Friday, August 30, 2019

Oldest Human Presence in New World Found in idaho

Science News

Idaho artifacts show human presence in Americas 16,600 years ago 

Will Dunham; editing by Sandra Mahler
August 29, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Artifacts including stone tools and animal bone fragments found in Idaho dating back about 16,600 years represent what may be the oldest evidence of humans in the Americas and offer insight into the routes people took as they spread into the New World.

Scientists on Thursday said they used a technique called radiocarbon dating to determine the age of artifacts unearthed at an archeological site called Cooper’s Ferry along the Salmon River in western Idaho near the town of Cottonwood.

People were present there at a time when large expanses of North America were covered by massive ice sheets, and big mammals such as mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed cats, the giant short-faced bear, horses, bison and camels roamed the continent’s Ice Age landscape.

"The Cooper’s Ferry site contains the earliest radiocarbon-dated archaeological evidence in the Americas,” said Oregon State University anthropology professor Loren Davis, who led the study published in the journal Science.

Based on this evidence, people first lived at the site, which was situated south of the continental ice sheets present at the time, between about 16,600 and 15,300 years ago and returned to live there multiple times until about 13,300 years ago, Davis added.

The oldest artifacts included four sharp stone flake tools used for cutting and scraping and 43 flakes of stone left over from making stone tools, as well as animal bone fragments and horse tooth fragments. Also found at the site were charcoal, fire-cracked rock, a hearth and food-processing evidence.

Our species first appeared in Africa roughly 300,000 years ago and later trekked worldwide. There has been a scientific debate about when humans first entered the Americas, crossing the former land bridge that connected Siberia to Alaska.

The new findings bolster the hypothesis that people in the initial migration into the Americas followed a route down the Pacific coast rather than a route through an inland ice-free corridor as some scientists have argued. [My Note:  Um, why could the ancient migrants not have done both?  To my knowledge, the real estate known as the state of "Idaho" was never on the Pacific Coast, neither during the most recent Ice Age that ended approximately 11,000 years ago or at any other time when migrants from Siberia would have been crossing the land bridge.]

"Cooper’s Ferry is located in the upper Columbia River basin. The Columbia River would provide the first Americans their first route to interior lands south of the continental ice sheets,” Davis said. [My Note:  Why is this any different than saying that the migrants took an ice-free corridor to the interior?  Because they were on water (a river), even though it was not on the coast?  This doesn't make sense to me.  Further, unless the Columbia River was extended further east to Cooper's Ferry site back then than it is today, it is incorrect to say that the ancient migrants took the Columbia River to the site of modern-day Cooper's Ferry, which is on the Salmon River off of the Snake River, not the Columbia - see the maps I added below.]

"The people who occupied the Cooper’s Ferry site pursued a hunting and gathering lifeway most likely as small groups of people, likely fewer than 25 people in a group, who made multiple movements each year to access key resources as they were available,” Davis said.

Certain stone projectile points, which would have been attached to the ends of spears or dart shafts, closely resembled examples found in northern Japan dating a bit earlier than at the Cooper’s Ferry site, the researchers said.  [My Note:  So what would have prevented these early "Japanese" people from hopping into boats and following the ice coastline all the way to North America, and then hopping off at the Columbia River?]

With headwaters in British Columbia, it is the biggest river flowing into the Pacific Ocean from North America, opening into the ocean near Astoria, Oregon.

 "The people who occupied the Cooper’s Ferry site pursued a hunting and gathering lifeway most likely as small groups of people, likely fewer than 25 people in a group, who made multiple movements each year to access key resources as they were available,” Davis said.

Certain stone projectile points, which would have been attached to the ends of spears or dart shafts, closely resembled examples found in northern Japan dating a bit earlier than at the Cooper’s Ferry site, the researchers said.

"We hypothesize that this may signal a cultural connection between early peoples who lived around the northern Pacific Rim, and that traditional technological ideas spread from northeastern Asia into North America at the end of the last glacial period,” Davis said.

