Monday, December 31, 2012

Thoughts on 2012

Hola darlings!

Yes, I've been neglecting this blog.  I will try to do better in 2013, including trying to resurrect a form of the Goddesschess website.  Those are the plans, anyway.

As faithful fans and readers know, the year 2012, started out so wonderfully with Mr. Don and I travelling to Spain, nearly 10 years after our first visit there.  We had our obligatory fight in Madrid (LOL!) and had a marvelous time.  The weather was incredible -- well, to us, natives of Milwaukee, WI USA and Montreal, Canada -- in January we are used to temperatures well below freezing, unrelenting grey skies and snow, lots of ice and snow, and bone-chilling, teeth-rattling winds.  So, the weather in Madrid and Toledo, it was fabulous by comparison! 

We came back home and carried on as we'd been doing so since 1999 when Goddesschess first went online.  And then, Mr. Don got sick in March, with what seemed to be a lung thing that he has been prone to more and more since contracting pneumonia after our trip to Las Vegas in November, 2003.  That pneumonia hospitalized him, he nearly died!  And so, I was worried.  He didn't seem to get better.  Finally, he dragged himself to a clinic and was prescribed some drugs that only seemed to make him more ill.  Inhalers and pills and who knows what?  He wasn't able to, or refused to, describe everything that was going on to me.

I concluded he had lung cancer, and that is what I wrote to our friend, Georgia.  I thought that I must mentally prepare myself for the worst.

But he did get better, for a little while, anyway.  Warmer weather brought some relief to his condition, and toward the end of June Georgia and I chipped in and bought him two window air conditioners to use in his shot-gun style apartment (windows in the back and the front, no windows in-between), so that he would be able to spend his future summers in relative comfort of cooler, dryer air. 

It was on June 22nd, during a routine physical exam, that my doctor diagnosed me with heart arrythmia (irregular heart beat).  This was something more than the "heart murmur" that I've had for years, ever since contracting and surviving rheumatic fever as a toddler back in the 1950's.  Yeah, what you've suspected for years is true - I'm one tough bitch!

About this same time, unfortunately, it was also discovered that Mr. Don had arrythmia too!  What are the odds of both of us developing this condition?  We wrote a lot to each other during this period.

And then, my Mom got seriously ill and was hospitalized in intensive care.

And then, Mr. Don was whisked away to hospital where he had tubes put into him and all kinds of tests and procedures done, none of which he could or could be bothered with adequately explaining to me.  Here I was, sitting in Milwaukee, worrying about him, my Mom, and about me, too.  Because further testing revealed that I had a nasty disease that has no cure and is always fatal, usually in about 3 years, affecting more women than men in the USA.  It's called pulmonary arterial hypertension and it affects the arteries in the lungs, but causes severe complications in the heart that leads to heart failure in the end.

July and August were very bad months.  I had a visit to the emergency room at a local hospital one Sunday morning after I'd been bleeding pink urine for 4 days -- an overdose of blood thinner was diagnosed as the problem and I was one sick chick.  It didn't help that my only means of transportation other than my feet, begging for rides or paying for taxis, is the bus.  Yes, I took the bus to the emergency room on an early Sunday morning in late July, and it was about 100 degrees F outside.  In fact, we were breaking temperature records left and right around here the summer of 2012, and it seems I was sickest and waiting for buses in full sun and no breeze during the worst of it.  After spending half a day in the ER, I received a dose of Vitamin K to counter-act the blood thinner.  It took four long days to get back to normal.  During this time, I used up what was left of my "paid time off" at work.  All "sick days" and time taken off for medical appointments and medical procedures since then have been unpaid.  A couple hundred hours.  CHA CHING!  Thank Goddess I have pretty good health insurance through my employer.  But I am still several thousand dollars in the hole, paying for care not covered by the insurance. 

Mr. Don received at least one heart catheterization, and one, possibly two, atrial ablations, where parts of his heart tissue were "killed" with lazers to stop the erratic electric impulses causing his irregular heart beat.  My heart doctors also ordered a catheterization, the thought of which nearly terrified me to death -- I was sure I was going to die and, in fact, it was the impetus of that procedure that finally made me get serious and I put together my own estate plan -- a Will and a Trust, as well as Powers of Attorney for financial and medical affairs.

I survived my heart cath, and Mom was out of the hospital and back home again.  My siblings and I were taking turns visiting Mom to make sure she was taking decent care of herself.

Things seemed to be looking up.  Mr. Don was released from hospital near the end of July, and seemed to be recovering.  Toward the end of August, my heart cath revealed that my pulmonary arterial hypertension was not NEARLY as advanced or as bad as an echocardiogram taken on July 5th had suggested; in fact, the pressures measured inside my pulmonary arteries were normal to just slightly above normal!  All of that terror I experienced for weeks, and grapling with the thought of dying much earlier than I'd ever anticipated, and from a disease that would debilitate me, bit by bit by bit.., a slow, horrid death -- it turned out the doctors were so FUCKING WRONG! 

I was thinking things weren't so bad!  A few days later, Mom was rushed back to the hospital and was once again in intensive care, for a different problem.  And Mr. Don wasn't up to trying to get Goddesschess back online, which technical problems he kept experiencing with our web host, 3iX, had led him to take the website offline in June.  We were both taking hiatus time.  I was trying to get a certain measurement of blood thinness at an even level for three straight weeks, so that I could have a heart procedure called "cardioversion" -- where the heart is stopped and then shocked back to life (one hopes), in the hope that when the heart re-starts the beat will be regular instead of the crazy irregular one I was experiencing.  To entertain myself, I planned and suggested to Mr. Don a couple of different fun vacations but, much to my surprise (and secret chagrin), he shot them down.

It took more than two months for me to get that certain blood measurement to a decent level for three straight weeks, after which I could schedule my cardioversion which would, it was hoped, put my heart back into a normal rhythm.  Finally, the procedure was set for November 6.

Mr. Don had gotten sick again. The last communication I had from him, on October 11, he wrote that had contracted some kind of nasty "bug" that he said was going around Montreal, and it had knocked him for a loop.  It was affecting his lungs. I  could tell that he felt very sick, and tired.  He had also been potentially diagnosed with gallbladder problems and was scheduled for some further tests in November.

But he never got the chance.  The day after that last email from him, he died, evidently in his sleep, on October 12, 2012.

I learned about Mr. Don's death the next day, from his twin sister, Anne.  That night, when I laid down to go to sleep on the sofa in the living room -- I just could not bring myself to go to my bed -- I thought that I might die that night and I wanted to be found on the sofa, not in bed.

But I didn't die.  I thought, if I was going to die any time soon, that would be when it happened.  That's when I wanted it to happen.  I prayed for it to happen, actually.  Because my heart was broken.  Mr. Don and me, we've been together since 1999, through thick and thin, ups and downs, some fights, some break-ups and even a broken engagement, but mostly really wonderful times together.  And he was the mechanic that kept the technical heart of Goddesschess beating smoothly, day after day.  Until technical problems happened that he couldn't deal with -- well, he was sick, too.

I didn't die.  My 85 year old Mom came home from the hospital for the second time.  I had my cardioversion on November 6th, which was successful.  I am now on some kind of super-scary heart medication, along with still being on blood thinner, which I loathe and detest because eating just a little bit too much green lettuce at lunch can send that certain "thinnesss" level the heart doctors want dropping too low, and drinking an extra glass of wine can send it soaring too high.  My credo now is - eat tons of green lettuce and drink gallons of cheap wine, and as for the doctors -- well, I'm pretty sure they know what I think...

