Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Lost European Culture, Pulled From Obscurity

A Lost European Culture, Pulled From Obscurity

By John Noble Wilford - New York Times - November 30, 2009 - [see above link for images]

Before the glory that was Greece and Rome, even before the first cities of Mesopotamia or temples along the Nile, there lived in the Lower Danube Valley and the Balkan foothills people who were ahead of their time in art, technology and long-distance trade.

For 1,500 years, starting earlier than 5000 B.C., they farmed and built sizable towns, a few with as many as 2,000 dwellings. They mastered large-scale copper smelting, the new technology of the age. Their graves held an impressive array of exquisite headdresses and necklaces and, in one cemetery, the earliest major assemblage of gold artifacts to be found anywhere in the world.

The striking designs of their pottery speak of the refinement of the culture’s visual language. Until recent discoveries, the most intriguing artifacts were the ubiquitous terracotta “goddess” figurines, originally interpreted as evidence of the spiritual and political power of women in society.

New research, archaeologists and historians say, has broadened understanding of this long overlooked culture, which seemed to have approached the threshold of “civilization” status. Writing had yet to be invented, and so no one knows what the people called themselves. To some scholars, the people and the region are simply Old Europe.

The little-known culture is being rescued from obscurity in an exhibition, “The Lost World of Old Europe: the Danube Valley, 5000-3500 B.C.,” which opened last month at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University. More than 250 artifacts from museums in Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania are on display for the first time in the United States. The show will run through April 25.

At its peak, around 4500 B.C., said David W. Anthony, the exhibition’s guest curator, “Old Europe was among the most sophisticated and technologically advanced places in the world” and was developing “many of the political, technological and ideological signs of civilization.”

Dr. Anthony is a professor of anthropology at Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., and author of “The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World.” Historians suggest that the arrival in southeastern Europe of people from the steppes may have contributed to the collapse of the Old Europe culture by 3500 B.C.

At the exhibition preview, Roger S. Bagnall, director of the institute, confessed that until now “a great many archaeologists had not heard of these Old Europe cultures.” Admiring the colorful ceramics, Dr. Bagnall, a specialist in Egyptian archaeology, remarked that at the time “Egyptians were certainly not making pottery like this.”

A show catalog, published by Princeton University Press, is the first compendium in English of research on Old Europe discoveries. The book, edited by Dr. Anthony, with Jennifer Y. Chi, the institute’s associate director for exhibitions, includes essays by experts from Britain, France, Germany, the United States and the countries where the culture existed.

Dr. Chi said the exhibition reflected the institute’s interest in studying the relationships of well-known cultures and the “underappreciated ones.”

Although excavations over the last century uncovered traces of ancient settlements and the goddess figurines, it was not until local archaeologists in 1972 discovered a large fifth-millennium B.C. cemetery at Varna, Bulgaria, that they began to suspect these were not poor people living in unstructured egalitarian societies. Even then, confined in cold war isolation behind the Iron Curtain, Bulgarians and Romanians were unable to spread their knowledge to the West.

The story now emerging is of pioneer farmers after about 6200 B.C. moving north into Old Europe from Greece and Macedonia, bringing wheat and barley seeds and domesticated cattle and sheep. They established colonies along the Black Sea and in the river plains and hills, and these evolved into related but somewhat distinct cultures, archaeologists have learned. The settlements maintained close contact through networks of trade in copper and gold and also shared patterns of ceramics.

The Spondylus shell from the Aegean Sea was a special item of trade. Perhaps the shells, used in pendants and bracelets, were symbols of their Aegean ancestors. Other scholars view such long-distance acquisitions as being motivated in part by ideology in which goods are not commodities in the modern sense but rather “valuables,” symbols of status and recognition.

Noting the diffusion of these shells at this time, Michel Louis Seferiades, an anthropologist at the National Center for Scientific Research in France, suspects “the objects were part of a halo of mysteries, an ensemble of beliefs and myths.”

In any event, Dr. Seferiades wrote in the exhibition catalog that the prevalence of the shells suggested the culture had links to “a network of access routes and a social framework of elaborate exchange systems — including bartering, gift exchange and reciprocity.”

Over a wide area of what is now Bulgaria and Romania, the people settled into villages of single- and multiroom houses crowded inside palisades. The houses, some with two stories, were framed in wood with clay-plaster walls and beaten-earth floors. For some reason, the people liked making fired clay models of multilevel dwellings, examples of which are exhibited.

A few towns of the Cucuteni people, a later and apparently robust culture in the north of Old Europe, grew to more than 800 acres, which archaeologists consider larger than any other known human settlements at the time. But excavations have yet to turn up definitive evidence of palaces, temples or large civic buildings. Archaeologists concluded that rituals of belief seemed to be practiced in the homes, where cultic artifacts have been found.

The household pottery decorated in diverse, complex styles suggested the practice of elaborate at-home dining rituals. Huge serving bowls on stands were typical of the culture’s “socializing of food presentation,” Dr. Chi said.

At first, the absence of elite architecture led scholars to assume that Old Europe had little or no hierarchical power structure. This was dispelled by the graves in the Varna cemetery. For two decades after 1972, archaeologists found 310 graves dated to about 4500 B.C. Dr. Anthony said this was “the best evidence for the existence of a clearly distinct upper social and political rank.”

Vladimir Slavchev, a curator at the Varna Regional Museum of History, said the “richness and variety of the Varna grave gifts was a surprise,” even to the Bulgarian archaeologist Ivan Ivanov, who directed the discoveries. “Varna is the oldest cemetery yet found where humans were buried with golden ornaments,” Dr. Slavchev said.

More than 3,000 pieces of gold were found in 62 of the graves, along with copper weapons and tools, and ornaments, necklaces and bracelets of the prized Aegean shells. “The concentration of imported prestige objects in a distinct minority of graves suggest that institutionalized higher ranks did exist,” exhibition curators noted in a text panel accompanying the Varna gold.

Yet it is puzzling that the elite seemed not to indulge in private lives of excess. “The people who donned gold costumes for public events while they were alive,” Dr. Anthony wrote, “went home to fairly ordinary houses.”

Copper, not gold, may have been the main source of Old Europe’s economic success, Dr. Anthony said. As copper smelting developed about 5400 B.C., the Old Europe cultures tapped abundant ores in Bulgaria and what is now Serbia and learned the high-heat technique of extracting pure metallic copper.

Smelted copper, cast as axes, hammered into knife blades and coiled in bracelets, became valuable exports. Old Europe copper pieces have been found in graves along the Volga River, 1,200 miles east of Bulgaria. Archaeologists have recovered more than five tons of pieces from Old Europe sites.

An entire gallery is devoted to the figurines, the more familiar and provocative of the culture’s treasures. They have been found in virtually every Old Europe culture and in several contexts: in graves, house shrines and other possibly “religious spaces.”

One of the best known is the fired clay figure of a seated man, his shoulders bent and hands to his face in apparent contemplation. Called the “Thinker,” the piece and a comparable female figurine were found in a cemetery of the Hamangia culture, in Romania. Were they thinking, or mourning?

Many of the figurines represent women in stylized abstraction, with truncated or elongated bodies and heaping breasts and expansive hips. The explicit sexuality of these figurines invites interpretations relating to earthly and human fertility.

An arresting set of 21 small female figurines, seated in a circle, was found at a pre-Cucuteni village site in northeastern Romania. “It is not difficult to imagine,” said Douglass W. Bailey of San Francisco State University, the Old Europe people “arranging sets of seated figurines into one or several groups of miniature activities, perhaps with the smaller figurines at the feet or even on the laps of the larger, seated ones.”

Others imagined the figurines as the “Council of Goddesses.” In her influential books three decades ago, Marija Gimbutas, an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, offered these and other so-called Venus figurines as representatives of divinities in cults to a Mother Goddess that reigned in prehistoric Europe.

Although the late Dr. Gimbutas still has an ardent following, many scholars hew to more conservative, nondivine explanations. The power of the objects, Dr. Bailey said, was not in any specific reference to the divine, but in “a shared understanding of group identity.”

