Monday, April 17, 2017

Sumaria's "Mona Lisa"

Lady or Uruk c3700BC
Back in February 2008, I posted this:

An article published in Gulf News reports on the re-discovery of this ancient artifact:
"The 'Sayedat Al Warkaa', a Sumarian 20cm facial curving, known among archaeologists as the Sumarian Mona Lisa, and which is more than 5000 years old, was found in a garden after the police and occupation forces received a report." (note: link no longer working)

During the war in Iraq, the Baghdad Museum was looted of many of its priceless treasures (April 2003), including what was known as "The Lady of Warka" or "The Mask of Warka" or "The Lady of Uruk".

From IOL - 23rd September 2003:
The 5 000-year-old alabaster sculpture, which topped a list of 30 priceless antiques looted from the museum at the end of the invasion of Iraq, is believed to be one of the earliest representations of the human face, dating from around 3 500 BC. The Lady of Warka had been entombed for weeks in a Baghdad backyard before her rescue. Her saviours were a New York police officer and prosecutor who tracked the mask-like sculpture down to a shallow grave. 

From Irish Times - 19th September 2003
The alabaster sculpture is believed to be one of the earliest artistic representations of the human face, and dates from around 3500 BC. The work is originally from the ancient city of Warka. "During the past two days, we were able to recover the second most-valuable item of the Iraqi National Museum - the face of the Lady of Warka, which is known as the Sumerian Mona Lisa," Mr Mofeed al-Jazairi told a news conference. 

From Middle East Online - 24th September 2003:
Also known as the "Mona Lisa of Mesopotamia," the 20-centimetre (eight-inch) high limestone sculpture, dating from 3,100 BC, depicts the head of a woman and was returned to Iraq's National Museum in a formal handover.  It was fashioned in the southern city of Warka during the Sumerian period, and was among the five most precious pieces still missing since the museum was ransacked after the April 9 fall of Saddam.

From Ancient Pages -15th September 2016
The artifact – the first accurate depiction of the human face – is one of the earliest representations of the human face. Researchers believe that carved out of marble female face is a depiction of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare, and the most prominent female deity in Mesopotamia.

From SFGate - 24th September 2003
The Lady of Warka lay buried half a foot underground in a farmer's backyard, wrapped casually in a cotton cloth and stuffed into a plastic bag, before a joint force of American soldiers and Iraqi police discovered the priceless 5,200-year-old sculpture last week.

Since it was stolen in April, the artifact -- known familiarly as the Mona Lisa of Mesopotamia -- had changed hands half a dozen times in the maze of Baghdad's back alleys and clandestine antique shops, going from dealer to dealer, said Col. Walid Misil, a Baghdad police spokesman.

Read More:
Open Access - The Mask of Warka
The Bible & Interpretation - Mesopotamian Ruins and American Scholars
Archaeology Magazine (online) - National Museum, Baghdad: 10 Years Later
University of Chicago Chronicle - Archaeologists review loss of valuable artifacts one year after looting
The Iraq War & Archaeology - Article 12 - 2nd 1/2 of September 2003

Female Gladiators - Part Of The Lure Of The Roman Arena

Sarah Bond writes in Forbes on the lure of women fighting in the arena:

The use of the word 'gladiatrix' (pl. gladiatrices) is a pseudo-Latin term for these fighters not actually applied in antiquity. In reality, there was a great deal of ambiguity about how one should refer to them. The Roman satirists Martial and Juvenal employ the word 'ludia', which could also be used to refer to an actress or a theatrical dancer, but is most often used to refer to a gladiator's wife.
Relief from Halicarnassus of two female gladiators
The status of these fighters is an oft-discussed point in the literature on these women. Those that were a part of the arena were given a debilitating legal and social stigma called infamia. Yet this did not stop some Roman elites from fighting anyways. The historian Tacitus notes that during the reign of Nero, there were high-ranking women who entered into gladiatorial combat and fought: "
Many ladies of distinction, however, and senators, disgraced themselves by appearing in the amphitheater." Historian Barbara Levick has argued that the ban on elite women participating in the arena likely first came into effect under the emperor Augustus, in 22 BCE. We know that the emperor Septimius Severus re-banned elite women from fighting in the arena in 200 CE. Clearly there was a lure for both men and women. 
Read entire article here @ Forbes


Boudicca - the Celtic Queen of the Iceni


Boudicca, sometimes written Boadicea, was queen of the Iceni tribe, a Celtic clan which united a number of British tribes in revolt against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in 60-61 AD. While she famously succeeded in defeating the Romans in three great battles, their victories would not last. The Romans rallied and eventually crushed the revolts, executing thousands of Iceni and taking the rest as slaves. Boudicca’s name has been remembered through history as the courageous warrior queen who fought for freedom from oppression, for herself, and all the Celtic tribes of Britain.

