Saturday, April 11, 2015

Update on Female Burials Found Near Richard III's Grave in Leicester Parking Lot


Archaeologists open coffin of elderly woman found near Richard III's grave in Leicester friary

By Ben Miller | 01 March 2015

A high-status elderly woman who was one of four female burials found near Richard III’s hastily-dug grave at Grey Friars friary has had her coffin opened, with archaeologists suggesting that her radiocarbon date could position her as a benefactor of the building.

A second excavation of the famous Leicester car park where the king’s body was found, carried out in August 2013, uncovered the coffin inside a much larger limestone sarcophagus. Academics believe she might have been buried shortly after the church was completed, in 1250, although they say she could have died as late as 1400.

“The stone sarcophagus was a tapered box carved from a single block of limestone,” says Matthew Morris, who led the dig.

“Inside, the wider end was curved, creating a broad head niche.

“Unfortunately, the stone lid did not properly fit the coffin allowing water to get inside, and its immense weight had badly cracked the sarcophagus, meaning it could not be lifted intact.

“Inside, the inner lead coffin was undamaged except for a hole at the foot end of the casket where the lead had decayed and collapsed inward exposing the skeleton’s feet.”

Carrying a crucifix, the coffin’s position, possibly close to the high altar, gave the woman a special significance to the holy Catholic order.

Local documentation from the time of the burials, around 700 years ago, have led to speculation among experts that the remains could belong to a woman called Emma, who was married to John of Holt.

Her death may have been noted by the Bishop of Lincoln, who granted 20 days off purgatory for anyone willing to say “a Pater and a Ave for the soul of Emma, wife of John of Holt, whose body is buried in the Franciscan church in Leicester”.

“We know little about her,” concedes Morris.

“A lack of fundamental information, such as her age at death, what she did for a living, what she looked like or where in the church she was buried, coupled with no known descendants who can provide a DNA sample, make it impossible to say for certain whether one of these skeletons is that of Emma or indeed anyone else. Sadly, they will forever remain anonymous.”

A lesser mystery lies in the gender ratios of the friary. Comparable monastic cemeteries tend to show far more male than female burials, although urban examples usually contain greater numbers of women.

“Although it might seem unusual that Richard III is the only male skeleton found inside the Grey Friars church - the other four skeletons all being female - it must be remembered that we have only excavated five of ten identified graves in the church’s chancel,” says Morris.

“There is potential for hundreds more burials elsewhere inside the church, the other friary buildings and outside in the cemetery.

“Statistically, the sample is too small to draw any conclusions to the significance of so many women at Grey Friars.

“If we carried out more excavations it is possible that we could find that these are the only four women buried in the church. Richard III would certainly not have been the only male buried here during the friary’s 300-year history and historic records list at least three other men buried in the church.

“What stands out more is the contrast between the care and attention taken with these burials – large, neatly dug graves with coffins – and the crudeness of Richard III’s grave.

“The more we examine it, the clearer it becomes how atypical Richard III’s burial really was.”

Richard’s health at the time of his death has been scrutinised since his body was discovered. His fellow burials, it seems, also suffered ailments – two graves inside the choir belonged to two females aged between 40 and 50, suffering a possible congenital hip dislocation and signs of a life of hard physical labour respectively.

“Analysis of Skeleton 4 shows that she had a life of hard physical work, frequently using her arms and legs to lift and support weight,” says Morris, discussing another woman who is thought to have died during her early or mid-20s.

"Her presence in this area might suggest that the friary’s main source of donations came from the town’s middle-classes, merchants and tradespeople who were probably of more modest means, and worked for a living.”

Analysis of the three intact sets of female remains from the priory showed a commonly-held diet rich in variety, protein and sea fish, typical of people with the wealth to buy expensive game, meat and fish.

