Saturday, July 14, 2012

Possible Temple of Demeter Discovered in Sicily

Archaeologists unearth temple to Demeter in Sicily

11 July, 18:17
Una delle statuette ritrovate
ANSAmed) - Rome, July 11 - Archaeologists have discovered what may be among the oldest remains at the ancient site of Selinunte: an ancient temple.

Inside, fragments have been found that help explain the site's significance: an offering to Demeter, the goddess of grain and agriculture; a small flute, made of bone and dating to 570 BC; a small Corinthian vase.

These findings are critically important in helping archeologists to date the temple where they were found, to around the 6th century BC - possibly the oldest in the archaeological area of Selinunte in Sicily.

They've been unearthed in recent months by a team led by Clemente Marconi of New York University, working with the Department of Culture and Identity in Sicily and Selinunte Archaeological Park Together, they've also identified the remains of a central colonnade and nearby are pottery shards dated from around 650 BC, including a long vessel decorated with grazing animals.

The research confirms assumptions made about the history and age of temple.

Particularly significant, researchers say, was the discovery of the flute, which suggests musical performances and dances related to worship of the goddess Demeter, depicted on a series of Corinthian vases found in the area.

Researchers still hope to better understand the dimensions and the age of the temple, within the context of the full archeological site of Selinunte. (ANSAmed).


Statue picture came from this article in Italian.  Who is She?  Is this an image of Demeter?  All the caption says (translated via Google Translate is "One of the statues found." 

The Peopling of America: Looking at Western Stemmed Points

This is a synopsis of recent research and current thinking on how various peoples arrived in the Americas, and when.  Stay tuned for further developments.  With new dating techniques now available and local colleges stepping up efforts to continue and begin new excavations in view of the federal government's massive budget cuts that formerly supported archaeological programs around the USA, I've no doubt we'll be reading about new insights and perhaps even paradigm shifts in dating.

Identity of First Americans Questioned

Ancient stone projectile points discovered in a Central Oregon cave complex have cast new light on the identity of the first Americans.
While scientists agree they crossed the Bering Strait during an ice age, no one knows the identity of the first people to spread across the North American continent.
For some time, these first Americans were believed to have belong to a single group, called the Clovis culture, named for the New Mexican site where their distinctive, 13,000-year-old projectile points were first found.
However, some have questioned this theory, and these newly discovered projectile points, the sort of stone tips added to spears, appear to add weight to these questions.
These stone points, a type known as Western Stemmed points, are narrower and lack the distinctive flute, or shallow groove, found on Clovis points. Researchers believe the two types of points represent different technologies, produced by different cultures.
"This brings into focus the concept that other people or perhaps even multiple waves of people bringing other technologies were certainly involved in the first colonization [of the Americas]," said researcher Dennis Jenkins, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon, in a podcast issued by the journal Science, where the work is published. 
Dating these Western stemmed points accurately was key, since others like them have been found elsewhere; they are common on the U.S. West Coast and in the Great Basin of Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and California.

These are generally believed to be younger than Clovis points. However, researchers have had difficulty finding materials that can be reliably dated at the Western Stemmed point sites, Jenkins said during a press conference yesterday (July 11).

Archaeologists often look at the decay of radioactive carbon atoms within organic material to determine its age. In Oregon's Paisley Caves, where the four new Western stemmed points showed up, the researchers found some of the ancient organic material they needed, most notably, in coprolites, or dried feces, carrying human DNA.

The coprolites appeared to have been left behind at about the same time as the nearby projectile points.

Radiocarbon dating put the coprolites and other organic samples located near the points at more than 13,000 years old. The team examined the sedimentary layers and the artifacts to determine if the sediment, and as a result the timeline preserved as new layers are laid down, had been disrupted or if the samples had been contaminated.

As a result, they determined that the projectile points — which were broken and appear to have been cast aside as garbage — were as old or older than Clovis points found elsewhere.
"The radiocarbon dates we got have answered the question, are Western stemmed points as old as Clovis. It's been debated since the 1970s, and we have established that fact beyond question," Jenkins said in the podcast. "It certainly reinforces or substantiates, if you will, the concept that there were multiple cultural influences here during the Pleistocene [when the Americas were first colonized]."
The research is detailed in Friday's (July 13) issue of the journal Science.

Sheboygan's Chess in the Park Hopes to Grow Future GMs

My chess buddy, Ellen Wanek!  Give a shout-out and a hearty round of applause, please!