A freedom fighter, the woman who almost drove the Romans out of the country, Boudica is one of the most iconic queens of Britain. Despite being one of the first ‘British’ women mentioned in history, there is no direct evidence that she even existed. Instead, we have to rely on the accounts of two classical authors, Tacitus and Cassius Dio, both writing decades after the alleged battles between Boudica’s rebel army and their new Roman overlords. Their accounts were constructed with a specific political agenda, and a Roman audience, in mind but they are the only references we have. We don’t even know her real name: Boudica derives from bouda, the ancient British word for victory.

Further Reading:
Internet Classics - The Annals by Tacitus
Bill Thayer's website - Tacitus - The Annals & The Histories
Bill Thayer's website - Cassius Dio - Roman History
Women of History - Legion of the Damned

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Byzantine Lament for a Lost Wife

Dimiter Angelov posted this article in Medievalist dot net:
It is rare to find a work from the Middle Ages where a man writes about the loss of his wife – even more rare that these words are written by a Byzantine emperor. However, this is the case of Emperor Theodore II Laskaris and the heartfelt lament for his wife Elena.
Seal of Theodore II Lascaris
Theodore succeeded his father John III Vatatzes as Byzantine Emperor in 1254 - ruling for only 4 years. He was seen as a capable leader and general - his reign dominated by struggles against the Bulgarians for territory and his attempts at the reunification of the Latin and Greek Orthodox Churches. He was married (c.1235) to Elena, daughter of Ivan Asen II of Bulgaria, by whom he had several children, including his heir, son John IV.
The teenagers grew up together, and from all indications were very much in love. They would have six children, but in the year 1252 Elena passed away at the age of 28. Theodore, who was now ruling as co-emperor along with his father, was devastated at his wife’s death, and turned to writing to express his sadness.
read entire article here @ Medievalists


Further reading:
  • The Journal of Medieval Military History edited by Clifford J. Rogers, Kelly DeVries, John France
  • Warfare in Late Byzantium, 1204-1453 By Savvas Kyriakidis
  • The Fourth Crusade: Event and Context By Michael J Angold
  • Byzantium and the Turks in the Thirteenth Century By Dimitri Korobeinikov
  • History of the Byzantine State by Georgije Ostrogorski
  • Theodore II lascaris, Empereur de Nicee by Jean B. Pappadopoulos
  • A Byzantine Government in Exile: Government and Society Under the Laskarids of Nicaea, 1204-1261 by Michael Angold
  • Imperial Ideology and Political Thought in Byzantium, 1204-1330 By Dimiter Angelov

See also: 






65 Byzantine Tombs Discovered in Ancient City in Turkey

From an article in January 2017 by David DeMar:
In the remains of the ancient marble-clad city of Stratonikeia in southwestern Turkey, archaeologists have found a staggering 65 tombs dating to the Byzantine era, according to the Hurryiet Daily News.
The researcher, who referred to Stratonikeia as “a living archaeological city”, called the site unique for is various characteristics, which included a high number of ancient structures surviving to the present day. The city, which would have at one time been home to the Carians of central Anatolia before the arrival of the Greeks, also holds ties to the Leleges, a pre-Hellenistic people that were said to have been allies of Troy during the Trojan War, the archaeologist said.
One of the primary finds, according to Söğüt, was the nearly four-foot-long skeleton found within a Byzantine-era tomb that had been undergoing cleaning and preservation works. The remains are thought to have belonged to a young woman who lived nearly 1,300 years in the past.



read entire article here @ the New Historian and @ Daily Sabah History

Clues to an ancient death: bacteria

Gillian Mohney made this report for ABC News in January 2017:
This woman's post-mortem was 800 years in the making, with ancient bacteria providing the critical clue for her likely cause of death, and offering a tantalizing glimpse into the lives of our forebears in the Near East.
In the 800-year-old remains of a Byzantine woman found in Turkey, in what used to be Troy, an archaeologist discovered some nodules the size of strawberries — leading to initial speculation that the woman died of tuberculosis. But the story turned out to be much more complex.
“We speculate that human infections in the ancient world were acquired from a pool of bacteria that moved readily between humans, livestock and the environment,” she said.

