Saturday, May 28, 2011

CSI Archaeology: New Satellite Tools Reveal Lost Cities and Pyramids

Very interesting - and great images too.  This technology gives new meaning to the saying "we've barely scratched the surface."  Indeed - we barely have!  What secrets will Egypt yet reveal?  What an exciting time for archaeology. 

Egyptian pyramids found by infrared satellite images
24 May 2011 Last updated at 19:32 ET
By Frances Cronin
BBC News

Seventeen lost pyramids are among the buildings identified in a new satellite survey of Egypt.

More than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements were also revealed by looking at infra-red images which show up underground buildings.

Initial excavations have already confirmed some of the findings, including two suspected pyramids.

The work has been pioneered at the University of Alabama at Birmingham by US Egyptologist Dr Sarah Parcak.

She says she was amazed at how much she and her team has found.

"We were very intensely doing this research for over a year. I could see the data as it was emerging, but for me the "Aha!" moment was when I could step back and look at everything that we'd found and I couldn't believe we could locate so many sites all over Egypt.

"To excavate a pyramid is the dream of every archaeologist," she said.

The team analysed images from satellites orbiting 700km above the earth, equipped with cameras so powerful they can pin-point objects less than 1m in diameter on the earth's surface.

Infra-red imaging was used to highlight different materials under the surface.

Test excavations

Ancient Egyptians built their houses and structures out of mud brick, which is much denser than the soil that surrounds it, so the shapes of houses, temples and tombs can be seen.

"It just shows us how easy it is to underestimate both the size and scale of past human settlements," says Dr Parcak.

And she believes there are more antiquities to be discovered:

"These are just the sites [close to] the surface. There are many thousands of additional sites that the Nile has covered over with silt. This is just the beginning of this kind of work."

BBC cameras followed Dr Parcak on her "nervous" journey when she travelled to Egypt to see if excavations could back up what her technology could see under the surface.

In the BBC documentary Egypt's Lost Cities, they visit an area of Saqqara (Sakkara) where the authorities were not initially interested in her findings.

But after being told by Dr Parcak that she had seen two potential pyramids, they made test excavations, and they now believe it is one of the most important archaeological sites in Egypt.

Dr Sarah Parcak has already identified several sites using high resolution satellite imagery that she thinks are of huge significance. See here a streetmap of the ancient city of Tanis.
But Dr Parcak said the most exciting moment was visiting the excavations at Tanis.

"They'd excavated a 3,000-year-old house that the satellite imagery had shown and the outline of the structure matched the satellite imagery almost perfectly. That was real validation of the technology."

The Egyptian authorities plan to use the technology to help - among other things - protect the country's antiquities in the future.

During the recent revolution, looters accessed some well-known archaeological sites.

"We can tell from the imagery a tomb was looted from a particular period of time and we can alert Interpol to watch out for antiquities from that time that may be offered for sale."

She also hopes the new technology will help engage young people in science and will be a major help for archaeologists around the world.

"It allows us to be more focused and selective in the work we do. Faced with a massive site, you don't know where to start.

"It's an important tool to focus where we're excavating. It gives us a much bigger perspective on archaeological sites. We have to think bigger and that's what the satellites allow us to do."

"Indiana Jones is old school, we've moved on from Indy. Sorry, Harrison Ford."

Egypt's Lost Cities is on BBC One on Monday 30 May at 2030 BST. It will also be shown on the Discovery channel in the US.

Interesting New Genetic Study Reveals Shared Sub-Saharan African Ancestry

Press Release at

Contact: David Cameron
Harvard Medical School

Population genetics reveals shared ancestries
More than just a tool for predicting health, modern genetics is upending long-held assumptions about who we are. A new study by Harvard researchers casts new light on the intermingling and migration of European, Middle Eastern and African and populations since ancient times.

In a paper titled "The History of African Gene Flow into Southern Europeans, Levantines and Jews," published in PLoS Genetics, HMS Associate Professor of Genetics David Reich and his colleagues investigated the proportion of sub-Saharan African ancestry present in various populations in West Eurasia, defined as the geographic area spanning modern Europe and the Middle East. While previous studies have established that such shared ancestry exists, they have not indicated to what degree or how far back the mixing of populations can be traced.

Analyzing publicly available genetic data from 40 populations comprising North Africans, Middle Easterners and Central Asians were doctoral student Priya Moorjani and Alkes Price, an assistant professor in the Program in Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology within the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Moorjani traced genetic ancestry using a method called rolloff. This platform, developed in the Reich lab, compares the size and composition of stretches of DNA between two human populations as a means of estimating when they mixed. The smaller and more broken up the DNA segments, the older the date of mixture.

Moorjani used the technique to examine the genomes of modern West Eurasian populations to find signatures of Sub-Saharan African ancestry. She did this by looking for chromosomal segments in West Eurasian DNA that closely matched those of Sub-Saharan Africans. By plotting the distribution of these segments and estimating their rate of genetic decay, Reich's lab was able to determine the proportion of African genetic ancestry still present, and to infer approximately when the West Eurasian and Sub-Saharan African populations mixed.

"The genetic decay happens very slowly," Moorjani explained, "so today, thousands of years later, there is enough evidence for us to estimate the date of population mixture."

While the researchers detected no African genetic signatures in Northern European populations, they found a distinct presence of African ancestry in Southern European, Middle Eastern and Jewish populations. Modern southern European groups can attribute about 1 to 3 percent of their genetic signature to African ancestry, with the intermingling of populations dating back 55 generations, on average—that is, to roughly 1,600 years ago. Middle Eastern groups have inherited about 4 to 15 percent, with the mixing of populations dating back roughly 32 generations. A diverse array of Jewish populations can date their Sub-Saharan African ancestry back roughly 72 generations, on average, accounting for 3 to 5 percent of their genetic makeup today.

According to Reich, these findings address a long-standing debate over African multicultural influences in Europe. The dates of population mixtures are consistent with documented historical events. For example, the mixing of African and southern European populations coincides with events during the Roman Empire and Arab migrations that followed. The older-mixture dates among African and Jewish populations are consistent with events in biblical times, such as the Jewish diaspora that occurred in 8th to 6th century BC.

"Our study doesn't prove that the African ancestry is associated with migrations associated with events in the Bible documented by archeologists," Reich says, "but it's interesting to speculate."

Reich was surprised to see any level of shared ancestry between the Ashkenazi and non-Ashkenazi Jewish groups. "I've never been convinced they were actually related to each other," Reich says, but he now concludes that his lab's findings have significant cultural and genetic implications. "Population boundaries that many people think are impermeable are, in fact, not that way."


8,000 Year Old Civilization on Konkan Coast, India?

Are these man-made structures -- walls?

Photos: 8000-year-old advanced civilisation in Konkan Coast?
Published: Thursday, May 26, 2011 on 21:13 IST | Updated: Thursday, May 26, 2011 on 21:21 IST

One stretch of underwater wall off the Konkan Coast, western India.
 Did the Konkan coast from Shrivardhan in Raigad to Vengurla in Sindhudurga host a human habitat around 8000 years ago? Did that population have well-developed engineering skills? Was there a unique Konkan culture in existence in 6000BC?

A new archaeological discovery, below sea level along the Konkan coast, could give answers to these questions. And explorers say the answer could well be a big ‘Yes!’

Researchers have found a wall-like structure that is 24 kilometres long, 2.7 metres tall, and around 2.5 metres wide. The structure shows uniformity in its construction.

“The structure is not continuous throughout the 225 kilometres from Shrivardhan to Raigad, but it is uniform,” said Dr Ashok Marathe, professor, department of archaeology, Postgraduate and Research Institute, Deccan College, Pune.

“It has been found three metres below the present sea level. It has been constructed on the ancient sand beach, which was taken as the base for the construction. Considering the uniformity of the structure, it was obvious that the structure is man-made and not natural.”

The joint expedition carried by Deccan College and the central government’s department of science and technology, was in progress from 2005.