Now, I am in mourning.  The old-fashioned kind of mourning, except I didn't cut off my hair with scissors because it's already short enough and I don't constantly wear black (only several times a week), and I do not roll about in ashes or walk about incessantly beating my breast and wailing, even though sometimes I think maybe that would help. This is the kind of mourning where one does not pretend that everything is all light and sunshine, like nothing tragic happened, stiff upper lip and all that.  Like it's not a 48-hours news story and then everyone "moves on" until the next salacious scandal.  My family thinks I'm crazy.  After all, Mr. Don and I weren't MARRIED.  Of course, they've pretty much thought I'm out of my mind for the past 30 years. 

My now properly beating heart feels heavy.  I'm sad.  Every day when I roll over in bed and wake up, and stare up at my beautiful canopy above my bed during those first few seconds of waking awareness, I smile.  And then the sadness comes with awareness, just as the light coming into my room through the curtains continues to get lighter and lighter; fittingl, these days, it varying shades of gloom and grey.  How does one survive this?  And yet I keep waking up each day.

During this time, I also had major issues at the office with which I was trying to deal.  Suffice to say that no good deed goes unpunished; in twists and turns worthy of an epic novel, I agreed to take on a difficult position in order to save a job for another person, who ended up leaving the firm for greener pastures and there I was left, holding the bag. Fortunately - thus far - things have turned out far better than I could have dreamed. 

So, that is what happened during 2012, a true Year from Hell for me.  I missed the End of the World on December 21st, too.  Geez. 

So you know what - I give a flying fuck about the so-called stupidly named "Fiscal Cliff" and press that thinks it is more important to report on Kardashian and her has-been boyfriend (I mean - REALLY?) than how many women are killed every year in the United States by spouses, ex-spouses and boyfriends and ex-boyfriends every year with guns, knives and fists.  This year, I have lost so much that has been precious to me, and I am struggling with wondering whether it's even worth it to try and go on, and not just leave it up to the Goddess of Fate. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chess Princess Tiffany Darling

Meet a princess of chess

Cape Town - Rows of black-and-white tables fill the sports hall at UCT. There is a low murmuring as children from across the country concentrate on their individual games at the South African Junior Chess Championships. They look up only to stare down their opponents.
Three-time winner of the SA Junior Chess
Championships Tiffany Darling.
Picture: Candice Mostert
Among the 2 052 chess players is 12-year-old Cape Town girl Tiffany Darling. Her opponent is a boy from the East Gauteng team.
They have been playing since 9.30am. Earlier in the day, they were relaxed. But by 1pm, they are the only players left and both are visibly tense. Eventually, an official calls the game a draw. Tiffany shakes her opponent’s hand at the table, before running off to discuss the tournament with her friends.
“I was a bit nervous, but it was only at the end that I started feeling the pressure,” says Tiffany.
Tiffany, who lives near Durbanville, has been playing chess for four years. Her older brothers, aged 14 and 16, also play chess and this spurred her own interest.
Her brothers have their South African colours in the sport and Tiffany has won the SA Junior Closed Championships for three consecutive years.
Tiffany may be only 12 years old, but she already has several accolades to prove her talent and success. They include being named the Most Promising Primary School Player of the Year in 2011 and achieving great results at the African Youth Championships.
But her greatest achievement, says Tiffany, was in 2010. “My highlight was winning at the Commonwealth Games in India,” she says.
Unlike many of the players in the hall, Tiffany does not have a chess coach. Her father, who is not a professional player, helps Tiffany and her brothers along. “It’s nice to have my dad (as my coach). He can help me with everything. He knows my weakness and how I can improve,” she says.
Her mother, René Darling, says the three have always been passionate and competitive, and that it is part of what drives them.
But Tiffany does not focus only on chess. René says part of her daughter’s success is that she takes things in her stride and makes time for other activities – whether it’s other sport and academics, watching television or playing with the dog.
Cape Town executive coach Reinhard Moors says self-judgement during a chess match could put a young player’s game into reverse, disconnect them from the game emotionally, and turn them into their own worst enemy. Instead they should remain totally neutral, calm and objective throughout the challenge and play their own game.
This is exactly what Tiffany did during her game that ended in a draw. Occasionally she would get up from the table, stretch her legs and observe other matches. On the surface, she managed to keep her composure.
“Often in sport people focus so much on the technique that they forget about the emotional side of the game, which is just as significant as the technique,” says Moors.
Tiffany, says her mother, has learned that if she’s had a bad match, she has to see where she went wrong, tell herself to do better next time, then shrug it off. Neither Tiffany nor her brothers wallow in losses, or put themselves down.
“When you put yourself down, you become your own worst enemy,” says Moors.
Marcelle Agulhas, director of Women’s Chess SA, says the sport is still male dominated. Her daughter, Tiffany, 16, and son Keagan, 12, are top players. Tiffany was picked as Best Junior Female Player at the championships at UCT.
Agulhas says few girls are involved in the sport to begin with, and while they do excel, by the time they reach matric, their academic work becomes the focus. But she hopes that both Tiffanys will continue to achieve in chess.
Hannes Pieterse, provincial co-ordinator for the chess organisation Moves for Life, says the sport is growing fast in the city, and across the country. Last year, 400 city candidates were eligible to participate in the tournament. This year, more than 900 city players qualified and 270 were chosen to compete. - Cape Argus

Carved Horse Head Discovered in 164 Year Old Collection

From Antiquity, Volume 085, Issue 330, December 2011 (yes, a year behind).  You can get internal links, emails and more photographs at the website. 

What is, I believe, unique about this is that the horse head carving is on a bone from a 15,000 years old or so horse's leg! 

Of course my imagination ran wild with this discovery.  Was the horse perhaps a much loved steed that sometimes allowed itself to be ridden (in the days long before bridles and such)?  Was the horse a wily adversary that deserved to be memorialized in death?  Was the carved bone a talisman? 

Discovery of a horse engraving from Bruniquel, France

Laura M. Kaagan, Paul G. Bahn & Adrian M. Lister

There are many examples of Palaeolithic portable engravings that have been discovered, long after their excavation, among the collections stored in museums. For example, a remarkable pair of bear figures was spotted in the mid-1980s on a rib fragment housed with the bone industry from the Magdalenian cave of Isturitz in the western Pyrenees; the rib came from a level excavated by the St Périers in 1931 (Esparza & Mujika 2003). It is far rarer, however, for a new engraving to be found among faunal material curated within a palaeontological collection. We report here the discovery by one of us (LMK) of a horse engraving in the collection of the Palaeontology Department of the Natural History Museum (NHM), London, some 140 years after the excavation and acquisition of the specimen. The new engraving was found among the horse remains from the Late Magdalenian site of Roc du Courbet, Bruniquel, France.
The site
The Roc du Courbet is one of a series of Upper Palaeolithic rockshelters near the village of Bruniquel, in France's Tarn region. Located within the face of a massif or cliff (now known as Courbet), it was first explored by Vicomte de Lastic Saint-Jal in 1863, and then by de Lastic, M. des Serres and R. Owen in 1864 (Owen1869a). It is believed that the majority of the remains recovered were derived from de Lastic's black layer or 'couche noire', which is thought to date to Magdalenian V or VI; however, the provenance of remains within this layer is not clear (Sieveking 1987).