I added the following maps for clarity:

Source:, Columbia River watershed with the Snake River highlighted in yellow
and the Columbia River highlighted in blue.
Ancient humans may have moved by boat down the coast, and turned left up the Columbia, following the river to its tributaries and their eventual home at Cooper's Ferry.
Teresa Hall/Oregon State University.  Source: article:  North America's Oldest Human Artifacts Found in Idaho.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

GM Judit Polgar Was Guest Speaker at the 2019 World Cadet Chess Championships

I'm glad to see Judit Polgar still out there occasionally on the chess scene, although she is no longer playing professionally.  GM Polgar, now 43, has two children and has been inactive as a player since 2015.  Come back, Judit! Come back!

From the FIDE website

Judit Polgar's speech at the World Cadet Chess Championships 
August 2019

The event runs from August 20 - September 1, 2019 hosted in Weifang, Shandong Province, China.  Three categories of play:  U12, U10, U8.  Holy Hathor! is providing round by round information/results.  

2019 French Women's Chess Championship

Detailed information can be found at The Week in Chess 1294 (August 26, 2019) by Mark Crowther
Official website

August 17 - August 25, 2019

ch-FRA w 2019 Chartres FRA Sat 17th Aug 2019 - Sun 25th Aug 2019
Leading Final Round 9 Standings:
1Milliet, Sophiem2397½½11½1½11727¾2419
2Guichard, Paulinem2405½½1½111½1727¾2418
3Navrotescu, Andreea-Cristianamf2210½½½½11011624¼2344
4Maisuradze, Ninogf220300½1011½15172262
5Leconte, Mariagf22520½½01½½1½182217
6Richard, Emmaff2104½0010½½1116¼2233
7Safranska, Andagf21280000½½1½110½2145
8Broly, Mathilde2177½010½½0½0315½2106
9Monpeurt, Cyrielleff21710½0½00½½1310¾2106
10Thomas, Anysiaff21580000½00101947
10 players

69th Russian Women's Chess Championship

Information from The Week in Chess 1294 (August 26, 2019) by Mark Crowther

Details can also be found at (Superfinal Women Championship 2019)
August 10 - August 22, 2019

69th ch-RUS w 2019 Izhevsk RUS Sat 10th Aug 2019 - Thu 22nd Aug 2019
Leading Final Round 11 Standings:
15Pogonina NatalijaRUS24578.0538.756
21Girya OlgaRUS24628.0538.506
39Goryachkina AleksandraRUS25647.5639.254
46Gunina ValentinaRUS24977.0534.256
511Potapova MargaritaRUS23356.0631.753
612Kashlinskaya AlinaRUS24916.0628.504
74Kosteniuk AlexandraRUS25075.5525.755
82Charochkina DariaRUS23525.0520.754
910Bodnaruk AnastasiaRUS24294.0619.251
103Shuvalova PolinaRUS24194.0517.002
118Tomilova ElenaRUS23763.0617.751
127Shafigullina ZarinaRUS23322.069.001
12 players

What We Learn From One of the World's Oldest Board Games

The New Yorker featured this article on the ancient game of Fifty-eight Holes in March, 2019.  

What We Learn from One of the World’s Oldest Board Games

Samanth Subramanian
March 26, 2019

This ivory Fifty-eight Holes board was dug up by Howard Carter, in 1910, out of a pit tomb in Thebes. “We have before us,” Carter wrote, “a simple, but exciting, game of chance.”
Photograph Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art
A few years ago, almost by accident, Walter Crist happened upon one of the oldest board games in the world. Crist, who was then working toward a doctorate on ancient Cypriot board games, at Arizona State University, was searching the Internet for images of a game called Fifty-eight Holes. In the second millennium B.C., Fifty-eight Holes was the most popular game of its kind across Egypt, the eastern Mediterranean, and elsewhere in the Middle East, and roughly eighty boards of the game, in various degrees of incompleteness, rest in museum collections around the world. Images of these boards are well known to scholars, but the photo that Crist eventually found, on the Web site of a magazine called Azerbaijan International, was unfamiliar.  Taken at an archeological site near Baku, it showed a rock carving that bore a strong resemblance to the game’s board: two parallel rows of indentations and an outer, horseshoe-shaped run of more holes. It looked like a four-year-old’s sketch of a tree.

