Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Mother of All Carved Lionesses? 40,000 Years Old!

Just about fell off my chair reading this article!  This lioness is an incredibly beautiful work of art -- and 40,000 years old.  Best of all is the re-uniting of the head with the body after so many years.

I've featured many carved lions and lionesses at this blog since it's founding back in April 2007.  I believe this one is the oldest thus far discovered. 

Ice Age Figurine's Head Found: Archaeologists Put New and Old Finds Together to Reassemble Ancient Work of Art

July 18, 2013 — Researchers from the University of Tübingen have successfully re-attached the newly discovered head of a prehistoric mammoth-ivory figurine discovered in 1931. The head was found during renewed excavations at Vogelherd Cave, site of the original dig in 1931. The recent excavations, between 2005 and 2012, have yielded a number of important finds. The discovery of this ivory head helps to complete a figurine which now can be recognized as a lion -- and demonstrates that it is possible to reassemble often fragmentary figurines from the earlier excavation.

The new discovery is presented in the 2013 edition of the journal Archäologische Ausgrabungen in Baden-Württemberg.

Vogelherd Cave is located in the Lone Valley of southwestern Germany and is by far the richest of the four caves in the region that have produced examples of the earliest figurative art, dating as far back as 40,000 years ago. Overall, Vogelherd Cave has yielded more than two dozen figurines and fragments of figurines. While the work of fitting together thousands of small fragments of mammoth ivory from Vogelherd is just beginning, the remarkable lion figurine, now with its head, forms an important part of the display of the earliest art at the Museum of the University of Tübingen (MUT) in Hohentübingen Castle.

Professor Nicholas Conard and his excavation assistant Mohsen Zeidi today presented the new discovery and discussed its scientific importance, after which the find rejoined the permanent exhibit at MUT.

Research Reveals World's First Calendar from 10,000 Years Ago

I would add the caveat -- that we have thus far uncovered...  This is really really cool!

Found after 10,000 years: the world’s first calendar

Humans had a sophisticated calendrical system thousands of years earlier than previously thought, according to new research.
The discovery is based on a detailed analysis of data from an archaeological site in northern Scotland – a row of ancient pits which archaeologists believe is the world’s oldest calendar. It is almost five thousand years older than its nearest rival – an ancient calendar from Bronze Age Mesopotamia.
Created by Stone Age Britons some 10,000 years ago, archaeologists believe that the complex of pits was designed to represent the months of the year and the lunar phases of the month. They believe it also allowed the observation of the mid-winter sunrise – in effect the birth of the new year – so that the lunar calendar could be annually re-calibrated to bring it back into line with the solar year.
Remarkably the monument was in use for some 4,000 years – from around 8,000BC (the early Mesolithic period) to around 4,000BC (the early Neolithic).

The pits were periodically re-cut – probably dozens of times, possibly hundreds of times – over those four millennia. It is therefore impossible to know whether or not they originally held timber posts or standing stones after they were first dug 10,000 years ago. However variations in the depths of the pits suggest that the arc had a complex design - with each lunar month potentially divided into three roughly ten day ‘weeks’ – representing the waxing moon, the gibbous/full moon and the waning moon.

The 50 metre long row of 12 main pits was arranged as an arc facing a v-shaped dip in the horizon out of which the sun rose on mid-winter’s day. There are 12.37 lunar cycles (lunar months) in a solar year – and the archaeologists believe that each pit represented a particular month, with the entire arc representing a year.

The 12 pits may also have played a second role by representing the lunar month. Mirroring the phases of the moon, the waxing and the waning of which takes 29 and half days, the succession of pits, arranged in a shallow arc (perhaps symbolizing the movement of the moon across the sky), starts small and shallow at one end, grows in diameter and depth towards the middle of the arc and then wanes in size at the other end.

In its role as an annual calendar (covering 12 months – one for each pit), a pattern of alternating pit depths suggests that adjacent months may have been paired in some way, potentially reflecting some sort of dualistic cosmological belief system – known in the ethnographic and historical record in many parts of the world, but not previously detected archaeologically from the Stone Age.

Keeping track of time would have been of immense economic and spiritual use to the hunter gatherer communities of the Mesolithic period. Their calendar would have helped them to pinpoint the precise time that animal herds could be expected to migrate or the most likely time that salmon might begin to run.

