Saturday, September 4, 2010

Last Gasp of Summer

I'm taking a short hiatus for the Labor Day Weekend.  Will be back - hmmm, sometime.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Seminar: Medicine, Health and Disease in Ancient Egypt

One of those oh-so-synchronicitous (is that a word?) events.  While I was blogging here earlier today about the brewing of beer in Nubia and the ancient Middle East that contained the antibiotic tretracycline and how ancient cultures probably used this specially brewed beer to treat various infective conditons, an email was parked in my inbox that I saw just now - about an upcoming seminar on Medicine, Health and Disease in Ancient Egypt.

Mr. Don and I attended a walking tour and lecture on the subject of medicine in ancient Egypt at the Met during our vacation to New York in May, 2009 and it was absolutely fascinating, and astounding too, the extent of their practical medical knowledge.  The ancient Egyptian nurses and doctors may not have understood the "science" behind their remedies but they knew what often worked.

Did you know that the kohl ancient Egyptians used to line their eyes contained a chemical not harmful to humans but that acted as a repellant to the flies that carried the microbe that caused Nile River blindness?

Unfortunately, I was not able to figure out how to copy the PDF accompanying the email notifying me of this event here.  So, here is a summary of the pertinent information.  Too bad, some of the graphics in the flyer are pretty cool. 

Medicine, Health and Disease in Ancient Egypt
A study day presented by Joyce Filer BA; Dip.Arch; M.Sc; M.Sc
formerly Curator of Human and Animal Remains, Dept. of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, British Museum, London

Saturday, 6 November, 2010
11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
University of London, Bloomsbury, London WC1

Please note: As places are limited, bookings must be received no later than 22 October 2010.
Cost  30 Pounds, to include afternoon refreshments.

Application Form:

Hughes-Parry Hall (The Garden Halls), 19-26 Cartwright Gardens, Bloomsbury, London, WC1H 9EF
On: Saturday: 6 November 2010 : 11am - 5pm

Please send me ______ ticket/s for this event. I enclose a cheque/postal order for (total)
£ _______ made payable to Joyce Filer Cost £30

All personal details specified below, and a stamped addressed envelope are required when applying.

Send (with an SAE) to:

Joyce Filer
4 Lowndes Court
London W1F 7HE


Name: .........................................................
Address: .....................................................
Tel/email: ..................................................

Please note: Cheque payments must be received no later than: 22 October 2010
The Study Day is aimed at Adults. Children of secondary age need to request permission from the Organizer.

For further information please contact Richard email: Tel: 07973 695 168

FIDE Top 100 Women Chessplayers and Growing Ranks of Female GMs

The Top 100 FIDE Ratings Lists are out for September, 2010.
GM Judit Polgar
GM Judit Polgar is #56 on the list at ELO 2682.  How many times now is this in a row she has been in the top 100?

On the Women's List, Judit is again #1.  Other GMs are in bold - the GM title is not the same as the WGM title, which is Woman Grandmaster and a worthy goal in its own right.  In the hierarchy of chess titles, GM is the highest:

Name Title Country Rating Games B-Year
1 Polgar, Judit g HUN 2682 0 1976
2 Koneru, Humpy g IND 2593 11 1987
3 Hou, Yifan g CHN 2578 25 1994
4 Kosintseva, Tatiana g RUS 2573 22 1986
5 Kosintseva, Nadezhda m RUS 2565 16 1985
6 Stefanova, Antoaneta g BUL 2551 28 1979
7 Lahno, Kateryna g UKR 2539 9 1989
8 Muzychuk, Anna m SLO 2535 15 1990
9 Dzagnidze, Nana g GEO 2534 11 1987
10 Kosteniuk, Alexandra g RUS 2524 9 1984
11 Ju, Wenjun wg CHN 2516 8 1991
12 Harika, Dronavalli m IND 2515 18 1991
13 Cmilyte, Viktorija g LTU 2513 16 1983
14 Cramling, Pia g SWE 2509 11 1963
15 Chiburdanidze, Maia g GEO 2500 22 1961
16 Sebag, Marie g FRA 2499 11 1986
17 Zhukova, Natalia g UKR 2499 0 1979
18 Pogonina, Natalija wg RUS 2491 14 1985
19 Krush, Irina m USA 2490 9 1983
20 Socko, Monika g POL 2486 27 1978
21 Mkrtchian, Lilit m ARM 2484 18 1982
22 Hoang Thanh Trang g HUN 2482 11 1980
23 Galliamova, Alisa m RUS 2482 0 1972
24 Zhu, Chen g QAT 2480 20 1976
25 Zatonskih, Anna m USA 2480 9 1978
26 Ruan, Lufei wg CHN 2480 0 1987
27 Xu, Yuhua g CHN 2475 23 1976
28 Gaponenko, Inna m UKR 2469 31 1976
29 Zhao, Xue g CHN 2469 14 1985
30 Paehtz, Elisabeth m GER 2467 3 1985
31 Danielian, Elina m ARM 2466 29 1978
32 Ushenina, Anna m UKR 2466 13 1985
33 Vijayalakshmi, Subbaraman m IND 2466 0 1979
34 Gunina, Valentina wg RUS 2465 5 1989
35 Khotenashvili, Bela m GEO 2464 23 1988
36 Skripchenko, Almira m FRA 2464 10 1976
37 Muzychuk, Mariya m UKR 2464 8 1992
38 Tan, Zhongyi wg CHN 2461 16 1991
39 Hunt, Harriet V m ENG 2454 0 1978
40 Dembo, Yelena m GRE 2452 9 1983
41 Javakhishvili, Lela m GEO 2451 9 1984
42 Arakhamia-Grant, Ketevan g SCO 2451 0 1968
43 Polgar, Sofia m HUN 2450 0 1974
44 Atalik, Ekaterina m TUR 2447 31 1982
45 Repkova, Eva m SVK 2447 9 1975
46 Kovalevskaya, Ekaterina m RUS 2447 0 1974
47 Rajlich, Iweta m POL 2446 0 1981
48 Shen, Yang wg CHN 2443 33 1989
49 Melia, Salome m GEO 2439 29 1987
50 Moser, Eva m AUT 2436 18 1982
51 Huang, Qian wg CHN 2436 16 1986
52 Khurtsidze, Nino m GEO 2435 18 1975
53 Turova, Irina m RUS 2433 43 1979
54 Matnadze, Ana m GEO 2428 18 1983
55 Houska, Jovanka m ENG 2426 11 1980
56 Khukhashvili, Sopiko m GEO 2422 9 1985
57 Girya, Olga wg RUS 2414 22 1991
58 Munguntuul, Batkhuyag m MGL 2412 11 1987
59 Peptan, Corina-Isabela m ROU 2412 11 1978
60 Romanko, Marina m RUS 2411 0 1986
61 Zawadzka, Jolanta wg POL 2410 18 1987
62 Zaiatz, Elena m RUS 2407 9 1969
63 Savina, Anastasia wg RUS 2404 9 1992
64 Jackova, Jana m CZE 2402 0 1982
65 Ovod, Evgenija m RUS 2401 0 1982
66 Peng, Zhaoqin g NED 2400 8 1968
67 Stockova, Zuzana m SVK 2400 0 1977
68 Michna, Marta wg GER 2399 16 1978
69 Bodnaruk, Anastasia m RUS 2399 5 1992
70 Vasilevich, Tatjana m UKR 2399 0 1977
71 Madl, Ildiko m HUN 2397 10 1969
72 Foisor, Cristina-Adela m ROU 2395 16 1967
73 Wang, Yu A. m CHN 2394 14 1982
74 Batsiashvili, Nino wg GEO 2390 26 1987
75 Milliet, Sophie m FRA 2388 29 1983
76 Maric, Alisa m SRB 2387 0 1970
77 Kononenko, Tatiana m UKR 2384 10 1978
78 Tsereteli, Tamar wg GEO 2384 0 1985
79 Tania, Sachdev m IND 2382 18 1986
80 Gara, Anita m HUN 2382 0 1983
81 Alexandrova, Olga m ESP 2381 0 1978
82 Shadrina, Tatiana wg RUS 2379 9 1974
83 Ding, Yixin wf CHN 2379 8 1991
84 Matveeva, Svetlana m RUS 2379 0 1969
85 Molchanova, Tatjana wg RUS 2378 9 1980
86 Paikidze, Nazi wg GEO 2376 20 1993
87 Mikadze, Miranda wm GEO 2375 9 1989
88 Charkhalashvili, Inga wg GEO 2375 8 1983
89 Stepovaia, Tatiana wg RUS 2375 0 1965
90 Galojan, Lilit m ARM 2373 10 1983
91 Sukandar, Irine Kharisma wg INA 2372 18
92 Gu, Xiaobing wg CHN 2371 6 1985
93 Kovanova, Baira wg RUS 2370 11 1987
94 Pokorna, Regina wg SVK 2370 6 1982
95 Cori T., Deysi wg PER 2368 46 1993
96 Fierro Baquero, Martha L. m ECU 2368 29 1977
97 Vega Gutierrez, Sabrina wg ESP 2368 18 1987
98 Bojkovic, Natasa m SRB 2368 0 1971
99 Djingarova, Emilia wg BUL 2368 0 1978
100 Rudolf, Anna wg HUN 2366 18 1987
101 Goletiani, Rusudan m USA 2366 0 1980

