Saturday, May 15, 2010

2010 U.S. Chess Championship

After a draw in Round 2, IM Irina Krush jumps from 8th place to 4th place.  Way to go - but still a long way to go...

Event "2010 US Championship"]
[Site "St Louis"]
[Date "2010.05.15"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Ehlvest, Jaan"]
[Black "Krush, Irina"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[WhiteELO "2673"]
[WhiteTitle "GM"]
[BlackELO "2494"]
[BlackTitle "IM"]
[Source "MonRoi"]

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Nb6 6.d3 Be7 7.Nf3 Nc6 8.O-O O-O 9.a3 Be6 10.Ne4 f6 11.b4 Qd7 12.Bb2 Rfd8 13.Rc1 a5 14.Nc5 Bxc5 15.bxc5 Nd5 16.Qc2 Nde7 17.Qb1 Nf5 18.Rfd1 Nfd4 19.Bxd4 exd4 20.Rd2 a4 21.Rb2 Na5 22.Rb4 Nb3 23.Rc2 c6 24.Qb2 Ra5 25.h4 b5 26.Kh2 Ra7 27.Kg1 Rc7 28.Kh2 Bg4 29.Nd2 Be6 30.Nf3 Bg4 31.Nd2 Be6 32.Nf3 Bg4 1/2-1/2

2010 U.S. Chess Championship - Krush defeats Kaidanov

Round 1 action of the U.S. Chess Championship once again being hosted by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis with a LOT of money on the line, so most of the top players in the US. and wild-card qualifier IM Irina Krush are going for the big bucks.  Thanks to Rex Sinquefield, et al for hosting and funding the championship again this year at the fabulous St. Louis digs.

The dudes were actually playing fighting chess - all right!  Eight out of 12 games were decisive and of course Krush was going for the win all the way behind the white pieces.  That's just how women play, ahem...

2010 US Chess Championships, Saint Louis
White: IM Krush
Black: GM Kaidanov

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Be7 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bf4 Nf6 6.e3 Bf5 7.Nge2 O-O 8.Rc1 c6 9.Ng3 Bg6 10.h4 h6 11.h5 Bh7 12.Bd3 Bxd3 13.Qxd3 Bd6 14.Bxd6 Qxd6 15.Nf5 Qe6 16.f3 Nbd7 17.Kf2 Rfe8 18.g4 Nh7 19.Na4 b6 20.Nc3 Ndf6 21.Ne2 Ng5 22.Nf4 Qd7 23.Qa3 a5 24.Rc2 Rad8 25.Rhc1 c5 26.dxc5 bxc5 27.Rxc5 Ne6 28.Nxe6 Qxe6 29.Kg2 d4 30.e4 d3 31.Qc3 d2 32.Rd1 Qb6 33.a4 Qa6 34.Rb5 Qa8 35.Rxa5 Qb8 36.Ra6 Rc8 37.Qd4 Qb3 38.Rxd2 Rc2 39.Rd6 Rxd2+ 40.Qxd2 Qxa4 41.Rxf6 1-0

Report at the U.S. Chess Federation website with playable games and photos.

Official website.

IM Jen Shahade and GM Maurice Ashley are providing live commentary of the action this year. 

I won't lie, darlings - I've been up to my neck in yard work ever since the sun rose this morning - with a 50 minute trek to the supermarket and back and periodic breaks to catch my breath.  After raking for hours in the backyard, which is an absolute disaster area, I'm about 2/3rds done and now must pull out yet another yard waste container (good thing I have so many, heh heh) cuz there are still tons more branches to rake up before I can pull out the mower.  Must get it done today cuz rain is forecast once again for tomorrow.  The grass is already almost a foot tall in parts so I MUST chop it down today.  On a happier note, the front yard looks pretty spiffy, but I must get new weed/feed as the old stuff from last year did not kill the weeds at all!  I was out there for 2 plus hours today (before the trek to the supermarket) doing a much-needed trimming around the edges of the curbs, walks and driveway and then sweeping everything up.  Took forever!

My neighbors to the north decided they're going to put in a fence so their doggies can roam free (that was Numero Uno when I built this place back in 1990) and so today Mr. Neighbor was out there with a power saw chopping down EVERYTHING - and I do mean EVERYTHING - in sight.  I stayed well away from the lot line, LOL!  Not sure exactly when the fence guys are coming - I heard the surveyor was out yesterday so it will take a few days for the survey to arrive, so perhaps mid-week.  Well, I won't be sorry to see those overgrown shrubs and spruces gone, replaced by a nice tall privacy fence.  I'll finally be able to get a clean edge to my grass! 

Speaking of which - that backyard is calling my name...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Colorful Restored Xi'an Terracotta Warrior

More news on those 114 terracotta warriors uncovered in China -- including a questionable photo.

Quoting from a report at Digital Journal:  Xu Weihong, the excavation team leader said:

The total area of the excavation was some 200 square metres and we were pleasantly surprised to find rich colours on terracotta warriors.

He said the clay figures, which are between 1,8 and two metres tall, had black hair, green, white or pink faces and black or brown eyes. Xu said:

It was hard work to restore the clay warriors as they were broken into pieces. It took us at least 10 days to restore one.

Hmmmm, I'm not saying these colors aren't right, but I'm wondering how come the original warriors discovered in 1974 didn't have these colors???  Or did they but the Chinese archaeologists who excavated them were so inexperienced (and/or inept) at the time that they failed in attempts to preserve them???

And, if these newly-discovered 114 terracottas were mostly smashed and partially burned as stated in the reports at Digital Journal and The Independent, how come it only took 10 days to put one back together again?  Fully restored?  Where are the seams?  Where are the "holes" where pieces couldn't be found that fit?  This does not look like any "restoration" I've seen - it's far too "perfect!"  Interesting.

Image - from Digital Journal: This photo shows the colours of the terracotta warriors as reconstructed by experts. Photos of the new finds have not yet been released.  flickr/Shadowfoot [Does this mean it could be a fake?]

Article from The Independent:
114 terracotta warriors discovered in the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang
By Rebecca Thompson
Thursday, 13 May 2010

114 Terracotta Warriors, and several artefacts, have been discovered in the mausoleum of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. The warriors were discovered in the largest of the pits, No 1 pit, and retained some of the richly-coloured paint that all of the warriors would have displayed originally.

Photos of the warriors, which are mostly infantrymen, have not yet been released, but the researchers describe them as between 1.8 and 2 metres tall, and brightly coloured. Their eyes and hair colour were naturalistic – most had black hair and either brown or black eyes. Their faces varied between white, pink and green, and archaeologists have noted that the different face colours are matched to different costumes.

Despite retaining their original paint, the warriors were not in a perfect state of preservation – most were broken into pieces. Liu Zhanchang, Director of the Archaeology Division of the Museum of Qin Shihuang Terracotta Warriors and Horses, also revealed that the warriors, and the walls of the museum, showed burn marks.

The mausoleum was ransacked by the people of China after the death of the much-hated emperor, and many warriors were smashed to pieces. It’s possible that these newly-discovered figures could have been damaged in the same way, and that the vandals even attempted to burn the whole pit of warriors. Global Times reports that researchers are considering the possibility that the figures were damaged by General Xiang Yu, who purportedly raided the mausoleum less than five years after the death of the First Emperor.

Fortunately, researchers have been able to restore the broken warriors. [What? All of them??? Just when was this discovery made, and how many "restorers" have been working on this project and for how long?] A number of other relics including weapons, chariots, drums and painted wooden rings were also found during the excavation, as well as a well-preserved box, the purpose of which remains a mystery.

The mausoleum was discovered in the 1970s near Xi’an, in China’s Shaanxi Province, and contains the un-excavated tomb of China’s first emperor. It is thought that the tomb may contain toxic levels of mercury, the substance that the emperor believed would make him immortal, and there are no plans as yet to continue the excavation into the actual tomb. The third excavation project began at the site in June 2009, and has resulted in a number of important finds, including the discovery last year of a number of teenage terracotta soldiers.

Chinese Looters Sentenced to Death

Hmmmmm, after reading the story, I'm wondering if they were given such a sentence because of the methods they used (would destroy too many valuable "relics" and therefore cut down on the amount of bribe money available for the local Communist authorities) rather than the fact that they were caught looting...

China sentences to death 4 robbers of old tombs
(AP) – 12 hours ago

BEIJING — China has sentenced to death four robbers who used explosives and heavy machinery to plunder tombs almost 2,500 years old.

