Saturday, March 12, 2011

Things That Look Like Board Games: What Is It?

One of my favorite features from BAR magazine (Biblical Archaelogy Review) is the "What Is It?" feature every issue?  I usually guess right, LOL!  Makes me feel smart (I'm a smart-ass anyway, but that's beside the point).

Mr. Don recently sent me an email with this image attached, and we've had some discussions about it since. 

I don't know where it is from or how old it is - despite nagging for the past 12 years; Mr. Don just doesn't find those sorts of things (like PROVENANCE) important :)

But I did find this very interesting discussion about the ancient "medium" here:  Info Tech of Ancient Democracy.  Enjoy! 

Save the Best for Last, by Vanessa Williams

It is absolutely cold and shitty-ass outside tonight.  The winds have not stopped all day and now, well after sun-down, they still haven't let up, persisting at about 20-35 mph.  The windchill remains well below freezing.  The sun snuck out for awhile today behinds tons of scudding black and grey clouds, and the filth-covered snow is ever-so-slowly melting away.  A typical March day in Wisconsin and I'm SO fricking sick of it.  LOL!

To cheer myself up, I thought I'd do a little research into a song I've been hearing recently on the online "smooth jazz" station I listen to, since the one and only smooth jazz station in Milwaukee was eliminated from the radio list nearly two years ago. Sigh.  The best stuff is always taken away from the public market and I'm left with really bad country western stations, really bad rap music (I detest it, it is nothing but anti-woman filth), a few lousy-formatted "oldies" stations, and contemporary shit music that I cannot stand the sound of.  No one sings anymore - they just scream and hope for the best.  If you don't believe me, watch one episode of American Idol.  The saddest thing is that people with real pipes, like Christine Aguilera, have sold themselves sort and sing shit for money instead of really singing and touching people with their music. 

Well, that's the state of music in the USA today -- but -- getting back to that "research" of mine - it was the 1991 recording of Vanessa Williams' "Save the Best for Last."  It's so hard to believe the song is now 20 frigging years old.  U-N-B-E-L-I-E-V-A-B-L-E.  Each time I hear her sing it on my computer "smooth jazz" station, I hear more and more, if you know what I mean.

The video is nothing to speak of, but she was gorgeous then, and she's gorgeous now, 20 years later.  It is comforting to know that a beautiful woman can remain beautiful despite trials, tribulations, and the temptations of wealth and fame, not to mention the march of Mother Time. Vanessa Williams remains a beautiful woman, inside where it counts, and outside, where it doesn't. 

Save The Best For Last - Vanessa Williams

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes 'round the moon
I see the passion in your eyes
Sometimes it's all a big surprise
'Cause there was a time when all I did was wish
You'd tell me this was love
It's not the way I hoped or how I planned
But somehow it's enough

And now we're standing face to face
Isn't this world a crazy place
Just when I thought our chance had passed
You go and save the best for last

All of the nights you came to me
When some silly girl had set you free
You wondered how you'd make it through
I wondered what was wrong with you

'Cause how could you give your love to someone else
And share your dreams with me
Sometimes the very thing you're looking for
Is the one thing you can't see

And now we're standing face to face
Isn't this world a crazy place
Just when I thought our chance had passed
You go and save the best for last

Sometimes the very thing you're looking for
Is the one thing you can't see

Sometimes the snow comes down in June
Sometimes the sun goes 'round the moon
Just when I thought our chance had passed
You go and save the best for last

You went and saved the best for last

2011 U.S. Women's Chess Championship!

It will be here soon!
The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis is once again hosting both the 2011 U.S. Chess Championship and the 2011 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

The format for the Championship is, frankly, something I consider ridiculous, and the Women's Championship has also adopted the same silly format instead of the traditional round-robin which I believe best tests relative playing strength.  There is nothing to beat all-play-all.  Alas, I am not the organizer and I call no shots.  The women's field has also been cut down from last year's ten players to eight players this year:

1.IM Anna Zatonskih
2.IM Irina Krush
3.IM Rusadan Goletiani
4.WGM Camilla Baginskaite
5.WIM Tatev Abrahamyan
6.WIM Sabina Foisor
7.FM Alisa Melekhina
8.WIM Iryna Zenyuk

The prizes are rich! (Last year's prizes totalled $65,000 for the women, exclusive of special prizes for best game, scholarship, Goddesschess Award):

Prize Fund
Place Prize
1st $18,000
2nd $12,000
3rd $9,500
4th $7,000
5th $4,000
6th $3,000
7th $2,500
8th $2,000

There will be $2,000 in bonus prizes:

•After the preliminary round bonus prizes will be awarded:
◦$1,000 to the first-place finisher of the round robin
◦$600 for second place in the round robin
◦$400 for third place in the round robin
Additionally, $5,000 will be set aside to award Best Game Prizes throughout both the U.S. Championship and the U.S. Women's Championship.

