were made even more aware of them by this personality of the lovely aunt.

And James Edwards' memoir of his aunt made her into a sort of sentimental object. You know, and people loved her as a person and as a character, as well as the books and sometimes instead of the books.

WERTHEIMER: Do you think she really was like that, that sort of meek and mild and the dear aunt and the loving sister and so forth?

Ms. HARMAN: Well, she's certainly a loving sister and she was certainly a beloved aunt. But she wasnt necessarily a nice person at all. I mean there's really nothing in the letters to suggest anything other than a very sharp-witted and at times rather acid-tongued woman.

And, you know, the mind behind the novels could only be a very discerning, very critical mind. I mean she's - the famed irony of Austen's novels is really a way of saying that she was quite cynical and very worldly.

WERTHEIMER: You told me something that I had never heard before in this book, that Jane Austen had big fans in the trenches in the First World War - a sense of Austen and other literature of her period as a moment of escape.

Ms. HARMAN: Thats right. The 18th century novelists and writers were very popular in the trenches in the Great War. And yes, Austen was used in the fever chart that the War Office drew up to treat shell-shocked soldiers. She was put top of that chart, in terms of how therapeutic her works could be in a dire situation where a man was grievously wounded and needed to be read to. Austen's novels were thought to be the most comforting.

WERTHEIMER: I think there are a lot of people in the 21st century who feel that way about Jane Austen. Certainly I do. I have three of her books on my electronic reader for, you know, when things go horrible on me, I can sit down and read for a little while and calm down.

Ms. HARMAN: You know, when Im on an airplane, for instance, I always turn - if there's a Jane Austen adaptation, I will watch it for the Nth time because I always feel as if Im in mortal danger on an airplane and I want the reassurance of Austen or, you know, a similar writer and the comfort of that known thought.

And yet the wonderful thing about Austen is however many times you read those books, they're always surprising. I mean you know what the outcome of the plot is going to be, but she still manages through her shared skill to keep you in a state of suspense.

So you know, when you get near to the end of "Emma" you think, gosh, will Mr. Knightley actually propose?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. HARMAN: And it's absurd. Of course you know he's going to propose. What else is there to happen? It's Austen's amazing ability to be fresh every time you read her.

WERTHEIMER: In your account of Jane's fame, every time that her popularity seems to sag a bit, something saves her - well-timed biographies in the 19th century. And then maybe her biggest rescuer of all, the movies in the 20th century.

Ms. HARMAN: Certainly. Well, since the 1995 BBC film that really surprised everybody with its intense interest, great success, and nobody realized how that could be followed up by even more films, even more adaptations and riffs on them. You know, you had all those films like "Clueless" and "Bride and Prejudice." And you now have strange spin-offs like the zombies books last year, "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies."

Who would have thought that a book that contained 85 percent of Austen's text would sell so much more than a hundred percent of Austen's text? I mean it's really amazing.

WERTHEIMER: If Jane Austen were alive today, one thing she would be is stinking rich...

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: ...from all of the rights to the movies and the books and whatnot.

Ms. HARMAN: Yeah.

WERTHEIMER: But do you think she would have had the faintest notion that all this could have happened?

Ms. HARMAN: Not in the slightest. Because Jane Austen's fame is disproportionate - I mean she's a genius but still her fame is disproportionate to anybody's genius. It has grown and it has moved away from the text. It occupies people's minds in ways that dont relate to the books but relate to fantasies and dreams around the books.

And she would have been quite appalled, I think, at even more fame than she had in her lifetime, which was little enough. She didnt want to be gawked at by neighbors who'd discovered she was an author. She wanted to maintain her integrity and her freedom to look at the world and be able to honestly say what she thought about it.

WERTHEIMER: Claire Harman's book is called "Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World."

Thank you very much.

Ms. HARMAN: Thank you.

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Scientists Now Say Biblical Plagues Actually Happened

From The

Biblical plagues really happened say scientists
The Biblical plagues that devastated Ancient Egypt in the Old Testament were the result of global warming and a volcanic eruption, scientists have claimed.
By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent
Published: 11:00AM GMT 27 Mar 2010

Researchers believe they have found evidence of real natural disasters on which the ten plagues of Egypt, which led to Moses freeing the Israelites from slavery in the Book of Exodus in the Bible, were based.