The state-run Xinhua News Agency says the four sentenced Friday were part of a 27-member gang who robbed a dozen tombs near the capital of the central province of Hunan in 2008 and 2009.

The report says some of the more than 200 stolen artifacts were under China's highest level of protection. One of the tombs dates from the Warring States period that began in 475 B.C.

An investigator told Xinhua all the relics were recovered.

The Intermediate People's Court in Changsha handed down the death sentences. The other robbers got prison terms.

China executes more people than any other country in the world. [No room to warehouse criminals like we do in the USA].

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Heirs of an Indian Queen Fighting Over the Estate

Friday, 14 May 2010 14:39 UK
India royals in row over Gayatri Devi's will

The grandchildren of one of the last queens of India have pledged to fight attempts by her stepson to dispute the terms of her will.

Gayatri Devi, once described as one of the most beautiful women in the world, died in July 2009 at the age of 90.

But on Thursday her stepson challenged her will in court, arguing that she had been "misguided" by her grandchildren in the latter stages of her life.

She was the third wife of the Maharajah of Jaipur.

Gayatri Devi was a fashion icon who broke with tradition by winning election to parliament in 1962 and was re-elected twice.

She supported education for women, and founded a prestigious school in Jaipur, now the capital of Rajasthan state.

'No truth'

According to her will, her two grandchildren - Devraj Singh and Lalitya Kumari - would be the sole inheritors of her properties which include numerous palaces and other large houses.

But her stepson, Prithviraj Singh, argued that she made the will when she was elderly, frail and unable to talk properly. He argues that he is entitled to some of the property that his stepmother owned.

''We have... challenged the settlement, because it was fake and signed when the mother queen was not well," Mr Singh's lawyer, Ramjilal Gupta, told the BBC's Narayan Bareth in Jaipur.

''There is no truth in the will issued in favour of Devraj and Lalitya."

But Devraj Singh's lawyer, MM Ranjan, said that Mr Singh's legal petition would be vigorously resisted.

"We have a proper settlement endorsed by the court... which Gayatri Devi issued in favour of both grandchildren when she was alive," he said.

According to Mr Ranjan, a local court in Jaipur issued the succession certificate in February 2009 after a settlement was made in November 2008.

Both are being challenged by Mr Singh.

See Gayatri Devi: A maharani and a beauty, The Times of India, RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL, TNN, Jul 30, 2009, 01.00am IST

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Goddess Worshippers Pierce Their Bodies for Her

From One India:
Karnataka devotees pierce their bodies to worship goddess
Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 10:32 [IST]
Davangere (Karnataka), May 11 (ANI): Devotees of the Goddess Mattu Mariamma in Karnataka's Davangere town pierce their bodies with iron nails in an act of worship and to seek her blessings.

They pierce various parts of their bodies, including their tongues, backs, chests and cheeks.

"Some people don't have children and some people have difficulties at their homes, and to overcome these difficulties, we follow this ritual every year and pierce our bodies," said Meenakshi, a devotee.

Many childless devotees pierce their bodies in the belief that the goddess would grant them children.

"People worship Mattu Mariamma if they don't have children, if they have some disease, if girls don't get married," said Lakshman, another devotee.

Some devotees go as far as putting tridents in their mouths or hanging iron hooks from their backs as a mark of worship of Mattu Mariamma.

Devotees even hang heavy weights from their bodies in the belief that their wishes would be fulfilled. (ANI)

More Terracota Warriors Unearthed at Ancient Chinese Tomb Complex

I wonder - just how big is this complex?  Have the Chinese done sonar readings - or, how about using this new technology I blogged bout the other day - lidar - which is set to revolutionize archaeological discoveries and excavations -

From China Daily
114 Terracotta Warriors discovered at museum pit
By Ma Lie (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-05-12 06:52

XI'AN - A company of Terracotta Warriors - most painted in rich colors - have been unearthed at the largest pit within the mausoleum complex of the emperor who first unified China.

A total of 114 Terracotta Warriors have been found at No 1 pit, one of three, where excavation started in June last year, said Xu Weihong, head of the excavation team.

"The total area of the excavation was some 200 sq m and we were pleasantly surprised to find rich colors on Terracotta Warriors," he said.

Photos of the new find are expected to be released later this month.

The clay warriors, ranging in height from 1.8 m to 2 m, had black hair; green, white or pink faces; and black or brown eyes, the archaeologist said.

"It was hard work to restore the clay warriors as they were broken into pieces. It took us at least 10 days to restore one," Xu said.

The latest excavation also showed that the pit had seven layers, said Liu Zhanchang, director of the archaeology division of the Museum of Qin Shihuang Terracotta Warriors and Horses.

Also, traces of burns on the clay warriors and the walls prove that the pit had been set on fire, Liu said, adding more studies were needed for details.

A number of other relics including weapons, chariots, drums and painted wooden rings were also found during the excavation.

Qin Shihuang (259-210 BC), also called the First Emperor of China, was the founder of China's first unified feudal empire, the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).

The pit - located in Lintong district of Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province - was discovered accidentally by farmers in March 1974.

On Oct 1, 1979, the Museum of Qin Shihuang Terracotta Warriors and Horses was opened to the public. It attracts millions of visitors from home and abroad every year.

The pits contain funerary objects for the mausoleum of Qin Shihuang, which is located some 1.5 km west of the pits. The clay warriors and horses are believed to represent the emperor's army.

The discovery of the Terracotta Warriors is considered of the most spectacular finds in the annals of archaeology and described as one of the wonders of the world.

Why Did Vikings Name Their Daughters After Men?

From Science Daily:

Uncovering the Truth About Viking Men
(Apr. 28, 2010) — Vikings are associated with weapons and warfare, machismo and mayhem.

But many of them had the same concerns about choosing their children's names as we do, says a researcher from the University of Leicester who delivered his paper at a Viking conference on April 24.

The sixth Midlands Viking Symposium offered a variety of talks by Viking experts from the Universities of Leicester, Nottingham and Birmingham. The symposium took place at the University of Nottingham, and was open to all Viking enthusiasts.

Dr Philip Shaw, a Lecturer in English Language and Old English, offered his expertise on how the Vikings named their children. He discussed the practice of giving names derived from male names to female children, which was commonplace in the Viking Age.

He commented: "My paper on 'Viking Thomasinas' examines the use of female names developed directly from male names, similar to the more recent name Thomasina. Viking Age Scandinavia saw a remarkable surge in the creation of such names, reflecting in some cases a need for a new way of signalling relationships between female children and their fathers. In other cases, the female versions of new male names are actually more popular than the male originals, suggesting a more conservative attitude to naming boys than girls.

"Such conservatism is, in fact, still with us today. Anxieties about the masculinity of names are very much alive and well: witness the switch of Evelyn from male to female during the twentieth century -- and expect Jo(e) to follow suit in due course. This says a lot about our -- and the Vikings' -- attitude to the importance of male children, and the relative impact of experimental/cross-gender naming on boys and girls.

The symposium sought to broaden the picture of Viking men, opening up the range of ways in which men were men in the Viking world.

Dr Shaw commented: "The Midlands Viking Symposium brings cutting edge research to a wider public, but it's just as important that it brings the wider public to the researchers -- looking beyond academia opens up ways of thinking about the Vikings and their legacy that feed back into and enrich research."

Where Robin Hood and the Merry Men Hid Out

With the release of yet another film version of the story of Robin Hood and the hype leading up to it, interest in the classic story of good guys v. bad guys is running high. 

From The University of Nottingham
Uncovering Nottingham’s hidden medieval sandstone caves
Mon, 10 May 2010 16:40:00 GMT

The very latest laser technology combined with old fashioned pedal power is being used to provide a unique insight into the layout of Nottingham’s sandstone caves — where the city’s renowned medieval ale was brewed and, where legend has it, the country’s most famous outlaw Robin Hood was imprisoned.

The Nottingham Caves Survey, being carried out by archaeologists from Trent & Peak Archaeology at The University of Nottingham, has already produced extraordinary, three dimensional, fly through, colour animation of caves that have been hidden from view for centuries.

Below the grounds of Nottingham Castle and across the city there is a labyrinth of medieval tunnels, dungeons, maltings and cellars — people even carved primitive living quarters out of Nottingham’s sandstone cliffs.

The man-made caves, cut into the strata of rock known as Sherwood Sandstone, are being recorded by laser scanners, which produce up to 500,000 survey points a second, enabling us to see these excavations as never before.

Archaeologists already know of around 450 caves — some are well documented and currently scheduled monuments of local and national importance. With funding of £250,000 from the Greater Nottingham Partnership, emda, English Heritage, The University of Nottingham and Nottingham City Council it is hoped that over the next two and a half years these and many more can be recorded and mapped.

