Saturday, November 27, 2010

60th Russian Women Superfinal 2010

From The Week in Chess:

The 60th Russian Women's SuperFinal took place in Moscow. There was a three way tie on 7/11. Alisa Galliamova beat Natalija Pogonina in a two game rapid playoff (15 min+10 spm Match with a 6-5min Armageddon finish if score had finished 1-1) to take the title. Tatania Kosintseva missing out of this playoff on Sonnen-Berger tie-break but she took bronze and qualified for next year.

60th ch-RUS w Moscow (RUS), 16-27 xi 2010cat. IX (2458)
1.Pogonina, NatalijawgRUS2472*½½1½0½111½½72558
2.Galliamova, AlisamRUS2487½*½11010110172557
3.Kosintseva, TatianagRUS2581½½*01½½½1½1172548
4.Paikidze, NaziwgGEO2401001*11½101½½2528
5.Kosteniuk, AlexandragRUS2507½000*111½½102453
6.Gunina, ValentinawgRUS247911½00*0001½152420
7.Kosintseva, NadezhdamRUS2576½0½½01*110½052411
8.Shadrina, TatianawgRUS238401½0010*011½52428
9.Nebolsina, VerawgRUS23770001½101*0½152429
10.Bodnaruk, AnastasiamRUS240700½0½0101*1152426
11.Girya, OlgawgRUS2435½10½0½½0½0*12395
12.Matveeva, SvetlanamRUS2389½00½101½000*2331

GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, WGM Natalia Pogonina and GM Tatiana Kosintseva will be among the players competing shortly in the 2010 Women's World Chess Championship. 

Here is GM Alexandra Kosteniuk's blog on the final action. 

Prehistoric Star Map in Wales


26 November 2010
A prehistoric star map carved on a Welsh capstone?

Cap stone at Trefael. From The Megalithic Portal.
 A recent excavation programme at a standing stone known as Trefael, near Newport (south-west Wales) has revealed that what originally was a portal dolmen in later times was transformed in a standing stone, probably used as a ritual marker to guide communities through a scared landscape.

This solitary stone has over 75 cupmarks gouged onto its upper surface. Following the complete exposure of the capstone through excavation, it is now considered by several astronomers that the distribution of the cupmarks may represent a section of the night sky that includes the star constellations of Cassiopeia, Orion, Sirius and of course the North Star.

Until recently, little was known about this stone. About 40 years ago archaeologists had speculated that it may have once formed a capstone which would have covered a small burial chamber. In order to prove or disprove this, a geophysical survey was undertaken, the results of which revealed the remains of a kidney-shaped anomaly, possibly the remnants of the cairn that would have once surrounded the chamber, with an entrance to the east.

Following this exciting discovery, a targeted excavation confirmed the site to be a portal dolmen, revealing also a significant cairn deposit within the eastern and northern sections of the trench. Uniquely, a clear vertical cut was found in section, running parallel with the dip of the former capstone suggesting that the cairn had been excavated into and the capstone set and packed within the existing cairn, probably used as a standing stone during the Early Bronze Age (c. 2000-1700 cal. BCE) when Western Britain was introduced to a new set of burial-ritual monuments.

Finds were not unexpectedly meagre and included medieval and post-medieval pottery sherds and two Mesolithic shale beads; identical to those found at the nearby Mesolithic coastal settlement of Nab Head.
Further investigations planned for Summer 2011 will include palaeo-environmental sampling in order to assess the later prehistoric landscape setting, a contour survey of the monument and further excavation to the rear of the stone.

Edited from George Nash PR
More on Trefael, Wales:

Portal dolmen may lie hidden in South West Wales
October, 02 2010

More photos and locational map

Friday, November 26, 2010

Two Shipwrecks Uncovered Half a World Apart

A fascinating find in Stockholm. Story from The Local (Sweden's news in English):

Mystery shipwreck found in central Stockholm
Published: 25 Nov 10 16:33 CET

The remains of a ship dating from the 1600s have been discovered outside the Grand Hotel in central Stockholm.

The vessel was built with an almost completely unknown technology, delighting archaeologists. The planks of the ship are not nailed down, but sewn together with rope.

The discovery was made by labourers close to the royal palace and in front of Stockholm's Grand Hotel during renovation works to a quay.

"The discovery of the wreck is extremely interesting given the place where it was made. There was a naval shipyard on this spot until the start of the 17th century," Maritime Museum director Hans-Lennarth Ohlsson said in a statement.

A couple of weeks ago, an excavator found something unusual in his bucket. Marine archaeologist Jim Hansson at the Maritime Museum was called to Strömkajen below the Grand Hotel, where he quickly realised the value of the sensational find.

"We were super-excited. It may sound a little strange when one finds little excavated pieces of parts of a ship, but I have never seen anything like it," he said.

With the exception of another ship found in 1896, all other shipwrecks uncovered in and around the Stockholm harbour have featured planks that were nailed together.

"We really know nothing about this technique other than that it was used in the east," added Hansson.

Hansson guesses that the ship is from east of the Baltics, possibly from Russia. The ship's position, well into the quay, reveals that it is from the 1600s or earlier. The wreck was not necessarily linked to the yard, however, and archaeologists have been unable to say how long before 1700 it might have sunk.

Marine archaeologists will send samples to Denmark's Copenhagen National Museum for analysis to be dated as precisely as possible, with results expected by January 2011. In addition, they will monitor the rest of the excavation.

"It is pretty damn nervewracking. It is rare that an archaeologist gets to take a part in something like this. One gets to leave the kids at home and stand in a pit of mud at Christmas," Hansson joked.

In 1961, the Vasa, a Swedish warship, was salvaged from just outside Stockholm harbour. The ship, which foundered on her maiden voyage in 1628, was largely intact and has since become one of Sweden's most popular tourist attractions.

TT/AFP/The Local

It's fascinating that this technique of tying the timbers together survived into the 1600s!  Wow, I thought that would have fallen out of favor with the invention of pegs and, later, metal nails.

And this story from China, in The People's Daily Online:

Archeologists unearth ancient sunken ship in E China's Shandong
18:56, November 23, 2010

Archeologists inspect a newly excavated sunken ship of ancient China's Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368) in Heze of east China's Shandong Province, Nov. 23, 2010. Archeologists in Shandong on Tuesday announced that they have discovered an ancient sunken ship of the Yuan Dynasty at a building site in Heze. The wooden ship, with 21 meters in length, 5 meters in width and 1.8 meters in height, contains 10 cabins. Some 110 precious antiques and porcelains have also been discovered in and around the ship. (Xinhua/Fan Changguo)

South Korean Teams Win Two Golds in Weiqi (Go) at the Asian Games

Good for them!