Article from The Sheboygan Press Online

Of kings, queens and castles: Chess in the Park helps children improve game during summer

11:36 PM, Jul 13, 2012

There's no doubt in Ellen Wanek's mind the popularity of chess has grown in local schools.

So to continue students' excitement about the strategy-filled board game during the summer months, Wanek, the chess coach at four area schools, began a weekly club known as Chess in the Park. Each Monday from 6 to 8 p.m., elementary, middle and high school chess club members bring their families and friends to Vollrath Park to play chess.

Wanek — the chess coach at Lake Country Academy, Lincoln-Erdman Elementary School, Horace Mann Middle School and Sheboygan Christian School — said she promotes chess as much as possible because of the mental development it creates in children who play. She said research has shown that chess improves students' IQ, math skills, reading skills, critical thinking skills and it develops memory.

"But here's something really special," Wanek said. "Chess develops into your thinking that you actually think through the consequences of all your actions. At tournaments, when kids are under a lot of pressure, they're able to develop a sense of self-control and discipline, where they think through the consequences of a multitude of different choices. That's life-changing in the lives of children."

The large crowd (about 30 people usually play each week) at Chess in the Park this past Monday night included players of all ages, between 4 and 61 years old, and was a promising sight for local chess enthusiasts, like Plymouth High School chess coach Stephan Des Moulin.

"There's a lot of schools here in Sheboygan that are getting a good following in the chess clubs," Des Moulin said. "There are some pretty talented young players."

Students from all different schools have a chance to connect at Chess in the Park, along with their parents and siblings. Des Moulin said it's a good way to get kids to view chess as a fun activity, rather than a school-only activity.

(For instance:) Avinash Murthy, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Lake Country Academy, has been playing chess since he was 3. His grandfather taught him how to play, and this past school year he played competitively as a part of his school's newly formed chess club.

2012 Milwaukee Summer Challenge

Hola darlings!  Taking place right now down at the Wyndham Milwaukee Airport Hotel on Layton just south of Howell Avenue -- a nice playing venue. 

To update, I visited the blog of my adopted chess club, Southwest Chess Club, and as of about 9:30 last night there were 61 pre-registered players.  When official play began this morning, there were 75 PLAYERS!  A fantastic walk-up registration the morning-of and a great turnout for this first-ever Milwaukee event. 

No official results posted yet.  It's going to be a long busy day for the organizers with rounds at 10:00 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.!  EEK! 

I'm not sure how this all works with prizes.  The prizes advertised were for a registration of 40 players.  Since there were nearly double that amount, what does that mean for prizes?  I've no idea.  I should ask! 

I am eager to see if any more chess femmes registered this morning.  I'll let you know as soon as I do.  Stay tuned for more...  Meanwhile, Ellen Wanek and I are mixing up our pawns in a game over at  She snatched a pawn from me, curses!  But I have a few tricks up my sleeve, bwaahaahaa!  I won't go down without a nasty bloody fight, Ellen.  You may outrate me by 300 points, but you don't scare me at all.  Ha!  You're just too nice.

Friday, July 13, 2012

2012 Milwaukee Summer Challenge: Prize Update!

You read it here first!  (Sounds like an old International Chessoid headline!)  Yep, Goddesschess is giving an opportunity for some G-chess love to be spread among male and female players alike by increasing the kitty for Best Game Prizes.   More below --

Because we now know that there will not be at least two (or any) females competing in the Master/Expert section of the 2012 Milwaukee Summer Challenge, we have decided to allocate the $100 in prize money set aside for a chess femme prize in that Section as follows:

(1):  U-2000 Section, top female finisher prize is increased by $25 to $100
(2):  U-1500 Section, top female finisher prize remains at $50, and a second place prize of $25 is added
(3):  U-1000 Section, prize qualification ($25 for top female finisher) is reduced to two female players competing in the Section from three

$50 left over from the intended prize for a chess femme competing in the Master/Expert Section has been donated to the Best Game Prizes fund to increase it accordingly.  This is the original Best Game Prizes structure:

Best Game Prizes: Master/Expert Section $50; U2000 Section $25; and U1500 Section $25.)

We at Goddesschess hope that some chess femmes will submit their games - from whatever Section they play in - for consideration as a best game.  We all know that those male chess masters and experts play a lot of boring chess against each other - snore... even if no one is rude enough to mention that fact.  Oops.  Pretend you didn't just read that :)

2012 Milwaukee Summer Challenge

There's still time to register - you can register tomorrow prior to the tournament's start!  There has been a great turn-out for the premiere of this event.  Southwest Chess Club went out on a limb to put this together (they are not a large or particularly well-financed chess club, by any means!) and I'm so happy to see players coming out in support!  With this kind of participation, I hope we will see a 2013 Milwaukee Summer Challenge.

