Saturday, June 30, 2012

It's The End of the World As We...Oops, No It's Not!

LOL!  'Sis got a kick out of this and sent me a link.  Here are some stories about the December 21, 2012 Mayan "prophecy" of THE END...of the 13th Baktun.  Duh!  Just remember that the world actually ended on May 21, 2011.  So we're all floating around in Heaven right now and this is all in  your imagination, darlings.

From BBC News (video report):
'End of era' inscriptions discovered in Guatemala

Archaeologists in Guatemala have announced the discovery of a 1,300-year-old text that makes reference to the last date of the Mayan calendar.

According to the Mayan calendar, 21 December 2012 will mark the end of a five-millennium cycle. Some believe it prophesies the end of the world. But experts say it just signifies the end of an era.
Margarita Rodriguez reports.

And from a press release at Eureka Alert
Public release date: 28-Jun-2012
Tulane University:

Maya archaeologists unearth new 2012 monument

Archaeologists working at the site of La Corona in Guatemala have discovered a 1,300-year-old-year Maya text that provides only the second known reference to the so-called "end date" of the Maya calendar, December 21, 2012. The discovery, one of the most significant hieroglyphic finds in decades, was announced today at the National Palace in Guatemala.

"This text talks about ancient political history rather than prophecy," says Marcello A. Canuto, director of Tulane's Middle American Research Institute and co-director of the excavations at La Corona.

Since 2008, Canuto and Tomás Barrientos of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala have directed excavations at La Corona, a site previously ravaged by looters.

"Last year, we realized that looters of a particular building had discarded some carved stones because they were too eroded to sell on the antiquities black market," said Barrientos, "so we knew they found something important, but we also thought they might have missed something."

What Canuto and Barrientos found was the longest text ever discovered in Guatemala. Carved on staircase steps, it records 200 years of La Corona history, states David Stuart, director of the Mesoamerica Center at The University of Texas at Austin, who was part of a 1997 expedition that first explored the site.

While deciphering these new finds in May, Stuart recognized the 2012 reference on a stairway block bearing 56 delicately carved hieroglyphs. It commemorated a royal visit to La Corona in AD 696 by the most powerful Maya ruler of that time, Yuknoom Yich'aak K'ahk' of Calakmul, only a few months after his defeat by long-standing rival Tikal in AD 695. Thought by scholars to have been killed in this battle, this ruler was visiting allies and allaying their fears after his defeat.

"This was a time of great political turmoil in the Maya region and this king felt compelled to allude to a larger cycle of time that happens to end in 2012," says Stuart.

So, rather than prophesy, the 2012 reference places this king's troubled reign and accomplishments into a larger cosmological framework.

"In times of crisis, the ancient Maya used their calendar to promote continuity and stability rather than predict apocalypse," says Canuto.
As Mr. Don would say, it was the media propaganda of the times.  The only reason we know about it at all is because the Mayans carved in stone, like the ancient Egyptians. 

Of course, this report wouldn't be complete without a video on the - are you ready for this - THE RETURN OF (cue spooky music) SYAITAN!  It's only Part 1 of 4, so if you're interested you'll have to check out the rest for yourselves at You Tube.  For my part, I thought it was great entertainment!  Unfortunately, "The Light Ray" chose to appear over a pyramid at Chicken Itza rather than at La Corona (isn't that the name of a Mexican beer...).

There is also a video on a December 21, 2012 message supposedly embedded in the Quran.  What?  Nothing in the Bible?  Tsk tsk.

2012 Goddesschess Canadian Women's Chess Championship

The Goddesschess Canadian Women's Chess Championship is the women's Canadian zonal this year and will determine who qualifies for the FIDE Women's Chess Championship to be held later this year in Khanty Masiysk, Russia.

It's getting closer and closer!  We're pleased to be able to provide sponsorship and we'll keenly be following the action.


Women's closed / Championnat féminin
WIM Natalia Khoudgarian (2278 CFC) - Current Champion / Championne Actuelle
Jackie Peng (2121 CFC)
Myriam Roy (2093 FQE)
Chang Yun (1988 FQE)
Qiyu Zhu (1953 CFC)
Natasa Serbanescu (1869 CFC)
Jiaxin Liu (1722 CFC)
Indy Ma (1698 FQE)
Ling Yun Shi (1633 FQE)

Guaranteed prize fund:

1- Travel to the Women’s world championship in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia (1000$) + 200$
2- 150$
3- 100$
100$ added to the prize fund for each player over 12 (66% 2nd prize, 33% 3rd prize). Free accommodation for 2011 Women’s champion.

Format: 9 Round Swiss, FQE, CFC and FIDE rated
Time Control: 40/90, G/30 + 30 seconds from move one.
Venue: Olympic Stadium, Regroupement Loisir Québec, 4545 Pierre-de-Coubertin, Montréal, QC
Eligibility: Women with a CFC rating over 1700 or with a FIDE/FQE rating over 1600. Provincial Women champion (see Handbook, section 11).

