Saturday, April 10, 2010

Archaeology Used as Political Weapon

It isn't a new thing.  The ancient Egyptians chipped the names of out-of-favor predeceasors off of monuments they'd left behind and the latest newcomer had his name inserted instead. Conquerors routinely killed all the scribes, scholars and teachers and burned any libraries and/or smashed written records (such as cuneiform tablets) when they took over territory.  Exactly how many times was the great library at Alexandria burned before it finally came back no more?  Israelis and Palestinians chop down and burn olive trees demarcating ancient and not-so-ancient boundary lines.  In the USA right now, ancient Native American sites are being bulldozed and destroyed for commercial developments.  In Iran, the same is happening with pre-Islamic historical sites.

Mr. Don calls it "media control."  I remember how shocked I was the first time he brought up the concept, at least 10 years ago.  It's amazing how naive I continue to be...

We have seen the ongoing archaeological war unfolding in Israel and the disputed territories.  Now the same thing is happening in Sri Lanka - or Ceylon, as it used to be called.  Today, the battle not only is taking place in the trenches (literally), but also in the trenches of public opinion.

A small sample of this developing global war for public opinion was recently displayed in The Ottawa Citizen where I found this letter to the Editors:

Rewriting history
The Ottawa Citizen
April 10, 2010
Re: Archaeology new weapon in post-civil war Sri Lanka, April 7.

Being a history buff, I have difficulty to accept the premise that Sri Lanka now has something called ethnic archaeology. Tamil archaeologists digging in the north say that they are the first settlers and the Sinhalese archaeologists say, "Oh, no, you are not."

Sri Lanka's history goes back 2,600 years and historic archaeological sites are dotted all over the island, especially in the north-central areas. This is why the Tamil Tigers made every effort to excavate and demolish such sites fearing that the Sinhalese some day will claim their rich history rooted even in the Jaffna peninsula, which the Tamils claim as theirs.

Since the 1970s, the Tamil Tigers have tried to get rid of the Sinhalese and Muslim communities who had lived for generations in the north. It was one way how Tamils tried to claim that the north was their historical homeland. It is no surprise to me that the Tamils will do anything to destroy and obliterate any immovable archaeological site which would point to historic roots for the Sinhalese who had lived in the north for centuries before the Tamils arrived as invaders from South India.

Asoka Weerasinghe,

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen
Wondering what The Ottawa Citizen may have published that sparked such a letter, I went looking - but I was not able to locate the article in question at the newspaper's website, guess my search skills are no longer up to snuff. But I did find this April 6, 2010 article from the Times Online, which I suspect may have been published by The Ottawa Citizen:

April 6, 2010
Archaeology sparks new conflict between Sri Lankan Tamils and Sinhalese
Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent

[Image: From article, a tiger jumping through a halo, the symbol of the Tamil Tigers, is still visible in the northern city of Kilinochchi ? once a rebel stronghold, but today patrolled by government troops]

Recent visitors to Kilinochchi, the former capital of the Tamil Tigers, had noticed something unusual — there was a single, new building standing among the bombed-out ruins of the abandoned city in northern Sri Lanka. It was a whitewashed Buddhist shrine, strewn with flowers. “We thought it strange because there was no one there except soldiers — the civilians had all fled,” one of the visitors said.

Officers told them that the shrine had been damaged by the Tigers and renovated by the army — recruited largely from the Sinhalese Buddhist majority — after the rebels’ defeat a year ago next month. “It’s an ancient site,” Major-General Prasad Samarasinghe, the chief military spokesman, told The Times.

Many Tamil archaeologists, historians and politicians disagree. They say that the area had been populated for centuries by the ethnic Tamil minority, which is mostly Hindu. “There was nothing there at all,” Karthigesu Sivathamby, a retired professor of Tamil history and literature at the University of Jaffna, said.

The true origins of the site may never be known without independent analysis — which is impossible while the army restricts access to the area. Many Tamil community leaders fear that the shrine is part of a plan to “rediscover” Buddhist sites and settle thousands of Sinhalese across the north to undermine the Tamils’ claim to an ethnic homeland. [Cf. what the Communist Chinese government has been doing for years in resettling ethnic Han Chinese in traditionally Uighar lands, as well as other ethnic minority areas considered "territories," such as Tibet.]

They also worry that such efforts will accelerate if the ruling coalition, led by President Rajapaksa, the country’s ethnic Sinhalese leader, wins a two-thirds majority in parliamentary elections due on Thursday.

“The Government is putting up new Buddhist shrines and building permanent housing for soldiers,” Suresh Premachandran, an MP from the Tamil National Alliance, said. “They are trying to colonise the area, to show it belongs to the Sinhalese.”

He said that the army was building housing for 40,000 soldiers and their families in the north, even before it has finished resettling 300,000 Tamils who were held in internment camps after the war. The army says that it does have that many troops there but denies settling their families and says it is simply renovating old military camps — and occasionally renovating Buddhist and Hindu shrines.

“We’re just trying to protect the people and make sure the [Tigers] don’t come back,” General Samarasinghe said.

So begins a new chapter in a dispute that began with the birth of archaeology in Sri Lanka, under the British in the 19th century, and that grew into a civil war that lasted 26 years and killed 100,000 people.

When the British took control of the country in 1815, they were unsure of its ancient history but soon embraced the legend of the Mahavamsa — a text written by Buddhist monks in about AD500.  It suggests that the Sinhalese are descended from Prince Vijaya, an Aryan prince exiled from northern India in about 500BC, and that Tamils did not migrate from southern India until 200 years later.

That theory — still taught in schools — underpins the Sinhalese chauvinism that ultimately drove the Tigers to launch their armed struggle for an independent homeland in 1983.  In fact, archaeologists had discredited that after independence by excavating settlements in the north that dated from long before 500BC and showed similarities to sites in southern India — suggesting a much earlier migration.

When the conflict began, they were forced to suspend excavations and many Tamil archaeologists fled into exile overseas. Since the end of the war, archaeology in the north has resumed — and with it the debate over the country’s ancient history.

“For three decades we haven’t been able to do anything in the north,” Senarath Dissanayake, the head of the Government’s Archaeology Department, said. “Now we can find out about how ancient people lived here — their culture, economy, social background, living conditions and religion.”  He said that his department had identified 60 old sites in the north in the last year — and six completely new ones, dated between 300BC and AD1000.

Some Tamil academics question why the new sites are all from a period when Sinhalese Buddhist culture is thought to have flourished. Others want more Tamil archaeologists involved, as well as foreign experts or the UN, to ensure that the work is objective.

“The archaeological department is the handmaiden of the Government,” said one prominent Tamil scholar, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisals. “The concern is that they’re going to identify these sites as Sinhalese, build lots of Buddhist shrines and tell Sinhalese people this is their lost land.”

The Government announced last month that 300,000 local and foreign tourists had visited the northern province since the war ended – and officials say that the vast majority were Sinhalese from the south.

Government archaeologists deny identifying sites on ethnic or religious grounds.

“The emphasis from the President is that there should be a balancing of Buddhist and non-Buddhist sites,” said Sudarshan Seneviratne, the head of the Central Cultural Fund, which finances archaeology. “He’s a smart politician. He knows how to cater to all communities.”

Mr Seneviratne accepted, nonetheless, that there were “parochial” forces who wanted to use archaeology for political purposes. Principal among them on the Sinhalese side is the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), a Buddhist monks’ party that is part of the ruling coalition, and has a powerful influence on Mr Rajapaksa.