Milwaukee Summer Challenge, July 14-15, 2012

5SS; G/120 with 5 second delay; 4 Sections: Master/Expert (closed), U2000, U1500, and U1000.

Wyndham Milwaukee Airport Hotel, 4747 S. Howell Avenue, Milwaukee, 414-481-8000 (mention Southwest Chess Club for $79 room rate).

EF: $40 All Sections (except U1000); U1000 Entry Fee: $25; all $5 more after 7/11. Prizes based on 40 total entries.
Master/Expert (closed section): 1st-$300, 2nd-$200, 3rd-$100;
U2000: 1st-$150;
U1500: 1st-$80;
U1000: 1st-$50.

Reg: 8:30-9:30; Rds: Saturday, July 14: 10:00am, 2:30pm, and 7:00pm, Sunday July 15: 10:00am and 2:30pm. ENT: Allen Becker, N112 W17033 Vista Court, Apt. D, Germantown, WI 53022; Questions: TD Tom Fogec, 414-405-4207 (cell) (Best Game Prizes: Master/Expert Section $50; U2000 Section $25; and U1500 Section $25.)

You can take one 1/2 point bye in any round. You need to request the bye prior to the start of the tournament. All bye requests are irrevocable (you may not change your mind at a later time).


Note: Anupama Rajendra, winner of the National All Girls Championship recently held in Chicago, has entered this weekend's event.

Goddess Chess Prizes for this event:
(1) in Master/Expert, $100 to top scoring female finisher provided at least 2 females play;
(2) in U2000, $75, to top scoring female finisher provided at least 2 females play;
(3) in U1500, $50, to top scoring female finisher provided at least 3 females play;
(4) in U1000, $25, to top scoring female finisher provided at least 3 females play;
There are no tie-breaks; if tie score the prize money is split; and
Must score a draw or win in any section to qualify for prize.

Many thanks to GM Susan Polgar's mighty blog for picking up the story and publishing it for Southwest Chess Club.

Whoop whoop whoop!  So happy about Anupama Rajendra coming to play at the Challenge! 

According to Southwest Chess Club's blog info (I'm writing this at 7:30 p.m. more or less, so there will probably be later updates), current registration:

Master/Expert:  11
U-2000:  22
U-1500:  19
U-1000:  8

Two Huang sisters are playing!  Two Ulrich sisters are playing!  A national female champion is playing! 

Stay tuned -- we're doing some tinkering with the prizes for the chess femmes, but we need to clear things with the organizers first!

Virgin Mary: Limited Time Only, Now Appearing in Tree

From the San Francisco Chronicle Online

Faithful see Virgin Mary in tree, flock to NJ city

WEST NEW YORK, N.J. (AP) — People are flocking to a tree in northern New Jersey where some say they see the image of the Virgin Mary.

Makeshift shrines have sprung up by the tree in West New York. People have been praying, crying and leaving flowers and candles as they look at the small opening where the bark was stripped away.
A fence and other barricades also have been set up around the tree, which is in a sidewalk along a commercial strip.

Newark Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness tells The Journal of Jersey City ( the image is likely "some discoloration that resembles Our Lady of Guadalupe."

Some prior Virgin Mary sightings I've reported on -- a note -- Blogger changed its formatting protocols without telling anyone ahead of time in 2008, and so many of my prior posts that used to be perfectly formatted lost ALL of their formatting when the change-over was made.  There are just too many prior posts that have had their formatting destroyed to go back and try to fix them all -- I'm not even going to bother!  So, please bear with the block structure with no paragraph breaks or differentiation for different size/color/types of fonts, etc.

