Saturday, February 28, 2009

Things That Look Like "Chess"

One of my favorite parts of Goddesschess is dondelion's collection of art and artifacts, some of which are "things that look like 'chess'." While doing some research on the Gundestrup Cauldron (see prior post), I visited the website of the National Musem of Denmark, and came across this beautiful miniature replica of the original "Sun Chariot": The Sun chariot; small copy The sun chariot was discovered around 1400 BC when the bogs near Trundholm on Zealand went under the plow in 1902. The small six wheeled chariot was broken into many parts but this was not only done by the plow. The chariot must have been broken already when it was dumped in the bog during the Bronze Age. The pieces were salvageable, however, and formed a miniature sun disc on a horse drawn carriage. The sun disc is made from two bronze plates that have been fused together. One side has been covered in a thin layer of gold. The horse is delicately formed with patterns on the front end forming eyes, mane and reins. The casting has been done by a master. The whole piece is put together on a frame and is to be seen as a horse drawn sun on a six wheeled chariot. This miniature copy is approx. 20 cm long which makes it some what smaller that the original. It is made from bronze patinated metal with a gilded sun disc. The original is displayed at the Danish National Museum.
I find this piece incredibly beautiful, and I have a hard time wrapping my head around the thought that someone just tossed it into a bog around 1400 BCE because it was broken! This does not jibe with the Museum's theory that this was a sacred piece used by priests to demonstrate the journey of the Sun across the sky (and through the Underworld) each day. Who would dare just toss a sacred artifact into a bog, even if it was broken? Only a barbarian! Notice that the wheels have four spokes. I'm certainly no expert, but we know that the eight-spoked wheel first came into use around Armenia (far eastern Anatolia) around 1850-1800 BCE and by about 1650 BCE it was in use throughout the Middle East. Prior to the invention of the eight-spoked wheel, I believe the four-spoked wheel was the norm. So, guessing - it would seem that based on the design of the Sun Chariot's wheels, it dates back to BEFORE the eight-spoked wheel became the norm - in other words, prior to about 1650 BCE. This would make it older than the c. 1400 BCE date attributed to it. Yes - I do not know how long it took for the improved technology of the eight-spoked wheel to reach such a far-away place from the Middle East as Trundholm! Did it take 400 years? Hmmmm.... Something about this piece reminds me of the Minoan culture - perhaps it is the "lines" of the casting itself, or perhaps it is the spiral designs, which speak to me of the Goddess. The museum says otherwise, attributing the spirals to a "unique" form of Danish artwork during the Bronze age that signified the journey of the sun across the sky during the day and through the underworld at night, day after day. This explanation is akin to the ancient Egyptian explanation for the sun's journey across the sky and what happened to it when "night" came. I think the curators at the Museum are so eager to attribute this piece to the Bronze Age ancestors of the Danes that they are ignoring other parallels and iconography from other cultures that existed in the Bronze Age - and before. Did the Bronze Age "Danes" have the technology/metalurgical skills necessary to produce such an artifact? That is not something answered in the Museum's material on this artifact. Here is a short video on the Sun Chariot from the Museum. Here is what the Museum says about the Sun Chariot: The Sun Chariot – unique and sacred (scroll down to text) There is nothing else like the Sun Chariot – at least nothing similar has appeared since it emerged from Trundholm Bog in 1902. It is the National Museum’s absolute highlight. The Sun Chariot was made in the Bronze Age, c. 1350 BC, and shows the sun on its eternal journey, drawn by a divine horse. The elegant spiral ornamentation on the golden sun disc reveals its Nordic origin. The Sun Chariot still holds an almost magical attraction. And its message is universal: it reflects existence in an eternal cycle of alternations between light and darkness. Well, I certainly agree that the message of the Sun Chariot is universal - but I do not believe it has been definitively established that spiral decoration is Nordic in origin! Just for instance, the spirals at New Grange are much older (dating back to c. 3000 BCE) and owe nothing to the Danes. That example easily came to mind. I'm sure there are others. Perhaps the Sun Chariot was a precious and unique artifact that was imported from the Mediterranean Area/Middle East, perhaps in exchange for precious amber.

Ceraunos and Cernunnos

Hola darlings! It's cold here today, brrrrrr, the wind is whipping out of the north and although the sun has won the battle temporarily with the clouds, it's not a day to be outside. I did, however, do my mile walk to the supermarket and mile walk back, so I've got my exercise in for the day :) The old saw is true - March is coming in like a roaring lion - that north wind has been nonstop since yesterday's surprise early morning coating of ice. I'm waiting for some spackling to dry in the bathroom - I decided to move one of the towel racks so early this morning I pulled out the plastic drywall anchors and spackled over the holes - a second coat may be needed before I can prime. Except for that new spackling, I'm ready to prime over what I did yesterday, so no excuses, I should get off my butt, stir up the primer, and do it! But first things first. One of my favorite things to do when I want to blog about something interesting is to open up Walker's "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets" at random and start reading. Today the book opened to St. Ceraunos also evidently spelled Ceranus. Here is Walker's information: Ceraunos, Saint Canonized form of one of the phallic lightning-gods who descended into Earth's womb, like Lucifer, to become a lord of the underworld. Pagans sometimes called the lightning Gemma Cerauniae, the Jewel of Ceraunos - "jewel" in the same sense as the Tantric (male) Jewel in the (female) Lotus.(1) The Greeks thought when Ceraunos descended into the underworld, he became Charon, the ferryman of the Styx.(2) As a saint, he had little purpose other than to attract to Christianity those who had formerly worshipped him as a psychopomp. Notes: (1) Leland, p. 250. (2) H. Smith, p. 227. Okay, says I, so what is a psychopomp? A pompous ass who is nuts? I can think of a few of those... But - I digress. A psychopomp is actually a "conductor of souls" - gods who lead human souls through the after-world. Angels, Valkyries, certain birds (such as vultures) and animals (such as dogs) could also act as psychopomps. Here is what online has to say about St. Ceraunus: St. Ceraunus Feastday: September 27 614 A bishop of Paris, France. His relics are enshrined in the church of St. Genevieve there. Which tells me a fat lot of nothing! What did this bishop do to deserve sainthood??? St. Ceraunus is not listed in the Catholic Encyclopedia online. This is rather suspicious, because the Catholic Encyclopedia lists most everything Roman Catholic in the whole world. Perhaps Ceraunus was one of the "saints" that was kicked off the official list of "saints" during the reforms in the 1960s. His absence from the Catholic Encyclopedia leads me to believe that Walker's interpretation is the correct one. Homer Smith ("Man and His Gods," 1952) says the same as Walker - Ceraunus was the Christian incarnation of the Greek god Charon. (Image of Cerunnos from the Gunderstrup Cauldron, at Wikipedia) Here is Walker's entry on Cernunnos, who is a horned god. Hmmm, who do we identify as living in the underworld popularly depicted as having horns (and a forked or barbed tail and holding a pitchfork)? None other than old Satan himself, who is also Lucifer. Ceraunos and Cernunnos may be opposite sides of the same coin. Cernunnos Celtic version of the Horned God, shown in sacred art with antlers strapped to his head, seated in lotus position like a yogi.(1) This contemplative pose was typical of Gallo-Roman deities in the first millenium B.C.(2) Cernunnos was a consort of the Moon-goddesss, whose Roman name Diana may have been related to Sanskrit dhyana, "yogic contemplation."(3) Medieval romances spoke of pagan heroes who acquired godlike powers by falling into a trance of "contemplation" of the Goddess as lady-love.(4) Notes: (1) Campbell, Or.M., 307. (2) Larousse, 232. (3) Campbell, Or.M., 440. (4) Goodrich. 69. This interesting information on Cernunnos is from Encyclopedia Mythica: Cernunnos by Dr Anthony E. Smart "The Horned One" is a Celtic god of fertility, life, animals, wealth, and the underworld. He was worshipped all over Gaul, and his cult spread into Britain as well. Cernunnos is depicted with the antlers of a stag, sometimes carries a purse filled with coin. The Horned God is born at the winter solstice, marries the goddess at Beltane, and dies at the summer solstice. [So, he represented the original version of king sacrifice, which is very old]. He alternates with the goddess of the moon in ruling over life and death, continuing the cycle of death, rebirth and reincarnation. Paleolithic cave paintings found in France that depict a stag standing upright or a man dressed in stag costume seem to indicate that Cernunnos' origins date to those times. Romans sometimes portrayed him with three cranes flying above his head. Known to the Druids as Hu Gadarn. God of the underworld and astral planes. [Emphasis added]. The consort of the great goddess. He was often depicted holding a bag of money, or accompanied by a ram-headed serpent and a stag. Most notably is the famous Gundestrup cauldron discovered in Denmark. From Encyclopedia Britannica: Cernunnos: In Celtic religion, an archaic and powerful deity, widely worshipped as the “lord of wild things.” Cernunnos may have had a variety of names in different parts of the Celtic world, but his attributes were generally consistent. He wore stag antlers and was sometimes accompanied by a stag and by a sacred ram-horned serpent that was also a deity in its own right. He wore and sometimes also held a torque, the sacred neck ornament of Celtic gods and heroes. The earliest known depictions of Cernunnos were found at Val Camonica, in northern Italy, which was under Celtic occupation from about 400 bc. [This ignores extremely antique cave representations as noted by Dr. Smart, above]. He was also portrayed on the Gundestrup Caldron, a silver ritual vessel found at Gundestrup in Jutland, Den., and dating to about the 1st century bc. Cernunnos was worshipped primarily in Britain, although there are also traces of his cult in Ireland. The Christian Church strongly opposed him because of his powerful pagan influence. He was used as a symbol of the Antichrist and as such figured in Christian iconography and medieval manuscripts. For a definition of "Cernunnos (Celtic deity)", visit Merriam-Webster.