Schedule : 

Saturday, 3:30 pm, opening ceremony
Rd 1: Saturday, 4pm
Rd 2: Sunday, 10 am
Rd 3: Sunday, 4 pm
Rd 4: Monday, 4 pm
Rd 5: Tuesday, 4 pm
Rd 6: Wednesday, 4 pm
Rd 7: Thursday, 4 pm
Rd 8: Friday, 4 pm
Rd 9: Saturday, 1 pm
Playoffs and closing ceremony: as soon as possible after round 9.

12-Year Old Girl Applies for FIDE WGM Title

From Radio Free Europe Broadcast

No Duffer: Kazakh Teen Stakes Claim To Being Chess World's Youngest Grandmaster
June 27, 2012

Zhansaya Abdimalik in her hometown of Almaty on June 27

Kazakhstan's chess body has posited a case for making a 12-year-old Kazakh schoolgirl the youngest female grandmaster in the world.

Zhansaya Abdimalik, sporting a baseball cap and the composure of a veteran, was introduced to the wider public by the deputy head of the Kazakh Chess Federation on June 27.

The official, Erkin Israilov, said an application on Abdimalik's behalf would be sent to the World Chess Federation (FIDE) later this week, according to RFE/RL's Kazakh Service.

The grandmaster criteria include a rating based on relative strength in head-to-head matches and quality finishes over a series of tournaments.

Her grandmother told RFE/RL that Abdimalik earned the title with her results in tournaments in Indonesia, Russia, and Ukraine.

The title of grandmaster is bestowed for life.

Ukraine's Kateryna Lahno, who was 12 years and four months old when she was granted the title in 1992, currently holds the record for the youngest-ever female grandmaster.

It's not so long ago that women weren't even considered for such status by the male-dominated chess elite. The first female grandmaster was Georgian Nona Gaprindoshvili in 1978.

No one can accuse Kazakhstan's braided chess prodigy of failing to plan ahead.

Abdimalik told RFE/RL in an interview last year that being the youngest grandmaster was just one of her two dreams. The other was to become the youngest world champion ever (of either gender). For now, that record belongs to Hou Yifan of China, who was 16 when she won the title in 2010 (she repeated the feat in 2011).

That gives Almaty's most precocious resident nearly four years to work on her game -- an eternity to a 12-year-old.

-- Andy Heil

A Promising Young American Chess Talent

Chess queen is just 8

By Grant Welker,

CHELMSFORD -- Percy Yip first taught his daughter chess when she was 6, but she wasn't supposed to be able to beat him within a year. She did, and she's beaten most other adults that have come her way, too.

Carissa Yip isn't just a local phenomenon at places like the Wachusett Chess Club or MetroWest Chess Club, both places where she's beaten people who've been playing since long before she was born. She's presently rated the best 8-year-old girl chess player in the country, and she's been invited to represent the United States at an international tournament in Slovenia in November.

Larry Christiansen, a three-time United States champion and four-time runner-up who's also written 10 books on chess, has seen Carissa's ability firsthand. She's always asking questions, always wants to learn, and has a great problem-solving ability, he said.

"She has an amazing level of concentration, which is very rare for someone 8 years old," said Christiansen, a grandmaster who has taught Carissa in person and online since last year. "It's amazing, really."

Carissa, who just finished third grade, is confident without being arrogant, and she's polite and well-spoken. When her father talks proudly about her accomplishments, she doesn't hesitate to cut in and finish his sentences, but she also holds his hand and smiles when he talks about how talented she is.
Christiansen called her "intimidating," despite being so small that she sometimes has to lean over the
chess board to make her move.
"She terrorizes the older crowd," he said. "But when the game's over, she goes back to being a charming young girl."

The United States Chess Federation lists Carissa as the best 8-year-old female player in the country. Even among chess players of any age, she's considered better than 85 percent of them, her father said.

She plays most Wednesday nights at the Wachusett Chess Club in Fitchburg, and otherwise doesn't play very often, but she also reads books about chess. She plays on a small board with magnetic pieces and a larger board, but nothing fancy. She also plays occasionally against the computer.

Those who have seen her play -- and many who have been beaten by her -- are in awe of how good she is, Percy Yip said.

A girl who also enjoys swimming, playing golf and playing the piano, Carissa likes chess because of how it challenges her to think, she said. She enjoyed it right away but said it has become more fun as she learns more about it and is able to work with talented chess players like Christiansen, a Cambridge resident who is a member of the Boylston Chess Club in Somerville.

It took her only six months to be able to beat her father, and she said it made her feel proud. "I finally beat my dad at something," she said with a laugh.

The 12-day international tournament, called the World Youth Championships, will be held in November in Slovenia. The cost will be $4,000 or so, and her family and supporters are planning a fundraiser to help cover the cost.

George Mirijanian, program director for the Wachusett club and past president of the Massachusetts Chess Association, said Carissa is so good that sometimes during games she'll walk around and watch other games while it's her competitor's turn. "There are very few players who will do that," he said, calling it a sign of how advanced she's become.

Carissa, considered a Class A chess player, also learns a lot when she loses, Mirijanian said. When Mirijanian has beaten her, she's asked to go over the game and learn from her mistakes. Among the 40 or so club members at Wachusett, she's probably the fifth best, he said.

"She's phenomenal," Mirijanian said, predicting Carissa will earn an expert rating -- one of the highest possible -- in a matter of a few years. "She's very gifted."