From The Korean Herald
S.Korea wins two golds in team weiqi
2010-11-26 19:56

South Korea's male and female teams won weiqi gold medals on Friday, sweeping the three weiqi gold medals on offer at the Guangzhou Asian Games.

South Korea's five-man team made up of Choi Chul-hwan, Kang Dong-yoon, Lee Chang-ho, Lee Sae-dol and Park Jeong-hwan routed the Chinese team 4-1 in the finals held at Guangzhou Chess Institute in downtown Guangzhou.
(Yonhap News)

2010 Asian Games Team Chess Championships

That newspaper account I reported last night about the Indian Women's Team being assured a medal was, er, a bit premature.  After drawing their match against Vietnam today the Indian Women were shut out of the medals:

From The Times of India
Indian men win bronze in chess team event of Asiad
PTI, Nov 26, 2010, 08.55pm IST

In the women's event, the Indians played out a draw with Vietnam to miss out the bronze medal.

Harika Dronavalli first drew against Hoang Thi Bao Tram, Tania Sachdev then split points with Pham Le Thao Nguyen to continue the deadlock.

Eesha Karavade then notched up a win over Nguyen Thi Thanh An to raise hopes of a bronze medal. However, it was not to be as Women International Master Nisha Mohota lost the final tie against Woman Grandmaster Nguyen Thi Tuong Van.

Here are the final standings from

Final Ranking after 2 Rounds

Rk.SNoTeamGames  +   =   -  TB1 

Tie Break1: Manually input (after Tie-Break matches)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chess Femme News!

Today I updated Chess Femme News.  I've been reporting so much news here at the blog, I've neglected Chess Femme New's website - it's tough to do this blog and Chess Femme News consistently.  But some November news is now available and I will be providing coverage of the upcoming Women's World Chess Championship starting next month. 

By the way, check out Goddesschess' Random Round-up this week - I think you'll like it :)  As we always try to do, chess is interwoven in this week's RR in particularly unique ways...

From the India Journal:
Indian Women Chess Players Continue Fine Show
Date Submitted: Thu Nov 25, 2010

GUANGZHOU - Indian women drubbed Mongolia to climb to the joint top position while their male counterparts slipped to the fourth spot with a shocking defeat at the hands of lower-rated Philippines after the fifth round of the chess competitions in the Asian Games here Nov 22.

The women’s quartet of Harika Dronavalli, Tania Sachdev, Meenakshi Subbaraman and Nisha Mohota, undefeated so far in the competition, did not have to sweat much as they beat Mongolia by a 3.5-0.5 margin.

Harika gave India 1-0 lead after defeating Lkhamsuren Uuganba but Tania could not collect full points as she drew with lower-rated Tuvshintugs Batchi.

Meenakshi made up for Tania’s draw by beating Enkhtuul Altanulzi and Nisha then got a walk over to complete India’s facile win.

With four more rounds to go in the competition, India are atop the table along with hosts China on nine points with an identical four wins and a draw. Uzbekistan occupy the third spot with eight points.

And more coverage of the Indian Women's Chess Team at the Asian Games:

From The Times of India:
Indian women assured of a medal in chess in Asian Games
PTI, Nov 24, 2010, 09.18pm IST

GUANGZHOU: Indian women virtually assured the country of a medal as they spanked lowly Syria 4-0 to maintain their joint top position along with China with two more rounds to go in the chess team event in the Asian Games on Wednesday.

In the women's section, Tania Sachdev gave India a 1-0 lead with a facile win over much lower-rated Al-Jeldah Fatemah before Eesha Karavade beat Alshikh Kheele Wasila.

Meenakshi Subbaraman did not have to sweat much to defeat Mir Mahmoud Afamia to take India 3-0 up. The Syrian team did not field any contestant against Nisha Mohota for the fourth match.

After seven rounds, India and China are on joint top with 13 points from six wins and a draw each, four clear of third-placed Uzbekistan (nine).

Mangalore: Vanessa D’Souza wins CAI chess championship
(from The

Vanessa D'Souza
 Mangalore, 25 November 2010: Vanessa D’Souza of Mangalore has done the city proud by winning the First CAI (Chess Association India) National Women’s Chess Championship held in Palakkad, Kerala, from November 18 to 21. It was organised by the Palakkad District Chess Association on behalf of the Kerala Chess Association under the aegis of CAI.

[Note: I believe the CAI is competing in India to become the primary chess association against the All India Chess Federation. Some top players have had, shall we say, disagreements with the All India Chess Federation.]

More on the Asian Games, this time, a look at the Chinese board game Weiqi or "Go" as it is popularly called:

From The Times of India:
Chinese chess takes stage at Asian Games
AP, Nov 24, 2010, 11.25am IST

"Weiqi is a mind sport that originated from China. It has been popularized from 2,500 years ago," the games' official blurb notes. "It fully embodies the Oriental way of thinking and ideological system, and is one of the major contributions China has made to the world civilization."

Weiqi is deceptively simple. Black and white "stones" are played one by one on a Weiqi board with 361 crosses made of 19 vertical lines and 19 horizontal lines. The object of the game is to "occupy" as much of the board as possible by surrounding your opponent's stones and thereby rendering them "dead."

Whichever player wins more area on the board wins the game. The game is widely popular throughout east Asia, where millions of people play it and programs analyzing the moves of grandmasters are a staple of late-night television. ...

Happy Thanksgiving!

I got up before the newspaper made it to my doorstep - that's a first!  It was late today - usually it's here by 6 a.m.  The pile of advertisements from retailers was at least 2 inches thick (I am not kidding) and I spent a couple happy hours sipping coffee, listening to smooth jazz on my laptop (since the local smooth jazz station went the way of the dinosaur, the only way to listen to the music I like now is online) while paging through all the super-sales.

But I've done most of my shopping already.  This morning online I scored a perfect for me 15.6" laptop for $230 plus $14.99 shipping and an all-in-one wireless printer/fax/scanner with a high page per minute print rate and cheap ink refills for $69.99 with free shipping.  My desktop will go into retirement in the spare room, or perhaps I will donate it to a local charity.  It's 5 years old and not a thing wrong with it, just a little slower than I like and even the cheapest laptops these days have 2x as much storage and speed.  And I didn't shop at Walmart either - I refuse to do so, on principle.  My purchases will ship tomorrow and they should be here Monday.