The site, Crist learned, had been destroyed to make way for a housing development, but he eventually got in touch with an archeologist in Azerbaijan’s Gobustan National Park, who told him that the park held a similar carving. “I think he knew that it was a game, or that people thought it was,” Crist said. “There were other people arguing that it could be an astronomical chart, or a calendar—but nobody that had studied games in any kind of depth.” So Crist decided to go to Gobustan and find out for himself.

Crist, who completed his Ph.D. in 2016, works at the New York Public Library, as a librarian. “I’m on the academic job market, which is terrible and difficult,” he said. When he went to Azerbaijan last spring, he paid for the trip himself, appending it to a visit to Athens to attend the Twenty-first Board Game Studies Colloquium. At Gobustan, near the Caspian coast, he found a vast moonscape of rocks, caves, and mud volcanoes. Archeologists visit the park for its six thousand petroglyphs: carvings of hunting parties, bulls, boats, and dancing stick men. The glyphs date back at least four thousand years; some might be as old as forty thousand years, reaching back into the Upper Paleolithic age. Not much is known about the artists. Most likely, they were nomadic hunters who lived in rock shelters, charted the heavens, and buried their dead.

Members of the park’s staff took Crist to a horizontal slice of stone set by an upright wall of rock. Nearby, two other slabs leaned against each other at an angle, forming a shelter in which a grown man could sit. The presumptive game board, which measured thirty-seven by twenty-one centimetres, lay near one edge of the flat surface, its holes picked out of the floor. There was no method to determine when these marks were made, but the Gobustan archeologist told Crist that the glyphs of goats and herders on the adjacent rock face were carved around four thousand years ago. At first, the board, which was exposed to the elements, appeared to contradict one of Crist’s theories: that when ancient gamers began a game outdoors, they did so in the shade. But then he peered at the rock face and saw four bigger, deeper holes punched into it. They were used, he guessed, to hold one end of a canopy that stretched, over the platform of stone, to the rock shelter on the other side. Screened in this way from the rain and the sun, the nomads of Gobustan could have sat down to play.

A series of depressions taking the form of the game of Fifty-eight Holes on a horizontal rock surface in Azerbaijan’s Gobustan National Park.
Photograph by Walter Crist / Gobustan National Preserve

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Site of Greek Sanctuary of Goddess Artemis Confirmed

How many clues can you pick out of the following story that indicates this is, indeed, a genuine sanctuary of Artemis, besides the obvious one of finding a carved dedication on the site?  My answers are at the bottom.

From Greek website Tournos News

Inscription found in Paleochoria links goddess Artemis to Amarynthos sanctuary

August 19, 2019

A partially preserved inscription linking Artemis with the ancient town of Amarynthos was unearthed in Paleochoria, Evia, 2 km east of the modern-day town with the same name, the Ministry of Culture said on Monday, according to ANA.

Statue-based inscription to the goddess Artemis, her brother Apollo and their mother Leto. Photo Source: Greek Minister of Culture and Antiquities
The fragmentary inscription, "... of Artemis in Amarynthos", was reused in a Roman-era fountain, confirming that the foundations of the building in Paleochoria were related to the sanctuary of the goddess Artemis, first mentioned in Linear B tablets found in the Mycenaean palace of Thebes as "a-ma-ru-to".

The discovery was made during this season's excavations of the sanctuary by the Swiss Archaeological School in Greece (director Karl Reber) and the Antiquities Ephorate of Evia (Amalia Karapaschalidou, honorary ephor).

Excavations to locate the sanctuary began in 2006. This year's dig focused on the Paleochora area where a modern house was razed in 2018 after a University of Thessaloniki geological survey located remains of ancient buildings next to it.

In an announcement, the Ministry of Culture noted the find was "particularly significant, as the remains of the prehistoric settlement excavated in the '70s and '80s in the same area by the Greek Archaeological Service was one of the most important sanctuaries of ancient Euboea (Evia)."

It added that in recent years excavations have revealed two stoas dating to Hellenistic times, which serve to delineate the sanctuary east and north.

"With the discovery of the south wing of the eastern stoa," the Ministry said, "the sanctuary's limits on three sides are now known."

The site lies near a natural harbor. It was inhabited in the prehistoric and Classical periods, until Roman times (3000 B.C.-1st century AD), while during the Byzantine period two churches were built on top of the hill.