Virgin Mary Sightings to Be Investigated By Vatican
July 3, 2008

Virgin Mary in a Tree Trunk
August 28, 1008

Worship at Site of Virgin Mary Apparition Banned
February 5, 2009

Irish Spot Virgin Mary in Tree Stump, Oy Vey!
July 10, 2009

Donegal Shrine Virgin 'Comes to Life' (not a Virgin in a tree - a Virgin in a statue of the - Virgin!)
October 27, 2009

"Mother of God" Making Miracles Near Green Bay, Wisconsin
July 15, 2011

The Virgin seems to have an affinity for trees and tree stumps, doesn't she.  This could not possibly be because she was a goddess of nature for thousands of years before she was adopted by the Roman Catholic Church as its Mother of God  (Theotokos)-- surely not! 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Royal Mongolian Burial Discovered in Salt Mine

This was under "Latest News" at Minerva Online -- no date attached, so I really have no idea how current this story might be (possibly May, 2012):

Royal Mongolian mother and child found in salt mine

The mummified bodies of a Mongolian queen and her baby have been discovered in south-west Mongolia, in the territory of Bayankhongor, near the Chinese border. The bodies were recovered from a salt mine by a team of researchers from the National University of Mongolia after the possibility of burial sites in rock caves was raised by the governor of the local administrative district. It was feared that the caves, which contain rock salt, could be exploited by miners with detrimental effect on the integrity of the sites. Thought to belong to the Yuan Dynasty, the dominant power in Mongolia and northern China between 1271 and 1368, the cave contained the mummified woman, and a child wrapped in a sheepskin. The burial was identified as royal by the presence of numerous high-prestige objects including a royal headdress with copper and pearl ornamentation, copper earrings, a mirror and a comb. The remains of a woman, reckoned to be aged 60, with remnants of clothes, a belt buckle, and a wooden bow was also unearthed. Experts are currently working to stabilise and preserve the objects and with a view to showing them in the exhibition, Chinggis Khaan and Archaeological Discoveries of Mongolians, which will be held to celebrate the 850th birthday of Genghis Khan later this year in Kharkhoran Museum.

Alexander Ekserdjian

Oh please! Unless the rules of nature have changed drastically in about 500 years, no way was a 60 year old woman the mother of an "child" unless the child was at least 10 to 12 years old!  Give me a break! There is no way really, of knowing if there was even a relationship between the woman and the child unless/until DNA testing is done or some names are found or a couple of inscriptions that describe who the woman and child are.  For all we know at present, the child could have been a human sacrifice and the buried woman was never a mother at all!  Have they done a virginity check???  (That's a joke, people!)

Queen Victoria's Mysterious 'Inca' Crown

What a fabulous story! From Minerva Online

A gold crown presented to Queen Victoria in 1862 has always been thought of as a symbol of power from the Inca civilisation, but new research reveals that its origins may be even more intriguing.
Deborah Clarke of the Royal Collection, who began researching the crown's history in preparation for the exhibition Treasures from The Queen's Palaces, asked two experts at the British Museum to look at this extraordinary object. During testing and examination, it was established that the crown, excavated in Chordeleg in southern Ecuador in 1854 and later presented to Queen Victoria by the president of Ecuador, may not have been made by the Incas.

The crown was examined by Dr Colin McEwan, Curator for Latin American Collections, and Susan La Niece, Senior Metallurgist in the British Museum's Department of Conservation and Scientific Research. They came to the conclusion that the style of the crown and techniques used to make it indicate that it was probably fashioned by skilled metalsmiths belonging to the Cañari ethnic group in the Cuenca region of southern Ecuador, where it was found.

The Cañari ruled a powerful confederation that was not conquered by invading Inca armies until the mid-15th century – one of the last areas to be added to their empire.

Dr McEwan has determined that this crown is part of an impressive hoard that includes objects now held in the National Museum of the American Indian, in Washington DC .

He explained that the crown 'was clearly used by a person of high status as an emblem of lordly or royal authority, forming part of a suite of golden regalia, along with bracelets and anklets.

'Stylistic details suggest that the crown belongs to a pre-Inca Northern Andean gold-working tradition, which encompassed the coast and northern highlands of Peru and the southern highlands of Ecuador … the crown could have been worn by a Cañari lord well before the Inca invasion in the 15th century.

'The crown's spectacular gold plume, though, suggests a second theory: it may have been made by local Cañari craftsmen employed by their royal Inca conquerors. This plume was designed to shimmer and move, to catch and reflect the sunlight, like the feathered plumes that Inca royalty wore in their crowns; it would have been a symbol of solar power and the Incas' divine right to rule.

'It's a little bit of a detective story, and we have only one part of the jigsaw puzzle,' explains Dr McEwan. 'The plume raises the question of whether it was commissioned by the Incas and provides valuable clues to the relationship between the Inca and the Cañaris. The application of innovative analytical techniques such as XRF [a non-destructive X-ray technique used to analyse metals] here at the British Museum allows us better to understand the technology deployed to make the crown, and also now to compare it stylistically with other far-flung objects in other museum collections.