Furthermore, Owen (1869a, 1869b) notes that both human and animal remains were found within not only a black layer ('limon noir'), but also a red layer ('limon rouge') and a breccia deposit. Owen took such an interest in the cave itself, as well as the faunal and artefactual remains which had been recovered from it, that he purchased de Lastic's first collection for the British Museum in 1864 (Cook and Welté 1995).
Faunal remains of horses
The faunal collection is now housed at the NHM, while most of the artefacts are housed at the British Museum (Franks House). According to Owen (1869b) the horse remains acquired by him in 1864 consisted of at least 30 individuals from the limon noir, limon rouge and breccia. LMK has recently examined all available horse specimens (teeth, cranials and postcranials) from Owen's 'de Lastic collection' at the NHM. Many retain the cut marks associated with butchery, especially on the teeth and maxillary/mandibular elements. It is also evident that the remains have been treated with an unknown preservative.

Owen (1869b) designated the Courbet horses taxonomically as Equus spelaeus, determining by detailed comparison that they were caballine horses rather than zebras or asses. He considered, based on the size of third molars, that two types or varieties were present. Nowadays the remains are referred to E. ferus and biometric analysis is consistent with the presence of a single species (Kaagan 2000).
Radiocarbon dating of artefactual remains in the British Museum collection was undertaken at the Gif laboratory—this yielded two dates for the 'limon rouge' and one for the 'limon noir', all of which are equivalent at 1s and lie within the range 13 380–13 490 BP (uncalibrated median values), within the early part of the Late Glacial (Cattelain 2005). Radiocarbon dating of purified collagen from a lower P3 of horse (NHM Palaeontology Department no. 39325) from the faunal collection yielded a date of 13 230±90 BP (OxA-6667), consistent with the dates obtained previously.

The new figure

Many art objects (engravings or drawings) have been found at Courbet, utilising bones of deer, birds and other animals. These include a bird bone and deer rib, both with engraved reindeer, figured by Owen (1869a), and a bone fragment bearing three horse heads on one side and two on the other (Sieveking 1987: pl. 68; here Figure 1).

Owen (1869b) had taken a particular interest in the horse remains from Courbet, and expended considerable effort on cataloguing and interpreting the collection. However, the fresh study of this material by LMK (Kaagan 2000) led to the discovery of a previously unnoticed engraving on a horse's right fourth metatarsal (no. 38475). This unusual choice of material is the delicate 'splint bone' that in life lies lateral to the cannon bone (third metatarsal) of the hind leg; the bone is complete and is 15.9cm long.

The engraving (Figures 2–4) depicts a horse's head in left profile located on the bone's dorsal surface at the proximal end. The image was partly obscured by the specimen identification sticker, confirming that it had not been noticed by previous workers. It is a good example of a 'naturalistic' depiction, in typical Magdalenian style, of a Late Pleistocene wild horse. Engraved lines above the ear suggest that these animals had a forelock. This is a common trait in domestic horses, but many wild Przewalski's horses also grow a forelock before their mid-summer moult, especially in old age or due to lack of fitness (Mohr 1971). Compared to other Palaeolithic depictions of horses, the muzzle in the Courbet engraving is unusually square in shape; other horse-heads from the site seem to share this trait, albeit to a lesser degree.

The horse is the most important animal in Ice Age iconography, and past studies expended a great deal of effort in the attempt to establish which 'races' were depicted—some scholars even claiming up to 37 varieties (see Bahn & Vertut 1997: 141). However, all such exercises were eventually abandoned, being based primarily on the shape and size of the figures, their manes, and the colour and pattern of their coats, all of which could have been subject to artistic whim. All that can be stated with confidence is that most depictions of Late Pleistocene horses strongly indicate that the wild (Przewalski's) horse is their closest modern analogue (Mohr 1971), although even the latter has been under human selection for 'primitive' appearance (M. Bower, pers. comm. 2010). Genetic data have indicated that Przewalski's horse is closely related to, but was not the direct ancestor of, modern breeds; they derived from a common ancestor which is no longer living (Lau et al. 2009).


We are grateful to Marion Duffin for drawing Figure 4, Kevin Webb for photography (Figures 2 & 3), and Jill Cook for discussion.


  • BAHN, P.G. & J. VERTUT. 1997. Journey through the Ice Age. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; Berkeley (CA): University of California Press.
  • CATTELAIN, P. 2005. Propulseurs magdaléniens: marqueurs culturels régionaux? in V. Dujardin (ed.) Industrie osseuse et parures du Solutréen au Magdalénien en Europe (Mémoire 39 de la société préhistorique française): 301–317. Paris: Société préhistorique française.
  • COOK, J. & A.-C. WELTÉ. 1995. La Grotte du Courbet (Tarn): sa contribution dans l'histoire de l'homme fossile et de l'art paléolithique. Bulletin de la Société. Préhistorique Ariège-Pyrénées 50: 85–96.
  • ESPARZA SAN JUAN, X. & J.A. MUJIKA ALUSTIZA. 2003. Aportación a las representaciones de úrsidos en el arte mobiliar magdaleniense. Veleia 20: 151–56.
  • KAAGAN, L.M. 2000. The horse in Late Pleistocene and Holocene Britain. Unpublished PhD dissertation, University College London.
  • LAU, A.N., L. PENG, H. GOTO, L. CHEMNICK, O.A. RYDER & K.D. MAKOVA. 2009. Horse domestication and conservation genetics of Przewalski's Horse inferred from sex chromosomal and autosomal sequences. Molecular Biology and Evolution 26: 199–208.
  • MOHR, E. 1971. The Asiatic Wild Horse. London: J.A. Allen and Co. Ltd.
  • OWEN, R. 1869a. Description of the Cavern of Bruniquel, and its organic contents. Part I. Human remains. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 159: 517–33.
    - 1869b. Description of the Cavern of Bruniquel, and its organic contents. Part II. Equine remains. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 15: 535–57.
  • SIEVEKING, A. 1987. A catalogue of Palaeolithic art in the British Museum. London: British Museum Press.


*Author for correspondence
  • Laura M. Kaagan
    Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK
  • Paul G. Bahn
    428 Anlaby Road, Hull HU3 6QP, UK
      Department of Palaeontology, Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, UK
  • Adrian M. Lister* Department of Palaeontology, Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, UK

More on Engraved Stone from Shuidonggou Paleolithic Site

More on this significant find.  It's been languishing in a box somewhere or other since 1980!  Holy Goddess!

Prior post on December 2, 2012.

Engraved stone artifact found at the Shuidonggou Paleolithic Site, Northwest China
December 24, 2012
[You can find photographs and internal links at Phys Org's full article]

 Engraved objects are usually seen as a hallmark of cognition and symbolism, which are viewed as important features of modern human behavior. In recent years, engraved ochre, bones and ostrich eggs unearthed from various Paleolithic sites in Africa, the Near East and Europe have attracted great attentions. However, such items are rarely encountered at Paleolithic sites in East Asia. According to article published in the journal of Chinese Science Bulletin (vol.57, No.26), Dr. GAO Xing, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his team reported an engraved stone artifact in a stone tool assemblage at the Shuidonggou Paleolithic site, Ningxia, Northwest China.
The Shuidonggou Paleolithic site includes 12 localities, ranging in date from Early Late Paleolithic to Late Paleolithic. The engraved stone artifact was found at Locality 1, which is about 30000 years ago. As the first Paleolithic site discovered in China, Shuidonggou Locality 1 is distinctive in Late Paleolithic industry of north China, because of its components of elongated tool blank production and Levallois-like technology. When analyzing the materials unearthed from the site during excavations in the 1920s, French archaeologist Henry Breuil observed parallel incisions on the surface of siliceous pebbles, but he did not provide details on those incised pebbles.