Indian National Open Chess Tournament for the Blind

Story from A Fight Between Black and White Submitted by Mohit Joshi on Sat, 02/28/2009 - 04:55. With their faces less than a foot away, the top seed and his challenger introduce themselves across the table. It’s the National Open Chess Tournament for the Blind and Srikrishna Udupa is one of the favourites. Udupa is expected to get through without trouble against Ajay Kumar of Kerala, but the two make small talk as they await the signal to start. “What do you do?” asks Ajay, to which Udupa replies: “I’m a chess coach. I used to coach for free, but I ran into some financial trouble, so I had to do this full time.” That’s a bit of an understatement. A gold medallist at the World Blind Olympiad last October, he is among the most popular coaches and players in Karnataka – his trainees include a Commonwealth silver medallist and a state champion. It’s an impressive story for a man who lost his sight after a cricket ball hit him in the face when he was in his tenth standard. “I used to be depressed for a while because I couldn’t play outdoor sports when I lost my sight,” says Udupa. “So I took to chess.” Bangalore is another stop for Udupa in his journey as a coach and player. With sight only in one eye, and that too not good enough to read a mobile phone from three or four inches away, Udupa, whose home is in Shimoga, travels all over the state, staying at his trainees’ homes and teaching them the game. He is a hit among children, whom he can wean on to the sport with a mixture of humour and storytelling. “With kids, he tells them stories between sessions,” says Shristi Shetty, Commonwealth (under-14) silver medallist in 2007. “He can change his methods according to the level of the player. I learnt the game from him. It’s been seven years, and I’ve been with him all this while.” “He’s a travelling encyclopaedia,” says Chandrashekar Upadhyaya, a national arbiter with All India Chess Federation, whose son is Udupa’s trainee. “He’s got a great way with children. My eleven-year-old son once sat with him for 13 straight hours – he uses jokes and stories to keep them enthralled. He has a great sense of humour – once he even got on stage to reel off his jokes, and everybody was in splits.” Udupa was a competitive player on the open circuit – his highest ELO rating was 2072 – but had to give up because the financial burden got too heavy. From 2006 onwards he played only on the blind chess circuit, earning his money by coaching junior players. In October last year, playing the fourth board, he won eight of his nine matches to get the individual gold at the [World Blind] Chess Olympiad, the first Indian to win the prize. Given that chess is the only mainstream sport that blind people can compete equally with ‘sighted’ people, Udupa says the problem is not so much the difference in skill, but in practise and matchplay. “Since we can’t see the board, it’s tougher to play during time pressure,” he says. “But there are a couple of players, like Sai Krishna and Darpan Irani, who can become top-level players.” Once that happens, the profile of the game might dramatically shift and a new generation of blind players might occupy greater space in the nation’s sporting consciousness. They can thank, among others, Srikrishna Udupa for showing the way. Dev S Sukumar/ DNA-Daily News & Analysis Source: 3D Syndication

Koneru Humpy to Play in Women's Grand Prix Event

From The Hindu February 28, 2009 Online Edition Humpy for Turkey event HYDERABAD: World No. 2 Koneru Humpy will take part in the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix chess championship to be held in Istanbul (Turkey) from March 6 to 20, according to her father-cum-coach Koneru Ashok. The Turkish event featuring three former world champions, is going to be held as the first one of the Woman Grand Prix series 2009-2010 organised by the FIDE and Global Chess BV. The FIDE Women Grand Prix is a new series of elite tournaments that will have six legs in various countries around the world with three tournaments every year. The next tournament is planned to be held in Nanjing (China) at the end of September. The introduction of the Grand Prix series also means that there will be a World Championship contest annually from 2010. In that year, the champion will be determined from the World Championship knock-out which will also be held in Turkey. In the following year, 2011, the world champion will face the winner of the Grand Prix series 2009-10 in a match for the title. — Principal Correspondent

Bangladesh Women's Chess Championship

From The New Nation Internet Edition. February 28, 2009, Updated: Bangladesh Time 12:00 AM Sharmin on top of National Women's Chess Championship Sports Reporter Sharmin Sultana Shirin of ITwo Soft Limited led the points table of the National Women's Chess Championship securing maximum six points after finishing the six round matches. International Women's Master Rani Hamid of Titas and Masuda Begum of Barisal jointly took the second position gaining five points each playing six matces. Women's FIDE Master Shamima Akhter Liza of Overseas School of Chess achieved the third position collecting four points from as many matches. Yesterday at the playing room of Bangladesh Chess Federation, Shirin beat reigning runner-up Liza while Rani Hamid outplayed Roksana Titly and Masuda overcame Nazrana Khan Iva. Today will be the rest day. Tomorrow the seventh round matches will be held at the same venue.

Chess in Sebastopol, CA

A nice program being started up at Copperfield's Books in Sebastopol: Mike Carey Talks Chess and Baseball Saturday Contributed by Sara Peyton - Posted: February 27, 2009 10:41:42 AM Mike Carey, the former superintendent of the Sebastopol Union School District, started writing after he retired in 1997. Now he has bragging rights to two new novels. On Saturday afternoon, he plans to discuss both of them at Copperfield's Books in Sebastopol. "Going the Distance: To the Kings, The Story of the National Chess League" (Seven Locks Press, $11.95) tells the story of two unlikely crusaders bent on proving that chess is a sport. The inspiration for Carey's second novel, "Heading for Home, A Baseball Odyssey" (Publish America, $19.95) is based on true events. It describes the journey of a young boy who flees Russia in 1917, resettles in Japan, and becomes the country's greatest baseball player. Recently I caught up with Carey and asked him about his reinvention as an author. "I started writing both books right after retiring. However, I had the idea for the chess book back at the time Bobby Fischer had made the game so popular in 1972," Carey said. "The baseball book came from two angles--the first being the true story of Victor Starffin and the other about what happened to Japanese-Americans right after Pearl Harbor, specifically in Sebastopol. " To help celebrate his books, Carey said Copperfield's is creating an ongoing location in the Sebastopol store for chess players. "Folks can drop in to play a game or reserve the board for a scheduled match. Players will be encouraged to sign up as individuals or teams (and name their respective teams). We are still working on the final details, but will be able to share those on Saturday," Carey said. He added: "For newer/younger players, we will encourage them to join the Copperfield's 64 Club. Once a youngster has completed 64 games, he/she is eligible for a special award. There will also be drawings for prizes (ranging from chess boards to t-shirts featuring the six teams in the book). Students will also be encouraged to design their own chess pieces (a display of various chess pieces will also be at Copperfield's). " Meet Mike Carey, Feb. 28. 1:30, Copperfield's Books, 138 Main St., Sebastopol.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mommy, Look What I Found...

Ohmygoddess! Family discovered 13,000 year old cache of stone-age tools in their front yard! (This photo release by the University of Colorado on Feb. 26, 2009, shows Douglas Bamforth, Anthropology professor for the University of Colorado at Boulder, left, and Patrick Mahaffy, show a portion of more than 80 artfiacts unearthed about two feet below Mahaffy's Boulder's front yard during a landscaping project this past summer. The artifacts, which may have been made during the Clovis period nearly 13,000 years ago, were neatly arranged in a cache near where this portrait was taken, suggesting that the users of these instruments may have intended to reuse them. (AP Photo by Glenn J. Asakawa/University of Colorado) 13,000-year-old tools unearthed at Colorado home By ALYSIA PATTERSON, Associated Press Writer Alysia Patterson, Associated Press Writer – Thu Feb 26, 3:34 pm ET DENVER – Landscapers were digging a hole for a fish pond in the front yard of a Boulder home last May when they heard a "chink" that didn't sound right. Just some lost tools. Some 13,000-year-old lost tools. They had stumbled onto a cache of more than 83 ancient tools buried by the Clovis people — ice age hunter-gatherers who remain a puzzle to anthropologists. The home's owner, Patrick Mahaffy, thought they were only a century or two old before contacting researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder. "My jaw just dropped," said CU anthropologist Douglas Bamforth, who is leading a study of the find. "Boulder is a densely populated area. And in the midst of all that to find this cache." The cache is one of only a handful of Clovis-age artifacts uncovered in North America, said Bamforth. The tools reveal an unexpected level of sophistication, Bamforth said, describing the design as "unnecessarily complicated," artistic and utilitarian at the same time. What researchers found on the tools also was significant. Biochemical analysis of blood and other protein residue revealed the tools were used to butcher camels, horses, sheep and bears. That proves that the Clovis people ate more than just woolly mammoth meat for dinner, something scientists were unable to confirm before. "A window opens up into this incredibly remote way of life that we normally can't see much of," Bamforth said. The cache was buried 18 inches deep and was packed into a hole the size of a large shoe box. The tools were most likely wrapped in a skin that deteriorated over time, Mahaffy said. "The kind of stone that's present — the kind that flakes to a good sharp edge — isn't widely available in this part of Colorado. It looks like they were storing material because they knew they would need it later," said Bamforth. Bamforth believes the tools had been untouched since the owners placed them there for storage. Mahaffy's Clovis cache is one of only two that have been analyzed for protein residue from ice age animals, Bamforth said. Mahaffy paid for the analysis by California State University in Bakersfield. A biotech entrepreneur, Mahaffy is familiar with the process. He is the former president and chief executive officer of Boulder-based Pharmion Corp., acquired by Celgene Corp. for nearly $3 billion in 2007. Mahaffy wants to donate most of the tools to a museum but plans to rebury a few of them in his yard. "These tools have been associated with these people and this land for 13,000 years," he said. "I would like some of these tools to stay where they belong." [Talk about an invitation to looters to visit your front yard, yikes!]