Jackie Peng on Canadian Women's Olympiad Team

Eighth-grade phenom to represent Canada at World Chess Olympiad

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Pilling Collection - Reunited -- Follow-Up Article

Archaeology Magazine has a follow-up article on the reunification of the Pilling Collection figurines.

from the trenches

Volume 65 Number 4, July/August 2012

In 1973, Deseret Magazine showed a photograph of 11 pre-historic figurines on display at exhibit at the Zions First National Bank, Carbon-Emery Division, in Utah. By 1974, when the College of Eastern Utah (CEU) Prehistoric Museum included the figurines in their centennial celebration display, there were only 10. What became of the 11th figurine has been a mystery ever since.

The unfired clay figurines, created by the Fremont culture that inhabited parts of America's Great Basin between A.D. 400 and 1300, had originally been found by ranchers Clarence, Art, and Woodrow Pilling, and two ranch hands, Dusty Pruit and Tony Finn, in a rock shelter in eastern Utah’s Range Creek Canyon in 1950. After their discovery, Geneve Howard Oliver, a Pilling family friend, brought the figurines to the Smithsonian and then to Harvard’s Peabody Museum for examination. At the Peabody, anthropologist Noel Morss studied the collection (which has since been dated to A.D. 995–1000) and concluded the figurines all had been made by the same artist. Later that month, Oliver returned home with the collection, and for more than two decades, it was displayed at the CEU museum and in banks, courthouses, and a hotel in Utah, becoming an unofficial yet much beloved state symbol.

Last November, Utah State University anthropologist Bonnie Pitblado opened a small box that had arrived in her office. Inside she found a ceramic figurine wrapped in leather and an anonymous typed note expressing the sender’s wish that the artifact be returned to its "proper place." Pitblado knew instantly that it was the missing figurine. "First, my colleagues and I went to the computer to check the figurine against old photos of the Pilling collection when it was complete. And then we immediately thought about what we could do to demonstrate scientifically that he matched at least one of the other 10 figurines so I could reunite him with the group," says Pitblado. "I also wanted to be sure it wasn’t a fake," she adds.

Pitblado assembled a multidisciplinary team to test whether the figurine was in fact the artifact that had disappeared. First, archaeologist and prehistoric textile expert James Adovasio from Mercyhurst College looked at the backs of the figurine and his mate (the assemblage was arranged as five pairs of male and female figures and an additional eleventh figure). He examined impressions made by the baskets the figurines sat on while they dried, and concluded these two were from the same basket, and that the impressions could not have been faked. The team then used X-ray fluorescence to characterize the geochemical signature of the clay and pigments of the figurine and mate. They were able to match trace elements in both figurines and found that not only did the clay used for all the figurines come from the same source, but that the signatures of the unknown figurine and its mate were more similar to each other than they were to any other pair. Finally, knowing that Morss had coated the figurines in an organic lacquer called Alvar in order to stabilize and protect them, Brigham Young University geochemist Steve Nelson suggested that the team use a scanning electron microscope to check if the newly returned figurine was coated with the substance. It was—and that was all the proof they needed.

The original 11 figurines, united again after nearly 40 years!  The returned figurine is top row, second
from the left.  The figurines are arranged in pairs of females (on the left) and males, and one extra.
What's the one extra for?  Is it a male?  Was it meant to have a female mate?  (Photo courtesy Bonnie Pitblado)
Now, after almost 40 years, visitors to the recently renamed Utah State University-Eastern Prehistoric Museum can see the Pilling figurines displayed together as envisioned by the Fremont people who made them almost a thousand years ago. “With all the lines of evidence that we have, our research team is 100 percent sure he is the missing figurine,” says Pitblado. “There is no way that anyone could duplicate all the elements we have found.” For more images, visit

Dog-Tooth Decorated Purse?

Oh please!  Where's the body?  You can't tell a thing about this so-called purse unless you have the body it was buried with!

From National Geographic News

World's Oldest Purse Found—Studded With a Hundred Dog Teeth?
Andrew Curry in Berlin
Published June 27, 2012
The world's oldest purse may have been found in Germanyand its owner apparently had a sharp sense of Stone Age style.

Excavators at a site near Leipzig uncovered more than a hundred dog teeth arranged close together in a grave dated to between 2,500 and 2,200 B.C.

Embedded in dirt, dog teeth may have studded an ancient purse, whose textile has disintegrated.
Photograph courtesy Klaus Bentele, LDA Halle
According to archaeologist Susanne Friederich, the teeth were likely decorations for the outer flap of a handbag.

"Over the years the leather or fabric disappeared, and all that's left is the teeth. They're all pointing in the same direction, so it looks a lot like a modern handbag flap," said Friederich, of the Sachsen-Anhalt State Archaeology and Preservation Office.

The dog teeth were found during excavations of the 250-acre (100-hectare) Profen (map) site, which is slated to become an open-pit coal mine in 2015.

So far the project has uncovered evidence of Stone and Bronze Age settlements, including more than 300 graves, hundreds of stone tools, spear points, ceramic vessels, bone buttons, and an amber necklace.