This engraved stone artifact was found in a recent technological analysis of the stone tool assemblage unearthed at the Shuidonggou site in 1980. It is the first engraved non-organic artifact from the entire Paleolithic of China.

Archaeologists used a digital microscope to observe all the incisions and obtain 3D images. After excluding the possibility of natural cracking, trampling and animal-induced damage, and unintentional human by-products, they believed that the incisions were made by intentional behavior.

The straight shape of each line shows that it was incised once over a short time interval without repeated cutting, implying the possibility of counting or recording at that time. Furthermore, creation of such an engraved object may indicate the possible existence of complex communicative systems such as language.

"Comparison studies indicate that the blade technology was probably introduced from the Altai region of Russian Siberia, and the flake technology is typical of the Late Paleolithic in north China. So, who created the incisions, the migrants from the west or the aborigines in north China? At this time, we cannot provide a clear scenario. More archaeological and anthropological evidences are needed to solve the puzzle", said Dr. PENG Fei, first author of the study at the IVPP.

 "This discovery provides important material for the study of symbolic and cognitive capability of humans in the Late Paleolithic of East Asia. As we know, so-called 'behavioral modernity' is often defined as changes of technology and subsistence strategies, expansion of activity areas, revolution in cognition, and other features. Most of these features have been identified at Paleolithic sites in Europe, the Near East and Africa. But in East Asia, the issue is more complex", said project lead GAO Xing, corresponding author of the study.

This work was mainly supported by the National Basic Research Program of China, the Key Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Zafar, Sanaa and Mecca -- Some Light Shed on Early Islam and Christianity

Fascinating!  From Spiegel Online.

12/21/2012 21.12.2012

Fortress in the Sky Buried Christian Empire Casts New Light on Early Islam

But now a narcissistic work of human self-portrayal has turned up in Yemen. It is a figure, chiseled in stone, which apparently stems from the era of the Prophet.

Paul Yule, an archeologist from the southwestern German city of Heidelberg, has studied the relief, which is 1.70 meters (5'7") tall, in Zafar, some 930 kilometers (581 miles) south of Mecca. It depicts a man with chains of jewelry, curls and spherical eyes. Yule dates the image to the time around 530 AD.

The "crowned man" relief found in Zafar, Yemen is seen as evidence that there was a Christian
empire in the  region before Islam took hold.

The German archeologist excavated sites in the rocky highlands of Yemen, an occupation that turned quite dangerous recently because of political circumstances in the country. On his last mission, Yule lost 8 kilograms (18 lbs.) and his equipment was confiscated.

Nevertheless, he is pleased, because he was able to bring notes, bits of debris and bones back to Heidelberg. Yule has concluded that Zafar was the center of an Arab tribal confederation, a realm that was two million square kilometers (about 772,000 square miles) large and exerted its influence all the way to Mecca.

Even more astonishing is his conclusion that kings who invoked the Bible lived in the highland settlement. The "crowned man" depicted on the relief was also a Christian.

Conquerers from Ancient Ethiopia
Yule has analyzed the mysterious, robed figure in a report for the academic journal Antiquity. He is barefoot, which is typical of Coptic saints. He is holding a bundle of twigs, a symbol of peace, in his left hand. There is a crossbar on his staff, giving it the appearance of a cross. In addition, he is wearing a crown on his head like the ones worn by the Christian rulers of ancient Ethiopia.

All of this suggests that the man with a strange, round face is a descendant of the conquerors from Africa who succeeded in making one of the boldest landing operations in ancient times.

In 525 AD, the Negus, or king, of Aksum dispatched a fleet across the Red Sea. Soldiers and fighting elephants were ferried across the water to the East on un-tarred, raft-like ships to spread the gospel. In the ensuing decades, his army captured large parts of Arabia.

The first spearhead was targeted at the capital Zafar. Like a fortress in the sky, the town was perched on an extinct volcano, at an altitude of 2,800 meters (9,184 feet) above sea level. Its walls, riddled with towers and alarm bells, were four-and-a-half kilometers long. About 25,000 people lived in Zafar.

According to Yule, between the 3rd and the 5th century the confederation managed to complete a "meteoric rise" and become a superpower. Its merchants traded in sandalwood from Ceylon and valerian from Persia. The state controlled the port of Aden, where the ships of spice traders from India docked. Frankincense, which was made in Arabia, was also traded. It was a place of luxury. Yule found wine amphorae, the remains of precious fish condiments and palaces decorated with sphinxes and lions.

A Peaceful Multi-Cultural Community
The social structure in Zafar also appeared to be unique. The city had a large Jewish community, as evidenced by a seal with a Torah niche. Hebrew inscriptions were discovered. Zafar's residents also included Christians, who built a church there in 354 AD. Arabs who worshipped old idols lived in the alleys.

But this peaceful, multicultural community soon came to an end, as tensions began to mount in the 5th century, and Arabia was transformed into a front.

The Byzantine Empire, bristling with weapons, operated in the west, and its vassals kept making inroads toward the desert. They were accompanied by Christian missionaries, who brought the doctrine of the Holy Trinity to the shepherds on the edge of the Rub' al Khali, the sand desert that makes up much of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula.

These Sacred Heart imperialists confronted the Persian realm of the Sassanids, with its archers and armies of bearded soldiers clad in heavy metal armor. The Jews, who lived by the tens of thousands in the oases, were to some extent aligned with this power.

It was a confrontation between east and west, and everyone was forced to choose a side.

This also applied to Zafar. To stop the advance of Christianity, individual Arab kings initially converted to Judaism. The entire ruling class of the realm eventually followed suit. From then on, people were given names like Yehuda and Yussuf.

Then they took up arms. In approximately 520 AD, they attacked the Christian colony of Najran, where there were churches and monasteries. Countless Christians were slaughtered. The shocking news traveled all the way to Europe.

A 'Puppet King'
Now the spiral of violence began turning more rapidly. The furious Byzantines and their allies from Africa were out for revenge. Kaleb, the Aksumite king of Ethiopia (who wore gold jewelry in his hair and had himself driven around in an elephant carriage) went on the counter-offensive.

If the sources are correct, his first naval maneuver was a miserable failure. In 525 AD, with the help of additional warships provided by the Byzantines, he successfully completed the crossing to the other side of the Red Sea.

The relief of the "crowned man" from Zafar was apparently created during this period of invasion. Yule interprets it as a representation of the Christian "puppet king" of the Ethiopians.

The invaders continued their attacks. Southern Arabia's holy warrior, Abraha, had taken control of large areas before long. He even attempted to free bishops being held prisoner by the Persian enemy in Nisibis (in modern-day Turkey), some 2,500 kilometers away.

The man embarked on a religious crusade at the same time. He rebuilt the churches that had been destroyed in Najran, and he had new ones built in Marib and Aden.