As Dr. Bailey wrote in the exhibition catalog, the figurines should perhaps be defined only in terms of their actual appearance: miniature, representational depictions of the human form. He thus “assumed (as is justified by our knowledge of human evolution) that the ability to make, use and understand symbolic objects such as figurines is an ability that is shared by all modern humans and thus is a capability that connects you, me, Neolithic men, women and children, and the Paleolithic painters in caves.”

Or else the “Thinker,” for instance, is the image of you, me, the archaeologists and historians confronted and perplexed by a “lost” culture in southeastern Europe that had quite a go with life back before a single word was written or a wheel turned.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chasing the new 2010 Ferrari 458

Chasing the new 2010 Ferrari 458 Italia! Incredible sound!

From the video description by jorrie2:

Jorrik records the very first Ferrari 458 Italia in the Netherlands!! It just arrived yesterday morning!

We drove on a highway in the Netherlands when a Ferrari 348 past us, so we decided to follow it and we came out at Kroymans (Ferrari/Aston Martin/Maserati) in Hilversum. In the garage we saw this great Ferrari 458 Italia, we waited half an hour and than it came out for a little testride! Please watch the whole vid, at the end can you see how incredible fast this new Ferrari is!
Please rate and leave a comment about the vid or about the car :)

Thanks for watching.



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Giada De Laurentiis

From Wikipedia -- Giada Pamela De Laurentiis: Born August 22, 1970) is an Italian American chef, writer, television personality, and the host of the current Food Network program Giada at Home. She also appears regularly as a contributor and guest co-host on NBC's Today. De Laurentiis is the founder of the catering business GDL Foods.

You probably have at least seen Giada De Laurentiis, if you have cable tv, probably on the Food Network. Also on many other media and commericial endeavors. Her biography is very interesting, and you can read the rest of it on the above link. She is the granddaughter of the famous Italian film producer Dino De Laurentiis, and has other famous people in her family tree. Since we consider most of Latium and the South Tyrol as being sort've "honorary Padanians," we would consider her as our folk. Although she has some Neapolitan roots (De Laurentiis). It's also interesting that she was born in Rome and grew up in Southern California.

She cooks and gives instruction on her program, 'Giada at Home', with such enthusiasm that someone created one of those virtue posters for her. It's not a bubbly enthusiasm as much as it's a manifestation of super-positive energy. She has reached a point where she is a "celebrity," close to famous.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Italian Swiss Colony reopens as Asti Winery

I had put a lot of the history of the Italian Swiss Colony on an old website, but may have lost it. We'll have to start posting some of that history. Several years ago the winery reopened under the name Asti Winery.

From the video description:

Located on the original property of Asti Winery, located in Northern Sonoma County, Cellar No. 8 pays tribute to the propertys rich history. You might know Asti Winery as the once-famed "Italian Swiss Colony," founded in 1881 by Andrea Sbarboro, who formed an entire community, with other Italian and Swiss immigrants, around the art of winemaking. They focused on using time-honored methods and techniques from the 'Old Country.

In the 1960's, the Italian Swiss Colony was the second largest tourist attraction in California, next to Disneyland. In fact, there are many stories of friends who visited this historic winery as children, whose parents had made Asti Winery a regular vacation destination in Northern California. This was a grand place in its day, which hosted many parties for the California elite, including top government officials.

The Asti Winery has always been a working winery, but only recently reopened its doors to the public as home to Cellar No. 8. Paul Rydquist, Winemaker for Cellar No. 8, prides himself on using traditional winemaking techniques, and handcrafting rich, complex wines from carefully chosen vineyards, making wines in a way that Andrea Sbarboro would approve.

Cellar No. 8 wines are rich in flavor, approachable and affordable. With two different labels and price points, there is something for every palate and pocket. The White Label produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, priced at $10 and is readily available at liquor stores and grocery outlets. The Black Label ranges in price from $15-$25 and can be found at the winery or at Cellar 360 in San Francisco cellar360.com

Cellar No. 8 invites you to visit them at their beautiful historic location and taste a part of California history in their wines. They offer tours daily and encourage you to enjoy a picnic on the beautiful grounds overlooking the scenic palm trees and hills. What better place to escape?

YouTube channel fatbellytraveler



Monday, December 20, 2010

The origin of the Christmas tree

Where did the Christmas tree come from? (from Yahoo Answers)

Where did the idea originate?

The origin of the Christmas tree is obscured by uncertainties of oral histories of pre-literate European cultures. For example, according to Christian lore, the Christmas tree is associated with St Boniface and the German town of Geismar. Sometime in St Boniface's lifetime (c. 672-754) he cut down the tree of Thor in order to disprove the legitimacy of the Norse gods to the local German tribe. St. Boniface saw a fir tree growing in the roots of the old oak. Taking this as a sign of the Christian faith, he said "...let Christ be at the center of your households..." using the fir tree as a symbol of Christianity.

The tradition of the Christmas tree as it is today known is fairly young. It was established by Martin Luther as a Protestant counterpart to the Catholic Nativity scene. Luther established the Christmas tree as a symbol of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.

The custom of erecting a Christmas Tree can be historically traced to 15th century Livonia (present-day Estonia and Latvia) and 16th century Northern Germany. According to the first documented uses of a Christmas tree in Estonia, in 1441, 1442, and 1514 the Brotherhood of the Blackheads erected a tree for the holidays in their brotherhood house in Reval (now Tallinn). At the last night of the celebrations leading up to the holidays, the tree was taken to the Town Hall Square where the members of the brotherhood danced around it.

In 1584, the pastor and chronicler Balthasar Russow wrote of an established tradition of setting up a decorated spruce at the market square where the young men “went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced there and then set the tree aflame”. In that period, the guilds started erecting Christmas trees in front of their guildhalls: Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann (Marburg professor of European ethnology) found a Bremen guild chronicle of 1570 which reports how a small tree was decorated with "apples, nuts, dates, pretzels and paper flowers" and erected in the guild-house, for the benefit of the guild members' children, who collected the dainties on Christmas Day.

Christmas tree (Wikipedia)


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Riots erupt after Berlusconi survives no-confidence vote

Whenever the subject of Italian politics comes up, it's enough to make one want to close their eyes and shake their head. Our only genuine interest is the founding of a Northern Nation. A spiritual pursuit. An Israel for OUR people, no more, no less. Although we're expected to support Berlusconi, what we really need is a nation state, not a right wing party. Left and right politics have been a disaster there for at least a century, and will not provide the outcome that we want. Now with European bankers running the show through the EU, the odds are stacked against us. In other words, behind the scenes bankers like Lord Carrington, or unelected bureaucrats like Javier Solana, can decide the fate of other peoples.

The politic of the day is fabianism, which in short is far far right economics mixed with far far left socialism. In other words, monopoly capitalism and finance (not free market capitalism) married to social marxism. They make a good pair. The plutocrats at the top, and the sheep at the bottom, forming a symbiotic-globalist status quo. We have the exact same thing in the United States, so it would be highly hypocritical for either side to point the finger at the other.

Throwing Berlusconi out on his ear in favor of someone on the left would be the same as going from Bush to Obama. Just two arms of the same globalist monster, all backed by the same money.

Riots erupt after Berlusconi survives no-confidence vote

Italian premier tarnished by gaffes, sex scandals is left with razor-thin majority

MSNBC.com News Services - December 14, 2010

ROME — Premier Silvio Berlusconi won back-to-back confidence votes Tuesday in the Italian parliament, narrowly surviving one of the toughest fights of his political life. But violent protests greeted his victory, as rioters torched cars, smashed windows and clashed with police.

Riot police fired tear gas to try to disperse the crowds in Rome after earlier trying to cordon off the area around parliament. Clouds of white tear gas and orange flares engulfed some streets, shops full of Christmas goods hurriedly closed down and employees at one bank cowered in fear as waves of stone-throwing youths swept by.

Protesters rampaged in the the area around parliament and Berlusconi's residence, which had been cordoned off by heavy police presence. By sundown, almost 100 people, both protesters and police, were reported injured, including about two dozen hospitalized. About 40 were reportedly taken into police custody.

The chaos followed speculation in recent weeks that the end of the Berlusconi era was near.

Weakened by sex scandals and a bitter breakup with his one-time closest ally, Berlusconi seemed destined to be sent packing. The split with Gianfranco Fini had eroded the premier's once comfortable parliamentary majority and left him vulnerable in the lower house.