GM Koneru Humpy, Second
Ranked Female Chessplayer
in the World
I count 20 GMs on the list of active players. The list does not include GM Susan Polgar or GM Xie Jun, who are retired from active play.  I may have missed some other retired players - . 

Susan Polgar was the first female chessplayer to earn the GM title in the traditional way.  A few months later her sister, Judit, also earned the GM title in the traditional way and at the time was the youngest player EVER to do so, beating American Bobby Fischer by a few months.  Shortly therafter, Pia Cramling of Norway earned a GM title also in the traditional way.  They were the groundbreakers, but we must not forget the great female players who came before them, who were awarded GM titles for their outstanding play over several years  in chess events. 

Less than five years ago, there were only 11 female GMs on the world list of GMs.  Now there are at least 22.  Check out this list from 2006 - so we can see that great progress has been made by female chessplayers as more of them have entered into the competitive ranks of pro chess and play on a sustained basis, earning the title in the tradition way or by winning tough championship events that qualify them for a GM title. 
Grandmaster/Country/Birth Date/Date of Title/How Earned/WWC/Highest Rating (as of Nov. 2006)/Notes
1. Nona Gaprindashvili Georgia 1941 1978 Won WWC 1962-78 2381
1st woman to get Grandmaster title
2. Maia Chiburdanidze Georgia 17 Jan 1961 ? Won WWC 1978-91 2560

3. Susan Polgar Hungary 19 Apr 1969 Jan. 1991 Traditional way 1996-99 2577?
First woman to earn Grandmaster title the same way as men
4. Judit Polgar Hungary 23 Jul 1976 Dec. 1991 Traditional way - 2735
At age 15, youngest person of either gender to become a GM at the time, beating Bobby Fischer's record by just over a month, held for over 30 years

5. Pia Cramling Sweden 23 Apr 1963 1992 Traditional way - 2528?

6. Xie Jun China 30 Oct 1970 1995 Traditional way 91-96, 99-01 2557

7. Zhu Chen China 16 Mar 1976 2001 Traditional way 2001-04 2538

8. Humpy Koneru India 31 Mar 1987 2002 Traditional way 2539
Became the youngest GM in history, beating J. Polgar's record by 3 mos.

9. Antoaneta Stefanova Bulgaria 19 Apr 1979 2003 Traditional way 2004-06 2520

10. Alexandra Kosteniuk Russia 23 Apr 1984 2004 Won EWC 2004-06 2540

11. Zhaoqin Peng Holland 8 May 1968 Oct. 2004 Won EWC 2004 2460
WWC=Women's World Champion(ship) • EWC = European Women's Championship • Most birthdates from
These are exciting times for female chessplayers.  As you can see from the above information, the number of GM titled females has doubled between 2006 and now.  That is just an incredible statistic, if you think about it, particularly since the ranks of female players has not doubled during the same time. 

Chess Femme News

Starting off the round-up of news, this from Dylan Loeb McClain at The New York Times - not dealing with chess femmes but interesting, nonetheless, talking about chessplayers who were also musicians and/or mathematicians:

September 2, 2010, 5:12 am
Mathematicians, Musicians and Chess Masters

McClain's blog article mentions mathematician and chessplayers Adolf Anderssen, who was one-half of the game David Shenk used as a framework for his masterpiece on chess history "The Immortal Game: A History of Chess."

A nice idea - bringing together Armenian players from all around the world. Several chess femmes participated in this team event and two from the USA did quite well:

First Pan-Armenian Chess Olympiad brings together 40 ranked players
Published: Wednesday September 01, 2010
Pan-Armenian Chess Olympiad, Yerevan, August 14 - 23, 2010
Individual winners included Grikor Sevak Mekhitarian (Brazil, 3rd place), Katerina Rohonian (USA, 3rd place), Siranoush Andreasian (Armenia, 3rd place), Tigran Petrossian (Armenia, 2nd place), Tatev Abrahamian (USA, 2nd place), Poghos Nahapetyan (Russia, 1st place), and Diana Arutyunova (Ukraine, 1st place).

64th Moscow Blitz Championship
August 29, 2010
Report from
Despite incredibly bad hair (what was she thinking, ohmygoddess!), WGM Valentina Gunina scored an incredible 100% - she won all 17 of her blitz games - to take the women's title. 

Here's a blog entry from GM Alexandra Kosteniuk's blog on the movie "Queen to Play" with video and links.
6th Prospero "A" Pichay Cup Open
August 21 - 26, 2010
Nine rounds, 47 players and, as far as I can tell, one lone chess femme, who did all right:
18 WGM POURKASHIYAN Atousa IRI 2308 5,0

1st Campomanes Memorial Cup Women
August 28 - September 3, 2010
Organizer(s) NCFP
Tournament director IA Wilfredo A. Abalos
Chief-Arbiter IA Casto Abundo
Site Ninoy Aquino Stadium, Manila
Date 2010/08/28 to 2010/09/03
Rating-Ø 1945
Standings after R 8 - 1 more round to go

