Saturday, May 5, 2012

Would You Like to Learn Mandarin?

The China Institute in America in New York City is offering an intensive six-week course in Mandarin where you will learn to speak, read and write basic Mandarin.  It's not inexpensive - tuition is $2,700.00 - oops!  Sorry, I missed posting this prior to the early registration cut-off date of May 1st, so the tuition is now $2,800.00.  But if you've got the time (will be meeting a minimum of four hours every day, it appears, not sure if this includes Saturdays and Sundays, eek!) and the desire to learn the language and some of the basic written ideograms, this is the course for you!

Note the "guarantee" languate I highlighted from the website, below: You WILL be able to conduct conversations, and read and write short passages.  Wow! 

In the USA, These Men Would be Jailed as Sex Offenders

Legalized pedophilia.  Sick cultures.  Even sicker than ours.  How low can we go?

Caption:  In this photo provided on Friday Feb. 10, 2012 by World Press Photo, the 1st prize Contemporary Issues Stories category of the 2012 World Press Photo contest by Stephanie Sinclair, USA, VII Photo Agency for National Geographic magazine shows Tahani (in pink), who married her husband Majed when she was 6 and he was 25, posing for this portrait with former classmate Ghada, also a child bride, outside their mountain home in Hajjah, Yemen, June 10, 2010. Nearly half of all women in Yemen were married as children. (AP Photo/Stephanie Sinclair, VII Photo Agency for National Geographic Magazine)

Do you know what happens to a girl who has a baby when she's 12, 13, 14, 15 and her body is still growing and not yet ready for childbirth? 

(1) A girl's pelvic girdle isn't wide enough for childbirth.  That means often times, after long (several days) and extremely painful labor contractions as the girl's uterus attemps to expel the fetus, she and the fetus die before it's ever born.  If she does deliver the baby, it might be stillborn or severely brain-damaged due to oxygen cut-off during delivery.  Often the girl experiences uncontrolled bleeding due to internal ruptures and dies from blood loss.

(2) Extremely young mothers have a higher risk of pregnancy-induced high blood pressure known as preeclampsia, and their babies are at risk for fetal growth restriction. 

(3)  If a young mother and the baby survive the birth, she may be plagued with "obstetric fistula."   Even physically mature women often experience urinary incontinence for a time after giving birth, but it usually clears up as her body recovers from the rigors of pregnancy and childbirth and through special exercises designed to strengthen the pelvic girdle.  In a young girl where those muscles have been stretched beyond their limit, or torn and not surgically repaired, this doesn't happen.  Think of a rubberband that has lost its elasticity - that is what happens.  If this happens to a girl (and it often does when the body is not mature enough to experience the rigors of childbirth) she will be plagued with health issues for the rest of her life -- if she isn't killed by infection.

Obstetric fistua has become something of a cause celebre in some African countries where westerners have gone in and made television specials on the subject, but in truth, any girl anywhere who is not physically mature enough to go through the rigors of carrying a fetus to term and then childbirth can experience obstetric fistua. Take a good hard look at the girls in the photo at the beginning of this posrt.  Do either of them look old enough to be having sexual intercourse, let alone becoming pregnant and giving birth?  Look at the expressions on their faces.  Would you want YOUR eleven year old to look like that?  These girls don't even have breasts yet.

Perverted, sick, evil.  In the United States and most civilized countries around the world, these men would be jailed for years as child molesters.  Sick societies and cultures condone such things.  We are a very sick world, indeed.

A 2nd Century BCE Chinese Gnomon?

For general information on what a "gnomon" is, please see Wikipedia.   Of note is this entry:

The Chinese also used the gnomon, mentioned in the 2nd century Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Art as being used much earlier by the Duke of Zhou (11th century BC).

See Sundial History for further information and a time line about the development of the use of the gnomon and the invention of the sundial that it led to, after many centuries. 


May 3, 2012
Oldest Astronomical Instrument Discovered in China
Chinese scientists have proposed that an object collected 35 years ago from a tomb of the Western Han Dynasty in Fuyang city and called “lacquerware of unknown names” could be a gnomon with template.

An artist's rendtion of what the object from the tomb of Xiahou Zao may look like.
In 1977, archaeologists unearthed a great number of precious relics, including the unknown object, in the tomb of Xiahou Zao (the 2nd century BCE), the 2nd Marquis of Ruyin of the Western Han dynasty. However, no one has been able to identify the object as well as to explain the possible function of a pair of overlapping lacquered disks found in the same tomb.

A team of Yunli Shi, a professor at the Department of the History of Science and Scientific Archaeology, University of Science and Technology of China, has now proposed that the object is a special gnomon with template, while a pair of lacquered disks is an equatorial device for the positional observation of celestial bodies. Both are the oldest astronomical measuring instruments with definite information of date that can still be seen in the world. The findings appear in the Studies in the History of Natural Sciences.

The scientists noted that the gnomon with template is a typical instrument used by ancient Chinese astronomers in determining the advent of different seasons with the gnomon shadows cast on the template by the midday Sun.

The gnomon from the tomb of Xiahou Zao has two symmetric and foldable parts. As being fully set up in the south-north direction, the midday Sun will cast the shadow of a vertical tablet in the northern half onto three fixed positions on the template respectively on the days of the Summer Solstice, the Vernal/Autumnal Equinoxes, and the Winter Solstice.

“Geographically, this type of gnomon with template can only be used on the given latitude, and the one from the tomb of Xiahou Zao fits just right with the region between the capital of the dynasty Chang’an and the fief of the Marquis of Ruyin Fuyang,” explained Prof. Shi.

The edges of the two overlapping disks are marked respectively with the complete degrees of a celestial circle, and the names and degrees of each of the 28 lunar lodges.

Previous studies have suggested that they may make either an astrological tool similar to the two cosmic disks for divination from the same tomb, or a kind of astronomical instrument, but both theories are in need of definite evidence.