All this stuff about a preliminary round, etc., what it boils down to is equal to the last minute in an NBA basketball game (usually boring, because the prior 58 minutes of team effort mean absolutely nothing), and this makes me very sad.  It isn't necessarily the best player who will win, just the luckiest.  This is a slap in the face to all the players invited to the Championship.

Jen Shahade will once again be providing commentary (I always enjoy her biting wit and insight) along with GM Maurice Ashley.  I did enjoy GM Ashley's commentary last year so I will listen again this year (as I can; unfortunately the rounds take place while I'm working and it is difficult to be simultaneously plugged in -- work or chess -- work or chess -- work or chess... and ultimately neither is very satisfying).  But I will miss GM Ben Finegold.  I really get him - he makes the games very "accessible" -- he has a knack, along with Jen, of making what is happening on the board almost understandable for a patzer like moi.

Goddesschess will once again be sponsoring a Fighting Chess Award - details to follow :)

Elephant Attacked by Crocodile!

Incredible photo sequence (with explanatory narrative) that I happened across at the National Geographic online while checking out what appears to be the latest on the Chinese Ming Mummy story (see post below).  The entire sequence of events took approximately 15 seconds!

The Mommy elephant was able to save both herself and her Baby, and I sure hope that nasty croc who tried to bite off way more than he could chew (reminds me of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker) learned his fricking lesson. 

Confusing and Contradictory Press Coverage of Ming Dynasty "Wet Mummy"

National Geographic is saying that the "wet mummy" uncovered by Chinese workers digging out for a new road was first opened on March 1, 2011!  But coverage I saw last week at the Peoples Daily Online said the casket and others had been uncovered during digs in the area between 1979 and 2008 (see update added to original post on March 7, 2011).  So, does this mean that this particular casket was held for three years before being opened on March 1st? 

I'm confused - and it's not incipient old age seeping in, either!  So, what is the actual story?  Was The Mail Online correct, after all, in presenting this as a current story on March 5, 2011? In any event, the National Geographic has more great photos of the great "unwrapping" (so to speak) of this particular unintended mummy.

I wonder how long it will take before that ring disappears into some Commie honcho's private cache, to be replaced by fake gold and glass?   

What the hell is going on with the World, heh?

What a crazy fracking week this has been.  I don't know where to start, but one must start somewhere.  Like in this photograph of "debris" left behind by the tsunami that hit Japan in the aftermath of the quake Thursday.
Vehicles are piled up in Kesennuma, Miyagi prefecture,
Saturday, March 12, 2011, a day after a strong
 earthquake-triggered devastating tsunami hit Japan's
east coast. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)
How do you even begin to clean up such a disaster?  And yet, it will be done, one piece at a time.  I'd go wading in with a shovel, at the very least, but to remove the cars will take a lot of people to carry them out one by one, to be hauled away to be crushed in some junkyard contraption, or a jaws contraption that will grab each vehicle, shake it like a dinosaur of old would have shaken it's prey, and then deposit it (er, the car, not the prey) on a flat bed where the cars can be hauled to said junkyard.  The scope of the recovery effort is mind-bloggling and overwhelming, but the Japanese are a resilient and enterprising people, and with help they will recover from this horrible disaster.

I did not get much work done yesterday.  I first went to BBC News on the computer and saw this absolutely horrifying video of something that looked like it had been created by Hollywood imagining a disaster -- those images of the unrelenting crush of black, muck and debris-filled waters surging surging surging without stop across the flat landscape.  In the distance cars could be seen moving on a highway.  Could the drivers see the water coming?  Where could they (you) possibly flee to?  A human would not be able to outrun this wave of destruction on foot. I was just awe-struck and spent the entire time watching the events unfolding on the video with my hands up against my mouth.  As if - what?  What is this gesture of hand or hands to mouth that people (mostly women, I think) do when they are horrified by something?  Are we trying to hold something in (a cry, a scream?)  Are we trying to keep something out (evil spirits, bad miasma?) 