Rk. Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 WGM SHEN Yang CHN 2435 6,5 2287 2318 2344
2 WGM POURKASHIYAN Atousa IRI 2308 6,0 2313 2348 2380
3 GM ZHAO Xue CHN 2462 6,0 2282 2322 2349
4 WIM HOANG Thi Nhu Y VIE 2187 5,5 2272 2339 2387
5 WGM HOANG Thi Bao Tram VIE 2338 5,0 2218 2251 2293
6 WGM GU Xiaobing CHN 2349 4,5 2319 2366 2387
7 WFM PERENA Catherine PHI 2103 4,5 2062 2206 2273
8 WGM ZHANG Xiaowen CHN 2390 4,0 2253 2291 2329
9 PALOMO Jenny Rose PHI 1870 4,0 1922 2043 2211
10 WFM CUA Shercila PHI 2099 4,0 1770 1865 1998
11 WGM ZHANG Jilin CHN 2264 3,5 2244 2281 2331
12 DOCENA Jedara PHI 2033 3,5 2054 2196 2234
13 WIM MARIANO Cristine Rose PHI 2025 3,5 1984 2115 2297
14 NAHUDAN Eibtizam PHI 0 3,5 1906 2023 2054
15 ACEDO Rowelyn PHI 0 3,5 1848 1957 2108
16 FRAYNA Janelle Mae PHI 0 3,5 1824 1928 2073
17 JOSE Rulp Ylem PHI 2039 2,5 1753 1846 1975
18 TAMBASEN Mary Grace Phi 0 2,5 1659 1735 1842
19 MORTOS Angelina PHI 0 2,0 1919 2039 2072
20 BERNALES Christy Lamiel PHI 2004 2,0 1603 1670 1764

Tie Break1: rating average of the opponents (variabel with parameters)
Tie Break2: rating average of the opponents (variabel with parameters)
Tie Break3: rating average of the opponents (variabel with parameters)

From GM Susan Polgar's chess blog, about a family of chessplaying siblings - the Brunellos - two sisters and a brother:
Italian Chess News
September 1, 2010

Dry English Summer Reveals Stunning Array of Sub-Surface Ruins

From Reuters
Parched English fields reveal ancient sites
LONDON | Tue Aug 31, 2010 3:59pm BST

Prehistoric circular enclosure discovered in the Holderness
area of the East Riding of Yorkshire. Archaeologists say
the site has no local parallel. Some 60 similar sites were
mapped in the area using a light aircraft in just one day.

Credit: REUTERS/Dave MacLeod/English Heritage

LONDON (Reuters) - The exceptionally dry early summer months in Britain have revealed the ghostly outlines of several hundred previously unknown ancient sites buried in fields across the English countryside.

From Roman forts to Neolithic settlements and military remains dating to World War Two, English Heritage has been busily photographing the exciting discoveries from the air.

Known as crop marks, the faint outlines of unseen buried structures emerged because of the length of the dry spell, leading the national conservator to label 2010 a vintage year for archaeology.

The outlines show up when crops grow at different rates over buried structures. Shallower soils tend to produce a stunted crop and are more prone to parching, bringing to light the new features.

"It's hard to remember a better year," said Dave MacLeod, a senior investigator with English Heritage.
"Crop marks are always at their best in dry weather, but the last few summers have been a disappointment," he said.

"This year we have taken full advantage of the conditions. We try to concentrate on areas that in an average year don't produce much archaeology."

One of this year's most important finds is a Roman camp in Dorset, southwest England. Experts say it is a relatively rare structure in that part of the country with only three others known of in the region.

The lightly built defensive enclosure, which emerged from parched barley fields, provided basic protection for Roman soldiers on manoeuvres in the first century AD.

In the Holderness area of the East Riding of Yorkshire, an area rich in agricultural land on the east coast, 60 new, mainly prehistoric sites, were found in just one day.

Archaeologists say at least 200 new historic sites have been discovered with detail on many more existing structures revealed for the first time.

At another Roman site for example, a fort at Newton Kyme in North Yorkshire, the crop marks showed stronger defensive walls built of stone three metres thick, together with a massive enclosing ditch.

English Heritage says some important structures have not been seen in their entirety since the scorching conditions of the 1976 drought.

(Writing by Stefano Ambrogi; Editing by Steve Addison)
The article is interesting, to be sure.  But the one comment after it I found equally fascinating.  Is there anything to the "king portraits" the poster mentioned?

I am an amateur historian, not an academic, non degreed, simply a tourist with a hobby of satellite imagery.

The English and UK countrysides are saturated with layers and layers of antiquities, many revealed using satellite imagery.

For example, Google Earth which is a free software package not only is picking up entire underwater ancient human habitats on the bottom of the oceans (try 586 miles at 300 degrees from London), but also thousands of sub-surface images beneath the English countryside.

I am speculating that this is possible because of what I call “wet shadowing”, wherein a wet field of soil will show “black or dark” in satellite imagery, while submerged stone walls will wick away the water density and show as gray lines or somewhat different colored lines.

I have found images neighboring Stonehenge and the White Horse of Uffington. England’s history goes back to before the Atlantean era(for lack of a better time epoch description)giving its surrounding areas incredible time depths.

What makes it MOST valuable is that so much of the countryside has not been destroyed by soil churning wars and bulldozers.

The most common historical element noticable is the “King and/or Queen” portrait, when the royalty or tribal chief would die, it seems a rock wall would be built in the shape of the persons facial profile, facing West, the setting sun of that time epoch. [Emphasis added].  I have found these identical King portraits EVERYWHERE!

By the way, I do add the extra step of taking the Google Earth image and color manipulating the imagein Adobe Photoshop, with each color frequency giving me different results for some strange reason.

Note, I can’t say that many people believe these theories, these images which I find. I do believe the position of the facial posture also can be used as a time and date stamp, with every 1 degree of shift from true North being 72 years of duration. In my area of Connecticut, we have many King portraits at about 30 degrees North Northwest, to me indicating probably 2160 years ago, approx. 60 BC.

Wherever bulldozers have not been used, I am finding amazing shapes in all English countrysides… give me a location, and I think I will prove my point.
Stamford, Connecticut

My article on the Uffington Horse King Portraits is located at
“False Coloring in Photoshop shows Subsurface Details”
Ancient, ancient, treasures are in every backyard, every golf course, every open field, in the UK…


Stumbling Bulgarian Archaeolgist Scores Again

Not sure about this story - something seems not quite right about it.  Isn't this one of the archaeologists who is involved in the St. John the Baptist brou-ha-ha?
Top Bulgarian Archaeologist Stumbles Upon 2 Ancient Thrace Tombs
Archaeology | September 1, 2010, Wednesday

Top Bulgarian archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov is pictured close
to the entrance of one of the two newly found tombs at the holy
 rock city of the Thracians Perperikon. Photo by Darik Kardzhali
Bulgarian archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov has discovered two tombs of Ancient Thracian rulers near the famous rock city and sanctuary of Perperikon.

The tombs are dated to 1100-1000 BC judging by the pottery and ceramics found in them, which are characteristic of the later Bronze Age and the early Iron Age.

One of the most interesting finds in the tombs is a bronze coin with the face of Emperor Alexander the Great, dated to the 4th century BC. Prof. Ovcharov believes this is a clear evidence that the tomb was venerated as a shrine by the Thracians in the Antiquity for a long time after its original creation.

The archaeological team stumbled across the two tombs as they were working on diverting a tourist path away from a spot of excavations at Perperikon, the holy city of the Thracians.

The tombs are situation in an east-west direction, with the buried notable facing the rising sun, a clear sign of a sun cult.

The excavations have revealed ritual hearths and others signs of sacrifices that were connected with the traditions of venerating the dead as godly creatures.
Where are photos of the dig and the artifacts? Were the tombs, in fact, undisturbed for 3000 years? Wouldn't that make this discovery much more sensational and worthy of greater news coverage?  What happened to the bodies?

Ancient Use of Antibiotics

People in ancient times were just as "smart" (or not) as we are today.  They had the ability to observe, experiment, and reach conclusions the same way we do.  They were keen observers of nature and their environments. What people wrote down in "recipe" books hundreds of years ago - all those botannicals and herbals just packed with information - that knowledge didn't just pop into being overnight - it was based on thousands of years of oral tradition, passed down generation after generation.  For all we know, some of the traditions may have come from Ice Age shamans.