So, I am a very happy camper and am just about to lug the artificial tree in from the garage and turn the Lions game on.  It's cold today, but the rain has stopped.  The winds are picking up and the temperature is dropping.  By Black Friday morning the windchills will approach zero, brrrrrr!  I'm staying inside!  It was so lovely to not have to get up in the dark this morning.  I popped out of bed about 7:15 - there is a certain level of daylight I respond to and wake up naturally.  And to think I have tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday to do the same thing!  Ahhhh, I'm in Heaven.  Now I've got to toss some more nuts out for the converging squirrels who have been swarming since daybreak now that they realize I'm home past my usual 7:25 a.m., LOL! 

Later -

It is now later - 1:10 p.m. to be exact.  I posted the above at 11:33 a.m.

Christmas, 2009.  Gifts are scattered about, including
those wine bottles, new gloves for Mr. Don, new
exhibit catalogs to read - and there's the tree!
 Ohmygoddess!  Every year I forget that wrestling that very heavy artificial tree from the garage into the front room is a 2-person job in a 1-person household. And every year I somehow manage to get it done, but usually not without knocking over a lamp or the tree stand falling apart or being attacked by bugs that did not make it into the vacuum cleaner.  Or all three at once.  This year, fortunately, I moved the lamps and furniture well out of the path of the wayward tree, and there were only two bugs. The stand did fall apart, and I noticed somehow I lost a part of it where the plastic cracked and a chunk disappeared.  I jerry rigged the two stand "legs" that kept falling out of their slots with scotch tape, LOL!  Not duct tape, that would show :)  I also used scotch tape to "tie up" a sagging branch - the prong it sits in must have gotten dented out of shape last season as I was wrestling the tree back to the garage. 

The tree seems to have a lot more "holes" this year.  Hmmmm.  I swear the tree does it to itself just to drive me crazy trying to bend the branches this way and that to "fill" them in.  Of course, I never get them filled in, no matter how hard I try!  I walk around and around that tree, bending this, pushing that, the lights are on, it's against the front window so I can see the holes quite clearly, and yet somehow, they seem to show up in other spots that do not reveal themselves until the tree is entirely decorated!  Argggghhhhh.

Decorated it is not, at the moment!  I'm taking a break before I lug the boxes of decorations and ornaments down from the spare closet.  Detroit is leading the Patriots by 7 at the half - good for them!  I listened to the Kid Rock presentation and there was a brief interview with "The Rock" Dwayne Johnson who is so - ummphh! - and has come out with a new shoot-em-up/smash-em-up revenge movie just in time for Christmas.  Nothing like peace to men of goodwill on earth, heh?  LOL!  Well, I love a good revenge movie as well as the next chess femme, and The Rock is easy on the eyes, I must say. 

It's dark here - it's nice having the light on the tree turned on, sort of brightens things up.  The clouds are really scudding low across the sky.  The squirrels are eating me out of house and home.  There can be no squirrels in sight and the second I appear at the patio door POOF, there they are, with one little paw tucked under in their "begging" pose, LOL!  How can I resist?  That's the problem, I can't.  Oh well.  There is one little fellow who has a slightly deformed mouth. He has developed a taste for Brazil nuts and won't go for the almonds.  He also loves pecans, but they are very expensive!  Anyway, he'll come right up to the patio door and stand up and look in, with his little paws pressed against the glass.  If that doesn't get my attention, he'll jump a few times - thump thump - and if that doesn't work he'll scramble up the side of the door making a goddess-awful racket with his nails on the aluminum siding!  That never fails to get my attention no matter how intent I am on the task at hand.  He is one smart little squirrel.

Okay - time to haul the boxes of decorations and ornaments downstairs.  This year I want to go for a somewhat different look on the tree.  Somehow, I am thinking it will end up looking pretty much the same but - we'll see...  Second half has started and the Lions have scored again --

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

1st Metropolitan Chess FIDE Invitational

The second half of the 1st Metropolitan Chess FIDE Invitational took place this past weekend, November 20-21, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  This was the first of what the Metropolitan Chess Club of Los Angeles hopes will be a continuing series of norm invitationals held every two months or so.  It is an ambitious undertaking, and I wish them luck.  Thanks much to the sponsors who supported this tournament:, LawyerFy, Fashion Business, Inc, Betty Bottom, Hippie Chips, Jason's Wine and Spirits, and Chess Lecture.

We need more events designed to provide American players with opportunities to earn norms.  Two organizers of norm tournaments that come to mind are the American Chess Association in Illinois and SPICE at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas.

The lone female in this inaugural event, Tatev Abrahamyan, did not earn a norm.  To do so, she needed 6.0/9 but, alas, her final score was 3.5/9.  Not a good result.  I believe Abrahamyan is a much better player than her results in this tournament show - and I don't think she wasn't aiming for draws.  In 9 games she had 4 losses.  The games have been submitted to The Week in Chess and will probably be published shortly.  TWIC is great at producing reports shortly after information is submitted on a tournament. 

Two players came close to earning those coveted norms but -- You can find the final cross-table at's coverage of this tournament along with a summary of the final action and some games to play through. 

The games were viewable on throughout the tournament through the live chess function, and the last round of the tournament was broadcast on with GM Melikset Khachiyan. For - I assume - members, you can watch the playback via the on demand function.

The games will be available on the Southern California Chess Federation home page,

Good luck for the next norm event, and here's hoping more chess femmes are invited to play in future events, and that there are many more Invitationals in Metropolitan Chess Club's future.

Evidence of Cat Domestication in Ancient Peru

This is way cool.  The domestication of cats occurred on opposite sides of the world. I hadn't thought about it!  I suppose if asked, I would have said that since dogs came with man to the New World, cats would have too.  But perhaps that wasn't so --

Ancient Lambayeque civilizations domesticated cats 3500 years ago
November 24, 2010

Recent finds at the Ventarrón archaeological site have revealed some of the oldest examples of ancient Peruvian domestication of animals.

The Ventarrón site, belonging to one of the oldest civilizations in the Americas, has already given up a number of amazing discoveries. This latest gives us a look at early animal domestication

Work at the site, under the leadership of Ignacio Alva, son of famous Peruvian archaeologist Walter Alva, has revealed a huge collection of animal bones, mostly felines from the Peruvian Amazon on the other side of the Andes mountains.