“We were actually studying the impacts of tsunamis and earthquakes on the western coast when we first found this structure in Valneshwar,” said Marathe. “Then we started talking with the locals and fisherfolks and we got news about more such structures below water.”

Marathe added that, the uniformity also shows that the people who built it belong to the same culture from Shrivardhan to Vengurla.
However, deciding the age of the structure was done on the basis of sea level mapping.

“There have been extensive studies about the sea water coming inside the land,” said Marathe. “The wall’s base, that is ancient sand, is about six metres below the present sea level. Based on the calculations, experts from the National Institute of Oceanography found the age of the wall as around 6000 BC.”

According to him, the sea was away from its present coastline in 6000 BC and this wall could have been an effort to prevent the sea water from coming inside the human habitat.

The discovery has raised a number of questions.

How were these huge stones of Laterite and Deccan Trap variety transported to the coast?

What exactly was the purpose behind building the wall?

If the date of the walls is true then is it from around the same time as the Indus Valley Civilisation?

Why has there been no mention of this civilisation till now?

Marathe, who will retire in July 2011, has asked more people to come forward to take his work ahead and to try to find answer to these questions.

Heiroglyphics Revealed in Great Pyramid Shaft

Pyramid-Exploring Robot Reveals Hidden Hieroglyphs
Written in red paint, the symbols may help Egyptologists figure out why mysterious shafts were built into the pyramids
Discovery News
By Rossella Lorenzi

A robot explorer sent through the Great Pyramid of Giza has begun to unveil some of the secrets behind the 4,500-year-old pharaonic mausoleum as it transmitted the first images behind one of its mysterious doors.

The images revealed hieroglyphs written in red paint that have not been seen by human eyes since the construction of the pyramid. The pictures also unveiled new details about two puzzling copper pins embedded in one of the so called "secret doors."

Published in the Annales du Service Des Antiquities de l'Egypte (ASAE), the images of markings and graffiti could unlock the secrets of the monument's puzzling architecture.

"We believe that if these hieroglyphs could be deciphered they could help Egyptologists work out why these mysterious shafts were built," Rob Richardson, the engineer who designed the robot at the University of Leeds, said. The study was sponsored by Mehdi Tayoubi and Richard Breitner of project partners Dassault Systèmes in France.

Built for the pharaoh Cheops, also known as Khufu, the Great Pyramid is the last remaining wonder of the ancient world.

The monument is the largest of a family of three pyramids on the Giza plateau, on the outskirts of Cairo, and has long been rumored to have hidden passageways leading to secret chambers.

Archaeologists have long puzzled over the purpose of four narrow shafts deep inside the pyramid since they were first discovered in 1872.

Two shafts, extend from the upper, or "Kings Chamber" exit into open air. But the lower two, one on the south side and one on the north side in the so-called "Queen's Chamber" disappear within the structures, deepening the pyramid mystery.

Widely believed to be ritual passageways for the dead pharaoh's soul to reach the afterlife, these 8-inch-square shafts remained unexplored until 1993, when German engineer Rudolf Gantenbrink sent a robot through the southern shaft.

After a steady climb of 213 feet from the heart of the pyramid, the robot came to a stop in front of a mysterious limestone slab adorned with two copper pins.

Nine years later, Hawass explored the southern shaft on live television. As the world held its breath, a tomb-raiding robot pushed a camera through a hole drilled in the copper pinned door -- only to reveal what appeared to be another door.

The following day, Hawass sent the robot through the northern shaft.

After crawling for 213 feet and navigating several sharp bends, the robot came to an abrupt halt in front of another limestone slab.

As with the Gantenbrink door, the stone was adorned with two copper pins.

"I dedicated my whole life to study the secrets of the Great Pyramid. My goal is to finally find out what’s behind these secret doors," Zahi Hawass, Egypt's Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, told Discovery News in a recent interview.

In the attempt to solve the mystery, Hawass established the Djedi project, a joint international-Egyptian mission, which he named after the magician who Khufu consulted when planning the layout of this pyramid.

"I selected the Djedi team during a competition that I coordinated to pick the best possible robot to explore the shafts in the Great Pyramid," Hawass said.

The winning robot, designed by Leeds University, has indeed gone further than anyone has ever been before in the pyramid.

The project began with the exploration of the southern shaft, which ends at the so called "Gantenbrink’s door."

The robot was able to climb inside the walls of the shaft while carrying a "micro snake" camera that can see around corners.

Unlike previous expeditions, in which camera images were only taken looking straight ahead, the bendy camera was small enough to fit through a small hole in a stone "door," giving researchers a clear view into the chamber beyond. It was at that time that the camera sent back images of 4,500-year-old markings.

"There are many unanswered questions that these images raise," Richardson told Discovery News. "Why is there writing in this space? What does the writing say? There appears to be a masonry cutting mark next to the figures: why was it not cut along this line?" Roberston wondered.

The researchers were also able to scrutinize the two famous copper pins embedded in the door to the chamber that had only ever been glimpsed from the front before.

"The back of the pins curve back on themselves. Why? What was the purpose of these pins? The loops seem too small to serve a mechanical purpose," Richardson said.

The new information dismisses the hypothesis that the copper pins were handles, and might point to an ornamental purpose.

"Also, the back of the door is polished so it must have been important. It doesn't look like it was a rough piece of stone used to stop debris getting into the shaft," project mission manager Shaun Whitehead, of the exploration company Scoutek UK, said.

The Djedi robot is expected to reveal much more in the next months.

The device is equipped with a unique range of tools which include a miniature "beetle" robot that can fit through a 19 mm diameter hole, a coring drill, and a miniaturized ultrasonic device that can tap on walls and listen to the response to help determine the thickness of the stone.

The next step will be an investigation of the chamber's far wall to check whether it is another door, as suggested in the 2002 live exploration, or a solid block of stone.

"Then we are going to explore the northern shaft," Richardson said.

The team has committed to completing the work by the end of 2011. A detailed report on the findings is expected to be published in early 2012.

Roza Lallemand Trophy French Women's Rapid 2011

A great poster from the
official website!
Held May 21 - 22, 2011, Chalons en Champagne, France.
49 Players, 9 Rounds, Swiss. Time Control: 15m+5spm

ch-FRA Rapid w Chalons en Champagne FRA Sat 21st May 2011 - Sun 22nd May 2011
Leading Final Round 9 Standings:
1COLLAS SilviaFRA231542½49½2414
2GUICHARD PaulineFRA230374552½2331
3LECONTE MariaFRA2321744512377
4MAISURADZE NinoFRA231043½51½2281
5LAM SophieFRA207138½472235
6BOLLENGIER AndreeaFRA221137½442162
7CONGIU MathildeFRA223764148½2212
8DE SEROUX CamilleSUI2086639½48½2143
9HAUSSERNOT CecileFRA2040638452062
10WOHLERS-ARMAS FriederikeFRA204344½50½2170
11MONPEURT CyrielleFRA196840½45½2002
12SAFRANSKA AndaFRA222937½46½2068
13ROUMEGOUS MarinaFRA213337412008
14NAVROTESCU Andreea-CristianaFRA19313541½2035
15SOUBIROU OrianeFRA20153540½1940
16RICHIER LucieFRA16303136½1828
17NEUHAUSER SalomeFRA2073543522103
18DUBOIS MarieFRA172453741½1857
19DACALOR AurelieFRA193553643½1956
20BRANLANT AlbaneFRA1696535½421894
21LUDWICZAK VirginieFRA2030535½421890
22FISCHER JulieFRA1863532½39½1888
23MALASSAGNE IsabelleFRA1652530361823
24RICHARD EmmaFRA20734047½1995
25RIGOLOT LucieFRA197038½441893
26SWIERCZ SoniaFRA17013641½1870
27CHITTIER CelineFRA188935½421874
28DIEULEVEUT FlorianeFRA16993136½1666
29MAGNIN SegoleneFRA1856437½451902
30ROGER JulietteFRA1634435½40½1711
31LE GOUIC SoniaFRA176043541½1796
32GENNESSEAUX GabrielleFRA167443338½1740
33BARTOLO AlexiaFRA1578432½381681
34GERTOSIO-SERENA SophieFRA1823432391695
35MINAUD EmilyFRA167042832½1665
36GIUA StephanieFRA193236½421696
37LE BERRE TennesseeFRA176334½40½1770
38COLIN PhanieFRA16243439½1670
39CYRILLE DominiqueFRA16743337½1620
40BOURSIER ClaireFRA164429331556
41DEL VALLE ClemenceFRA155728½321551
42CHUNG MathildeMNC165933539½1603
43CHRETIEN CatherineFRA167032629½1511
44BOILEAU DelphineFRA149032629½1507
45DIMITROVA SvetlaBUL165029341518
46VEILLERETTE ChantalFRA169023033½1484
47VO ThanhFRA132022932½1341
48ADRIAN LouiseFRA1410223½271332
49FROMHERZ AudreyFRA134022326½1362
50BREYSSE FioraFRA141022261261