Friday Night Miscellany

Hola darlings! A landmark of sorts - we have passed 2,200 posts at our blog! When I awoke this morning it was to a world covered in ice. After taking a look out the front door and venturing a step off the front stoop, I did not even fetch my morning newspaper, and so my allowed cup of coffee per day (except when the investment club meets at Meyer's Restaurant) was drunk without the benefit of my usual reading material. I read an old decorating magazine instead :) Not venturing down the drive to fetch the paper at the road, needless to say I did not venture the 3/4 mile walk to the bus stop to go to the office today. Later, the sun came out and although the temperature stayed below freezing all day, the sun was strong enough to melt the ice off the driveway - not sure when that happened. When I checked around 4:30 p.m. the driveway was mostly ice-free, so I was able to fetch both newspaper and mail. In the meantime, I patched the nail holes and areas in the upstairs bath where the wallpaper border pulled away the paint, exposing coverless drywall. I sanded later. What a chore, yech! Tomorrow I shall prime, and do taping and drop cloths. I expect to get at least a couple of walls painted. But first, I must give everything one last go-over with broom and dust cloth to get up what sanding residue I missed today, etc. etc. Some items I found of interest: I read this article in the newspaper yesterday (today?) I can't say I'm surprised, but why were the scientists surprised by the findings? - what gives with those dudes anyway? Evidently they have very little active imagination! The Arctic and Antarctic regions are warming faster than previously thought, raising world sea levels and making drastic global climate change more likely than ever, international scientists said on Wednesday. More baloney from the evolutionists - world's oldest human footprint. Well, if it's human and it's 1.7 million years old, why are you still drawing mankind that old as apes? Wow! I'm watching this program right now on PBS - "The Linguists" - and it's fascinating. Wish I was 20 years younger with that energy, I'd go back to school in a flash and take up this as a calling. "What Happens When a Language Dies?" "Why You Might Not Realize You Are Dead" - hmmmm...okay...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Paraguay Reveals Evidence of Ancient Residents

From the Latin American Herald Tribune: Spanish Archaeologists Find Oldest Evidence of Man in Paraguay TORRELAVEGA, SPAIN – Spanish experts have found in Paraguay the oldest evidence of the presence of man dating back more than 5,000 years. The find was made during the course of an investigation being conducted into the heritage of the Pai Tavytera Indians. The remnants of ancient man's presence - which were not specified - were found in a hill known as Jasuka Venda by a team from the Altamira Museum, which is responsible for looking after the same-named cave containing the famous Upper Paleolithic cave paintings. The museum will present details of the Paraguay find at the International Congress on Cave Art which will be held in July. But museum director Jose Antonio Lasheras is scheduled to travel to Paraguay within the next few days to provide to the Pai people and Paraguayan society an advance report on the results of the investigation to date. The Altamira Museum said on Wednesday that, besides the most ancient evidence of a human presence in Paraguay, archaeologists had also found in the hill samples of cave art "unexpected till now ... (in the) footstep style," which is well-known in countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. According to the team, the discoveries lead one to think that the "region could be the origin and dissemination center for this type of cave art in almost all of South America." Jasuka Venda is the main cultural heritage site for the Pai Tavytera tribe of the Guarani people. The Pai Reta Joaju association of communities, the legal owner of the hill, pushed for the archaeological study in the area and requested the collaboration of the Altamira Museum to inventory its cultural heritage. The museum concluded that the Paraguayan government is interested in expanding the cooperation that has made possible the archaeological work, which also has been supported by elements of the Spanish government. EFE

Why Your Hair Might Turn Blue...

Public release date: 23-Feb-2009 Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology No longer a gray area: Our hair bleaches itself as we grow older New research report in the FASEB Journal gets to the roots of gray hair Wash away your gray? Maybe. A team of European scientists have finally solved a mystery that has perplexed humans throughout the ages: why we turn gray. Despite the notion that gray hair is a sign of wisdom, these researchers show in a research report published online in The FASEB Journal ( that wisdom has nothing to do with it. Going gray is caused by a massive build up of hydrogen peroxide due to wear and tear of our hair follicles. The peroxide winds up blocking the normal synthesis of melanin, our hair's natural pigment. "Not only blondes change their hair color with hydrogen peroxide," said Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "All of our hair cells make a tiny bit of hydrogen peroxide, but as we get older, this little bit becomes a lot. We bleach our hair pigment from within, and our hair turns gray and then white. This research, however, is an important first step to get at the root of the problem, so to speak." The researchers made this discovery by examining cell cultures of human hair follicles. They found that the build up of hydrogen peroxide was caused by a reduction of an enzyme that breaks up hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen (catalase). They also discovered that hair follicles could not repair the damage caused by the hydrogen peroxide because of low levels of enzymes that normally serve this function (MSR A and B). Further complicating matters, the high levels of hydrogen peroxide and low levels of MSR A and B, disrupt the formation of an enzyme (tyrosinase) that leads to the production of melanin in hair follicles. Melanin is the pigment responsible for hair color, skin color, and eye color. The researchers speculate that a similar breakdown in the skin could be the root cause of vitiligo. "As any blue-haired lady will attest, sometimes hair dyes don't quite work as anticipated," Weissmann added. "This study is a prime example of how basic research in biology can benefit us in ways never imagined."

Looting of Mohenjodaro Continues Unabated

From The Authorities look away as plunder of Mohenjodaro continues Tuesday, February 24, 2009 By Dilshad Azeem ISLAMABAD: Authorities appear to be dragging their feet in preventing the pilferage of precious artefacts from the Mohenjodaro site, according to an official document. A revised master plan for conservation and promotion of cultural tourism at the Mohenjodaro site awaits the federal government’s nod at a time when President Asif Zardari and PPP senior vice-chairman and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani are at the helm of affairs. But the Mohenjodaro site, falling under the federal government’s jurisdiction, is regrettably facing a double whammy: non-stop pillage of antiques and severe seepage and damage, reveals the document made available to The News. Major features of the revised master plan are archaeological conservation, acquisition of land, further excavation and conservation, landscaping and environment development, a tourism monument plan and an interpretation system. Additionally, it provides audio-guided tourist movement, construction of a model on-site museum, a tourist complex for overnight stay, construction of boundary walls, a regular power and water supply plus an ethno-archaeological park. The ministry of culture had rejected the original plan requiring funds worth Rs6,500 million in five years for the development of the site, with instructions to officials at the site to bring it down to one-third. “The revised one is also lying pending as only routine funds are being released,” one official revealed. The Antiquity Act of 1975, which provides for protection of and legal cover to archaeological and historical sites, is not being implemented, as far as the world’s one of the oldest civilisations at Mohenjodaro is concerned, the officials explained. “While the law stipulates that no trespassing can be done within 200 meters around a monument, in practice there is trespassing in the surroundings of most of the monuments,” reads the revised master plan, prepared by Mohenjodaro officials working at the site and provincial authorities at Sindh. A summary of the master plan was dispatched to the federal government for approval after reducing the cost but nothing in practical is insight to ensure stoppage of flux of antiques from the site and save it from damages due to seepage, official sources said while handing over the master plan copy to this correspondent. The document links non-implementation of laws and paucity of funds to the stealing and smuggling of precious artefacts and relics to other countries. “Due to trespassing, the monuments cannot be developed for attracting tourists and, therefore, strict implementation of the law is envisaged in MTDF to develop these culturally-rich sites for tourists.” The plan emphasises promotion of cultural tourism. Preservation and restoration of the Mohenjodaro site, also on the world heritage list, is an ongoing activity and, therefore, the situation is ripe for steps to develop the site in a befitting manner, because the focus of donors is on this part of the world, which must be exploited for presentation of site for posterity to come. At the very beginning, the Prime Minister Secretariat (Public Affairs Wing) UO No 01/JS (PA) 2008, dated May 13, 2008 instructed preparation of a comprehensive master plan that may be pursued by the ministry of culture. But despite its presentation and revision, the ministry does not seem to jerk into action. The mid-term development framework of 2005-10 (original) envisaged an investment of Rs6.5 billion in culture, sports, tourism and youth affairs over a period of five years. With the world’s oldest civilisation, exotic mountain beauty and splendid seasonal variety, Pakistan has immense tourist potential. But the key sector is still in early stages of development for a variety of reasons, including policy constraints, lack of infrastructure and inadequate tourist services. The mid-term plan provides that tourist arrivals and receipts are expected to grow at an annual rates of 10 and 20 per cent, respectively, to reach 850,000 arrivals and $500 million receipts by the year 2010 had it been approved and implemented from 2005-06. The plan also envisages milestones such as building a world-call management scheme in the Pakistan expert advisory committee, which is committed to the success and funding of the Mohenjodaro development works.

A Second Sphinx?