Dr David Walker, of Trent & Peak Archaeology, said: “This remarkable new technology will create a full measured record of the caves in three dimensions. This gives us two really important things — a highly detailed archaeological record of the historic caves, and a new way for people to view caves they may never have seen before. For the first time visitors will be able to explore Nottingham’s unique caves with a laptop or smartphone over the web. However, there have to be many more caves that we don’t even know about and we want to hear from anyone who might have a sandstone tunnel at the back of their house, office or garden.”

The survey will build on the work of the British Geological Survey carried out in the 1980s.

Archaeologists are using environmentally-friendly trailer-pulling bicycles to get themselves and their research equipment about the city. And if you have a cave hidden away in your back garden or at the back of your office block or home they will be more than happy to pop by.

Although many caves and tunnels are blocked up some are still accessible to tourists or used as pub cellars. The project goals are to assess the archaeological importance of Nottingham’s caves, to present the caves in a new and exciting way and to preserve Nottingham’s unique and fragile resource for future generations.

Read more about the caves.

Three Powerful Women Set to Rein In Wall Street

From Yahoo News:

Schapiro, Bair, Warren: Female Sheriffs of Wall Street
By MICHAEL SCHERER / WASHINGTON Michael Scherer / Washington – Thu May 13, 5:15 pm ET
A few weeks back, at an event to celebrate the role of women in finance, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner tried to get things started with a joke. He said he had recently come across a headline that asked, "What If Women Ran Wall Street?"

"Now that's an excellent question, but it's kind of a low bar," Geithner continued, deadpan amid rising laughter. "How, you might ask, could women not have done better?"

It is rarely noted that the financial wreckage littering our world is the creation, almost exclusively, of men, not women. And no wonder: to this day, each of the large banks, from Citigroup to Goldman Sachs, employs fewer than a handful of women in senior positions, and only 3% of Fortune 500 companies have a woman as CEO. Embarrassing tales of a testosterone-filled trading culture tumbled out of the what-went-wrong probes as the Great Recession took hold. (See the seven key elements to financial reform.)

In itself, Geithner's joke was not extraordinary for Washington, where self-deprecating fare is the norm. But what happened next drove home a deeper point: the lectern in the marbled hall at the U.S. Treasury known as the Cash Room was cleared away so that a panel of women could take their seats. Among them was Sheila Bair, the chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and one of the first federal regulators to publicly sound the alarm about the collapse three years ago. She sat next to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chair Mary Schapiro, the first woman to hold that post and the deciding vote to initiate the agency's recent lawsuit against Goldman Sachs. Across the stage sat Elizabeth Warren, chair of the panel bird-dogging the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bank bailout and the chief advocate for new consumer-finance regulations that banks and their allies have spent millions to oppose. Suddenly, something else became clear: these women may not run Wall Street, but in this new era, they are telling Wall Street how to clean up its act.

The same is true all over Washington: three of the five SEC commissioners are women; the head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers is a mother of three; and in the Senate, women have been leading the charge for tougher regulations. Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln stunned the banks in April with tough derivatives regulations that she announced in a letter to a small group of mostly female Senators, who fought beside her to include the language in a final bill. (See 10 races that have Democrats worried for 2010.)

Unlike many of the men they oversee, the new sheriffs of Wall Street never aspired to eight-figure compensation packages or corporate suites. Bair, Schapiro and Warren all made their careers far from Manhattan, taking on new jobs during pregnancies and outhustling the men around them. But it is their willingness to break ranks and challenge the status quo that makes these increasingly powerful women different from their predecessors. As Washington gets down to the hard work of putting laws into place that are designed to prevent another crisis, they are shaping the way government will protect investors and consumers for the next generation. Under financial regulatory reform, which all three women support, both the SEC and the FDIC stand to win powerful new authority to limit and dismantle offenders. The Consumer Financial Protection Agency, a proposed body now working its way through the Senate, is the brainchild of Warren and is envisioned as a bulwark against what she calls the "tricks and traps" that banks hide in credit-card agreements and mortgages.

"Let's face it, women in the financial-services industry are outsiders," explains Warren when asked what unites her with Schapiro and Bair. "You see the world from a different point of view." Bair agrees. "There is a tendency - with some, not all - to value us less, whether it's our opinion or our work product," she says.

That's an attitude Wall Street's traders and their bosses would be wise to start shorting - and fast.

Read more about Sheila Bair, Elizabeth Warren and Mary Schapiro. Watch out, Wall Street dudes.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Easter Island Mystery Still Not Explained

Press release:

Contact: Mike Addelman
University of Manchester

Easter Island discovery sends archaeologists back to drawing board
Archaeologists have disproved the fifty-year-old theory underpinning our understanding of how the famous stone statues were moved around Easter Island
Archaeologists have disproved the fifty-year-old theory underpinning our understanding of how the famous stone statues were moved around Easter Island.

Fieldwork led by researchers at University College London and The University of Manchester, has shown the remote Pacific island's ancient road system was primarily ceremonial and not solely built for transportation of the figures.

A complex network of roads up to 800-years-old crisscross the Island between the hat and statue quarries and the coastal areas.

Laying alongside the roads are dozens of the statues- or moai.

The find will create controversy among the many archaeologists who have dedicated years to finding out exactly how the moai were moved, ever since Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl first published his theory in 1958.

Heyerdahl and subsequent researchers believed that statues he found lying on their backs and faces near the roads were abandoned during transportation by the ancient Polynesians.

But his theory has been completely rejected by the team led by Manchester's Dr Colin Richards and UCL's Dr Sue Hamilton.

Instead, their discovery of stone platforms associated with each fallen moai - using specialist 'geophysical survey' equipment – finally confirms a little known 1914 theory of British archaeologist Katherine Routledge that the routes were primarily ceremonial avenues.

The statues, say the Manchester and UCL team just back from the island, merely toppled from the platforms with the passage of time.

"The truth of the matter is, we will never know how the statues were moved," said Dr Richards.

"Ever since Heyerdahl, archeologists have come up with all manner of theories – based on an underlying assumption that the roads were used for transportation of the moai, from the quarry at the volcanic cone Rano Raraku.

"What we do now know is that the roads had a ceremonial function to underline their religious and cultural importance.

"They lead – from different parts of the island – to the Rano Raraku volcano where the Moai were quarried.

"Volcano cones were considered as points of entry to the underworld and mythical origin land Hawaiki.

"Hence, Rano Ranaku was not just a quarry but a sacred centre of the island."

The previous excavation found that the roads are concave in shape –making it difficult to move heavy objects along them

And as the roads approach Rano Raraku, the statues become more frequent – which the team say, indicated an increasing grades of holiness.

"All the evidence strongly shows that these roads were ceremonial - which backs the work of Katherine Routledge from almost 100 years ago, " said Dr Sue Hamilton.

"It all makes sense: the moai face the people walking towards the volcano.

"The statues are more frequent the closer they are to the volcano – which has to be way of signifying the increasing levels of importance."

She added: "What is shocking is that Heyerdahl actually found some evidence to suggest there were indeed platforms.

"But like many other archaeologists, he was so swayed by his cast iron belief that the roads were for transportation – he completely ignored them."


Routledge and her husband arrived at Easter Island in 1914, to publish her findings in a popular travel book, The Mystery of Easter Island in 1919.

Geophysical surveys are used to create subsurface maps by passing electrical currents below the ground and measuring its resistance.

High quality images are available.

Drs Hamilton and Richards are available for comment

For media enquires contact:
Mike Addelman
Media Relations Officer
Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
0161 275 0790
07717 881 567

A Queen Among Kings


Hajia Ahmed: Nigeria's only queen in a land of kings
From Christian Purefoy CNN
May 12, 2010 10:51 a.m. EDT

Kunbwada, Nigeria (CNN) -- In a region ruled by kings, the people in the Nigerian village of Kunbwada are celebrating their Queen.

They say a curse means any man who attempts to be king in this community will die mysteriously.

That makes Queen Hajia Ahmed of Kunbwada the only traditional woman ruler in conservative Northern Nigeria. (Image:, Tuesday, 15 September 2009, Hajia Turai Yar’Adua.)

Queen Hajia told CNN, "Men cannot rule this kingdom. If a man insists we will let him. And then after two or three days, he will die."

No man has ever tried to usurp the throne, and the young men who remain in the village insist they are loyal subjects.