Mounted on top of a lacquerware box, the disks form a complete device good for the equatorial observation fitting just right with the geographical latitude of Fuyang, a prefecture-level city in northwestern Anhui province, China.

Goddesschess 2012 Canadian Women's Chess Championship

The winner will have expenses paid to represent Canada at the FIDE Women's World Championship, in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia, November 10 - December 3, 2012.  I do not know what the prize structure will be for the 2012 championship, but in the 2010 knock-out event, players who were eliminated in the first round earned $3,750.00. 

In the 2010 WWCC, WIM Dina Kagramanov (CAN 2101) represented Canada.

Goddesschess in Echec Magazine

The saga of Goddesschess continues in the Ma-June, 2012 (No. 203) print edition of Echec magazine, published by the Quebec Chess Federation.

Hmmmm, not very legible.  It's in French, too.  I don't know about you, but my French skills aren't too keen these days.  Here it is in English:

Goddesschess and Those Fabulous Las Vegas Show Girls!
by Janet Newton
At the time, there was no way to know that the articles written by Those Fabulous Las Vegas Show Girls would prove to be enduringly popular and among the best-visited pages at the Goddesschess website.(1) From the first article written in 2000 to the most recent article (with a cliff-hanger ending) written in 2008 during the World Chess Championship between GM Viswanathan Anand and GM Vladimir Kramnik, the Show Girls' articles have consistently received a high number of page views every month.
Perhaps it was our individual flights to freedom and our spirit of following our dreams on not much more than a wing and a prayer that led to the Show Girls finding us. I had earned a degree in law and practiced for some years before giving it up for a much more mundane 9 to 5 existence, at much lower pay but a great deal more free time to do the things I wanted to do. Partner Don McLean acts as our webmaster, creates all of the graphics for Goddesschess and its sponsorships, and is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to doing an interview, getting photographs and video action of the City of Montreal Open Chess Championships, of which we have been a sponsor since 2009. In his earlier life he started out in retail business after earning his degree and worked up the ranks, only to leave to pursue a career in counselling troubled youths. He later retired from counselling and went into the freelance world of what was then the Wild Wild West of the Emerging Internet in 1999. Partner Georgia Albert, a true Renaissance woman, made a living playing pool, owned an antiques business for awhile, and spent twenty-five years in the casino industry in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In July 2000 the Las Vegas Show Girls duo of Bambi Darlin and Candi Kane sent their very first article to The International Chessoid. That article was passed along to Goddesschess partner Georgia Albert as not being "original" enough to be suitable "Chessoid" material. Georgia, in turn, passed the article along to me. I thought it was very clever and funny and so we published it at Goddesschess.(2) Unfortunately, I do not remember what tournament the Show Girls were writing about -- as they neglected to mention the name of the tournament in their article! All I know is that the Show Girls thought that GM Alexander Khalifman and GM Michael Adams were very "hot." And because Candi Kane was wearing stilleto heels, she couldn't walk very fast and the Girls were very late, missing the beginning (and perhaps most) of the action in the "final round."
Perhaps one of you can help identify the tournament that the Show Girls visited? At the time the article was written, GM Alexander Khalifman was the reigning FIDE World Chess Champion (he won that title in September, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada), and GM Michael Adams' hair had not yet turned grey. This was during the time after Kasparov split with FIDE and there were two "World Chess Champions" for many years afterward.
From the beginning, the Girls had minds of their own, and very definite opinions about the world of professional chess. The Girls traveled the world, and sometimes they agreed to cover chess events for us. However, reporting on chess events was not what the Girls wanted to do for Goddesschess. No. They wanted to become researchers into the deepest mysteries of chess and its most ancient origins! In other words, they wanted to be - us!
Because we at Goddesschess believe in exploring new possibilities into the origins of ancient games, the Show Girls found a home with us. We were not going to say that they did not have something valuable to add to the conversation, just because they did not have "degrees" in archaeology, anthropology, or ancient history.
At irregular intervals, indicative of the lives of the busy women that they are, the Show Girls would email articles to me (I'm the de facto "editor" of Goddesschess) and after correcting for punctuation and some spelling errors, the articles were published at Goddesschess. If you would like to take some interesting journeys along the road to discovering the deeper mysteries arising out of the origins of chess, I definitely recommend that you read the Show Girls' articles.(3) To say they are "mind-bending" is an understatement.
The Show Girls are not just Show Girls, of course! They are, first and foremost, businesswomen. The life of a Las Vegas show girl can be very short-lived, although there have been many successful show girls who have had careers of 20 years and longer. But eventually, time catches up with all of us. Today, Bambi and Candi are retired from their g-strings onstage, but are active in producing some of the most popular shows in casinos around the world. The Girls continue to make their home in the mountains surrounding the valley that is Las Vegas and have no desire to leave the valley. Over the years, the Girls tried their hand at designing their own clothing lines and achieved some minor success under fictitious names, but ultimately wisely invested in the early careers of several now very successful designers, wisely realizing that despite men's fascination with tassles and g-strings, it is women who ultimately spends thousands of dollars a year buying their own clothes.
You may be surprised to learn that it was those Las Vegas Show Girls, Bambi and Candi, that led Goddesschess into its very first sponsorship in a chess tournament -- in the 2007 U.S. Women's Chess Championship. However, the Girls have always passionately supported promoting more females to play in chess tournaments of all kinds and at all levels. One of the Girls' favorite sayings is "From a small acorn the mighty oak grows..."
Over the years, many people have inquired as to whether Bambi Darlin and Candi Kane are REAL people. All I am authorized to tell you is that - what happens in 'Vegas stays in 'Vegas...
Goddesschess is very happy to be a sponsor of the 2012 Canadian Women's Closed Chess Championship. In our next article, you will learn just how it was that those Las Vegas Show Girls led us to our first sponsorship in a tournament, and how things blossomed forth from that "First Time."
(2) This is the url to the Show Girls' very first Goddesschess article:
(3) This is the url to the Show Girls' entire index of Goddesschess articles:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