The art of making antibiotics is nearly 2000 years old
Washington, Sept 2 (ANI): Scientists have discovered green fluorescence in Nubian skeletons indicating a tetracycline-labelled bone, a finding that shows that antibiotics were already in use nearly 2,000 years ago.

A chemical analysis of the bones of ancient Nubians showed they were regularly consuming tetracycline, most likely in their beer.

"It's becoming increasingly clear that this prehistoric population was using empirical evidence to develop therapeutic agents. I have no doubt that they knew what they were doing," said Emory anthropologist George Armelagos.

In 1980, he discovered what appeared to be traces of tetracycline in human bones from Nubia dated between A.D. 350 and 550. Armelagos and his fellow researchers later tied the source of the antibiotic to the Nubian beer. The grain used to make the fermented gruel contained the soil bacteria streptomyces, which produces tetracycline.

Mark Nelson of Paratek Pharmaceuticals, Inc found that the bones of these ancient people were saturated with tetracycline, showing that they had been taking it for a long time.

The ancient Egyptians and Jordanians used beer to treat gum disease and other ailments, Armelagos said, adding that the complex art of fermenting antibiotics was probably widespread in ancient times, and handed down through generations.

"Now we're going to compare the amount of tetracycline in the bones, and bone formation over time, to determine the dosage that the ancient Nubians were getting," he concluded.

The research is published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. (ANI)

Further coverage.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Latest on 12,000 Year Old Female Shaman Burial in Israel

Prior posts:

Earliest known shaman grave site found
Tuesday, Nov 04, 2008

More on the Female Shaman Burial
Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Isis sent me the update. Thanks, 'Sis. From Discovery Channel News iphone app:

World's First Feast: Beef, Turtles and a Dead Shaman

Anthropologists have unearthed the leftovers of the world's first known organized feast, which took place around 12,000 years ago at a burial site in Israel, according to a new study.  Based on the findings, approximately 35 guests ate meat from 71 tortoises and at least three wild cattle while attending this first known human-orchestrated event involving food.

The discovery additionally provides the earliest known compelling evidence for a shaman burial, the apparent reason for the feasting. A shaman is an individual who performs rituals and engages in other practices for healing or divination.

In this case, the shaman was a woman.

"I wasn't surprised that the shaman was a woman, because women have often taken on shamanistic roles as healers, magicians and spiritual leaders in societies across the globe," lead author Natalie Munro told Discovery News.

Munro, a University of Connecticut anthropologist, and colleague Leore Grosman of Hebrew University in Jerusalem excavated and studied the shaman's skeleton and associated feasting remains. These were found at the burial site, Hilazon Tachtit cave, located about nine miles west of the Sea of Galilee in Israel.

According to the study, published in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the grave consisted of an oval-shaped basin that was intentionally cut into the cave's floor.

"After the oval was excavated, the sides and bottom of the floor were lined with stone slabs lined and plastered with clay brought into the cave from outside," said Munro.

The 71 tortoise shells, previously butchered for meat removal, were found situated under, around and on top of the remains of the woman. The woman's skeleton indicates she suffered from deformities that would have possibly made her limp and "given her an unnatural, asymmetrical appearance." A large triangular stone slab was placed over the grave to seal it.

Bones from at least three butchered aurochs -- large ancestors of today's domestic cattle -- were unearthed in a nearby hollow. An auroch's tail, a wild boar forearm, a leopard pelvis and two marten skulls were also found.  The total amount of meat could have fed 35 people, but it is possible that many more attended the event.

"These remains attest to the unique position of this individual within her community and to her special relationship with the animal world," Munro said.

Before this discovery, other anthropologists had correctly predicted that early feasting might have occurred just prior to the dawn of agriculture.  Harvard's Ofer Bar-Yosef, for example, found that fig trees were being domesticated in the Near East about 11,400 years ago, making them the first known domesticated crop. Staples such as wheat, barley and legumes were domesticated in the region roughly a thousand years later. Full-scale agriculture occurred later, about 10,000 years ago.

As agriculture began, however, "there was a critical switch in the human mind: from exploiting the earth as it is to actively changing the environment to suit our needs," Bar-Yosef said.

Munro agrees and thinks the change could help to explain the advent of communal feasting.

"People were coming into contact with each other a lot, and that can create friction," she said. "Before, they could get up and leave when they had problems with the neighbors. Now, these public events served as community-building opportunities, which helped to relieve tensions and solidify social relationships."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Chess Femme News

Chess news from Colombia:
Selectivo Clasico Femeino
Organizer(s) Liga de Ajedrez de Bogota
Site Salitre
Date 2010/08/27 to 2010/08/29
Rating-Ø 1692

Final Standings (Completion of Round 5):

Rk. Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 Panesso Lina BOG 1905 4,5 15,5 9,5 14,00
2 Corrales Isis Johanna MET 1677 4,0 11,5 6,5 7,00
3 Perez Laura BOG 1870 3,5 12,0 6,5 6,75
4 Gomez Calderon Valentina BOG 1745 3,0 14,0 9,0 5,50
5 Nope Tatiana BOG 1551 3,0 11,5 6,0 6,25
6 Benavides Moncayo Olga BOG 1661 3,0 8,0 4,5 3,00
7 Vargas Diana Paola BOG 1873 2,5 14,5 9,0 6,00
8 Herrera Wilene BOG 1699 2,0 16,0 9,5 5,00
9 Calderon Zuluaga Andrea COL 1863 2,0 12,0 7,5 2,00
10 Nope Viviana BOG 1471 1,5 13,0 8,5 1,50
11 Baron Maria Camila BOG 1391 1,0 12,5 7,5 0,50
12 Quinones Maria Constanza TOL 1600 0,0 9,0 5,5 0,00

Chess news from Sri Lanka:

Dinushki and Aksha win International Chess
Monday, 30  August, 2010
Dinushki Premnath of Sri Lanka and Aksha Khamparia of India were crowned the women’s and men’s champions at the third Mora Kings’ International Rating Chess Championships that was concluded recently at the University of Moratuwa.

The championship was organized by the University of Moratuwa.

Results –

Women’s Open. (1) Dinushki Premnath 6.5. (2) I.U. Basnayake 6.5. (3) P. R. Senanayake 6.

Men’s Open (1) Aksha Khamparia 8.5 (2) G.C. Anuruddha 8. (3) R. Weerawardena 7.5

Boys Under 8. (1) G.M. Thilakaratne 5 (2) Malith Madushanka 4 (3) Raveen Askey 4. Under-10. (1) H.M. Herath 6 (2) Lahiru Sithja 5.5 (3) Anusra Mavindi 5. Under 12 (1) Sharman Kushagra (India) 5.5 (2) Sanura Ranmita 5.5 (3) C.M. Chandrasekera 5.5 Under 15 G.T. Premachandra 7 (2) V.R. Subasinghe 6.5 C. Lamahewa 6.5.

Girls Under 8. (1) Askey Rashell 4 (2) Rashmi Rangajee 4 (3) L.A. Karunaratne 3.5 Under 10 (1) Binuri Yapa 5 (2) Sanduni Bandara 4 (3) G.P. Wijesuriya 4. Under 12 (1) I.D.S. Kahanda 6 (2) T. Ranasinghe Y.N. Vidanagamage 5. Under 15 (1) Sanali Natasha 5.5 (2) Yashmi Lamawansa (3) V.N. W. Siriwardena 5.5 (BM)

Chess news from India:

From the Telegraph of Calcutta, India
August 30, 2010
Rucha crowned champion

National chess meet

Rucha Pujari with the trophy in Guwahati
on Saturday. Picture by Eastern Projections
Guwahati, Aug. 29: Women Fide Master Rucha Pujari got the better of A. Sithalachumi to turn the tables on overnight leader Amrutha Mokal and clinch the title of the 37th National Women Challengers Chess Tournament that concluded at the Shilpgram here yesterday.