Read entire article here @ ABC News

Read more about ancient diseases @ the Scientific American and @ the Science Museum

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Laura Battiferra – a Poetess for the Great Siege

Giovanni Bonello wrote a series of three articles for the Times of Malta (2012) on the poetess Laura Battiferra in relation to the Great Siege of Malta (1565).

Laura Battiferra by Agnolo Bronzino c.1560
"Laura Battiferra – Laura who? She had sunk into almost total oblivion, even though she was the wife of one of the most distinguished artists of the High Renaissance: Bartolomeo Ammannati. If one wanted to be generous, she had become an inconspicuous footnote in the history of Italian literature. The cultural explosion of feminism in more recent years has reversed the trend of gender neglect and again pushed Battiferra to the forefront."

Bonnello notes that: " Women do not generally celebrate war in poetry – only silly men do that – but then they do sometimes sing the praises and the virtues of male warriors and champions, the handsome supermen of their unacknowledged dreams, objects of unabashed hero worship or more."

Of her final days, Bonnello writes: "Battiferra spent most of the last stretch of her life in a chapel specially built for her by her husband in a rented villa in Camerata, close to the gates of Florence. Ammannati could afford that and much else besides, after a long and highly successful career as a sculptor and an architect. She passed away in November (probably the 1st), 1589, and was buried in the Ammannati chapel in the Florentine church of San Giovannino whose façade had been designed by her gifted husband."

Times of Malta: 
Laura Battiferra – a poetess for the Great Siege (July 29, 2012)
Laura Battiferra’s four poems on the Great Siege of Malta (August 5, 2012)
Poetess sings praises of Great Siege heroes August 12, 2012


About Laura Battiferra:


Books on / featuring Laura Battiferra:
  • Italian Women Writers: A Bio-bibliographical Sourcebook edited by Rinaldina Russell
  • Laura Battiferra and Her Literary Circle: An Anthology: A Bilingual Edition By Laura Battiferra degli Ammannati
  • Encyclopedia of Women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England edited by Diana Maury Robin, Anne R. Larsen, Carole Levin
  • Women Poets of the Italian Renaissance: Courtly Ladies and Courtesans by Laura Anna Stortoni, Mary Prentice Lillie

Egyptian Necklace Found in a Siberian Grave

An amazing archaeological discovery has been made in the Altai Mountains in Siberia - one that could change our perception of ancient peoples and trade:
Made of brightly coloured laminated glass, the priceless jewellery was found gracing the neck of a 25 year old woman in a remote burial mound in the Altai Mountains. Scientists say she died between 2,300 and 2,400 years ago and was a kinswoman of the famous tattooed 'Princess Ukok' (see more about her here), whose astonishing body artwork preserved in the permafrost has led to worldwide interest.
In fact, while it has been nicknamed 'Cleopatra's Necklace', the highly-coloured necklace pre-dates the exotic last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt and originates around the time that Alexander the Great dominated the world from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas.
The professor is confident the age of the beads is around 2,300 to 2,400 years old because other artefacts in the burial mound, such as a mirror and a knife, which are far more common to Siberia, are known to belong to this era. Yet the presence of the necklace is totally unique compared with discoveries in all previous ancient Siberian graves.
'There have been similar looking finds in Scythian mounds in Crimea, but these were just single beads - never a complete necklace', he said.
Read more about this fascinating discovery here @ The Siberian Times


Friday, April 14, 2017

Violet Jessop: Miss Unsinkable

From the Vintage News comes this remarkable story of a woman - Violet Jessop "Miss Unsinkable" - who survived three historic shipping accidents:
White Star Line was a prominent British shipping company, famous for their luxurious liners. Founded in 1845, the company had their first liner, the Oceanic, built in 1870. The ship had a successful run; it was taking passengers across the Pacific until 1895 when it was decommissioned and sold for scrap. Encouraged by this success, White Star Line ordered three more vessels from Harland & Wolff, the same company that built the Oceanic. The new trio of luxurious ships were named Olympic-class ocean liners, which were constructed in the period from 1908 to 1914, and one of those ships later became the most famous vessel of all time.
These three ships where known as the Olympic, the Titanic, and the Britannic. Violet was aboard all three and survived to tell the tale. The story continues ....