With such a large number of bones, the archaeologists enlisted the help of zoologists Victor Vásquez and Teresa Rosales from the Centro de Investigaciones Arqueobiológicas y Paleoecológicas Andinas Arqueobios de Trujillo (Center of Andean Archaeobiological and Paleoecological Investigation of Trujillo).

The combined group of investigators have concluded that the ancient Lambayeque people were breeding felines at the site. The theory as to why is not at all different from the reason other ancient civilizations, such as in ancient Egypt, kept cats – as a means to control vermin in what was a time of a rapidly expanding and delicate new invention… agriculture.

The zoologists are currently studying four examples of puma-like feline skeletons with the aim of discovering whether these show any signs of difference from the skeletons of wild cats that exist today. This will tell us whether any selective breeding occurred and to what extent.
Curious, I did a little checking on when our feline friends were first domesticated.  Needless to say, there is a wide range of information:

This site says cats were first domesticated in ancient Egypt about 4,000 years ago.

This information from pushes the date of cat domestication back even further: 

Our modern day cat (Felis silvestris catus) is descended from one of five separate wild cats. The oldest archaeological evidence for domesticated cats has been found on the Greek island of Cyprus, where several animal species including cats were introduced by 7500 BC. Further, at the Neolithic site of Shillourokambos, a purposeful cat burial was found next to a human burial, dated between 9500-9200 years before the present.

The next is 6th millennium BC Haçilar, Turkey, where female figurines carrying cats or catlike figures in their arms have been discovered. There is some debate about the identification of these creatures as cats. Haçilar is well outside the normal distribution of F. s. lybica.

I was amazed and laughed my butt off to discover that a beloved cartoon character from my childhood, Sylvester the Cat, had a name rooted in actual science:

The wildcat, Felis silvestris lybica, which was trapped in Israel as part of C.A. Driscoll's research into the origin of cat domestication. Cats similar to this one were the likely ancestor of the domestic cat.

And this information from Theories on the Domestication of Cats:

In 2004 an interesting discovery was unearthed in Cyprus, an island off of Greece. It had been known that cats were brought to Cyprus during the Neolithic age 10-11,000 years ago but no one could prove that these cats were tame or even brought on purpose. There was always the vague possibility that cats could have been stowaways on the ships and boats that brought the people over or were some of the wild animals intentionally brought over like the fox. However proof of their domestication came in the form of a human grave. Like most Neolithic graves in the area the person was surrounded by objects used in life and oddly enough, the skeleton of a cat. The cat was only 40 millimeters away from the person and it's theorized it either carried religious significance or was the pet of the human. It showed no visible forms of trauma on the skeleton and the cause of it's demise is unknown. Still it's intriguing. Looking further into the past researchers found clusters of cave paintings in Asia depicting small cats but it's impossible to know if they were domestic or wild.

More on the Vikings May Have Brought Native American Female to Iceland

More details emerge in this news story from The National Geographic.

American Indian Sailed to Europe With Vikings?
Centuries before Columbus, a Viking-Indian child may have been born in Iceland.
Traci Watson
Published November 23, 2010

Five hundred years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, a Native American woman may have voyaged to Europe with Vikings, according to a provocative new DNA study.

Analyzing a type of DNA passed only from mother to child, scientists found more than 80 living Icelanders with a genetic variation similar to one found mostly in Native Americans. (Get the basics on genetics.)

This signature probably entered Icelandic bloodlines around A.D. 1000, when the first Viking-American Indian child was born, the study authors theorize. (Related: "Vikings' Barbaric Bad Rap Beginning to Fade.")

Historical accounts and archaeological evidence show that Icelandic Vikings reached Greenland just before 1000 and quickly pushed on to what is now Canada. Icelanders even established a village in Newfoundland, though it lasted only a decade or so (regional map).

The idea that a Native American woman sailed from North America to Iceland during that period of settlement and exploration provides the best explanation for the Icelanders' variant, the research team says.

"We know that Vikings sailed to the Americas," said Agnar Helgason of deCODE Genetics and the University of Iceland, who co-wrote the study with his student Sigrídur Ebenesersdóttir and colleagues. "So all you have to do is assume … that they met some people and ended up taking at least one female back with them.

"Although it's maybe interesting and surprising, it's not all that incredible," Helgason added. "The alternative explanations to me are less likely"—for example the idea that the genetic trait might exist independently, undiscovered, in a few Europeans.

The study authors themselves admit the case is far from closed. But University of Illinois geneticist Ripan Malhi—an expert in ethnic DNA differences who wasn't part of the project—agreed that the report holds "strong genetic evidence for pre-Columbian contact of people in Iceland with Native Americans."

Dating the DNA Signature

Through genealogical research, the study team concluded that the Icelanders who carry the Native American variation are all from four specific lineages, descended from four women born in the early 1700s.

Those four lineages, in turn, likely descended from a single woman with Native American DNA who must have been born no later than 1700, according to study co-author Ebenesersdóttir.

The genealogical records for the four lineages are incomplete before about 1700, but history and genetics suggest the Native American DNA arrived on the European island centuries before then, study co-author Helgason said.

He pointed out that Iceland was very isolated from the outside world in the centuries leading up to 1700, so it's unlikely that a Native American got to the island during that period.

As further evidence, he noted that—though the Icelanders share a distinct version of the variation—at least one lineage's variation has mutated in a way that would likely have taken centuries to occur, the researchers say.

This unique signature suggests that, in Helgason's words, the Native American DNA arrived in Iceland at least "several hundred years" before 1700.

DNA Evidence Fragmented

Despite the evidence, for now it's nearly impossible to prove a direct, thousand-year-old genetic link between Native Americans and Icelanders.

For starters, no living Native American group carries the exact genetic variation found in the Icelandic families.

But of the many known scattered versions that are related to the Icelandic variant, 95 percent are found in Native Americans. Some East Asians, whose ancestors are thought to have been the first Americans, carry a similar genetic pattern, though.

The Inuit, often called Eskimos, carry no version of the variant—a crucial detail, given that Greenland has a native Inuit population.

Helgason speculates that the precise Icelandic variation may have come from a Native American people that died out after the arrival of Europeans.

It's possible, he added, that the DNA variation actually came from mainland Europe, which had infrequent contact with Iceland in the centuries preceding 1700. But this would depend on a European, past or present, carrying the variation, which so far has never been found.

History Not Much Help?