Its clout was illustrated last month when the Government refused a visa to Akon, a Senegalese-American R&B singer who had been due to perform in Colombo this month.

Activists had protested over the video for Sexy Bitch, a song that showed bikini-clad women dancing around a pool, with a Buddha statue in the background. The protesters said that the Sri Lankan Constitution obliges the state to “give Buddhism the foremost place” and “protect and foster” the religion.

The JHU invoked the same argument in December when it presented 29 demands to Mr Rajapaksa, including one for him to rebuild dozens of Buddhist sites in the north. His response has never been made public but the JHU — which is led by a passionate amateur archaeologist — claims that the President concurred.

“He agreed to take immediate steps to restore Buddhist sites in the north,” Udaya Gammanpila, a senior JHU member, said. “He said the army and the archaeological department were already working on it.”

Even if that is untrue, the JHU can directly influence archaeology because Champika Ranawaka, its chief ideologue, is Environment Minister and his approval is required to excavate and protect sites. Foreign archaeologists familiar with Sri Lanka say that the country — which is approximately 70 per cent Sinhalese and 20 per cent Tamil — needs to move past the ethnic issue. [Good luck, dudes!  Not in my lifetime - probably not in several of my lifetimes!]

“That debate will never be answered by archaeology,” Robin Coningham, a professor of archaeology at Durham University, said.

Tamil scholars say that that may not be possible with the JHU in government and the army empowered to rebuild Buddhist shrines on contentious sites.

“Archaeology has always been political in Sri Lanka,” said one Tamil historian overseas, who also did not want to be identified for fear of endangering relatives in Sri Lanka. “It’s no different today.”

Major monuments

Sigiriya Remains of the 5th-century palace of Sinhalese King Kasyapa, built on a 370m (1,200ft) high outcrop

Polonnaruwa Ruined city, famed for its Buddhist frescoes, it was the country’s capital in the 12th century

Anuradhapura Ancient city with monasteries, man-made lakes and the Jetavana Dagoba — said to be the world’s largest brick stupa. It was the capital from 4th century BC to the 11th century

Kandy The last seat of the Sinhalese kings, defeated by the British in 1815. Also site of temple said to have a tooth of the Buddha

Galle Home to a fort, built by the Portuguese after their invasion in 1505 and developed by Dutch invaders after 1656. They added ramparts and built churches

Dambulla A complex of cave temples with ancient wall paintings

Sinharaja National park and ancient forest reserve, said to be the last primary rainforest. [Said to be last primary rain forest? Dudes, satellite photographs reveal the truth.  Duh!]
This all just makes me sick to my stomach.  For the past few weeks since I have been involved in a journey to discover my "roots," I have been confronted with evidence that shows me as nothing else could that I am related to literally hundreds of thousands of descendants of people who journed to the New World during the 1600s and later - all of my European ancestors.  But those European ancestors also had ancestors, even if I cannot trace them back because the written records cease to exist after a certain point.  I'm here - alive and breathing.  The fact that I can trace my Belanger ancestors to the 1560's is something remarkable to me, but that's not a patch on their beginnings.  Those ancestors did not just spring up out of the earth like mushrooms with baptismal and marriage and death records all nicely recorded, and neither did their ancestors, or their ancestors before them.  If we could go back far enough, we would see through the pictorial power of genealogical charts that we all spring from a very small wellspring of humans.

So why the hell are we beating up on each other so?  For territory?  For money?  For fleeting power?  For our various gods? Oh please. Take a look at the comments at the end of this Times article if you think I'm full of baloney.  They tell the story as nothing else can.

In the end, we are all buried in Mother Earth, or our burnt-up ashes are scattered to the winds.  So, what good have we done?  What can we say to ourselves, during those last few precious moments of breath and life, that we have done to make the world a better place?  That we have killed x-number of people because they were not "us"?  That we have perpetrated archaeological and historical lies for the sake of furthering a particular political agenda?  That we hated our neighbors better than they hated us?

UAE Ritual Site with Dugong Bones About 5,500 Years Old

This article doesn't provide a lot of information.  Reports on archaeological work and discoveries coming out of the UAE and countries surrounding are intermittent at best and usually sparse on details!  I'm not certain - but I seem to have a vague recollection of a similar story coming out some time ago. (Image from Gulf - see second story, below)

Oldest fishing rites in the Arabian Peninsula found in Umm Al Qaiwain

2010-04-10 13:41:44

WAM Umm Al Qaiwain, Apr 10th, 2010 (WAM) -- A French archaeological mission in collaboration with the Department of Antiquities and Heritage has discovered the oldest fishing rites in the Arabian Peninsula that dates back to 3500-3200 BC.

An archaeological excavation held on an islet off the coast of Umm Al Qaiwain, close to the earlier fishing village of Al-Akab revealed that ancient fishing rites were conducted by tribesmen living in the region.

The bones of dugongs, a large marine mammal resembling a sea cow, were found symbolically arranged on a mound which experts believe was used for ceremonial purposes.

The team found that the dugong mound was only a small part of a much larger Neolithic site including the remains of circular homes.


Here is an article with some more details - notice the date - November 6, 2009.  I knew I'd seen this story before.  Ha!  The parallel drawn between the use of dugong as a totemic animal in Australia (from a much later period) and the use of the dugong and green turtle in the Gulf Region (dating back 5,500 to 6,500 years ago) fascinating.

Excavation Uncovers Ritual Site
By Emmanuelle Landais, Staff Reporter
Published: 00:00 November 6, 2009

An archaeological excavation held on an islet off the coast of Umm Al Quwain, close to the earlier fishing village of Akab, recently revealed that ancient fishing rites were conducted by tribesmen.

The bones of dugongs, a large marine mammal resembling a sea cow, were found symbolically arranged on a mound which experts believe was used for ceremonial purposes.

It is the oldest bone sanctuary of its type in Arabia according to Dr Sophie Méry of the French Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and director of the French archaeological mission in the UAE.

Together with her colleague Vincent Charpentier, from the French National Institute of Archaeological Institute (INRAP), they first excavated the site in 2002 together with the Museum of Umm Al Quwain. They found that the dugong mound was only a small part of a much larger Neolithic site including the remains of circular homes.

"The village we excavated is older than the ritual site by 500 years. The ritual site is not a burial site but a sanctuary which gives it a very different meaning… It is not possible to say the exact number of people who lived in Akab but we think that several families regrouped there for the fishing season," Méry said.

"Traditionally, the dugong has special status in the Indo-Pacific area. The preparation for hunting dugongs is as much the object of propitiatory rites as the transport of their carcasses to shore, their butchering and their consumption," she said.

Around 20 areas in the Gulf region have been excavated. However, research shows that between 6500 and 3100 BC, despite an absence of agriculture, a Neolithic culture developed in the UAE and Oman. One such excavation by a paleontologist in the 1990s initially marked Akab as a dugong butchering place due to the huge number of bones and skulls found there.

Symbolic arrangement

It is in fact a sanctuary where the bones of more than 40 dugongs were found stacked and aligned with great care and precision. Méry, Charpentier and colleagues believe the bones have been symbolically arranged for a ritual.

"At the end of 2006 we realised that the mound was not a disorganised accumulation of bones but a 10 square metre designed structure which was built up in stages," said Méry.

Skulls lay parallel to each other and ribs were laid in sets together with artifacts like beads and tools.

No animal was deposited whole in the structure. Some body parts like the ribs, vertebrae or limbs are fewer in numbers which demonstrates intentional selection. Very little evidence of butchering was found on the bones.