Thousands of finds from later periods—including the grave of a woman buried with a pound (half a kilogram) of gold jewelry around 50 B.C.—have also turned up.

Even among such a rich haul, the purse is something special, according to Friederich, who managed the excavation project. "It's the first time we can show direct evidence of a bag like this."

Fierce Fashion

As rare as the dog-tooth handbag may be, canine teeth are actually fairly common in Stone Age northern and central European burials, Friederich said. (Related: "Buried Dogs Were Divine 'Escorts' for Ancient Americans.")

In fact, the sheer numbers of teeth in graves around the region suggest dogs were as much livestock as pets—the purse flap alone required the teeth of dozens of animals.

In other area Stone Age burials, dog and wolf teeth, as well as mussel shells, have been uncovered in patterns that suggest that corpses were covered with studded blankets, which have long since disintegrated, Friederich said.

More commonly, though, dog teeth are found in hair ornaments and in necklaces, for both women and men.

"It seems to have been very fashionable at the time," said Harald Staueble, senior archaeologist at Germany's Saxon State Archaeology Office.

"Not everyone was buried with such nice things—just the really special graves."

Sheboygan's Chess in the Park


My chess buddy, Ellen Wanek, who teaches chess to kids in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, sent me the latest news:

Hi Chess Girlfriend !

I felt like I was in CHESS HEAVEN on this Giant 9ft x 9ft Chess Set! We had a generous donor buy us this $600.00 Giant Chess Set for the CHESS in the PARK summer program we run in Sheb at a local park every Monday evening from 6 - 8 PM for drop in Chess.  Hope to see you there one Monday night !

Chess in the Park

Children and adults of all ages and chess levels are welcome to attend Chess in the Park every Monday from 6-8 p.m. at Vollrath Park in Sheboygan. All children must be accompanied by an adult.
Bring your own chess board or get a 50 cent rental, available at the park. Private lessons can also be arranged. For more information, call Ellen Wanek at 920-452-8743.

Ellen and hubby (well, if he isn't her hubby, why is she holding hands with this man????):

Monday, June 25, 2012

5th Century CE Anglo-Saxon Woman with Cow Burial

Yes, you read that right - she was buried with a cow!  She must have been a very special lady...

Cow and woman found in Cambridgeshire Anglo-Saxon dig
25 June 2012 Last updated at 09:10 ET

Archaeologists excavating an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Cambridgeshire say the discovery of a woman buried with a cow is a "genuinely bizarre" find.

The grave was uncovered in Oakington by students from Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Central Lancashire.

At first it was thought the animal skeleton was a horse.

Photo from article, was not ascribed but might be from
Jake Nuttall, as other photo in article was by him.

Student Jake Nuttall said: "Male warriors might be buried with horses, but a woman and a cow is new to us."

He added: "We were excited when we thought we had a horse, but realising it was a cow made it even more bizarre."

Co-director of the excavation, Dr Duncan Sayer, from the University of Central Lancashire, said: "Animal burials are extremely rare, anyway.

"There are only 31 horse burials in Britain and they are all with men.

"This is the first animal to be discovered with a woman from this period - the late 5th Century - and it's really interesting that it's a cow, a symbol of economic and domestic wealth and power.

"It's also incredibly early to find any grave of a woman buried with such obvious wealth."

'Unique' burial

The skeleton was found with grave goods including brooches and hundreds of amber and decorated glass beads.

"She also had a complete chatelaine [keychain] set, which is an iron girdle and a symbol of her high status," Dr Sayer said.

"It indicates she had access to the community's wealth.

"She is almost certainly a regional elite - a matriarchal figure buried with the objects that describe her identity to the people who attended her funeral."

Joint director Dr Faye Simpson, from Manchester Metropolitan, said: "A cow is a big thing to give up.

"It's a source of food and something that would have been very expensive to keep, so to sacrifice it would be a big decision.

"They would have wanted to give her something really important to show respect and they wouldn't have done that for just anybody.

"That's why we don't find cows with burials," she said.

Dr Sayer added: "The cow burial is unique in Europe which makes this an incredibly exciting and important find.

"I don't think I'll find anything as significant as this again in my lifetime."

A New Biography on the Life of Jean-François Champollion

From The Wall Street Journal

  • June 15, 2012, 5:16 p.m. ET
  • What the Sphinx Said

    On Sept. 14, 1822, as legend tells the tale, Jean-François Champollion burst into his brother's Paris office at the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres, flung a bundle of drawings upon the desk and cried, "Je tiens mon affaire!" ("I've done it!"). Champollion promptly fainted before he could utter news of the great intellectual feat for which he is still celebrated: the decipherment of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. The story of the young, frail, hotheaded scholar and his volatile time, full of upheavals political and scientific, is a remarkable tale, wonderfully told in Andrew Robinson's "Cracking the Egyptian Code: The Revolutionary Life of Jean-François Champollion."

    The founding father of Egyptology started young and lived a relatively short life. Born in 1790 in southwest France, Champollion became fascinated by Oriental history and languages not long after he was sent to school in Grenoble at age 10, having exhausted local teachers. France was still basking in the exotic glow of Napoleon's Egypt campaign (1798-1801), when scientists as well as soldiers helped introduce the wonders of ancient Egypt into Western consciousness. Images and accounts of pyramids, temples and mysterious hieroglyphs—including those on the recently discovered Rosetta Stone—enchanted the young Jean-François, who soon set his sights on learning the Coptic language of old Egypt.