I believe these are hints that this is a legitimate site of a goddess sanctuary:  

(1) The name of the place.  Amarynthos, in ancient times referred to as "A-ma-ru-tu."  However you want to slice the linguistic origins of the name, "Ma," "Mar," and "Mary" (ancient name assigned to females and Christian equivalent of the Mother Goddess concept), the common root in many different languages of the names of goddesses and mother goddesses is difficult to ignore.  You can locate lists online  of the names of goddesses and mother goddesses from around the world that either start with Ma/Mo/Mu or Meh, etc. or contain  Ma/Mar and variations thereof in the names of many other female dieties from all cultures and continents.  

(2) Archaeologically attested that two Byzantine period churches (presumably of Christian origin but I don't have information as to whether both existed more or less at the same time, or one was built upon the ruins of the other (often the case) and Catholic denomination not noted (Roman Catholic? Greek Orthodox?  Something else?)  

This was a deliberate policy enacted by the early Church fathers (eastern, western, and other sub-groups that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church of Rome) to adopt as their own Christian places of worship former sites of "pagan" temples and worship, often goddess sanctuaries and other sacred places such as sacred groves, sacred high places and sacred pools or other bodies of water by literally building over the the ruins of a former existing temple or sacred sanctuary or sacred grounds or as close thereto as possible.  However, it wasn't always necessary to build a church over the ruins of a "pagan" site of worship or sacred grounds; sometimes the Church Fathers just seized an existing building that was (presumably) a vacated former temple and re-dedicated it to their Three-in-One God, and sometimes in honor of the "Mother of God."  

There is no information in the article about the names of the two churches, but my guess is that they were dedicated to the Virgin Mary, whom the local people would have associated with the goddess Artemis.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Doing A Little Catch-Up: 4th Century CE Roman Board Game Discovered in Slovakia

This is the article (from 2018) mentioning the ancient Roman board game discovered in Slovakia that was cited in the post just below.  The discovery itself was made in 2006.

From the Smithsonian Magazine Online

Researchers Are Trying to Figure Out How to Play This Ancient Roman Board Game 

Found in a grave in Slovakia in 2006, it is one of Europe’s best-preserved ancient gaming boards 

Jason Daily
January 10, 2018

Game Board
(Slovak Academy of Sciences)
Despite all the plastic hippos, Pop-O-Matic bubbles and illustrations of Gum Drop Mountain, board games are not a modern phenomenon. In fact, whiling away the hours in front of board is an ancient past time and a board for an Egyptian game called Senet was even buried with King Tut. One of the best-preserved boards ever found in Europe is a Roman game unearthed in the tomb of a Germanic aristocrat in 2006. Now, as the History Blog writes, researchers are trying to figure out how the millennia-old game is played.

As the Slovak Spectator first reported, the board was found in a tomb unearthed near Poprad, Slovakia. The burial dates to 375 C.E., just on the cusp of the collapse of the Germanic tribes' relationship with occupying Roman forces.

likely the occupant of the grave was a leader of a foederati, or a band of Germanic mercenaries paid to fight for the Romans. According to the Spectator, the man was born in the area where his body was found, and spent some time in the Mediterranean region, possibly while serving in the Roman military. That might be how he acquired his wealth and taste for Roman board games.

board itself is a piece of wood divided into squares, similar to a chess board. Found along with it were green-and-white glass, which appear to function as playing pieces. Analysis shows the glass itself likely came from Syria. While similar playing surfaces have been found carved into the floors of Greek and Roman temples dating back 1,600 years, this is the best portable wooden version of the game found in Europe.

board game from the tomb of the German prince in Poprad is a great discovery and contribution to the history of games in Europe,” says Ulrich Schädler, director of the Museum of Games in Switzerland.
Schädler's team is now trying to figure out how to play the game before the board goes on exhibition at the Podtatranské Museum in Poprad later this year.  