Complicating matters, the historical record contains no evidence that Icelandic Vikings might have taken a Native American woman back home to their European island, scholars say.

"It makes no sense to me," said archaeologist and historian Hans Gulløv of the Greenland Research Centre in Copenhagen.

For one thing, experts say, nothing in excavations or the Icelandic sagas—thought to be rooted in fact but not entirely reliable—suggests a personal alliance of the kind reported in the new study, published online November 10 in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

The Saga of Erik the Red does tell of four Skraeling boys—the Norse term for the American Indians—who were captured by an Icelandic expedition and taken back to Greenland, said Birgitta Wallace, an emeritus archaeologist for Parks Canada who has written extensively about the Norse.

But Icelanders spent little time in North America, and their relations with the people they found living there seem to have been mostly hostile, she said. The stories "talk in not very flattering terms about [Native Americans'] looks," Wallace said.

One saga, she added, tells of explorers "who found some sleeping natives—and they just killed them."

Time to Rewrite Viking History?

"What we have is a big mystery," study co-author Helgason admitted.

It won't be solved, he said, until the DNA pattern's origins are nailed down, perhaps through the study of ancient DNA—for example, if an ancient Native American bone is found with DNA closely matching the Icelandic variant.

But at least one skeptic suggests it's a mystery worth pursuing.

"I have no historical sources telling me" that Vikings took Native Americans home, said Gulløv, the historian. But often when new data is uncovered, he added, "we have to write history anew."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New York City Solution to 'in park chess' Dilemma

This was big news in New York the past week and more.  I'm glad to see it's been resolved - I hope.

From The New York Times
November 22, 2010, 1:00 pm
With Its Move, City Gives Chess Players a New Spot

The accidental chess rebels of Inwood Hill Park now have a legal place to play — as long as they bring their own boards.

In the wake of the uproar over a police crackdown on men playing chess at tables within the gates of a playground, where adults unaccompanied by children are banned, the parks department installed two long picnic tables at the park on Saturday.

The tables, separated from the playground by two tennis courts, are intended to give the players an alternative site, a parks spokesman said. “They’re not in the playground, but they’re close enough to where these guys like to hang out,” he said.

The installation was reported Sunday by the Manhattan news Web site DNAInfo, which also reported that about 20 people attended a rally for the chess players on Saturday.

The parks department has not yet decided whether to install standard chess tables with the boards stenciled onto them, the spokesman said Monday. “This is something that we did right away to appeal to the community,” he said. “Down the road, I’m not sure.

More information at Manhattan Times.

2010 Asian Games Team Chess Championships

Those Indian women just keep the pressure up, round after round.  I love it!!!  And I love the coverage they are receiving in their national press, too!

From The Times of India
Indian women maintain joint top after six rounds
PTI, Nov 23, 2010, 07.10pm IST

GUANGZHOU: Indian women are on course for a chess medal as they scored an easy victory over Bangladesh to remain on joint top along with China after six rounds of the chess competition in the Asian Games on Tuesday.

Harika Dronavalli settled for a draw against her lower-rated opponent Shamima Akter Liza in the first game before her three compatriots registered comfortable wins to guide India to a 3.5-0.5 victory.

Eesha Karavade did not have to sweat much to beat Sultana Sharmin while Meenakshi Subbaram and Nisha Mohota saw off Nazrana Khan and Masuda Begum in no time.

With three rounds to go, Indian women are on joint top with China on 11 points, three clear of joint third Uzbekistan and Vietnam, who are on eight each.

The following from

Rank after Round 6

Rk.SNoTeamGames  +   =   -  TB1  TB2  TB3 

What Are They???

Hmmmm - those two "eyes" staring out at me across the millennia?  Fascinating.

From People's Daily Online
20,000 years artificially drilled specimen found in Henan
17:19, November 22, 2010

On Nov. 21, the archeological team from the State Administration of Cultural Heritage discovered two ostrich eggshells with stone-drilled holes that date back 20,000 years ago at the Xuchang primitive ruins.Experts from the team said that the two ostrich eggshells were the earliest artificially stone-drilled specimens that were ever found in Henan Province and the best-preserved specimens found in China over the age of 10,000 years, which showed that the primitive craftsmanship had developed to a quite high level even at that time. (Photo by Yufen/

Was Overhunting of Deer Responsible for a Cultural Collapse?

Deer horns, Sheikhi Abad Mound, Iran
From the earliest times that mankind inscribed images on the walls of caves, and carved wooden images, stone and crafted metal, various species of deer have been captured in those images.  They were food, of course, but they were more, much more.  In shamanic cultures, a shaman often took the "form" of a deer. A deer was considered an essential link between humans and the realm of the spirits.  In some cultures, the deer was worshipped.

The "balance of nature" is a concept with which we are all familiar.  What happens when the balance tips in a way we don't like - but don't necessarily recognize until it's too late?  Disaster...

From The LaCrosse
Cave images could indicate overhunted deer led to culture’s downfall
By KJ Lang
Posted: Sunday, November 21, 2010 12:05 am

Robert “Ernie” Boszhardt stumbled 12 years ago upon a sight many Wisconsinites hope to see this weekend — deer.

But Boszhardt wasn’t hunting in the woods. He was 150 feet inside a sandstone cave in the Kickapoo Valley, his flashlight in the damp darkness revealing 20 figures drawn upon the stone.

The abstract designs inside Tainter Cave were of hunters with bows and arrows, taking aim at deer — some with images of fawns in their abdomen.

And they weren’t the spray-painted graffiti he so commonly encountered on cave walls in Wisconsin, but the remnants of a culture that lived in the region roughly 1,000 years ago.

“You’re staring at this wall in wonderment,” Boszhardt said. “I knew it was old, but what did it mean?”

As it turned out, it offered a possible explanation of what led to the disappearance of the people who painted those ancient images.

Effigy Mounds culture

Boszhardt and fellow archaeologist James Theler had since the early 1980s pondered what led to the deterioration of the Effigy Mound people — a culture best known for the construction of thousands of animal-shaped mounds that abruptly ended sometime after about 1050 A.D.

“They just disappear off the map,” Theler said.

The men, now both retired from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Sociology and Archaeology Department, believe the cave images tell what might have happened.

The Effigy Mound people were among the first to use bows and arrows to more effectively hunt their primary food source, white-tailed deer. They ate well and the population flourished but eventually reached a critical mass that could not be supported by the dwindling number of deer.

The pregnant deer in the cave art indicate a late winter or early spring hunt, which would be very rare, Theler said.