His most beautiful church was in Sanaa. It had gilded doors and a throne made of ebony and ivory. In the morning, the rays of the sun shone through an alabaster panel in the dome. The Byzantines supported the project, sending craftsmen, marble and mosaics.

The result was an architectural miracle, the likes of which all of Arabia had never seen before.

Year of the Elephant
After the triumph of Islam in the 7th century, the church was torn down and stripped of its treasures, and a mosque was built on the site. As Barbara Finster, an archeologist from the Bavarian city of Bamberg, discovered, some of the columns in the mosque came from the wrecked church, while some of the church's magnificent mosaics were sent to Mecca, essentially as booty.

The enmity between Sanaa and Mecca apparently smoldered from the start. Medieval Koran scholars report that Abraha built his magnificent church to lure the pilgrims away from the Kaaba, Islam's most sacred site.

Another Islamic source describes how the dispute eventually escalated: An angry native of Mecca relieved himself in the Sanaa church, prompting the furious Abraha to dispatch his warriors, mounted on elephants, to destroy the Kaaba. In the interpretation of Sura 105 of the Koran, the only reason he was unsuccessful was that Allah had armed a flock of birds with clay balls that rained down on the Christian army like bullets.

Are these nothing but religious myths? There is historical evidence, in the form of a rock inscription, that Abraha conducted large-scale raids against defiant Arab tribes near Mecca in 552 AD. A few Western historians consider this to be the true year of Muhammad's birth. The scholar Ibn Ishak, who wrote the first biography of the Prophet, states that the proclaimer of the Koran was born "in the year of the elephant."

Oddly enough, the scrawled rock inscription could be interpreted to mean that the tribe of the Kuraish, to which the Prophet belonged, sometimes fought for the Christians. Were they allies? Was Muhammad born in a city that stood under the banner of the cross?

Hard Times
There are indications that this could be true. For instance, a Christian cemetery is mentioned in the oldest history of Mecca, written by the Arab historian Asraki.

What a mess. In ancient Arabia, the three Abrahamic world religions intersected in confusing ways. But the Koran prevailed in the end.

But many things are still unclear. Our perspective is complicated by the fact that the birth of Islam occurred at a time of severe hardship. Climate data obtained from limestone caves in Oman prove that there was a terrible drought in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula in the middle of the 6th century. There was also a plague epidemic that began in 541 and afflicted the entire Orient. Other, smaller epidemics followed, causing thousands upon thousands of deaths.
It was these horrors that probably triggered the demise of Zafar. Yule suspects that the drought devastated the "fragile ecology of the highlands." Cattle died of thirst and barns remained empty.

Are the archeologist's suspicions correct? Even Muhammad, as a young child, was threatened by disease and hunger. According to Ibn Ishak, his wet nurse was deeply concerned when she was told to bring the little boy back to his native city.

The reason, he writes, was the "plague in Mecca."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Minerva Feature Article on Göbekli Tepe

It's an excellent although lengthy article.  The photographs are stunning!  The discoveries being made at Gobekli Tepe are turning the archaeological world upside down.  Just think about it -- 11,000 years old, we were ending the last Ice Age and here were these mysterious people that we know nothing to little about, carving these incredible structures out of stone.  How did they do it?  Why did they do it?  Who the hell were they?

The oldest temples in the world

Trevor Watkins describes Göbekli Tepe, the mysterious 11,000-year-old site in south-east Turkey that has turned prehistory upside down

Why would people carve something so magnificent inside a deep pit, and then bury it
under tons of soil?  The base is decorated with "birds" but to tell you the truth,
they look like dinosaurs to me!  Well, they do, damn it! 
One of a pair of 5.5 metre-tall monoliths in Enclosure D. Below its 'head', around its 'neck',
is a band and pendant. Its hands are on its 'stomach', just above a belt with an ornamental
buckle and a fox pelt worn as a loincloth. Below is a frieze of birds.

Gobekli Tepe before the start of excavations -- an entirely man-made hill or hills.  That's a tree on top.
Rather reminds me of those earthen pyramid-shaped hills in China...
Göbekli Tepe before it was excavated. The hill is entirely man-made; the mulberry tree on its summit
gives an idea of scale.


Funny how something out of nowhere can just reach out and grab you.  Seeing the small stone piece, above, it absolutely fascinates me.  Is it a relic of the world's oldest writing???  What the hell is it?  What does it mean?  I say to myself how could ancient people NOT have had writing?  They talked to each other!  Why would they not have been able to write to each other too?  Is that a snake on the left?  I say yes.  It appears that snakes are abundantly represented in the imagery at Gobekli Tepe.  Where they considered a sacred animal or have ritual significance as they did in other later cultures, or were they depicted so often just because they were abundant in the area, like the carved images of scorpions and other creepy-crawlies?  Was the area semi-arid then, as it pretty much appears to be today? 

And are there very very faintly etched figures to the left of the serpent, just above and just below mid-stone?  Do you see them?  The lines do not look like random natural scratches or tiny fissures in the stone, they look deliberately etched.  I wish I knew how to use a program to circle them for you, or add little arrows pointing at them in this image!  Drat!  One of the things on my list to tackle once I am retired!

But, nobody knows what this is - or they're not saying (sounds paranoid, I know, but careers are on the line.  Who's going to go out on a limb and say yeah, it's writing!  Only to be greeted by a derisive chorus of Oh Yeah, PROVE IT!)  Are these markings just the equivalent of carved "doodles?"  A small, flat incised stone plaque. Similar examples have been found on contemporary settlement sites in north Syria. Were these signs the pre-cursor of writing?

"A geophysical survey of the whole site shows that there are more great circular enclosures all over the man-made hill. As many as 20 more, some of them larger than those already excavated, can be seen on the ground-penetrating radar scans. Where there are no large circles visible in the scans, there is evidence that the site went on in use for several more centuries after enclosure building ceased. Professor Schmidt has done some preliminary work in the area beside the four big enclosures, and that shows that many small rectangular structures were built in this later phase. Each structure had one or two pairs of monoliths, but they are much smaller and less richly decorated."

What happened during this later phase to change things so much?  Was the culture dying out?  Had a series of wars, or disease, famine, or drought, occurred to greatly reduce the number of people and the resources available to devote to continued building of these mysterious complexes?  We don't know!

"As you leave the site and reflect on the astonishing things you have seen, you begin to wonder how many people were directly involved, and how many more were needed simply to support them. And to ask who designed the enclosures, specified what was to be carved on each stone, and supervised the logistics of the whole complex construction?

"There are two things we can say for certain about the people who created Göbekli Tepe. First, they were not living at or near Göbekli Tepe. There are no known sites in the area around the plateau. But there are contemporary settlements along the River Euphrates in north Syria. They each had a circular subterranean building at the centre of the settlement, similar in form to the enclosures at Göbekli Tepe. These communal buildings were also back-filled at the end of their use-lives, and there are elements of imagery that these sites have in common with Göbekli Tepe. Professsor Schmidt believes that Göbekli Tepe was a sacred 'central place' for the whole region, where people came together to share in the construction of monuments that expressed their common ideology.