Sunday Shamari, a 25 year-old farmer, told CNN, "People outside always ask about my Queen and I will tell them the whole history. I feel proud."

Nigeria's kingdoms are officially recognized, and their traditional rulers' authority comes from customary law.

Queen Hajia's official functions include settling marriages and land disputes and keeping the peace. But she also wants to introduce some changes of her own.

"Women must be educated," she said. "Education means women can be anything they want to be."

Ivorian artist Paul Sika's glorious Technicolor world

In remote regions of Nigeria, women have few rights and little access to education, so for some women Kunbwada offers hope.

Queen Hajia has tens of thousands of subjects, and has ruled for 12 years after inheriting the throne following her mother's death.

Now she's witnessing changing times. As more young people leave the community and head to the towns in search of work and money, there's a fear these traditions are being lost.

The elders of the community blame foreign influences from the towns for what they see as a growing disrespect of the local culture and beliefs.

Mohammed Sani, who has the honorary title of "Custodian of the Shrine", told CNN, "The West is making our tradition go back. We want our people to be enlightened, but Western values are having a bad effect."

As for modernity, the Queen says it does bring some benefits. "I have seen many changes," she said. "Things have improved, and the new town has helped education and infrastructure."

Mark Tutton contributed to this report

Nilometer Discovered

From Isis - thanks, 'Sis!

Ancient Egyptian 'Nilometer' Helped Measure River's Height

Egyptian archaeologists carrying routine excavations at the so-called “Avenue of Sphinxes,” have unearthed the remains of a 5th century Egyptian Christian church and a "nilometer," a structure used to measure the level of the Nile during floods.  (Photo: Nilometer / Courtesy of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquites (SCA)

Already announced by Dr. Sabry Abd El Aziz, head of the SCA's Egyptology sector, in a , the Avenue of Sphinx project involves the restoration of a 2.7-km (1.7-mile) ancient processional avenue that connects the grand temples of Luxor and Karnak on the east bank of the Nile River.

Built some 3,400 years ago, the alley was guarded on both sides by 1,350 majestic statues in the shape of sphinxes -- mythological creatures with the body of a lion and head of a human or ram.

The pathway, complete with rest places, chapels and sphinxes with ram heads, was originally built by King Amenhotep III (1410-1372 B.C.). It was then reconstructed by the 30th Dynasty King Nectanebo I (380-362 B.C.), who replaced the ram-headed sphinxes with his own head.

Divided into five sections, the path is now yielding a number of archaeological remains.

On the second section of the path, the archaeologists found the ruins of a 1,600-year-old church. The stone remains revealed that the building was constructed with recycled limestone blocks.

“The blocks originally belonged to the Ptolemaic and Roman temples that stretched along the Avenue of Sphinxes,” Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, said in a statement released by Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities on Tuesday.

“They are very well preserved and decorated with scenes depicting Ptolemaic and Roman kings offering sacrifices to ancient Egyptian deities,” Hawass said.

At the avenue’s fourth section, the team also discovered remains of a cylindrical sandstone nilometer with New Kingdom (1569-1081 B.C.) clay vessels at its bottom.

The structure, 7 meters (23 feet) in diameter, was encircled by a spiral staircase descending into the Nile. The steps allowed for a quick reading of increase in water level, thus forecasting floods.

The archaeologists also unearthed a collection of foundation stones used to install the sphinx' statues. Some of the stones were decorated with scenes depicting King Amenhotep III, who began construction on the avenue.

The fragmented sphinxes are now under restoration. Soon they will be placed on display along a section of the avenue.

“Development work at the third section of the path located behind the Mubarak Public Library is at its final stages, and it should be opened to the public soon,” Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquity said.

New Laser Mapping Technique Reveals Amazing Things

From The New York Times:

Mapping Ancient Civilization, in a Matter of Days
Published: May 10, 2010

For a quarter of a century, two archaeologists and their team slogged through wild tropical vegetation to investigate and map the remains of one of the largest Maya cities, in Central America. Slow, sweaty hacking with machetes seemed to be the only way to discover the breadth of an ancient urban landscape now hidden beneath a dense forest canopy.

Even the new remote-sensing technologies, so effective in recent decades at surveying other archaeological sites, were no help. Imaging radar and multispectral surveys by air and from space could not “see” through the trees.

Then, in the dry spring season a year ago, the husband-and-wife team of Arlen F. Chase and Diane Z. Chase tried a new approach using airborne laser signals that penetrate the jungle cover and are reflected from the ground below. They yielded 3-D images of the site of ancient Caracol, in Belize, one of the great cities of the Maya lowlands.

In only four days, a twin-engine aircraft equipped with an advanced version of lidar (light detection and ranging) flew back and forth over the jungle and collected data surpassing the results of two and a half decades of on-the-ground mapping, the archaeologists said. After three weeks of laboratory processing, the almost 10 hours of laser measurements showed topographic detail over an area of 80 square miles, notably settlement patterns of grand architecture and modest house mounds, roadways and agricultural terraces.

“We were blown away,” Dr. Diane Chase said recently, recalling their first examination of the images. “We believe that lidar will help transform Maya archaeology much in the same way that radiocarbon dating did in the 1950s and interpretations of Maya hieroglyphs did in the 1980s and ’90s.”

The Chases, who are professors of anthropology at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, had determined from earlier surveys that Caracol extended over a wide area in its heyday, between A.D. 550 and 900. From a ceremonial center of palaces and broad plazas, it stretched out to industrial zones and poor neighborhoods and beyond to suburbs of substantial houses, markets and terraced fields and reservoirs.

This picture of urban sprawl led the Chases to estimate the city’s population at its peak at more than 115,000. But some archaeologists doubted the evidence warranted such expansive interpretations.

“Now we have a totality of data and see the entire landscape,” Dr. Arlen Chase said of the laser findings. “We know the size of the site, its boundaries, and this confirms our population estimates, and we see all this terracing and begin to know how the people fed themselves.”

The Caracol survey was the first application of the advanced laser technology on such a large archaeological site. Several journal articles describe the use of lidar in the vicinity of Stonehenge in England and elsewhere at an Iron Age fort and American plantation sites. Only last year, Sarah H. Parcak of the University of Alabama at Birmingham predicted, “Lidar imagery will have much to offer the archaeology of the rain forest regions.”

The Chases said they had been unaware of Dr. Parcak’s assessment, in her book “Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology” (Routledge, 2009), when they embarked on the Caracol survey. They acted on the recommendation of a Central Florida colleague, John F. Weishampel, a biologist who had for years used airborne laser sensors to study forests and other vegetation.

Dr. Weishampel arranged for the primary financing of the project from the little-known space archaeology program of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The flights were conducted by the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping, operated by the University of Florida and the University of California, Berkeley.

Other archaeologists, who were not involved in the research but were familiar with the results, said the technology should be a boon to explorations, especially ones in the tropics, with its heavily overgrown vegetation, including pre-Columbian sites throughout Mexico and Central America. But they emphasized that it would not obviate the need to follow up with traditional mapping to establish “ground truth.”

Jeremy A. Sabloff, a former director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and now president of the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, said he wished he had had lidar when he was working in the Maya ruins at Sayil, in Mexico.

The new laser technology, Dr. Sabloff said, “would definitely have speeded up our mapping, given us more details and would have enabled us to refine our research questions and hypotheses much earlier in our field program than was possible in the 1980s.”

At first, Payson D. Sheets, a University of Colorado archaeologist, was not impressed with lidar. A NASA aircraft tested the laser system over his research area in Costa Rica, he said, “but when I saw it recorded the water in a lake sloping at 14 degrees, I did not use it again.”

Now, after examining the imagery from Caracol, Dr. Sheets said he planned to try lidar, with its improved technology, again. “I was stunned by the crisp precision and fine-grained resolution,” he said.

“Finally, we have a nondestructive and rapid means of documenting the present ground surface through heavy vegetation cover,” Dr. Sheets said, adding, “One can easily imagine, given the Caracol success, how important this would be in Southeast Asia, with the Khmer civilization at places like Angkor Wat.”

In recent reports at meetings of Mayanists and in interviews, the Chases noted that previous remote-sensing techniques focused more on the discovery of archaeological sites than on the detailed imaging of on-ground remains. The sensors could not see through much of the forest to resolve just how big the ancient cities had been. As a consequence, archaeologists may have underestimated the scope of Mayan accomplishments.