But Berlusconi battled back, as he has countless times when his political career seemed to be on the ropes. Tuesday's drama confirmed his status as the ultimate political survivor — but he emerges from the battle severely weakened and one top opposition lawmaker called his success a "Pyrrhic victory."
Newsweek: No-confidence vote will cripple Berlusconi

In the most dramatic and closest of the two tests, Berlusconi survived the no-confidence motion in the lower house by just three votes. Scuffles between lawmakers forced a brief suspension in the voting session.

Earlier in the day, Berlusconi had secured a more comfortable victory in a confidence vote at the Senate.

The vote's slim margin means Berlusconi can no longer count on a secure parliamentary majority for passing legislation. Some experts predict he might resign in upcoming weeks, a move that could lead to early elections, which he hopes to win again.

But Berlusconi has repeatedly defied the skeptics, shrugging off a string of gaffes and scandals to win three elections and transform Italy's political landscape since gaining power for the first time in 1994.

The opposition is too splintered and there are no possible challengers among Berlusconi's allies, according to Richard Bellamy, a political-science professor at University College London.

"He survived many times and I doubt that, even if he loses in the lower house, that will be his end," Bellamy said in a telephone interview. "The challenge is whether there is a credible coalition opposition, as Berlusconi has always benefited from the inability of the center left to win."

Berlusconi triumphed in the upper house, where he has a majority, by 162 to 135, Senate Speaker Renato Schifani said.

An intensive campaign of lobbying and persuasion appears to have won over enough deputies to give Berlusconi a chance of survival; many commentators had estimated the government was likely to have just have the numbers to scrape through.

In speeches to parliament Monday, Berlusconi battled back against his critics and outlined why lawmakers should support his government.

'Continuing with change'

"Today what's at stake isn't the future of the prime minister," Berlusconi said, smiling, as opposition members jeered. "Today, what's in play is the choice between continuing with change or restoring old ways."

He offered to negotiate a new legislative agenda that would allow the government to survive until parliamentary elections are held in 2013. He promised to change the membership of his Cabinet to give government positions to those who support him in the votes.

And he argued that his government had successfully protected Italy from becoming engulfed by the eurozone's debt crisis.

"The last thing Italy needs is a political crisis," Berlusconi said, as his close ally Umberto Bossi, leader of the Northern League, sat next to him.

Berlusconi's government has generally won praise for its reaction to the global financial crisis, steadfastly directed by Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti and including a rigorous austerity package.

Italy has a high public debt level, and recently faced renewed economic threats. But it is still widely viewed as low-risk due to the low level of private debt, a relatively sound banking system, and experience in dealing with high public debt levels.

"If your concern over Italy's difficult situation is honest and real, then the only possible way forward is renewing confidence in my government," Berlusconi said. Such a vote, he said, "will be proof of realism and political wisdom."

Berlusconi also defended his friendship with Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin following revelations that the U.S. diplomats were uneasy about the premier's close relationship with Moscow.

He dismissed suggestions that he had personally benefited from business deals between Italian and Russian companies, saying that "not one dollar ... has been put or will ever be put in my pocket."

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Was there an Etruscan Book of the Dead?

In the 1998 movie entitled 'The Eighteenth Angel', the fictional plot revolved around something called "The Etruscan Book of the Dead." However, was this based on ancient reality? Certainly we know that there was the Egyptian "Book of the Dead." Google shows 703 results for an exact search for "Etruscan Book of the Dead," but still, the evidence seems to be lacking. We do know that the plot in 'The Eighteenth Angel' was at least partly based on fiction, as it portrayed the book as having something to do with Satan. Satan was a Christian concept, and would not have been present in ancient Etruria.

One possible answer may be hinted at in the book 'Marcus Aurelius: A Life' (McLynn; 2009). According to the book, the former Emperor of Rome enjoyed talking about local wines and the "Etruscan book of the dead" (in lower case). Therefore, this lowercase "book of the dead" possibly could be merely a nickname for the 'Etrusca Disciplina'. To quote Wikipedia's "Etruscan mythology" page: The Etruscan religion was a revealed one. Its scriptures were a corpus of Etruscan texts termed the Etrusca Disciplina.

According to the Romans, who had vanquished the Etruscans long before, "Etruria" was a dead culture. The early Romans had destroyed virtually everything Etruscan, including its spiritual traditions, therefore, the later generations of Romans would have looked back to the pre-Roman period in the region as mysterious. "The dead." Maybe someone out there could give us a little help here, but it appears that this explanation makes sense.

To quote the MysteriousEtruscans.com Etruscan Religion page:

The disciplina etrusca seems to have comprised three categories of books of fate. The first was that of the libri haruspicini, which dealt with divination from the livers of sacrificed animals; the second, the libri fulgurates, on the interpretation of thunder and lightning; the third, the libri rituales, which covered a variety of matters. They contained, as Festus says, "prescriptions concerning the founding of cities, the consecration of altars and temples, the inviolability of ramparts, the laws relating to city gates, the division into tribes, curiae and centuriae, the constitution and organization of armies, and all other things of this nature concerning war and peace.

Among the libri rituales were also three further categories: the libri fatales, on the division of time and the life-span of individuals and peoples; the libri Acherontici, on the world beyond the grave and the rituals for salvation; and finally, the ostentaria, which gave rules for interpreting signs and portents and laid down the propitiatory and expiatory acts needed to obviate disaster and to placate the gods.

The "Etrucan book of the dead" is probably just a nickname for the 'Disciplina Etrusca' and its "books of fate."


Monday, November 29, 2010

Mario Ghilotti, prominent Marin builder, dies

Carolyn Jones - San Francisco Chronicle - November 29, 2010

Memorial services will be held this week for Mario Ghilotti, a gregarious icon in the Bay Area construction industry and a stalwart supporter of Marin County sports and military life.

Mr. Ghilotti died Nov. 20 after falling down a flight of stairs at his Kentfield home, while in a rush to get to his office and then his grandson's high school football game. He was 87.

"He was very passionate and excited about everything he did. Even at age 87, people thrived off his energy and enthusiasm," said his son, Michael Ghilotti of San Rafael. "No one outworked him."

Mr. Ghilotti worked seven days a week for more than 60 years at Ghilotti Brothers Inc., the San Rafael construction firm started in 1914 by his father.

Ghilotti Brothers has directed some of the Bay Area's most prominent public works projects, such as the Crissy Field restoration in San Francisco, the Interstate 680 and Highway 24 interchange in Walnut Creek, and the 1996 renovation of the curvy portion of Lombard Street.

The firm won an award for its renovation of Octavia Boulevard in San Francisco and is now working on the rebuilding of Doyle Drive south of the Golden Gate Bridge. Mr. Ghilotti, though, was most proud of a project in his hometown - the $100 million widening of Highway 101 near Larkspur.

The firm was founded by Mr. Ghilotti's father, James Ghilotti, an Italian immigrant and stonemason who came to the Bay Area seeking work after the 1906 earthquake. Born Dec. 4, 1922, Mario Ghilotti spent his youth hauling rocks and cement bags for his family's company.

He was a football star at San Rafael High, which launched his lifelong interest in Marin County youth sports. He donated money to build sports fields across the county and was a founder of the Marin Athletic Foundation. He also gave money to build the bocce courts at Albert Park in San Rafael.

"He always felt athletics were an equal part of education in the development of young people," said another son, Dante Ghilotti of Ross. "He felt that sports helped young people learn about character, team building, discipline."

After high school, Mr. Ghilotti joined the Navy and served in the Pacific during World War II. He was a gunner on a torpedo bomber, surviving the battle of Saipan and a typhoon that killed hundreds of sailors.

Mr. Ghilotti then attended the University of San Francisco, where he played football, but he had to leave school before graduating to help with his family's business.

He and his brothers took over the firm in 1950, when it had roughly 25 employees and annual revenues of less than $5 million. At the company's peak in the late 1980s, it had 525 employees and revenues topping $100 million, his sons said.

As general manager, Mr. Ghilotti oversaw the finances, equipment, assets and property. The firm's success was partly due to Mr. Ghilotti's work ethic and the connections he built with local politicians, community leaders and colleagues in the industry, his family said.

He was a founding member of several construction associations and was a fixture at community gatherings, ranging from water board hearings to his regular meetings with friends at San Rafael Joe's.