"The second remarkable thing we know is that, at the time when the enclosures at Göbekli Tepe were being made, people living in south-west Asia were not yet farmers. It has been generally believed that only those with control of their resources – farmers – could manage the logistics to assemble and support such a large and skilled workforce. The people of the region at that time were not hunter-gatherers; they were not living as small, mobile hunter-gatherer bands; rather, they lived in substantial numbers in permanent settlements. In parts of south-west Asia, people had been harvesting and storing wild wheat, barley, peas, beans and lentils for thousands of years before Göbekli Tepe was built, which enabled them to create stable, permanent village communities, even before they began to domesticate plants and animals."

And check out this object, it is totally awesome:

Three views of a unique 1.5-metre-tall sculpture that was found defaced and buried within a stone wall. The excavators have nicknamed it the 'totem-pole' because it is composed of a series of figures each holding the next figure down. The head of the top figure is more like a bear than a human. It holds the head of a human figure, which in turn holds another figure. On each side there is a snake.

Okay, am I crazy for thinking that the top head is a lioness (Sekhmet?) and the bottom figure is a bull or a cow holding a moon or sun inside it's horns (Hathor?)  Catalhoyuk had lots of bull or cow with sun or moon between horns imagery too, albeit about 4,000 or 5,000 years later.  Just saying...

I Missed the End of the World AND the Winter Solstice

Geez, there's just no telling what may happen once I start cleaning the house and getting ready to entertain.  I totally missed the end of the world, for instance.  I waited for it to come all day while at the office but nope, totally missed it.  It must have happened either when I was sleeping or later on last night when I was laying the dining table for lunch today, putzing around with tablecloths and placemats and trying different centerpiece arrangements.  Hmmm.....  Ancient Mayan joke:  What comes after a Baktun?  Answer:  Another Baktun, bwwwaaahhhaaaaaa!  Well, okay, it sounds funnier in my head when I tell it to myself :)

Evidently the modern-day Mayans believe that the end of a baktun is just the start of a new era, rather like 1999 rolling around to 2000.  Oh wait - weren't there millions of people thinking the world was going to end THEN, too?  Planes were going to fall from the sky, computers were going to explode, we were all going to starve because everything would stop working, etc. etc.  Geez. 

I also totally missed the Solstice.  Forgot all about it, in fact.  I knew it was coming, because I had commented about it to someone at the office on Thursday that the days that would finally start to get a little longer each day.  The worst is over now, except for below zero temperatures that usually happen around here in January and February and, of course, snow storms.  Don't know how I'm going to cope with those since I am under orders to not ever do any snow shoveling ever again.  So today I shoveled, but only a little, because there was only a little snow in my driveway.  And it's frozen hard.  The first great blizzard of 2012 in Wisconsin missed Milwaukee but left a lot of rain, sleet, slush and about an inch of wet heavy snow on top of all that froze overnight and Friday morning when I walked down the driveway headed toward the bus to go to the office, it was crunch crunch crunch.  I probably should have gotten up at 4 a.m. and shoveled out.  Nah. 

So this morning the sun was warm even though the temperature was cold.  I pulled out my trusty old shovel and headed outdoors, soon working up a sweat.  It was mostly useless exercise, I hardly was able to scrape up any of the frozen snow.  Oh well.  I put down some salt and hope it will be sunny tomorrow and it will melt away.

Lunch today, however, was a great success.  I love entertaining.  I should do it more often.  I enjoy cooking and cleaning to get the house ready for guests doesn't feel quite so boring and burdensome as necessary dusting and vacuuming once a week.  Must do that tomorrow.  During the Packers game.  If they are doing badly and I don't want to hear the announcers (the t.v. announcers suck anyway), I just turn on the vacuum and go to it!  If I get curious, I can always take a peek at the t.v. out of the corner of my eye. 

Anyway, some 5,000 people showed up for the Solstice at Stonehenge, which according to this BBC article, is about five times as many as the usual crowd.  Were they expecting maybe the earth to move beneath their feet and swallow them all up or something?  Take a look at this motley group:

I wouldn't these guys as extras for a zombie movie, geez!  Does the dude with the cheap imitation pirate hat really think that back scratcher is going to - well -- what, exactly?  LOL!  Maybe he was hoping to use it to pick up women's skirts surreptitiously, only no chicks showed up wearing skirts.  I mean - skirts at Stonehenge in winter?  Ha!  I'm thinking the stones were all rather relieved once this group dispersed, yeah, the nutters are gone for another year...

A Beautiful Christmas Hymn - Sent by Carmen


 Added December 22, 2012 -- additional information from Carmen:
Andrea Mantegna (Carturo Island 1431 - Mantua 1506) it's named Epiphany
and  at present it's  at the J.Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles
While I cannot speak to the appearance of the Magi or their number (three is traditional), the biblical accounts agree that Joseph was much older than the "Virgin" Mary, the mother of the Christ child, whom legend says was about 14 years of age around the time she was miraculously impregnated.
In this depiction, the artist has shown that age differential by depicting Joseph as a grey-haired man with wrinkles (far left), while Mary is young and beautiful. The biblical account of the event did not mention the particular number of Magi who traveled a long distance after following a suddenly appearing very bright "star" in the eastern sky that had been foretold in one or more ancient prophetic accounts as signifying a great event.  What we can deduce is that whoever followed this "star" would have been travelling from the east toward the west, following the path of the travelling "star."

It was, evidently, one or more Chaldean scholars who, after beholding the appearance of the untoward super star in the sky [a supernova?], began to research ancient accounts and uncovered the prophecies about the birth of a great Savior who would be born under that particular "sign".  By piecing together numerous prophecies, some of which are recorded in the Christian Bible, that were foretold by many different seers over hundreds of years, the seers of the day arrived at a conclusion.  Some of them headed toward the light in the sky that marked the general vicinity of the birth of the King of Kings.

The putative King of Israel King Herod's seers had also seen this sign in the sky, and according to one biblical account, after much study it was reported to Herod that a King of Kings would be born in a certain area during a certain window of time.  Herod subsequently ordered the execution of all male infants under a certain age (we are not certain what the age limit was, and perhaps the soldiers who were carrying out the orders were not exactly demanding proof of date of birth, either) in this particular area.  As far as I am aware, there is no independent verification from third-party sources that this "Slaughter of the Innocents" ever took place. 

In any event, the biblical account says that Joseph had been warned in a vivid dream to flee the area some time after the Christ child was born -- we do not know how old the child was at the time.  That is why Joseph took Mary and the infant into Egypt and stayed there for some time, perhaps many years.  If the visit of the Magi did, indeed, take place, it quite likely happened somewhere in Egypt (Gaza?), not Bethelem.  The next time the Christ child is mentioned in biblical accounts is when he is about age 12 and he in the Great Temple in Jerusalem! 

We do not know the number of the seers who undertook the journey to where the unusual traveling star seemed to lead them.  We do not know how long they were on the road.  It is obvious from biblical accounts that these seers did not arrive at or shortly after the birth of the Christ.  It seems the child may have been more than a year old by the time the seers found him.

We know that when the seers finally arrived and found the child, the biblical account says three gifts were presented: gold, frankensense, and myhrr.  It is from the "three" gifts that the western account arose that there were "three Wise Men" who visited from the east.