Hola darlings! It's raining hard right now, been doing so since about 5:30 p.m. Fortunately, I had my trusty umbrella with me and so during the walk home from the bus stop I was able to keep the rain out of my eyes and face! From about the waist down the rest of me was soaked, oy! Amazingly, there was still some 7 inch deep drifted snow left up near the garage door when I got home - I thought what was left after the past couple days of milder temperatures might have melted away today, particularly with the rain. Oh well. So, I was a good homeowner and tired as I was, and wet as I was, I pulled out the shovel and got even wetter while I shoveled away the rest of the snow. Anyway, while I'm slowly drying off I visited Daily Grail and came across this interesting story. I do not think I've posted about it before. Generally I'm very skeptical when it comes to this kind of thing - particularly speculation that there is a "something" "somewhere" deep beneath Giza that - take your pick - hides (a) endless treasure (b) the knowledge of the Universe (c) Goddess (d) gold-plated bon bons, but I have to say the author has put together a compelling argument that I think warrants further investigation with respect to the reality of a second "mirror" sphinx on the opposite of the Nile. A fascinating logistical problem, trying to pinpoint the possible location of the now destroyed second Sphinx. The article is from Histories & Mysteries, written by Antoine Gigal: A Second Sphinx at Gizeh? 23rd February, 2009 Antoine Gigal has unearthed historical evidence that shows that until the 11th century AD, a Second Sphinx existed on the Gizeh plateau, which has since been dismantled. In 1858, François Auguste Mariette was charged by the Duke of Luynes to verify the proposition of Pliny the Elder that the Sphinx had been constructed, and was not monolithic. He opened a trench near the pyramid of Khufu (4th Dynasty, 2589-2566 BC) and in a sanctuary of Isis (dating from the 1st century BC), where he found the so-called “Inventory Stele”. The stele states that “during the reign of Khufu, he ordered the construction of a monument the length of the Sphinx.” This logically concludes that the Sphinx was already there, and that the standard theory, which is that the Sphinx is contemporary with Khafre (4th Dynasty, 2520-2494 BC), is incorrect. No wonder therefore that the majority of Egyptologists try to turn the attention away from the Inventory Stele, as it poses too many problems. Some prefer to affirm that this stele was a list of the inventory of the temple of Isis and that it therefore dates from the 26th Dynasty only. Maybe, but Mariette, its discoverer, passed more than ten years researching the Gizeh plateau, and walked away with the conviction that the stele was erected by Khufu himself. It was Captain Giovanni Battista Caviglia who, in 1816, cleaned the Sphinx and its surrounding temples from the sand, and attributed the construction of the Sphinx to Khafre because of the proximity of his pyramid to the Sphinx. However, not a single inscription has confirmed this link and the Sphinx is not even in alignment to this pyramid. There is also a text from Pharaoh Amenhotep II (ca. 1448-1420 BC), in which the Sphinx is mentioned and is labelled “older than the pyramids”. Then there is the famous Dream Stele of Tuthmosis IV (18th Dynasty, 1420-1411 BC), in which certain Egyptologists (all too quickly) believe they have seen the name of Khafre on a piece of the inscription – today no longer present – on the stele, in the praises to a deity, even though the name is not there in reality, but only in the outline of a single syllable, which is long from conclusive in such an affirmation. They have furthermore inserted, in the translation, a second syllable that does not exist on the stele itself! Tuthmosis IV was only a prince and at the time, no heir to the throne. After a hunt, he reposed in the shadow of the head of the Sphinx, which was the only part of the monument that was still above ground – the underlying structures all covered by sand. In his sleep, he dreamed that the Sphinx asked him to be uncovered from the sands. In return, the Sphinx would give him power and fortune. Indeed, Tuthmosis decided to execute his dream and became soon afterwards Pharaoh, as well as very rich. However, that what is particularly interesting on the Dream Stele of Tuthmosis IV is the representation of the Sphinx. There are two! Equally, one can see that the two Sphinxes sit on architectural constructions, i.e. a small temple with a gate. The usual interpretation from Egyptologists is that these temples are merely the representation of that what is present in front and to the South of the Sphinx. However, such a conclusion should fail to satisfy anyone, as it is well-known that the rules of perspective for the ancient Egyptians were very strict, and no official artist would allow himself to deviate from reality to such an extent. Most importantly, in the Inventory Stele, there is mention of a lightning strike that struck the cap of a Second Sphinx, as well as a sycamore tree, a sacred tree in those days, which was burned by the same lightning strike. The lightning strike marked the beginning of the end of this Second Sphinx. According to archaeologist Michael Poe, who refers to papyrus fragments from the Middle Kingdom, the Second Sphinx was located face to face with the still-existing Sphinx. It was located on the other side of the Nile, and was destroyed by a violent rising of the river Nile ca. 1000 AD. The local people took stones from the structure to rebuild their villages. This thesis is confirmed by other texts, such as those of the great Arab geographer and scholar Al-I-Drisi (1099-1166 AD) in his two geographical encyclopaedias (Kitab al Mamalk, Al-Mamsalik, and Kitab al Jujori). He mentions the presence of two sphinxes at Gizeh, monuments he describes in great detail: one is in a very bad state, licked by the waters of the Nile, and several stones are missing. Other authors also mention the existence of two sphinxes. The famous historian Musabbihi writes about a “sphinx smaller than the other” (likely because the other one had deteriorated badly by that time) on the other side of the Nile, made from bricks and stones (Annals of Rubi II, ca. 1024). In total, these accounts presents conclusive evidence that in origin, there were two sphinxes: one, the Sphinx which still exists; a Second Sphinx on the opposite side of the Nile, made from bricks, at first damaged and in relatively modern times, the 11th century, used as a quarry, thus completely dismantling the structure. As to the precise location of the Second Sphinx, at the moment, there are three possibilities. The work is made especially hard as the area has many modern buildings. We only know that the Sphinx was on the other side of the Nile, a river that was much wider in those days, especially at the time of the inundations. The all-important question is, nevertheless, this: why is not more written about this Second Sphinx? What is there to hide? Why not mention its deconstruction together with the removal of the outer lining of the Great Pyramid, which was equally used by the people of Cairo for their homes. Perhaps the reason is more complex: because these Sphinxes hide something that gains access to something underneath the Gizeh plateau? Let us note that in the 10th century AD, the greatest Arab chroniclers and historians mentioned the existence of gates that provided access to subterranean galleries under the Sphinx. That, however, is a different story.

Antoine Gigal is a French writer and researcher, and the Egyptian correspondent for the French ‘L’Egypte’ magazine.Gigal’s early years were spent in Africa and South America, where her father worked as journalist and diplomat. This has taken her all over the world exploring diverse cultures and civilizations. She studied at Sorbonne Paris III University and the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations (INALCO), where she graduated in Chinese and Japanese languages and civilizations.

Speaking Arabic, Spanish, Italian and French, for the last 20 years, she was lived mainly in Egypt, and calls Paris her second home. Gigal lectures extensively on Egypt and leads several study tours of Egypt every year. Gigal has travelled to even the most remote archaeological areas and is able to gain access to monuments not open to general public. With the eye of an astute detective, Gigal has made a name for herself in France as someone who is able to bring new and first-hand information about the mysteries of ancient Egypt.

I'm wondering about that sacred Sycamore tree that was struck by lightening. How do you get a tree to grow in the middle of the desert? Well, of course, they were quite near the Nile - but you still need dirt, not sand, to grow things in. Did they haul in dirt by the wheel barrow full? Were there special attendants for the tree, who watered it daily during the hot stretches? Did they know about fertilizer (for instance, the American Indians whom the Pilgrims met when they landed at Plymouth Rock taught the English about using dead fish partially buried around the roots of corn plants to help them grow more - granted a couple thousand years later!) and mulching?

When the tree was destroyed by the lightning strike, was a sapling replanted, or did the tree resprout from the roots -- those would not have been killed by the lightning.

So many questions - and no answers.

According to Frazer's "The Golden Bough," Sycamore bough figured in the celebration of the yearly re-enactment of the funeral rites of Osiris as they were described in a "long inscription of the Ptolemic period:" On the twenty-fourth of Khoiak, after sunset, the effigy of Osiris in a coffin of mulberry wood was laid in the grave, and at the ninth hour of the night the effigy which had been made and deposited the year before was removed and placed upon boughs of sycamore. Lastly, on the thirtieth day of Khoiak they repaired to the holy sepulchre, a subterranean chamber over which appears to have grown a cplum of Persea-trees. Entering the vault by the western door, they laid the coffined effigy of the dead god reverently on a bed of snad in the chamger. So they left him to his rest, and departed from the sepulchre by the eastern door. Thus ended the ceremonies in the month of Khoiak."

No mention of what happened to the year-old effigy placed upon the "boughts of sycamore." Was it burned? Was it set on a special reed boat and set adrift on the Nile - perhaps "fired" like the Vikings did a thousand years later?


Also wondering if this quaint custom has any possible connection to the ancient Egyptian rituals:

In discussing "Relics of tree-worship in modern Europe," Frazer cited Sir Henry Piers "Description of Westmeath" writing in 1682: "Among ancient customs still retained by the Cornish, may be reckoned that of decking their doors and porches on the first of May with green boughs of sycamore and hawthorn, and of planting trees, or rather stumps of trees, before their houses."


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blast from the Past: Karpov v. Polgar

From the archives of Chessbase, a preview of the titled "Clash of the Titans" - past World Chess Champions GM Anatoly Karpov and GM Susan Polgar. It also provides a retrospective of Women's World Chess Champions: from the woman considered the first modern women's world chess champion, Vera Menchik, who was tragically killed during a bombing raid in London during World War II, through Bulgarian GM Antoaneta Stefanova (2004). There are some misstatements of and omissions of important facts and mispellings (Antoaneta - not Anoatneta) - did no one edit that article??? For instance, while it is noted that in 2004 GM Zhu Chen declined to defend her title in the WWCC knock-out tournament due to pregnancy, the entry on GM Susan Polgar does not mention that she also declined to participate in the WWCC match against Xie Jun in 1996. Tsk tsk. Today's chess femmes prove that brains and beauty go together like a hand in a glove, thanks in no small part to the intrepid chess femmes who forged the pathways ahead of them. Here is an updated list of women's chess champions: Name Years Country Vera Menchik 1927–1944 Czechoslovakia / United Kingdom Lyudmila Rudenko 1950–1953 Soviet Union / Ukraine Elisabeth Bykova 1953–1956 Soviet Union / Russia Olga Rubtsova 1956–1958 Soviet Union / Russia Elisabeth Bykova 1958–1962 Soviet Union / Russia Nona Gaprindashvili 1962–1978 Soviet Union / Georgia Maya Chiburdanidze 1978–1991 Soviet Union / Georgia Xie Jun 1991–1996 People's Republic of China Susan Polgar 1996–1999 Hungary / United States Xie Jun 1999–2001 People's Republic of China Zhu Chen 2001–2004 People's Republic of China Antoaneta Stefanova 2004–2006 Bulgaria Xu Yuhua 2006–2008 People's Republic of China Alexandra Kosteniuk 2008–present Russia Thanks to Mark Weeks' website for information and also Wikipedia. The "Battle of the Titans" was the subject of Susan Polgar's recent chess column for the Lubbock Avalance-Journal's online edition.