    The Rosetta Stone, British Museum

    The scale of his ambition and talent was soon apparent. At age 13, he had set out to compile a complete "chronology from Adam up to Champollion," and he later honed his Coptic by mentally narrating his daily life. But as Mr. Robinson stresses, Champollion's learned brother Jacques-Joseph, who hosted him in Grenoble, played an essential role as his sibling's constant supporter and facilitator. He provided a large personal library and connections to some of the leading philologists of the day.

    By 1808, Champollion was at work on Egyptian writing. Like some others who have cracked ancient scripts (e.g., Michael Ventris, who revealed the early Greek script Linear B), he is today widely celebrated as a singular code-breaker. Mr. Robinson, however, shows that the early work on decipherment was more complicated, and even collaborative. Champollion's fledgling efforts at reading the hieroglyphs were frequently off-base. Like many of his predecessors, he wasn't even certain that the hieroglyphs represented a phonetic system. The prevailing theory had long been that hieroglyphs were complex symbolic writing, whose elements corresponded to concepts rather than parts of a single language.

    Things began to change in the 1810s, thanks in large part to Thomas Young, the great English polymath who in 1819 published his key insight that many Egyptian signs were alphabetic in nature and were used to spell the names of noted pharaohs and queens (Cleopatra being one). From the Rosetta Stone and a handful of other texts, Young identified a number of such signs correctly—the first true code-breaking of Egyptian hieroglyphs. Mr. Robinson paints a fascinating picture of Young as a brilliant yet cautious and introverted mind, perhaps spread too thin in his diverse interests in medicine and physics to delve more deeply into his Egyptian studies. (Mr. Robinson's 2006 biography of Young is titled "The Last Man Who Knew Everything.")

    The brash Frenchman was, by contrast, thoroughly obsessed with his hieroglyphs, not to mention with securing honor for France and glory for himself. Champollion was probably aware of Young's insights, although he might have come to similar conclusions independently; considerable debate still exists on the issue. Whatever the case, Champollion soon took the lead and ran with it, devoting all his time and effort to working out the basics of the writing system, until the moment he sprinted to his brother's office to announce his breakthrough. Between 1822 and 1824 he published his findings at a rapid pace, demonstrating a more complete understanding of the ancient writing system. No one else of the time could read whole strings of hieroglyphs as true texts and in their original language (an ancestral form of Coptic, he suspected).

    Mr. Robinson takes us through many details of the decipherment, but his book is far more than an account of eccentric scholars and their code breaking. He ably situates Champollion within the fervor of early 19th-century France, revealing surprisingly political dimensions to the Egyptologist's academic work and outlook. He and his brother were liberal-minded and skeptical of the unbridled authority of Napoleon, the restored Bourbon kings and conservative Catholic dogma. Yet as Champollion's fame increased, so did his somewhat awkward dealings with European royalty and power brokers, including King Charles X of France and the pope, who offered to make Champollion a cardinal (the offer was refused).

    In 1828, with the backing of Charles and Leopold II of Tuscany, Champollion finally had the opportunity to finance his own expedition to Egypt. The two-year journey along the Nile was the most powerful intellectual experience of Champollion's life. He, after all, was the one man alive who could read the ancient inscriptions carved on the walls of Abu Simbel and the tombs of the Valley of the Kings. Thousands of years of lost history now opened up before his eyes, literally. Champollion worked tirelessly to record new texts and absorb what he was reading about Egyptian history and religion.

    The overwhelming intensity of the experience seems to have ravaged his already fragile health, perhaps as much as the diseases rampant in the Nile Valley (and his proud insistence on drinking straight from the storied river). In 1832, the bedridden Champollion died at the age of 41, still working on his magnum opus, a dictionary and grammar of the ancient Egyptian language. Incredibly, his breakthroughs nearly died with him, for he had trained no line of students. Volumes of unpublished letters, notes and papers were left for his brother to edit and organize, many remaining unpublished for decades. In this milieu some rival scholars doubted the truth of the decipherment. It took years for others in the new field of Egyptology to fully absorb Champollion's technical insights and build on them, but they form the basis of what we today know of the hieroglyphs.

    As a specialist in ancient scripts and decipherment (working with Maya glyphs), I have had a lifelong fascination with Champollion; I thought I knew the story of the indefatigable, obsessed scholar who held the keys to ancient Egypt and unlocked an entire civilization for study. But Mr. Robinson's highly enjoyable book tells so much more that I came away amazed at the intellectual adventures of a man whose accomplishments, as one contemporaneous admirer put it, "will last as long as the monuments he came to explain to us."

    —Mr. Stuart is a professor of Mesoamerican art and archaeology at the University of Texas at Austin.

    A version of this article appeared June 16, 2012, on page C8 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: What the Sphinx Said.