The "Five Note" Scale and Negro Sprituals

Thanks to RHHannaHH (hope I got that right), who sends me these interesting emails from time to time.  I wasn't sure what his (her?) latest was about "Amazing Grace," but since I absolutely love the song - it brings me to tears every time I hear it - I checked it out.

I learned lots of new things by watching this video.  The video quality isn't the best but the audio is okay.  Now I think - finally - I am barely beginning to understand what Terpsy was talking about all those years ago when we were first starting out Goddesschess, and she talked about the five-note scale.  WOW!  Terpsy designed websites and knew all about HTML stuff and I knew NOTHING (still don't) -- but her real passion was music.  Terpsy, wherever you are today - thank you for all you did to get us going.  This is for you.

2011 St. Louis Chess Battle of the Sexes

I have few details - I haven't found information online. 

This morning, I belatedly opened up my latest CCI magazine and there was a special announcement about the CCI meeting to be held in St. Louis, Missouri USA this year in September.  The meeting will coincide with the grand opening of the World Chess Hall of Fame and Museum (September 8, 2011) which will be/is located across the street from the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis (popularly known as the St. Louis Chess Club).  The World Chess Hall of Fame and Museum has partnered with the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis and will be offering rotating exhibits of the Museum's collection of memorabilia and chess sets, etc. and special exhibits focusing on the history of the great game of chess and its players.  Read more about it.  Sounds great!

Back to the upcoming "Chess Battle of the Sexes" - the flyer included with the CCI magazine says that five top women and five top men will play in the event.  Judit Polgar and Hikaru Nakamura are two of the players.

I also noticed at GM Alexandra Kosteniuk's chess blog that she has listed a "St. Louis Battle of the Sexes" on her calendar of upcoming events, with dates September 8 - 21, 2011!  The CCI meeting will take place in St. Louis September 9 - 11, 2011, so attending members will be present in St. Louis during the opening days of this new tournament.

Love the idea!

I'll post more when I know more.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Who Was the Princess of Oroumieh?

See earlier post - about Oroumieh Lake dying a not-so-slow death due to the short-sighted policies of the totally incompetent regime currently ruling in Iran.

According to information in the article, there is a legend that says that the lake formed on the spot where, 1000 years ago, a Princess of Oroumieh was killed while trying to warn the locals of an invasion.

I was not able to find any information on this Princess (of) Oroumieh in the Encyclopedia Iranica online or in a general google search.  No similar name (at least, with the spelling beginning with the letter "O") was found in Barbara Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.

So - who was this princess?  I'm wondering if the dating might not be a little off - say by some 400 years or so?  Herstory tells us that hordes of Muslims invaded Iran in the 630s-640's CE and eventually succeeded in deposing the Sassinid Dynasty from the rule of formerly mighty and civilized Persia.  Was the Princess killed while warning the city of a Muslim invasion? Because of the location of the lake, I'm also wondering if the Princess might not have been a Christian - perhaps of an Armenian family. 

In the green and beautiful city of Oroumieh, famous for peaceful coexistence between Azeri people, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians as well as Muslims and Christians, talk about the fate of the lake is common among ordinary people in teahouses and on the streets.  This inter-religious and inter-racial harmony, alone, is certainly reason enough for the current Iranian regime to want to kill the city of Oroumieh!

Beyond the debates by national and local authorities some folks here suggest another way Oroumieh could be saved.

A local legend says wild purple gladiolas have had a miraculous role in doing just that. The flowers have grown every year for a thousand years in the spot where a princess of Oroumieh was killed as she warned the people of the city about an invading enemy. As a recent sunset turned the lake golden, Kamal the boatman tried to find some hope in the returning blossoms.

"You see, still wild purple gladiolas are appearing in the spring," he said. "The city and its lake can eventually survive."  How the Revolutionary Guard and the Ayatollah and his cohorts must be gnashing their teeth that such legends still survive from the Grand Days of the Persian Empire, before its descent into the Maws of Islamic Hell.  It must particularly irk them that the this still-living legend features a non-Muslim WOMAN!  Morever, it is a legend featuring a woman and a city that still embodies traces of harmony and peace from the long by-gone eon when the Goddess ruled supreme in the world and humankind invented beer and wine-making, tamed animals, invented weaving and the making of cloth, learned bee-keeping, the art of medicine, and invented agriculture. 

Will the Princess of Oroumieh come back once again and save the people of the city, before it is too late? 


In today's political atmosphere in the USA, unfortunately, Senator Margaret Chase Smith would be drummed out of the Republican Party and, quite possibly, tarred and feathered, certainly smeared by the likes of such blowhards as Limbaugh and - what was his name - the dude that "quit" (yeah, right) FOX News, that bastion of truth, justice and the American Way - NOT!  Beck - bwwaaaaaahhhhaaahhhaaa!

SEEKS RELECTION.  Senator Margaret Chase Smith,
Republican liberal and supporter of the administration,
is seeking re-nomination in the Maine primaries.
(U.P. telephoto)
Here is some information about Senator Margaret Chase Smith from Wikipedia:

Margaret Chase Smith (December 14, 1897 – May 29, 1995) was a Republican Senator from Maine, and one of the most successful politicians in Maine history.[1] She was the first woman to be elected to both the U.S. House and the Senate, and the first woman from Maine to serve in either.[2] She was also the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for the U.S. Presidency at a major party's convention (1964 Republican Convention, won by Barry Goldwater).[3] She was a moderate [4] Republican, included with those known as Rockefeller Republicans. When she left office, Smith had the record as the longest-serving female senator in United States history, ranking 11th in seniority among the members of the Senate, a distinction that was not surpassed until January 5, 2011, when Senator Barbara Mikulski was sworn in for a fifth term.

Oh, how far the party of Lincoln has fallen, the party that used to stand for liberty and social justice. Now we've got such female Republicans "running" for the Presidency of the United States as the quitter Sarah (how much will you pay me?) Palin and that even sillier woman (is it possible? YES) Representative Michelle Bachmann from the 6th District of Minnesota in the House of Representatives in Congress, who should donate her brain to science when she dies -- oh, but she doesn't have one. She's purely autonomic, darlings. Oh my.

How the Chinese, the Iranians, the North Koreans and the Russians must be laughing at us right now...laughing their asses off!

More Short-Sighted Policies = Ecological Disaster

Iran's largest lake turning to salt
By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press – Wed May 25, 6:32 am ET
Abandoned ships stuck in solidified salt of Oroumieh Lake.AP.

OROUMIEH LAKE, Iran – From a hillside, Kamal Saadat looked forlornly at hundreds of potential customers, knowing he could not take them for trips in his boat to enjoy a spring weekend on picturesque Oroumieh Lake, the third largest saltwater lake on earth.