' We are planning a scientific paper that will finally reconnect the crown to the related body of objects from the same tradition for the first time.' Lindsay Fulcher

The crown is on show in Royal Collection Treasures from The Queen's Palaces at The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh (0131 556 5100;
until 4 November 2012.

9th Philadelphia International Open

June 29 - July 3, 2012
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
I could not find information at the official website to match-up with what was reported at The Week in Chess.  I trust TWIC:

77 players - TWIC only reported top finishers, so I do not have a complete player list.

Winner was GM Abhijeet Gupta (IND 2644) with 7.5/9 and a prize of $2,000.00.  Top finishing females as reported at TWIC:

16th: WGM Eesha Karavade (IND 2353), 5.5
17th: WGM Padmini Rout (IND 2345), 5.5
22nd: IM Tania Sachdev (IND 2417), 5.0
24th: IM Nisha Mohota (IND 2321), 5.0
35th: WIM Viktorija Ni (USA 2228), 4.5

40th World Open

July 2 - 8, 2012
Philadelphia, PA
Official website

There are several different sections and different playing schedules.  A large contingent of foreign players comes over every year, many from India, to take advantage of the overlap with the Philadelphia Open.  I'm only reporting the Open and top U-2400 female finishers, plus the final table from the Women's Championship.

In the Open, a GM norm was scored by IM Eesha Karavade!

The Open title was won by GM Ivan Sokolov after an Armageddon play-off with GM Alexander Shabalov.  Both players scored 7.0/9.  IM Eesha Karavade (IND 2343) finished in a very respectable 19th place overall in the Open with 6.0/9 and took home prize money of $636.25. 

I hope I didn't miss any chess femmes -- I see the following in the Open (final standings):

54th: FM Kassa Korley (USA 2298) 4.5
56th: WIM Viktorija NI (USA 2264) 4.5
64th: IM Tania Sachdev (IND 2394) 4.0
68th: WGM Anna Sharevich (BLR 2258) 4.0
70th: WIM Nadia Ortiz (COL 2230) 4.0
82nd: Sarah Chiang (USA 2102) 3.5
100th: Jennifer Acon (USA 1832) 2.5

In the U-2400 Section, top female finishers were:

5th: IM Nisha Mohota (IND 2376) 6.5, prize of $897.63
13th: WGM Padmini Rout (IND 2354) 6.0, prize of $70.34
16th: WIM Iryna Zenyuk (USA 2327) 6.0, prize of $70.34

There was a Women's Championship this year, and two of the lovely Ulrich sisters (I have met them at the Hales Corners Chess Challenges held in April and October every year in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) participated.  Here are the final standings:

World Open 2012 Standings – Women’s Championship

Final Standings

# Name Rtng St Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Rd 4 Rd 5 Rd 6 Tot
1 Apurva Virkud 2020 MI W16 W7 W4 D2 W3 W5 5.5
2 Guijue Zhou 2260 CHN W9 W6 D3 D1 W4 W7 5.0
3 Jessica Regam 2021 PA W10 W13 D2 W5 L1 W6 4.5
4 WFM Anna Levina 2111 NY W14 D5 L1 W7 L2 W8 3.5
5 WFM Danitza Vazquez Maccarini 1975 PR W15 D4 W6 L3 D8 L1 3.0
6 Jennifer Acon 1923 CA W12 L2 L5 W13 W11 L3 3.0
7Rachel J Ulrich1818WIW11L1W14L4W10L23.0
8 Saithanusri Avirneni 1632 GA H— L9 W12 W11 D5 L4 3.0
9 Jayashree Sekar 1609 GA L2 W8 L11 L15 W13 W12 3.0
10 Alisa Kikuchi 1335 NY L3 D12 D13 W14 L7 W15 3.0
11 Nancy R Guimaraes unr. NJ L7 W16 W9 L8 L6 W14 3.0
12Anne E Ulrich928WIL6D10L8W16W15L92.5
13 Sheena Zeng 862 KS B— L3 D10 L6 L9 W16 2.5
14 Samhitha Dasari 1365 GA L4 W15 L7 L10 W16 L11 2.0
15 Srihitha Dasari 961 GA L5 L14 W16 W9 L12 L10 2.0
16 Christin Mitchell 1154 PA L1 L11 L15 L12 L14 L13 0.0

2012 Russia v. China Match

Hola everyone!  This information from The Week in Chess:

  • RUS-CHN Classic Wom
  • Sun 1st Jul 2012
  • Mon 9th Jul 2012
  • St Petersburg
  • RUS
  • 10 Players.
  • 5 Rounds.
  • Schev
  • Time Control: 90m:30m+30spm(1)