I received this last night from Carmen Romero. She is the "Librarian." Carmen was the right-hand person who assisted chess historian Dr. Ricardo Calvo (an IM and championship level chess player in Spain) in his research and writing for many years before his untimely death in September, 2002.  After Ricardo's passing, Carmen has written many papers on the history of chess during the Medieval and early Renaissance periods that were presented at seminars and symposim around the globe.  Over many years Carmen also helped me with research to provide answers to inquiries on obscure chess subjects that came to Goddesschess. 

It is, perhaps, significant, that once we were informed of the illness that so quickly took the "Chief" (Ricardo) from us, Don and I planned a trip to Spain in the hopes of visiting with him and Carmen.  Alas, he passed away on September 26, 2002.  Earlier in the year Ricardo had told me to "come in October." And so that's how I planned out trip, never dreaming Ricardo would already be gone away from us by then. With hindsight, I now think that Ricardo had a very good idea of when he would die, because he was a medical doctor and he would have known the particulars of his illness.  I think he picked a date for our visit when he knew he would already be gone and we would not see him in extremis.

I do not now remember the exact dates that Don and I traveled to Madrid -- it started during the first two weeks in October and ran into mid-month, perhaps October 10 - 16, 2002.  It was a wonderful, magnificent and yet poignant journey for both of us. 

We reconstituted that trip in early January this year -- short some months from a 10-year anniversary.  We had another wonderful, magnificent and yet poignant journey. I blogged about our trip here extensively, journaling memories here enough to last several lifetimes.

I didn't know it then, but both Mr. Don and I would suffer through serious illnesses in the spring and long, hot summer of 2012.  I thought we had both made it through the worst once autumn of 2012 arrived.  I was wrong.

Don passed away unexpectedly on October 12, 2012.  I could not help but note the close proximity of his death to the death of one we considered our mentor and the date we had taken that first journey to Spain some 10 years before. 

It seemed to me at the time Don first met Ricardo in Hamburg in early November, 1999 that somehow, although separated by much distance and not having known each other for very long, Ricardo and Don forged a sort of golden-cord, unshakeable, unbreakable connection between them.  I do not know the particulars, but I am aware that between the two of them, much intense communications took place, and Don undertook and completed a re-work of an English translation of at least one of Ricado's works that had been translated into English years before.

It is a fair statement to say that Don was never the same after Ricardo died.

And so, tonight I am sad.  I cannot begin to describe how much I miss, miss, miss...  But I am also happy, because I have so many incredible memories of these men who were so important in my life, in such very different ways. 

I had not heard from Carmen in a long while.  Perhaps she had trials and tribulations to go through, as we did, but I was thinking - the worst had happened.  That Carmen had gone from us too.  And so it was wonderful to hear from her so unexpectedly, and with such a beautiful content:

Jesus refulsit omnium
("Jesús lo ilumina todo"):
Jesus refulsit omnium
Pius redemptor gentium
Totum genus fidelium
Laudes genus dramatum

Quem stella natum fulgida
Monstrat micans per authera
Magosque duxit praevia
Ipsius ad cunabula

Illi cadentes parvulum
Pannis adorant obsitum
Verum fatentur ut Deum
Munus freundo mysticum.
Musical composition of the IV century (year 368) written by San Hilario of Poitiers, and considered as the first Christmas carol and one of the first Christmas songs. Their topic is Christ's birth.
This rendition of this ancient hymn by the Veritas Concert Choir  is worth listening to (sung during a championship contest). 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chess Princess: Divya Deshmukh

Nagpur's Divya is Asian chess champion
Amit Sampat, TNN | Dec 20, 2012, 02.28 AM IST

NAGPUR: City's little wonder and National under-7 champion Divya Deshmukh once again made the Orange City and the country proud when she became the Asian chess champion in New Delhi on Wednesday.

With eight wins and a defeat, Divya collected eight points to conquer the 8th Asian Schools Chess Championship in under-7 girls' category that concluded at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in the Capital. In addition, she dominated the five-round blitz event to claim the second international gold.

Daughter of gynaecologists Namrata and Jitendra Deshmukh, Divya for the first time started realizing the title winning effort of any player. In her only reaction to TOI, the 1st standard student of Bhavan's Bhagwandas Purohit Vidya Mandir said, "I am very happy I won gold medals for India."

Delighted with Divya's triumph her mother Dr Namrata said, "we are very happy for our little wonder. After winning the standard event in the morning, second gold in the blitz event was icing on the cake. I was with her since the start of the tournament and as she was doing well her father also joined us. With me being alone, I need to perform the dual role of a parent as well as coach. I only told her to play her best."

She further added, "though Divya is young, she has begun understanding worth of winning. After the victory her first call was to elder sister Arya saying: I have represented India and won gold medals." After winning the national U-7 crown in July, Divya was made to work harder by her young coach Rahul Joshi for the Asian tourney where 415 players from 11 countries took part in various age categories.

The nine-round tournament organized on behalf of Asian Chess Federation by the All India Chess Federation under the aegis of FIDE was played in Swiss league pattern. With 1401 Elo points Divya started as a third seed behind state mate and top seed Bhagyashree Patil (1492) with Delhi's Jesica (1469) being the second seed.

With an easy victory over Kriti Patel, Divya, playing with the black pieces, got off to a rousing start in the first round and defeated Mirlankyzy Azaliia of Kyrgyzstan in the 9th and final round to win the coveted Asian crown for Orange City.

On her way to the gold medal winning effort, Divya defeated Shitika Raj, Chinnam Vyshnavi, A Ahalya, Bhagyashree Patil, Jesica and Sri Lanka's Gunathilake MD Wonara for the full eight points. In the 7th round, however, Divya was surprised by Gujarat's Ananya Parikh but the confidence of stunning her higher ranked rivals in the earlier rounds already gave her the crucial advantage with points.

Divya was way ahead of silver medalist Bhagyashree who had a tie at 6.5 points with Chinnam Vyshnavi of Andhra Pradesh. In the blitz event, Divya had an all win record to be on top of the table.

With the national triumph earlier this year, Divya has been already picked to represent India in the world and Asian under-8 championship in 2013. With this title she, along with the podium finishers, will represent Asia in the World Schools Chess Championship in Greece next year.

About her future, Dr Namrata said, "as first step, we just want she should perform well in world championship next year. Her coach Rahul Joshi works very hard and with full support of school authorities we managed to make her more focused. All thanks to school principal Anju Bhutani madam and Bokare sir. It becomes very difficult if schools do not encourage but they are very helpful."

On Divya's other interests, her proud mother adds, "she idolizes Viswanathan Anand and nowadays she likes Carlsen. Also she loves to dance and play like any other kid. Divya also loves to watch the movie on Bobby Fischer." Divya practices at Anand Chess Academy under Joshi. Members of the chess fraternity congratulated her for the double delight as she is the first in Vidarbha to achieve this remarkable feat in any category.

2012 Top Ten Discoveries by Archaeology Magazine

Top 10 Discoveries of 2012

Volume 66 Number 1, January/February 2013

Any discussion of archaeology in the year 2012 would be incomplete without mention of the much-talked-about end of the Maya Long Count calendar and the apocalyptic prophecies it has engendered. With that in mind, as 2013 approaches, the year’s biggest discovery may actually be that we’re all still here—at least that’s what the editors of Archaeology continue to bet on.

However, you won’t find that story on our Top 10 list. We steered clear of speculation and focused, instead, on singular finds—the stuff, if you will—the material that comes out of the earth and changes what we thought we knew about the past.