"Look, the boat is stuck... It cannot move anymore," said Saadat, gesturing to where it lay encased by solidifying salt and lamenting that he could not understand why the lake was fading away.

The long popular lake, home to migrating flamingos, pelicans and gulls, has shrunken by 60 percent and could disappear entirely in just a few years, experts say — drained by drought, misguided irrigation policies, development and the damming of rivers that feed it.

Until two years ago, Saadat supplemented his income from almond- and grape-growing by taking tourists on boat tours. But as the lake receded and its salinity rose, he found he had to stop the boat every 10 minutes to unfoul the propeller — and finally, he had to give up this second job that he'd used to support a five-member family.

"The visitors were not enjoying such a boring trip," he said, noting they had to cross hundreds of meters of salty lakebed just to reach the boat from the wharf.

Other boatmen, too, have parked their vessels by their houses, where they stand as sad reminders of the deep-water days. And the lake's ebbing affects an ever-widening circle

In April, authorities stopped activities at the nearby jetty in Golmankhaneh harbor, due to lack of water in the lake, now only two meters deep at its deepest. Jetties in Sharafkhaneh and Eslami harbors faced the same fate.

The receding water has also weakened hotel business and tourism activities in the area, and planned hotel projects remain idle since investors are reluctant to continue.

Beyond tourism, the salt-saturated lake threatens agriculture nearby in northwest Iran, as storms sometimes carry the salt far afield. Many farmers worry about the future of their lands, which for centuries have been famous for apples, grapes, walnuts, almonds, onions, potatoes, as well as aromatic herbal drinks, candies and tasty sweet pastes.

"The salty winds not only will affect surrounding areas but also can damage farming in remote areas," said Masoud Mohammadian, an agriculture official in the eastern part of the lake, some 370 miles (600 kilometers) northwest of the capital Tehran.

Other officials echoed the dire forecast.

Salman Zaker, a parliament member for Oroumieh warned last month that, "with the current trend, the risk of a salt tsunami is increasing." Warning that the lake would dry out within three to five years — an assessment agreed to by the local environment department director, Hasan Abbasnejad — Zaker said eight to 10 billion tons of salt would jeopardize life for millions of people.

Masoud Pezeshkian, another lawmaker and representative for city of Tabriz in the eastern part of the lake said, "The lake has been drying but neither government nor local officials took any step, so far."

How did this disaster develop, and what can be done now?

Official reports blame the drying mainly on a decade-long drought, and peripherally on consumption of water of the feeding rivers for farming. They put 5 percent of the blame on construction of dams and 3 percent on other factors. Others disagree about the relative blame.

The first alarm over the lake's shrinking came in late 1990s amid a nagging drought.

Nonetheless, the government continued construction of 35 dams on the rivers which feed the lake; 10 more dams are on the drawing boards for the next few years.

Also completed was a lake-crossing roadway between Oroumieh and Tabriz, cities on the west and east of the lake. No environmental feasibility study was done in the planning for the road, and environmentalists believe the project worsened the lake's health by acting as a barrier to water circulation.

Nasser Agh, who teaches at Tabriz Sahand University, suggested miscalculations led to late reaction to save the lake. "Experts believed it would be a 10-year rotating drought, at first," he said. But long afterward, the drought still persists, with devastating effects.

In the early 2000s, academic research concluded that the lake could face the same destiny as the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which has been steadily shrinking since rivers that feed it were diverted by Soviet Union irrigation projects in 1960s. It is now less than one-tenth of its original size.

In April, the Iranian government announced a three-prong effort to save the lake: a cloud-seeding program to increase rainfall in the area, a lowering of water consumption by irrigation systems, and supplying the lake with remote sources of water.

Mohammad Javad Mohammadizadeh, vice-president to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in charge of environmental affairs, said the government approved the three-part approach.

Some experts termed the weather control portion of the program as only a "symbolic action" by government, saying the best answer would be to release more water currently being held back by dams. The evaporation rate has been three times the rainfall rate, making the rivers' historic role vital to sustaining the lake.

"The lake is in such a misery because of the dams," Ismail Kahram, a professor in Tehran Azad University and a prominent environmentalist, told The Associated Press. Three-fifths of the lake has dried up and salt saturation has reached some 350 milligrams per liter from 80 milligrams in 1970s, he said.

Kahram said the government should allow 20 percent of the water from the dams to reach the lake.

Mostafa Ghanbari, secretary of the Society for Savior of the Lake Oroumieh, believes transferring water from the Caspian Sea may be "the only way to save" the lake. But such a project would be ambitious, requiring the pumping of water some 430 miles (700 kilometers), from a body of water at considerably lower elevation.

In the green and beautiful city of Oroumieh, famous for peaceful coexistence between Azeri people, Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians as well as Muslims and Christians, talk about the fate of the lake is common among ordinary people in teahouses and on the streets.

Many express happiness with the government decision to manipulate clouds in hopes of increasing rainfall.

"It is a good decision. Every evening I look at the dark clouds that are coming and I tell my family soon there will be rain," and on some nights there have been showers, said Masoud Ranjbar, a taxi driver.

However, Eskandar Khanjari, a local journalist in Oroumieh, called the cloud-seeding plan "a show." He said recent rainfall was only seasonal, as predicted by meteorologists.

Scoffing at the promises of officials and what he called "non-expert views," he said of efforts to save the lake: "It seems that people have only one way; to pray for rain."

Beyond the debates by national and local authorities some folks here suggest another way Oroumieh could be saved.

A local legend says wild purple gladiolas have had a miraculous role in doing just that. The flowers have grown every year for a thousand years in the spot where a princess of Oroumieh was killed as she warned the people of the city about an invading enemy.

As a recent sunset turned the lake golden, Kamal the boatman tried to find some hope in the returning blossoms.

"You see, still wild purple gladiolas are appearing in the spring," he said. "The city and its lake can eventually survive."

-- Yeah, right, I wish you luck Mr. Kamal. With the current regime not going anywhere soon, run by incompetent gold-diggers who are so busy stashing away gold in their Swiss bank accounts they can't be bothered to have a care for the actual average citizens of Iran, your lake WILL die and so will your city.

This King is an Ass

Since I'm never going to be in Thailand, I will insult its King all I want.  What a jerk! Die, already, and put the next puppet king on the throne.

Thailand arrests American for alleged king insult
By TODD PITMAN and SINFAH TUNSARAWUTH, Associated Press – Fri May 27, 1:02 pm ET

BANGKOK – Thai authorities said Friday they arrested an American citizen on charges he insulted the country's monarchy, in part by posting a link on his blog four years ago to a banned book about the Southeast Asian nation's ailing king.

The man is also suspected of translating, from English into Thai, portions of "The King Never Smiles" — an unauthorized biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej — and posting them online along with articles he wrote that allegedly defame the royal family, said Tharit Pengdith, who heads the Department of Special Investigation, Thailand's equivalent of the FBI.

The American has denied the charges, according to the Thai-language news website, which tracks cases of lese majeste, as the crime of insulting the monarchy is known.

The 54-year-old Thai-born man lived in the U.S. state of Colorado for around 30 years before returning recently to Thailand for treatment for high blood pressure and gout, the website said. If the allegations are true, the infractions would have been committed while he lived in America — where they are legal — raising concern about the reach of Thai law and how it is applied to Thai nationals and foreign visitors.

Tharit said the man's Thai name was Lerpong Wichaikhammat. Walter M. Braunohler, the U.S. Embassy spokesman in Bangkok, identified the American as Joe Gordon and said a consular officer visited him on Friday morning. He declined comment further, saying only that officials were following the case "very closely."

"We're still looking into what the exact charges are," Braunohler told The Associated Press.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy but has severe lese majeste laws that mandate a jail term of three to 15 years for any person who "defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir to the throne or the Regent."

Critics say the lese majeste laws — used with alarming frequency over the last several years — are often a weapon of political harassment and calls have grown recently to amend or abolish them.