“It’s suggestive of desperation, because native peoples are usually pretty careful about not overusing resources,” he said.

The theory clicks with other evidence uncovered in the Driftless Area, they said. Archaeologists found the Effigy Mound people showed less seasonal movement in the years leading up to their disappearance. People remained on the Mississippi River year-round, harvesting large numbers of mussels — an indication the population had become too large to relocate to more ideal inland wintering areas.

The pair have published a book and two papers on their theory, including in the national archaeology journal American Antiquity in 2006.

Research continues

The Tainter Cave, on private property, has been sealed off to the public to better preserve the discoveries. Archaeologists have thoroughly examined about 100 drawings.

Boszhardt and Theler continue to work toward proving their theory. They are examining deer jawbones recovered from rock shelter excavations in Grant and Iowa counties to determine their age. If they discover more young deer were killed, it would support that overhunting put pressure on the deer population.

Boszhardt and others from the National Science Foundation also are investigating how a culture called the Mississippians moved into the region and might have influenced what became of the Effigy Mound people.

The images in Tainter Cave don’t just hold a message about the past but perhaps the future as well, the researchers said.

Modern civilizations still run into problems when critical resources — such as a primary food source — become rare, Boszhardt said.

“Humans have the tendency to increase in numbers and overexploit resources,” Theler said. “By the time they’ve realized, it is often too late to change the course of events. We are not very good stewards of our land and we should think more about past examples.”

Copyright 2010 All rights reserved.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Easy Three Ingredient Pasta Recipe

Hola darlings!

As I'm sure you are, I'm busy with revving up for the holidays and tonight is no exception. Right now we are heading into our busiest six months of the year (November through April 15 next)  at the office, so it's double time.  I am still not adjusted to daylight savings time and until December 21 when I KNOW thereafter days will start to get longer a few minutes each day, it's a struggle to get up in the dark (6 a.m.), come home in the dark (after 5 p.m.), and not want to crawl under the covers of my comfy bed and shoot zzzzz's at the ceiling at 7 p.m. until the alarm goes off the next morning - in the dark!

I want to let you know about this dish I whipped up last night.  It's not an original idea - pasta, egg and - add your favorite ingredients.  I recall seeing a Bittmann versus the World on PBS a few years ago and it was pasta (spaghetti), onion, some herbs, I think mushrooms, and a couple of eggs.  It was easy, quick and although I couldn't taste it, it certainly looked delicious!

I love to cook, but since I do not have the best skills (think "Hell's Kitchen" reject) I keep things pared down and easy as possible.  I don't know what put the idea in my mind, but I thought, what the hell.  I happened to have fresh mushrooms because I had a craving for sauteeing some in butter (yum!) and had picked up an 8 oz. package a day before.  I was going to cook them up for myself one way or another.  I always have dried, store-bought pasta in the house, and I usually have eggs.  So I thinly sliced about 4 ounces of the button mushrooms and while I started sauteeing them in butter (about a tablespoon) in a large non-stick pan, I put on a single size serving of store bought dried thin spaghetti to boil - probably 4 ounces.  I lightly seasoned the mushrooms (salt and pepper only) and sauteed them to the level of doneness I like. 

When the pasta was just el dente, I drained it and, turning the heat off in the sautee pan, tossed the pasta into the pan, mixing it with the mushrooms and butter.  I had, while the pasta was finishing it's final minute at the boil, fork-whipped an egg in a bowl and after the pasta was incorporated into the mushrooms and butter, poured it over the mixture in the hot pan, stirring with my trusty wooden spoon all the while.  After a few stirs in the pan the pasta was coated and the egg was cooked but not scrambled.  Must be served immediately - and I sure was ready.  It looked very good and was - delicious! 

After the fact, I thought a fab topping would be some fresh-grated whatever your favorite cheese is.  And next time, some sauteed onions added in.

The trick is the timing and residual heat in the pan for adding and cooking the egg.  The pan can't be too hot because the egg will scramble, which would no doubt taste very good anyway but not look so good (although it could probably be disguised with some grated cheese at the very end :))  The look you're after is a semi-glossy, no lumps egg-coated pasta.

Hmmm, maybe my technique is better than I thought...


Sunday, November 21, 2010

2010 Asian Games Women's Team Chess

Standings after R4:

Rank after Round 4

Rk.SNoTeamGames  +   =   -  TB1  TB2  TB3 

Coverage on the Indian Women's Team  from The Times of India:

Asian Games: Indian men slip, women win in chess
PTI, Nov 21, 2010, 07.26pm IST

In the women category, India pulled off a scintillating win over lower-ranked Vietnam, courtesy Tania Sachdev's brilliant win over Pham Le Thao Nguyen.

While Tania won her match, her teammates -- Harika Dronavalli, Esha Karavade and Meenakshi Subbaraman -- were denied victory by their respective opponents in other games.

International Master Harika began the show for the Indian women with a draw against World Grandmaster Hoang Thi Bao Tram.

Tania Sachdev then put India ahead with a win over Nguyen in the second game, before Esha, an International Master, and World Grand Master Meenakshi, split points with World Grandmaster Nguyen Thi Thanh An and Nguyen Thi Thoug Van respectively.

Indian women now share the first place with China with seven points after the fourth round.

2010 Aquaproft Polgar Sisters Chess Day

Love this 2010 photo of the world-famous chess-playing trio of sisters.  Youngest sister GM Judit Polgar (on the far right) turned 34 this year and is rejuvenating her chess career after curtailing her chess activities the past several years as she focused on marriage and raising a young family.  The sisters have been consistently featured in the press and chess events for at least the past 30 years.  Indeed, GM Susan Polgar (the first-born sister) won her first chess championship well before her 10th birthday in her native Hungary.  These days, Susan Polgar runs the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence at Texas Tech University and since 2007 has put together several top-flight international invitational chess tournaments featuring both seasoned players and rising stars. Middle sister Sofia, an International Master, is these days primarily an artist and also a mom (like her sisters), but on occasion she participates in chess-focused events such as that put on by Aquaprofit, which has put on top-rate events featuring the Polgars since 2007.

The official Aquaprofit website is in Hungarian, which I cannot read.  I copied this photo from Susan Polgar's chess blog :)

Modern Sanitary Sewer Practices Ushered in by Epidemics

Lest we forget, as the article demonstrates, we haven't come that far, when all is said and done.  And today, in the United States, we are facing 100 plus year old sanitary sewer systems and even older water delivery systems - and, even before the Great Recession, there was no money in municipal and state budgets to fix the ever-burgeoning repairs that must be done just to try to maintain the status quo.