But rather than explaining them as the wrathful act of a vengeful God, the scientists claim the plagues can be attributed to a chain of natural phenomena triggered by changes in the climate and environmental disasters that happened hundreds of miles away.

They have compiled compelling evidence that offers new explanations for the Biblical plagues, which will be outlined in a new series to be broadcast on the National Geographical Channel on Easter Sunday.

Archaeologists now widely believe the plagues occurred at an ancient city of Pi-Rameses on the Nile Delta, which was the capital of Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Rameses the Second, who ruled between 1279BC and 1213BC.

The city appears to have been abandoned around 3,000 years ago and scientists claim the plagues could offer an explanation.

Climatologists studying the ancient climate at the time have discovered a dramatic shift in the climate in the area occurred towards the end of Rameses the Second's reign.

By studying stalagmites in Egyptian caves they have been able to rebuild a record of the weather patterns using traces of radioactive elements contained within the rock.

They found that Rameses reign coincided with a warm, wet climate, but then the climate switched to a dry period.

Professor Augusto Magini, a paleoclimatologist at Heidelberg University's institute for environmental physics, said: "Pharaoh Rameses II reigned during a very favourable climatic period.

"There was plenty of rain and his country flourished. However, this wet period only lasted a few decades. After Rameses' reign, the climate curve goes sharply downwards.

"There is a dry period which would certainly have had serious consequences."

The scientists believe this switch in the climate was the trigger for the first of the plagues.

The rising temperatures could have caused the river Nile to dry up, turning the fast flowing river that was Egypt's lifeline into a slow moving and muddy watercourse.

These conditions would have been perfect for the arrival of the first plague, which in the Bible is described as the Nile turning to blood. Dr Stephan Pflugmacher, a biologist at the Leibniz Institute for Water Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin, believes this description could have been the result of a toxic fresh water algae. He said the bacterium, known as Burgundy Blood algae or Oscillatoria rubescens, is known to have existed 3,000 years ago and still causes similar effects today.

He said: "It multiplies massively in slow-moving warm waters with high levels of nutrition. And as it dies, it stains the water red."

The scientists also claim the arrival of this algae set in motion the events that led to the second, third and forth plagues – frogs, lice and flies. Frogs development from tadpoles into fully formed adults is governed by hormones that can speed up their development in times of stress. The arrival of the toxic algae would have triggered such a transformation and forced the frogs to leave the water where they lived. But as the frogs died, it would have meant that mosquitoes, flies and other insects would have flourished without the predators to keep their numbers under control.

This, according to the scientists, could have led in turn to the fifth and sixth plagues – diseased livestock and boils

Professor Werner Kloas, a biologist at the Leibniz Institute, said: "We know insects often carry diseases like malaria, so the next step in the chain reaction is the outbreak of epidemics, causing the human population to fall ill."

Another major natural disaster more than 400 miles away is now also thought to be responsible for triggering the seventh, eighth and ninth plagues that bring hail, locusts and darkness to Egypt. One of the biggest volcanic eruptions in human history occurred when Thera, a volcano that was part of the Mediterranean islands of Santorini, just north of Crete, exploded around 3,500 year ago, spewing billions of tons of volcanic ash into the atmosphere.

Nadine von Blohm, from the Institute for Atmospheric Physics in Germany, has been conducting experiments on how hailstorms form and believes that the volcanic ash could have clashed with thunderstorms above Egypt to produce dramatic hail storms.

Dr Siro Trevisanato, a Canadian biologist who has written a book about the plagues, said the locusts could also be explained by the volcanic fall out from the ash.

He said: "The ash fall out caused weather anomalies, which translates into higher precipitations, higher humidity. And that's exactly what fosters the presence of the locusts."

The volcanic ash could also have blocked out the sunlight causing the stories of a plague of darkness. Scientists have found pumice, stone made from cooled volcanic lava, during excavations of Egyptian ruins despite there not being any volcanoes in Egypt. Analysis of the rock shows that it came from the Santorini volcano, providing physical evidence that the ash fallout from the eruption at Santorini reached Egyptian shores.