The flesh, oil, hide and tusks of the dugong were long exploited in the region and the consumption of dugongs has been confirmed on many archaeological sites. The early occupation of Akab is dated by four radiocarbon dates ranging from 4748 BC to 3814 BC and its dugong bone mound is seen as a monument constructed to last.

According to Méry, the skulls were intended to be the focal point and the presence of many selected objects confirms this. Akab has no parallel site in the region and no site of this type is known for the Neolithic in other parts of the world.

The archaeology of the Arabian Peninsula has revealed very little on ancient beliefs and ritual practices preceding Islam. Two Bronze Age temples were discovered in Bahrain, ruins of the Dilmun civilisation of the third and second millennia BC.

In the Musandam Peninsula, no known vestiges of the Bronze Age exist. It is not until the Iron Age that religious practices related to snakes appear.

The dugong is also specifically present at Al Markh, a fourth-millennium settlement site in Bahrain. Dating back to the Bronze Age the sites of Umm An Nar, Tell Abraq, Shimal and Ra's Ghanadha in the UAE have all produced dugong bones in varying numbers.

Bones found on Australian coast

On the Australian coast of the Torres Strait monuments, bones similar those at Akab do exist. However, they originate from a much later date, somewhere between the 14th and 20th century AD.

According to Sophie Méry, director of the French archaeological mission in the UAE and her colleague Vincent Charpentier, from the French National Institute of Archaeological Institute (INRAP), these Australian dugong bone mounds were mostly part of totemic ceremonial sites, known as kod sites. They were sacred sanctuaries usually reserved for men.

These constructions contained the bones of dugongs. Ornamental objects or tools were also buried there. The mounds are associated with hunting magic rituals.

Méry and Charpentier believe the dugong at Akab held the role attributed in the same period to the green turtle in Ra's Al Hamra in Oman, the subject of impressive deposits between 3700 and 3300 BC, where skulls were placed near the face of the dead, while the body was covered with elements of turtle carapace or pebbles in a formation imitating that of turtle eggs.

The coastal people of Akab and Ra's Al Hamra were separated by several hundreds of kilometres. However, it is known that they shared a number of elements in their material culture. Certain fishing clans had marine totems such as the shark, the marine turtle or the dugong.

"We believe that in Akab, the dugong was related to propitiatory rites. The similarity is such between the monument at Akab and the Australian dugong bone mounds, that we see it as highly probable link with fishing rites," said Méry.

Interesting Content in Assyrian Cuneiform Tablet

From The Ottawa Citizen
Canadian archeologists discover Old Testament-era tablet

By Jennifer Green, The Ottawa Citizen
April 8, 2010

Canadian archeologists in Turkey have unearthed an ancient treaty written in cuneiform that could have served as a model for the biblical description of God's covenant with the Israelites.

The tablet, dating from about 670 BC, is a treaty between the powerful Assyrian king and his weaker vassal states, written in a highly formulaic language very similar in form and style to the story of Abraham's covenant with God in the Hebrew Bible, says University of Toronto archeologist Timothy Harrison.

Although biblical scholarship differs, it is widely accepted that the Hebrew Bible was being assembled around the same time as this treaty, the seventh century BC.

"Those documents ... seem to reflect very closely the formulaic structure of these treaty documents," he told about 50 guests at the residence of the Turkish ambassador Rafet Akgunay.

He was not necessarily saying the Hebrews copied the Assyrian text, substituting their own story about how God liberated them from slavery in Egypt on the condition that they worship only Him and follow his commandments.

But it will be interesting for scholars to have this parallel document.

"The language in the (Assyrian) texts is (very similar) and now we have a treaty document just a few miles up the road from Jerusalem."

It was the first public announcement about the importance of the Ottawa-made tablet as Harrison tries to pitch an international consortium for creating a public park at Tell Tayinat, the archeological site in southeast Turkey.

"Many of our modern social values have ancient roots," he said. "It is important to illuminate this ancient history to discover who we are and where we might be going."

King Esarhaddon was nearing the end of his reign in Assyria when he drafted this treaty, trying to ensure a peaceful succession to the throne, Harrison said. "It was remarkable the kind of the intrigue went on." One of the reasons they made these treaties is that Esarhaddon's father was assassinated by a brother.

"So he brought together all the rulers in the Assyrian empire and essentially bound them to these treaties (to) avoid political crisis. It's a very complex document to deal with, sophisticated and intricate ... anticipating all the possibilities that might arise."

Harrison's dig at Tell Tayinat revealed tens of thousands of items last summer, including the tablet. It measured 43x28 centimetres, with 650 and 700 tiny lines of script -- and was smashed to pieces. Still, at least the pieces were all in one place. Dozens of similar smashed tablets were scattered.

The excavation, near the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea about 300 kilometres north of Damascus, has exposed a temple or religious sanctuary with ornately carved columns, monumental staircases and other remnants of a powerful kingdom destroyed by Assyrian invaders in 738 BC. The team plans to return to the site this summer.

Meanwhile, work will continue on the restoration and translation of the tablet.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Indus-Like Inscription?

Objective scientific analysis in this article - or political propaganda?

Article at The Hindu Online
Thursday, Apr 08, 2010

Indus-like inscription on South Indian pottery from Thailand
Iravatham Mahadevan

A fragmentary pottery inscription was found during excavations conducted by the Thai Fine Arts at Phu Khao Thong in Thailand about three years ago. (Dr. Berenice Bellina of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France, sent me a photograph of the object: Figure 1 [right])

The discovery of a Tamil-Brahmi pottery inscription of about the second century CE at the same site was reported earlier ( The Hindu, July 16, 2006). One can presume that the present inscription is also from the Tamil country and belongs approximately to the same period. The two characters incised on the pottery now reported are not in the Brahmi script. They appear to be graffiti symbols of the type seen on the South Indian megalithic pottery of the Iron Age-Early Historical Period (second century BCE to third century CE).

What makes the discovery exciting is that the two symbols on the pottery resemble the Indus script, and even the sequence of the pair can be found in the Indus texts, especially those from Harappa.

Rest of article.

Pre-Stonehenge Megaliths Linked to Death Rituals

Hmmm...  Just wondering off the top of my head, if an aerial photograph of these monuments was taken, would a grid-like overlay appear that might look like a giant gameboard?

Nine recently discovered stone monuments in England predate Stonehenge but share similar construction and alignment with the famous megaliths
By Jennifer Viegas | Fri Apr 9, 2010 05:13 AM ET

  • Nine megaliths in England share similar construction and alignment with Stonehenge.
  • These monuments all mark the rising of the midsummer sun and the setting of midwinter sun.
  • Burials and food remains found nearby suggest death-related rituals may have been held at the standing stones.
Nine megaliths in a remote part of Dartmoor, England, share features in common with Stonehenge, and may shed light on the meaning behind these prehistoric stone monuments, according to a report in the latest issue of British Archaeology. The Dartmoor megaliths, which were recently carbon-dated to around 3500 B.C., could predate Stonehenge, but both sites feature large standing stones that are aligned to mark the rising of the midsummer sun and the setting of the midwinter sun. Yet another Dartmoor stone monument, called Drizzlecombe, shares the same orientation. Rest of article.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Women's World Chess Champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk Simul!