Here you’ll see discoveries that range from a work of Europe’s earliest wall art to the revelation that Neanderthals, our closest relatives, selectively picked and ate medicinal plants, and from the unexpected discovery of a 20-foot Egyptian ceremonial boat to the excavation of stunning masks that decorate a Maya temple and tell us of a civilization’s relation to the cosmos.

Then there are the discoveries that just made us wonder. What drove someone to wrap their valuables in a cloth and hide them almost 2,000 years ago? And why were people in Bronze Age Scotland gathering bones and burying them in bogs?

The finds span the last 50,000 years and cover territories from the cradle of civilization to what is today one of the world’s most populous cities. These are a few of the discoveries that speak to us of both our record of ingenuity and our humanity. The enduring question is always: Were the people behind the evidence anything like us?
—The Editors

Maya Sun God Masks
Neanderthal Medicine Chest
First Use of Poison
Aztec Ritual Burial (and intact female burial, the only one...)
Caesar's Gallic Outpost
 Europe's Oldest Engraving (a vulva)
The First Pots (earliest pots discovered to date, 20,000 to 19,000 years old)
Scottish Mummies
Stashed Treasure in Israel
Oldest Egyptian Funerary Boat (and at a non-royal tomb)

Prehistoric Wood Water Wells Discovered in Germany

Very interesting discovery.  The well-preserved wooden timber-joined pieces were put together using tenon and joint techniques that is still in use today, with the aid of stone adzes and bone chisels -- long before the first use of metal was discovered.

World's Oldest Wood Architecture Revealed
December 19, 2012

Anyone writing a book about the history of carpentry may want to include these latest discoveries in the first chapter: Wooden water wells made out of oak timbers dated to over 7,000 years ago were discovered in eastern Germany, and their workmanship suggests an unexpected sophistication in carpentry skills for Neolithic farming communities of the time. The oak timbers, 151 in all, were preserved in a waterlogged environment were dated to between 5469 and 5098 BC.

"This early Neolithic craftsmanship now suggests that the first farmers were also the first carpenters", a study of the finds reports.

Moreover, they were made long before metal was discovered and used in the manufacture of tools that would have been used to fashion and construct the wells. It challenges previous assumptions that metal tools were required to create more complex wooden structures, such as these wells.

So how were they made without metal tools?

They were made by using stone adzes of at least two different sizes to produce finely cut timbers and then employing sophisticated wooden corner joining and log constructions through wedge tusk tenon joints and interlocked corner joints. Examination of tool marks also suggests the use of bone chisels in the process. Even today, certain kinds of carpentry are employed in this fashion without nails, screws and power tools, although metal tools are most often used.

According to the study report and reports of previous studies and investigations, the first Central European farmers journeyed from the Great Hungarian Plain about 7,500 years ago, leaving behind settlement structures with longhouses, pottery (called Linear Pottery Culture, or LBK) and stone tools for archaeologists to uncover through excavations in various locations across the more fertile areas of present-day Europe. Little remained of the longhouses, other than their characteristic "footprints" in the soil. But the wells, having survived nearly intact after thousands of years in their underground waterlogged environments, left a comparatively well preserved record of the technology and techniques used by the Neolithic farmers as carpenters.

Despite these finds, however, relatively little is known about these early settlers, their environment and their technology and culture. But the oak timbers analyzed in the study preserve a record, in the form of tree rings, of the environment in which they lived, holding the promise of reconstructing a picture of the world in which the early Neolithic settlers lived and what natural resources may have been at their disposal.

The research is published in the December 19, 2012 issue of the open access journal PLOS ONE by Willy Tegel and colleagues of the University of Freiburg, Germany, as Early Neolithic Water Wells Reveal the World's Oldest Wood Architecture.

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 Mind Games

SportAccord World Mind Games take place in Beijing, China 12th to 19th December 2012. Bridge, Chess, Draughts, Go and Xiangqi (Chinese Chess) are the games featured.

Report from The Week in Chess:

There are three two day events. Rapid, Blitz and finally blindfold chess. Men's and women's sections.

Men's Rapid: Laurent Fressinet beat Hikaru Nakamura and edged him to the title on tie-break after both finished on 5.5/7.

Women's Rapid: Kateryna Lahno edged out Hou Yifan, Humpy Koneru and Anna Muzychuk on tie-break after all scored 5/7.

Blitz Men. Sergey Karjakin won the blitz with 12.5/15 (note that his game against Bologan had the wrong result in the PGN alongside Zatonskih 0-1 Hou in the women's) a point clear of Hikaru Nakamura.

Alexandra Kosteniuk won the women's section.

Final Standings, Rapid - Women:

13GMLahno Kateryna2592UKR13w115b12w06b13b011w17b150542573
22GMYifan Hou2606CHN14b14w11b13w½7b½5w011b150442568
31GMKoneru Humpy2606IND10w16b½11w12b½1w17w05b150432568
45GMMuzychuk Anna2577SLO12w12b013w15b½11w½6b19w150432526
512IMPaehtz Elisabeth2478GER7w½10b16w½4w½8b12b13w00332575
66GMKosteniuk Alexandra2572RUS8b13w½5b½1w015b14w014b140342548
74GMStefanova Antoaneta2580BUL5b½11w½15b½12w12w½3b11w040232560
814GMDanielian Elina2450ARM6w013b010w19b15w014w½16b11332499
915GMSocko Monika2440POL11b014w½16b18w010b112w14b00342508
109GMZhao Xue2511CHN3b05w08b016w19w015b112b130342494
117GMCramling Pia2546SWE9w17b½3b015w14b½1b02w030242582
1213GMCmilyte Viktorija2462LTU4b016w½14b17b013w19b010w02242517
1311GMZhu Chen2489QAT1b08w14b014w½12b016b½15w½½142519
1410IMZatonskih Anna2504USA2w09b½12w013b½16w18b½6w0½132503
158GMHarika Dronavalli2529IND16b11w07w½11b06w010w013b½20132548
1616IMKhotenashvili Bela2405GEO15w012b½9w010b014b013w½8w010032491

Final Standings, Blitz - Women:

17GMKosteniuk Alexandra2505RUS*110101101½1111111½11181.757
214GMMuzychuk Anna2606SLO0*½½11101½11111111½01077.258
32IMPaehtz Elisabeth2517GER0½*1½110110½10111866.757
41GMKoneru Humpy2535IND1½0*½½001½11111½0767.257
513GMCmilyte Viktorija2524LTU00½½*00111½110½180652.508
63GMHarika Dronavalli2329IND100½1*1½½0100½1½1556.007
711GMZhu Chen2418QAT000110*110½100110750.758
810GMHou Yifan2606CHN01110½0*0100110½70655.258
98IMKhotenashvili Bela2465GEO10000½01*01101011645.757
105GMLahno Kateryna2538UKR0½0½01101*00½0111545.507
114GMCramling Pia2433SWE½010½0½101*½½0½½1347.757
126GMStefanova Antoaneta2571BUL00½0010101½*110062541.007
1312GMDanielian Elina2432ARM000001101½½0*11061539.508
149IMZatonskih Anna2489USA00101½1001100*½060544.508
1515GMSocko Monika2430POL0000½00110½10½*10434.758
1616GMZhao Xue2518CHN000½0½0½00½1110*50333.258

Still nobody plays blitz like Alexandra Kosteniuk - nobody! 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...