The cause of the final plague, the death of the first borns of Egypt, has been suggested as being caused by a fungus that may have poisoned the grain supplies, of which male first born would have had first pickings and so been first to fall victim.

But Dr Robert Miller, associate professor of the Old Testament, from the Catholic University of America, said: "I'm reluctant to come up with natural causes for all of the plagues. The problem with the naturalistic explanations, is that they lose the whole point.

"And the whole point was that you didn't come out of Egypt by natural causes, you came out by the hand of God."

Remembering a Great Tragedy: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

The victims, workers in a clothing factory, were mostly women and girls, mostly immigrants at the time, the turn from the 19th century into the 20th century.

Choosing Not to Forget What Is Painful to Recall
Published: March 25, 2010

On a street off Washington Square, a bell tolled 146 times on Thursday, once for each woman and man who died in the great fire there so very long ago. Dozens of schoolchildren read the names of the victims, one by one, then laid carnations upon a makeshift memorial. A fire truck raised its ladder in tribute but only so far — a reminder of a rescue effort that fell tragically short.

Everything was as it was supposed to be, 99 years to the day since a fire at the Triangle shirtwaist factory took the lives of 146 garment workers — most of them women, most of them Jewish and Italian immigrants, most of them heartbreakingly young.

The flames that engulfed the factory, on the top three floors of a building at Washington Place and Greene Street, was the most cataclysmic disaster to befall a New York workplace until Islamist fanatics turned airplanes into missiles in 2001. But even the attacks of Sept. 11 have not diminished Triangle’s central place in the consciousness of an oft-wounded city.

Like all rituals, Thursday’s remembrance of March 25, 1911, moved to a practiced rhythm. An anniversary ceremony has been held at that corner for years. Repetition, however, in no way stole from poignancy.

There were accounts of how the low-paid seamstresses who made ladies’ blouses — shirtwaists — were trapped in the blaze. How locked doors prevented many from fleeing to safety. How the firefighters’ tallest ladder reached only to the sixth floor, well below workers trying to stave off death two, three and four floors higher. How in desperation — does this sound familiar? — many jumped to their deaths.

There were speeches from labor leaders about how the disaster led to tougher safety regulations but also about how much remains undone. Locking in workers? Wal-Mart was found to have been doing that just a few years ago. Last month, in an echo of Triangle, 21 workers in Bangladesh died in a fire at a garment factory with locked exits.

And there was the mournful tolling of a firehouse bell, each ring accompanying a name, each name capturing a soul: Lizzie Adler, Rosina Cirrito, Yetta Goldstein, Gaetana Midolo, Simie Wisotsky and, every now and then, Unidentified Woman and Unidentified Man.

New York generally prefers the future tense. It is not always good at remembering.

Sept. 11 aside, anniversaries of disasters come and go with barely a nod. Until 9/11, none was deadlier than the 1904 burning of the General Slocum, a poorly equipped excursion steamboat that caught fire in Hell Gate’s waters. More than 1,000 people died, most of them women and children. Yet the anniversary, June 15, usually passes unnoticed.

Not so with the Triangle fire. If anything, the observances have been expanding and are likely to grow still more in 2011, the centennial year. Events on Thursday included programs at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village and Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village, Queens.

The Queens event was led by Vincent Maltese, whose older brother, Serphin, is a former state senator. For them, the Triangle fire is personal. Their grandmother and her two daughters died. The girls were 18 and 14. “My grandfather never really talked about it, except once a year,” said Vincent Maltese, 76. “He’d get moody toward the end of March.”

Perhaps the fire endures in civic memory because it has clear constituencies. It is part of the Italian-American narrative and, arguably even more so, of Jewish-American history. But there is more to it, said David Von Drehle, the author of “Triangle: The Fire That Changed America.”

Triangle “speaks to large trends — the immigrant story, the progressive political story, the labor movement story and the women’s rights story,” Mr. Von Drehle said. “It’s illustrative of all those currents, which continue to be living issues in a way that steamboat safety is not.”

For similar reasons, Ruth Sergel, a filmmaker, organizes her own memorial. On the anniversary, she leads volunteers in a project called Chalk. They visit the places where each of the 146 victims lived, mostly in the East Village and on the Lower East Side. At those locations, on the pavement, they chalk in the names and ages of those who died.