Rest of article.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Lewis Chessmen: Bewitching

From the Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday:

Dug up on a beach 180 years ago, Lewis Chessmen still have a bewitching effect
Date: 09 May 2010
By Peter Ross
TO walk into a room in Granton, in the north of Edinburgh, and see the Lewis chessmen set out on a table is one of those rare moments in life when the old saying about having your heart in your mouth seems less like a banal cliché and more a statement of visceral fact. I can feel the pulse and taste the blood. (Photo: National Museums of Scotland conservator Jane Clark with some of the pieces.  Love this photo because you get a real sense of the scale of these pieces, which are, as far as I can tell by looking, are from two different sets).

The chessmen are the most precious archaeological treasures ever discovered in Scotland. It is believed they were made in Trondheim, Norway, in the late 12th century and dug from the sands of Lewis's Atlantic coast in 1831. Yet here they are, huddled near the corner of the large white lab table, as if in the midst of a heated discussion over whether they should shin down the leg, make their way to the nearby Firth of Forth, and rebury themselves by the water. "No fighting now," says the conservator Jane Clark in mock-admonishment, plucking up a knight on horseback with one of her white-gloved hands; the pieces are so lifelike that one half expects a whinnying protest at this indignity.

We are in the collection centre of the National Museums Scotland (NMS), a bland modern building in which conservation work takes place and where objects are kept when not on display. The chess pieces are here to be checked, photographed and packed ahead of an exhibition, The Lewis Chessmen: Unmasked, which opens at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh on 21 May and continues to Aberdeen, Lerwick and Stornoway. There will be 29 chessmen on display – six from NMS and 23 on loan from the British Museum in London – except during the Edinburgh run when the entire NMS collection will swell the total to 34.

Today, Jane Clark is letting me see all 11 NMS pieces and has grouped them by type – two kings, three queens, three bishops, one knight and two of the rook-like pieces known as warders. It feels jarringly anachronistic to see them in a modern workplace with someone on the radio droning about Nick Clegg and a mobile phone playing, rather gratifyingly, the theme to Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

The larger of the kings is the biggest piece – almost 10cm tall and 223.5 grams. The pieces are brownish-white, the colour of tobacco-stained teeth, and are made from the tusks of walruses hunted, most likely, in Greenland. They are covered in tiny grooves, like frost veins on a window pane, which are thought to be the marks left by insects burrowing in the white Lewis sand.

Most striking of all are the facial expressions. These are not the interchangeable symbolic pieces of a modern chess set. These figures seem frozen in the moment of feeling strong emotions. The larger king gives a saucer-eyed scowl and looks set to pull his sword from its scabbard. The queens, as if in response, seem flustered, their palms pressed to their cheeks; it's an expression familiar from The Broons (there were 11 in that family, too) when Paw does something that leaves Maw black-affronted. The queens, could they speak, might well be saying "Crivvens!"

It's the warders, though, that are most compelling. One, usually referred to as a "berserker", looks terrified at the thought of going into battle. He is biting the top of his shield with five tiny teeth. He's a comic figure in a way, though oddly moving too. He seems to say something about what we ask of soldiers in our contemporary wars, and how heroism is largely a matter of continuing to function in frightening situations. It's daft, but I feel for him.

The chessmen have always had this ability to move us. Thousands, perhaps millions of eyes have gazed upon them over the years and found the encounter rich. Sir Walter Scott spent an hour contemplating them on 17 October, 1831, the day they were brought to the British Museum and offered for sale; more than a century later, visits to see the chessmen at the museum inspired Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin to make The Saga Of Noggin The Nog, the 1960s animated series. How strange and delicious to think that the creators of Ivanhoe and Ivor the Engine can be linked by these ancient objects.

"He's one of my favourites," says Clark of the berserker. "I also like the knight 'cos he's in such a sorry state." She's responding to the knight's vulnerability – it is the most worn of the pieces – as if it is a person. It seems that anyone who spends prolonged periods with the chessmen can't help but perceive them in that way.

"Maybe I should be smacked for thinking these thoughts," says Dr David Caldwell, the curator who has been responsible for the pieces since 1973, "but you get very possessive about your collections. You see them as being yours, though I don't think in an unhealthy way. Undoubtedly I see them as part of my family. I do have those feelings. Somebody asked me fairly recently if I knew what their names were. I haven't actually said, 'Right, he's Robinvald and he's Angus,' but the fact is that I do know a lot of likely names one could call them, and I have actually personalised them deep down in me."

The question is why should people feel so strongly about the chessmen? In part, surely, because they are figurative; indeed, colloquial accounts of their discovery relate that the islanders referred to them as "fairy folk". It's even said that Malcolm "Sprot" Macleod, the crofter who is believed to have uncovered them, was so unsettled by their appearance that he ran home in alarm to his wife. She, like Maw Broon or a Norse queen, told him to not be so daft and to go back and get them. But there is something more. Standing over the chessmen in the NMS lab, the desire to reach out and lift one, or even just lay a finger on a crown, is very strong (as is the converse impulse to run away in case I break them). This, I think, is key to their attraction. It's easy to imagine them being held by hands which have themselves long turned to bone. They are a tangible link to the people of the past, and because they are gaming pieces they say something rather poignant about human pleasure and intellect. The men and women who played with these, we might think, were not so different from us.

The chessmen also derive glamour from their mysterious origins. No one knows for sure where they were made or how they came to be on Lewis, and last year Dr David Caldwell published research claiming that they may have been discovered in the machair by Mèalasta, a village now deserted, six miles south of the point on the beautiful Uig sands which has long been considered the true "findspot".

Caldwell's theory has not found favour with Comann Eachdraidh Uig, the local historical society. Its members continue to maintain that the chessmen – which they pointedly call the Uig chessmen – were found by Malcolm Macleod in the Bealach Bàn, a hollow in the dunes near what is now the village of Ardroil. "It's absolutely consistent throughout our oral tradition going back that that's where they came from," says the society's treasurer Sarah Egan. "Something that happened 180 years ago is really no distance away. The population has been pretty consistent. For someone who is 80 now, their grandfather would have had it as a child that the chessmen were found there and by Malcolm."

Macleod's living descendants on Lewis keep a low profile. It's said, though, that he sold the chessmen to a merchant from Stornoway who took them to the Scottish mainland. Not long after his discovery, Macleod's village fell victim to the Clearances and he moved to the north of the island, dying within ten years. The chessmen, meanwhile, were divided and sold in both Edinburgh and London.

There's also a tantalising possibility that further pieces may have been sold in secret to private collectors. James Robinson of the British Museum jokes that he always looks out for them on Antiques Roadshow. "And I never dismiss anyone who tells me they have one. Every month I get at least one enquiry about a potential find of a chessman, but invariably they turn out to be resin copies that we've made here."

Greater than the controversy over where the chessmen came from is that over where they should be kept in future. Scottish Nationalist politicians have long argued that the 82 pieces held in London should be returned to Lewis, and the issue has gained a greater urgency since the SNP came to power. "They are the Lewis chessmen," says the MP Angus MacNeil, whose constituency includes the island. "Seeing them in their own natural setting would fire the imagination, people would understand the background better, and they would be appreciated more."

Unsurprisingly, this view is not shared by the British Museum and, according to Sarah Egan, there is no great demand locally for the entire hoard of chessmen to return permanently to the island "where nobody will see them". Even National Museums Scotland takes the view that the situation is best left as it is. "But if my fairy godmother waved a magic wand and gave me the rest," says David Caldwell, "then, of course, I am only human."

At the end of my visit to the NMS lab, Jane Clark packs the chessmen back into the silver carrying case which may transport them on their forthcoming tour. It's a brief return to the darkness for treasures which have and will continue to brighten the lives of all who return their unblinking ivory gaze.

Where is Punt?

From the San Francisco Chronicle

Scientists zero in on ancient Land of Punt
David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor
Saturday, May 8, 2010

Thousands of years ago, there once stood a place called Punt, a land of gold and ebony, and ivory, frankincense and myrrh.

To the pharaohs who built their palaces along the Nile, the Land of Punt was the source of great treasure. Among the most prized were Punt's leopards and baboons, which they viewed as sacred and took as royal pets.

The pharaohs sent great expeditions to Punt; they welcomed delegations of Puntites to their palaces, and their scribes recorded their gifts and commercial products in detail.

But not one of the Egyptian scribes who wrote about the strange land - Ta netjer, or God's Land, as it was sometimes called - ever revealed exactly where it lay.

The riddle was left to modern-day scholars to solve.

Now researchers armed with the sophisticated tools of modern physics have tackled the problem and declared that while they still can't tell exactly where Punt was, they do know where it wasn't.