It’s likely the board is designed to play Latrunculi or Ludus latrunculorum, which translates as “Mercenaries” or the “Game of Brigands” or some variant. That game was originally derived from an ancient Greek game called petteia which is referenced in the works of Homer. There are a handful of vague descriptions of how the game was played in ancient sources, but researchers have not successfully figured out the complete set of rules so far, though many gamers have come up with their own guesses.
“There were plenty of board games in ancient times with many variants, but reconstructing the playing technique is a very complicated process that only top experts can solve,” Karol Pieta, the archaeologist in charge of the dig, tells the Spectator.
The board game was not the only find in the burial chamber. Researchers also found lots of textiles and leather goods, as well as coins and furniture, which they are painstakingly conserving.

Scientists Are Figuring Out How to Play Some Ancient Board Games


From Vice dot com

Scientists Are Discovering Long-Lost Rules for Ancient Board Games

You can play reconstructions of ancient board games thanks to these scientists and their algorithms

Matthew Gault
August 21, 2019

Cameron Browne doesn’t see games the way you and I do.

“I [deconstruct] them into their mechanisms,” he said. “I have quite a mathematical approach to games.” This perspective comes with the territory when you’re at the forefront of digital archaeoludology, a new field that uses modern computing to understand ancient games, like Browne is.

Humans have played games for millenia, and the oldest known board game is an Egyptian game that dates back to 3100 BCE called Senet.  “We almost never have the rules for these early games,” Browne said. “The rules have never been recorded, so our knowledge is largely based on historian’s reconstructions."

Browne is the principal investigator of the Digital Ludeme Project, a research project based at Maastricht University in the Netherlands that’s using computational techniques to recreate the rules of ancient board games. To assist in this work, Browne and his colleagues are working on a general-purpose system for modelling ancient games, as well as generating plausible rulesets and evaluating them. The system is called Ludii, and it implements computational techniques from the world of genetics research and artificial intelligence.

You can check out the Digital Ludeme Project here, and try out a beta version of an app that lets you test out its reconstructions of ancient games such as Hnefatafl—viking chess. While the games are imperfect, the idea is that computers can help scientists narrow down which plausible iterations of ancient games are more fun to play, and thus more likely to have existed in reality.

The first part of the process, Browne said, is to break games down into their constituent parts and codify them in terms of units called “ludemes” in a database. Ludemes can be any existing game pieces or rules that archaeologists know of. Once a game is described in terms of its ludemes, it becomes a bit more like a computer program that machines can understand and analyze for patterns. Cultural information, such as where the game was played, is also recorded to help evaluate the plausibility of new rulesets.

Using techniques from the world of algorithmic procedural generation, the team then uses the information in the database to infer and reconstruct rulesets of varying plausibility and playability for these ancient games.

“This is where the modern AI comes in and helps us evaluate these games from a new perspective,” Browne said. “To possibly help us arrive at more realistic reconstructions of how the games were played."

Next, the team uses algorithms to assess the generated rulesets. Artificially intelligent agents play these ancient games and their variants and build lists of moves. As the AIs play through different rulesets, they generate data about the game’s quality to help researchers determine if a ruleset is viable.

Fun is subjective, but Browne believes there are a few universal yardsticks. Games should have strategic depth, drama (the possibility of a comeback for a losing player), clear victories, a reasonable length, and they shouldn’t end in a draw too often.

The agents that play the games use Monte Carlo tree search, which was implemented in DeepMinds’ AlphaGo AI. However, the Digital Ludeme Project team didn’t want an AI as advanced as AlphaGo and so they didn't implement the deep learning tech that powers AlphaGo. They don’t need AI that can beat the top human players in the world; they just need something that works.

This approach has already found some success. In 2018, archaeologists discovered an ancient Roman board game in a tomb in Slovakia. Piecing together the rules of the game has proved an impossible task for researchers, but Browne and his researchers have a version of the game you can play right now.

Hard to Believe: A Hunt to Find a Scottish "Witch's" Bones

Holy Hathor.  I would say that words fail me, but that would be a lie.  I've got plenty of words about how I'd deal with the men responsible for these atrocities, I just can't write them down here - you'd all be horrified.