"He had an opinion and he gave it," said San Rafael Mayor Al Boro, who knew Mr. Ghilotti for 25 years. "He was really a champion of San Rafael, and helped a lot of people. His mark is on a lot of things here."

Mr. Ghilotti gave money for the Lone Sailor memorial near the Golden Gate Bridge and several veterans' memorials near the Marin Civic Center. Last year, he donated enough to save the ROTC program at Novato High School.

"He wasn't politically correct, but he had a big heart, and was always caring and helping other people," Dante Ghilotti said. "He could make anyone laugh. Everyone just seemed to like him."

In addition to his sons, Mr. Ghilotti is survived by his wife of 50 years, Eva Ghilotti, and eight grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Raphael Church, 1104 Fifth Ave., San Rafael.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Surnames from Place Names II

This in in response to an entry which I had written in 2008 called 'Surnames from Place Names'. I tried to show how many surnames, especially from Southern Italy, had Lombard-inspired names. Recently while reading a book, and somewhat coincidently, I came across two similar type references. One French, and one Spanish.

Because the Langobards transgressed lands which were at least very close to France in ancient times, a French remnant is less surprising. The one example is a well-known street in Paris called "rue des Lombards," which is famous for hosting three of the main French jazz clubs: Le Baiser Salé, Le Duc des Lombards and the Sunset/Sunside. It was originally a banking center in medieval Paris, a trade dominated by Lombard merchants. Those "Lombard merchants" as well as "Lombard bankers" were actually not necessarily from Lombardy, but that name was used whether they were Venetian, Florentine, etc. In this example, the street wasn't specifically named after Langobards.

The Langobards and the Franks has a long history of friendship and intermarriage between the ruling families, long before the Franks moved west and conquered what is now France, the land which now bears it's name. It was similar to the Langobard invasion of the Italian peninsula. After conquering what became "Langbard," some Langobard factions invaded southern France, which began a long gradual process in which the two tribes drifted apart. This culminated with Charlemagne's invasion of Langbard, and the destruction of the kingdom.

In the other example, it's a Spanish surname called "Lomabardero." The origin could either be from "Lombard bankers/merchants" who may have set up shop in one of the larger Spanish cities, probably after 1492, or it could be from contact with the Langobards themselves. After the Moors conquered Spain, or most of it, they prepared to invade the Frankish Kingdom. Word was sent to the Langobard King calling for help. A Langobard army showed up just in time for a coming major Moorish assault. The Langobards had such a fearsome reputation that the Moors called off the invasion, as least temporarily.

Of course, there's always the possibility that an important individual might have been conducting trade with any other region and was given a name to match. Therefore, for example, a Spanish businessman of the Middle Ages might have been conducting overland trade with Lombardy.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Continuum Estate the latest Mondavi family twist

[Above: Tim Mondavi and daughter Carissa stand in the vineyards of Continuum Estate, which he sees as a way of contributing to the Mondavi family legacy]

Continuum Estate the latest Mondavi family twist

Jon Bonné - San Francisco Chronicle - Oct 31, 2010

Find the exact spot at Continuum Estate, Tim Mondavi's new wine project, and you can glimpse the entirety of the Mondavi family's Napa Valley history.

On a clear day high on Pritchard Hill above the Silverado Trail, it's possible to view the Mondavis' famed Oakville winery across the valley. Next to it lies the To Kalon Vineyard that helped spur their fame. Glancing north past St. Helena, you might spy the Charles Krug property, where the family established its Napa roots in 1943, decades before the infamous brotherly split that propelled Robert Mondavi, Tim's father, to seek his own fortune.

Now Tim is ready to show off his addition to the Mondavi legacy - one built on decades of work in the family business.

"We are betting on the fact that we know a little bit about what we're doing," says Tim, 59.

The Mondavis have been writing their next chapter for nearly six years, and Continuum is a major piece. After selling their winery in 2004 to Constellation Brands, the world's largest wine company, the Mondavis found themselves well compensated but little more than figureheads. As Tim puts it, "Everything went up in smoke."

Suddenly the first family of American wine had no winery to its name. Robert's sons, Tim and Michael, diverged to create their own endeavors.

Michael, always the consummate businessman, created Folio Fine Wine Partners, an effort that includes both his own California wines and a series of imports - a scale model of the diverse Robert Mondavi empire.

Tim, trained at UC Davis, was the winemaker of the two. His was a more constrained notion: to create a single-estate wine that cut none of the winemaking corners he had been forced to trim at his father's winery.

It would provide a continuity of the Mondavi legacy, with his father offering guidance and his kids lending a hand, just as Robert ushered him and Michael into the family business.

Hence the name: Continuum.

"We had not missed a vintage since 1919 as a family, and we wanted to carry that on," Tim says.

That meant something in the Cabernet realm, specifically from To Kalon, long the source of top Mondavi wines.

Soon after the sale, Tim got his sister Marcia Mondavi Borger as a partner, received his dad's blessing and began securing the large oak and concrete fermenters he had wanted at the Mondavi facility, an expense seen by some as an extravagance.

Determined to make wine again in 2005, Tim assumed that he could rely on To Kalon fruit - an informal part of the sale agreement.

Initially, grapes did come from To Kalon. But it became evident its new owners wouldn't make the fruit available to him for much longer. Continuum's 2007 vintage was the last to include a majority of grapes from the site that helped seal the Mondavi reputation.

"The first three vintages are Dad's final ode to To Kalon," says Tim's daughter, Carissa Mondavi.

Splits in family

In the brothers' differing paths, and Tim's choices for Continuum, lie echoes of their sometimes dramatic splits running their family's empire under the careful watch - and active hand - of their father.

"I think the great thing is, this has allowed each of us to focus on something where we get the maximum satisfaction," says Michael Mondavi. "But I think we each excel in our own ways."

Although the brothers briefly served as co-CEOs of the Mondavi winery, Tim's role was clearly in the cellar and vineyards, while Michael's was in the boardroom - a split underscored by Robert's decision to end those co-equal roles in 1994, when the company went public and Robert installed Michael as sole CEO, with Tim as a managing director in charge of winegrowing.

There was also a gap in philosophy. If Michael felt the Mondavi name could bring cachet to lower-priced wines, Tim defended the top end, conducting sometimes costly winemaking trials. His work faced scrutiny in a public company guided by a board accountable to Wall Street.

"What gave focus to Robert Mondavi was my father's singular focus on the wines, from the first day. That clarity dimmed as the company went public," Tim says. "Continuum was born of the continuation of that clarity."

A move east

Though the family's legacy was established on Napa's western valley floor, Tim looked east toward spots like Howell Mountain and Atlas Peak, and their less fertile soils.

Eventually, Pritchard Hill caught his eye. Mondavi knew the area was a tougher prospect than Oakville's richer soils. Yields are scant - Continuum gets just under 2 tons of grapes per acre, perhaps half the valley average - so farming is expensive.

"If you are up here and you don't have that expectation, you're going to be out of business in a hurry," Tim says.

He was taken by a parcel near the Chappellet winery owned by Leighton and Linda Taylor of the Cloud View label. They said no when Tim approached them in 2007, but they changed their minds just in time for Robert, then 94, to see Continuum's eventual home before his death in May 2008. A few months later, on July 16 - the same day, Tim is fond of noting, that his father broke ground on his winery in 1966 - 86 acres of land was in Mondavi hands.

It took a little more than a year to acquire a second parcel from Tim's new next-door neighbor, Dick Martin, a Los Angeles architect who founded the Versant label. The two parcels, ranging from about 1,300 to 1,600 feet elevation, together formed 173 total acres of prime Napa ground - with 63 currently in vineyard, 21 newly planted by the Mondavis, farmed organically but not certified.

It's a site with a track record; the first plantings came in 1991, with more in 1996 and 2004, providing ample fruit for Continuum, which Tim wants to cap at 5,000 cases - meaning a lot of fruit or wine will be sold off or turned into a potential second label.

It is also a precious neighborhood, a sort of Gold Coast for Napa with its high-dollar bottles and closed-door properties. The adjacent Chappellet property is noted for its Pritchard Hill Cabernet. And just as Robert Mondavi welcomed Donn and Molly Chappellet to the valley in the mid '60s, the Chappellets more recently welcomed Tim and his family to their part of Napa.