“It’s the idea of making communal memory visible,” Ms. Sergel said, describing it as “a different kind of power.”

“It’s not permanent,” she said. “It washes away. But you know what? It’s going to come back next year.”

Short-Sighted Policies: Ancient Tushan (Turkey) To Be Flooded Out by Dam

Old secrets of lost city threatened
Archaeologist based in Akron working to finish work before site is inundated

By Carol Biliczky
Beacon Journal staff writer
Published on Monday, Mar 22, 2010

This is Tim Matney's 14th year at an archaeological dig in Southeast Turkey.  (Image: Conservators Yvonne Helmholz (left) and Charlotte Rerolle prepare a consolidant cuneiform tablet for lifting during an excavation at Ziyaret Tepe, Turkey on August 5, 2009. The tablet has been covered in wax to consolidate the fragments. (Photo courtesy Timothy Matney, Assoc. Prof. of Archaeology)

He keeps a close eye on the calendar. Time is not on his side.

He and fellow archaeologists are hurrying to find and preserve what they can of the ancient Assyrian city of Tushan before a hydroelectric dam floods the area.

''This is a pragmatic, conservationist rescue dig,'' said Matney, an associate professor of archaeology at the University of Akron. In the Turkish bureaucracy, he said, that means he has a ''slightly less cumbersome system to work with.''

Matney heads a team of archaeologists from Germany, Turkey and the United Kingdom who will return to the site in early April for 10 more weeks of work in 110-plus-degree heat.

While Matney, 46, has done archaeological work in Great Britain, Syria, Iraq, India, the United States and Israel, he gravitated to Turkey as a fresh doctoral graduate in 1994 because it enabled him to explore his first love: ancient urban centers, especially those that, once abandoned, had never been built on again.

From 1994 to 1999, he co-directed a dig at Titris Hoyuk, a thriving settlement from 2600 to 2100 B.C. on a tributary of the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia.

Then a colleague mentioned an untapped archaeological site about 110 miles away at Ziyaret Tepe, formerly Tushan, an outpost on the northern bor
der of the Assyrian empire from 900 to 600 B.C. The government was opening the area to excavations in the last years before a dam on the Tigris River flooded the area in 2003.

For three seasons, Matney worked on both projects. In 2000, he concentrated his field work at Ziyaret Tepe for what he thought would be three more years.

As project director, he oversees perhaps 25 archaeologists and other professionals and 30 to 100 local workers on each dig. This season's staff will include two of Matney's former students, Jim Sutter and Chelsea Jalbrzikowski. Their work is so painstaking that they have uncovered just 1 percent of the 80-acre settlement.

Digging for facts

As nothing above ground remains — the area has been agricultural fields for centuries — they base their work on topographical maps and subsurface geophysical surveys.

The team has uncovered a large mud brick building with the remnants of what Matney calls ''high status goods,'' such as ivory fragments and furniture fittings. The team calls this building the Bronze Palace, although its exact use is unknown.

Last summer, the team discovered clay tablets with cuneiform — or wedge-shaped — script in the palace. One tablet was a list of women's names. Because those were not Assyrian names, they might have been women from the local population subjugated by the conquering Assyrians or workers imported to the site.

The team has found several thousand artifacts — pottery, animal bones, tablets, bronze and iron vessels and more. Some artifacts are being cleaned, preserved and assembled into whole pieces for display in a museum 40 miles away in Diyarbakir.

One of the most fascinating discoveries reflects the collapse of Ziyaret Tepe when neighboring countries invaded the Assyrian capital of Ninevah.

As the supply chain in the sophisticated kingdom fell apart, so did the letter writer's ability to muster a unit of chariots. He complained he didn't have the coppersmiths, blacksmiths and others he needed to fulfill the request.

''Death will come out of it,'' he wrote ominously. ''No one [will escape]. I am done.''

Time running out

Matney's team has four work seasons to uncover more clues to life in Tushan and why it apparently was peacefully abandoned.

Delays in construction of the dam have postponed the final day of reckoning until 2013. It's even unclear now whether waters from the dam will completely submerge the site or if it will become, in essence, lakefront property. Regardless, the team's work will be done.