News from GM Alexandra Kosteniuk's Chess Blog:

To promote the Space Coast Open, current Women's World Chess Champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk will play a 50-board simul on April 24, 2010:

Crowne Plaza Melbourne Oceanfront Resort and Spa
2605 N. Hwy A1A
Indialantic FL, 32903

About the 17th Space Coast Open and World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk Simul

An event created by chess players for chess players!

Hotel rate extended to April 7; limited number of rooms still available. See below.

Dates: April 23-25 or April 24-25, 2010
USCF Grand Prix Points: 30

Open Section FIDE Rated

5 round Swiss System, 30/90, SD/1 (2-day: Rd.1 G/60)

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6 Sections:

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2. Class A $$600+trophy-300-200.
3. Class B $$600+trophy-300-200.
4. Class C $$600+trophy-300-200.
5. Class D $$600+trophy-300-200.
6. U1200 $$600+trophy-300-200. U1000 $300+trophy-200. U800 $200+trophy-100. U1200 plus scores not winning another prize: Book Prize courtesy of Hollywood Kings Chess. Trophies to top Brevard County scholastic players in grades K-3, K-5, K-8, K-12.

Special Prizes - Sponsored by Hollywood Kings Chess.

Top Upsets Rds 1-4: Book Prize
Wojtkiewicz Brilliancy Prizes: 1st $25, 2nd-3rd Book Prize (Judge: IM Javad Maharramzade)

ALL:  Players in Master section are required to turn in completed scoresheets at completion of each round (Reference USCF Rule 15G). Rated players may play up one class only. Unrated may play in Master or U1200. Unrated limited to $100 prize unless place prize in Master.

½-point Bye available any round if requested in advance and before round 2 (limit 2). No Smoking. No computers. Wheelchair accessible.

Entry Fee:

$79 via mail or on-line at this web site by 4/17, late entry $89 on line by 4/21 or at site (no credit cards at site); $20 less if unrated or under age 18.

Special EF for Brevard County students in K-12 playing in any section: $20 on-line by 4/21 ($25 at site) (counts as ¼ entry for based on prize fund).

GMs and IMs free entry available on-line until 3/31, else $80 from prize. Free entry to past Master Section winners listed above (use GM/IM entry for on-line registration).

Re-entries $40 by round 3 (½ point Byes for earlier rounds).

Indicate 2-day or 3-day when mailing entry. Entries not indicating which schedule is desired will be placed in the 2-day schedule.

Registration ends 1 hr before 1st round.

Rounds: Rd. 1 8pm Fri (2-day:10am Sat at G/60), Rds 2-5: Sat. 1:00 and 7:00, Sun 9:00 and 3:00.

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*** Special Event *** World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk Simultaneous Exhibition. Saturday, 8am. Special guest Alexandra Kosteniuk will give a simul on Saturday morning starting at 8am. The tournament schedule has been flexibly organized such that players may easily participate in both the tournament and the simultaneous exhibition (to play in all rounds of the tournament plus the simul, enter the 3 day schedule. The simul is expected to end before the start of round 2. Alternatively, a half point Bye is available for round 1).

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Side events:

Space Coast Open Blitz. 4-SS (2 games/Rd), G/5. Prizes: Cash prizes based on entries. EF $10. Rds Sat. 12:30 & 6:30, Sun. 8:30 & 2:30. (i.e., Blitz rounds are prior to rounds 2-5 of main tournament).
Extras and more Side Events:

Free GM and IM lectures:

- Friday: 6:30pm: TBD
- Saturday: 10am: no lecture due to Alexandra Kosteniuk Simul
- Saturday: 11am: no lecture due to Alexandra Kosteniuk Simul

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What do you do with a Kumari when she stops being a Kumari...

Forgive the paraphrase on the song "What Do You Do?" -- sung by Bing Crosby in the 1954 musical "White Christmas":  What do you do with a General when he stops being a General, oh what do you do with a General who's retired?

But - what do you do with a Kumari once she reaches puberty and ceases to be a Living Goddess? [Image: Chanira Bajracharya, 15, Kumari for the last 9 years]

Nepal's "living goddess" eyes banking career
Gopal Sharma
Wed Apr 7, 2010 10:42am EDT

Chanira Bajracharya, 15, has been the Kumari or "living goddess" of Patan, an ancient town south of Kathmandu, for nine years, blessing devotees at the temple and riding in decorated chariots 18 times a year during Hindu and Buddhist festivals.

Now, with her time as living goddess drawing to a close -- the young virgin deities retire on reaching puberty -- Bajracharya is contemplating a career in banking if she makes grades good enough to study commerce or accounting.

Last week she became the first living goddess ever to take the school leaving certificate examination, which was administered to her in her temple, which is housed in her home. . . .

King Tut Loved His Fashionable Footwear!

This from Isis - thanks 'Sis!

King Tut Wore Orthopedic Sandals
By Rossella Lorenzi | Wed Apr 7, 2010 04:54 AM ET

King Tutankhamun might have worn some sort of orthopedic shoes specially designed to cope with his club foot condition, an investigation into the pharaoh's footwear has suggested.

Published in the book, "Tutankhamun's Footwear: Studies of Ancient Egyptian Footwear," the research is the first detailed analysis of the 3,300-year-old footwear since King Tut's mummy and treasure-packed tomb were discovered by Howard Carter in 1922.

Even though the mummy had been X-rayed several times, it was only recently, during a major genetic investigation into King Tut's family, that researchers found a series of malformations in the pharaoh's feet.
Apart from a foot bone disorder known as Kohler disease II, King Tut might have had seriously deformed feet which left him hobbling around with the use of a cane.

Indeed, the second toe in King Tut's right foot lacked the middle bone, making it shorter, while the left foot was clubbed, rotating internally at the ankle.  The foot condition might have required appropriate shoes with a tight strap in order to avoid them being dragged over the floor.

Indeed three pairs of shoes found in King Tut's tomb have horizontal straps just below the toes. One of the pairs also features semi-circular panels at the shoe's sides.

"These features are not known in any other footwear, sandal or shoe alike," book author Andre Veldmeijer, a Dutch archaeologist who specializes in ancient Egyptian leatherwork, footwear and cordage, told Discovery News in an exclusive interview.

Over 80 pieces of footwear of different sizes were buried with the boy king. Some are much deteriorated, with just fragments or isolated straps remaining. Others, however, have survived in decent condition.

Veldmeijer studied 81 specimens, including simple sewn sandals as well as other elaborately decorated, gold ornamented, brightly colored open shoes.  "They were very colorful, shiny shoes. Some are really unique as they combine shape, special materials and new manufacturing techniques," Veldmeijer said.

Veldmeijer believes it is unlikely that the most elaborate shoes, complete with gemstone inlays and gold sheets, ever touched the ground.  "King Tut might have been carried around wearing them. Some shoes, such as the elaborate marquetry veneer sandals, might have been carried by a servant," Veldmeijer said. [Image: a rendition of the Narmer Palette, c. 3300 BCE, the images on both sides shows the smaller figure of the King's sandal-bearer directly behind the King (he's the tallest figure on both sides, in one he's wearing the crown of Upper Egypt, in the other the crown of Lower Egypt.]

On the contrary, the seemingly simple sewn sandals, made of palm leaf, grass and papyrus, were the most important items.  "They were a status symbol, only used by those elite who were rewarded by the king and royalty. These sandals were so important that they were even imitated in gold," Veldmeijer said.

According to the archaeologist, the group of smallest size footwear might have fit King Tut when he was 10, the approximate age when he became king in 1333 B.C, while the largest could have been worn just before his death at age 19.  "This suggest that only the shoes he wore as a king were buried with him. Indeed, many sandals show wear, including the print of King Tut's foot on the sole," Veldmeijer said.