Ship 1 - The Olympic:
In 1910, she became an employee of White Star Line and started working on the biggest civilian vessel of that time, the Olympic. On 20 September 1911, the Olympic collided with HMS Hawke, a British warship, specially designed to ram into other ships and sink them. The Olympic had its hull breached but still managed to sail into port. Violet Jessop was not harmed in the accident.
Ship 2 - the Titanic
Several months after the Olympic mishap, Violet joined the crew of the RMS Titanic. The luxurious and now biggest ship in the world left Southampton on 10 April 1912 and struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean four days later. Two hours after the accident, the ship sank, and 1503 passengers lost their lives.
Ship 3 - the Britannic
On 21 November 1916, the Britannic was in the Aegean Sea when she hit a mine planted by a German submarine. 57 minutes after that, the grandiose ship was already at the bottom of the sea. (Violet was working as a nurse).

Read More Here:

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Schoolgirls 'stripped' to check for menstrual blood

Period shaming in India is not new, but the fact that girls can be "punished" for menstruating, that too inside educational institutes, is indeed a matter of great shame.


Girl students of a residential school in Muzaffarnagar were reportedly stripped naked by a warden to “check for menstrual blood”. According to this report, around 70 students of Kasturba Gandhi Girls Residential School complained that the female warden asked them to take off their clothes and allegedly threatened them to punish if they disobeyed.

The inspection resulted after the warden spotted some blood stains in the bathroom. "The warden ordered us to remove our clothes. It was very humiliating for all of us. We want action against her,” one of the students was quoted as saying but the CNN-News18.

Our society is still driven by the mindset that women turn impure during their periods. And what is most disgusting is that the idea is so deep ingrained and the practice so ancient that even women themselves look at menstruation blood with aversion.

And just like all other obnoxious claims attaching scientific significance to Indian traditions, this custom too, the sanskari Indians believe, has "empirical" proof — menstrual blood is unhygienic which makes the women impure and untouchable during her monthly cycle. 

Statue of Queen Tiye Found

A unique statue, possibly of Queen Tiye, the wife of King Amenhotep III and grandmother of King Tutankhamun, has been unearthed at her husband's funerary temple in Kom El-Hittan on Luxor's west bank.

The exciting find was made by the European-Egyptian mission, working under the umbrella of the German Archaeological Institute.  Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany who visited the site to inspect the discovery, described the staute as "unique and distinghuised".

Hourig Sourouzian, head of the mission said that the statue is very well preserved and has kept is colours well.  She said the statue was founded accidentally while archaeologists were lifting up the lower part of a statue of king Amenhotep III that was buried in the sand.  "The Queen Tiye statue appeared beside the left leg of the King Amenhotep III statue," Sourouzian said. She added that the statue will be the subject of restoration work. 

read more here @ ahram online


Impressive Carved Alabaster Statue of Queen Tiye Discovered
An impressive statue, most likely of Queen Tiye, the grandmother of King Tutankhamun and wife of King Amenhotep III, has been unearthed at Amenhotep III’s funerary temple in Kom El-Hittan on Luxor's west bank, as archaeologists from Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities announced on Thursday, March 23. 


As Natalia Klimczak eports in a previous Ancient Origins article , Tiye was one of the most influential and powerful women in ancient Egypt despite her name been forgotten in the centuries that followed her death. She is believed to have lived from about 1398 BC – 1338 BC, but the story of her life is as mysterious as most of the people who lived in this period. The world she lived in collapsed with the capital city of her son Akhenaten – Amarna.

read more here @ Ancient Origins



Richard III & His Women

Hard on the heels of the discovery of Richard II in the carpark over the medieval location of Grey Friars, we have the following interesting articles - here is a small snippet from all three.

The Princess and the Gene Pool: The Plantagenet rebel who held the secret to Richard III’s DNA - post by author Sarah Gristwood in Medievalist dot net (February 2013)

Here Sarah talks about the fascinating life of Richard's eldest sister, Anne, and how it was her descedents that provided the important mitochondrial DNA for the identification of Richard.
Richard III is perhaps the most controversial figure in British history and historians will long be discussing what new light the finds cast on his story. But the long-forgotten Anne was herself a creature of scandal – a woman who openly took a lover; divorced her husband; and kept his family lands anyway. A Plantagenet princess who acted with all the freedom of a Manhattanite on the make today.
Even if Richard himself had been survived by children, they wouldn’t have carried this particular gene strand. Nor would the present royal family, descended from another of Cecily’s sons. The mitochondrial DNA concerned can be passed only through the female line. So the identification goes back to Anne, who was born in 1439, the first surviving child of Richard, Duke of York and his wife Cecily, the beautiful ‘Rose of Raby’. She was only seven years old when in 1447 she was married – presumably at first in name only – to Henry Holland, fifteen year old heir to the Duke of Exeter, a great nobleman descended from John of Gaunt and thus in the line of succession to the throne.
 Read more here @ Medievalist


Our second items comes from author Elizabeth Ashworth, posted on her blog (July 2013).