2012 Russian Juniors Chess Championship (Girls)

Information from the Week in Chess, with a pithy comment by Mark Crowther:  Anastasia Bodnaruk dominated the girls event to win with 7/8 (weirdly they could only muster 9 players suggesting a lack of strength in depth, even if there was a last minute withdrawal).
  • Russian Junior Girls
  • Tue 17th Apr 2012 - Sun 29th Apr 2012
  • Sochi, RUS
  • 10 Players, 9 Rounds.
  • SRR
  • Time Control: 90m+30spm(1)

  • Russian Junior Girls Sochi RUS Tue 17th Apr 2012 - Sun 29th Apr 2012. Category: 1. Ave: (2266)
    1Bodnaruk, AnastasiaIMRUS2412#111==11172583
    2Savina, AnastasiaIMRUS23250#=1=1=1=52354
    3Goryachkina, AleksandraWIMRUS23410=#=0111152352
    4Rjanova, ValeryRUS222200=#0111=42271
    5Petrova, OlgaRUS2250==11#=0003.52225
    6Bezgodova, MariaWIMRUS2200=000=#=1=32187
    7Matveeva, OlgaWFMRUS22110=001=#0132186
    8Balaian, AlinaRUS22030000101#132187
    9Belenkaya, DinaWFMRUS22290=0=1=00#2.52130

    2012 Bulgarian Women's Chess Championship

    I assume that the Bulgarian Women's Championship is a true invitational, that is, the top-rated female players in the country are NOT COMPELLED by the country's chess federation to play in the championship but are free to decline an invitation, usually (but not always) due to the paucity of prize money and lack of prestige associated with the title.

    And so, this gives younger and/or lower-rated female players a chance to go for the title.  Final standings, Bulgarian women's championship (information from The Week in Chess):

    110Videnova IvaWGMBUL2301*011111111808
    29Raeva ElitsaWIMBUL22921*½½½1111106
    33Galunova TsvetaBUL20460½*1½0½11114
    45Nikolova AdrianaWGMBUL22930½0*01111105
    56Genova LyubkaWIMBUL22590½½1*½0½11503
    68Voiska MargaritaWGMBUL23160010½*1½1½03
    71Chilingirova PavlinaWIMBUL210900½010*½11403
    87Yordanova SvetlaWIMBUL21160000½½½*½1301
    94Ivanova SimonetaBUL19630000000½*101
    102Tsekova ViktoriaBUL187600000½000*½00

    More Evidence of Ancient Trade: The Egyptian "Pharaoh Stool"

    Despite the article's silly headline, it's a good one!

    From Der Spiegel Online
    05/03/2012 03.05.2012

    Bronze Age Espionage: Did Ancient Germans Steal the Pharaoh's Chair Design?

    When Tutankhamen died, his tomb was filled with all manner of precious objects, including two folding chairs. The more attractive one is made of ebony and has ivory inlays.

    Such ingenious chairs were already being used in Egypt more than 4,000 years ago. The brilliantly simple design consists of two movable wooden frames connected to each other with pins and with an animal hide stretched between -- a kind of ur-camping stool.

    It isn't surprising, given the advanced nature of their society, that the Egyptians were familiar with such comfortable seating. Astonishing, however, is that the gruff chieftains of northern Europe also sat on such chairs.

    18th Dynasty Egyptian stool, tomb of
    Userhat Thebes. Eighteenth Dynasty. Photograph courtesy of Osirisnet

    Some 20 Nordic folding stools have been discovered so far, most of them north of the Elbe River in Germany. The majority were found by mustachioed members of the educated classes, who burrowed into their native soils in the 19th century in search of "national antiquities." The wood had usually rotted away, leaving only the golden or bronze clasps, rivets and knobs.

    A Bronze Age folding chair found in northern Germany and
    now in Hamburg's Helms Museum (from article)

    The only complete specimen was found in 1891 in Guldhøj (Golden Hill) near Kolding on the Jutland peninsula, which forms modern-day mainland Denmark. The chair, made of ash wood and with an otter-skin seat, was found lying in a tree-trunk coffin. Dendrochronologists have dated the specimen, made by a local carpenter, to 1389 B.C.

    But folding chairs clearly originated in the Orient. The oldest depiction of one is found on roughly 4,500-year-old Mesopotamian seals. Egyptians were also familiar with folding chairs at any early date. Dignitaries used them as mobile thrones, and the long stretchers at their bases prevented the chairs from sinking into the sand.

    Bronze Age Trading Networks

    The fact that the design reached so far north led many scholars to posit that northern Europeans developed it independently and in parallel to the Egyptians. But that view has now been challenged. "The design and dimensions of the chairs are too similar," says Bettina Pfaff, an archaeologist from Nebra, near the eastern German city of Halle, who specializes in prehistory. Her colleague Barbara Grodde also finds that there is "a remarkable similarity" between the Egyptian and Nordic models.
    In other words, Pfaff says, "they were copied." This, in turn, presupposes that there was contact between sunny Egypt and the swampy North some 3,400 years ago.

    Other evidence for such contact has also turned up. In recent years, archaeologists have discovered how far-reaching the trade network had already become in the Bronze Age. Blacksmiths from Germany's Harz Mountains worked with gold from Cornwall, while others imitated Mycenaean swords or looped needles from Cyprus.

    "The elites throughout Europe were in communication at the time," says Bernd Zich, an archaeologist from Halle, adding that luxury goods were exchanged across great distances "usually on foot."

    A Sudden Fashion Craze in the North

    Such goods were apparently passed on from tribe to tribe and from region to region in a type of relay. But things were somehow different with the folding chairs. While they were used in the Orient and the far north, none of these folding chairs have been found in a wide swath of land between the two regions, either among the inhabitants of stilt houses in the Alps or among the Bronze Age residents of Italy and France.