"We're delighted it is them, because it could have been, who knows, any entity," says Cyril Chappellet of Chappellet Winery, one of Donn and Molly's sons. "It could have been one of the big behemoths that is publicly owned and has no feel for the valley."

Not far away is Bryant Family, one of Napa's most visible 1990s cult projects, and Ovid, one of its most ambitious recent launches. Just downslope lie Dalla Valle's vineyards, source of the lauded Maya blend.

Maya actually serves as a key reference for Continuum; both are based on a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon and a large portion of finicky, aromatic Cabernet Franc, which has found a lukewarm reception in Napa. But Tim was reminded of his experiences at Ornellaia, the Tuscan estate briefly owned by the Mondavi winery, and of his fondness for Bordeaux's Right Bank.

"I personally loved the wines that had the highest percentages of Cabernet Franc. So we reflected that," he says. "It also had to be different from what we'd done before."

Given the neighborhood, and the limited production of just 1,500 cases, Continuum is not cheap. But the 2007 sold out in three weeks at $140 per bottle - about the cost of the Mondavi Reserve Cabernet, and well under the going rate for many neighbors, including Bryant Family, currently about $325.

A different path

Tim, loquacious and displaying the artistic streak he was known for at Robert Mondavi, insists on driving up to the property's high point to show off a favorite parcel of Cabernet Franc. He seems to feel relaxed here, pursuing the sort of winemaking he loves without the financial pressures that caused strife in Oakville.

The forthcoming 2008 vintage marks the Mondavis' true break with To Kalon and the valley floor. It contains 70 percent fruit from Pritchard Hill; that jumps to 90 percent in the 2009.

The wines have been made at outsourced facilities, currently at the Ranch, a St. Helena custom-crush winery. But a home is coming. On a rise near that favored Cab Franc block, a facility designed by architect Howard Backen, built on pillars of rammed earth, is due by 2014.

Though Tim tapped some veteran non-family talent from the Mondavi realm - Greg Brady, Continuum's general manager, was a senior vice president at the Mondavi winery - like most things Mondavi, Continuum is ultimately a family affair. Daughter Carissa does sales and communications. Son Dante has been working as a cellarmaster. Son Carlo, who previously founded a line of skin-care products, is in sales. Daughter Chiara painted the label design, a rendering of a Cabernet Franc vine.

Tim clearly sees that as the path to ensuring that the Mondavi legacy endures beyond his generation.

"I think the fact my family has been in the wine business since 1919 tilts things in our favor. And I think the fact we're serious tilts things in our favor," Tim says.

"It'll be a while before we actually make money, but we know that."

From the notebook

How is Continuum? It is a masterful work in progress - by design, clearly, because the vineyard source has been shifting. But the template remains largely the same: a big dose of Cabernet Sauvignon, a healthy addition of Cabernet Franc and a bit of Petit Verdot for structure and color.

The 2007 Continuum ($140) comes primarily from the To Kalon site, with about 15 percent from the estate. At 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 22 percent Cabernet Franc and 18 percent Petit Verdot, it receives 100 percent new oak.

As a young wine, the wood is evident. It's hefty, lavish and packed with graphite, black olive and peppery Franc aromatics, plus deep kirsch and black cherry - a more overt effort that wears the To Kalon signature of rich black fruit. That To Kalon mark often falls prey to a Napa tendency to take a good thing too far. Continuum takes it just far enough; it's a well-executed powerhouse.

By contrast, the 2008 Continuum ($150; to be released in March) is predominantly an estate effort, with 70 percent of the fruit from Pritchard Hill. The proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon rises to 71 percent and there's a touch of Merlot, with a bit less new oak.

The result is far more perfumed and fresh, with smoked tobacco leaf and dried flower scents and bright huckleberry and cassis flavors. There's a much purer fruit signature, with sinewy tannins and a dark-stone mineral presence that already shows tremendous potential to age. As a sign of the project's future, it shows Tim Mondavi's wisdom in moving across the valley and up to the hills.

--Jon Bonné

Jon Bonné is The Chronicle's wine editor. Find him at jbonne@sfchronicle.com or twitter.com/jbonne.

This article appeared on page J - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Another Sopranosim

Although not a fan of the show, A&E has the current rights to it and the syndicated broadcasts are shown every morning at 6 AM. Occasionally I have it on as I get up. This morning I couldn't help but notice a scene which, without going into much background, portrayed a rape incident. The victim's ex-husband entered the hospital room to see her.

This character, who I believe was supposed to be of Calabrian ancestry, was a somewhat tall gentlemanly man in his fifties. Well spoken and educated, he took great offense at the portrayal of Italian-Americans in the mainstream media, even going so far as to say that it was a roadblock to an "Italian president."

As he entered the hospital room, he tried to keep his composure as health care staff and law enforcement officials conducted their work. After a few moments, a police detective stated that the perpetrator had been arrested. The individual's last name was "Rossi." Suddenly, this man became noticeably uncomfortable. Showing more emotion than he had when he first saw his ex-wife, he blurted out something like "That's an Italian name!? I thought that witnesses described him as a Puerto Rican??"

The basic gist of it was that he has such a chip on his shoulder, that he took it almost personally that the perpetrator of this particular type of hideous crime had the name "Rossi." Of course, all this was fictional, but I couldn't help but think of what this man might think of many everyday face-to-face meetings with people?

To digress, the criminal in this fictional account was, according to the story, Puerto Rican. Some Puerto Ricans have surnames of Irish, Corsican, and Sardinian origin. This due to immigrants to the island, perhaps a century or more ago, and who melded with the local population; hence the name "Rossi." Then it occurred to me, this individual placed a lot of importance on even the intrinsic concept of "an Italian name." I just wanted to pull this issue away from this portrayal of a crime; one that, if genuinely proven, probably should be rewarded with the death penalty.... into just everyday life. Everyday interactions.

I can't help but think of what this man, and there are probably many like him, would think of maybe someone like me? To digress for just a moment, he, being from New York City, would have had almost no contact with anyone whose ancestry was is what we like to call "the northern nations," unless he traveled to "Italy." This is not good or bad in of itself, but just a fact. When studying the villages of eastern Lombardy, where my ancestors came from, it's clear that very few of them had village names (of their original dialect; used prior to 1860) that he would recognize as "Italian-sounding" The local Lombard dialects wouldn't even be recognized as "Italian" either (the Tuscan language was implemented as the official "Italian language") . However, the surnames would be recognizable to him as "Italian."

Some of those surnames would sound different than what he might be used to. Some of them being of Gallic origin. A few names from long gone eras may appear, like "Mitterpergher" in Lombardy, and many surnames in the tri-Veneto region have no vowel ending, but are very native. However, some surnames in say Sicily reflect long past eras as well; like "Martines" or "Mondinier." More often than not, a name like "Cuomo" would sound foreign in non-cosmopolitan areas in the north. I wonder what Mario Cuomo, himself very similar to the character we are looking at here, would assess that fact? In short, there's an honest aspect to this, and a dishonest one.

Maria Laurino took the challenging step of trying to sift through this issue in her 2001 book 'Were You Always an Italian?: Ancestors and Other Icons of Italian America'. It took courage to take on this issue. Without going into all of the data, I will merely quote the famous anthropologist Carlton Coon:

"No country in Europe in which one language and one cultural tradition prevail shows a greater diversity of race between its southern and its northern extremities than does Italy. The binding element which is common to all sections is the Alpine, which has reëmerged from obscure beginnings through a superstructure composed of Dinaric, Nordic, and various kinds of Mediterranean accretions. Italy stands on the fence between the Alpine and Mediterranean worlds."

As we have gone over time and time again, even that "common language" is absolute pure fiction; no disrespect on the Tuscan dialect intended. Also, Catholicism is a very culturally ambiguous concept. Many people of entirely different cultures are "Catholic."

I recall some years ago, some high ranking political figure in Greece, I don't recall offhand his name or position, stated that "Italians" have spread the mafia all around the world. On one level, he was correct that there is no "Greek mafia." There is a present black market anywhere in the world, but nothing comparable to the mafia of Sicily, Calabria, or Campania, in, for example, Greece, Spain, or Germany. On the other hand, it was a moronic statement in that there are about five million people of "Italian" ancestry in the Brazilian province of Sao Paulo, and no mafia; many millions more in Argentina, with no mafia. Part of this is that most of those people are of "northern nations" descent.