Hugo Chavez - Do You Hear Laughter, Pharaoh?

Best quote of the day: As a former Saudi oil minister once put it, the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones. Har! An eye-opening account about the not-too-long-ago (some 600 years or so) and the not-too-distant-tomorrow. Chavez, are you listening to the ghost voices of the past... From The New York Times: Cubagua Journal In Venezuela, Trying to Map Out Blueprint for Lost City By SIMON ROMERO Published: February 24, 2009 CUBAGUA, Venezuela — The first living things to greet a visitor on this desert island are the dogs. More than a dozen roam through the ruins of Nueva Cádiz, as if signaling that the city that flourished here five centuries ago at the start of the European conquest belongs to them now. Amid their howling, a weathered sign next to a garbage pile briefly describes the rise and fall of Nueva Cádiz, by 1515 a slaving center and the flash point for Latin America’s first frenzied commodities boom, built around pearls. By 1541, the sign says, “The depleted oyster beds put a final end to the city.” So it went for Cubagua. Before the conquistador Hernán Cortés plundered the riches of Mexico’s Aztec empire, Spain established a thriving outpost here on one of the Lesser Antilles’s most desolate islands, which is so dry that water supplies have to be imported from the mainland and nearby islands (as they were for Nueva Cádiz). Spanish officials sent the enslaved here and killed off Caribbean ethnic groups, like the Lucayans brought from the Bahamas as pearl divers. The Spanish laid out avenues and built an imposing city of limestone that was intended to serve as a base for conquering the rest of South America. Then, suddenly, they abandoned it. Nueva Cádiz is now largely forgotten, even in Venezuela. Scholars occasionally drop by for a glimpse into the dawn of the Spanish conquest, and archaeologists sometimes obtain permits to dig here. Otherwise Cubagua’s ruins, which might rank among the most important post-Columbian archaeological sites in the Americas, are a lost city — in effect, if not in name. “To this day I do not understand why anyone would build a city here,” said Enrique Suárez, 60, a fisherman who lives in a house built of driftwood and discarded tin on the edge of the ruins. Left vulnerable to the elements and mainland looters, the city’s walls now stand no more than a few feet high. A concrete historical marker erected in the early 1990s lies ravaged by vandals. Cubagua’s entire population today numbers fewer than 100, all of them fishermen like Mr. Suárez and their families. They live on what they catch, in Mr. Suárez’s case on a recent morning a stingray that he was drying in the scorching sun. Later, he said he would prepare the stingray with some salt and garlic. For diversion, he raises fighting cocks and feeds some of the feral dogs. Apart from his small boat, his only mainland tie seemed to be a red flag on his roof emblazoned with the letters P.S.U.V. — the initials of President Hugo Chávez’s Socialist party and a symbol of a revolution that has not yet arrived in Cubagua. “We are living in almost complete solitude out here,” Mr. Suárez said, “and that is the way we like it.” Archaeologists occasionally disrupt this idyll. Last year, a team led by a Venezuelan, Jorge Armand, disembarked here and found shrubs and garbage covering the ruins. The fishermen were using the ruins of Nueva Cádiz as an open air outhouse, Mr. Armand said. “Here was a city built by the Spanish to last five centuries, and today it is hardly even on the margins of our consciousness,” Mr. Armand said. “Paradoxically, thanks to this neglect, the ruins have been more or less preserved.” Rest of article.

United States Chess Federation: 2009 Elections

Hola darlings! I've been getting these little green postcards in the mail the past few months from the USCF reminding me that my USCF adult membership will soon be expiring and to hurry and renew today at a rate of only $42. Hmmm, seems the last time I remember renewing it was $39 on a special sale price. Oh well - A little bit of history: I first joined the USCF in 1999 under the mistaken belief that I might have to be a member of a chess federation recognized by FIDE in order to be able to view the World Chess Championship that was taking place that year in August at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Imagine my shock and horror when the lovely young lady at the table collecting fees for entrance from spectators not only did NOT ask to see my chess federation ID card, she held my State of Wisconsin non-drivers license ID hostage for headphones so I could listen to GM commentary about the games! If I returned the headphones I got my ID back. Oh my! I no longer remember - I think there may have a small fee tendered as well - $5? Well, it broke down to less than $1 an hour as I sat, day after day, through six and more hours of watching this game and that, as the players knocked each other out, one by one, listening to the commentary that, for the most part, I did not understand. I do remember that oftentimes the pieces on the projected playing boards froze in place for hours on end... This was my introduction to the world of high-stakes international chess, such as it existed in August, 1999. Darlings, after that experience, Ms. Naivite' realized she did not have to be a member of any chess federation in order to either attend a game as a spectator or to report on an event and be taken seriously (or not). And thus I've continued down until today... Okay - back to the USCF elections. In 2007, shortly after Goddesschess established this blog, I experienced my very first online USCF Executive Board election and was introduced into the world of chess politics. That is not a topic on which I wish to spend much time. However, the future direction of the USCF is something in which I take an interest, since I have to pay every year to be a member and I'd like to know where my money is being spent. The USCF operates like the Federal government under George W. Bush for the past 8 years - no accountability whatsoever until the taxpayers finally had it up their earlobes and decisively voted for a change in direction. But the USCF doesn't have the leeway of the Federal Government - it has by-laws that control how it is supposed to operate and a membership to which it is accountable. Perhaps a sea-change is in the air... So, USCF, do not despair. I will be renewing my membership for 2009 and you'll be getting my $42 for another year, only because I wish to vote in the upcoming election. To that end, I will do the best I can to find information and present it here about each and every one of the people who are running for positions on the USCF Executive Board for 4-years seats. It probably won't be an exhaustive survey because there's so much more interesting stuff on which to blog! But I'll try to hit the highlights - or lowlights - as they appear to yours truly.

An Interesting Chess Set

From time to time at Goddesschess we report on auctions of chess items we find of interest. Today I came across this item. I have to say I would love to have such a set for myself :) That it is worth so little? Heck - even I could afford to buy a lovely setting like this for my humble abode. But - no - I'd rather save the money for a trip to London in 2010...

2009 Aeroflot - Final Standings

The results are in. Here are the chess femmes' final standings after Round 9 in Tournaments A1 and A2. Susan Polgar reports at her blog on the great performance of and that she earned a GM norm. I've also added some players of interest to me - not chess femmes! Tournament A1: 1 GM Bacrot, Etienne 6.5 FRA M 2722 2775 2 GM Moiseenko, Alexander 6.5 UKR M 2676 2770 13 IM Kosintseva, Tatiana w 5.5 RUS F 2497 2702 (Wow!) 32 GM Ehlvest, Jaan 5.0 USA M 2595 2637 37 GM So, Wesley j 5.0 PHI M 2627 2577 40 GM Onischuk, Alexander 4.5 USA M 2659 2580 50 GM Akobian, Varuzhan 4.0 USA M 2619 2528 61 IM Robson, Ray j 3.5 USA M 2455 2516 70 WGM Shen, Yang w 3.0 CHN F 2448 2464 72 IM Kosintseva, Nadezhda w 3.0 RUS F 2486 2472 76 of 78 players in Tournament A1 completed the event. Tournament A2: 1 IM Danin, Alexandre 7.0 RUS M 2465 2655 2 GM Khachiyan, Melikset 7.0 USA M 2519 2675 22 WGM Romanko, Marina w 5.0 RUS F 2451 2552 24 WGM Munguntuul, Batkhuyag w 5.0 MGL F 2425 2536 25 IM Melia, Salome w 5.0 GEO F 2422 2542 40 Ju, Wenjun jw 4.5 CHN F 2392 2490 44 GM Peng, Zhaoqin w 4.5 NED F 2461 2446 58 GM Ivanov, Alexander 4.0 USA M 2541 2370 61 WFM Gunina, Valentina w 4.0 RUS F 2400 2416 72 WIM Zhang, Xiaowen w 3.0 CHN F 2357 2300 74 WIM Kashlinskaya, Alina jw 3.0 RUS F 2302 2315 76 IM Krush, Irina w 3.0 USA F 2457 2301 78 WIM Pourkashiyan, Atousa w 2.5 IRI F 2272 2242 81 WGM Gu, Xiaobing w 2.0 CHN F 2283 2159 All 84 players completed the A2 Tournament.