    Is it possible, then, that a northern trader made the long journey from the Baltic Sea to Egypt, stole the design and brought it back home? [Why assume any trader "stole" anything?  Come on - all he would have needed was a sketch of how the stool worked, or a good enough memory to be able to draw it later on and describe how it worked to an artisan back home.  No need to steal anything.  Geez!]  As farfetched as the idea might seem, it is certainly plausible. Archaeologists have recently concluded that there were long-distance scouts more than 3,000 years ago who brought tin from Germany's Erz Mountains all the way to Sweden. They probably traveled in oxcarts on dirt roads. Such ancient caravans probably also traveled along southern routes heading toward Africa. [Why travel in oxcarts when there was a network of rivers that could have taken them all the way to the Mediterranean Sea?  Geez!]

    Scholars are also determining the dates of such knowledge transfers. Egypt became a major power under Thutmose III (1479 to 1426 B.C.), whose armies reached the borders of modern-day Turkey. This changed the flows of goods. Even the Greek mainland fell under the spell of the pharaohs.

    It was precisely at this time that a messenger from the North Sea coast could have been in Egypt and copied the chair's design onto papyrus. Starting in 1400 B.C., the stools started being made in the far north and abruptly became fashionable. It appears that every prince of the moors was suddenly determined to have one of the new thrones from the south.

    Craftsmen copied the exotic chairs down to the last detail. They often used oak or ash for the frame. A particularly fine piece discovered in Bechelsdorf, in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, has elaborate ornamentation, with decorative metal tassels that chime and a deerskin seat.

    For Clan Leaders or Sorcerers?

    Many speculate that the furniture belonged to clan leaders entitled to an elevated position while traveling. Although the stool was only about 25 centimeters (10 inches) high, it would be high enough since everyone else would be forced to sit cross-legged on the ground.

    But not all find this theory convincing. The objects were often discovered in "poorly furnished graves," explains Pfaff, the archaeologist. Instead, she believes the strange pieces of furniture belonged to a "spiritual elite" that was "not necessarily wealthy," such as healers and magicians with a connection to the world of spirits.

    The man from Guldhøj could have also been one of these sorcerers. Apparently afraid of the dead, those who buried his body placed one of his own shoes under his head. In this way, Pfaff says, the corpse "could no longer climb out of the grave."

    Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


    Archaeologists and scientists are very bright people for the most part, but they do not understand "trends" and "fashions."  Trends and fashions transcend all economic and social barriers, despite any elite's attempts to keep things otherwise!  If you don't believe me, please do a little online research about a few current home fashion trends - the sunburst or starburst mirror!  The "chandelier" (or "chandy") over the bed in the master bedroom and over the "island" in the kitchen (sometimes two over the "island" in the kitchen).  Aqua (also called teal, green-blue, smokey green, etc. etc. and any shade of brown or taupe in room decor.  In fact, I'm going to be using a similar color scheme in my own family room re-do.  Darlings, it doesn't matter what socio-economic, political, religious or other hierarchal "class" one belongs to -- we are ALL determined to have "THE LOOK" or something similar, and for as little money as possible.

    $10 "sunburst mirror" from Family Dollar,
    online advertisement March, 2012

    "Gilt composition" sunburst mirror "of recent manufacture," sold at
    a Christie's London auction, 12 August 2008, for  $1,070.  Ridiculous.

    Humankind has not changed in the three thousand years or so since King Tut was buried with two of his kingly stools!  If anything, today's modern communications enables just about everyone to know what the current trends are, anywhere in the world.  And with FedEx, DHL and other international air transport services, you can have a sunburst mirror ordered from in your very own igloo within 24-48 hours.

    The Peopling of America

    From Nature Online

    Ancient migration: Coming to America

    For decades, scientists thought that the Clovis hunters were the first to cross the Arctic to America. They were wrong — and now they need a better theory

    Andrew Curry

    The mastodon was old, its teeth worn to nubs. It was perfect prey for a band of hunters, wielding spears tipped with needle-sharp points made from bone. Sensing an easy target, they closed in for the kill.

    Almost 14,000 years later, there is no way to tell how many hits it took to bring the beast to the ground near the coast of present-day Washington state. But at least one struck home, plunging through hide, fat and flesh to lodge in the mastodon's rib. The hunter who thrust the spear on that long-ago day didn't just bring down the mastodon; he also helped to kill off the reigning theory of how people got to the Americas.

    For most of the past 50 years, archaeologists thought they knew how humans arrived in the New World. The story starts around the end of the last ice age, when sea levels were lower and big-game hunters living in eastern Siberia followed their prey across the Bering land bridge and into Alaska. As the ice caps in Canada receded and opened up a path southward, the colonists swept across the vast unpopulated continent. Archaeologists called these presumed pioneers the Clovis culture, after distinctive stone tools that were found at sites near Clovis, New Mexico, in the 1920s and 1930s.

    As caches of Clovis tools were uncovered across North America over subsequent decades, nearly all archaeologists signed on to the idea that the Clovis people were the first Americans. Any evidence of humans in the New World before the Clovis time was dismissed, sometimes harshly. That was the case with the Washington-state mastodon kill, which was first described around 30 years ago1 but then largely ignored.

    Intense criticism also rained down on competing theories of how people arrived, such as the idea that early Americans might have skirted the coastline in boats, avoiding the Bering land bridge entirely. “I was once warned not to write about coastal migration in my dissertation. My adviser said I would ruin my career,” says Jon Erlandson, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

    But findings over the past few years — and a re-examination of old ones, such as the mastodon rib — have shown conclusively that humans reached the Americas well before the Clovis people. That has sparked a surge of interest in the field, and opened it up to fresh ideas and approaches.

    Geneticists and archaeologists are collaborating to piece together who came first, when they arrived, whether they travelled by boat or by foot and how they fanned out across the New World.

    To test their ideas, some researchers are examining new archaeological sites and reopening old ones. Others are sifting through the DNA of modern people and unearthing the remains of those buried millennia ago in search of genetic clues. “There's a powerful meshing of the archaeology we're pulling out of the ground with genetic evidence,” says Michael Waters, a geographer at Texas A&M University in College Station.