But Stone Age communal leaders – potentially including Shamans – may also have used the calendar to give themselves the appearance of being able to predict or control the seasons or the behaviour of the moon and the sun.

The site – at Warren Field, Crathes, Aberdeenshire – was excavated in 2004 by the National Trust for Scotland, but the data was only analysed in detail over the past six months using the specially written software which permitted an interactive exploration of the relationship between the 12 pits, the local topography and the movements of the moon and the sun.

The analysis has been carried out by a team of specialists led by Professor Vincent Gaffney of the University of Birmingham.

“The research demonstrates that Stone Age society 10,000 years ago was much more sophisticated than we had previously suspected. The site has implications for the way we understand how Mesolithic society developed in economic, social and cosmological terms, ” said Professor Gaffney.

“The evidence suggests that hunter-gatherer societies in Scotland had both the need and sophistication to track time across the years, to correct for seasonal drift of the lunar year and that this occurred nearly 5000 years before the first formal calendars known in the Near East. In doing so, this illustrates one important step towards the formal construction of time and therefore history itself,” he said.

More On the Controversy Surrounding Claim of Oldest Chinese Inscriptions Uncovered

Ooooh, it just makes me tingle all over when the experts get all bitchy with each other :)  Prior post.

From Art Daily, July 14-15, 2013

Experts row over 'earliest' Chinese inscriptions find at the Zhuangqiaofen archaeological site

BEIJING (AFP).- Fierce debate has erupted among experts in China over the discovery of 5,000-year-old inscriptions that some believe represent the earliest record of Chinese characters.

Pottery pieces and stone vessels unearthed at the Zhuangqiaofen archaeological site in the eastern province of Zhejiang push "the origin of the written language back 1,000 years", the state-run Global Times newspaper reported.

The inscriptions predate the oracles, writings on turtle shells dating back to the Shang Dynasty (C.1600-1046BC), which are commonly believed to be the origin of the written Chinese language system.

Some of the inscriptions were written together in what some experts believe resembles a short sentence.

Li Boqian, an archaeology professor from Peking University, said the symbols reveal the ancient Liangzhu civilisation -- which existed in Zhejiang and neighbouring Jiangsu in the Neolithic Age -- had already developed the basic structure of sentences from independent words, the Global Times said earlier this week.

Other specialists dismissed the significance of such a find. Xu Hong, an archaeology researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, expressed scepticism on links between the inscriptions and the development of Chinese script.

"Even if those signs on the stones were characters, they were simply from a long dead east Asian country before the Middle Kingdom existed," he said on Sina Weibo, China's version of the social network Twitter.

"Many signs and character lookalikes earlier than the oracles have been found in east Asia."

Xia Jingchun, a professor of Chinese language from Beijing Technology and Business University, also wrote on Weibo: "It's long been believed by experts that there were more ancient characters than the oracles, because the oracles were too mature, and older languages are supposed to be less developed."

The inscriptions were found among artefacts unearthed between 2003 and 2006, state media said.

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse     

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Chess Femme News

Unless otherwise noted, information from The Week in Chess.

Judit Polgar sighting!  She surprised me by coming out of retirement to play in this event.  She cut her eye teeth playing rapid and blitz chess, as did 12th Women's World Chess Champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, who also played in this event.  It was evident Polgar was rusty.

Geneva Chess Masters 2013 (Geneva SUI) Mon 24th Jun 2013 - Sun 30th Jun 2013 -Official Site - Live
Geneva Masters GpA (4 players 3 Rds DRR Indiv TC:25m+10spm) - Games in PGN: GpA Games
Geneva Masters GpB (4 players 3 Rds DRR Indiv TC:25m+10spm) - Games in PGN: GpB Games
Geneva Masters KO (4 players 2 Rds KO Indiv TC:25m+10spm) - Games in PGN: KO Games
Geneva Open A 2013 (43 players 9 Rds Swiss Indiv ) - Games in PGN: Open A

Geneva Masters GpA Geneva SUI Mon 24th Jun 2013 - Sun 30th Jun 2013
Leading Final Round 3 Standings:
1Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar2753*11138
2Kramnik, Vladimir28030*1125
2Pelletier, Yannick257400*114
4Polgar, Judit2696000*01
4 players