Chess and Stamps: Caxton

We get all kinds of email at Goddesschess. Today I received one from a Spanish website - all in Spanish! Unfortunately, I do not speak or read Spanish, but with the aid of the Babelfish translator at, I was able to decipher enough to determine that the email was about an article on stamps featuring William Caxton's images (woodcuts) from his moral on the game of chess. Somewhere in my totally unorganized library, I have a photocopy of an 1800's reprint of this very old tome. I visited the link provided to the website and found the article - entirely in Spanish. If you are interested in stamp collecting and/or collecting stamps strictly related to chess, you may find it of interest.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shiva Shrine Found

(Image from article) From The Times of India: 2000-yr-old Shiva shrine found 23 Feb 2009, 0327 hrs IST, Shailvee Sharda, TNN LUCKNOW: Believed to be among the oldest brick shrines in India, Lucknow University’s department of ancient Indian history and archaeology has unearthed a 2,000 year old Shiva temple as part of its excavation project recently in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district. ‘‘It’s actually a complex comprising five temples,’’ Prof D P Tewari of the Lucknow University said. ‘‘While four temples belong to the Kushana period (1st-3rd century AD or 2,000 years ago), it appears that the primary temple was constructed during the Sunga period (2nd century BC to 1st century AD or 2,200 years ago).’’ The temple site is a mound in Sanchankot in Unnao. The excavations have been going on since 2004, when UGC cleared the project for funding. ‘‘A lot of things have come to fore since we began, but the temple complex has suddenly given impetus to our research,’’ said Prof Tewari. Spread across an area of 600 acres, the temple is made of baked bricks. In India, most of the brick temples were built in the Gupta period which existed in the fourth century AD. The temple’s architecture is ‘apsidal’ (semi-circular or u-shaped) in nature. The LU has many artifacts to conclude that Lord Shiva was worshipped in this temple. Prof Tewari said, ‘‘A terracotta seal bearing the legend of ‘Kaalanjar peeth’ in Brahmi script was found from the site in Dec 2008.’’ A shivling, trishul, nandi bull, and a river are inscribed over the seal. The legend of ‘Kaalanjar peeth’ is inscribed just below the river.
Well, I have no idea what "Kaalanjar peeth" means, nor a "shivling," "Trishul," or "nandi bull." A river is self-explanatory. Geez, this almost sounds like some of the seals found in the Indus River Valley (Harrapan) civilization more than 4,500 years ago! Some of them had symbols that could be interpreted as 'river' and 'bull.' I'm just throwing out suggestions - don't stone me.

The Peopling of Japan

I find the subject of trying to piece together the puzzle of who arrived where and when, and from where, endlessly fascinating. With the advent of technology capable of analyzing DNA, more answers are being provided - and more questions! Old paradigms are falling by the wayside (kicking and screaming all the way). As we refine our technology and techniques of analysis, more answers will be found. Wish I'd be around 100 years from now. Drat! DNA sheds light on mysterious Okhotsk people BY NOBUYUKI WATANABE, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 2009/2/24 Scholars using DNA testing hope to unravel age-old mysteries surrounding the Okhotsk people, who suddenly disappeared around the 10th century in northern parts of Hokkaido. And their research could shatter theories on the evolution of the indigenous Ainu people. The Okhotsk culture is believed to have originated on Sakhalin and spread south to northern Hokkaido around the fifth century, when Japan was in the kofun period of tumulus mounds. The culture eventually spread to eastern Hokkaido and reached the Chishima archipelago, before disappearing in the 10th century. Researchers in such various fields as archaeology, history and ethnology have tried to figure out just who the Okhotsk people were. Some scholars believe the Okhotsk people were the northern race referred to as Ashihase in the ancient chronicle Nihon Shoki, compiled in the eighth century. Studies have also led researchers to small ethnic groups scattered around Sakhalin, Siberia and the islands in the northern parts beyond Hokkaido. Still, no definitive answer has been found. However, Ryuichi Masuda, an associate professor of molecular phylogenetics at Hokkaido University, and Takehiro Sato, a graduate student, have shed more light on the Okhotsk people. They extracted DNA samples from 37 human remains that were discovered from ruins of the Okhotsk culture and kept at Hokkaido University Museum. Analyses of the characteristics of the mitochondrial DNA led Masuda and Sato to conclude that the Okhotsk people are closest to the Nivkhis, who now live in northern Sakhalin and near the mouth of the Amur river in Siberia. The two also concluded that the Okhotsk people shared a common ancestor with the Ulchis, who live downstream of the Amur river. The Nivkhis and Ulchis are small ethnic groups with only a few thousand survivors remaining. Little is known about the Okhotsk people, who lived along the coast and caught fish and whales while raising dogs and pigs. But studies of the Okhotsk could also help scholars trace the evolution of the Ainu. Rice cultivation did not spread in Hokkaido even during the Yayoi Pottery Culture (300 B.C.-A.D. 300). But a unique culture developed, described as a procession beginning with a Jomon Pottery Culture, followed by a Later Jomon Pottery Culture and a Satsumon Pottery Culture. Although the Ainu are believed to have inherited aspects of Hokkaido culture, they also have cultural factors not found in the Jomon strain, for example their ceremonies involving bears. Moreover, scholars have said that similar habits with bears were found in the Okhotsk culture. Masuda and his associates have confirmed that some Okhotsk people had genetic types similar to those of the Ainu, but these types were not found among the Jomon strain. Tetsuya Amano, an archaeology professor at Hokkaido University, believes the analytic results opened new doors. "It has now become clear that the Ainu are not simply the direct descendants of the Jomon people, but emerged after going through a very complicated process," Amano said. So if the closest people to the Okhotsk were the Nivkhis, what kind of people are they? According to Hidetoshi Shiraishi, an associate professor of linguistics at Sapporo Gakuin University, the Nivkhi language is independent in that it is not structurally related to other languages in the vicinity. The origins of the Nivkhi people are also unclear. While the Nivkhis are believed to have navigated sail boats and led a life centered on fishing, their unique culture has been encroached upon in recent years with gradual integration into Russian culture. "There has been a number of waves of immigrants to Japan, such as the arrival of the Yayoi people, but the southern advance by the Okhotsk people is likely the most recent of those waves," said Naruya Saito, a professor of population genetics at the National Institute of Genetics. However, scholars still do not know what brought those Okhotsk people to Hokkaido. Hiroshi Ushiro, a curator specializing in archaeology at the Historical Museum of Hokkaido, said climate change, or more specifically global warming, may have enabled the Okhotsk people to enter Hokkaido. The latter part of the kofun period when the Okhotsk culture reached northern Hokkaido was relatively warm. Sea levels were about 1 meter higher than they are now. In the early part of the Heian Period (794-1185), when the culture spread across Hokkaido, the average annual temperatures were about 2 to 3 degrees higher than they are today. At that time, on the opposite side of the Eurasia continent, another northern people, the vikings, increased their population due to the warmer weather. The vikings ventured out to sea, conquered various lands in Europe and spread their reach to as far away as Greenland. A similar tale of cultural expansion may have taken place around the same time in the northern parts of the Japanese archipelago. (IHT/Asahi: February 24,2009)

Another Large Statue Found in Egypt!

From Reuters (image from Reuters) Ancient statue found buried at Egypt Giza pyramids Tue Feb 24, 2009 11:22am EST CAIRO (Reuters) - Maintenance workers at Egypt's Giza Pyramids have found an ancient quartzite statue of a seated man buried close to the surface of the desert, the culture ministry said on Tuesday. The statue, about life-size at 149 cm (five feet) tall, was found north of the smallest of Giza's three main pyramids, the tomb of the fourth dynasty Pharaoh Mycerinus, who ruled in the 26th century BC, the ministry said in a statement. The man was wearing a shoulder-length wig and was seated in a simple chair, his right hand clenched on his knee and holding an object. His left hand was resting on his thigh. The culture ministry said the statue had a number of cracks in a shoulder, its chest and base, and some facial features had been worn away. The head of the statue was only about 40 cm (16 inches) below ground level. The statue bore no inscriptions, making it hard to identify, though the style suggested it might date to the early years of the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt, close to Mycerinus's time. The Giza complex, containing the pyramids and the Sphinx, on the outskirts of the Egyptian capital, is one of the country's most popular tourist sites, attracting millions of visitors every year. (Writing by Cynthia Johnston, editing by Tim Pearce) (c) Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

Women's Grand Prix: Ataturk Tournament

It's confirmed! There was a press release from FIDE yesterday that the Ataturk Tournament is the first stop on the Women's Grand Prix that will take place over 2009 and 2010. Will it hold up - who knows? The Men's Grand Prix did not! What chance does the Women's Grand Prix have under current economic conditions? I'm just glad to see the Women's Ataturk Tournament back again - it was a fantastic event last year, won by Hou Yifan with 7 of 9. Turkey is serious about encouraging its people to take up chess and emerging as a chess power in the world, and it has many very promising players rising in the ranks on the international competitive circuit. To see a chess federation putting forward such effort, commitment and putting substantial funds on the line from supporters, members, sponsors and the government to promote chess - it warms my heart. If only USCF would get the hint (hint hint). You can find the full press release here. Here are the participants in the 2009 Ataturk Women Masters Tournament: GM Humpy Koneru 2621 GM Yifan Hou 2571 GM Antoaneta Stefanova 2557 GM Pia Cramling 2548 GM Marie Sebag 2529 GM Maia Chiburdanidze 2516 GM Zhao Xue 2508 GM Zhu Chen 2496 IM Elina Danielian 2496 WGM Shen Yang 2448 WGM Zeinab Mamedjarova 2362 WIM Betül Cemre Yıldız 2214 Average ELO: 2488 The action begins March 6, 2009. The sponsor of the event is Türkiye İş Bankası. The event will be held in Is Sanat Gallery (Is Bankası Art Gallery) on the entrance floor of İş Bank Towers in Istanbul. Opening Ceremony will be held on the 41st floor of Is Bank Towers which is the highest place of Istanbul and Southern Europe. İş Bankası is the corporate sponsor of the Turkish Chess Federation and supports the Turkish Chess in School Curriculum for the last four years.