    Like those original Americans, researchers are exploring new frontiers, moving into fresh intellectual territory after a long period of stasis. “Clovis has been king for 50 years, and now we have to reimagine what the peopling of the New World looked like,” Erlandson says. “If it wasn't Clovis, what was it?

    Overthrowing King Clovis

    It took a chance finding halfway around the world to set this reappraisal in motion. In the late 1970s, Tom Dillehay, an archaeologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, uncovered the remains of a large campsite in southern Chile, close to the tip of South America (see 'Routes to a new world'). Radiocarbon dating of wood and other organic remains suggested that the site was around 14,600 years old, implying that humans made it from Alaska to Chile more than 1,000 years before the oldest known Clovis tools2. But because the remote site was so hard for most researchers to examine, it would take nearly 20 years for Dillehay to convince his collegues.

    The case for pre-Clovis Americans has now gained more support, including from analyses of ancient DNA. One of the first bits of genetic evidence came from preserved faeces, or coprolites, that had been discovered in a cave in south-central Oregon by Dennis Jenkins, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon. Radiocarbon dating showed that the coprolites are between 14,300 and 14,000 years old, and DNA analysis confirmed that they are from humans3. The recovered DNA even shared genetic mutations with modern Native Americans.

    Since the coprolite evidence emerged, in 2008, ancient DNA has also been used to reconstruct that long-ago mastodon hunt. Radiocarbon studies in the 1970s had suggested that the mastodon pre-dated the Clovis people, but some researchers explained that away by arguing that the animal had died in an accident. However, DNA studies last year4 showed that a fragment of bone embedded in the mastodon's rib had come from another mastodon — strong evidence that it was a spear point made by humans and not a shard that had chipped off a nearby bone in a fall.

    The case against Clovis got another major boost last year, when an excavation in Texas unearthed stone tools that pre-dated Clovis-style artefacts by more than a millennium5. “We found a solid site with good context, good artefacts and solid dating,” says Waters.

    This slow avalanche of findings has all but buried the Clovis model — the problem now is what to replace it with. The abundant Clovis artefacts and sites discovered over the past century have set a high bar. Telling the story of the first Americans means coming up with a plausible explanation and definitive evidence to support it — a combination that researchers are struggling to achieve.

    One idea they are exploring is that a small group of big-game hunters made it into the Western Hemisphere over land — but significantly earlier than previously thought. Another, more popular, theory argues that humans used boats to navigate along the coast of Siberia and across to the Americas.

    There is also a controversial variant of the coastal migration model, put forward by archaeologists Dennis Stanford at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and Bruce Bradley at the University of Exeter, UK. Called the Solutrean hypothesis, it suggests that coastal migration from Asia could have been supplemented by parallel migrations across the Atlantic, bringing stone-tool technologies from present-day Spain and southern Europe to eastern North America.

    DNA studies argue strongly against this hypothesis, and it gets little support from researchers. But some are hesitant to reject the idea outright, recognizing that the community was once before too conservative. “That's what happened with the Clovis paradigm,” says Dillehay.

    To move the field forward, researchers are using as many types of data as possible. Some key clues have emerged from studies of population genetics, in which researchers tallied the number of differences between the genomes of modern Native Americans and those of people living in Asia today. They then used estimates of DNA mutation rates as a molecular clock to time how long the diversity took to develop. That provides an estimate for when people split from ancient Asian populations and migrated to the Americas.

    Judging from the limited genetic diversity of modern Native Americans, Ripan Malhi, a geneticist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and others have argued that the founding population was small, perhaps just a few thousand hardy settlers. In a study of mitochondrial DNA from modern Native American and Asian populations, Malhi and his colleagues also found hints that the first American colonists paused on their way out of Asia6, waiting out the peak of the last ice age on the exposed Bering land bridge for perhaps 5,000 years — long enough to become genetically distinct from other Asian populations. When the glaciers blocking their path into North America began to melt around 16,500 years ago, the Beringians made their way south over land or sea, passing those genetic differences on to their descendants in America.

    Other researchers say that there is a major problem with relying on population genetics to answer questions about the peopling of the Americas. At least 80% of the New World's population was wiped out by disease, conflict or starvation after Europeans first arrived some five centuries ago. And the genes of many Native Americans today carry European and African markers, which confounds efforts to piece together the migration story. “If we look pre-contact, we're going to find a lot more indigenous diversity,” says Malhi.

    That means going back in time, by studying ancient genomes. “You're going to see a lot of ancient-DNA studies coming out, and that's going to tell a powerful story about the first Americans,” says Waters.

    The chances of finding well-preserved bones from the first Americans are slim, but valuable information can be pulled from DNA samples that fall in between then and now, argues Eske Willerslev, who studies ancient DNA at the University of Copenhagen. Willerslev and his colleague Thomas Gilbert proved that point in 2010, when they extracted the first complete ancient-human genome from a 4,000-year-old hank of hair found in Greenland that had languished for decades in a museum storeroom in Copenhagen. The DNA helped to show that there had been multiple waves of migration into Greenland, and that modern Greenlanders arrived more recently7. Now, Willerslev's lab is trying to extract similar information about population movements from ancient-human remains from sites all over the Americas.

    Joining forces

    When paired with sequences from modern populations, ancient DNA can help to refine the calculations made by population geneticists and test the claims made by archaeologists. In 2008, Brian Kemp, now at Washington State University in Pullman, extracted mitochondrial DNA from a 10,300-year-old tooth found in On Your Knees Cave in Alaska. When he compared the DNA sequences with those from modern Native Americans, he found that the mutation rate was faster than previously thought8. The results, he says, effectively rule out the possibility that humans came to North America as early as 40,000 years ago — a date based on equivocal evidence from archaeological sites in the eastern United States. The finding also argues against the idea that people used boats before the thaw to go around the glaciers and come down the coast. Instead, the DNA evidence supports the consensus that people didn't migrate into the Americas — whether by boat or over land — until the end of the last glacial maximum, 16,500 years ago at most.