    Sunday, June 24, 2012

    Archaeology Magazine Features "Tomb of the Chantress"

    Mr. Don and I have fond memories of attending a lecture at the Milwaukee Public Museum by Dr. Emily Teeter in connection with the block-buster exhibit "The Search for Immortality."  Was that 2004?  Egoddess, do not remember the exact date but I do remember that in 2007 we trekked to Chicago to the Field Museum's special Tut exhibit, and I thought it inferior to the Milwaukee exhibit!

    Teeter's presentation was a one-night deal very well-attended - a packed house, in fact.  Fortunately, Mr. Don and I had advance tickets.  It was then that I realized that there is a true hunger out there (even in such supposed backwaters like Milwaukee, WI) for information on such fascinating subjects out of ancient Egypt.  At the end of her talk during a question/answer period, Teeter was peppered with questions from a very active audience!

    A wooden coffin holding the remains of a temple singer sat inside a tomb undisturbed for nearly 3,000 years. It is the first unlooted burial to be found in the Valley of the Kings since 1922. (Courtesy © University of Basel Kings' Valley Project)
    Tomb of the Chantress
    Volume 65 Number 4, July/August 2012 by Julian Smith

    A newly discovered burial chamber in the Valley of the Kings provides a rare glimpse into the life of an ancient Egyptian singer

    On January 25, 2011, tens of thousands of protestors flooded Cairo’s Tahrir Square, demanding the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. As the “day of revolt” filled the streets of Cairo and other cities with tear gas and flying stones, a team of archaeologists led by Susanne Bickel of the University of Basel in Switzerland was about to make one of the most significant discoveries in the Valley of the Kings in almost a century.

    The valley lies on the west bank of the Nile, opposite what was once Egypt’s spiritual center—the city of Thebes, now known as Luxor. The valley was the final resting place of the pharaohs and aristocracy beginning in the New Kingdom period (1539–1069 B.C.), when Egyptian wealth and power were at a high point. Dozens of tombs were cut into the valley’s walls, but most of them were eventually looted. It was in this place that the Basel team came across what they initially believed to be an unremarkable find.

    At the southeastern end of the valley they discovered three sides of a man-made stone rim surrounding an area of about three-and-a-half by five feet. The archaeologists suspected that it was just the top of an abandoned shaft. But, because of the uncertainty created by Egypt’s political revolution, they covered the stone rim with an iron door while they informed the authorities and applied for an official permit to excavate.

    A year later, just before the first anniversary of the revolution, Bickel returned with a team of two dozen people, including field director Elina Paulin-Grothe of the University of Basel, Egyptian inspector Ali Reda, and local workmen. They started clearing the sand and gravel out of the shaft. Eight feet down, they came upon the upper edge of a door blocked by large stones. At the bottom of the shaft they found fragments of pottery made from Nile silt and pieces of plaster, a material commonly used to seal tomb entrances. Those plaster pieces, together with the age of other nearby sites, were the first sign that the shaft might actually be a tomb dating to between 1539 and 1292 B.C., Egypt’s Eighteenth Dynasty. The large stones appeared to have been added later.

    Although stones blocked the entrance, there was a hole just large enough to admit a small digital camera. Bickel, Paulin- Grothe, and the chief of the Egyptian workmen each took turns lying on the ground, head pressed against the shaft wall, one arm through the hole, snapping pictures. The surprising images revealed a small rock-cut chamber measuring 13 by 8.5 feet, filled to within three feet of the ceiling with debris, leaving little doubt they had found a tomb. On top of the debris rested a dusty black coffin carved from sycamore wood and decorated with large yellow hieroglyphs on its sides and top. “I’ve never found a coffin in as good condition before,” Bickel says.

    The hieroglyphs describe the tomb’s occupant, named Nehemes-Bastet, as a “lady” of the upper class and “chantress [shemayet] of Amun,” whose father was a priest in the temple complex of Karnak in Thebes. The coffin’s color and hieroglyphs match a style that dates to between 945 and 715 B.C., at least 350 years after the tomb was built. The coffin shows that the burial chamber had been reused, a common practice at the time.

    The only other artifact dating to the same period as the coffin was a wooden stele, slightly smaller than an iPad, painted with a prayer to provide for her in the afterlife, and an image that is believed to be of Nehemes-Bastet in front of the seated sun god Amun. The white, green, yellow, and red paints hadn’t faded a bit. Bickel says, “It could have been taken from a storeroom yesterday.” The rubble that filled the chamber held the remnants of the original Eighteenth Dynasty burial, she adds, including pottery, wood fragments, and parts of the unwrapped and dismembered mummy who first occupied the tomb. It also must be noted that before the discovery of Nehemes-Bastet’s, the last unlooted tomb found in the valley was the famous burial of Tutankhamun, discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter.

    People have been claiming there was nothing new left to find in the Valley of the Kings for almost as long as they have been digging there. The Venetian antiquarian Giovanni Belzoni believed he had emptied the last of the valley’s tombs during his 1817 expedition. Theodore Davis, who excavated there a century later, came to a similar conclusion—right before Tutankhamun’s burial was found. Of course, other discoveries have been made in the valley. In 1995, a team led by Kent Weeks, now retired from the American University in Cairo, was investigating a tomb used by the family of Pharaoh Rameses II.* They found previously unknown corridors, leading to the resting place of Rameses II’s sons, which extended to more than 121 rooms. Unfortunately, the rooms had been looted in antiquity and damaged by flash floods. In 2005, a team led by Otto Schaden of the Amenmesse Project discovered an unlooted chamber, which held seven coffins and 28 jars containing mummification materials. The chamber, however, contained no bodies, so it is unlikely that it was a tomb.