Two pair of open shoes were made to be extra comfortable, with the middle part of the sole stuffed to be more soft on the plantar.  Together with a German specialist in reproduction of ancient footwear, Veldmeijer is now testing the "orthopedic" shoe hypothesis by remaking King Tut's leather open shoes.

"We are collaborating with a professor in anatomy to see how deformed the foot was and how the shoes would have helped," Veldmeijer said.

According to Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, the speculation is interesting.  "It is entirely feasible that tighter straps on Tut's shoes were due to a possible club foot, as these would hold them in place and enable easy maneuvering," Ikram told Discovery News.

Qatari Diplomat Acts the Fool

Unbelievable - except it actually happened.  On a flight to Denver crew becomes concerned when smoke is seen coming out of a bathroom.  The person inside - a man who fits the profile of "Middle Eastern."  And he makes a lame joke about trying to start a fire.  The flight has an air marshall on board who takes the dude into custody.  Fighter jets are scrambled and escort the plane into Denver airport.  When it lands federal agents and local police and who the heck knows who else board the plane and take the bathroom dude away. 

Here's the story:
Diplomat in flight disturbance released, won't face charges
By the CNN Wire Staff

April 8, 2010 6:53 p.m. EDT

The linked story was auto-updated so it's not the original report I read earlier today - more details have been added and an ironic twist!  It was revealed that the smoking, smart-mouth dude was a Qatari diplomat travelling to Denver to visit a Qatari citizen currently doing prison time after being convicted under terrorism laws in the United States! 

  Not fair that this guy gets to walk away scott free for being a smart-ass acting like he is above rules and regulations, ultimately costing the U.S. taxpayers how many hundreds of thousands of dollars to scramble jets, not to mention what it cost to send three or more layers of law enforcement officers on a pointless assignment. The Qatari government needs to be billed for this fiasco and the smart-mouth kicked out of the country, pronto!

If it was a regular Joe who did this, you bet he'd be sitting in a federal jail cell this evening, waiting for an indictment to be issued and arraignment before he could even think of being released on bail.

More coverage.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ancient Trade: South Indians in Egypt

I read this story and found it interesting - a "teaser" story but not really giving us the goods - see prior post about archaeologists bitching about "private hire archaeologists" not "publishing" their works but they don't deliver the goods themselves (unless you pay through the nose for it, and sometimes they don't ever publish a thing about their findings - why?  Ha!  What's good for the goose is good for the gander, darlings! (Map from article - see link below)

My initial response after reading this story was - well, of course -  but why wouldn't the researchers have assumed that such was going on almost from the beginning of this cross-ocean contact/trade?  People act like people, for Goddess' sake!  We move around, we're always on to the next 'big adventure' - whatever that may be, we like to bond and usually will, after initial hesitations and cultural misunderstandings are got past -- in short, meeting and mixing is the herstory of humankind!  It's human nature to act so.

So why should it be a surprise that sailors and traders from South India moved into ancient Egypt after travelling there and back who knows how many times and left evidence of their residency behind?  Why wouldn't a researcher assume that the Egyptians and Romans hired or otherwise obtained the services of Indian navigators and sailors, who were experienced in the ways of navigating using the Monsoons? 

Thank goodness it was bone dry Egypt where the trade and cross-cultural settlements took place because some evidence of the residency of the South Indian peoples and that trade survived there, else those same experts would probably be claiming that no such cross-cultural trade, visitations and settlement ever took place.  Rather reminds me of how experts have pooh-poohed Gavin Menzies' theory that 15th century naval power China traveled around the world and left calling cards (people and settlements) years before the Europeans dreamed of doing so (and just where did the Europeans get those maps anyway???) 

Volume 27 - Issue 08 :: Apr. 10-23, 2010
from the publishers of THE HINDU

South Indians in Roman Egypt?

Professional archaeologists moan about "unpublished" archaeological work!

Archaeology: Hidden treasure
By Matt Ford
Published online 7 April 2010
The explosion in commercial archaeology has brought a flood of information. The problem now is figuring out how to find and use this unpublished literature, reports Matt Ford ...

Oh this is just precious.  Some archaeologists are getting all smarmy about "unpublished" work by archaeologists hired for private projects.  Tee hee hee.  Yeah, like the um - what would you call them - you know - those professionals who are funded by universities and private archaeological institutes - can take 10, 20, 30, 40 years to publish findings and even never publish a fricking single word of what their digs uncovered and what they thought about it.  But what they do is all good because it's done in the name of academia.  Yeah.  Right.

Even where such work has been published, it is often not available to the average citizen like yours truly, simply by clicking online and reading the latest.  Or travelling to the main academic library in your state - but tough bones, you're out of luck, lady, because we don't have that kind of stuff here (library of a major university engaged in research) Nooooooo!  It's publish or perish still in academia and you don't get nothing for free, especially these days.  If you're lucky, you get some news articles that barely scratch the surface of finds, and then everything disappears into the Archaeological Underground Network...   If you are really lucky and have the money, you might be able to buy an official published report if you cough up $300 or $400 or more for something printed and sold by one of the few academic publishers or one of the university presses.

FRAUDS!  HYPOCRITES!  Just come out and admit it's about the money and the control of information that you are losing following a 19th century paradigm that just is not justifiable in this 21st century world.  Zoom zoom zoom...

Bwwwwwwwaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!  What does it feel like, knowing that information you want to have is out there but you can't get your hands on it?  Bwwwwwwwwaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!

The Susan Polgar Girls Invitational!!! A New "Old" Event!!!

Good news for scholastic chess and particularly chess femmes playing in scholastic events!!!  The event formerly known as the Susan Polgar National Invitational that was killed by the United States Chess Federation has been reinstituted by The Susan Polgar Foundation, SPICE, and Texas Tech University, as the Susan Polgar Girls Invitational!

Back story and announcement of the new event.

Rules and regulations for the Susan Polgar Girls Invitational.

Susan Polgar Girls Invitational
July 25 - 30, 2010
Texas Tech University
Lubbock, Texas

The girls who qualify for the Susan Polgar Girls Invitational will receive intensive personal training from GM Susan Polgar over five days. 

  • 6 round G/30 Championship tournament on the last 2 days.
  • The traditional blitz, puzzle solving, bughouse events will stay the same as previous years.
  • There will be many prizes awarded, including scholarships to Texas Tech University.
The SPNI was a very successful and popular scholastic event specifically geared toward young female players and I am so glad to see Texas Tech, SPICE and the Susan Polgar Foundation bring it back!  A heartfelt thank you to all involved in the Susan Polgar Girls Invitational. 

Wilma Mankiller, First Female Chief of Cherokee Nation, Dies at 64

I saw this story in The Wall Street Journal this morning.  This information is from The New York Times International Edition of April 6, 2010:

Wilma Mankiller, Cherokee Chief and First Woman to Lead Major Tribe, Is Dead at 64
Published: April 6, 2010

Wilma Mankiller, who as the first woman to be elected chief of a major American Indian tribe revitalized the Cherokee Nation’s tribal government and improved its education, health and housing, died Tuesday at her home near Tahlequah, Okla. She was 64. . . . The current tribal membership is 290,000, making it the second-largest tribe in the country after the Navajo.