    The DNA told researchers a few more things. The ancient man who died in that Alaskan cave had mitochondrial DNA most closely related to Native American groups living today along the west coast of North America. “Most of the people who descended from that type are still living near the coast,” Kemp says. So the first wave of migrants probably came down the coast and then spread east from there, developing tiny variations in their DNA as they went, Kemp says.

    Dennis O'Rourke, a geneticist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, is using similar comparisons to fill in the map of ancient migrations in the New World. In the past ten years, dozens of similar studies have established a clear trend — comparisons of DNA from modern people with ancient DNA have shown that the geographic distribution of genetic groups in the Americas has been stable for millennia. “The patterns must have been established more than 4,000 years ago,” he says. That helps to constrain the timing of when people spread across the continent and when they stopped migrating, he says.

    In Point Barrow, Alaska, O'Rourke recently began studying human remains from a cliff-top cemetery threatened by coastal erosion, where people have been buried for the past 1,000 years. By comparing the samples from ancient Alaskans to populations from Greenland, eastern Canada and elsewhere, O'Rourke hopes to learn more about the colonization of the Arctic, an environment similar to what the first Americans would have encountered towards the end of the last ice age.

    O'Rourke's collaborators are also collecting DNA samples from Inupiat people in northern Alaska. By matching up the modern and ancient DNA sequences from that region, they hope to refine the genetic clock and improve estimates for when people arrived in the Americas. Similar work is going on at a cemetery on Prince Rupert Island off northern British Columbia, where local Tsimshian people are working with archaeologists to gather ancient and modern DNA evidence.

    While geneticists open up intellectual frontiers, archaeologists are searching for ways to test the migration theories in the field. Direct evidence for coastal migration will be hard to come by, because a rise in the sea level since the end of the last ice age has flooded the ancient coastlines. But researchers are turning up indirect evidence in many locations. Last year, for example, Erlandson demonstrated that humans lived on California's Channel Islands as far back as 12,200 years ago9, which shows that they must have mastered the use of boats before that time.

    And at the Monte Verde site in Chile, researchers have found evidence that the ancient occupants were fans of seafood10. “Monte Verde has ten different species of seaweed at the site,” Dillehay says. “Somebody was intimately familiar with seaweeds and the microhabitats where they could be found.” That lends support to the idea that the earliest Americans were seafarers, he says.

    Dillehay's recent findings, which came 30 years after the first excavations at Monte Verde, show that previously studied sites can become potential gold mines, says Waters. Because so many sites were either dismissed or forgotten during the 'Clovis-first' era, Waters says that “the field can really be pushed forward by going back and taking a look at sites that were put up on a shelf”. He is already planning to reopen sites in Tennessee and Florida, where evidence of pre-Clovis mammoth hunting was uncovered in the 1980s and 1990s.

    Geneticists and archaeologists agree that the death of the Clovis theory has injected the field with excitement and suspense. “There's a sense that there was something before Clovis,” says Jenkins, whose coprolite study shook the field four years ago. “But what it was and how it led to the patterns that we see in North and South America — that's a whole new ball game.”

    I have a problem with the conclusions being drawn in the article from the DNA analyses being done with our current technology, coupled with our built-in prejudices and preconceived ideas -- cultural, political, and academic. We do, indeed, live in interesting times. The DNA evidence mentioned in this article does not support carbon-dated bones of a mammoth, for instance, that was slaughtered out east some 40,000 years ago (was it in Tennessee? I don't recall exactly). According to the article below, however, when measured by our current knowledge of genetic "mutation rates", pre-Clovis people could not have arrived here before 16,500 years ago. But not too long ago it was assumed that humans had been here much much longer than that -- based on our knowledge of genetic "mutation rates." And so it goes, darlings... At best, I consider the DNA studies problematical and would tend to rely more on archaeological evidence and improved techniques now being employed to more accurately pinpoint the age of certain items.  CAN THEY BOTH BE RIGHT?  We definitely need a new hypothesis to try and reconcile such disparate findings between the alleged time line via DNA evidence of how long people have been here versus the alleged age of certain archaeological sites and artifacts, including slaughtered animal bones, via current improved methods and technologies for radio-carbon dating and other dating techniques.

    We are still in the infancy of DNA analysis, we should hold off drawing any conclusions based upon what we think we know right now. Clovis was gospel for 50 years; now it's been relegated to a footnote but back in its heyday, people were WARNED not to challenge Clovis (see article) because to do so would be a career killer!  Let's not make the same mistake of jumping to conclusions about what we think DNA may be telling us. 
    Sooo, here's where we are at right now: DNA evidently is telling us that certain things probably happened a certain way; but the archaeological record suggests a much more complicated, and far older, story about people in the Americas. Just remember - so-called "Neanderthal" man used to be considered a species of "ape man" and if the thought had ever occurred to 18th and 19th and even some 20th century scientists that "Neanderthal" and so-called "modern humans" could or would ever have successfully interbred, they would probably have dismissed any such speculation as pure nonsense. They would have been DEAD WRONG, of course, as we now know. 
    What will DNA studies be telling us 50 years from now? 

    Wednesday, May 2, 2012

    1,000 Year Old Vase Donated to Goodwill

    Eyewitness News

    1,000 Year Old Vase Found At Goodwill
    May 1, 2012
    Updated May 1, 2012 at 3:13 PM EDT

    Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW) - Goodwill Industries of Western New York receives about 50,000 pounds in donations per day...and sometimes they find something a little extra special.
    "This is a vase we found in our warehouse," Dan Victori with Goodwill Industries of Western New York said.

    It's not just any old flowering pot.

    "The vase could be anywhere from 1,000 to 1500 years old. A note inside the vase said it was found at the Spiro Mounds in 1970. We did research to discover that was an old Indian burial grounds," Victori said.

    The vase came all the way from Oklahoma. Victori contacted the Oklahoma government, who directed him to officials with the Caddo Indian Nation. They then claimed the vase.