The worst is the absolutely helpless feeling that one experiences.  I cannot reach out and pluck those people out of harm's way. No amount of agonizing can save them, or change what happened.  I can only watch, in horror, as the events unfolded, captured forever in time on that video. Yesterday was not a good day...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Holy Blood

From Barbara G. Walker's The Woman's Eyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (just because I'm in that kind of mood tonight). 

Egyptian word of the holy blood of Isis, which made pharaohs and other selected heroes immortal; counterpart of the Hindu soma, the divine fluid of sovereignty and eternal life manifested in many ways, but basically derived from the Goddess's menstrual blood.  As the Egyptian Great Mother's "wise blood," sa was said to contain the spirit of all intelligence.(1)


(1)  Budge G.E. 2, 298.

Droit du Seigneur: The Connection Between Women and Land

From Barbara G. Walker's The Woman's encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets:

Droit du Seigneur
"The Lord's Right," also called jus primae noctis, "the law of the first night."  An outgrowth of the feudal system that equated ownership of land with ownership of women.  The droit du seigneur meant that every serf's bride must be deflowered on her wedding night not by her bridgroom but by the lord of the land.

As laid down by Ewen III of Scotland in the 9th century, the law said wives of common folk could be raped by any nobleman at any time; and "the lord of the ground shall have the maidenhead of all virgins dwelling on the same." (1)

The church upheld the droit du seigneur as a God-given right of the nobility.  For a vassal bridegroom to consummate his marriage within three nights after the wedding was declared blasphemous "to the holy benedictin" and tantamount to "carnal lust."(2)  The overlord's lust, however, was right and proper.  The eastern church provided legal penalties for a man who tried to consummate his marriage before his master could rape his bride.(3)

Droit du seigneur was a general rule throughout the feudal period and continued in Russia up to the 19th century.(4)

The system also continued in America's slaveholding south before the civil war, unofficially but generally acknowledged.  Every black woman was the sexal property of her master, whether she was married to another slave or not.(5)  Slave marriages could be legally ignored if plantation owners cared to do so.  In 1757, Peter Fontaine said plantation owners begot so many children on their female slaves that "the country swarms with mulatto vastards."  Thomas Anburey praised the system, calling it "a pleasant method to procure slaves at a cheap rate."(6)


(1)  Bullough, 168. 
(2)  Brasch, 74.
(3)  Briffault 3, 242.
(4)  Felding, 155.
(5)  Brasch, 72.
(6)  Bullough, 300;  Rogoff, 325-26.
I'm surprised that Walker did not pick up on the "old switcheroo" as 'Sis calls it.  In the way old days, twice a year a willing male was sacrificed after a night or orgiastic sex with the Priestess-representative of the Mother Goddess in order to ensure the fecundity of the land for the coming growing season and as a sacrifice to the Mother Goddess after a growing season, to ensure that it would come again. Sometimes the male victim was simply laid out on an altar stone within a sacred grove and, while he was under the influence of a drugged drink, his throat was slit; but sometimes he was physically torn apart in a frenzy by dozens of female acolytes.  The sacrifice was usually accepted by the Goddess, either way.

Under the patriarchal system that became firmly entrenched in just about every spot on the globe over the ensuing thousands of years after the advent of the warrior god (fraud) Marduk (but particularly accelerated with the advent of the patriarchal god representative in the West, Jesus Christ, and in the Middle East, Muhammed), the blessing of fecundity was perverted to sexual excess on the part of the "lord of the land" in his eagerness to deflower all virginal brides.  The link between women and fecundity in the land was maintained, but its true meaning was lost and the rite was perverted to the benefit of one male, rather than extending the benefit of the concept of "sacred union" to an entire locality/people/nation. 

Perhaps the sacred link between women and land remains, but the Mother Goddess has turned Her back on us.  There is a reason there are droughts in some lands, and excessive rains and flooding in others. Either condition is a killer of people, because crops cannot grow. No food - no life.  It doesn't take long for famine to set in, even in 2011. Crops die. Animals die.  Children die.  Women die. Finally, the men die, too.  The men usually survive the longest only because they steal what food and potable water there is from those weaker than they are - the animals, the children and the women.  Disrespect the women - kill the land.  It's simple.  But few "get it." 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Southwest Chess Club Action!