Southwest Chess Club Upcoming Events

Hola darlings! Good news - several upcoming events at my adopted chess club, Southwest Chess Club: THIS THURSDAY NIGHT - Blitz Chess Event ! Snowstorm Blitz-A-Matic: February 26 10-Round (Round-Robin) in One or more Sections (depending onnumber of players). Game/5 minutes. USCF Quick-Rated. EF: $5 members, $7 others. TD is Becker; ATD is Grochowski. Note that we are still meeting at our new location: The Southwest Chess Club meets every Thursday night from 6:00 PM at the St. James Catholic Church in the lower level of the Parish Center building (immediately in front of the church). The address is 7219 South 27th Street in Franklin. The club opens at 6 PM, Tournament Games at 7 PM. Here is a map to the club. We are just south of Rawson on 27th, and close to I-94 in Franklin. Other upcoming events: Lion-In and Lamb-Out Swiss: March 5, 12, 26 & April 24 Round Swiss in Two Sections (Open and U1600). Game/100 minutes. USCF Rated. EF: $5 members, $7 others. (One ½ Point Bye Available for any round (except round four) if requested at least 2-days prior to round). TD is Grochowski; ATD is Fogec. NOTE: This tournament takes a 1-week break in the middle, for the March 19th Annual Meeting. Annual SWCC Meeting: March 19 Casual chess after meeting. Melting Ice Action III: April 9 Round Swiss in Two Sections (G/30 Minutes and G/29 Minutes). USCF Rated. EF: $5 members, $7 others. (½ Point Bye available for only first round if requested prior to round) TD is Becker; ATD is Grochowski. Hales Corners Challenge IX: April 25, 2009 (Saturday) USCF Grand Prix Points: 104SS, G/60. 2 Sections: Open & Reserve (under 1600). Wyndham Milwaukee Airport Hotel—4747 S. Howell Avenue—Milwaukee—414-481-8000 (formerly known as Four Points Sheraton, across street from airport). EF: $35-Open, $25-Reserve, both $5 more after 4/22. Comp EF for USCF 2200+, contact TD for details. $$ Open (b/25)=1st-$325 (guaranteed), 2nd-$175 (guaranteed), A-$100, B & Below-$75; $$ Reserve b/25) =1st-$100, 2nd-$75, D-$50, E & Below-$40. Reg: 8:30-9:30, Rds: 10-1-3:30-6. Ent: Payable to SWCC, c/o Allen Becker, 6105 Thorncrest Drive, Greendale, WI 53129 ( ). QUESTIONS TO: TD Robin Grochowski—414-744-4872 (home) or414-861-2745 (cell) Goddesschess is once again sponsoring some special prizes for the Hales Corners Challenge IX for chess femmes, so do come out ladies, sign up and play, you may win a Goddesschess cash prize:
  • For best female finisher in the Open section, $65
  • If there is only 1 CF in the Open, then she gets the prize no matter where she finishes, simply for playing in the Open!
  • For best female finisher in the Reserve section $40
  • If there are no female players in the Open, the prize money will go to best 3 female finishers in the Reserve section: $40/35/30
  • If there are only 2 CFs in the Reserve, then money is split $60/45.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Kosteniuk Seeks to Broaden Chess' Appeal

From The Christian Science Monitor (Photo: Kosteniuk, Round 5, Game 2, 2008 Women's World Chess Championship) A chess champion crusades to make the game ‘cool’ Russian Alexandra Kosteniuk, the women’s world title holder with a fashion-model image, wants to broaden the game’s appeal to young people. By Jacqui Goddard Correspondent / February 23, 2009 edition To a woman still reveling in the joys and novelty of motherhood, such a lifestyle has its challenges. Chess, she realizes, is no longer the central love of her life – she has won everything there is to win, and the days of relentless competition are obviously winding down. “I have a strong guilt that lives inside me if I’m away from my daughter,” she admits. “The problem now is that my main dream was fulfilled when I became world champion, and though there’s so many things to do, I have a family and baby and want to spend time with them too.” KEY BISCAYNE, FLA. Alexandra Kosteniuk’s hand quivers as she picks up a pawn and skips it to the center of the chessboard on the table before us. I wonder, just for one silly moment, whether she is trembling in fear of her opponent. Perhaps even the reigning Women’s World Chess Champion can have bad days, I speculate, when a beginner like me stands a chance of ambushing her king and declaring “Checkmate,” sending her reeling in admiration at my stealth and cunning? No, I discover after three minutes’ play, during which she slaughters me in just 14 moves. She doesn’t. And her shivers are nothing to do with nerves – it is simply a chilly day, here on the open veranda of an oceanfront cafe on Key Biscayne, Fla. “Your first move was good,” she compliments me, allowing me a fleeting second to feel proud of myself for my opening “pawn to E4” maneuver. Then she adds, “But by your fourth move, the position was hopeless,” referring to my clumsy sacrifice of a knight. A Russian with good looks and flowing hair, Ms. Kosteniuk has been dubbed the “Anna Kournikova of chess.” It’s a label she scorns, though: the fetching Kournikova, she points out, never won a singles tennis tournament. By comparison, Kosteniuk has made all the right moves and swept the board in the world of chess. A master when she was 8 and a grandmaster at 14 – rankings that denote supreme skills – she has since captured every title available to a woman player, culminating in the Women’s World Chess Champion crown in Nalchik, Russia, last September. But the undeniable similarity to Kournikova is that Kosteniuk is not averse to striking a glamorous pose for the cameras, sometimes while dressed in little more than a bikini. Her purpose, she says, is to illustrate her mantra, “Beauty and brains can go together.” There have been photo shoots in top fashion magazines, and advertising contracts with a Swiss watchmaker, a Russian electronics company, and a mobile phone firm. Her face has been plastered on billboards, buses, and television screens across Russia. Her commercial ventures include a chess computer game marketed under the name “Alexandra the Great.” The cover-girl poses and hunger for publicity have less to do with vanity or money than with her passion for injecting some color into the black-and-white world of chess. She wants to transform its geeky reputation. Indeed, she considers her glamour and youth – she is now 24 – powerful tools in her mission to enthuse more young people about the game and persuade them to believe that “chess is cool.” “Chess has a very wrong image. People think it’s boring, and only fat men in suits play it, so I break that signal and show them chess is cool,” she says. “You can easily be beautiful and play chess well, or be a professor, or any kind of high achiever. The only thing chess doesn’t have is a lot of attention from the media and from sponsors, so I think I can help in this way. If you tell people there are some nice models playing chess, somehow the modern world finds it more interesting.” ••• Born in Perm, Russia, and raised in Moscow, Kosteniuk set out on a path to greatness at the age of 5. That’s when her father Konstantin, an officer in the Red Army, taught her to play chess. She was limited to only 30 minutes of television a day, and every moment was filled with some kind of activity – playing soccer with friends, reading a book, poring over mathematical puzzles. “No time was ever idle,” says her father, adding that even now, Alexandra “absolutely hates to sit down doing nothing.” “She was always glad to sit at the chess table with me and listen to me talk about those chess pieces,” he recalls. She developed skills methodically. Rest of article.

2009 Aeroflot

Chess femme standings after Round 7: Tournament A1: 1 GM Kurnosov, Igor 5.5 RUS 2602 2862 16 IM Kosintseva, Tatiana 4.5 RUS 2497 2720 60 WGM Shen, Yang 3.0 CHN 2448 2533 Tournament A2: 1 GM Khachiyan, Melikset 5.5 USA 2519 2671 19 WGM Romanko, Marina 4.5 RUS 2451 2608 20 WGM Munguntuul, Batkhuyag 4.5 MGL 2425 2584 34 IM Melia, Salome 4.0 GEO 2422 2544 43 GM Peng, Zhaoqin 3.5 NED 2461 2478 48 Ju, Wenjun 3.5 CHN 2392 2496 54 IM Krush, Irina 3.0 USA 2457 2393 59 WFM Gunina, Valentina 3.0 RUS 2400 2413 76 WIM Kashlinskaya, Alina 2.5 RUS 2302 2350 80 WIM Zhang, Xiaowen 1.5 CHN 2357 2195 82 WGM Gu, Xiaobing 1.5 CHN 2283 2164 83 WIM Pourkashiyan, Atousa 1.5 IRI 2272 2177

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Board Games Benefit from Bad Economy

Story from Downturn could be boon for board-game makers Bloomberg News / February 22, 2009 NEW YORK - Monopoly (image from Online Board Games) gave Americans a cheap way to entertain the family at the height of the Great Depression, and Mattel Inc. and Hasbro Inc. are betting board games will stage a comeback in the current crisis. Mattel and Hasbro unveiled retooled versions of perennial favorites including Candy Land, Trivial Pursuit, and Monopoly at last week's American International Toy Fair. US sales of board games rose 6 percent to $794 million last year, while total toy sales declined 3 percent, according to researcher NPD Group Inc. Game sales have risen since last summer, when dwindling disposable income made the "staycation" a popular alternative to holiday travel, according to Reyne Rice, a consultant at the Toy Industry Association Inc. in New York. "When you buy a $20 game, it can last," Rice said in an interview. "You can pull it out year after year." The worst US unemployment in 16 years and a global recession have trimmed consumer spending, handing both toymakers revenue declines in the fourth quarter of 2008: Retail sales fell each of the last six months of 2008 and climbed 1 percent last month, according to the Commerce Department. "When you get into this type of economy, where the consumer does not have the kind of spendable income that they had previously, they tend to do more things as a family," Neil Friedman, president of Mattel brands, said in a telephone interview. "That tends to be games." Charles B. Darrow of Germantown, Pa., invented the Monopoly real estate game in 1934. Parker Brothers started selling the game in 1935, when the US jobless rate stood at 20 percent. It was the bestselling board game in America that year, according to the website of Hasbro, which now owns Parker Brothers. Mattel has added the $24.99 Apples to Apples to its line of games for families and friends. Puzzle game Blokus goes for $29.99 and UNO Moo!, a preschool version of the card game, will come out in the second half of 2009 for $19.99. "We certainly focused on those family-oriented things a little more than perhaps we would normally have," Friedman said. Hasbro will promote "family game night" for children, parents, and grandparents this year, said Phil Jackson, head of the Pawtucket, R.I., company's game division. "Family game night is probably the single most important thing that we're focusing on in 2009," Jackson said in a telephone interview. "People are staying home more and looking for in-home entertainment more than ever." Hasbro's Candy Land Sweet Celebration comes out in the second half of the year. The new version of the 1949 game lets players adjust their path and collect treats. In Monopoly City, also due in the second half, players buy entire districts and build three-dimensional properties. It will retail for $34.99. Hasbro's fourth-quarter revenue dropped 5.1 percent to $1.23 billion. Board game and puzzles sales rose 2 percent in 2008, according to Patricia Riso, a spokeswoman. "Some people have even said, 'Staying in is the new going out,' " Jackson said. © Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.