    Victori said according to the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act, it is illegal for an organization like Goodwill to sell the vase, or other items belonging to any Native American group.

    "We are going to donate that vase to their museum in Oklahoma," Victori said.

    This is not the first time Goodwill Industries has found some unique items. Victori said with all the donations that come in, there are bound to be some interesting discoveries.

    "We did find some expensive paintings from a local artist a while back. A book by Elbert Einstein written in German and an autographed copy of Mickey Mantel's book," Victori said, were just some of the items they have found.

    The organization was able to sell those items at for hundreds, even thousands of dollars. As for the vase, it will go back to its rightful owners, the Caddo Nation. They will then decipher what it was used for and the exact age of the artifact.

    "In turn they are going to give us a plaque, that will be displayed proudly, thanking Goodwill Industries of Western New York," Victori said.

    Ancient Phoenician Tombs Discovered During Sewer Project


    Sewerage work uncovers ancient tombs

    Published on May 1, 2012

    ANCIENT tombs hailing from the Phoenician period between the 4th and 6th century BCE were discovered on Sunday on Faneromeni Avenue in Larnaca during work on the town’s sewage system.

    According to archaeologists, the graves may be an extension of the ancient tomb known as the catacomb which dates back to the 4th century BCE and can be found under the old church of Panayia Faneromeni.

    Larnaca mayor Andreas Louroutziatis said work on the sewerage system will stop temporarily at the site until a decision is taken in collaboration with the antiquities department on whether excavations should continue to find any new possible archaeological discoveries.

    “The discovery of Phoenician tombs is yet another indication that Larnaca is a city filled with history. It is an area continuously inhabited for four thousand years, and the discovery of ancient tombs and sarcophagi proves this to be true,” he said.

    Larnaca town and especially the Faneromeni area was a vast cemetery in antiquity, with scattered tombs known as ‘Larnaces’, which is how the city of Zeno took its name, he added.

    Father Michael, a priest from the nearby Church of Panayia Faneromeni, said plans have been prepared for the renovation of the catacomb under the old church and the creation of an underground museum. The project will cost €300,000, half of which will be covered by the antiquities department.

    Italian Merchants Funded English Expeditions to America


    Italian Merchants Funded England's Discovery of North America

    ScienceDaily (Apr. 30, 2012)Evidence that a Florentine merchant house financed the earliest English voyages to North America, has been published on-line in the academic journal Historical Research

    The article by Dr Francesco Guidi-Bruscoli, a member of a project based at the University of Bristol, indicates that the Venetian merchant John Cabot (alias Zuan Caboto) received funding in April 1496 from the Bardi banking house in London.

    The payment of 50 nobles (£16 13s. 4d.) was made so that 'Giovanni Chabotte' of Venice, as he is styled in the document, could undertake expeditions 'to go and find the new land'.

    With a royal patent from Henry VII of England, Cabot went on to lead expeditions from Bristol during the summers of 1496 and 1497. The second of these was to result in the European discovery of North America -- Christopher Columbus not having ventured beyond the Caribbean islands.  [And yet, how many people even know Cabot's name?]

    Dr Evan Jones, who leads the project in Bristol, describes the new evidence as a "fantastic find." He adds, "We have long known that Italy's great merchant banks were key to the success of the ventures launched by Portugal and Spain. But it always seemed that the English ventures were an exception. Now it is clear that they too were part of network of Italian-financed expeditions to explore beyond the limits of the known world."

    Dr Guidi-Bruscoli, who is based at the University of Florence and is also a Fellow at Queen Mary in London, found the financial records after being contacted by Jones and his co-researcher, Margaret Condon. For several years they have been attempting to relocate the research findings of a deceased historian, Dr Alwyn Ruddock. She had made some extraordinary finds about Cabot's voyages, but had all her notes destroyed following her death in 2005. [She did not want someone else to come along and make money on her own years of hard work after she was dead.  Can't say I blame her for destroying her notes!]

    One of Ruddock's claims was that Cabot was financed by an Italian bank. She had, however, refused to reveal the source of her information. Following an invitation to visit the deceased historian's house in 2010, Jones and Condon discovered the source -- in the form of a sticky label on an old shoe cupboard: 'The Bardi firm of London'. They then contacted Dr Guidi-Bruscoli in Florence, who was able to locate the archive, the financial ledger and the entry concerned.

    Finding out about the funding of Cabot's voyages is exciting because, while it has long been known that the explorer received political support from the King, the identity and motivations of those who paid for the expeditions has never been known.

    The entry itself is also curious in that the reference to "the new land" implies that the money was given so that Cabot could find a land that was already known about. As such, it may revive claims that Bristol merchants had discovered North America at an earlier time.

    Dr Guidi-Bruscoli is more cautious on this score, however. "While the entry implies that the Bardi believed in a prior discovery, we can't assume this had occurred. It is likely the Bardi were referring to the mythical 'Island of Brasil', which Bristol mariners certainly claimed had been found by one of their number in times past. Whether this story can be equated with an actual discovery is much more uncertain, however."

    Dr Jones agrees. "It would be wonderful to find that Bristol mariners had first visited North America before the 1480s -- if only because it would cast new light on the originality of Columbus' venture of 1492. Right now, however, we can't be sure about that. Although one never knows, that could change."

    Sunday, April 29, 2012

    More on the Thefts of Chinese Antiquities from British Museums

    I didn't see these items make the regular archaeology news, so I hunted around a little at BBC.  Here are several links to articles discussing the Durham theft and the arrest of five people and the recovery of stolen items from the Oriental Museum on April 5, 2012, as well as the subsequent Fitzwilliam Museum theft:

    Artefacts worth £1.8m stolen from Durham University's Oriental Museum
    April 6, 2012

    Durham University artefacts raid 'highly organised'
    April 10, 2012

    Artefacts thieves 'cut 3ft hole' (Are you frigging kidding me???)
    April 11, 2012

    Suspects in £1.8m Durham University museum raid named
    April 12, 2012

    Durham University Oriental Museum to reopen after £2m raid
    April 13, 2012

    The story gets better:  Fitzwilliam Museum theft occurred on the night of April 13, 2012 - BUT WAS NOT REPORTED UNTIL APRIL 18, 2012.