This Thursday (10 March 2011) the Southwest Chess Club presents “Wind Blowing, Storms-a-roaring, Marching into Spring Swiss” (see below for details).  We plan to start promptly at 7:00 p.m.  Registration is 6:20-6:50 p.m.  I plan to close registration at 6:50.  If you arrive after first-round pairings are prepared, you will have to take a 1/2-point bye in the first round. 

However, if you want to play but anticipate being a few minutes late, please e-mail me or Tom Fogec or call me 414-861-2745 or Tom 414-425-6742 prior to 4:00 p.m. on March 10, so I can include you in the pairings.  If you need a first round bye please let me know as soon as possible and you can have one.  Thanks.  Hope to see everybody on Thursday.   Robin

Wind Blowing, Storms-a-roaring, Marching into Spring Swiss: March 10, 17, 24 & 31
4-Round Swiss in Two Sections (Open and U1600).  Game/100 minutes.  USCF Rated.  EF:  $5.00.  (One ½ Point Bye Available for any round (except round four) if requested at least 2-days prior to round).  TD is Grochowski; ATD is Fogec. 

EXTRA: "David's Best Game Prize"  There will be a $5.00 "Best Game" prize for this tournament, which will be awarded by David Dathe.  The prize will be awarded for the most interesting game played in the tournament.  Mr. Dathe is the judge of any games submitted.  All tournament players are encouraged to submit a game.  Please submit the game to the TD.  The game needs to be legible (readable) so it can be properly analyzed.

Southwest Chess Club's location:  Police Station, located at 5635 South New Berlin Road, Hales Corners, Wisconsin, in the downstairs Community Room.� Club open at 6 PM, Tournament Games at 7 PM.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Female "Gendercide" in India and China Taking Enormous Toll - With Consequences

March 8, 2011 is the International Day of Women.  I've posted about this subject before.  This article brings it home in a very understandable way.  The generations of these men to come will say "Make war, not love."  This isn't funny
From The Daily Beast, posted at Yahoo News

Ominous rise of a bachelor generation
Niall Ferguson Niall Ferguson – Sun Mar 6, 10:43 pm ET
NEW YORK – According to the United Nations, there are far more men on the planet than women. The gender gap is especially pronounced in Asia. In this week’s Newsweek Niall Ferguson looks at the ominous rise of a bachelor generation.

In 1927, Ernest Hemingway published a collection of short stories titled Men Without Women. Today, less than a century later, it sums up the predicament of a rising proportion of mankind.

According to the United Nations, there are far more men than women on the planet. The gender gap is especially pronounced in Asia, where there are 100 million more guys than girls. This may come as a surprise to people in the Western world, where women outnumber men because—other things being equal—the mortality rate for women is lower than for men in all age groups. Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen calls it the mystery of Asia’s “missing women.” [Mystery is a bad word choice - it's no mystery why there is such a severe shortage of women in India and particularly in China - they are killing the female babies.]

The mystery is partly explicable in terms of economics. In many Asian societies, girls are less well looked after than boys because they are economically undervalued. The kind of domestic work they typically do is seen as less important than paid work done by men. And, of course, early marriage and minimal birth control together expose them to the risks of multiple pregnancies.

When Sen first added up the missing women—women who would exist today if it were not for selective abortion, infanticide, and economic discrimination—he put the number at 100 million. It is surely higher now. For, even as living standards in Asian countries have soared, the gender gap has widened. That’s because a cultural preference for sons over daughters leads to selective abortion of female fetuses, a practice made possible by ultrasound scanning, and engaged in despite legal prohibitions. The American feminist Mary Anne Warren called it “gendercide.” Notoriously common in northwestern India, it’s also rampant in the world’s most populous country: China.

In China today, according to American Enterprise Institute demographer Nicholas Eberstadt, there are about 123 male children for every 100 females up to the age of 4, a far higher imbalance than 50 years ago, when the figure was 106. In Jiangxi, Guangdong, Hainan, and Anhui provinces, baby boys outnumber baby girls by 30 percent or more. This means that by the time today’s Chinese newborns reach adulthood, there will be a chronic shortage of potential spouses. According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, one in five young men will be brideless. Within the age group 20 to 39, there will be 22 million more men than women. Imagine 10 cities the size of Houston populated exclusively by young males.

The question left open by economists is what the consequences will be of such a large surplus of young men. History offers a disquieting answer.