Winged "Harpy" with Serpent Tail Unearthed at Roman Era English Site

At The Colchester Archaeologist

a remarkable small find from Brightlingsea

On Wednesday (1st April), the Trust completed our archaeological excavation at Moverons Quarry in Brightlingsea. This has been a long-running project, and it produced a great deal of very interesting evidence. In September 2014, we also made a remarkable find on the site. Now that we have finished our fieldwork there, we would like to share the find with you. It is a bronze Roman figurine, about four inches high, of an upright bird with a human head. Trust archaeologist Ben Holloway made the discovery, in the top part of the fill of a field-boundary ditch. We excavated fragments of Roman pottery and imbrex(roof-tile) from the same context. The figurine is at a secure location but has not yet been sent away for conservation or to be studied by a specialist, so our preliminary comments here are purely speculative!
Trust senior archaeologist Howard Brooks thinks that it is an intriguing find: we don’t know if it was lost, displaced, discarded, or deposited as a votive in a burial or at a shrine. We think that the figurine represents a harpy. It is quite finely detailed, and is in the form of an upright bird with a woman’s head and with small wings which are fully open. The figure has feathers and talons, and braided hair; however, it seems to have a serpent’s tail which functions as a support. It is standing on a damaged base and also seems to have been attached at the top of the support. A harpy was a figure in Greek and Roman mythology and harpies are often represented in ancient art and literature. There were three harpies: they were the daughters of Thaumas (son of the sea) and Electra (daughter of Oceanus) in Greek mythology. Their names were Aello, Ocypete and Celaeno. The harpies originated as beautiful winged women, goddesses, but over time they developed into monsters. They were spirits of the wind or storm winds. They were employed by the gods to punish or carry wrong-doers to the Underworld, or as messengers from the Underworld. Trust archaeologist Emma Holloway thinks that the figurine is similar to two figures which decorate the two front corners of a small, portable, domestic Roman brazier or grate for indoor use, at Pompeii.
We have discovered other complete Roman figurines of mythological figures at Colchester, over the years: the Minerva from the St Mary’s hospital site; a bronze Venus; a copper-alloy Abundantia or Fortuna from the Cups Hotel site; and a copper-alloy Mercury from the Balkerne Lane site. A bronze figurine of Jupiter, king of the Roman gods, was found at St Mary’s Lodge in 1844 and, in 1945, Mr Albert Beales ploughed up a Roman bronze statuette of Mercury at Gosbecks (now on display in Colchester Castle Museum). The figurine of a harpy has also been found at York. Interestingly, we discovered the figurine at Brightlingsea only weeks after we discovered the hoard of Roman treasure at the Williams & Griffin store in the High Street at Colchester!
We will publish a specialist’s report on the figurine in our final report on the site at Brightlingsea.
The image shows the figurine, before cleaning and conservation (from the front and in profile).

Sacrificed as a Lover or Sacrificed as a Guard?

From Korea JoongAng Daily

Of course the article's title is meant to sensationalize.  It is by no means certain that the deceased were lovers or were ever deliberately depicted as such by arranging of the bodies in the tomb!  But most people these days don't read a thing unless it's sensationalized as garbage.  Bah, Humbug!

Remains in Silla tomb suggest an undying love

Apr 10,2015

Burying the dead with a human sacrifice was a common custom in ancient Korea.

But in a peculiar case, Korean archaeologists have uncovered a 5th- to 6th-century tomb from Korea’s Silla Dynasty (57 B.C. to A.D. 935) in which a young woman and man are buried together - lying next to each other - raising the possibility that it represents an image of two people making love. 

Experts are fairly sure that the tomb was meant for the woman after her death.

The man may have been killed to be buried with her.

The Foundation of Silla Cultural Heritage Research announced yesterday that an archaeological exploration beginning last December found a late 5th-century to early 6th-century tomb made of soil and stone in Hwangnam-dong in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang, which was the capital of Silla for almost 1,000 years. In the main chamber where the dead are buried, the remains of a woman and man, both in their 20s or 30s, were found.

Researchers believe the tomb was intended for the woman since her body was lying on its back facing the sky and she wore a finely decorated gold earring. The man was lying next to her and some of his bones were actually on top of hers. He may have been the human sacrifice.

In a separate room within the tomb, the archeologist found artifacts such as a sword, harness and pottery. Based on those finds and historical records about the Silla Dynasty, the foundation says the female was probably a noblewoman who rode horses and used weapons. During Silla, which even had a queen ruling the state at one point in its history, women were relatively empowered.

The entombed man had no accessories related to him, in contrast to the woman, another possible indicator that he was a human sacrifice. The finding of a male human sacrifice would be rare but not unique. Most human sacrifices found in ancient Korean tombs were women and children.

“This is not the first case where a male sacrifice is buried in a female’s tomb,” Kim Kwon-il, the foundation’s researcher, told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “However, male sacrifices were often buried in the room where the artifacts were, as guards, so to speak, for the dead.”

The woman was wearing the earring. Provided by Cultural Heritage Administration
He also noted how the man was placed very near the noble woman. Based on the teeth they found, their heads were likely adjacent to each other. This is unique, Kim says, as human sacrifices in the main chamber of the tomb are usually found next to the feet of the dead.

According to Yonhap News Agency, some historians are not ruling out the possibility that the man and woman were arranged to portray an image of a couple making love. The man’s thigh and calf bones were found on top of the woman. Besides exquisite gold crowns, Silla is known for their explicit clay dolls, often symbolizing their wish for fertility and prosperity, like a man and a woman having intercourse, a man with an extremely large penis and a woman with large breasts.

However, researchers at the Foundation of Silla Cultural Heritage Research said the man was not on top of the woman. One possible theory is that the man was placed on a wooden frame above her and the wood decayed over time.

“The man was not on top of her,” Kim said.

Archaeological exploration of the tomb and others nearby will continue through the end of this month. Experts noted that although the tombs are not of royalty, tombs from the early part of the Silla Dynasty are rare. A total of 24 tombs have been found so far in the region.