For a permanent work permit, Matney would have to guarantee 10 years of funding. Since it costs about $250,000 a year to fund the field work and related costs of the dig, that means Matney would have to cobble together $2.5 million.

That isn't out of the question, but the weak global economy makes fundraising more challenging. Plus the weak U.S. dollar and the rising costs of doing archaeological work in Turkey are driving expenses to new heights. In 2000, Matney paid local workers $5 a day; this work season, they will receive almost $30.

Matney hopes the team's work will show how everyday people lived in the frontiers of ancient Assyria — ''how they got their groceries, what they made and traded, what their relationships were like with the other Iron Age peoples they encountered.''

The goal: to make the ancient Assyrians more accessible to students and scholars alike, he said.

Bones, Oh Those Bones

We are, I believe, literally at the threshhold of learning much more about our true past as humans than we ever dreamed was possible before, with the new tools we have for dating archaeological layers and analysing "human" remains.  Whether they are human remains to be seen and, I sincerely hope, will be contested and discussed for the next hundred years or however long it takes until we realize that "man" has been "man" all along.  But hey, that's just my take on the subject.

I found this article interesting because it introduces an element of mystery into the "human" settlement of the area we today call The Netherlands.  Physical remains that may date back some 370,000 years.  Say what?

Neanderthal may not be the oldest Dutchman
Published on : 26 March 2010 - 4:48pm | By Henk-Sjoerd Oosterhoff

People may well have been roaming the land we now call the Netherlands for far longer than was assumed until recently. There is evidence to suggest that the country was home to the forebears of the Neanderthals. Amateur archaeologist Pieter Stoel found materials used by the oldest inhabitants in the central town of Woerden. These artefacts were shown to be at least 370,000 years old, which takes us back to long before the time of the Neanderthals.

Teenage Mariner Hopes to Circumnavigate the World

This is one of the stories that Isis sent me a few days ago, but I did not have the time to publish it then.  Today I see this update.  Thanks for the story, Isis. 

Good luck to this young lady!

Saturday, March 27, 2010 8:23am PDT
Teenage sailor Abby Sunderland approaching treacherous Cape Horn
By: Pete Thomas,

Swimming Dragon Exercise - Lose Weight in the Waist

I love Dr. Mao. I have recently begun to read his columns and find him to be a good dose of common sense coupled with down-to-earth and real-life ways to improve health via natural remedies, cut calories and lose weight.

Today I found this exercise which, I discovered, I have been doing a version of for the past six months or so,  but I call it part of shaking my booty around the bedroom at night with shades drawn and no one watching :)  I love the name of this exercise and find it most evocative of the more esoteric aspects of playing chess and/or Xiang Qi.  Not to mention - it has the qi ("chi") of the universe flowing through it :)

By Dr. Maoshing Ni - Posted on Fri, Mar 19, 2010, 1:27 am PDT

America’s rapidly expanding waistline has become a huge concern in the past decade. Today, eight out of ten adults are overweight and some 40 million people are considered obese. It’s not hard to see why: We eat foods that contain tightly-packed calories in smaller packages and don’t engage in enough physical activity. Here are 3 unique and easy exercises that will get you in shape this spring!

You have to move to lose weight
The number one cause of being overweight is inactivity. The human body is designed for physical activity. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers who spent most of their lives on the move; their metabolic functions matched their physical lifestyle. Nowadays, we live in opposition to our nature. The reason most diets fail is because our bodies are not designed to subsist on meager foods. We are designed to consume a good amount of energy -- and then to burn that energy. Physical activity is the key to a healthy metabolism.

Physical activity does not necessarily mean abrupt, fast-paced and forceful exercise. What if I told you that gentle, slower, and deliberate movements are just as beneficial for your health? Unique to China are the gentler kind of movement arts that promote energy, balance of function, and a calm mind. I call them mind-body exercises, and they include tai chi, qigong, and Dao In yoga. Many recent studies have confirmed that these mind-body exercises help balance blood pressure, sugar, cholesterol, equilibrium, and other organ functions. Mind-body exercise works through a system of energy communication within the body. By deliberately activating the flow of energy and removing blockages, communication is restored and organ functions return to their optimal level. You can learn these mind-body exercises with a teacher or from instructional DVDs.