Getting back to our Sopranos character. IF he was of Calabrian descent, and IF he took such matters so personally, then he might well have an achy heart today. The Calabrian 'Ndrangheta is possibly the world's most powerful organized crime group. They make literally billions per year in drug profits. Their GNP is higher than that of small countries like Estonia. In reality, he shouldn't take that personally; although it is quite a curiosity subject! Why Calabria? There are many areas in Europe which are historically poorer and have been subjected to much greater oppression than Calabria or Sicily. On the other hand, I don't think that I have ever heard of a "bad Italian neighborhood" (in a Southern Italian/American sense).

Lets cut to the chase. As a people, US northerners, the Gallo-Tuscan types, have taken it worse than the traditional Italian-Americans. WE are not responsible for any of the negative stereotypes, real or imagined. The image of "Italians" around the world contains some of the lowest stereotypes, with sarcasm sprinkled on top for good measure ('Analize This'); along with the highest forms of culture and ingenuity. Whether anyone likes it or not, the term "Italian" many times arouses negativity or emotion from non-Italians; just subtle enough to make someone NOT want to touch the subject, yet annoying enough to cause despair, especially if one is Gallo-Tuscan in ethnic origin.

Whether it be a quote like from the Greek politician, Camorra wars in Naples, or Robert DeNiro movies, this shouldn't have anything to do with us anyway! I had written about his subject on a few occasions, and minced my words a little. I probably injected a few awkward sentences when I backtracked a little bit to soften it up. This, again, is due to the subtle nature of the subject. One stereotype that I get a lot is "the Italian workplace bully." Okay, we can go into the "good and bad in every group" thing. From the description and names, it seemed pretty clear to me that the bullies of these stories were Southern Italian. Ironically, I can only think of one place that I ever worked where there were some vicious bullies. A lot of ex-cons and social undesirables who made life miserable, who were of various backgrounds. Everything BUT Italian. In fact, the few Italians (almost all Southern Italian) were probably the nicest guys there. I guess it's like an "opposite character" of a national and/or ethnic group. For example, many or most Germans are gregarious, back-slapping, drinking beer on Octoberfest, etc., then the opposite negative stereotype of cool, calculating, and emotionless. Well, maybe it's the same thing here. A warm, gregarious people, and the opposite character: temper, bully, bad attitude, etc.

We should coin a term to describe all the times that someone rags on "Italians" and we have to decide on whether to go along with it, laugh, try to say that we're not really the same type of Italian, or take offense as though we were all one big Italian family that should stick up for one-another no matter what. One thing is for sure, it's not "self-loathing" in the Mario Cuomo/"Were you always an Italian" idea of the term. I guess it's all relative. I guess someone could say that as a white person, I should feel guilty for slavery in America. As a human being, maybe someone could say that I should feel bad for how we pollute the environment.

I remember one time working for a company, it was graveyard shift, and the large heavy man who was the operations manager got angry with one of the other managers. The other man was "demographically Russian," even though his ethnic heritage was from one of those "stan" countries near Afghanistan. The OPS manager called him by an ethnic slur with "Russian" attached to the end of it. Then they went at it. My point is that, beyond this interaction between these two, the one individual was actually not even an ethnic Russian at all. There are many examples of this, which I won't go into, but one would hope that someone, if they had to make this type of remark... would AT LEAST GET THE STEREOTYPE CORRECT!!! Russians, in RUSSIA PROPER, visually are beautiful people, largely ancestors of Vikings! And here, some big slob can defame their name, and the person isn't even really Russian anyway. It's sort've like insulting a person, and then tacking on this added THING that I can't even coin a term for.


Monday, October 25, 2010

The Etruscans and Arthur Kemp

This is in response to an entry on the Arthur Kemp blog entitled 'Etruscans: DNA Evidence Proves March of the Titans Correct Once Again'.

The article is based on a 2006 DNA study on native Tuscans. The conclusion was that modern Tuscans are not related to the ancient Etruscans, as had long been thought.

One of the problems with "geographical categorizations" is that racial stocks in certain regions of the world change over time. Therefore a DNA test might show, for example, that a person of Indo-European descent has genetic links to Iran. In reality, it would much more likely be to ancient Persia, and perhaps even thousands of years ago when the demographics were different. The same could be said for many other regions.

When members of the British National Party voluntarily underwent DNA tests, most showed a somewhat significant genetic link to the Middle East. In reality, that link was to the ancient Mediterraneans of that region, long before massive numbers of people of a different racial stock migrated out of the Saudi Peninsula and spread the Islamic faith there. All it meant was that the English and the Middle Easterners shared some common ancestry, despite the fact that those ancestors went in entirely different genetic directions. The ancient Middle Easterners largely became, for all intents and purposes, Saudis. The ancient Mediterranean Britons became basically Germans. Therefore, for someone to state that Englishmen and Iraqis of today, are genetic cousins, would not be intellectually honest.

The article goes on to the hypothesis that the Langobards displaced the mixed-race Roman population. In reality, at least throughout most of the northern half of the Italian peninsula, the population was made up of culturally "Romanized" Gauls as the historical record is absolutely crystal clear on. In Tuscany, Kemp's hypothesis is closer to the truth, and down onto the southern Langobard duchies of Benovento and Spoleto. Still, the wild sweeping generalization seems to show his lack of historical understanding of at least most of the north.

Now, as far the Tuscan DNA study, the article accurately summed up the results:

"DNA testing on Etruscan bones recovered from graves showed that they were completely unrelated to modern Tuscan people.

"DNA testing on the modern Tuscan people showed that their genetic origin was in Anatolia, which is located in modern Turkey, bounded by the Black Sea to the north and the Caucasus to the northeast — smack bang where it should be."

The only problem is that Arthur Kemp wants his cake and eat it too. Up to, and during the Roman period, there was no "Turkey," and there were no "Turks." Using his logic, one could conclude that the Iroquois built New York City, that Aborigines constructed Sydney, or that England was originally settled by immigrants from Iraq.

The region that is now Turkey was the hub of the Eastern Roman Empire. Before that, much of it was part of Greece. A good portion of it was settled early on by Celtic tribes. According to the 'History of Turkey' Wikipedia page:

"The history of Turkey refers to the history of the country now called Turkey. Although the lands have an ancient history, Turkic migration to the country is relatively new. The Turks, a society whose language belongs to the Turkic language family started moving from their original homelands to the modern Turkey in the 11th century. After the Turkic Seljuq Empire defeated forces of the Byzantine Empire at the Battle of Manzikert, the process was accelerated and the country was referred to as 'Turchia' in the Europe as early as the 12th century.[1] The Seljuq dynasty controlled Turkey until the country was invaded by the Mongols following the Battle of Kosedag. During the years when the country was under Mongol rule, some small Turkish states were born. One of these states was the Ottoman beylik which quickly controlled Western Anatolia..." [Source: 'Turkey'; James Bainbridge].

Arthur Kemp can't have it both ways. If Tuscans are really Turks, then Iraqi immigrants were the original settlers of England. In reality, both of those Mediterranean peoples had no genuine link to modern Turks or Iraqis outside of the very "limited shared ancestry" concept, by which entirely different racial stocks could easily have "some common ancestors." It can't be "heads I win, tails you lose." YOU CANNOT HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.

Modern Tuscans, which we consider OUR folk, are not culturally or genetically similar to modern Turks. Although the study showed some strong evidence to support Kemp's politics, his final conclusion was intellectually dishonest. Some years back, someone was poking around a Roman graveyard and found some surnames consistent with Byzantine origins, and Kemp concluded that this meant that the native inhabitants were actually Turks. That was junk science. First of all, the Byzantines were not "Turkish." Even then, how do we know that the graveyard wasn't specifically a Byzantine cemetery? Were other cemeteries from that period studied? How do we know that the twenty seven ancient Etruscans, from which the DNA was obtained, were not atypical individuals; perhaps from elsewhere?