In the final round Sonakshi Rathore, who had upset top seed International Master Bhagyashree Thipsay in an earlier round, put an end to Mokal’s dream run while Pujari continued with her accuracy of the last couple of rounds to defeat Sithalachumi to claim the championship with nine points.

On the top board, Amrutha, playing white, started with the king pawn to which Sonakshi replied with d5, which led to the centre counter opening. The opening moves suggested that Sonakshi was well prepared for the kill and would go all out to upset the tournament leader.

However, as usual, Amrutha played solidly and didn’t give any opening advantage to black. But the pressure of the event finally got to her as she played a couple of weak moves and Sonakshi took advantage.

Mokal finished the runners-up with 8.5 points while Rathore tallied eight points to be third and S. Harini had 7.5 under her belt to be fourth. The remaining players among the top 20, who qualified for the Premier Chess Championship to be held in Orissa, finished with seven points per head as all other games till the 10th board settled for quick draws.Thipsay, the only World International Master in the tournament managed to finish 17th.

Umberto Eco Writes - What About the Women?

From the Deccan Times
A history of husbands and missing wives
August 27th, 2010
Umberto Eco, New York Times

I recently came across an online encyclopedia of women, a great many of whom have been unjustly forgotten by most historians. There is one exception: In his 1690 book, The History of Women Philosophers, French scholar Gilles Menage wrote about Diotima the Socratic, Arete the Cyrenaic, Nicarete the Megarian, Hipparchia the Cynic, Theodora the Peripatetic, Leontium the Epicurean and Themistoclea the Pythagorean, about whom we know very little. And it’s only right that many of these women should be saved from oblivion.

Still, what’s really missing is an encyclopedia of wives. It is often said that behind every great man there stands a great woman, from Byzantine Emperor Justinian I and his wife Theodora (the former actress) all the way to Barack and Michelle Obama. It’s curious that the opposite is never said: We don’t talk about “the man behind” the great Elizabeth I of England, for instance, or her contemporary long-reigning, widowed counterpart. But generally wives are seldom, if ever, given their due attention.

In the histories of classical antiquity onward, more space has been devoted to mistresses than to wives. Clara Schumann and Alma Mahler, who were married to the composers Robert Schumann and Gustav Mahler are exceptions, but these women caused a stir for their extra- and post-marital affairs. Basically, the only wife who is always mentioned for simply being a wife is Xanthippe, who was married to Socrates — and even then, it is only to say bad things about her.

I recently read a text by the 20th-century Italian writer Pitigrilli, who crammed his stories with erudite quotations — though often getting the names wrong — and with anecdotes that he found goodness knows where. At one point Pitigrilli invokes Saint Paul’s stern warning, “Melius nubere quam uri,” or, “Better to marry than burn with great desire” — good advice, incidentally, for Roman Catholic priests. Pitigrilli also observes that most of the greats, including Plato, Lucretius, Virgil and Horace, were bachelors. But that’s not entirely the case.

It may hold true for Plato, who, according to Diogenes Laertius, wrote epigrams for very good-looking young men. On the other hand, Plato did take two women as pupils, Lastenia and Axiotea, and he is said to have remarked that a virtuous man should take a wife. Perhaps he was wary because of Socrates’ unhappy marriage to Xanthippe.

Plato’s famous pupil, Aristotle, married Pythias, after whose death he took up with Herpyllis, who was either his wife or concubine. Regardless, Aristotle lived with Herpyllis as man and wife, and he remembered her with affection in his will. She bore him a son, Nicomachus — for whom, some historians believe, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics is named.

Horace had neither wives nor children, but judging by his writing, I suspect that he permitted himself a few romantic escapades. As for Virgil, he seems to have been too shy to declare himself to a woman, though it is rumored that he had a relationship with the wife of Varius Rufus. Ovid, by contrast, married three times.

Regarding Lucretius, the ancient sources tell us almost nothing. A brief mention in Saint Jerome’s writing would have us believe that Lucretius committed suicide because a love potion had driven him mad — though the saint certainly had an interest in declaring an atheist such as Lucretius to be crazy. On the basis of that account, others embroidered on the story, adding the mysterious Lucilla, who may have been Lucretius’ wife or mistress. In this version she was a woman in love who asked a witch to make her the potion, while others have said that Lucretius concocted the potion himself; either way, Lucilla doesn’t come out looking very good. That is, unless Julius Pomponius Laetus, a 15th-century Italian humanist, was right when he said that Lucretius killed himself because he was unhappily in love with someone else entirely.

Centuries later, Dante dreamed about Beatrice but married Gemma Donati — even though he never mentioned the latter in his writing. Everyone thinks that Descartes was a bachelor, as he died very young after a highly colorful life. But he did keep a companion for a few years — a maid named Helena Jans van der Strom whom he met in Holland. Officially, he only recognised Helena as a housemaid. But contrary to certain slanderous rumors, he did recognise the daughter she bore him, Francine, who died at age five. According to some sources, Descartes also had other love affairs.

In short, apart from churchmen, who were presumably celibate, and more or less openly homosexual men such as Cyrano de Bergerac and Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein, Immanuel Kant is one of the only great thinkers in history we are truly certain was a bachelor — the historical record is quite clear on this point.

Surprisingly enough, even Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was married; in fact, it seems he was also something of a womaniser, with an illegitimate child in the picture. Then there was Karl Marx, who was deeply attached to his wife, Jenny von Westphalen.

But the question remains: What influence did Gemma have over Dante, or Helena over Descartes, not to mention the enormous number of wives about whom the historical says even less? What if all of Aristotle’s works were really written by Herpyllis? We shall never know. History, written by husbands, has condemned wives to anonymity.

* Umberto Eco’s most recent book is
On Ugliness. He is also the author of international bestsellers Baudolino, The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum, among others.

The Mask of Troy: Book Review

Sounds like a fun read.

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It's not Dan Brown... and that's not a bad thing
Reviewed by: Rebecca Walberg

Posted: 28/08/2010 1:00 AM

The Mask of Troy
By David Gibbins
Headline Publishing, 402 pages, $35

ANY novel involving ancient secrets, modern-day adventure and improbable academics as action heroes invites comparison with Dan Brown's oeuvre.

Saskatoon-born archaeologist David Gibbins' latest, his sixth history-thriller hybrid, holds up well against other entrants in the field, and rests on much more interesting ideas, not to mention authentic research, than The Da Vinci Code and its imitators.

The story opens on a secret dig at Heinrich Schliemman's excavation of the ancient Greek city of Troy in 1876, but most of the action is in the present day.

Jack Howard, a marine archeologist with access to apparently unlimited funds and a private jet, uncovers a secret that may explain not only the fall of Troy but also the real identity of Homer, the key to the Nazis' bizarre fixation on ancient history, and the secret of world peace.

It's all a bit over the top, and the sub-plot involving Howard's preternaturally wise and witty teenage daughter, while necessary to keep the characters moving from Troy to secret meetings to underwater salt mines, is also unnecessarily elaborate.