Taken from a tradition that is thousands of years old, here are three qigong exercises that target your weight and get you in shape. The qigong exercises from this article are adapted from my book Secrets of Self-Healing, where you can find many more exercises to benefit a variety of health conditions.

Exercise 1: Swimming Dragon speeds up your metabolism
This simple qigong exercise can help speed up your metabolism and reduce your appetite. Not unlike a belly dance, Swimming Dragon is a wriggling rhythmic dance of the torso, which burns energy and promotes fat burning in the abdomen.

1. In a comfortable, quiet place stand with your feet together and ankles touching, or as close together as you can get them. Bring hands over your head, with palms together and fingers pointing up. Keep your palms together during this entire exercise.

2. Inhaling, push your waist out to the right side while keeping your head and upper torso straight. Simultaneously move your right elbow to the right, so that it rests at shoulder height.

3. Exhaling, push your waist out to the left side while keeping your head and upper torso straight. Simultaneously move your left elbow fully to the left at shoulder height.

4. Repeat this movement several times. Every time you move your waist to the right, bend your knees slightly more, lowering your entire body as you squat. Be sure to keep your upper torso and head straight.

5. With each right movement, move your hands lower, keeping your palms together and fingers pointing up. When your arms reach your chest, turn your fingers toward the ground and continue the movement.

6. When your arms reach your knees, you should be squatting.

7. Continue the movements, now rising with each right movement until you reach the standing position. When your arms reach your chest, switch the direction of your fingers so that they’re pointing up again.

Throughout this exercise, your hands should produce an S-shaped movement and your body should do a rhythmic belly dance. Remember to inhale on the rightward movement and exhale to the left. Only do this exercise on an empty stomach. Begin slowly and increase speed, warming up the whole body, but not to the point of perspiration.

Computer Labs for Kids: Update Dallas, March 20, 2010

I have received photos from Shira that give a flavor of what Computer Labs for Kids' latest project was like on March 20, 2010 in Dallas, Texas, at Buckner Children and Family Services.  Having been a volunteer at a Computer Labs for Kids' project in Chicago, Illinois in November, 2009, I can pretty much now tell what went on each step of the way :)

If you have an opportunity to do so, I highly recommend signing up as a volunteer at one of Shira Evans' Computer Labs for Kids projects.  The personal rewards you will experience in exchange for a few hours of your time on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon are more precious than gold. 

 First Photo:  I know this scene!  It's the main table where everyone comes to check in and get their name tags!  Supplies for volunteers are also handed out here - very important because they contain the supplies needed for their student along with the exercise sheets that are worked through as the Workshop begins and continues through life-value lessons (non-denominational) that teach such basic things as respect for others, respect for others' belongings and how to care for your belongings.  Here we see a volunteer (in black blouse) and Shira Evans (going through her check-list).

Second photo: One of the computers to be given to the kids.  As you can see, these aren't "toys."  They are actual working laptops that come fully loaded with Windows operating system and other software, including GM Susan Polgar's award-winning "Learn Chess in 30 Minutes."

At the conclusion of the Computer Labs for Kids worshop, each child receives his or her very own laptop computer to keep.

Third Photo: A photo of the class in session. You can see the kids and the volunteers working with the computers. Each kid has his or her own volunteer, who goes through a short on-line training session to better enable the volunteer to deal with questions and issues that his or her child may raise during the course. Typically even so-called "problem" children are well behaved during the session (there is a break half-way through), as the kids are all intensively engaged. First, "life lessons" videos are displayed on a large screen at the front of the room; then a question and answer session promotes interchange with the kids in the audience. After the on-screen lesson, the volunteer and the child go through the lesson again on the computer, where the child has an opportunity to ask questions and a work-book is also gone through, where the child works with his or her volunteer to answer life-lesson questions.

Fourth Photo: One-on-one.  This is how Computer Labs for Kids workshops are taught in the United States - one volunteer instructor and one child.  The kids don't have to "share" an instructor, they each have their own, ready to show them how to utilize the computer and the pre-loaded programs, and answer all the questions they have.  The interaction between student and volunteer is intense and very personal. 
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