Bid to find missing bones of Scottish ‘witch’ feared to rise from dead

Nan Spowart, Journalist
August 24, 2019

A CAMPAIGN is to be launched for a national memorial to Scotland’s “witches” as well as the return of the missing remains of the woman given the country’s only revenant burial.
At a special ceremony at the grave of Lilias Adie next Saturday a proposal will also be put forward for a Witches Memorial Trail along the coastal path in West Fife.
Adie, who died in custody in 1704, became the only “witch” to be given a revenant burial as it was feared she would rise from the grave and return to wreak revenge on her persecutors.
The site in Torryburn is the only known witch’s grave in Scotland but it was robbed by curio hunters in 1852 and the last sighting of her skull was at the Empire Exhibition in 1938 at Bellahouston in Glasgow.
Now an appeal is being made for the return of her bones so that a proper memorial can be made to honour Adie and all those who suffered during the witch persecutions in Scotland.
Usually those accused of being witches were burned but because Adie died in custody after being maltreated it was thought her body would be reanimated by Satan and she would come back to terrorise those who had persecuted her.  [I sure hope she did!]  Medieval historians referred to these reanimated bodies as “revenants” from the Latin word “reveniens”, meaning returning, and the related French verb “revenir”, meaning to come back.
“Poor Lilias was treated so harshly but after her death she became almost a celebrity. Part of her coffin was owned by the world’s richest man and her skull was in the Empire Exhibition.”
Wood from the chest containing Adie’s body was taken from her grave in 1852 by curio hunters along with her skull and bones. They were working on the instructions of Dunfermline’s famed antiquarian Joseph Neil Paton who was keen on phrenology, a quasi-science widespread at the time, which postulated that a person’s character could be determined from the lumps and bumps on their skull.
He passed Adie’s skull on to the Fife Medical Association and it then went on to the University of St Andrew’s anatomical collection. Meanwhile some of the wood from her “coffin” was crafted into two walking sticks as trophy momentos.  One of these is in Dunfermline Museum and the other in the Dunfermline Carnegie Birthplace Museum.
Andrew Carnegie was given the walking stick by Robert Baxter Brimer, who had helped dig up Adie’s grave in 1852.
It’s also possible that Adie’s skull features in one of the paintings by Paton’s son, the artist Joseph Noel Paton, who often used items from his father’s collection in the background of his works.
There are old photographs of the skull taken 100 years ago at St Andrews University. This has allowed a facial reconstruction to be created – the only accurate likeness of a Scottish “witch” in existence.
Speirs, who was introduced to Adie’s case in 2014 by historian Dr Louise Yeoman, managed to find the grave on Torryburn’s foreshore. He has since been hunting for her skull and bones.
“I’ve written to various collections in Scotland but so far not been able to find them,” he said.
He said it seemed strange that there was no national memorial or retrospective apology to those who had been persecuted.
“It’s surprising there has been not yet been a degree of interest in the wrong done by the authorities in this case and there is no national memorial to commemorate these innocent people who were persecuted,” he said.
“It seems fitting to erect a memorial both to Lilias and more widely to all those persecuted as it was a horrible phase of historical injustice with a gender bias against women.
“Innocent people were persecuted and tried in an appalling way but that human suffering issue has been lost in the way we talk about witchcraft.
“The really stunning thing about Adie’s case is that it happened in 1704, the Enlightenment century and century of achievement.
“It’s a horrible reminder of the degree to which there was still a very strong belief in witchcraft.”
On Saturday a wreath will be laid on behalf of Fife Council by depute provost Julie Ford. Another wreath will be laid after a wreath-making workshop in Torryburn Hall led by countryside ranger Lyn Strachan and Councillor Kate Stewart, who has been a key driver in pushing for more recognition of Adie’s case.
“We are wanting a memorial not just for her but for everybody who perished after being accused of being a witch,” said Stewart. “There is no recognition that these people were killed for nothing.’’
“When you dig down it was a horrible, horrible time for ordinary folk, particularly women. The suffering was horrendous and we should recognise that wrong was done and remember them in a respectful way.”
She said a witch trail could link Torryburn with Culross, which was a centre of witch executions and is already attracting visitors after featuring in hit TV series Outlander.
And so we arrive at the end of the article and get to the gist of this "drive" to recover Adie's remains and create a memorial for these women who were tortured and slaughtered:  TOURISM. MONEY.  Always profits over people. How disgusting.
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