The question left open by economists is what the consequences will be of such a large surplus of young men. History offers a disquieting answer. According to the German scholar Gunnar Heinsohn, European imperial expansion after 1500 was the result of a male “youth bulge.” Japan’s imperial expansion after 1914 was the result of a similar youth bulge, Heinsohn argues. During the Cold War, it was youth-bulge countries—Algeria, El Salvador, and Lebanon—that saw the worst civil wars and revolutions. Heinsohn has also linked the recent rise of Islamist extremism in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan to an Islamic youth bulge. Political scientists Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer warn that China and India could be the next countries to overdose on testosterone.

That has scary implications. Remember, most of Hemingway’s stories in Men Without Women are about violence. They feature gangsters, bullfighters, and wounded soldiers. The most famous story is called simply “The Killers.”

It may be that the coming generation of Asian men without women will find harmless outlets for their inevitable frustrations, like team sports or videogames. But I doubt it. Either this bachelor generation will be a source of domestic instability, whether Brazilian-style crime or Arab-style revolution—or, as happened in Europe, they and their testosterone will be exported. There’s already enough shrill nationalism in Asia as it is. Don’t be surprised if, in the next generation, it takes the form of macho militarism and even imperialism. Lock up your daughters.

Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard University and a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. He is also a senior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford University, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His latest book, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, was published in November. 

Will "Broken Mayan Code" Reveal Tons of Golden Treasure?

I can't resist posting this story, LOL!  Well - you never know.  One of these days one of these old treasure legends just might be proven true...

Cracked Mayan Code May Point to 8 Tons of Lost Treasure

Published March 01, 2011
| Fox News Latino

It's a treasure hunt even Indiana Jones would be proud of.

Buried beneath a lake in Guatamala sits a fortune in lost treasure -- Mayan gold to be precise -- and a group of German archaeologists has just set off to find it. Their only guidance, a freshly decoded ancient book containing a map to the treasure.

It sounds like a movie, but it's very much real, reported FoxNews Latino. Joachim Rittsteig, an expert in Mayan writing who is heading up the mission to Guatemala's Lake Izabal, the site reported. Rittsteig claims to have cracked the famous Dresden Codex, a pre-Columbian Maya book possibly from the 11th century, and discovered in its pages specific information that leads to a treasure in the lake.

"The Dresden Codex leads to a giant treasure of eight tons of pure gold," said Rittsteig, who has spent more than 40 years studying the document. According to the German newspaper Bild, which is sponsoring the expedition, two reporters from the publication, a photographer, a television camera, and a professional diver will visit Izabal in an attempt to find the gold.

A professor emeritus at Dresden University and author of various publications about the Maya culture, Rittsteig stressed that the information is in the Codex.

"Page 52 talks about the Maya capital of Atlan, which was ruined by an earthquake on October 30th in the year 666 BC," he said. "In this city, they kept 2,156 gold tablets on which the Maya recorded their laws."

Cracked Mayan Code May Pave Way to Lost Gold

Published March 01, 2011
| Fox News Latino

Led by Joachim Rittsteig, an expert in Mayan writing, a group of scientists and journalists left Germany Tuesday, on a mission to Guatemala in search of a lost Maya treasure allegedly submerged under Lake Izabal.

According to the German newspaper Bild, which sponsored the expedition, the expedition includes two reporters from the publication, a photographer, a television camera, and a professional diver who will submerge into Lake Izabal in an attempt to find eight tons of gold said to have been lost there.

The expedition is led by Joachim Rittsteig, an expert in Mayan writing, who claims to have cracked the famous Dresden Codex and discovered specific information in one of its chapters that leads to a treasure in Lake Izabal.

"The Dresden Codex leads to a giant treasure of eight tons of pure gold," said Rittsteig, who has spent more than 40 years studying the document, to Bild.

A professor emeritus at Dresden University and author of various publications about the Maya culture, Rittsteig stressed that "page 52 talks about the Maya capital of Atlan, which was ruined by an earthquake on October 30th in the year 666 BC. In this city, they kept 2,156 gold tablets on which the Maya recorded their laws."

The treasure sank, along with the city, into the waters of Lake Izabal, located in eastern Guatemala. But the German academic claims to have found the remains thanks to radar images taken in the area.

Rittsteig calculates that "just the gold in the tablets is estimated to be currently worth up to 211 million euros (290 million dollars)."