Disputes over Punt's location have gone on for decades. Punt (pronounced Poont), archaeologists have said, was in Mozambique, or Somalia; or on the Sinai Peninsula or in Yemen, or somewhere in Western Asia where Israel, Lebanon and Syria now lie.

Narrowing the search
At a recent meeting in Oakland of the American Research Center in Egypt three scientists announced with confidence they had ruled out all of those five locations, and there was no disagreement from the 300 archaeologists there.

The Land of Punt, the scientist said, must have existed in eastern North Africa - either in the region where Ethiopia and Eritrea confront each other, or east of the Upper Nile in a lowland area of eastern Sudan.

The three experts, all specialists in arcane disciplines, were:

-- Nathaniel J. Dominy, a UC Santa Cruz anthropologist and primate ecologist who studies the lives and habitats of apes, baboons and other monkeys, as well as human evolution;

-- Gillian Leigh Moritz, a specialist in manipulating the mass spectrometer in Dominy's laboratory to analyze the stable isotopes of oxygen and other elements;

-- Kathryn A. Bard, a Boston University Egyptologist who for nearly 10 years has been excavating the ancient Red Sea harbor of Wadi Gawassis, where royal sailing expeditions were sent to Punt and returned with precious cargo.

The key to solving the mystery of Punt was Dominy's intimate knowledge of baboon geography - there are five species of the animals, and Dominy can identify the African regions where each one has its specialized habitat. He also knows the characteristics of the body tissue of each species.

"We used baboons as a lens to solve the Punt problem," he said. "They were among the most important commodities brought back to the pharaohs from Punt, but until now no one has known where those baboons came from."

The British Museum in London's collection of Egyptian antiquities holds two mummified baboons that were once gifts from Punt to the pharaohs, and although museum officials would not allow Dominy to drill into the mummies for bone samples to analyze their DNA, he was allowed to snip a few precious hairs from the baboons for Moritz to work on.

Clues in the water
Despite their age, those hairs still contained trace molecules of the water the animals drank when alive, and Moritz could analyze that water to determine the ratio of two oxygen isotopes in the hairs.

It's a complicated bit of chemistry, but every oxygen atom is made up of three different stable isotopes - their atomic masses - and the ratio between two of them, oxygen-16 and oxygen-18, varies significantly in the rainfall and humidity from one part of the world to another, even from different parts of a continent.

Moritz used her mass spectrometer in the Dominy lab to determine the oxygen isotope ratios in the hairs of each mummified baboon, and compared them with the ratios in all five species of baboons living in varied parts of Africa today.

"The results of the mass spectrometer showed us that the region of Ethiopia and Eritrea was the place to look for Punt," she said.

Bard, the Boston University Egyptologist, said the findings are convincing and make Punt more real than ever, but she suggests that the land might also have existed in a similar nearby baboon region - perhaps in eastern Sudan.

Remains of ships
The ancient harbor on the Red Sea where Bard is excavating is called Mersa/Wadi Gawassis, and Bard's excavations have yielded well-preserved ship's timbers, anchors, coils of ancient rope, and the rigging of seagoing ships that date from the reigns of several Pharaonic dynasties.

From that port, a pharaoh named Amenhotep IV sent a major expedition to Punt some 3,800 years ago during the eighth year of his reign, Bard and her colleagues have discovered.

"We've made a wonderful find there," Bard said. "It was really amazing - 40 cargo boxes from the ship, and some were inscribed with the name of that very king, the name of the scribe, and the inscribed words, 'wonderful things from Punt.' "

Significant Discovery: Stone Inscribed with Indus Signs in Gujarat

Story from The

Stone inscription with Indus signs found in Gujarat
By T. S. Subramanian
The Hindu
Wednesday, May 5, 2010

SIGNIFICANT DISCOVERY: R. S. Bisht, former Joint Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India, pointing to the Indus inscription found engraved on a sandstone at Dholavira in Gujarat.

First time Indus script found engraved on natural stone
An inscription on stone, with three big Indus signs and possibly a fourth, has been found on the Harappan site of Dholavira in Gujarat.

The discovery is significant because this is the first time that the Indus script has been found engraved on a natural stone in the Indus Valley. The Indus script has so far been found on seals made of steatite, terracotta tablets, ceramics and so on. Dholavira also enjoys the distinction of yielding a spectacularly large Indus script with 10 big signs on wood. This inscription was three-metre long.

Both the discoveries were made by a team led by R. S. Bisht, who retired as Joint Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India in 2004. While the stone inscription was discovered in 1999, the script with 10 large signs was found in 1991.

"The inscription on stone is unique because it is the first of its kind [in the Indus civilisation area]. It is the first inscription on a stone slab. But only part of it was found," said Dr. Bisht, who led 14 field excavation seasons at Dholavira from 1989 to 2001. "It was a natural limy sandstone cut into shape and then engraved with an inscription," he said.

The signs are seven cm tall and 6-10 cm wide.

The script has three large Indus signs, running from right to left, and there appears to be a fourth sign too. Dr. Bisht said: "The inscription must have run longer, but the stone was broken into pieces. The stone was used as ordinary building material for making an underground chamber in the bailey area of the citadel during stage five of the seven stages documenting the rise and fall of the Indus civilisation at Dholavira. It was placed in such a manner that it was facing us when we found it."

He was sure that there must be more stone pieces with the Indus script there. He surmised that the stone with the script must have been used as a lintel of the doorway of the underground chamber so that people could notice it. The inscription could have stood for the name of the house, its owner or an incantation. "It is a closed book," he said. (The Indus script has not been deciphered yet).

Michel Danino, independent researcher in the Harappan civilisation, called it "an unprecedented discovery because there is no stone inscription in the Indus civilisation." Stone was a rare material on the Indus plains. "This is the first time we have come across a stone
inscription, but it has not attracted the attention it deserves," Mr.
Danino said.

Dholavira in Kachch district is a major Indus site. It attracted wide attention in the 1990s for yielding what Dr. Bisht calls "a spectacularly large inscription made of 10 unusually big Indus signs" which were inlaid on a wooden board which had, however, decayed. The signs were made of thoroughly baked gypsum. It must have been sported right above the north gate of the castle, and "it must have been visible from afar with its white brilliance," Dr. Bisht said.

Highly literate society
He argued that it was a highly literate Harappan society that must have existed at Dholavira because seals, tablets, pottery, bangles and even copper tools with Indus signs were found everywhere in the citadel, the middle town, the lower town and the annexe of the site.

Besides, the same seals, beads, pottery and ornaments were found everywhere as if the entire population had wealth. "It appears to have been an egalitarian society. On the basis of material culture, you cannot draw a distinction among the city's inhabitants," he said.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Peaceful Minoans? Pffft!

Like - for real? - peaceful people are just supposed to sit back and wait for the barbarians to come in and wipe them out?  Rape their women, sacrifice their children to the Fire God after being sodomized?  Please!  For sure the Minoans had fortifications, duh!  Playing defense is not the same as being offensive.  Figure it out...

Crete fortifications debunk myth of peaceful Minoan society
By Owen Jarus
Wednesday, 5 May 2010

A team of archaeologists have discovered a fortification system at the Minoan town of Gournia, a discovery which rebukes the popular myth that the Minoans were a peaceful society with no need for defensive structures.

The team's efforts were led by Professor Vance Watrous and Matt Buell of the University at Buffalo. Located on the north coast, Gournia was in use during the neo-palatial period (ca. 1700-1450 BC), when Minoan civilization was at its height. The town sits atop a low ridge with four promontories on its coastline. Two of these promontories end in high vertical cliffs that give the town a defensive advantage, and it is here that the fortification system was discovered.

The team weren’t able to excavate the area, and so relied on photography, drawing and surveying to identify the fortifications. The eastern-most promontory had a heavy wall that was about 27 meters long. Beside it the team found a semi-circular platform of stone, almost nine meters in diameter, which they believe is the remains of a tower or bastion. The other fortified promontory had a two meter thick wall, running east-west, “as if to close off access from the sea,” said Buell.

The other two promontories slope gently down to the shore, and would have provided easy access to the town. “It was on these two promontories”, said Professor Watrous, “that the Minoans built structures.”

The town consists of around 60 tightly-packed houses, a ship shed, and a small palace in the centre, and archaeologists have discovered evidence of wine making, bronze-working and stone-working at the site. “Gournia gives you, the visitor, a real feeling of what an Aegean town was actually like. Walking up the streets, past the houses, you feel like you’ve been transported into the past,” said Buell.