. . . In 1981, she founded the community development department of the Cherokee Nation and, as its director, helped develop rural water systems and rehabilitate housing. Her successes led the tribe’s principal chief, Ross Swimmer, to select her as his running mate in his re-election campaign in 1983. Their victory made her the first woman to become deputy chief of the Cherokee Nation.

When Mr. Swimmer resigned two years later to become assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior, she succeeded him as principal chief. She won office in her own right in 1987 and in 1991 was re-elected with 83 percent of the vote.

As the tribe’s leader, she was both the principal guardian of centuries of Cherokee tradition and customs, including legal codes, and chief executive of a tribe with a budget that reached $150 million a year by the end of her tenure. The money included income from several factories, gambling operations, a motel, gift shops, a ranch, a lumber company and other businesses as well as the federal government.

One of her priorities was to plow much of this income back into new or expanded health care and job-training programs as well as Head Start and the local high school.

Even after she left office in 1995 because of her health problems, Ms. Mankiller remained a force in tribal affairs, frequently sought out for counsel and helping to mediate a bitter factional fight between her successor and other tribal leaders that had threatened to become a constitutional crisis in the Cherokee Nation. She also was a guest professor at Dartmouth College. . . .

In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Ms. Mankiller the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Her life story was chronicled in “Mankiller: A Chief and Her People” (St. Martin’s Press, 1993), which she wrote with Michael Wallis. She was also the author and editor of “Every Day Is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women” (Fulcrum Publishing, 2004).

William Grimes contributed reporting.

Ms. Mankiller was the Cherokee chief from 1985 to 1995, and during her tenure the nation’s membership more than doubled, to 170,000 from about 68,000. . . .

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tracing the Family - A Family Mystery

My grandfather Frank Newton's oldest sister was Pheobe, born in 1881 in Wisconsin.  Because Wisconsin has only published death records from 1820 through 1907 and 1930 through 1959, so a lot of people born in Pheobe's generation do not show up in online genealogical searches.  Under federal law, the most recent U.S. Census released for publication was the 1930 census.  That is the last time I found any mention of Pheobe.  But what I found tells a story with many missing pieces.

This is what I know:

Pheobe appears in the 1900 U.S. Census living at home with her parents.  She was 18 years old and single.  The family lived in the town of Portfield, Marinette County, Wisconsin.

Pheobe appears in the 1905 Wisconsin Census, now age 23 and single, living at home with her parents.  The family was living in Marinette County, Wisconsin.

In the 1910 U.S. Census, Pheobe is no longer living at home.  She is employed as a "servant" who cleans house.  She is now 29 and still single.  She was living in the Town of Dunbar in Marinette County, Wisconsin.  The census was taken on May 11, 1910.

The 1920 U.S. Census revealed big changes in the Newton family.  Great-grandmother Laura Bailey Newton was now listed as the head of the family.  This is very strange because Great-grandfather David Newton was still alive in 1920.  He did not die until 1925. So what happened to him?  Had they separated and were living apart?  I don't know.

Pheobe was back living with her mother, Laura Bailey Newton.  She was listed as age 38 and single, using the surname Newton.

There were two additions to the family on the 1920 Census: Martha Wines, who was Great-grandmother Laura Bailey Newton's mother - who had evidently divorced her husband Rollins Bailey (scandal!) and married a Mr. Wines, and was now listed as a widow aged 84!  The other addition was Geneva Newton, age 5 1/2.  She was listed as a "granddaughter.  What the Census information did not tell me was who Geneva's parents were!  Judging by her age, I am guessing that Geneva was born sometime in 1914.

Great-grandfather David Newton died on June 11, 1925.  Mrs. Pheobe Mineau, Marinette, Wisconsin, was listed as the informant (provider of information) on the Death Certificate.  She would have been around 43 years old. When did Pheobe get married?

I was not able to locate any information about Pheobe's marriage in any state in the USA.

The last time I find either Pheobe or Geneva is on the 1930 U.S. Census.  Pheobe is listed as Phoebe M. Mineau, age 48, a widow, living in Marinette, in Marinette, Wisconsin.  She is employed as a laborer in a laundry.  Oh my - backbreaking work.  Pheobe is listed as head of her household, which consists of herself and 16 year old Geneva Mineau, who is listed as her daughter.  So - now I knew for certain the identity of one of Geneva's parents.  It was Pheobe, who would have been about 32 years old when Geneva was born.

So - my first thoughts were, Pheobe had a child out of wedlock.  No big deal these days, in fact, very common.  But back then, in my very Roman Catholic Newton family, it would have been a very a big deal, a big scandal and a big shame.  I figured - a WWI romance, and the fellow got shipped out and never returned, leaving behind a Pheobe who later discovers she is pregnant -- I'm sure it was a scenario played out thousands of times during The Great War. The only problem with this scenario is that the United States did not enter the war officially until 1917.

It is also entirely possible that Pheobe got married to a Mr. Mineau.  It had to have been after the 1920 U.S. Census though, where she and Geneva were both listed with the surname of Newton. The microfiche of the handwritten record is available online through and I read it myself, I'm not taking anyone's word for what it contained.  I just cannot imagine that Pheobe would have been married to Mr. Mineau at the time of the 1920 Census and NOT have used her married name of Mineau.  Having inherited what the Newtons call "stubborn neck", I figure that Pheobe was not married and was not about to cover up the fact that she was not married and had borne a child "out of wedlock."  Anyway, in such a small community as Marinette, such a secret could not have been kept for very long.

Perhaps sometime after the 1920 Census was taken on January 10, 1920, and before the death of Great-grandfather David Newton in June, 1925 (when she used the name of "Mrs. Pheobe Mineau" as informant on his Death Certificate) Pheobe married a Mr. Mineau.  By the time of the 1930 Census taken on Apri l 17, 1930, she was a widow.  There is no way of knowing whether - if there was a marriage to a Mr. Mineau - he adopted Geneva as his own daughter.  It may have just been convention that Geneva used the surname of her mother's husband, or it may have been something that Pheobe insisted be done. 

Did Great-grandfather and Great-grandmother have a fight about Great-grandmother's once divorced mother, Martha Wines, moving into the household?  A fight so severe and a split so deep and strong that Great-grandfather moved out of the house? Or was there a family fight over an illegitimate child being born into the family?  Who was Mr. Mineau? What happened to Pheobe and Geneva after 1930? 

I won't ever know what really happened.  Everyone who may have had information is deceased.

Pictish "Artwork" Is Actually Writing

It's been there all alone, staring the common man and the experts alike, in the face...

‘Rock art’ reveals language of ancient Scotland
If deciphered, writing could provide insight into early Scottish history
By Jennifer Viegas
updated 12:08 p.m. CT, Wed., March. 31, 2010

The ancestors of modern Scottish people left behind mysterious, carved stones that new research has just determined contain the written language of the Picts, an Iron Age society that existed in Scotland from 300 to 843.

The highly stylized rock engravings, found on what are known as the Pictish Stones, had once been thought to be rock art or tied to heraldry. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, instead concludes that the engravings represent the long lost language of the Picts, a confederation of Celtic tribes that lived in modern-day eastern and northern Scotland.  (Image: Rob Knell and Rob Lee.  Riders and horn blowers appear next to hunting dogs on what is called the Hilton of Cadboll stone)

"We know that the Picts had a spoken language to complement the writing of the symbols, as Bede (a monk and historian who died in 735) writes that there are four languages in Britain in this time: British, Pictish, Scottish and English," lead author Rob Lee told Discovery News.

