Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Inventive Translations of Mary Sidney Herbert

It's hard to imagine a modern family as prominent in as many ways as Philip Sidney and his sister, Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke were. In addition to the social and political prominence of the Kennedys and the wealth of the Kochs, beyond their personal glamour and estates and Philip Sidney's heroism in war, the brother and sister were at the center of scholarship and art—two realms that were less separated in their time than in the present.

Mary Sidney, proficient in Latin and ancient Greek as well as modern European languages, was a brilliant translator as well as a writer in prose and verse. Active as a patron of the arts and a host to artists, she was the center of a circle that included, in addition to her brother, poets Michael Drayton, Edward Dyer, Fulke Greville, and Edmund Spenser.

Her translations of the Psalms (continuing a project of her brother's, after his death) are said to have influenced, in a following generation, her cousin once removed George Herbert and John Donne.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Kateri Tekakwitha - Native American Saint

Some traditional Mohawks are treating the naming of the nation's first Native American saint with skepticism and fear that the Roman Catholic Church is using it to shore up its image and marginalize traditional spiritual practices.

They see the story of Kateri Tekakwitha as yet another reminder of colonial atrocities and religious oppression.

A Catholic convert at 20, she settled in Kahnawake, a Mohawk settlement south of Montreal where Jesuits had a mission and where she and other women performed mortification rituals such as self-flogging as part of their faith. At her death at the age of 24, Kateri's smallpox scars reportedly vanished and later she was reported to appear before several people. She is buried at a shrine on Kahnawake.

Obits For Notable Women

Maria Rosa Menocal, 59, formerly of Philadelphia, a Yale University professor and scholar who studied the interactions of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in medieval Spain, died Monday, Oct. 15, at the home of a friend in Killingworth, Conn., after a three-year battle with melanoma.

Dr. Menocal was born in Havana. When she was 7, a year after the Cuban revolution, she came to Philadelphia to join relatives.

Her family eventually settled in Wayne, and she graduated from Radnor High School. She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1973; a master's degree in French from Penn in 1975; and a doctorate from Penn in 1979 in philology, the study of language as used in literature.

Early in her career, Dr. Menocal lived in Cairo and studied Arabic. She also lived in Spain and France, her husband, R. Crosby Kemper III, said.

A fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, she was a visiting lecturer or professor at Bryn Mawr College, the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, and the American University in Cairo, among others.

From the Irish Times:
At a time when it was very unusual for people in their 50s to enter university for the first time, Sheelagh Harbison undertook an undergraduate degree in general studies at Trinity College Dublin, which included history.

Her talent was spotted by the great professor of medieval history Jocelyn Otway-Ruthven, who arranged for her to have special tuition in Latin so she could enter the honour school, and study for a moderatorship BA degree in history and political science.
She took her degree in 1972 and went on to complete an M Litt on William of Windsor, an English justiciar of Ireland in the later Middle Ages, subsequently published in a festschrift for Prof Otway-Ruthven.
She continued to work in TCD as a tutor until the 1990s, working also under Prof Jim Lydon. When he retired, she contributed also to his festschrift an essay on Colony and Frontier in medieval Ireland.
Another important work was her study of Rinndoon Castle on Lough Ree for the Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Janet Johnson & Demotic Egyptian

From the Chicago Tribune:
Long before Facebook posts and tweets, long before letters with postage stamps, ancient middle and upper-middle-class Egyptians scrawled notes on pieces of clay pots and handed them to children who ran across the village to deliver the messages.
The language these Egyptians used from about 700 B.C. to A.D. 300 is called demotic Egyptian — from the Greek demos, meaning tongue of the common man — and was written in a cursive script during the same period when hieroglyphs were being used to memorialize pharaohs on monuments.
University of Chicago scholar Janet Johnson recently completed a 37-year project compiling the Chicago Demotic Dictionary, which has tens of thousands of words, some of which became "ebony," "adobe" and the name "Susan," surviving the trek across several centuries and cultures.