In the British Isles, remains of Roman legionnaires have been discovered. Some of those soldiers had identification documents showing that they were natives of Syria, Carthage, and elsewhere. Although they probably were basically Phoenician or ancient Mediterranean, which would for all intents and purposes would still place them within the range of "Indo-European," one could easily slant the evidence to the contrary. One BNP official, whose DNA was tested, showed 8% historically recent Sub-Saharan African mtDNA markers; likely originating from the importation of West African slaves. Again, someone could very easily slant that evidence. In reality, one would probably need to take a dozen tests to get an accurate reading of various genetic stocks. A single DNA ancestry test will occasionally blow up the admixture of any particular genetic stock, so 2% could read as perhaps 10% of whatever racial stock was being analyzed.

It's probably safe to say that England is probably more purely "Indo-European" than, say, Spain or Sicily. However, when studying data, an intellectually honest researcher can't decide for themselves, depending on their own ideology, that "heads I win, tails you lose." In other words, you can't use one set of rules to come to a conclusion in one area; and an entirely different set of rules to come to a conclusion in another area.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cernic Rite

The Cernic tradition was an ancient religion native to mainly ancient Gaul, Alpine Germany, and Cisalpine Gaul; and which also seemed to exist in Iberia, some parts of Scandinavia, and perhaps elsewhere.



Cernunnos (also Cernenus and Cern) is a Celtic god whose representations were widespread in the ancient Celtic lands of western Europe. Cernunnos is associated with horned male animals, especially stags and the ram-horned snake; this and other attributes associate him with produce and fertility.

Everything known about this deity comes from two inscriptions from France and one from Germany.


A rock carving of Cernunnos in the National park of Naquane, Italy.[4]
Cernunnos was proposed to have been identified as the illustration on the Snake-witch picture stone, which shows a possibly horned figure holding snakes in his/her hands, from Gotland, Sweden.[citation needed]

Archaeological sources such as inscriptions and depictions from Gaul and Northern Italy (Gallia Cisalpina) have been used to define Cernunnos.

[Music: 'Lacrimae Lugus' by Crystalmoors

"Celtic/Pagan Black Metal band from Cantabria, Spain" (YouTube user BlackDeath)

http://www.fotolog.com/crystalmoors ]

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Wine tasting in Genoa" ..... Nevada

Last year, while visiting South Lake Tahoo, I picked up a brochure entitled 'Wine Tasting in Genoa'. It was subtitled 'Nevada's First Settlement', and was referencing Tahoe Ridge Winery in Genoa, Nevada. The winery is fairly new, having been founded in 1990. The brochure shows that the town and winery are located twenty miles east of South Lake Tahoe. From the brochure: "Nestled in the picturesque town of Genoa, on the eastern slope of the great Sierra Nevada mountain range, lies the home of Tahoe Ridge Winery & Marketplace. Tahoe Ridge sources grapes from high quality growers who farm vineyards throughout Nevada and California."

The winery seems to have everything a large wine operation usually has, including entertainment events. Their events schedule shows that on September 5th, Victoria Vox performed there live; on September 18th, they will host an Annual Grape Stomp at their marketplace and bistro; and on October 17th, Beppe Gambetta, a musical artist from Genova, will perform there as well. From the website: "From Genova, Italy comes this smiling troubadour for his fourth appearance in the Carson Valley. Beppe’s diverse blend of styles range from romantic Italian ballads to traditional Americana and Bluegrass. His sense of humor accentuates his performances while his blazingly quick flatpicking style weaves multi-layered melodies that mesmerize the house."

From Wikipedia's Genoa, Nevada webpage:

"Genoa is an unincorporated township in Douglas County, Nevada, United States. Founded in in 1850, it was the first settlement in what became the Nevada Territory. It is situated within Carson Valley and is about 42 miles (68 km) south of Reno.

"Located within Utah Territory before the Nevada Territory was created in 1861, Genoa was first settled by Mormon pioneers. The settlement originated as a trading post called Mormon Station, which served as a respite for travelers on the California trail. Orson Hyde changed the name of the community to Genoa, after Genoa, Italy. The original Mormon settlers withdrew in 1857 when they were recalled by Brigham Young due to the Utah War.

"The community was the home to Nevada's first hotel, newspaper and court. Nevada's first newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise was founded in Genoa in 1858, but moved to Virginia City, Nevada in 1860. Another first for the state, the Genoa Bar, billed "Nevada's oldest thirst parlor," was patronized by Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt and Johnny Cash and was used in John Wayne and Clint Eastwood films. The village was also the set for the movie Misery, starring Kathy Bates. The village doubled in size with buildings added and then removed after the filming.

"Much of Genoa, including the original fort, station and hotel was destroyed in a fire in 1910, but replica of the fort was built in 1947. Every year since 1919 Genoa has held a festival called The Candy Dance, where candy, food and crafts are sold to support its town government. The Candy Dance is usually held during the final weekend of September. Many pioneers rest in the Genoa graveyard including Snowshoe Thompson, his wife and his son.

"A mile south of Genoa is David Walley's Resort, a famous natural hot springs and spa, now a mediocre resort. It was first built in 1862 and known as Walley's Hot Springs.

"Unlike the city of Genoa in Italy, the Nevada community's name is pronounced with the accent on the second syllable: juh-NO-uh.

"Genoa Historic District

"In 1975, the community was listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places."

The town's website states about their town "Nevada's First Recorded Permanent Settlement." It was founded in 1851.

From the website's "Visit Genoa" page:

"Historic charm attracts visitors year-round

"Historic Genoa, Nevada, is nestled at the base of the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Range, just 25 minutes east of beautiful Lake Tahoe, and one hour south of Reno.

"It is home to Mormon Station Memorial State Park which commemorates the settlement of Nevada in 1851, when the first permanent trading post was established by a group of Mormon traders from Salt Lake City.

"Genoa’s natural beauty and historic charm still beckon travelers and local wildlife. It is not unusual to spot mule deer as they come down from the forested area on the west side of Genoa and cross local roads to graze on vegetation or fields along the Carson River Valley to the east of Genoa.

"The small town of approximately 250 residents and many local amenities and shops, welcomes visitors for a day trip or longer restful stay. Plan to learn about Genoa’s past with a visit to Mormon Station State Park Museum, Genoa Courthouse Museum, the Genoa Cemetery and the Hanging Tree. Stroll through a variety of shops, and be sure to make time for a leisurely lunch or dinner. Click HERE to download the Greater Genoa Business Association Walking Tour Map of town attractions, including shops, dining, drinking and lodging accommodations.

"Considering a stay in Genoa? There is much to do in the surrounding area including hiking, biking, golfing, flying, fishing and shopping, just to name a few. Click here to link to the Carson Valley Visitors Authority for more information about Genoa and the surrounding Carson Valley.

"Be sure to mark your calendar for the last weekend in September to visit the town’s annual Candy Dance Arts and Crafts Faire. Since 1919, the residents of Genoa have made the wonderful homemade candy sold during the weekend and complimented by a Saturday night dinner-dance. Over the years the event has evolved, and today the Genoa Candy Dance is well-known as one of the greatest craft fairs in Northern Nevada drawing artisans from all over the west who come to sell their wares."

There are more tourist links on this page for Carson County, but I think that I'll just leave it at that. The whole Tahoe area is a great place to explore.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Langbard Kingdom: A Catholic Nation

Langbard Kingdom: A Catholic Nation

Soon after the establishment of the Langbard Kingdom, the Langobard Nation officially adopts Catholicism. Prior to that, they had been roughly half Arian Christian and half pagan (Ásatrú).

Langbard Kingdom


[Music: 'Angelic Salutation', 'Hail Mary', or 'Ave Maria' by Barbara Bonney; sung in German]

Monday, August 23, 2010

Villa Toscano Winery in Amador County

The Villa Toscano Winery was featured on this weeks In Wine Country, which airs on Sunday evening on local NBC affiliates. In fact, you may watch the program on their website InWineCountry.com throughout the week. Actually, the "wine country" is not just Napa County, but a much larger region of Northern California. Also, the above image is not the Villa Tuscany. The winery is located in Plymouth, California, which has a population of less than one thousand. The program showed the winery as a very pleasant place to visit. Beyond a place to wine taste, purchase wine, or take a tour; it's a place to have lunch at their bistro, enjoy a massage, or walk off on your own along the vinyards. They seem to even have some rooms for rent.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New findings from ancient tomb in Italy

New findings from ancient tomb in Italy
UPI - August 5, 2010
ROME, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- A royal tomb in an Etruscan necropolis in central Italy has yielded fresh archaeological finds during a summer dig, researchers say.