In addition to the beach fortifications, it also appears that the Minoans built a second line of defence further inland. Heading back from the beach, there were two walls, together running about 180 meters east to west. Backed by a tower, or bastion, the walls would have posed a formidable challenge to any invader trying to march into the town.

Defenders manning this system of fortification would have rained projectiles down on attackers, by using bows and slings. The walls had stone foundations and were made of mud brick, making them sturdy enough to stand on.

It’s an open question as to whether the people guarding the fortifications were part of a militia or something more organized. There was “definitely a body of men who would have had that duty but we don’t know exactly what they were like,” said Professor Watrous.

Tombs uncovered by Hawes and other excavators have shown people buried with swords. Watrous said that there was one particular tomb that produced an entire collection of daggers, swords and other items.

However, Gournia’s fortifications did not prevent the town’s demise. The town fell around 1450 BC, along with other Minoan settlements. A new group called the Mycenaean appeared on Crete at this time, taking over the island.

Watrous said that Mycenaeans probably avoided attacking the town by sea. "Many other settlements were destroyed at the same time. My guess is that they just came along the land; they didn’t have to come up from the sea”.

He cannot say for sure if the town defences were ever actually put to their intended use. Any evidence of a battle near these fortifications, such as weapons or bodies, would be underground, and excavation would have to be carried out to see if they exist.

One thing that excavators can say is that the people of Gournia had something worth fighting for. Many of the goods they made – such as the wine and the bronze implements - were for export, suggesting that the people had some level of wealth.

African Head is Real After All - Duh!

How frigging insulting - that some "experts" (I use the quotes advisedly) thought this couldn't possibly have been created by any Africans.  What? 

Story from the
Sculpture deemed too complex for Africa could be real after all
By Arifa Akbar, Arts Correspondent
Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Ever since a pure copper sculpture was found buried in a palm grove near the Nigerian city of Ife, experts from the West have argued that the artefact was a fake that was too sophisticated to have been created by African hands.

Found in 1910, the "Olokun head" left Western curators doubting that such a technically advanced work of art could have been created by indigenous people. Years later, they even began to doubt its authenticity, claiming that the original had been sold illegally and the one which remained in Nigeria was an ingenious copy. But now, new science is set to turn past wisdom on its head. There is a growing belief among contemporary curators that the "counterfeit" sculpture is the real thing, according to The Art Newspaper.

When it first travelled to the British Museum in 1948, it was exhibited as a copy; scholars claimed it was made from a blend of ancient materials that had been melted down, while the real work of art was thought to have been smuggled out of Africa by a European or American collector. The artwork, now on its second visit to the British Museum, where it is currently displayed – again as a "replica" – will undergo a thorough scientific investigation next month to establish the truth, once and for all.

Nigel Barley, a former British Museum curator who briefly examined the head in January, believes it may well be the original. Enid Schildkrout, from New York's Museum for African Art and curator of the current exhibition at the British Museum, agrees. If, she said, the real treasure had in fact been stolen, "it is surprising that the original has never reappeared".

It was first found by Leo Frobenius, a German anthropologist who had heard rumblings of a buried sculpture in a palm grove, just outside Ife, near a shrine dedicated to the goddess of the sea, Olokun. He organised a dig to investigate, and found the artwork.

Some days later, the colonial administration seized the sculpture on the grounds that it was sacred and should be returned to its original site, before it was transferred to the Ife Museum. One theory that emerged was that Frobenius commissioned a replica when he was instructed to hand over the artefact, and smuggled the original out of the country.

At the time of discovery, the head was considered too great a masterpiece to have been created by indigenous African artists – a reflection of prevailing attitudes of the early 20th century. Some Europeans even theorised that the work was a remnant from the lost city of Atlantis. A spokeswoman for the British Museum said when the head travelled to the West, it caused a huge stir because "it flew in the face of Western perceptions" (of African heritage and cultural achievements).

It is now accepted by the curatorial community that the advanced artistic techniques used to create the sculpture were "more advanced than those of Renaissance Italy, and comparable to those of [the artist] Donatello".

Such sculptures, discovered in Nigeria and neighbouring Benin, were sold on the open market for under £100, in some instances, during the 1950s. This particular work was surrounded by various myths and beliefs, but it was not actually examined until 1948, when it left Nigeria and specialists at the British Museum declared it was a replica.
Since then, curators have cast doubt over the idea that Frobenius organised the deceit, not least because it is highly unlikely that such a complicated replica – which was found to be made from authentically ancient materials – could have been made in such a short space of time.

Descended from Two Survivors of he French-Indian Wars

OHMYGODDESS!  I can't quite wrap my head around this latest family discovery yet.  My grandmother seven times removed, Anne Marie Raizenne-Shoentakouani (or Shoentakowini), was the daughter of two survivors of the Deerfield, Massachusetts raid of February 28, 1704, who were children when they were taken.

Marie Anne Raizenne-Shoentakouani (or Shoentakowini)
b. 1719 Oka, Lac Deux Montagnes, Quebec
d. 25 Mar 1787
m. Louis Seguin dit Laderoute on 8 Apr 1736, Lac de Deux Montagnes, Quebec

Marie Anne Raizenne-Shentakouani and Louis Seguin dit Laderoute are my 7x removed great-grandparents.  This family line became alligned with the Villeneuve family through the marriage of Marie Louise Adele Sequin dit Laderoute, their descendant, and Antoine Asselin Villeneuve, who were the parents of my great-great grandfather, David Newton (a/k/a David Villeneuve), who moved to Wisconsin in about 1879. 

Here is the information that I discovered from the family trees of various distant cousins, all descendants of Anne Marie Raizenne-Shoentakouani (1719-1787) and her husband, Louis Seguin dit Laderoute (1712-1763):

Marie Anne Raizenne was the daughter of two Deerfield, MA born parents who were kidnapped in the Raid on Deerfield, MA on February 29, 1703/4. Her parents were born Josiah Rising (b. Suffield, CT, USA) and Abigail Nims (b. Deerfield, MA, USA).

Marie Anne was unable to write.

She was christened Sunday, 8 Apr 1736 at Oka, QC in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto (now called the Church of the Annonciation).
Louis Seguin (8 Apr 1712, Boucherville, Quebec - 13 Jul 1763, Grand Detroit, Quebec) married Marie Anne Raizenne (1719, Quebec - 27 Mar 1787, Oka, Quebec) on Sunday, 8 Apr 1736, at the Church of Our Lady of Loretto (now called the Church of the Annonciation), in Lac des Deux Montagnes (present-day Oka), Quebec).

Louis Seguin, born 8 Apr 1712, in Boucherville, QC, and baptized in the parish of Ste Famille, was the eldest son of Jean Baptiste Seguin and Genevieve Barbeau. His baptismal entry is recorded as follows and contains the names of his godparents, Louis Reguindeau and Marie Veronneau:

The year 1712, the 9th day of April, I the undersigned priest being the parish priest at the parish of Holy Family of Boucherville, baptize Louis, born the preceding day of Jean Baptiste Seguin and Genevieve Barbeau his spouse. The godfather is Louis Reguindeau, the godmother Marie Veronneau who declare as not being able to sign according to the ordinance.
C. Dauzat, priest

On his 24th birthday, 8 Apr 1736, Louis married 16 year old Marie Anne Raizenne in the church of the Annociation, Oka, QC. Marie Anne was the daughter of Ignace Raizenne and Elisabeth Nims, both of whom had been seized as captives in their childhood during the French and Indian raid on the New England village of Deerfield, Massachusetts on 29 Feb 1704. (As children they were originally named Josiah Rising and Abigail Nims but when baptized by the French, were given new names in honor of St Ignatius and Ste Elizabeth.)

In 1703, the Marquis de Vaudreuil, the Governor of Nouvelle France, was convinced that an attack on the colony was likely to come from Boston. He named LeNeuf de Beaubassin in charge of an expedition, with Abenakis Indians, against the English coast from Casco to Wells. The following year, the English retaliated against the Abenakis. Consequently, Vaudreuil sent Hertel de Rouville as the head of an expedition made up of 250 French soldiers and Christian Iroquois and Hurons. On 29 Feb 1704, the small village of Deerfield, Massachusetts, situated on the Connecticut River, was raided. Ms. Elizabeth Marineau Liska, who wrote an article for The Genealogist, continues the story...

The small village of Deerfield, located along the Connecticut River in Massachusetts, was surrounded by a stockade and was inhabited by several hundred people. It was February and there was a great amount of snow cover, with some habitations almost covered over. In the fort there were twenty soldiers, provided by Governor Joseph Dudley of Massachusetts Bay.