    Before Bickel’s team could take Nehemes-Bastet’s coffin out of the burial chamber for further study, they had to open it to make sure that nothing inside would be damaged when it was moved. It took a professional restorer a day to remove the nails that held the lid closed. Inspector Ali Reda and Mohammed el-Bialy, chief inspector of antiquities of Upper Egypt, joined Bickel and Paulin-Grothe for the opening. Inside they found a carefully wrapped female mummy, about five feet tall. It was blackened all over—and stuck to the bottom of the coffin—by a sticky fruit-based syrup used in the mummification process.

    Even in the short time since its discovery, the tomb is already providing intriguing insights into the life of the woman who was buried there. The time of Nehemes-Bastet’s burial (sometime between 945 and 715 B.C.) was long after Egypt had reached the peak of its power and influence. The Great Pyramid was more than 1,500 years old, and the prosperous days of the New Kingdom were gone. Nehemes- Bastet lived during the Third Intermediate Period, a time when Egypt was split by intermittent wars between the pharaohs in Tanis and the high priests of Amun in Thebes, who rivaled the traditional rulers in wealth and power. “It must have been a pretty unsettling period,” says Emily Teeter, an Egyptologist and research assistant at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. “There was fighting among these factions around her time.”

    “It’s interesting that in this period even a wealthy girl was buried with quite simple things,” Bickel says, comparing Nehemes-Bastet’s coffin and stele with the elaborate pottery, furniture, and food found in earlier tombs. “Her wooden coffin was certainly quite expensive,” she says, but nonetheless, it lacked the elaborate inner coffins found in similar burials. More details on Nehemes-Bastet’s daily life can be drawn from a wealth of paintings, texts, and reliefs carved on statues and stelae of the time, says Teeter. As a chantress, or singer, in the temple of Amun, she probably lived in the 250-acre Karnak temple complex located in Thebes. Her name, translated as “may Bastet save her,” indicates that she was under the protection of the feline goddess and “divine mother” Bastet, the protector of Lower Egypt. Nehemes-Bastet’s occupation, however, was to worship Amun, the king of ancient Egyptian gods.

    Music was a key ingredient in Egyptian religion. Teeter explains that it was believed to soothe the gods and encourage them to provide for their worshippers. Nehemes-Bastet was one of many priestess-musicians who performed inside the sanctuaries and in the courts of the temples. “The hypothesis is that these women would sing, act, and take part in festivities and big ritual processions that were held several times a year,” Bickel says. The musical instruments that chantresses typically used were the menat, a multi-strand beaded necklace they would shake, and the sistrum, a handheld rattle whose sound was said to evoke wind rustling through papyrus reeds. Other musicians would have played drums, harps, and lutes during religious processions.

    “For years people have debated what kind of music it was,” says Teeter. “But there’s no musical notation left, and we’re not sure how they tuned the instruments or whether they sang or chanted.” Some scholars have suggested it may have sounded like an ancient ancestor of rap, she adds. The emphasis was definitely on percussion. Images often show people stamping their feet and clapping. Examples of song lyrics are recorded on temple walls. This one from Luxor refers to the Festival of Opet, when the cult images of the gods Amun, Mut, and Khonsu were brought by boat down the Nile to renew the pharoah’s divine essence.

    Bes: Ancient Egyptian Cockeyed Protector

    Talisman of Ancient Googly-Eyed God Discovered

    A newly identified googly-eyed artifact may have been used by the ancient Egyptians to magically protect children and pregnant mothers from evil forces.
    Photo By Photo courtesy Egypt Centre/Swansea University

    Made of faience, a delicate material that contains silica, the pale-green talisman of sorts dates to sometime in the first millennium B.C. It shows the dwarf god Bes with his tongue sticking out, eyes googly, wearing a crown of feathers. A hole at the top of the face was likely used to suspend it like a bell, while a second hole, used to hold the bell clapper, was apparently drilled into it in antiquity.
    Carolyn Graves-Brown, a curator at the Egypt Centre, discovered the artifact in the collection of Woking College, the equivalent of a high school for juniors and seniors. The college has more than 50 little-studied Egyptian artifacts, which were recently lent to the Egypt Centre at Swansea University where they are being studied and documented.

    Graves-Brown told LiveScience in an interview that at first she didn't know what the object was. It wasn't until she learned of a similar artifact in the British Museum that she was able to determine that it is a faience Bes bell, one of a very few known to exist.

    "If you try to rattle it much it would (have) broken easily," she said.
    However, while faience is breakable, it held magical properties. "Faience is very often used for objects that have a magical or religious significance in ancient Egypt," Graves-Brown said.
    Making the find more intriguing is the quirky character of Bes himself. A dwarf god and protector of pregnant mothers and young children, Bes may look goofy to us with his tongue sticking out, however, his appearance, tongue and all, had a purpose. Graves-Brown explained that he would sometimes bare sharp teeth and "it's assumed, but it's not known, that this [appearance] was supposed to scare off evil spirits and evil entities." That may well have been the intent of this object. Flinders Petrie, an archaeologist who encountered items similar to this, wrote in 1914 in his book "Amulets" (Constable and Company, 1914) that bells like these were probably "worn by children against the evil eye."