Article from the English language French website

1832 - The deadly epidemic that helped shape today's Paris
Hidden Paris - Article published the Thursday 18 November 2010
By Molly Guinness

At the end of March 1832 Paris’s Hôtel Dieu hospital began to receive a steady stream of patients. They had a wide range of symptoms – apoplexy, fever, chest pains, vomiting, headaches. Most of them were dead within a day or two. A six-month cholera epidemic, which was to claim 7,000 lives in the next two weeks and 19,000 in total, had begun.

A trawl through the Hôtel Dieu’s records, housed today in city’s medical archives, reveals death grimly marching through the disease-struck city. The rare modern-day reader must peer at microfilm records to find a glimpse of thousands of brief lives and agonising deaths.

The first victims came from outside the city walls – from Oise, Meaux and the north – but within a couple of days, the Hôtel Dieu was receiving patients from almost every arrondissement.

The 12th, the ninth and the seventh arrondissements are the first to enter the records; but by 29 March almost every admission is for cholera and almost no one is discharged.

A 49-year-old man from the fifth arrondissement with heart problems, a cobbler with a fever, a lacemaker from the ninth arrondissement all die soon after admission.

By April, the whole city exuded a sepulchral odour, and the streets were crawling with hearses.

Doctors were perplexed by the range of symptoms; cholera could come upon its victims by gradual degrees or very suddenly.

The disease even disrupted a society ball recorded by German poet Heinrich Heine. A group of harlequins was part of the entertainment.

"Suddenly the merriest of the harlequins felt a chill in his legs, took off his mask, and to the amazement of all revealed a violet-blue face,” Heine recorded in his diary.

At first the crowd thought the performance was part of the entertainment. But soon “several wagonloads were driven directly from the ball to the Hôtel-Dieu, where they arrived in their gaudy fancy dress and promptly died, too.”

Victims were said to look like corpses days before they died, and some had ice-cold tongues.

The recognised cures for the disease seem a bit like clutching at straws – a hot bath infused with vinegar, salt and mustard, some lime tea and a sensible diet?

“With these precautions, we need not worry about an epidemic,” an official declared with wild optimism in August 1832.

While cholera swept through the city, there was little to be done, but afterwards Paris’s town planners did their best to make sure the disaster was not repeated.

Paris’s insalubrious housing and ancient public hygiene system, where people threw sewage into gutters running down the middle of the street, allowed the disease to rip through the city at an alarming rate.

The lessons of the outbreak shaped the city we know today.

“Cholera became an important factor in urban planning,” says historian Oleg Kobtzeff. “The idea of wider streets and sidewalks came as a result of cholera, as well as having a proper sewage system.”

Paris had an underground sewage system by the beginning of the 19th century.

Sidewalks were introduced and the gutters were moved to the side of the street. In most cases, at least - you can still see some streets in the Latin Quarter and the 13th arrondissement where the gutter runs down the middle of the road.

When Baron Haussmann became prefect in 1853, the hygienist movement had become the major element in town planning.

Getting rid of the labyrinths of slums was, of course, also useful for crowd control, especially in a city that had experienced 50 years of riots and revolts.

So Paris, like London, owes its drainage system and, in part, its broad and beautiful boulevards to a devastating outbreak of a deadly disease.

Did Neolithic People Use Ball-bearings to Move Massive Stones for Henges?

These engineering mysteries are fascinating.  Just how did the ancient peoples manage to build what they did with what they had on hand?  And hell, will any of the stuff modern man has built with today's technology stand the test of time and be around in 2424?

From the
Stonehenge mystery could rest on ball bearings
Thursday, 18 November 2010

Neolithic engineers may have used ball bearings in the construction of Stonehenge, it was claimed today.

The same technique that allows vehicles and machinery to run smoothly today could have been used to transport the monument's massive standing stones more than 4,000 years ago, according to a new theory.

Scientists showed how balls placed in grooved wooden tracks would have allowed the easy movement of stones weighing many tons.

No-one has yet successfully explained how the heavy slabs used to build Stonehenge were shifted from their quarries to Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.

Some, the "bluestones", weighed four tons each and were brought a distance of 150 miles from Pembrokeshire, Wales.

Attempts to re-enact transporting the blocks on wooden rollers or floating them on the sea have not proved convincing.

The hard surfaces and trenches needed when using rollers would also have left their mark on the landscape, but are missing.

Experts hit on the new idea after examining mysterious stone balls found near Stonehenge-like monuments in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

About the size of a cricket ball, they are precisely fashioned to be within a millimetre of the same size.

This suggests they were meant to be used together in some way rather than individually.

The Scottish stone circles are similar in form to Stonehenge, but contain some much larger stones.

To test the theory, researchers from the University of Exeter constructed a model in which wooden balls were inserted into grooves dug out of timber planks.

When heavy concrete slabs were placed on a platform above the balls, held in position by more grooved tracks, they could be moved with ease.

Archaeologist Andrew Young described the experiment in which he sat on top of the slabs to provide extra weight.

He said: "The true test was when a colleague used his index finger to move me forward - a mere push and the slabs and I shot forward.

"This proved the balls could move large heavy objects and could be a viable explanation of how giant stones were moved."

The team went on to carry out a life-size test funded by an American TV documentary maker.

To reduce costs, the scientists used relatively soft green wood rather than the hard oak that would have been plentiful in Neolithic times, when Britain was covered in forest.

This time, the researchers used hand-shaped granite spheres as well as wooden balls.

The results proved the technique would have made it possible to move very heavy weights long distances.

Professor Bruce Bradley, director of experimental archaeology at the University of Exeter, said: "The demonstration indicated that big stones could have been moved using this ball bearing system with roughly 10 oxen and may have been able to transport stones up to 10 miles per day.

"This method also has no lasting impact on the landscape, as the tracks with the ball bearings are moved along leap-frogging each other as the tracks get moved up the line."

Neolithic people were known to cut long timber planks, which they used as walkways across bogs, Prof Bradley pointed out.

Although the tests do not prove for certain that the ball bearing method was used, they show "the concept works", he said.

He added: "This is a radical new departure, because previous ideas were not particularly effective in transporting large stones and left unanswered questions about the archaeological record they would have left behind."

The next stage in the project is to provide mathematical evidence of how much force would be needed to keep a stone moving.