During the night of February 28, the attackers, consisting of French soldiers, Iroquois and Huron Indians, approached the village. At dawn the attack was begun with a mighty war cry, surprising the villagers in their sleep. Doors were broken down, windows were broken and the victims were quickly floored by guns and hatchets. In minutes the disgraceful victory was won with almost no resistance. After the swift massacre, the village was completely destroyed by fire. Forty-seven known persons were killed, and 112 taken prisoners. Hardly had the sun risen on that winter day of February 29, the attackers were on their return to Canada. A few parties consisting of neighboring villagers pursued the fleeing invaders, but were unsuccessful.

The return trek to Canada [over the Green Mountains and through the snow wearing snow shoes] lasted 25 days, during which 12 prisoners died because of wounds, bad treatment, or the cold weather. Among the prisoners [who survived] were a 10 year old boy Josiah Rising [born 2 Feb 1694], and a small 4 year old girl, Abigail Nims [born 11 Jun 1700]. Along with Abigail, her mother Mehitable and a brother Ebenzer were also taken captive. Mehitable died on the journey to Canada. The Nims home had been in the stockade and later burned with three small girls. Abigail's brother Henry and sister Rebecca were among those killed.

Abigail was the daughter of Godfroi de Nismes, a French Huguenot [French Protestant] who first appeared in North Hampton, Massachusetts on September 4, 1667. He participated in Turner's fight with the Indians on May 18, 1676, and was a soldier in King Philip's War. He married a widow, Mrs Mary (Williams) Miller and lived in Deerfield, Mass. Mary died on April 27, 1688. On June 27, 1692, Godfroi (also Godfrey) married the widow of Jeremiah Hull, Mehitable Smead, daughter of William Smead. Godfrey had 11 children in all. A daughter, Thankful (Munn), escaped during the massacre because her home was hidden in the drifts of snow.

Josiah Rising, born February 2, 1694, was the son of John and Sarah (Hale), living in Suffield, Conn. The first American ancestor in this family was James Rising born in 1617, and a native of London, England. At age 18, he sailed on the "Dorset," September 13, 1635, landing near Bermuda. He then went to Salem, Mass. On July 7, 1657, he married Elizabeth Hinsdale, daughter of Robert and Anne (Woodward) Hinsdale of Boston, Mass. In 1662, James Rising and family moved to Windsor, Conn. where his young wife, Elizabeth, died on August 11, 1669. On April 2, 1673, James married Marthe Bartlett and settled in Suffield, Conn. In 1676, he bought a 50 acre farm for 16 shillings. A shilling was worth 25 cents. He was known as James Rysand," and it was under that name that he was buried on September 11, 1688.

Of James' first marriage to Elizabeth Hinsdale, a son John was born circa 1660. He married Sarah Hale on November 21, 1684; Sarah probably was the daughter of Timothy and Sarah (Barber) Hale. Sometime after his second marriage, John sent his son Josiah (born Feb 2, 1694) to visit his maternal grandparents in Deerfield, Mass. He could not know then that he was never to see his son again. John Rising had 18 children with his two wives. He died on December 11, 1720, about the age of 60. He bequeathed to his son Josiah in Canada (who would then be about 26 years old), the sum of 5 lbs in silver, payable up to three years after his (John) death, in case he [Josiah] returned from captivity.

With the arrival of the captives in Canada, Abigail was entrusted to an Indian woman, Ganastarsis, who was believed to be the wife of the Chief of Iroquois of Ours; while Josiah lived with his captor. These were Christian Indians, and did not mistreat their captives. The two young prisoners were formally adopted into the tribe in a special and significant ceremony, presided over by the great Chief. The warrior captor comes before the Chief with his captive, and is praised for his bravery. The captive is then officially given to the warrior as a slave. The slave is also given an Indian name. Josiah received the name "Shonatakak'ani" which translated to French was "il lui a ote son village" ["he was taken in his village"]. Abigail received the name "T'atog'ach," for which the French translation was "elle retire de l'eau" or "elle desenfle" ["she withdrew from the water"].

The priests of St Sulpice, missionaries at Sault-au-Recollet, considered the Protestant baptism received at Deerfield and that by the Indians insufficient, and proceeded on 11 Jun 1704 with the Catholic baptism. It was the third baptism for each. Josiah Rising was given the new name of Ignace Raizenne. Abigail Nims was also baptized and given the new name of Marie Elisabeth Nims.
Following is a translation of the baptism of Abigail:

"On Jun 15, 1704, the rites of baptism have been administered by me, the undersigned priest, to a little English girl named in her country Abigail, and now Marie Elisabeth, born at Deerfield in New England the (31 May O.S.) 11 June1700 of the marriage of Geoffroi Nimbs, shoemaker, and of Meetable Smeed also deceased. The child, taken at the said place 11th March last and living in the wigwam of a squaw of the Mountains, called Ganastasi. The godmother was Damoiselle Marie Elisabeth Lemoyne daughter of Messire Charles Le Moine, Ecuyer, Baron de Longueuil, Chevalier de l'Ordre de St Louis, and Captain of a company; with Francois Bounet who said he could not sign, inquiry having been made according to law. Mariel, priest"
/s/ Marie Elisabeth de Longueuil [witness]

Josiah was baptized similarly, and received the name Ignace.

In 1712, an attempt was made to ransom the children, then John Nims, Abigail's brother, came to Canada accompanied by Lieut. Samuel Williams. The children were not released, but Abigail's brother, Ebenezer, with his wife and their son were released. [By the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, prisoners could obtain their liberty if they presented a request to either the Quebec, Trois Rivieres, or Montreal governments.] After the treaty of Utrecht in 1713 [nine years following the raid], the Governor M. de Vaudreuil proclaimed that all prisoners be redeemed. Many preferred to stay in their adopted homes and it was with much difficulty that their protector, Abbe Maurice Quere, obtained their release from the Iroquois Indians. Josiah and Abigail were placed in the Catholic Mission where, it is said, they were taught in the French, English, and Indian languages.

On July 29, 1715 [two years after the treaty], Ignace Raizenne (Josiah Rising) at the age of 21 years, married Elisabeth (Abigail Nims) who was 15 years old [at Notre-Dame de Lorette Church in Oka]. Following is a translation of that act:

"July 29, 1715, I have married Ignace Shoentak'ani and ElisabethT'atog'ach, both English, who wish [to] remain with the Christian Indians, not only renounce their nation but even wishing to live as Indians. In person [the presence] of Jean Baptiste Haronhiatek, Gabriel Tsirok'as, Pierre Asonthen, Alexis Tarhi. Ignace Shoentak'ani, about 23 or 24 years, and Elisabeth , about 15 years old. Both were taken at Dierfile, about 13 years ago.
Maurice Quere, priest"

In 1721, the mission of Sault-au-Recollet was transferred to Oka. Fr Quere was named there as the curate. The Raizenne family followed the missionary and the Sulpician Order gave them a vast property in the village of Oka. Two sons and six daughters were born to this couple. Marie Elisabeth Nims died at about age 46 and was buried at the mission cemetery on 3 Jan 1747. Ignace Raizenne died at age 77, on 29 Dec 1771 and was buried in the Chapel of the Kings at Oka.

Historic Deerfield, Massachusetts, is a recreated village, much like Greenfield Village is in Dearborn, Michigan, or Old City Park is in Dallas, Texas. Historic Deerfield can be visited at its

Returning to the lives of Louis Seguin and Marie Anne Raizenne.....

Louis Seguin was one of the principle figures of the era. He was an army major of Vaudreuil, commander of the Oka fortification, a fur trader and owner of four concessions in the Cote de l'Anse, in the Vaudreuil seigneurie. In 1752, it was at Louis Seguin's residence that the Marquis of Rigaud and the engineer Louis Franquet stayed during the inspection of the fortified posts. It was also mentioned that Louis had four servants, which was rare at that time. In the fall of 1752, Louis permanently left Oka to stay with his family in Concession #49 above Grand-Detroit, where the community of Hudson is now located. He died on 13 Jul 1763, at age 51, and was buried in front of the altar in the Oka Chapel "Des Rois." Captain Lemaire (St Germain), Fr Macon de Thirlay (priest of the du Lac Mission), and Ignace Raizenne (Louis' father-in-law) all had the honor of being buried in the chapel.

In 1778, Louis' widow, Marie Anne, gave ownership of the family farm on Concession #49 to the Seigneur, the Marquis of Lothiniere, and she then returned to Oka. Marie Anne died at the age of 67 and was buried in the Oka local cemetery on March 27, 1787.
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