Thai-based media routinely self-censor coverage of the royal family, but the Internet has tested the taboo. Thai authorities have responded by trying to block thousands of websites considered subversive, arguing that defending the monarchy is a priority.

Tharit said the man was arrested Tuesday and is facing charges that include inciting public unrest and violating Thailand's Computer Crimes Act. Gordon appeared before a Thai court Thursday, which denied him bail.

A DSI spokeswoman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said the American was arrested in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima and is being held in a Bangkok prison.

Rest of article.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You CANNOT Fight Mother Nature. Period.

I used to call a policy like this "short sighted" - and indeed, it is that. But I realized recently that it doesn't go far enough to call these types of policies short-sighted. I need to emphasize that, while one may be able to fight City Hall (on occasion), one can NEVER FIGHT AND WIN in the long run against Mother Nature. Just a friendly reminder that we are of the Earth, the Earth is not of us!
China admits Three Gorges Dam has 'urgent problems' as drought persists
May 25, 2011|By Jo Ling Kent, CNN

In a rare admission, the Chinese government has said the Three Gorges Dam -- the world's largest hydropower plant -- is having "urgent problems," warning of environmental, construction and migration "disasters" amid the worst drought to hit southern China in 50 years.

China's State Council, the country's Cabinet, this week said that while the dam has been beneficial to the region, there has also been a variety of issues since construction began in 1992.

"At the same time that the Three Gorges Dam project provides huge comprehensive benefits, urgent problems must be resolved regarding the smooth relocation of residents, ecological protection and geological disaster prevention," the statement said.

This is the first major official acknowledgment of the dam's repercussions. The Chinese government also admitted the Three Gorges Dam has negatively impacted downstream river water, transport and migration.

"Some problems emerged at various stages of project planning and construction but could not be solved immediately due to the conditions at the time," the State Council said. "Some arose because of increased demands brought on by economic and social development."

The project, which cost more than 180 billion yuan (US$28 billion), has been a source of pride for the government while also arousing intense debate among scientists and villagers. Completed in 2006, the dam includes a five-tier ship lock, a reservoir, and 26 hydropower turbo-generators. The dam was originally touted for its ability to control the impact of flooding that threatens the Yangtze river delta each summer.

However, millions of Chinese citizens have been adversely impacted throughout the construction process and even after the dam's completion.

The Three Gorges displaced over 1.4 million residents along the Yangtze during the digging and construction of a giant concrete barrier, made up of 16 million tons of concrete. More than 1,000 towns and villages were flooded in the process. Landslides and pollution have plagued the areas near the dam since it was built.

Meanwhile, a prolonged drought has persisted along the Yangtze, affecting nearly 10 million people along the river's middle and lower sections, in Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi and Anhui provinces, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Citizens in the region are blaming the dam's restiction on river flow for exacerbating the effects of the drought.
How would the United States government deal with a city say, the size of New York City, being without adequate drinking water, let alone water to bathe in, water the animals in the Central Park Zoo, water one's plants, wash one's car, wash one's clothes, cook, wash dishes, etc. etc. etc. 

This is the kind of environmental disaster we're talking about here, with the Three Gorges Dam. 

More information can be found in this article:

China admits problems with Three Gorges Dam, Nature News - note also the comments.  I can't help but wonder, were these made by people paid by the Chinese government? Who knows - maybe only The Shadow knows...

I will say this - the population explosion in China has long outstripped the fresh/clean water supply, long before the Three Gorges Dam was built  - probably long before it was dreamed of!  I know I've been reading periodic articles for years about the growing "water problems" in China - since I first got connected to the internet (December, 1998).  Since this blog has been online (May, 2007) I've posted several articles here about the growing problems of providing drinkable water to the population - that's drinkable water.  Who the hell knows what's in the water people are using these days to irrigate their crops!  When one thinks about what business interests in China have done to adulterate consumer products just in order to make an extra penny per sale - oh my!

Thank Goddess for the internet.  No matter how hard they may try, no government can totally block this source of international information sharing.  Not China, not Iran, not the USA, not Russia.  You can "spin," darlings, but you can't hide!

From the Brisbane Times (Australia)
Yangtze delta hit by worst drought in decades
Jonathan Watts
May 27, 2011
Guihu Lake in Wuhu, Anhui province. Photo: Reuters

BEIJING: The Yangtze delta is caught in its worst drought in 50 years, forcing an unprecedented release of water from the Three Gorges Dam and prompting warnings of power shortages.

The drought is damaging crops, threatening wildlife and raising doubts about the viability of China's huge water diversion ambitions.

Up until June 10, billions of cubic metres of water will be released from the dam as engineers sacrifice hydro-electric generation for irrigation, drinking supplies and ecosystem support.

The drastic measure comes amid warnings of power shortages and highlights the severity of the dry spell in the Yangtze delta, which supports 400 million people and 40 per cent of China's economic activity.

From January to April, the worst-hit province, Hubei, has had 40 per cent less rainfall than the average over the same period since 1961. Shanghai, Jiangsu and Hunan are severely affected.

Regional authorities have de- clared more than 1300 lakes ''dead'', which means they are out of use for irrigation and drinking supply. The shortages affect 4.4 million people and 3.2 million farm animals, according to the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

The narrowing and shallowing of the Yangtze - Asia's longest river - and its tributaries has stranded thousands of boats and left a 220-kilometre stretch off limits for container ships.

The central government has sent water pumps and diesel generators to Hubei and Hunan to ease the impact. This is expensive and adds to the pressures on China's energy supply system at a time when the state grid authorities are warning of the worst summer power cuts in seven years.

''The primary cause of this drought is a lack of rainfall,'' said Ma Jun, founder of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs. ''But we can also be certain that the Three Gorges Dam has had a negative impact on the water supply downstream. This is a reminder that the water in the Yangtze is not unlimited. We cannot bet everything on this river. We need to focus more on conservation.''

Farmers are pumping water from nature reserves, prompting alarm among conservationists about the loss of habitat for endangered species including the finless porpoise - the last remaining cetacean in the Yangtze after the demise of the baiji dolphin.

To minimise the impact, the Three Gorges authority has been instructed to open the sluice gates. It has already discharged 1.8 billion cubic metres of water this month, taking the level of the reservoir below 153 metres from a peak of 175 metres.

The dam's role in the drought has been the subject of a fierce debate. Downstream communities have accused the Three Gorges authority of holding back too much water to generate power. Environmentalists say this has contributed to the demise of lakes and wetlands, which are already under pressure from urban development and the demands of agriculture. The operators say the reservoir is helping to ease the shortages through the timely release of water.

Last week the state council - China's cabinet - acknowledged that the Three Gorges faced ''urgent problems'' of geological disaster prevention, relocation and ecological protection and noted the negative impact on downstream water supplies and river transport.

Saudi Woman Arrested for Driving

What would happen to the economy of the USA if women were banned from driving - tomorrow? Think about it --

Wary of wider defiance, Saudis arrest woman driver
From AP (Associated Press)
By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press – Mon May 23, 3:51 pm ET

CAIRO – A Saudi woman was arrested for a second time for driving her car in what women's activists said Monday was a move by the rulers of the ultraconservative kingdom to suppress an Internet campaign encouraging women to defy a ban on female driving.

Manal al-Sherif and a group of other women started a Facebook page called "Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself," urging authorities to lift the ban and posted a video clip last week of al-Sherif behind the wheel in the eastern city of Khobar.

The page was removed after more than 12,000 people indicated their support for its call for women drivers to take to the streets in a mass drive on June 17. The campaign's Twitter account also was deactivated.

Al-Sherif, a 32-year-old IT expert, was arrested at dawn on Sunday and accused of "violating public order," according to a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. She was ordered held for five days while the case was investigated; her brother, Mohammed al-Sherif, who was in the car while she was driving, also was taken into custody.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bans women — both Saudi and foreign — from driving. The prohibition forces families to hire live-in drivers, and those who cannot afford the $300 to $400 a month for a driver must rely on male relatives to drive them to work, school, shopping or the doctor.