"We know that the three other languages were — and are — complex spoken languages, so there is every indication that Pictish was also a complex spoken language," added Lee, a professor in the School of Biosciences at the University of Exeter.

He and colleagues Philip Jonathan and Pauline Ziman analyzed the engravings, found on the few hundred known Pictish Stones. The researchers used a mathematical process known as Shannon entropy to study the order, direction, randomness and other characteristics of each engraving.

The resulting data was compared with that for numerous written languages, such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, Chinese texts and written Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, Ancient Irish, Old Irish and Old Welsh. While the Pictish Stone engravings did not match any of these, they displayed characteristics of writing based on a spoken language.

Lee explained that writing comes in two basic forms: lexigraphic writing that is based on speech and semasiography, which is not based on speech.

"Lexigraphic writing contains symbols that represent parts of speech, such as words, or sounds like syllables or letters, and tends to be written in a linear or directional manner mimicking the flow of speech," he said. "In semasiography, the symbols do not represent speech -- such as the cartoon symbols used to show you how to build a flat pack piece of furniture -- and generally do not come in a linear manner."

Although Lee and his team have not yet deciphered the Pictish language, some of the symbols provide intriguing clues. One symbol looks like a dog's head, for example, while others look like horses, trumpets, mirrors, combs, stags, weapons and crosses.

The later Pictish Stones also contain images, like Celtic knots, similar to those found in the Book of Kells and other early works from nearby regions. These more decorative looking images frame what Lee and his team believe is the written Pictish language.

"It is unclear at the moment whether the imagery, such as the knots, form any part of the communication," Lee said. He believes the stones also contain semasiographic symbols, such as a picture of riders and horn blowers next to hunting dogs on what is called the Hilton of Cadboll stone. Yet another stone shows what appears to be a battle scene.

Cleopatra Back in the News

A new authoritative biography of the last Queen of Egypt. Review from The New York Times.

As I Am Egypt’s Queen
Published: April 1, 2010

The name Cleopatra calls up cheap flashes of Hollywood glitz, a diva in jewels, not a regal eminence invested with the power to drive armies. Those who think they know anything about her at all can do little more than recall some nebulous fame as a beautiful, cunning seductress of mighty men in togas. She’s more the stuff of fable for us than a real person who inhabited her own square of time and space. But inhabit one she did, and with a good deal more intelligence, élan and tact than exercised by most of her male allies and enemies in the Roman world. (Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow, bronze coin from Alexandria with ­Cleopatra’s portrait, 51-30 B.C.)

The name Cleopatra calls up cheap flashes of Hollywood glitz, a diva in jewels, not a regal eminence invested with the power to drive armies. Those who think they know anything about her at all can do little more than recall some nebulous fame as a beautiful, cunning seductress of mighty men in togas. She’s more the stuff of fable for us than a real person who inhabited her own square of time and space. But inhabit one she did, and with a good deal more intelligence, élan and tact than exercised by most of her male allies and enemies in the Roman world.

A Biography
By Duane W. Roller
252 pp. Oxford University Press.$24.95

It is that real woman, Cleopatra VII of Egypt (69-30 B.C.), who is explored in Duane W. Roller’s biography. And while Cleopatra’s role in the grand drama of the fall of the Roman Republic and the birth of the Empire might not have been utterly central, history couldn’t have rolled out quite as it did without her. (Computer-generated image of Cleopatra, December 2008)

In Cleopatra’s case, the word ‘biography’ strikes a strange modern note, suggesting the existence of more historical information about her than we in fact have to draw from. But as a historian, classical scholar and archaeologist, Roller brings the full apparatus of what we do know to bear — a tricky task given how Cleopatra’s reputation was officially propa­gandized into oblivion after her defeat and death. The result is an authoritative, amply footnoted yet brisk account not only of her life but also of its rich backdrop, featuring a cast extending backward through almost three centuries of the Ptolemaic dynasty.

Cleopatra’s father, Ptolemy XII, though harried by civil turmoil, worked to reinvigorate fading intellectual life in the great scholarly city of Alexandria, a cause which his daughter, uncommonly well educated even for a woman from a royal household, carried on when she ascended the throne in 51 B.C. for what could have been an enlightened reign. (Roller emphasizes Cleopatra’s achievements as a scholar, linguist, diplomat, and even naval commander — a welcome corrective to the popular conception of her as merely a schemer of royal blood with ­alluring advantages.)

Strife broke out with a faction supporting her brother over sovereignty, though, and it wasn’t until Julius Caesar arrived in 48 and applied his leverage that she took undisputed power. Then, too, began the chain of events that molded her legend — the murder of Pompey by her brother and her ingratiating alliance with Caesar; the son she claimed was his; her presence in Rome when he was assassinated; her intricate intrigues, private and otherwise, with Marcus Antonius and the twins she bore him; her joint defeat with Antonius at the hands of Octavian in the Battle of Actium; her suicide. Little wonder she was taken up by poets, painters and Elizabeth Taylor.

Roller tells his tale smoothly and accessibly. Scholarly digressions are consigned to helpful appendixes that Roller uses as small seminars for airing points of dispute, as a good many remain. What, for example, were the origins of Cleopatra’s mother? Was Cleopatra — the quintessentially vile foreigner according to Octavian’s propaganda — a Roman citizen? (Roller believes she was.) And he offers a digest of classical literary descriptions of the queen and a discussion of her iconography (including coin portraits, which are the only certain likenesses) to pinpoint those elements of her modern identity that only evidence from the period can prove or support.

The resulting portrait is that of a complex, many-sided figure, a potent Hellenistic ruler who could move the tillers of power as skillfully as any man, and one far and nobly removed from the “constructed icon” of popular imagination.

Ancient Door to Afterlife Discovered in Egyptian Tomb

From Art Daily
CAIRO (AP).- Archaeologists have unearthed a 3,500-year-old door to the afterlife from the tomb of a high-ranking Egyptian official near Karnak temple in Luxor, the Egyptian antiquities authority said Monday.

These recessed niches found in nearly all ancient Egyptian tombs were meant to take the spirits of the dead to and from the afterworld. The nearly six-foot- tall (1.75 meters) slab of pink granite was covered with religious texts.

The door came from the tomb of User, the chief minister of Queen Hatshepsut, a powerful, long ruling 15th century B.C. queen from the New Kingdom with a famous mortuary temple near Luxor in southern Egypt.

User held the position of vizier for 20 years, also acquiring the titles of prince and mayor of the city, according to the inscriptions. He may have inherited his position from his father.

Viziers in ancient Egypt were powerful officials tasked with the day-to-day running of the kingdom's complex bureaucracy.

As a testament to his importance, User had his own tomb on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor, where royal kings and queens were also buried. A chapel dedicated to him has also been discovered further south in the hills near Aswan.

The stone itself was long way from its tomb and had apparently been removed from the grave and then incorporated into the wall of a Roman-era building, more than a thousand years later.

False doors were placed in the west walls of tombs and faced offering tables where food and drink were left for the spirit of the deceased.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Isis Interregnum

Some articles of interest from Isis:

Ancient Door of Hatshepsut Vizier User Discovered at Karnak
An Egyptian excavation team has made a new discovery at Karnak during routine excavation works. A large red granite false door belonging to the tomb of Queen Hatshepsut�s vizier User and his wife Toy has been unearthed in front of the Karnak Temple.