As with many similar potboilers, Gibbins' characters can be annoyingly omniscient. Some vignettes set in 1890 and 1945 feature anachronistic words and ideas, and one otherwise reasonable protagonist actually utters "what I'm about to say may be the key to the whole mystery" before pausing to make himself tea.

Gibbins hops through history just enough to provide colour and background, and generally manages to fit a good deal of exposition into the story naturally, without too many digressions in which experts pontificate to each other in order to bring the reader up to speed.

From the origins of Greek script to the prehistoric tin trade, he works obscure aspects of ancient history into unusual but provocative main argument.

Until Troy, he suggests, humans lived in the age of heroes and gods, in which battles were generally fought between individual heroes or small armies.

He also argues that the rise of iron enabled Agamemnon, the Greek leader whose death mask gives the book its name, to use new technology to destroy his foes.

Somewhat less convincingly, Gibbins also puts forward the idea that the real treasure of Troy, which war-king Agamemnon sought to destroy, was not a weapon or a religious artifact but a sort of proto-UN, in which philosopher kings met and kept peace between their peoples by agreeing to limit access to the materials needed for Bronze Age armaments.

Both the novel and the afterword also make the case that the famous Trojan Horse should be understood metaphorically.

Unlike The Da Vinci Code, The Mask of Troy doesn't read like a movie script in waiting, and that's a good thing. Relatively free of purple prose and contrived action sequences, the novel should further Gibbins' reputation as the thinking man's (Canadian) Dan Brown.

Rebecca Walberg is the president of Winnipeg's Wakefield Centre for Policy Research.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 28, 2010 H8

Hardback edition info from 

Info at on David Gibbins' other books. 

Pagan Mask Found in Russia

An unfortunately too brief article that gives very little information on this interesting find.  From

Archeologists Unearth Pagan Mask that is 1000 Years Old
24 August 2010

A pagan mask made almost one thousand years ago, has been found at 13th Troitsky Pit in the historical center of Veliki Novgorod.

According to the head of the pit Victor Singh, the mask with openings for the mouth and eyes, most likely, cut out from the top of a long leather boot, has been found out in the cultural layer of the 12th century. The back part of the mask has holes for small straps or cords, which were fastened at the back of the head.

“The mask was probably used during some pagan rites”, – the scientist explained.

The archeologists have already found around 20 masks.


Tomb of Cao Cao: The Battle Continues - It's Fake, Some Say...

This is getting really good :) Prior posts on Cao Cao's tomb:

Saturday, June 12, 2010
Emerald "Pearl" Found in Cao Cao's Mouth?

Sunday, May 23, 2010
Excavation of Cao Xiu's Tomb, Henan Province, China [Cao Xiu, adopted son of Cao Cao]

Tuesday, February 2, 2010
China's Battle of the Generals Heats Up with Mega Tourist Bucks at Stake

Sunday, January 31, 2010
Follow-up: Cao Cao had 72 fake tombs!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tomb of Cao Cao Unearthed in China: Follow-Up

Sunday, December 27, 2009
Tomb of Cao Cao Unearthed in China

From People's Daily Online
Cao Cao's tomb: Experts reveal that findings and artifacts are fake
09:00, August 24, 2010

Artificial planning and fake artifacts were part of the discovery and excavation of a supposed ancient tomb claiming to belong to Cao Cao, a warlord in the Three Kingdoms period (220-280), a group of experts and scholars announced over the weekend.

The discovery and excavation of the tomb was listed as a Top Ten Archaeology Achievement in 2009 by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

A total of 23 experts and scholars from across the country presented evidence at the National High-Level Forum on Culture of the Three Kingdoms Period held in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, to prove that the tomb was a fake.

According to epigrapher Li Luping, director of the Committee of Calligraphy and Appraisal of Jiangsu Province, the epitaph of Lu Qian, which directly indicates the specific location of the tomb of Cao Cao, is the source of the forgery.

Li discovered that the character 年(year) on the epitaph was written in almost the same style as is in modern times, quite different to the more square style in use at the time in history.

"After over thousands of years of erosion, how come there is residue of the cave on the stone steles from Cao Cao's tomb?" Li said. "Such a cheap counterfeit takes at most three years, if not three days."

Lin Kuicheng, director of the Calligraphy and Painting Committee of Kaifeng Federation of Literature and Art Circle, Henan Province, said that the title Wei Wu King carved on the stele of Cao Cao's supposed tomb was not accurate or appropriate.

"Wei King was his title when he was alive and Wu King is his title after his death," Lin explained. "Under ancient customs, there is no way the two titles would have been permitted to be put together."

Zhang Guo'an, an expert on the Wei Jin period (220-420) from Beijing Normal University, said that by studying the changes in the forms and systems of ancient tombs, he found that the newly-unearthed tomb was the same scale as the tomb of Cao Xiu, one of Cao Cao sons, which is very unlikely as the tombs of a father and son would not be the same.

The ancient tomb complex was unearthed in December. It included three ancient corpses, one man and two women. The man died in his 60s, the same age as Cao Cao when he died.

Source: Global Times(By Jiang Wanjuan)
Obviously given the scale of the tomb itself, it cannot be fake and taken only 3 years to construct - as if such a massive work could have been undertaken in secret in over-crowded China in any event.  Also, there is the matter of the three corpses recovered from the tomb, along with lots of artifacts that all seem to be legitimate.

I believe what some experts are asserting is that the identification of the tomb as Cao Cao's is based on faked elements somehow planted into the tomb and due to the work of unknown perpetrators - how that could have been done no one seems to be addressing.  Stay tuned. 

Orthodox Church Rising in Influence in Russia

This is one of those "hmmmm...." articles that everyone should read.

Long lost Jesus icon in Kremlin restored to view
By Mikhail Antonov and Nikolai Isayev
Posted 2010/08/28 at 10:14 am EDT

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
I think the look on Medvedev's face says it all.
Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev attends the blessing
of an ancient Orthodox icon which is being restored to
its pre-revolutionary position on the Kremlin's
Spassky Gate in Moscow, August 28, 2010.
REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin
MOSCOW, Aug. 28, 2010 (Reuters) — An icon of Jesus embedded in a Kremlin gate used by Soviet leaders but bricked over in the 1930s during communist times was restored on Saturday to public view.

On a rainy and windy day of the Assumption in the Orthodox calendar, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill unveiled the icon that has been covered for more than 70 years and had been regarded as lost.

The icon could have been immured in 1937 -- the exact date is unknown -- when Soviet authorities celebrated the 20th anniversary of the coup of the Bolsheviks, who waged war against organized religion, destroying temples and icons across the country.

The icon, which had adorned the Moscow site since the 16th century, was rediscovered in the spring when the Spasskaya Tower gates, the main entrance to the Kremlin overlooking Red Square, were being renovated.

Medvedev, speaking from under an umbrella on the day that marks the Virgin Mary's being taken into heaven, said the "Saviour Smolensky" icon, which is 2.2 by 1.5 m (yards) wide and depicts Jesus holding open the New Testament, with Russian saints below him, will provide moral support to Russia.

"Now that we've got the icon back, our country secures an additional defense," he said after Kirill, struggling to keep his cap on his head in a strong wind, anointed the icon.

The official presence at the event is another sign of the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, opposed by rights groups and some other religious confessions.

The trend toward consolidation of the church as a national force in Russia has worried its 20-million strong Muslim population -- a seventh of Russia's people -- as well as those who believe church and state should be kept strictly separate.

The Orthodox Church has undergone a revival since the fall of the Soviet Union almost 20 years ago ended decades of repression under communism, and Russia's leaders have endorsed it as the country's main faith.

"There is a special meaning in today's event, particularly, it's in the unity of the Church and people," Medvedev said.

(Writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Michael Roddy)

Rather sounds like language out of the so-called "Islamic Republic" of Iran, doesn't it.  Scary stuff, really scary.  Cloaking fascism in religiosity, and people are following like lemmings right to the edge of the cliff.  The same thing is going on here in the United States, except here they're calling it "a return to values" because we still maintain the appearance of separation of religion and state in law, if not in practice and emotional rhetoric. 

The world truly has not learned the lessons of the past. 

Roman Era Horse Sacrifice?

Some interesting finds are being uncovered during excavations for roadwork in Great Britain.

From the Times of Malta.
Thursday, 26th August 2010

Ice Age and Roman remains surface in Nottinghamshire
Archaeological remains dating back to the last Ice Age together with Iron Age and Roman settlements have been uncovered as part of a Highways Agency scheme to upgrade the A46 between Newark and Widmerpool in Nottinghamshire.

The finds included flint tools and flint knapping debris that date back to about 11,000 BC – around the end of the last Ice Age, when Stone Age hunter-gatherers returned as the climate began to warm up.

Geoff Bethel, A46 Highways Agency project manager, said that as the A46 follows the route of the old Roman road, they expected to uncover a number of artefacts from Roman Britain but finding such rare flint tools dating back to the end of the Ice Age was very exciting.

Mr Bethel added, “We worked very closely with English Heritage, our contractor and the archaeology teams to make sure the road route design avoided the important areas of archaeology during construction.”

The design for the A46 route ensured that the majority of the site of the Roman town of Margi­dunum, near Bingham, was avoided by the new road scheme.

The excavations also provided valuable insight into the Iron Age and Roman communities that used to live in the area. Evidence of an Iron Age settlement at Owthorpe Junction, just east of Cotgrave, was uncovered. Further north at Stragglethorpe junction, a 4,000 year old Neolithic circular monument was located, with eight Bronze Age burials.

Remains of a horse recovered from the site of the newly discovered Roman industrial area.
The horse may have been a ritual sacrifice to bring good luck to the building built over the top,
a practice known from the Roman world. Photo: Highways Agency/PA Wire
The archaeological team uncovered part of the settlement that lined the road leading into the town. Finds included Roman timber buildings, rubbish pits, wells and track ways, as well as a number of burials, all dating back around two thousand years.

Phil Harding, Stone Age expert and presenter of Channel 4’s Time Team, worked on the excavations as a field archaeologist for Cotswold Wessex Archaeology. He said:

“Among the findings was a piece from a Neolithic axe made of greenstone, a type of stone from the Lake District. It was very distinctive, only a chip the size of a stamp, but exciting nonetheless. The stone was very good quality and very distinctive – you could tell a person’s wealth or status by the number of axes he owned, or the flint it was made from.

“Overall, there were enough bits and pieces to suggest we have evidence of hunting people, gathering, camping, and visiting the confluence of two rivers right through to the time of the first farmers.”

Neil Macnab, of Scott Wilson Ltd, principal archaeologist for the contractor Balfour Beatty, said:

“The exciting discovery was of the flint tools and tiny fragments of flint knapping debris, which show very primitive activity occurring in an open area by hunter gathers. To find this in an open area, rather than in a cave is what is unusual, and could mean that they stopped to make something while out on the move.”

The "Math" Behind Viking Jewelery

Very interesting, although the translation is somewhat terse.  From the MIT Technology Review blog.

Friday, August 27, 2010
The Mathematical Secret of Viking Jewelry
A long-standing puzzle over the craftsmanship behind Viking bracelets and necklaces has finally been solved--mathematically.

Gold Armlet of Twisted Wires, Viking Period,
 from the Douglas Treasure Trove of 1894.
The beautiful bracelets and necklaces made by Viking artisans leave archaeologists with something of a conundrum. These objects are made from rods of gold and silver which have twisted together into double helices. The puzzle is the regularity of these helices, which are remarkably similar in jewelry found in places as diverse as Ireland, Scotland, the Orkney Islands and Scandinavia.

How could craftsmen have achieved this regularity in such disparate places?

The answer comes today thanks to the work of Kasper Olsen and Jakob Bohr at the Technical University of Denmark. They point out that two wires become maximally twisted when no more rotations can be added with deforming the double helix. They go on to demonstrate the properties of maximally twisted wires. (We looked at a similar but more detailed argument about the properties of old rope a few weeks back.)

Olsen and Bohr then measured the properties of helices in Viking jewelry are twisted. It should come as no surprise to find that Viking jewelry is maximally twisted, which neatly explains why it all looks so similar. "Maximally rotated geometry is universal and therefore independent of the skills of the craftsman," say Olsen and Bohr.

Problem solved.

Ref: Hidden Beauty in Twisted Viking Neck Rings
Two wires become maximally twisted when no more rotations can be added with[out] deforming the double helix.

Okay - so how many turns does it take to achieve two maximally twisted gold wires?  Did the craftsmen count the number of turns (or twists)?  What happened if you went one too many - and deformed the piece. Could you untwist it and start over, or would the metal have to be melted down and formed into "wires" again before starting over?  Did different thicknesses of wire require more turns - or fewer - to achieve the perfect helices?  Did longer wires require more turns?  Does this method work with three wires, four, five?

Everything You Never Thought to Know About Mithra

I'm on an Archaeology Magazine bent today. Another excellent article from the September/October 2010 edition which is presented online:

Bull-Killer, Sun Lord
August 24, 2010 by Carly Silver
Foreign religions grew rapidly in the 1st-century A.D. Roman Empire, including worship of Jesus Christ, the Egyptian goddess Isis, and an eastern sun god, Mithras
Tools of the Pater (highest rank of the Mithraian brotherhood:
bowl, rod (arrow), Phrygian style hat, and knife. From article,
from Wikipedia Commons :)

In addition to several excellent photographs of mithrea, sculptures and even an excellently preserved cave painting of Mithras slaying a bull, as well as images of Mithras himself, the article cites many close parallels to certain practices and traditions in Judaism and Christianity, while not drawing any specific conclusions.  Ahem. Good, if conservatively phrased, overview of the development of this religion during the Roman Empire.

Barbara G. Walker's "The Woman's Encuclopedia of Myths and Secrets" has much to say about Mithra:

Persian savior, whose cult was the leading rival of Christianity in Rome, and more successful than Christianity for the first four centuries of the "Christian" era.  In 307 A.D. the emperor officially designated Mithra "Protector of the Empire." (1)

Christians copied many details of the Mithraic mystery-religion, explaing the resemblance later with their favorite argument, that the devil had anticipated the true faith by imitating it before Christ's birth.  [Har!  But Muslims use the same argument today to support their claim as the one true faith.]  Some resembalances between Christianity and Mithraism were so close that even St. Augustine declared the priests of Mithra worshipped the same deity as he did.(2)

Mithra was born on the 25th of December, called "Birthday of the Unconquered Sun," which was finally taken over by Christians in the 4th century A.D. as the birthday of Christ.(3)  Some said Mithra sprang from an incestuous union between the sun god and his own mother, just as Jesus, who was God, was born of the Mother of God.  Some claimed Mithra's mother was a mortal virgin.  Others said Mithra had no mother, but was miraculously born of a female Rock, the petra genetrix, fertilized by the Heavenly Father's phallic lightning.(4) [Cf. Bible scriptural references to Jesus and/or Peter as being the Rock, out of which and upon which the church would be built.] 