Saudi clerics, from the hard-line Wahhabi school of Islam that is the official doctrine of the kingdom, insist the ban protects against the spread of vice and temptation because women drivers would be free to leave home alone and interact with male strangers. King Abdullah has promised reforms in the past and has taken some tentative steps to ease restrictions on women. But the Saudi monarchy relies on Wahhabi clerics to give religious legitimacy to its rule and is deeply reluctant to defy their entrenched power.

Al-Sherif's arrest prompted hundreds of activists to set up Facebook groups and campaigns calling for her release and an end to the driving ban.

"Let Manal al-Sherif and all other women drive their own cars, take their kids to the hospital, buy stuff from the supermarket, go to work without a driver," columnist Khalf al-Harbi wrote in the Al-Watan daily.

Activist Walid Abou el-Kheir posted on his Twitter account a petition signed by 300 Saudi activists appealing to the Saudi king to set al-Sherif free and make a clear commitment to ending the driving ban.

Some female activists said the arrest and swift suppression of the campaign were signs of the kingdom's growing unease over the popular uprisings sweeping the region, toppling authoritarian regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Earlier this year, Saudi authorities moved quickly to put down small pro-reform protests, mainly by the country's Shiite minority, that were organized on Facebook.

"The authorities are worried ... because it could encourage other forms of rebellion especially at a time the whole region is shaking up," said Wajeha al-Huwaide, who was involved in a 2007 campaign that collected more than 3,000 signatures in a bid to try to overturn the ban.

"Whenever the Arab region is shaken with changes, the state feels threatened and surrenders more to the religious establishment to keep its political system intact," said al-Huwaide, who filmed the video of al-Sherif driving.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner, said the U.S. administration was seeking more information about al-Sherif's status. "We understand there's an active debate on a lot of these social issues in Saudi Arabia, and we trust the government of Saudi Arabia to give careful consideration to these voices of its citizens as they speak about issues of concern," Toner said.

In the video of her driving, al-Sherif — dressed in a headscarf and the all-encompassing black abaya all women must wear in public — argues that not all Saudi women are "queens" who can afford to hire a driver and says driving for women can save lives, time, and a woman's dignity. Al-Sherif said she learned how to drive at the age of 30 in New Hampshire.

"We are humiliated sometimes because we can't find a taxi to take us to work," she said.

Al-Sherif faces accusations of "violating the rules and the system by driving her car and roaming the streets of the province," the prison chief in Khobar, Ayoub ben Nahit, was quoted as saying in the daily Al-Watan. He also accused her of "inciting public opinion" by posting the video clip.

She had been detained for several hours on Saturday but was released after she signed a pledge agreeing not to drive.

There is no written Saudi law banning women from driving, only fatwas, or religious edicts, by senior clerics that are enforced by police. No major Islamic clerics outside the country call for such a ban.

One prominent Saudi cleric, Abdel-Rahman al-Barak, said in a fatwa posted on his website that women who violate the driving ban are "sinful and are opening (the doors) of evil."

Previous moves by women to overturn the driving ban have been met with swift reprisals by the authorities.

More than two decades ago, a group of women got into cars and drove the streets of Riyadh. The protest cost the 47 female drivers and passengers dearly. They were arrested, lost their jobs for 2 1/2 years, were banned from travel for a year and were condemned by the powerful clergy as harlots.

On Monday, another woman was also reportedly arrested, along with two female relatives, after driving to a grocery store in a remote area of al-Ras province north of Riyadh, according to the website of the Al-Riyadh daily.

The paper quoted the woman as saying she doesn't have a male relative to take her shopping and has driven herself to the supermarket in the past. Women in remote desert areas of Saudi Arabia can sometimes drive without authorities noticing.
Associated Press Writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Temple of Dimitra Found in Ancient Greek Ruins in Southern Russia

I missed this one last week --

Ruins of ancient Greek city discovered in Russia
By ANI | ANI – Tue, May 17, 2011

Washington, May 17 (ANI): A unique discovery was made in Taman, South Russia, at the Black Sea when the ruins of an ancient Greek city, dated around the 6th century BC, came to light, leaving archaeologists stunned both by the number of the findings and the condition they were found in.

The excavations are still proceeding with extreme caution, in order to avoid damaging the city's ancient fortress, reports the Greek Reporter.

According to historians, it is assumed that the ruins are the temple of Dimitra, the ancient goddess of fertility and agriculture, while they were able to determine the very spot of the altar.

But, the number of the findings induces them to believe that a whole city has been found. (ANI)

A New History of Egypt

This sounds readable --

Reviewed at The Washington Post
Toby Wilkinson’s ‘The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt’

By Steve Donoghue, Published: May 20

When the third-century B.C. Egyptian historian Manetho wrote “Aegyptiaca,” his dynasty-by-dynasty account of a great civilization, the realm of the pharaohs was already vastly ancient. For Manetho, as for us in the present day, ancient Egypt’s main beguilement was its sheer, strange antiquity. The more we think about that age and strangeness, the more ancient Egypt seems like an exotic fantasy-realm, like something out of Michael Moorcock or M. John Harrison.
“It is extremely difficult to engage with a culture so remote in time and place from our own,” writes veteran Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson in the opening pages of his new book, “The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt,” and hundreds of authors have discovered that difficulty and retreated, baffled, into pseudo-myth and half-hearted mysticism. Luckily, Wilkinson isn’t one of those authors. His 2007 book, “Lives of the Ancient Egyptians,” was an immensely engaging work of informed archaeological reconstruction, and his latest is even better: This a magnificent, illuminating and refreshingly readable overview of the entire phenomenon of ancient Egypt.
Wilkinson’s narrative moves from Egypt’s pre-history to Narmer, the first ruler of the First Dynasty, who came to power around 2950 B.C., to a gaudy pageant of pharaohs, wars, famines, invasions, revolutions and repressions, all the way to the suicide of Cleopatra, after which Egypt passed under a centuries-long “cloud of exploitation” as the storehouse and granary for everybody from the Romans to the Ottomans to the British.
Manetho wrought better than he knew: Most historians of Egypt have followed his lead and grounded their accounts on tales of the great and mighty, on successions of dynasties in the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms. Advances in Egyptology in the past century have granted a large measure of freedom from this approach, but although Wilkinson’s book has more detail about (and sympathy for) the commoner in the street than any comparable overview I know, it’s still largely the story of kings and queens, of harems and princes and influential palace advisors. Its genius shows most clearly in the way it intertwines those two ends of the social spectrum.
We read stories of social unrest, worker strikes and propaganda campaigns that sound vividly modern. In crafting such a presentation, Wilkinson is going against the grain of much Egypt-writing in the last century, and he knows it. About the Fourth Dynasty king Sneferu, who ordered that he be called netjer nefer, “the perfect god,” Wilkinson writes, “Modern experience suggests that [such] titles are more about brainwashing and subjugation than the expression of popular acclaim. And yet, when it comes to ancient Egypt, scholars still balk at such an interpretation.”
In such an account and throughout this book, Wilkinson’s aim is to demystify his subject without dethroning it in our imaginations. He succeeds completely: There has never been an ancient Egypt more fascinating — and yet more recognizably human — than the one we find in his pages. The usual suspects are here as well. The Great Pyramid of Khufu — so stunning even now, 4,000 years after it was built — is given due stage-time, for instance. We’re told again of its sheer size: “A simple calculation reveals that the builders would have had to set one block of stone in place every two minutes during a ten-hour day, working without pause throughout the year for the two decades of Khufu’s reign (2545-2525).” We revel again in the exploits of Ramesses II against the Hittites. And we’re told in detail the story of Amenhotep IV, the rebel pharaoh who ruled from 1353 to 1336 B.C., took the name Akhenaten, and tried to re-shape the entire theological landscape of the kingdom. Asserting that “The Great Hymn to the Aten” was written by Akhenaten himself, Wilkinson sings its praises: “It is certainly a masterpiece, its rapturous tone and exultant imagery of the creator’s power exerting a profound influence on later religious authors, not least the Jewish psalmists.”