Geneva Masters GpB Geneva SUI Mon 24th Jun 2013 - Sun 30th Jun 2013
Leading Final Round 3 Standings:
1Nakamura, Hikaru2784*11138
2Bacrot, Etienne27250*1126
3Kosteniuk, Alexandra248900*113
4Edouard, Romain2666000*01
4 players

 In the Open, two chess femmes finished in the top 10:

Geneva Open A 2013 Geneva SUI Mon 24th Jun 2013 - Sun 30th Jun 2013
Leading Final Round 9 Standings:
1Cornette MatthieuGMFRA25788.042.055.52724
2Bauer ChristianGMFRA26378.039.054.52730
3Hambleton AmanIMCAN24616.535.053.52455
4Cherniaev AlexanderGMRUS24476.033.551.52427
5Manea AlexandruIMROU23896.030.048.52423
6Mamedjarova TurkanWGMAZE22496.029.049.02339
7Le Roux Jean-PierreGMFRA25765.533.055.52468
8Bondar YevgenSUI23075.531.053.02417
9Mamedjarova ZeinabWGMAZE22645.530.051.52340

WGM Deysi Cori and her brother both played in the 21st Montacado Open (101 players):

21st Montcada Open Montcada i Reixac ESP Tue 25th Jun 2013 - Wed 3rd Jul 2013
Leading Final Round 9 Standings:
1Flores Rios MauricioGMCHI24927.540.50.040.0
2Cabrera AlexisGMESP25257.
3Cori JorgeGMPER25497.
4Gleizerov EvgenyGMRUS25537.
5Burmakin VladimirGMRUS25756.536.00.042.0
6Nisipeanu Liviu-DieterGMROU26676.534.00.039.5
7Cuartas Jaime AlexanderGMCOL24846.533.50.037.0
8Guerra Mendez Jose AngelIMCUB25056.530.50.034.0
9Saptarshi RoyIMIND24476.529.00.034.5
10Ortiz Suarez Isan ReynaldoGMCUB26126.
11Ulibin MikhailGMRUS25236.
12Fluvia Poyatos JordiIMESP24456.
13Anurag MhamalFMIND24016.
14Cruz CristhianGMPER24995.531.50.036.5
15Cori T. DeysiWGMPER24375.531.00.036.0

If I were the organizers, I would consider coming up with a somewhat different name for this tournament (45 players).  Okay, it's probably just in American English that "Lazy" is lazy (meaning something similar to no-account slothfulness) - sorry, I couldn't resist!

9th Lazy Open 2013 Lazy POL Sat 29th Jun 2013 - Mon 8th Jul 2013
Leading Final Round 9 Standings:
1SHISHKIN, VadimGMUKR250246.539.5050.00
2WARAKOMSKI, TomaszIMPOL248856.538.5046.50
3MAJDAN-GAJEWSKA, JoannaWGMPOL237556.536.0046.00
4SIECIECHOWICZ, MarcinIMPOL246236.040.0050.00
5WEICHHOLD, Pawelk+POL238256.039.0049.50
6URBAN, KlaudiuszIMPOL246246.039.0048.50
7ALIAVDIN, NikolaiIMBLR234946.035.5045.00
8KANAREK, MarcelIMPOL247846.035.0043.00
9BUGALSKI, MichalkPOL216155.536.5045.50
10EGGINK, RyszardI++POL212155.535.5046.00

WGM Joanna Majdan-Gajewska -- I'm not familiar with her but she finished plus 5 and in 3rd place overall.  Now if I could ever achieve a result like this I'd next run for President of the United States.  Holy Hathor! 