Mycenean Tombs Discovered Might be Proof of Classless Society
A team of archaeologists has unearthed five chamber tombs in the Nemea Valley, just a few hours walk from the ancient city of Mycenae. The tombs date from ca. 1350 � 1200 BC, roughly the same time that Mycenae was thriving.The people buried in the tombs were likely not from the city itself, but rather from Tsoungiza, an agricultural settlement that lies next to it. The cemetery has been named Ayia Sotira. But despite a wealth of human remains, there have been no discoveries of elite burials. Are the archaeologists yet to discover the prize tombs, or could this be evidence of ancient egalitarian society?

Tribal crime scene investigators get hands on training
Just a few months ago, two members of the Choctaw Nation were certified as Crime Scene Investigators, in order to look into archeological crimes involving sacred tribal artifacts.

Study: A small dose of chocolate could cut heart attack or stroke risk by almost 40 percent
AP Medical Writer
March 30 2010, 2:59 PM CDT

LONDON (AP) — The Easter Bunny might lower your chances of having a heart problem. According to a new study, small doses of chocolate every day could decrease your risk of having a heart attack or stroke by nearly 40 percent.

Car, Oh Car, Forgotten by These Infidels...

I find a few things about this article interesting, including the absence of any references to the origins of the word "kar" or "car" referring to the ancient Moon Goddess Herself who, I believe, was once worshipped most fervently in this area of Anatolia.  Well, read it for yourself and come to your own conclusions:

From Al-Ahram Weekly
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875
1 - 7 April, 2010
Issue No. 992

In the footsteps of the Bronze Men
Nevine El-Aref finds out who the Bronze Men were, and how they helped boost Egypt's power to reunite the country 2,700 years ago

When Herodotus toured the known world during the fifth century BC to compile his international history, he did not forget his hometown Caria, now Bodrum in Turkey.

Caria (the name means "the steep country") stood in the western part of Anatolia, whose coast, according to the ancient world map, stretched from mid-Ionia to Lycia and east to Phrygia. Mountains and valleys were the main features of the country's scenery, and it was poor in agriculture in comparison with its counterparts at the time: Egypt and Babylonia. Its hilltops were fortified, while villages were scattered in valleys and it was hard to find a city of any size. There was thus little similarity between the inhabitants, the Carians, as each village had its own version of the Phoenician alphabet, its own customs and tradition. The only thing in common among all Carians was their religion. One of the ritual centres was Mylasa, where their supreme deity the Carian Zeus. They also had other deities such as Hecate, the goddess responsible for, among other things, magic and road crossings.

The first mention in history of Caria and its inhabitants was in the cuneiform texts of the Old Assyrian and Hittite Empires, who called the area Karkissa. History forgot about it for almost four centuries until the second citation by the legendary Greek poet Homer in his catalogue of ships.

The Carian language belonged to the Hittite-Luwian subfamily of Indo-European languages, and was related to Lycian and Lydian. Those who lived in the west of the country spoke a language closer to Greek.

According to Herodotus the inhabitants of Miletus spoke Greek with a Carian accent, which implies that during the dark ages, between about 1200 and 800 BC, the Greeks settled on the coast of Caria. Herodotus himself was a good example of the close ties between the Carians and Greeks: his father is called Lyxes, which is the Greek rendition of a good Carian name, Lukhsu.

Because of the hard and poor nature of Caria's land, Carians, like many other mountain people at the time, hired themselves out as mercenaries and military specialists. According to Herodotus, the Greeks were indebted to the Carians for three military inventions: making shields with handles; putting devices on shields; and fitting crests on helmets. Because of this last invention, the Persians called the Carians "cocks".

What, however, was the relationship between the Carians and the Egyptians? And how did they help Egypt?

Turkish archaeologist Canan Kèçèkeren, who has devoted herself to following the tracks of the Carians, the original inhabitants of her hometown of Bodrum, says that the Carians were working for the Egyptian army mainly during the 26th Dynasty and were known the most loyal of soldiers to the Pharaohs. Ancient Egyptian sources described them as "the bronze men who came from the sea".

Kèçèkeren told Al-Ahram Weekly that they were living in Egypt between the eighth and fourth centuries BC and evidently felt at home there, as they settled first in the eastern Delta northeast of Bubastis before spreading to other parts of the Nile Valley.

"My project is to follow up their footsteps along the Nile and document in detail the remains of their cultural heritage," Kèçèkeren says, adding that: "I am sure that if I have a chance of realising my project in a good way, this will establish a cultural bridge between Caria's capital Bodrum and Egypt with the help of archaeology."

From Herodotus, who was also a Carian citizen, we learn that Carians made their appearance as mercenaries in Egypt in the seventh century BC when they teamed up with Ionians to help Psammetik I assume power as founder of the 26th (Saite) Dynasty.

Kèçèkeren relates that Psammetik I visited an oracle where he was told that one day the "bronze men" would come from the sea and would help him. This vision became true and the Carians, who were pirates and wore metal suits of armour, came from the sea, and he opened his heart to them and took them into his army and reunited Egypt, which at that time was divided into 12 parts. Later Pharaoh Amasis, one of Psammetik's descendants, recruited his bodyguard from among the Carians, whom he resettled in Memphis; one of this city's quarters bore the name Caricon, while its inhabitants were called Caromemphites.

Several texts written in the Carian language have survived and been found in the Memphite cemetery near modern Saqqara, where Caromemphites were buried. Carians were also attached to the campaign of Psammetik II, and Carian soldiers who immortalized their names at Abu Simbel Temple participated in the invasion of Nubia.

When the Persian king Cambyses invaded Egypt in 525 BC, the Carian contingents were still there, serving Psammetik II. According to Herodotus, they sacrificed children before they went into battle against the invaders. They managed to switch sides, however. (They were not the only ones: even the commander of the Egyptian navy, Wedjahor-Resne, deserted his king.) In Egyptian sources from the Persian age we still find Carians, now serving a new lord. One of the latest examples is an Aramaic papyrus from a date equivalent to 12 January, 411 BC. Seven years later the Egyptians became independent again; this time, the Carians were unable to switch sides, and it appears that the collaborators were found out and dismissed. ["Dismissed?"  What does this mean, exactly?]

Kèçèkeren told the Weekly that the largest number of inscriptions in the Carian language was in the form of graffiti written by mercenaries on rocks, temples and tombs, mostly in Egypt and Sudan. More than 300 inscriptions in Carian have been found, with about 200 of them located in Egypt, namely in Memphis, Sais, Buto, north Saqqara, Luxor, Elephantine Island, Abu Simbel, Silsilis, Buhen, Gebel Al-Sheikh Suleiman and Khartoum.

"It is interesting that more were found abroad than in their homeland," Kèçèkeren says. "My aim is to visit these settlements for documentation and photographs [of the inscriptions]. I have already visited some of the towns or places like Luxor, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Tel Aswan and Abu Simbel, and I have found some graffiti written in the Carian language on the knee of Pharaoh Ramses II's colossus at Abu Simbel Temple.'" She explained that the Tomb of Maussolus, which gave rise to the word "mausoleum", was the best known of Carian buildings and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Sadly, it no longer exists.

Her purpose is to contribute to a study that will add new dimensions and promote the Carian civilisation, as well as ensuring the Carians' place on the upper level in culture. "I also hopes that this will establish a cultural bridge and a platform between the Carian capital, Bodrum, and Egypt with the help of archaeology, as they share the same Mediterranean Sea and have a long, shared and friendly past," she said.

Kèçèkeren has been greatly encouraged by her friends and colleagues in Egypt. "They have supported my project and helped me in every way," she said.
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