    Graves-Brown exercises caution. She points out that none of the few surviving examples of this artifact have been found in their original archaeological context. It could be that faience Bes bells, like this one, were worn by pregnant mothers and/or children as magical protection against evil forces. Another possibility is that the bell was placed near a child, perhaps where the child slept.
    However there could be another explanation for the object altogether.
    "The Egyptians often made models of objects used in everyday life out of faience [and] gave them as gifts to the gods," she said, leaving open the possibility that this artifact was actually deposited in an Egyptian temple.
    Whatever its exact use was in antiquity, Egyptologists can take heart in the fact that Bes, a protector of young children, will be going to work for the kids again. Graves-Brown said the Egypt Centre has a program for school kids of all ages and, given that the artifacts are from Woking College, they hope to use them to get teenagers interested in Egyptology.

    Is Some Cave Art 'Neanderthal?'

    I hesitated to write anything about the recent flurry of articles, most rather sensationalized, in the news about some re-dating of existing cave art/drawings using a new dating technique, because the writers generally talk about Neanderthal as if she were some ape-woman throw-back instead of a human being capable of interbreeding successful with so-called "homo sapiens sapiens."  In fact, the interbreeding was so successful that even today, perhaps 32,000 to 27,000 years after the last of anatomical 'Neanderthal' disappeared (but we really do not know for sure when the last of them "died off"), their genes are some of our genes.  So who, indeed, is "homo sapiens sapiens?"

    I think people, including the experts, keep forgetting that we are still very much in the infancy of discovering a more complete picture about the past herstory of Earth and her people.  It seems that absolute-ism still exists in abundance in certain circles, and there is still a clinging to 19th century "theories" (more correctly, hypotheses) that modern scientifically vetted evidence has discredited with respect to "evolution" (that so took us down the wrong tracks!)  My hope is that as we develop more and better techniques for analyzing the age of objects and things that are not carbon-based, and more and better techniques for analyzing and interpreting the meaning of DNA sequences, we will finally kiss goodbye to the 19th century once and for all.  At least, in our quest for historical, archaeological and scientific knowledge of who we are and where we came from.  All bets are off when it comes to our political and "moral" (ahem) culture, which seems to be going full-tilt in a backward direction.  Sigh.

    I found this resource, which presents the least sensationalized reports on the most recent study regarding dating of various examples of cave art.  And, yes, it is true that there is a time period overlap of many thousands of years between the new dates (ages) assigned to certain samples of cave art, the existence of so-called Neanderthal throughout Europe and the suspected arrival of so-called modern man in Europe.  So -- who did the art?  Are you really sure about that?

    At Science Magazine (

    Vol. 336 no. 6087 pp. 1409-1413
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1219957

    • Research Article

    U-Series Dating of Paleolithic Art in 11 Caves in Spain

    1. J. Zilhão9
    + Author Affiliations
    1. 1Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Bristol, 43 Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UU, UK.
    2. 2Bristol Isotope Group, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, University Road, Bristol BS8 1SS, UK.
    3. 3Centro Nacional de Investigatión sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH), Paseo Sierra de Atapuerca s/n, 09002 Burgos, Spain.
    4. 4Department of Geography, Prehistory and Archaeology, University of Basque Country (UPV/EHU), c/ Tomás y Valiente s/n, 01006 Vitoria,Spain.
    5. 5Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield, Northgate House, West Street, Sheffield S1 4ET, UK.
    6. 6Prehistory Section, University of Alcalá de Henares, c/ Colegios 2, 28801 Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain.
    7. 7Department of Historic Sciences, University of Cantabria, Avenida Los Castros s/n, 39005 Santander, Spain.
    8. 8Museo Nacional y Centro de Investigación de Altamira. 39330 Santillana del Mar, Cantabria, Spain.
    9. 9University of Barcelona/Institució Catalana de Reserca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), Departament de Prehistòria, Història Antiga i Arqueologia (SERP), c/ Montalegre 6, 08001 Barcelona, Spain.
    1. *To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail:


    Paleolithic cave art is an exceptional archive of early human symbolic behavior, but because obtaining reliable dates has been difficult, its chronology is still poorly understood after more than a century of study. We present uranium-series disequilibrium dates of calcite deposits overlying or underlying art found in 11 caves, including the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage sites of Altamira, El Castillo, and Tito Bustillo, Spain. The results demonstrate that the tradition of decorating caves extends back at least to the Early Aurignacian period, with minimum ages of 40.8 thousand years for a red disk, 37.3 thousand years for a hand stencil, and 35.6 thousand years for a claviform-like symbol. These minimum ages reveal either that cave art was a part of the cultural repertoire of the first anatomically modern humans in Europe or that perhaps Neandertals also engaged in painting caves.
    • Received for publication 1 February 2012.
    • Accepted for publication 25 April 2012.


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