The top finishing female in the 41st World Open  took place 29th June to 7th July 2013) was IM Irina Krush. There was a 10 way tie on 6/9. Varuzhan Akobian drew with black in an Armageddon game vs Yuniesky Quesada to win the event. (113 players)

41st Annual World Op Arlington USA Sat 29th Jun 2013 - Sun 7th Jul 2013
Leading Final Round 9 Standings:
1Akobian, VaruzhanGM26126
2Yuniesky, QuesadaGM26396
3Bruzon Batista, LazaroGM26896
3Laznicka, ViktorGM26846
3Negi, ParimarjanGM26346
3Erenburg, SergeyGM26156
3Gelashvili, TamazGM25726
3Holt, ConradGM25316
9Milov, VadimGM26435.5
10Shankland, SamGM26015.5
11Panchanathan, MageshGM25835.5
12Ramirez, AlejandroGM25835.5
13Mikhalevski, VictoGM25525.5
14Shulman, YuryGM25425.5
15Arnold, Marc TylerGM25255.5
16Fishbein, AlexanderGM25045.5
17Robson, RayGM26285
18Kacheishvili, GiorgiGM25885
19Izoria, ZviadGM25745
20Shabalov, AlexGM25535
21Lenderman, AleksandrGM25485
22Molner, Mackenzie SIM25015
23Yang, DarwinIM24855
24Krush, IrinaIM24805
25Vioreanu, BogdanIM24045
26Neimer, VitalyIM23935
27Harmon-Vellotti, Luke CFM23685

2013 Netherlands Women's Chess Championship

The Dutch Championships took place 5th to 11th July 2013.  Final standings:

ch-NED w 2013 Amsterdam NED Fri 5th Jul 2013 - Thu 11th Jul 2013
Leading Final Round 7 Standings:
1Schut, LisaWIM2277½1111½16.02559
2Haast, AnneWIM2277½0101½14.02300
3Lanchava, TeaIM2287½10½0114.02299
4Peng, ZhaoqinGM2389½0011013.52234
5Bensdorp, MarliesWIM2263½00½1103.02202
6Van Weersel, ArletteWIM2176½11½0003.02214
7Paulet, IozefinaWGM2228½1100002.52155
8Middelveld, Martine2130½00½0102.02113
8 players

More news at Alexandra Kosteniuk's Chessblog

I'm An American Dog, Woof Woof!

From the Alpha Galileo Foundation

An Alaskan Husky
Hairless and long-coat Chihuahua dogs of Mexico
Carolina "Yaller" dog
They may look different from each other but, just like us, they're all the same underneath the skin.

Asian origins of native American dogs confirmed

Once thought to have been extinct, native American dogs are on the contrary thriving, according to a recent study that links these breeds to ancient Asia.

The arrival of Europeans in the Americas has generally been assumed to have led to the extinction of indigenous dog breeds; but a comprehensive genetic study has found that the original population of native American dogs has been almost completely preserved, says Peter Savolainen, a researcher in evolutionary genetics at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

In fact, American dog breeds trace their ancestry to ancient Asia, Savolainen says. These native breeds have 30 percent or less modern replacement by European dogs, he says.

“Our results confirm that American dogs are a remaining part of the indigenous American culture, which underscores the importance of preserving these populations,” he says.

Savolainen's research group, in cooperation with colleagues in Portugal, compared mitochondrial DNA from Asian and European dogs, ancient American archaeological samples, and American dog breeds, including Chihuahuas, Peruvian hairless dogs and Arctic sled dogs.  They traced the American dogs’ ancestry back to East Asian and Siberian dogs, and also found direct relations between ancient American dogs and modern breeds.

“It was especially exciting to find that the Mexican breed, Chihuahua, shared a DNA type uniquely with Mexican pre-Columbian samples,” he says. “This gives conclusive evidence for the Mexican ancestry of the Chihuahua.”

The team also analysed stray dogs, confirming them generally to be runaway European dogs; but in Mexico and Bolivia they identified populations with high proportions of indigenous ancestry.
Savolainen says that the data also suggests that the Carolina Dog, a stray dog population in the U.S., may have an indigenous American origin.

Savolainen works at the Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab, a collaboration involving KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University, the Karolinska Institutet and Uppsala University.

Off With Their Heads (Literally!)

A stake through the heart isn't enough to kill Polish vampires, evidently...

Vampire graveyard found in Poland?

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 12.07.2013 09:21
Archaeologists in Gliwice, southern Poland have discovered a burial ground where the dead were laid to rest in accordance with practices for alleged vampires.
Four skeletons were found at the site, where mandatory digs were being carried out prior to the construction of a ring road. In each case, the deceased had been buried with the head between the legs.

According to folk beliefs, this prevented a possible vampire from finding his or her way back to the land of the living. There was no trace at the burial ground of any earthly possessions, such as jewellery, belts or buckles.