And of course there’s Cleopatra, the thoroughly Greek member of the Ptolemy family whose name will nevertheless forever be linked with all things Egyptian. Wilkinson isn’t star-struck by her as so many other writers have been; she’s merely a coda to his long story, and her association of herself with Isis after the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. is met with gentle ridicule: “If Cleopatra had achieved apotheosis, her fellow members of the pantheon were not impressed. Indeed, the gods seemed to have deserted Egypt.”
The favor of the gods did indeed seem to have been withdrawn. Annexation by the Romans ended the ages-long rule of the pharaohs, and a new and less iconic era for Egypt began. In the spring of 2011, the country was once again the center of the world’s attention, as thousands of protesters toppled a government. Wilkinson’s human, scheming pharaohs wouldn’t have recognized the cell phones, but they’d have known the boiling sentiments all too well.
Steve Donoghue is managing editor of the online magazine Open Letters Monthly.

St. George???

Hmmm...  I see the horned animal, but that's all I see.  If that's a person riding this animal, it's the strangest looking person I've ever seen!  While this is interesting, unfortunately the oldest rock art (c. 3000 BCE?) gets short shrift!  I'd rather see them than this "St. George."

Do Ancient Rock Carvings Found Near Nile Depict St. George?
By Owen Jarus
Published May 16, 2011 | LiveScience
Tim Karberg/Westfalische Wilhelms-Universitat Munster
This piece of rock art found in Wadi Abu Dom depicts a knight riding a horned animal. There's a chance the armed rider may be the legendary soldier St. George, who was said to have slain a dragon.
An archaeological team in the Bayuda Desert in northern Sudan has discovered dozens of new rock art drawings, some of which were etched more than 5,000 years ago and reveal scenes that scientists can't explain.

The team discovered 15 new rock art sites in an arid valley known as Wadi Abu Dom, some 18 miles (29 kilometers) from the Nile River. It’s an arid valley that flows with water only during rainy periods. Many of the drawings were carved into rock faces — no paint was used — of small stream beds known as "khors" that flow into the valley.

Some of the sites revealed just a single drawing while others have up to 30, said lead researcher Tim Karberg, of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster in Germany

“We asked the local people about the rock art and they said that it would be very old, before their grandfathers,” Karberg told LiveScience.

Knight Rider
A number of the images appear to date back around 1,500 years ago, to a period when Christianity was spreading in Sudan. They include depictions of crosses, a church, which may show a nearby, ancient monastery called al-Ghazali, and one remarkable picture of a knight riding an animal with horns.

"One is a depiction of an armed rider, with a lance and a shield, a kind of knight depiction," Karberg said, suggesting this may be an image of St. George, the legendary soldier said to have slain a dragon.

Drawings of St. George are known from Sudan and texts discussing him have been found within the country. “Our texts attest to the popularity of the Saint in Christian Nubia,” wrote historian Gerald Brown, in a study he did on the subject.

The team also found detailed representations of cattle at Wadi Abu Dom that, based on rock drawings found at other sites, are probably from the late Bronze Age. During this time, more than 3,000 years ago, the northern parts of the country were occupied by the Egyptian empire.

Mystery carvings
Another, even more mysterious, set of rock art appears to be at least 5,000 years old and shows a mix of geometric designs.

The "oldest rock art we found are the spiral motifs," said Karberg, which, as their name suggests, twist up in a way that is hard to interpret. Similar drawings have been found in the Sahara Desert.

They were created at a time when Africa was a wetter place, with grasslands and savannah dominating Sudan; people were moving to a lifestyle based on animal husbandry and, in some instances, farming.

Understanding what these drawings mean is difficult. Some researchers connect the "spiral motifs to some astronomical or astrological forms," Karberg said, but he thinks it might have more to do with math. "The regularity of the spiral might be one of the earliest mathematical ideas the people developed."

A second set of geometric drawings, probably a bit younger than the spirals, is "hard to describe," Karberg said. They consist of "amorphous patterns which are not circular. ... It looks like an irregular-shaped net," Karberg said.

There is no evidence that people were fishing in this area 5,000 years ago, ruling out fishing nets. One possibility is that these irregular "nets" may actually be animal hides. Similar drawings found in Uganda were identified as showing the hide of a crocodile or some other animal, Karberg said.

Music in the desert?
Finally, what artist wouldn't like to relax with a bit of music? The team also uncovered several "rock gongs," large rocks that someone would have smacked a small rock against to make a sound. When the archaeologists experimented with them they found that some of the gongs could produce multiple tones.

Karberg said that it’s difficult to pin down when they were used; it could have been centuries ago or millennia. They may have been used for signalling rather than for actual music. But one thing is for sure, they would have made a pretty decent sound. "As we tried out the sound of many of those rock gongs you could hear (them) quite a long distance," Karberg said.

The research at Wadi Abu Dom is ongoing and the rock art discovery was first presented last year at the 12th International Nubian Studies Conference.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

More Yard Photos

I chopped a lot of undergrowth and weeds out of this area - does it look like it?  Nah.  I need to get rid of about four trees.  That will be done this winter.  What used to be a wilderness of sapplings that I delighted in strolling through when I first had the house built 21 years ago have grown into a too crowded mess.  Now I need to rake, cut the grass, and lay down a coat of weed and feed!  Oh - news is now saying the severe weather is now moving out of the area. Yeah, right, my house just rattled and rocked a few moments ago with another loud BOOM.  But maybe I'll be able to fall asleep without having to worry about a tornado coming through.  But if one does, I hope it takes out the obnoxious neighbors next store - to the north, to the north...
The blue skies were gone but it's still pretty outside.  There was a nice breeze from the south and temps in the high 70's.  You can see, though, how late the season is. Many of the trees have yet to leaf out.
Another overhead shot.


Believe it or not, this is an improvement!  That's the second yard waste container I was on the way to filling...
Working all afternoon, and it hardly looks like a dent was made!  Now it's storming outside - following the storm I had with my next store neighbors to the north earlier this evening when I once again saw one of the sons blowing their grass trimmings into my gutter area.  They cut their grass and then "clean" their front yard by hosing or blowing their yard waste into the gutters in front of my house!  This has been going on for fifteen years. I've written about it from time to time.
Today, sweating, tired, sunburnt after hours working outside to improve my property, I finally had enough.  I was working out back when I heard a leaf blower going and I walked to the front yard, rake in hand, knowing what I would see.  Sure enough - there was one of the sons, blowing their grass clippings into my gutter area.  The gutter area that I cleaned three times over the past three days by sweeping and putting the waste into a yard waste container to be picked up on Tuesday.  I have done this, quite conspicuously, for the past fifteen years.  This is the very same gutter area that just this morning I swept out once again, as at least two (possibly more) of the sons next store pulled in and out of their driveway since 8 a.m. watching me work my butt off to make my front yard look nice!
To say I was pissed off would be the understatement of the century.
Let me put this politely - we are now officially at war.  The first shots were fired today.  I have a lot of ammo left in my guns.  A LOT of ammo.  I will fire another round tomorrow when I finally, after years of putting up with a wet mushy front yard and never saying a frigging word about it, file a complaint with the city against the neighbor's illegally discharging their rain gutters and sump pump onto my property.  They illegally unhooked their rain gutters and sump pump to discharge directly into my front yard, when they have a storm sewer hook-up available (everyone in this neighborhood has a storm sewer hook-up).  I know they've had flooding issues in their basement for years - every time we get a big rain, like tonight for instance.  Tee hee hee.  And so, like a good neighbor,  I looked the other way for years and never said a fricking word.  I put up with the wet conditions.  No more. 