Mithra's birth was witnessed by shepherds and by Magi who brought gifts to his sacred birth-cave of the Rock.(5)  Mithra performed the usual assortment of miracles: raising the dead, healing the sick, making the blind see and the lame walk, casting out devils.  As a Peter, son of the petra, he carried the keys of the kingdom of heaven (see Peter, Saint.)(6)  His triumph and ascension to heaven were celebrated at the spring equinox (Easter), when the sun rises toward its apogee.

Before returning to heaven, Mithra celebrated a Last Supper with his twelve disciples, who represented the twelve signs of the zodiac.  In memory of this, his worshippers partook of a sacramental meal of bread marked with a cross.(7)  This was one of seven Mithraic sacraments, the models for the Christians' seven sacraments.(8)  It was caled mizd, Latin misa, English mass.  Mithra's image was buried in a rock tonb, the same sacred cave that reprsented his Mother's womb.  He was withdrawn from it and said to live again.(9)

Like early Christianity, Mithraism was an ascetic, anti-female religion.  Its priesthood consisted of celibate men only.(10)  Women wer forbidden to enter Mithraic temples.(11)  The women of Mithraic families had nothing to do with the men's cult, but attended services of the Great Mother in their own temples of Isis, Diana, or Juno.(12)

To eliminate the female principle from their creation myth, Mithraists replaced the Mother of All Living in the primal garden of paradise (Pairdaeza) with the bull named Sole-Created.  Instead of Eve, this bull was the partner of the first man. [It doesn't take much imagination to figure out what happened between Man and Bull.  Man engaged in beastiality by raping Bull and then killed Bull out of repugnance, fear and guilt.  And then sought out other Bulls so he could do it all over again, and again, and again....]  All creatures were born from the Bull's blood.  Yet the bull's birth-giving was oddly female-imitative.  The animal was castrated and sacrificed, and its blood was delivered to the moon for magical fructification, the moon being the source of women's magic lunar "blood of life" that produced real children on earth.(13)

Persians have been called the Puritans of the heathen world.  They developed Mithraism out of an earlier Aryan religion that was not so puritanical or so exclusively male-oriented.(14)  Mithra seems to have been the Indo-Iranian sun god Mitra, or Mitravaruna, one of the twelve zodiacal sons of the Infinity-goddess Aditi.  Another of Aditi's sons was Aryaman, eponymous ancestor of "Aryans," whom the Persians transformed into Ahriman, the Great Serpent of Darkness, Mithra's enemy.(15)

Early on, there seems to have been a feminine Mithra.  Herodotus said the Persians used to have a sky-goddess Mitra, the same as Mylitta, Assyria's Great Mother.(16)  Lydians combined Mithra with his archaic spouse Anahita as an androgynous Mithra-Anahita, identified with Sabazius-Anaitis, the Serpent and Dove of Anatolian mystery cults.(17)

Anahita was the Mother of Waters, traditional spouse of the solor god whom she bore, loved, and swallowed up.  She was identified with the Anatolian Great Goddess Ma.  Mithra was naturally coupled with her, as her opposite, a spirit of fire, light, and the sun.(18)  Her "element," water, overwhelmed the world in the primordial flood, when one man built an ark and saved himself, together with his cattle, according to Mithraic myth.(19)  The story seems to have been based on the Hindu Flood of Manu, transmitted through Persian and Babylonian scriptures to apear in a late, rather corrupt version in the Old Testament.  See Flood.

What began in water would end in fire, according to Mithraic eschatology.  The great battle between the forces of light and darkness in the Last Days would destroy the earth with its upheavals and burnings.  Virtuous ones who folowed the teachings of the Mithraic priesthood would join the spirits of light and be saved.  Sinful ones who followed other teachings would be cast into hell with Ahriman and the fallen angels.  The Christian notion of salvation was almost wholly a product of this Persian eschatology [ya think?] adopted by Semitic eremites and sun-cultists like the Essenes, and by Roman military men who thoguht the rigid discipline and vivid battle-imagery of Mithraism appropriate for warriors.  Under emperors like Julian and Commodus, Mithra became the supreme patron of Roman Armies.(20)

After extensive contact with Mithraism, Christians also began to describe themselves as soldiers for Christ; to call their savior Light of the World, Helios the Rising Sun, and Sun of Righteousness; to celebrate their feasts on Sun-day rather than the Jewish sabbath; to claim their savior's death was marked by an eclipse of the sun; and to adopt the seven Mithraic sacraments.  Like Mithraists, Christians practiced baptism to ascend after death through the planetary spheres to the highest heaven, while the wicked (unbaptized) would be dragged down to darkness.(21)

Mithra's cave-temple on the Vatican Hill was seized by Christians in 376 A.D.(22)  Christian bishops of Rome pre-empted even the Mithraic high priest's title of Pater Patrum, which became Papa, or Pope.(23)  Mithraism entered into many doctrines of Manichean Christianity and continued to influence its old rival for over a thousand years.(24)  The Mithraic festival of Epiphany [January 6th on western calendars], marking the arrival of sun-priests or Magi at the Savior's birthplace, was adopted by the Christian church only as late as 813 A.D.(25)


(1) Legge 2, 271; Augus, 168.
(2) Reinach, 73.
(3) J.H. Smith, D.C.P., 146; Campbell, M.I., 33.
(4) de Riencourt, 135.
(5) H. Smith, 129; Hooke, S.P., 85; Cumont, M.M., 131.
(6) H. Smith, 129.
(7) Hooke, S.P., 89; Cumont, M.M., 160.
(8) James, 250.
(9) H. Smith, 130, 201.
(10) Legge 2, 261.
(11) Lederer, 36.
(12) Angus, 205.
(13) Campbell, Oc. M., 204.
(14) Knight, D.W.P., 63.
(15) O'Flaherty, 339.
(16) Larousse, 314.
(17) Cumont, M.M., 17.
(18) Cumont, O.R.R.P., 54, 65.
(19) Cumont, M.M., 138.
(20) Cumont, M.M., 87-89.
(21) Cumont, M.M., 144-45.
(22) J. H. Smith, D.C.P., 146.
(23) H. Smith, 252.
(24) Cumont, O.R.R.P., 154.
(25) Brewster, 55.

For very interesting information on Epiphany, see Catholic Encyclopedia Online

More Than Man's Best Friend

The September/October 2010 issue of Archaeology Magazine has a feature story this month on man's relationship with our close canine buddies - love the cover art!

The full text is available online.  Warning - it made me cry more than once, but I'm a certified softy and dog lover.  I was not able to think of owning another dog after the death of my last faithful companion in 2004, Ms. Tasha.  She was the last of Spencer (who died in 1999) and Jocques (who died in 2001), my faithful trio.  Tasha was the last to join the household when I adopted her from the Humane Society in 1991 as an 11 month old, gangly and beautiful lab/doberman mix.  She had the coloring of a chocolate lab and the gentlest disposition I've ever met in a doggy.  Damn - it's bringing tears to my eyes right now just thinking about them, which I do every day.

I've written many times about dogs at this blog.  This article does not add any new information, and does not contain any information on the goddess/dog connection although it does allude to some "spiritual" aspects and dogs as "guardians" of souls, but overall it provides a good overview of the "why" of our enduring connection with our canine companions.

More Than Man's Best Friend
by Jarrett A. Lobell and Eric Powell
Volume 63 Number 5, September/October 2010
Dogs have been an integral part of human culture for 15,000 years...sometimes in unexpected ways

Constant Companions
Sacrificial Dogs
Dogs of Roman Britain
Dogs as Food (I skipped this section - the thought makes me ill)
Dog Catacombs
Guardians of Souls
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