10th Annual WSCF All Girls Chess Tournament

8:00 am - 3:30 pm
Location (2100 West Fairy Chasm Road, Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
University School of Milwaukee
More Info
Flyer (this has not been updated to reflect the 2015 event -- don't know what gives with that!)
Format: Three divisions, 5 Round Swiss G30 or G25, d5.
K4 U300                Three Team Trophies. Individual trophies to top 7 players. Medals to all.
K12 U450             Three Team Trophies. Individual trophies to top 7 players. Medals to all.
K12 Open            Three Team Trophies. Individual trophies to top 7 players   Medals to all.       
Entry Fee and Registration:  
 Depending upon fundraising for this tournament this tournament will be free. If sufficient funds are not raised then the entry fee will be $15 for advance registrations and $20 onsite. Fundraising results will be posted by April 20 with the modification of this flyer. If an entry fee is needed it will be collected on the day of the tournament.
Register on line at before April 22 at 11: 00 pm. Check-in from 8:00 to 8:40. Round 1 begins close to 9:00. Onsite registration for round 1 ends at 8:30. Pre-registrants arriving after 8:40 and on site registrations arriving after 8:30 can enter the tournament round 2.  Award ceremony will be begin between 3:00 and 4:00
Lunch: Available for purchase on-site.     An event T-Shirt will be given to every participant.


10th Annual All Girls Chess Tournament

This year the All Girls tournament will be held at University School on April 25th.

This year we are raising funds for this event via Kickstarter and GoFundMe .    Both campaignshave goals of $1500.   Your support in reaching our goals is much appreciated.    With Kickstarter we have to reach the goal to receive funding.  With GoFundMe you receive the funds regardless of reaching the goal.    Hence, please pledge with Kickstarter first.    We are raising funds to make the tournament free for as many girls as possible.   Every participant will receive a t-shirt and a participation medal or a trophy.   With successful funding we will be able to provide transportation and lunch for students from Milwaukee.   If we raise over $4,000 total we will be able to award each player with a chess set. 

You can access the Kickstarter campaign  here . 

You can access the GoFundMe campaign here.

You can find out more information and to register please go to the WSCF  website.

2015 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

Hola everyone!

It's a beautiful day here in Milwaukee (finally!) and I'm headed out shortly for some much needed exercise and yard clean-up.  My squirrels have left me about half a ton of nut shells to rake up despite periodic sweeping over the winter (when things weren't covered with snow, that is).

So, here we are already after Round 9 in the Women's Championship:

Cross table after round 9

1GM Krush, Irina2477x0 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 7.0
2WGM Nemcova, Katerina2279x½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 1 7.0
3IM Paikidze, Nazi23331 x½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 6.0
4IM Goletiani, Rusudan23110 ½ ½ x1 1 0 1 ½ 1 5.5
5WGM Foisor, Sabina-Francesca2235½ ½ 0 x0 1 1 ½ ½ 1 5.0
6WIM Ni, Viktorija21880 ½ ½ 0 x½ ½ 1 1 1 5.0
7WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev23220 ½ ½ 1 ½ x1 0 1 0 4.5
8WGM Sharevich, Anna2267½ 0 ½ 1 0 ½ x½ 1 ½ 4.5
9WCM Virkud, Apurva21320 0 ½ 0 0 0 ½ x1 1 3.0
10FM Melekhina, Alisa22350 0 0 ½ ½ 0 1 0 x½ 2.5
11WFM Yu, Jennifer R21800 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 ½ x1 2.0
12WIM Wang, Annie19010 0 ½ 0 0 0 1 ½ 0 x2.0
Generated by Swiss Master for Windows on 10-04-2015 at 18:48

Krush now shares first place with Nemcova after her defeat of Tatev Abrahamyan yesterday while Nemcova could only manage a draw against Ni.  Tatev, who has often been in the top 3-4 players in the Women's Championship over the last few years, well I'd say judging by her results she is off form in this event.  Listen to me - like I'm an expert or something, ha!

Only two more rounds to go, peeps.  Today's match-ups:

Pairings round 10 

1WCM Virkud, Apurva3.02132WIM Wang, Annie2.01901
2FM Melekhina, Alisa2.52235WGM Sharevich, Anna4.52267
3WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev4.52322IM Goletiani, Rusudan5.52311
4WFM Yu, Jennifer R2.02180GM Krush, Irina7.02477
5WGM Nemcova, Katerina7.02279IM Paikidze, Nazi6.02333
6WGM Foisor, Sabina-Francesca5.02235WIM Ni, Viktorija5.02188

Generated by Swiss Master for Windows on 10-04-2015 at 18:48

Games I am interested in are Nemcova - Paikidze and Foisor - Ni.

While the men are battling it out for $175,000 in total prizes, the women are playing for a total of $75,000:

Prize Fund
Special Prizes$2,000
Total Prize Fund$75,000

Well, every little bit helps, darlings :)

Okay - time to go rake nut shells.
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