The Dresden Codex, drafted in the year 1250 AD by Mayan priests, is one of the four major documents that remain from that culture. It has been housed by the Saxon State Library in East Germany for the last 272 years.

The code was discovered in 1739 in the possession of a wealthy man in Vienna, though no one knows how he got a hold of it. He then donated it to the Dresden Library, where it is kept under bullet-proof glass in a room with other treasured documents.

Joachim Rittsteig has dedicated most of his entire life to decoding the codex, which is composed of 74 pages, 3.56 meters long with 74 distinct hieroglyphics.

The Dresden Codex contains much of what is known of Mayan Culture, including their understanding of astrology, medicine and even the end of the world. In the last chapter, the codex describes the coming apocalypse, which it says will take place on December 12th, 2012.

Translation by Fox News Latino from EFE.

Warrior Women - A Review

A new book on warrior women.  There have been others written - I have two excellent tomes wholly devoted to the subject:

Women Warriors: A History, by Davie E. Jones
Warior Women: An Archaeologist's SSearch for History's Hidden Heroines, by Jeannine Davis-Kimball, Ph.D. with Mona Behan

There are also chapters in other books in my library devoted to warrior women.

So - what does this new book, by Robin Cross and Rosalind Miles, have to offfer that prior books on the subject have not?  A lot of new female characters!

By Pam Norfolk
Published on Wednesday 2 March 2011 01:00

Whoever claimed that war was men’s work had never come across the likes of vengeful Caterina Sforza, the terrifying Jinga Mbandi or ace spy Pearl Witherington.

These are just a few of the feisty, fearsome and formidable fighting women whose acts of courage, daring and self-sacrifice have set alight theatres of war across the world for thousands of years.

While 21st century society wrings its hands over the rights and wrongs of women fighting on the front line, history tells us that they have always been there in some form or other, whether taking part in military campaigns or leading their countries into war.

As the world prepares to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, Warrior Women, a magnificent new book by author Rosalind Miles and historian Robin Cross, restores their wartime heroics to a rightful place of honour and prominence by painting vivid portraits of over 100 outstanding women across 3,000 years of history.

From the ‘silver-sworded, man-loving, male child-killing Amazons’ to Colonel Martha McSally, the first female pilot in the US Air Force to fly in combat, women have often proved themselves cool and courageous under fire.

Some, like Cleopatra, Joan of Arc and Elizabeth I, are familiar names but others like Susan Travers, the only woman to have joined the French Foreign Legion, are lesser known but just as thrilling.

As far back as 1049 BC, the legendary Delilah acted as the first ‘honey-trap’ operative when she ensnared Samson for the Philistines and in 61 AD Boudicca, dubbed the ‘Killer Queen’ of Britain by the Romans, cried ‘death before slavery’ as she took on the invaders.

In the second century, the Vietnamese Tru’ung Sisters led a famous rebellion against the Chinese Han Dynasty while swashbuckling swordswoman Tomoe Gozen, ‘a warrior worth a thousand, ready to confront a demon or a god’, was a senior samurai officer in the Japanese Genpei War of 1180-85.

Austrasian warrior queen Brunhilde paid the ultimate price for 40 years of bravery and skill during the Frankish wars of the 6th century - her enemies literally pulled her to pieces by stringing her between four horses.

The religious struggles following the 7th century birth of Islam produced Salaym Bint Malhan who, although pregnant, fought in the ranks of Muhammad with swords and daggers strapped round her swollen belly.

A woman not to be crossed was Caterina Sforza, daughter of the 15th century Duke of Milan, who took revenge on the ringleader of her husband’s killers by having him dragged round a square by a horse and then disembowelled and dismembered while still alive.

One of the most extraordinary women warriors was Jinga Mbandi, the 17th century queen of what is now Luanda, the capital of Angola, which was then being exploited by Portuguese slavers. Jinga is reported to have sat on the back of a crouching slave to assert her rights as queen during talks with the Portuguese governor and then executed the slave, explaining that she never used the same chair twice.

In more recent times, Second World War spy Pearl Witherington, a brilliant agent with the British Special Operations Executive, took command of over 3,000 men of the French Resistance in the field and was so feared by the Germans that they put a bounty of one million francs on her head.

Brimming with fascinating histories and an amazing collection of colour pictures and illustrations, Warrior Women is a big, beautifully produced book which tells the awe-inspiring and revealing story of some unforgettable female fighters.