They outnumber me - there's just me versus Mrs. Widow and at least a dozen children, all grown up now, including the a-hole I confronted today who used to pee up against the house when he was four years old, the same little a-hole who used to torment my dogs when they were still alive.  Vengence is a BITCH.  Just watch me now.

On a nicer note :)  I took some more photos - in a photo mood today, I guess.
Looking toward the west/northwest, I love this photo for the contrast that you can see between stormy skies and, far to the west, a bit of clearing (it's the white area near the horizon).

I wish I had one of those super-duper cameras (and knew how to use it) that would show the spectacular stormy skies that swept in as the afternoon wore on into the evening.  I worked while it clouded over.

When I sit back in my lawn chair, lean back and look up at the sky - this is what I see. 

It makes me dream, looking up at that sky with the trees and the clouds... 

Now we're just under a tornado watch and the worst of the big booms (three EXPLOSIONS were unleashed earlier tonight by Mother Nature that shook the house and rattled the windows, and I heard fire engines going off somewhere shortly after the first one...) seem to be over.  I'm going to wash up my poor, tired out sunburnt body and think about how much it's going to cost to get the front and back yards core-aerated and the rain gutters cleaned out.  And tomorrow, back to the office.  Oh Goddess.


Front yard, looking southeast/south.  The city is doing road work and came through and took out my tree stump and
the stump next store, also filled in and seeded-over the areas.  In this photo, you can just barely see where that
happened on my neighbor's lawn.  Hopefully you can also tell that my lawn is "dandelion-free" and my neighbor's
lawn has several, and also needs to be cut.  Good luck with that - severe weather is forecast for later today.
Hola Darlings!  Shhhhh - hopefully no one whom I work with will visit here and see that I took off on Friday to devote one scarce decent-weather day to cleaning up my front yard, which was sorely in need after two weeks of crappy weather.  I couldn't cut the grass, I couldn't rake, I couldn't do anything except apply some old weed and feed and fed, alright, but didn't kill a single fricking weed!

The front yard, in short, was a mess!  It had already undergone one cut - but was in dire need of another.
Front yard, looking northeast/north.  Dandelions "all gone" - you can see some in my neighbor's yard where the cut line stops.   The sky is so pretty this morning - clear robin's egg blue, and not a cloud in sight. The red maples that the city planted are beautiful!  Oops - one of my bare patches is showing - must reseed!
 Ta da!  After probably ten hours of work between Friday and this morning, my lawn is now "dandelion free" (ahem) and you can see that it is putting my immediate neighbors to shame.  Goody! 

Starting early Friday morning, I trimmed all along the driveway, curbside and sidewalk to the back yard, as well as along the house perimeter.  There was a TON of stuff to sweep up.  Then I raked.  And raked. And raked.  One large plastic garbage container filled with yard waste.  Then I mowed the lawn.  Back and forth, back and forth. Although it looks really good in the photographs, most of the lawn has been taken over by a form of wide-blade bent grass that has overrun the well-behaved blue grass, and it's a real SOB to cut!  Thus I have to go over it four-five times from different angles, wasting a lot of gasoline and muscle power in the process, and even then I don't get it all because the blades "lay down" on top of the soil, and only pop up again once all danger of being mowed has passed!  This grass is sentient, I swear.  After 8 p.m. I went back out and swept up the leavings from the lawn mowing that got blown out onto the driveway and into the curbside.
My pretty little house! For the time being, at least, the "lawn" out front is under control.  Pay no attention to the piles of twigs built up in the gutters above the front window.  I must call around tomorrow and find someone to come out and clean the rain gutters out!  More bare patches showing in lawn - wonder how much it would cost to pay someone to come in and reseed and well as core aerate???  Ahhhh, the joys of suburbia...
Saturday dawned warm, muggy and overcast.  It started raining shortly after noon and lasted until around 2 p.m. but by then I'd already made my trek to the grocery store and back and even did some yard work out back, although you won't be able to tell from the photos.  I also put down a new application of weed/feed in the front -- just as the first sprinkles of rain were appearing.  I also picked some dandelions.
Looking toward the back yard - notice the three squirrels' nests in the skinny tree to the right?  The Newport Plum has barely come into bloom, but the last few days things are starting to bust out big time - right now we're about two weeks behind schedule for "spring."  Meanwhile, my allergies are giving me fits.  Waking up with headaches daily.  Sigh. 
In the early evening, the storm system finally blew out of here and the sun sort of came out again, but it was very damp and muggy.  But warm enough to sit outside and enjoy it - bug free (at least, for now).  And so I did!  I occasionally picked up some of the larger branches that have blown down from my trees during the past stormy season - you would never think that I have already done this two times already and it's not even the end of May...  I would work a little and rest some; then work a little more and rest more.  The deck was cleaned off - at least it was yesterday morning; but since when I'm home I can't resist throwing out more and more nuts for the squirrels, the deck is already littered with shells! The elms are also shedding seeds now, and the gutters are overflowing on the house.  I MUST get someone out here to clean them, pronto.  More $$$ starting on Monday with calls to find someone to come out --- and I must get the lawn aerated.  It is terribly compacted and that kills off the grass and the weeds, which can grow out of concrete, move in.  More $$$. 

View of back yard to the south.  Oy - I look and all I can see if all the work I still need to do.  Dandelions everywhere!
I went out front this morning at 8 a.m. to sweep up the deposits of dead grass, leaves and gunk that is always deposited in my curbside gutters after yesterday's rain.  After I finished that, I started picking dandelions.  I thought - this won't be hard, there aren't that many of them.

HA!  You know how those nasty dandelions are.  Whenever you think you've picked the last one, you turn around and see another one way across the yard that you could not have possibly missed and yet, somehow, you did.

Looking toward the west, from the deck.  You can see what sad shape the lawn is in, and twigs and branches all over the place!  Eek.  Not to mention the flower beds need to be edged once again and the bleeding overheart has totally overgrown its space and the daylillies are running wild.  The arbor has blown over twice this season and has had to be restaked.  I'm hoping the forecast severe weather for later today doesn't appear, so I can get some work done out here!
Eventually I finished both of the front lawn, except for two on the north side of the house that I was just too tired to chased down.  I went inside to start the process of scrubbing off my hands (gloveless, of course) and lo and behold - it was 9:30 a.m.  Eek!  Then I got a look at myself in a mirror and freaked out - totally sunburnt face!  How could I get sunburnt this early in the morning?  I keep forgetting that the blood pressure meds I'm on seem to make me more susceptible.  Damn!  It was cool and shady outside when I started!  It was still very pleasant outside when I finished, with a breeze blowing out of the southeast/south, but it was only shady on the north side of the lawn by then.  Oh well.  I need the Vitamin D! 

At least I succeeded in picking off every single dandelion head that I could get my hands on.  My poor fingernails!  My poor hands!  Ground in grime!  I've scrubbed and scrubbed and still can't get rid of it!  Goodbye, gorgeous natural nails that I sported in Las Vegas (not that anyone noticed).  But for now, at least, my lawn is yellow-free!  Within a few days, hopefully, the weed killer will take effect and temporarily wipe out the dandelions and clover and creeping charlie.

In the meantime, my lawn looks okay, if you don't look too closely.  No competition, though, for my neighbors on 81st street (a few blocks to the east).  I don't know what the hell they do, but they have absolutely PERFECT grass.  How is that possible?  Talk about anal obsessive -- I've been going to the front door every 30 minutes or so and looking to see if any new dandelions have dared to open their faces to the sun!  I'm ready to ambush them!

Looking northwest, backyard.  More mess to clean.
Right now, though, I've got lunch heating in the microwave and a chair calling to me from the deck, which is still shaded.  After I eat and have a glass of wine I may feel ready to start more clean-up out back.  And if I'm very lucky, before those severe thunderstorms we're promised for later today blow in, I can get the mower out and at least get a once-over to some of those dandelions growing with wild abandon!

Looking north. Front yard - okay for now.  Back yard - UGH!

I'm going to sit on the deck now, and have a glass of wine.
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