Rare Silk-Road Treasures on Exhibit

From The International Herald-Tribune Rare treasures from the Silk Road By Alexandra A. Seno Published: February 17, 2009 HONG KONG: Some 2,000 years ago, vibrant global commerce hummed along the trading hubs of the Silk Road. For nearly a millennium, the complex business network spread Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, and helped fine Chinese fabrics become all the rage among the Roman Empire's elite and wealthy Chinese coveting art pieces inspired by Greek legend. The highlights of the deceptively modest exhibit "The Silk Road in Ningxia," which runs at the Hong Kong University Museum and Art Gallery until March 15, hold their own against those in the many big-budget Silk Road productions that appear around the world annually. This year, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the National Museum of History in Taipei and Brussels' Royal Museums for Art and History are among those hosting shows devoted to the fabled trading route. The Silk Road stretched from what is now Turkey through Central Asia and China to Africa, Southeast Asia, the subcontinent and the Middle East. Susan Whitfield is a Silk Road historian and the director of the British Library's International Dunhuang Project, a multinational research and archiving effort to broaden knowledge about the Silk Road. She lauds the "Ningxia" exhibit for the exceptional quality of the antiquities and the unique focus of the narrative. She said that "Ningxia" illustrates "a snapshot of a smaller area but a larger cultural diversity." Whitfield recently visited Hong Kong, invited by the museum, to deliver lectures related to the exhibit. Most shows about the Silk Road either attempt to tell the general story of the whole route or draw from frequently studied museum collections in Europe, built on finds primarily from Xinjiang, Gansu or Inner Mongolia, and carted off by British, Russian, French, German and Japanese expeditions in the early 1900s. The 105 objects in Hong Kong come from Ningxia, now a sparsely industrialized Chinese autonomous Muslim region. The area was once the site of multicultural Silk Road trading towns, due to its strategic location next to the Yellow River and its proximity to the ancient capital at Xian and to the trading routes through the steppes. Twenty of the items are listed as first-class national treasures by Beijing. Even the most intrepid explorers, like the archaeologist Aurel Stein, never reached landlocked Ningxia, where Han Chinese lived in close proximity to Buddhist Tanguts and Zoroastrian Sogdians. Since Chinese archaeologists only unearthed sites in Ningxia in the 1980s and 1990s, the discoveries benefited from the modern practice of learning from the context in which objects were discovered, instead of simply taking the finds home to Europe or Japan for study there. "Traditionally, Chinese scholarship has been about research on the history of the Han Chinese, but that has changed," said Yeung Chun-tong, director of the Hong Kong University museum, who led the effort to borrow the artifacts from the Ningxia government. The relatively new archaeological work there represents increased interest in the contributions of ethnic minorities to Chinese culture and a growing field of scholarship on the mainland. In one showcase, a bowl and a gilt silver ewer tell a profound story of globalization. Archaeologists recovered the items in 1983 from the sixth century tomb of Li Xian, a local general. The 8-centimeter-high, or about 3-inch-high, green blown-glass bowl very likely came from the Persians, one of the few civilizations that mastered the technology at the time. The skillfully decorated pitcher features figures from the Greek myth about Helen of Troy [image above]. The piece was probably made in Bactria (in today's Afghanistan), brought to Ningxia by caravan traders with other goods. Another cabinet holds gold and silver coins. Some are distinctly Byzantine, some are copies. They were prestige items in burial sites in Ningxia for prominent Sogdians. These communities lived in China for centuries, controlling pivotal Silk Road businesses, writing in a script derived from Aramaic and following a form of Zoroastrianism adapted from that practiced in Persia. Like the Chinese, these Sogdians placed their dead in tombs instead of leaving them leaving them in Zoroastrian "towers of silence" to be picked apart by birds. The exhibit objects range from an early Ming dynasty Koran to wooden printing blocks and Tang-era stone doors decorated with whirling foreign dancers, offering proof of a sophisticated and complex society. Among the works never before shown outside of the mainland are well-preserved silk panels adorned with frolicking children; they are from the 11th century and usually considered too fragile to transport. "Though we have poor funding, we have the freedom to mount interesting exhibits," said Yeung. The Hong Kong museum, which does not charge an entrance fee, staged "Ningxia" with plenty of goodwill from China and an extremely tight budget. According to Yeung, despite the fact that the museum received free transportation from an art logistics company, it could only spend a maximum of 1 million Hong Kong dollars, or about $128,000, to pay for insurance, borrowing the goods at a steep discount, and installation. Rest of article.

Oh Jane! Is Nothing Sacred?

Good Goddess! What next? Lassie goes Cujo??? (Image [not from article]: Alleged portrait of Jane Austen circa 1815). From The New York Times Art Beat February 17, 2009, 11:31 am Austen Meets Alien in ‘Pride and Predator’ By Dave Itzkoff For some viewers, the idea of another Jane Austen-inspired period drama is sufficiently monstrous, but a coming film project seeks to update the formula with actual monsters, Variety reported. The movie “Pride and Predator,” directed by Will Clark and written by Mr. Clark with Andrew Kemble and John Pape, will juxtapose brooding aristocrats with a brutal alien that lands in 1800s-era Britain, attacking residents and leaving them with neither sense nor sensibility. The film, to be produced by Elton John’s Rocket Pictures, is the latest work to mix the hoary costume genre with elements of horror. A book called “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” credited to Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith and published by Quirk Books, will combine the Austen novel with “all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem.” And a coming novel by Michael Thomas Ford called “Jane Bites Back” depicts the 19th-century author as a frustrated vampire, taking revenge on those who have made money from her work.

Scottish Images May Be the "Nine Worthies"

Mystery solved? From Mystery of 'second Crown Jewels' solved Published Date: 22 February 2009 By George Mair THEY are "Scotland's other Crown Jewels", a mysterious collection of wooden carvings which have baffled historians for years. But the true meaning behind the Stirling Heads has been unveiled, thanks to a 500-year-old sketch of Julius Caesar. Carved between 1530 and 1544 for the court of James V, the works depict the king, his wife, Mary of Guise, other important characters from his retinue and previous monarchs. They were once a centrepiece of the Royal Palace at Stirling Castle, but those that have survived are being kept in storage in Edinburgh while replicas are made for inclusion in a £12m restoration of the palace. The identities of many of the oak heads, however, have remained the subject of guesswork among historians. But Dr Sally Rush, who has studied the Renaissance treasures for Historic Scotland since 2003, is now convinced they include characters known since the Middle Ages as the Nine Worthies. These historical, scriptural, mythological or legendary figures were believed to personify the ideals of chivalry. They include Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great and King Arthur. Dr. Rush, senior lecturer in Glasgow University's history of art department, made the breakthrough after carrying out the study of contemporary drawings. She discovered one sketch by 16th-century German printmaker and woodcutter Hans Burgkmair, which shows Roman emperor Caesar bearing a "remarkable resemblance" to a Stirling Head carving. Historians previously speculated that it was the Greek sun god Apollo – because of the rays of sun apparently protruding from his head. Rush said that the presence of Caesar made it "very likely" that all Nine Worthies were represented. She said: "We are a long way forward in sorting out the identities of the Stirling Heads, separating the real-life people – recognisable figures in the court – from the fictional." In this kind of iconographical programme you might expect the inclusion of the Nine Worthies – great military heroes of the past, connected with ideas of chivalry and virtue. "The inclusion of the Nine Worthies would have made the palace ceiling a hall of fame. Placing James V in this both factual and fictional hall of fame is saying he is worthy of being up there alongside the Nine Worthies." It is thought there were originally more than 50 Stirling Heads – each measuring a metre across. Just 33 survive, however, along with sketches of two others – including a likeness of the English King, Henry VIII – which were destroyed by fire. The historian's breakthrough came after she studied portraits made at the same time as the carvings. She said: "My belief was that the king would not sit in front of a carver and pose for him, but that the carver was given an image of James to work to. This process would have been applied for all the heads." However, Rush said there was a strong likelihood that many of these drawings have been lost. She added: "But there is a contemporary image, by Burgkmair, showing three of the Nine Worthies, including Julius Caesar." This image of Caesar is very close to a Stirling Head previously thought to be the god Apollo. "It was thought that spikes coming from his head were rays of sun, but they are an imperial crown. He is also wearing Roman armour in the very stylised form – as depicted in Burgkmair's sketch. If you have Julius Caesar, the chances are the other eight worthies were there too." Among the Stirling Heads there are bearded men in fantastical armour and head-dresses who are probably also members. "I am confident about putting certain heads into that group. Identifying them will involve a constant trawl of other imagery." Further backing to Rush's identification of Caesar is provided by the fact that other sketches by Burgkmair, who lived from 1473 to 1531, are known to have been used for sculptures on the palace's outer walls. Rush said: "It is long recognised that two statues outside are very close to the Planetary Deities by Hans Burgkmair. If everyone is quite comfortable with Burgkmair being a source for statues, then it's logical to look at Burgkmair being a source for some of the heads as well." However, she said it was impossible to say if all Nine Worthies would be identified. She said: "Without the complete set of heads it is impossible to say how many of the Worthies are missing. There is a strong chance they either are, or were, there. That would fit if you understand the ceiling as a hall of fame placing the Stewart dynasty alongside these great role models from the past."
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