“It's very difficult to tell when these burials were carried out,” archaeologist Dr Jacek Pierzak told the Dziennik Zachodni newspaper. However, it is believed that they took place in the early modern period. [So what is the time frame for the early modern period???]  Tests are due to me [be] made, so as to determine exact dates.

Archaeologists believe that the burials may have been done in such a fashion so as to protect locals from vampire attacks. Another theory is that the skeletons were the victims of cholera epidemic. [So it was a custom to cut off the heads of cholera victims???]  

Further research will be undertaken.

The last recorded instance of a vampire burial within current Polish borders was in the village of Stare Mierzwice, Masovia, in 1914. A corpse was dug up in the village, and the head was cut off and placed between the person's legs. (nh) [Good Grief!  1914 -- the 20th century, and people were still going around chopping the heads off of "vampires."  Amazing, just amazing.  But then, people can behave really stupidly.  Just watch the summer replacement television series "The Dome" and you'll see in the story line that is frightening because it rings so true just how ridiculous human beings can be.  Pathetic - and lethal to anyone who becomes "suspect."  Beware group think!] 

Oldest Chinese Symbols (Writing?) Discovered to Date

Fascinating story - and open about the ongoing debate as to what constitutes writing and what merely constitutes "symbols."  My question is - if a specific drawing of a symbol means something to the creator and to those who see it, isn't this writing?  After all, isn't writing merely a tool to convey meaning apart from the spoken word and gestures?

This is the photo of the ax head from the article -- would have preferred to see a line drawing of the markings:
A stone axe from near the Zhuangqiao relics site, in east China, shows a newly discovered form of primitive writing, archaeologists say. Photograph: AP

Story at The Guardian

Inscriptions found in Shanghai pre-date 'oldest Chinese language by 1,400 years'

Markings on artefacts from Zhuangqiao relics site date to 5,000 years ago and include string of words, says archaeologist
Associated Press in Beijing
    Primitive inscriptions dating back about 5,000 years – and believed to be 1,400 years older than the most ancient written Chinese language – have been discovered in Shanghai, archaeologists report.
    Chinese scholars are divided over whether the markings, found on artefacts at the Zhuangqiao relics site south of the modern city, are words or something simpler. But they believe the discovery will shed light on the origins of Chinese language and culture.

    The oldest writing in the world is believed to be from Mesopotamia (now Iraq), dating back slightly more than 5,000 years. Chinese characters are believed to have been developed independently. [I wonder what the consensus will be 100 years from now?  What if there is a missing link of writing akin to the missing link in human evolution?]

    The Chinese inscriptions were found on more than 200 pieces dug out from the neolithic Liangzhu relics site. The pieces are among thousands of fragments of ceramic, stone, jade, wood, ivory and bone excavated from the site between 2003 and 2006, Xu Xinmin, the lead archaeologist, said.

    Chinese scholars, of archaeology and ancient writing, who met last weekend in Zhejiang province to discuss the finding, thought the inscriptions did not indicate a developed writing system. However Xu said there was evidence of words on two pieces of stone axes.

    One of the pieces has six word-like shapes strung together and resembles a short sentence.

    "They are different from the symbols we have seen in the past on artefacts," Xu said. "The shapes, and the fact that they are in a sentence-like pattern, indicate they are expressions of some meaning."
    The six characters are arranged in a line, and three resemble the modern Chinese character for human beings. Each shape has two to five strokes.

    "If five to six of them are strung together like a sentence, they are no longer symbols but words," said Cao Jinyan, a scholar of ancient writing at Zhejiang University. He said the markings should be regarded as hieroglyphics.

    He said there were also stand-alone shapes with more strokes. "If you look at the composition, you will see they are more than symbols."

    But Liu Zhao, an archaeologist at Fudan University, Shanghai, suggested there was not sufficient material for a conclusion. "I don't think they should be considered writing by the strictest definition. We do not have enough material to pin down the stage of those markings in the history of ancient writings."

    For now the Chinese scholars are calling the markings primitive writing, a vague term that suggests they are somewhere between symbols and words. The oldest known Chinese writing has been found on animal bones (known as oracle bones) dating to 3,600 years ago, at the time of the Shang dynasty.
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