Tarquinia, one of the richest Etruscan sites in the Lazio region of Italy, is home to dozens of tombs, but researchers were only recently given permission to excavate the "Queen's Tomb" in detail, ANSA reported.

Dating to the mid-seventh century B.C., the crypt is thought to have been a royal burial site although no remains have ever been found.

Researchers uncovering the crypt say they are finding images and decorations found in other contemporary cultures, suggesting the ancient city had much wider links with the outside world than previously thought.

Archaeologists believe the royal tomb was created by a team of foreign architects and craftsmen, strong evidence of a solid network of ties and trade with other civilizations, they said.

The necropolis of Tarquinia contains 6,000 graves cut into the rock but has won worldwide fame for its painted tombs.

Nearly 200 crypts at the site are decorated with frescos in the early Etruscan and Greek style.

Considered one of the most important galleries of ancient art, the Tarquinia necropolis has been on UNESCO's world heritage list since 2004.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Scritobini: Dawn of Europe

The Scritobini were a particularly barbaric tribe in ancient Scandinavia. "Scritobini" was the name which the Romans called them. Here "Scritobini" is used in part, to represent the first inhabitants of the region, or at least going back to the last Ice Age.

Book I, Chaper V

The Scritobini, for thus that nation is called, are neighbors to this place. They are not without snow even in the summer time, and since they do not differ in nature from wild beasts themselves, they feed only upon the raw flesh of wild animals from whose shaggy skins also they fit garments for themselves. [1] They deduce the etymology of their name [2] according to their barbarous language from jumping.

For by making use of leaps and bounds they pursue wild beasts very skillfully with a piece of wood bent in the likeness of a bow. Among them there is an animal not very unlike a stag, [3] from whose hide, while it was rough with hairs, I saw a coat fitted in the manner of a tunic down to the knees, such as the aforesaid Scritobini use, as has been related.

In these places about the summer solstice, a very bright light is seen for some days, even in the night time, and the days are much longer there than elsewhere, just as, on the other hand, about the winter solstice, although the light of day is present, yet the sun is not seen there and the days are shorter than anywhere else and the nights too are longer, and this is because the further we turn from the sun the nearer the sun itself appears to the earth and the longer the shadows grow.

[1] What is said about the Scritobini (or Scridefinni) can be traced to one and the same source as the account of Thule given in Procopius' Gothic War, II, 13, or of Scandza in Jordanes' Gothic History, 3; see Zeuss, 684.
[2] Perhaps from schreitcii, " to stride," or some kindred word.
[3] A reindeer (Waitz).

[Music: 'House of 1000 Corpses' by Rob Zombie]

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ancient Etruria II: Civilization without empire


"In the eight century BC, time of westward expansion, Phoenicians going west, Greeks going west, founding colonies. When the Greeks sailed into Italy, they found something they didn't expect. An advanced civilization already there." --Professor Richard E. Prior, Ancient Historian, Furman University, South Carolina, from the documentary 'Rome: Power & Glory'

As has been stated here before, the perception is that Rome more-or-less came from the Greeks. The truth is a lot different. As the above quote reflects, the Etruscans were trendsetters on thier own. That doesn't mean that, in many ways, the Greeks weren't the forerunners of what later became Western civilization. However, in most areas of human endeavor, the Etruscans were the equal to the Greeks. They apparently were not looking to expand, as they already were in a virtual Garden of Eden. They were not sea faring people. They conducted a lot of land trading, with the north mostly, it appears.

After the Romans shattered the Etruscans, as the victors always do, they rewrote the history. Until fairly recently, the Etruscans didn't even exist in the history books. Now we know that the Romans took Etruscan technology and began to form their plan for an empire. They leveled the vast majority of what had been Etruscan.

[Music: 'Hazelwood' by Silver On The Tree]


Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Twilight Saga and the Benandanti: Part 6

The Bendandanti werewolves

One of the strangest incidences involving werewolves was that of "Benandanti" (a term roughly translated into 'good walkers,' 'those who go well' or 'good-doers') in northern Italy. In this case the werewolves were men who left their bodies and assumed the shape of wolves. After becoming wolves they descended to the underworld to battle witches.

This case was tried in 1692 in Jurgenburg, Livonia, situated in an area east of the Baltic Sea, steeped in werewolf folklore. It involved an 80-year-old man named Thiess.
Thiess confessed to being a werewolf, saying his nose had been broken by a man named Skeistan, a witch who was dead at the time he had struck Thiess. According to Thiess' testimony Skeistan and other witches was preventing the crops of the area from growing. Their purpose for doing this was so they could carry the grain into hell. To help the crop to continue to grow Thiess with a band of other werewolves descended into hell to fight the witches to recover the grain.

The warring of the werewolves and the witches occurred on three nights of the year: Saint Lucia, Pentecost and Saint John (the seasonal changes). If the werewolves were slow in their descent the witches would bar the gates of hell, and the crops, livestock, and even the fish catch would suffer. As weapons the werewolves carried iron bars while the witches used broom handles. Skeistan broke Theiss' nose with a broom handle wrapped in a horse's tail.

The judges were astounded by such testimony, for they had naturally supposed the werewolves were agents of the Devil. But now they were hearing the werewolves were fighting the Devil. When asked what became of the souls of the werewolves, Thiess said they went to heaven. He insisted werewolves were the "hounds of Gods" who helped mankind by preventing the Devil from carrying off the abundance of the earth. If it were not for them all would suffer. He said there were werewolves in Germany and Russia also fighting witches in their own hells.

Thiess was determined in his confession, denying he had ever signed a pact with the Devil. He refused to see the parish priest who was sent for to chastise him, saying that he was a better man than any priest. He claimed he was neither the first nor the last man to become a werewolf in order to fight witches.
Finally the judges, probably out of desperation, sentenced Thiess to ten lashes for acts of idolatry and superstitious beliefs. A.G.H.

In the Friuli region of Italy, Slavic, Germanic, and Italian traditions combined to form the Benandanti cult. Many Benandanti were followers of Diana.

Carlo Ginzburg, in 'Night Battles' wrote:

'The present research now establishes...the positive existence at a relatively late date (from c. 1570) of a fertility cult whose participants, the Benandanti, represented themsleves as defenders of harvests and the fertility of fields...This belief is tied to a larger complex of traditions (connected, in turn, with the myth of nocturnal gatherings over which female deities...presided)...In the span of a century, as we shall see, the Benandanti were transformed into witches and their nocturnal gatherings, intended to induce fertility, became the devil's sabbat, with the resulting storms and destruction.'

Four times a year, on holidays associated with the planting and harvesting of crops, the Benandanti were called to Gatherings. It was at these Gatherings that the major battles with 'Malandanti '(loosely translates to 'evil-doers) or 'Strigoni' were fought. The Benandanti fought with fennel stalks, the Malandanti with sorghum. It was believed that on certain particular nights the soul of the Benandanti gets out of the body to participate in meetings with other Benandanti .

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Benandanti was the method by which they were chosen. One did not decide to be Benandanti, the calling was forced on certain people as an accident of birth. Women and men born with a 'caul' (inner fetal membrane still covering the body, especially the head) were believed to have mysterious healing powers and the ability to see witches. Cauls were sometimes saved by these Benandanti and worn about their necks as amulets.

Much like the shamen of other cultures, the Benandanti testified they left their bodies at night, (what we call astral projection) sometimes shape shifting into animal form , sometimes riding animals or household tools. While 'out' they performed work which, we now know from modern research, was typical of shamans around the world. They healed and protected people of the village, they kept the paths of the dead from this world to the next secure, and they fought to protect the village from 'Malandanti'.

The 'doers of good' retained their anti-witchcraft stance until around the year 1610. Shortly afterward, they came under persecution by the Inquisition, and were identified as witches. They maintained that they were an army for Christ in the war against evil. As a result the local beliefs underwent a profound transformation, and by 1640 the Benandanti themselves were acknowledging that they were in fact 'witches'.

[from monstrous.com]