    Durham University Oriental Museum treasures recovered
    April 14, 2012
    Chinese artefacts worth almost £2m that were stolen from a University of Durham museum have been recovered by police.

    Thieves cut a 3ft-wide hole in the wall of the university's Oriental Museum and stole a bowl and figurine. Durham Police said it was almost certainly a well planned operation.

    A police spokeswoman said both artefacts had now been recovered.

    Officers have arrested five people in connection with the theft [When were they arrested?  Before or after the Fitzwilliam Museum "raid" on April 13th?]  Two men are still being sought.

    Durham University Oriental Museum reopens after burglary
    April 16, 2012
    (Let us hope that the hole through the wall was adequately patched up?)

    Five people, all from the West Midlands, have been arrested and bailed in connection with the incident. [Were these five people in custody at the time of the Fitzwilliam Museum "raid" on April 13th?]
    Detectives have also said they want to speak to two men, Adrian Stanton and Lee Wildman, both from the Walsall area, in connection with the theft.

    Durham museum raid inquiry: Two cars recovered
    April 18, 2012
    This article reveals the tasty little tidbit that the two artifacts stolen from the Oriental Museum-Durham were "found in a field." 

    Fitzwilliam Museum theft: Chinese jade art 'worth millions'
    April 18, 2012

    Fitzwilliam Museum theft: Up to four burglars involved
    April 20, 2012
    Detectives said the burglars had entered the back of the building at about 19:30 BST on 13 April.

    Officers said the group was inside the building for a "matter of minutes" before fleeing in a getaway car.  [Evidently they just walked in through the back door?????]

    Fitzwilliam Museum theft: White van 'used by raiders'
    April 23, 2012
    The van in question was stolen in London on April 7, 2012. Had it been planned for that long of a time to use this van in committing the "raid" on the Fitzwilliam???

    Fitzwilliam Museum £18m theft: Ports and airports on alert
    April 25, 2012

    AND, unbelievably:

    Fitzwilliam Museum £18m theft: Haul 'likely to still be in UK'
    By Mark Bulstrode April 26, 2012
    This story is so full of beans, I can't even frame suitably pungent comments, har :)

    Fitzwilliam Museum £18m theft: Appeal posters and hotline set up
    April 28, 2012

    Soooo, there you have it, folks.  Somehow, it is not comforting to know that police in the UK are just as incompetent as the police in the USA.  Keystone Cops, anyone???

    Chinese Antiquities Stolen from Fitzwilliam Museum

    From the

    Valuable Chinese art stolen from Cambridge University

    Police says 'very valuable art of great cultural significance', including Ming jade cup, has been stolen from Cambridge's Fitzwilliam Museum.

    4:05PM BST 18 Apr 2012

    A hoard of rare Chinese artefacts has been stolen from Cambridge University, police said today.
    Eighteen items including a 14th century Ming jade cup were stolen during a raid at the institution's Fitzwilliam Museum at around 7.30pm on Friday.

    Cambridgeshire Police today appealed for anyone with information to help recover the items, which the force described as "very valuable" and of "great cultural significance".
    Among the stolen items were six pieces from the Ming dynasty, including a jade 16th century carved buffalo, a carved horse from the 17th century and a green and brown jade carved elephant.  A jade cup and vase which is carved with bronze designs was also stolen along with an opaque jade brush washer.
    Eight pieces from the Qing dynasty were taken, and a table screen from the Qianlong period and a jug and vase from the 18th century make up the rest of the stolen artworks.  Police and the museum refused to reveal the monetary value of the stolen pieces.

    A spokesman for the Fitzwilliam Museum said: "These works are a highly important part of our collection and their loss is a great blow. "We are working closely with the police to aid in their recovery. A thorough review of our security measures is also under way. We urge anyone with information that could help the inquiry to come forward."

    Detective Chief Superintendent Karen Daber, who is leading the investigation, called Operation Tundra, said the force had carried out forensic examinations following the burglary and were examining CCTV footage.  She said: "The items stolen are very valuable and are of great cultural significance so we are absolutely committed to recovering them and bringing those who stole them to justice.  The 18 items stolen are mostly jade and part of the museum's permanent collection. We have a team of detectives working hard to achieve these ends and we are working closely with the Fitzwilliam Museum, which is doing all it can to help our inquiries. We are keen to hear from anyone who may have been in or around the Fitzwilliam Museum between 6pm and 8pm and may have heard or seen anything unusual or suspicious.

    "While this is an exceptional crime, that we are taking very seriously, it is also worth remembering that this type of offence is extremely rare."

    Mrs Daber refused to speculate on whether the robbery was linked to a similar theft which took place recently at Durham University, although she said officers were liaising with Durham police.  A gang coolly chiselled into Durham University's Oriental Museum through an outside wall on April 5 before stealing two Chinese artefacts, which are thought to have been stolen to order.

    Police said the Durham raid was almost certainly a well-planned operation, as the gang targeted two separate cabinets containing an 18th century jade bowl and a Dehua porcelain figurine - which have since been retrieved. [How were they retrieved?] Both items are from the Qing Dynasty, China's last imperial dynasty, and their total value is estimated to be worth more than £2 million.

    On Wednesday, photographs of Lee Wildman, also known as Jason or Lee Green, 35, and Adrian Stanton, 32, both of Walsall, West Midlands, were released.  Lee Wildman was one of five people from the West Midlands who were arrested and bailed pending further inquiries. [So - the cops left the thieves go!]

    The Fine Art and Antiques division of the Metropolitan Police will assist the Cambridgeshire force with their investigation.

    Sounds to me like some billionaire Chinese "princeling" decided he wanted to import some instant culture and paid pros to go after specifically targeted items.  Good luck finding the missing items - they're in China by now.
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