(Quercus, hardback, £20

"Metal Books" - Real or Fraud?

A fascinating story.  The "books" have been called frauds by the scientific establishment - but are they?

From the Jewish Chronicle Online

Heavy metal secrets from a Mid-East cave
Israel’s archaeological establishment believes they are a fake. But could a collection of metal books be an early example of Kabbalah?
By Simon Rocker, March 3, 2011

Robert Feather is out to prove the sceptics wrong. A metallurgist with a passion for archaeology, he has been asked to help authenticate what he believes could be one of the most exciting religious discoveries since the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The West London Synagogue member has previously published a book on the Copper Scroll, the Dead Sea Scroll thought to hold clues about the location of buried Temple treasure.Now he is trying to establish the origins of a mysterious cache of metal books which could be linked to the Kabbalah.

The objects belong to Hassan Saeda, a Bedouin farmer in Galilee who says they have been in his family's possession since his great-grandfather found them in a cave in Jordan, a century ago.

His collection consists of more than 20 codices (early books), cast mostly in lead and containing cryptic messages in Hebrew and Greek along with symbols such as the menorah. In various places, the Hebrew letters appear to stand for Bar Kochba, leader of the second-century Judean revolt against the Romans; and the talmudic mystic Shimon bar Yochai, who hid from the Romans in a cave for 13 years.

"The first time I heard about the discovery, I was extremely cautious," Mr Feather said. "However, when I was given an opportunity to see and examine some examples…and visit the cave where they were said to have come from, my scepticism was allayed."

The books appear to be "Kabbalah-related and the nature of the content indicates a magical incantation style of writing," Mr Feather said. Before 400 CE, almost all ancient codices were made of parchment. The lead codices "predate any form of codex by several hundred years and this particular material was probably chosen to ensure permanency."

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), however, has dismissed the idea that the books are of any value. Experts who examined some of them, it said, "absolutely doubted their authenticity". According to the IAA, the books are a "mixture of incompatible periods and styles…without any connection or logic. Such forged motifs can be found in their thousands in the antiquities markets of Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East."

Professor Andre Lemaire, an expert in ancient inscriptions from the Sorbonne, was also dubious, saying the writing on some of the codices he had seen made no sense and it was "a question apparently of sophisticated fakes".

Undeterred, Mr Feather instead cites the findings of Peter Northover, a metals analyst at Oxford University. Conducting tests on two samples of metal from one book, Dr Northover concluded that their composition was "consistent with a range of ancient lead," and that it was clear from the surface corrosion that the book was "not a recent production".

The IAA remains unconvinced, arguing that the metal could have been taken from an ancient coffin while the messages could have been fabricated later.

But Sasson Bar-Oz, a lawyer representing Mr Saeda, the artefacts' owner, believes that the IAA did not carry out extensive enough checks. "My opinion, after a lot of time on this project," he said, " is that they are genuine."

Now there is fresh hope for Mr Feather, who was approached to help Mr Saeda because of his expertise in metal. A piece of leather, bearing the image of a crocodile, which also turned up with the metal books, was sent for carbon dating. The results, just back, indicate it is nearly 2,000 years old. But Mr Feather said that the dating needed to be corroborated by other tests, currently being conducted, before he could be confident of its accuracy.

The dry soil of the Middle East is rich in the relics of ancient civilisation. But experts do not want to be caught by elaborate forgeries. Last October a marathon five-year trial ended in Israel of two dealers accused of faking an inscription on an ossuary (stone coffin) to suggest that it might have once held the remains of James, the brother of Jesus Christ. The judge has still to announce a verdict and the 12,000 pages of conflicting evidence demonstrate how difficult it can be to determine what is genuine or not.

Institutions involved with antiquities tended to be "ultra-cautious", Mr Feather said, "because they have burned their fingers on previous occasions. A classic example is that of the Shapira strips."

Moses Shapira was a 19th-century antique dealer in Jerusalem who acquired some leather strips which he thought were early biblical writings. "Initially they were hailed as one of the greatest historical finds of all time," he said. "Subsequently the British Museum dismissed them as forgeries, largely because the text differed from the biblical version of the time. Shapira was so distraught that he blew his brains out in a hotel in Amsterdam," he said.

"When the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls was discovered in 1947, similarities to the Shapira texts made scholars reassess their conclusions. It is now generally accepted that the Shapira strips were probably the oldest known version of Deuteronomy."
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