Ancient Female Oracles Seen As Divine

All ancient societies looked to prophecy and divination to ensure that their beliefs and activities were consistent with the will of the gods. Cosmic order could only be maintained by living a life in harmony with God.
Among the Romans, no prophetic oracle was more important or famous than the Sibyl, the prophetess of Cumae. The Sibyl was an office — like a high priestess — rather than a specific individual.
Throughout the ancient world at different times there were many women who were said to have been Sibyls, including a legendary Jewish Sibyl, the daughter-in-law of Noah, who is said to have lived at the time of the Tower of Babel.
For the Romans, however, the most venerated Sibyl prophesied from a sacred cave-temple at Cumae, near modern Naples in Italy.
The appearance of Sibylline oracles in Roman society dates back to the beginning of Roman history. 

The remarkable history of the Sibyls is recounted in H. W. Parke, "Sibyls and Sibylline Prophecy" (Routledge, 1988). The surviving 14 books of Christianized Sibylline oracles have been translated in James Charlesworth, "The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha" (1983), 1:317-472.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Girl Challenges Taliban

From the Post Gazette:

The Taliban's attempted murder of a 14-year-old girl simply because she campaigned for the right of Pakistani girls to go to school is extreme even by that group's barbaric, medieval standards.

Malala Yousufzai, a young activist who defied the Taliban by pursuing an education and encouraging other girls to do so, was shot Tuesday in the head and neck by an assailant as she sat in a school bus in Mingora, a town in the Swat Valley.

Tribal Tradition Broken In Bihar

From NDTV:
Santhal tribals in a Bihar village have added a new chapter to their ancient custom of young men and women living together - allowing an unwed mother to marry her dead partner's body to make her children legitimate and give them property rights.

Gotul - practised in the tribal regions of Bihar and Jharkhand - allows young adults to cohabit till they are sure that the partner he or she has chosen is good enough for marriage.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bronze Age Female Metalworker

Archaeologists have discovered remains of a woman believed to be a metal worker from the Bronze Age, a finding that challenges ideas about the division of labour in prehistoric times. Researchers are confident that the skeleton found in Geitzendorf, north-west Vienna, Austria belongs to a woman despite the fact that the pelvic bones are missing. 

The woman was buried with an anvil, hammers, flint chisels and some small pieces of dress jewellery. The choice of funeral artifacts hints at her being a metal worker - the first indication that women did such work thousands of years ago, the Daily Mail reported. She was between the ages of 45 and 60 when she died, researchers said.

See also: 
Ernst Lauermann, director of the prehistory department at Austria's Museum of Ancient History

Lady K'abel - Lady Snake Lord

From the Herald Sun:
Considered one of the greatest queens of classic Mayan civilisation, Lady K'abel ruled with her husband K'inich around 670-690AD. Her title, Kaloomte, translates to "Supreme Warrior" of the Wak kingdom for her royal house - the Snake Lords. Co-director of the expedition.

Washington University in St Louis' Dr David Freidel, said this title gave her greater military authority than her husband.  Excavations in the royal Maya city of El Peru-Waka uncovered the tomb filled with fractured funerary pots, jars and objects earlier this year.

For more news:
From International Business Times: "Lady Snake Lord" Tomb Found
From National Geographic: Tomb of Mayan Queen Found
From Washington Post: Tomb of Maya queen discovered

Monday, October 1, 2012

Iranian Warrior Woman

DNA tests on the 2,000-year-old bones of a sword-wielding Iranian warrior have revealed the broad-framed skeleton belonged to a woman, an archaeologist working in the northwestern city of Tabriz said Saturday.

“Despite earlier comments that the warrior was a man because of the metal sword, DNA tests showed the skeleton inside the tomb belonged to a female warrior,” Alireza Hojabri-Nobari told the Hambastegi newspaper.

He added that the tomb, which had all the trappings of a warrior’s final resting place, was one of 109 and that DNA tests were being carried out on the other skeletons.

Hambastegi said other ancient tombs believed to belong to women warriors have been unearthed close to the Caspian Sea.

Web Links:

Polyandry In The Himalayas

From the China Post:
In ancient times, the sons of almost every family in the region of Upper Dolpa would jointly marry one woman but the practice of polyandry is dying out as the region begins to open up to modern life.

But polyandry prevents the practice of each generation of a family dividing their holdings, and food supplies just manage to cover the locals' basic needs.

Marriages are typically arranged, with a family picking a wife for their oldest son and giving the younger brothers the chance to wed her later.

In some cases the wives will even help raise their future husbands, entering into sexual relationships with them when they are considered mature enough.