Ultimately, the scientists hope to conduct a full-scale experiment in Aberdeenshire using more authentic materials, stone balls and a team of oxen.

A Lost Roman Legion in Ancient China?

From People's Daily Online
New research body to help decode mystery of Western-looking villagers in NW China
20:04, November 19, 2010

Zhelaizhai residents with European characteristics.
Chinese and Italian anthropologists this week established an Italian studies center at a leading university in northwest China to determine whether some Western-looking Chinese in the area are the descendants of a lost Roman army of ancient times.

Experts at the Italian Studies Center at Lanzhou University in Gansu Province will conduct excavations on a section of the Silk Road, a 7,000-km-long trade route that linked Asia and Europe more than 2,000 years ago, to see if it can be proved a legion of lost Roman soldiers settled in China, said Prof. Yuan Honggeng, head of the center.

"We hope to prove the legend by digging and discovering more evidence of China's early contact with the Roman Empire," said Yuan.

Before Marco Polo's travels to China in the 13th century, the only known contact between the two empires was a visit by Roman diplomats in 166 A.D.

Chinese archeologists were therefore surprised in the 1990s to find the remains of an ancient fortification in Liqian, a remote town in Yongchang County on the edge of the Gobi desert, which was strikingly similar to Roman defence structures.

They were even more astonished to find western-looking people with green, deep-set eyes, long and hooked noses and blonde hair in the area.

Though the villagers said they had never traveled outside the county, they worshipped bulls and their favorite game was similar to the ancient Romans' bull-fighting dance.

DNA tests in 2005 confirmed some of the villagers were indeed of foreign origin, leading many experts to conclude they are the descendants of the ancient Roman army headed by general Marcus Crassus.

In 53 B.C., Crassus was defeated and beheaded by the Parthians, a tribe occupying what is now Iran, putting an end to Rome's eastward expansion.

But a 6,000-strong army led by Crassus's eldest son apparently escaped and were never found again.

Though some anthropologists are convinced the foreign-looking villagers in Yongchang County are the descendants of the army men, others are not so certain.

"The county is on the Silk Road, so there were many chances for trans-national marriages," said Prof. Yang Gongle at Beijing Normal University. "The 'foreign' origin of the Yongchang villagers, as proven by the DNA tests, does not necessarily mean they are of ancient Roman origin."

Prof. Xie Xiaodong, a geneticist from Lanzhou University, also sounded a skeptical note.

"Even if they are descendants of Romans, it does not mean they are necessarily from that Roman army."

Their mysterious identity has brought wealth and fame to some of the villagers.

Cai Junnian has yellow wavy hair, a hooked nose and green eyes. A DNA test in 2005 confirmed he is of 56 percent European origin. It made him famous almost overnight.

Reporters, filmmakers, historians and geneticists from around the world chased him. He was invited to meetings with the Italian consul in Shanghai and even appeared in a documentary shot by an Italian TV company last year.

His friends all call him "Cai Luoma," which means "Cai the Roman."

Cai's fellow villager Luo Ying, looks even more European. He has been employed by a Shanghai firm as their "image ambassador."

A Beijing film producer will spend millions to turn the villagers' story into a film.

The university's new research body is a platform for experts to further research the subject but "the research work will certainly be complicated," said Italian Ambassador to China Riccardo Sessa.

The center will also help Chinese learn Italian language and culture, he said. "More exchanges will certainly be helpful in unraveling the mystery."

Source: Xinhua
Some fascinating background information on the battle and the aftermath and the missing legionnaires in this post from 2005, about a Discovery program on the same subject.

See also Wikipedia entry on Crassus:

There has been speculation that seventeen years after the defeat of Crassus's forces by the Parthians, a detachment of troops, which was said to have used a typically Roman military tactic, had been captured by Chinese forces.[15] In this account, during the Battle of Zhizhi in 36 BC, a Han Dynasty army led by General Chen Tang encountered troops of Zhizhi Chanyu that were using "a fish-scale formation" -- which was hypothesized to mean the testudo formation. It has also been argued that the account of the Chinese historian Ban Gu, who lived during that time, implies that there were troops of Caucasian appearance fighting alongside Zhizhi Chanyu. In this account, the Chinese took these soldiers prisoner, but were so impressed by their courage and fighting abilities that they incorporated them into their army to defend the province of Gansu, calling them Li-Jien.[citation needed]

In examining this hypothesis, researchers had taken DNA samples to try to determine if the people in the village did have some European ancestry, even as they acknowledged that there would be little way of knowing whether the ancestors would have in fact been from Crassus's troops. Although they confirmed the DNA as being of "European origins," narrowing that down further than that was impossible based on the available supporting evidence.[16] The results of the DNA test do not support the hypothesis that the inhabitants of Liqian are related to the Romans; instead the authors conclude "the current Liqian population is more likely to be a subgroup of the Chinese majority Han".[17]

  1. ^ Spencer, Richard (2007-02-02). "Roman descendants found in China?". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  2. ^ Zhou R, An L, Wang X, Shao W, Lin G, Yu W, Yi L, Xu S, Xu J, Xie X, Testing the hypothesis of an ancient Roman soldier origin of the Liqian people in northwest China: a Y-chromosome perspective. J Hum Genet. 2007; 52(7): 584-91.
Could these be descendants of Tocharians?  Or descendants of the European peoples who settled in parts of the Tarim Basin?  The information about the bull worship and the "bull fighting dance" - that is particularly fascinating and very legionesque!  Legionnaires were big practictioners of Mithracism and worshippers of Cybele, both of which involved ritual bull sacrifice.  Neither the Tocharians or the even older peoples from the Tarim Basin evidenced such practices.  So - let's see what further genetic research reveals.  For my part, I tend to believe the Chinese historian Ban Gu who wrote about the encounter with the strange warriors in the first century CE:

[i]n the annals of the Han dynasty there is the record of the capture of a Hun city, by the chinese army, in 36 BC named Zhizhi, now known as Dzhambul, located close to Tashkent, in Uzbekistan.

It made a deep impression on Dubs that the Chinese recorded that they found palisades of tree trunks, and that the enemy had used a previously unseen battle formation at the gates of the city, namely a testudo of selected warriors forming a cover of overlapping shields in front of their bodies in the first row and over the heads in the following rows. These facts are reported in the biography of Chen Tang, one of the victorious Chinese generals, written by the historian Ban Gu
(32 – 92)
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