  • RUS-CHN Classic Wom St Petersburg RUS Sun 1st Jul 2012 - Mon 9th Jul 2012
    Leading Final Round 5 Standings:

  • RUS-CHN Rapid Women
  • Sun 1st Jul 2012
  • Mon 9th Jul 2012
  • St Petersburg
  • RUS
  • 10 Players.
  • 10 Rounds.
  • Schev
  • Time Control: 15m+10spm

  • RUS-CHN Rapid Women St Petersburg RUS Sun 1st Jul 2012 - Mon 9th Jul 2012
    Leading Final Round 10 Standings:

    I don't have team make-up because the official website is only available in Russian and I don't have time to go hunting down the team lists.

    Sunday, July 8, 2012

    Taliban Accused of Brutal Killing of Woman

    Locals vow revenge for Afghan woman's execution

    CHARIKAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Sayed Jalal furrowed his eyebrows in anger as he vowed to avenge the public execution of a woman in front of a large crowd not far from Kabul, brazen violence that spurred shock and sharp condemnation from Afghan authorities and the United States.
    The Taliban denied involvement in the killing in Parwan province, in which an unnamed woman's head and body were riddled with bullets at close range in punishment for alleged adultery.
    Authorities in Kabul directly blamed the Islamist group.  "We will take revenge for this. Their brutality and such inhumane acts are why we hate the Taliban," said the 42-year-old shopkeeper in Charikar, provincial capital of Parwan about 25 km (15 miles) south of Shinwari, where the killing took place.
    The execution was recorded in a three-minute video, obtained by Reuters, which shows a woman in a shawl being repeatedly shot in front of around 150 men perched on a hill, who cheer and praise the attackers, calling them "mujahideen", a term the Taliban call themselves.
    NATO's top commander in Afghanistan, U.S. General John Allen, called the killing "an atrocity of unspeakable cruelty".

    Others in Charikar, from where a dirt road leads to Shinwari through rough terrain, lamented what they described as the Taliban's increasing sway over their once relatively peaceful area, about an hour's drive west from Kabul.

    "The Taliban are creating fear and trying to rule us through terrorism but they will never succeed," said Charikar resident Najibullah, 30, prompting approving nods from a crowd of men who had formed around him in a busy outdoor market.

    The Taliban dismissed the claims: "We have no operational update about this," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said. Parwan's governor Basir Salangi said the Taliban carried out the killing in his province eight days ago.

    Despite the presence of over 130,000 foreign troops and 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, the Taliban have managed to resurge beyond their traditional bastions of the south and east, extending their reach into once more peaceful areas like Parwan.

    "This was a brutal act against the Afghan people by the Taliban," Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said.

    "They will be punished as they were punished 10 years ago and we will continue our struggle to eliminate them," he told Reuters, referring to their ousting from power in late 2001 by U.S.-backed Afghan forces after an austere five-year rule.

    The condemnation came on the day of a major donors' summit in Tokyo, where $16 billion in development aid was pledged for Afghanistan over the next four years as they try to prevent it from sliding back into chaos once most foreign troops have left by the end of 2014.

    In a declaration by summit participants, the importance of promoting women's rights was stressed repeatedly.

    The U.S. embassy in Kabul, condemning the public execution in the "strongest possible terms", said the hard-won gains of Afghan women made in the last 10 years must be protected.

    But Shah Jahan Yazdanparast, head of women's affairs in Parwan, which is connected to the Kabul ministry, said such naked violence as the woman's execution "will only increase our fear and concern as women in Afghanistan".

    Afghan women have won back basic rights in education, voting and work since the Taliban were ousted from power but fears are mounting both at home and abroad that such freedoms could be traded away as Kabul seeks peace talks with the group.

    "Afghan women and girls were looking to the international community to protect the progress they have made in the last decade and they have been let down," Oxfam Afghanistan's head of policy and advocacy, Louise Hancock, said on Sunday after the close of the Tokyo summit.

    Violence against women has increased sharply in the past year, according to Afghanistan's independent human rights commission. Activists say there is waning interest in women's rights on the part of President Hamid Karzai's government.

    Authorities blamed the Taliban for the stoning to death of a young couple in northern Kunduz province two years ago in a crowded bazaar, days after a pregnant widow was flogged and killed in western Baghdis province. The Taliban denied involvement.
    (Additional reporting and writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
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