Richard III, his mistress, and his illegitimate children
BLB book jacket jpegMuch has been written in fiction, and in some non-fiction, about the love between King Richard III and his wife, Anne Neville. But what if it isn’t true? What if Richard’s mistress was the great love of his life?  We may not know much about the mother or mothers of John and Katherine but we do know a little more about them from contemporary records.

Here Elizabeth discusses the two known illegitimate children of Richard III, and the women who might possibly be the mothers.  Then Elizabeth put forth another candidate:

In my novel By Loyalty Bound I suggest a new name for the mother of Richard’s illegitimate children: Anne Harrington. Although this is also based on speculation as the other names are, there is some circumstantial evidence that she may have been his mistress.
read more here @ Elizabeth Ashworth's blog


Now this third item is the most intriguing - and comes directly from the dig itself. Again, posted on Medievalist dot net (March 2015)

Lady in the Lead Coffin revealed
A mysterious lead coffin found close to the site of Richard III’s hastily dug grave at the Grey Friars friary has been opened and studied by experts from the University of Leicester.
Inside the lead coffin, archaeologists found the skeleton of an elderly woman, who academics believe could have been an early benefactor of the friary – as radiocarbon dating shows she might have been buried not long after the church was completed in 1250 (although analysis shows her death could have taken place as late as 1400).
The high status female was in one of 10 graves discovered in the grounds of the medieval complex, including that of Richard III, six of which were left undisturbed. Those that were examined were all found to have female remains.
Documents dating back to the time of the burials – about 700-years – name a lady called Emma, who was married to John of Holt. In September of that year, 1290, the Bishop of Lincoln issued an indulgence granting 20-days off Purgatory for anyone who would say ‘a Pater and a Ave for the soul of Emma, wife of John of Holt, whose body is buried in the Franciscan church in Leicester’. However, little is known about her, including what she looked like, her age at death or where in the friary church she was buried.

read more here @ Medievalist

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Womens' Suffrage Marches

WHY YOU MUST MARCH
Because this is the most conspicuous and important demonstration that has ever been attempted by suffragists in this country.
Because this parade will be taken to indicate the importance of the suffrage movement by the press of the country and the thousands of spectators from all over the United States gathered in Washington for the Inauguration.
So said the broadsheets handed out and so they gathered. There were three notable marches recorded for posterity - the first in Washington, the next two in New York.

Suffrage Parade - 6th May 1912 - New York City
It was a bold tactic, adopted by suffragists and the more militant suffragettes shortly after the turn of the century. Although some women chose to quit the movement rather than march in public, others embraced the parade as a way of publicizing their cause and combating the idea that women should be relegated to the home. (Source: World Digital Library)



Suffrage Parade - 3rd March 1913 - Washington.
In 1913, the first major national efforts were undertaken, beginning with a massive parade in Washington, D.C., on March 3 -- one day before the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson. Organized by Alice Paul for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the parade, calling for a constitutional amendment, featured 8,000 marchers, including nine bands, four mounted brigades, 20 floats, and an allegorical performance near the Treasury Building. (Source: The Atlantic - March 1st, 2013)

Women from countries that had enfranchised women held the place of honor in the first section of the procession. Then came the “Pioneers” who had been struggling for so many decades to secure women's right to vote. The next sections celebrated working women, who were grouped by occupation and wearing appropriate garb—nurses in uniform, women farmers, homemakers, women doctors and pharmacists, actresses, librarians, college women in academic gowns. Harriet Hifton of the Library of Congress Copyright Division led the librarians' contingent. The state delegations followed, and finally the separate section for male supporters of women's suffrage. All had come from around the country to “march in a spirit of protest against the present political organization of society, from which women are excluded.” (Source: Library of Congress - Official Program: Woman Suffrage Procession).

Read more here:
- The Atlantic
- Library of Congress
- Women of History - Suffrage March of 1913
- Smithsonian - Original Women's March
- Activist New York


Suffrage March - 23rd October 2015 - New York
On October 23, 1915, over 25,000 women marched up Fifth Avenue in New York City to advocate for women’s suffrage. At that point, the fight had been ongoing for more than 65 years, with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 first passing a resolution in favor of women’s suffrage. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t find success for another five years. New York’s 1915 suffrage parade was the largest held in the city until that time. (Source: Behind the Scenes: New York History)

Read more here at:
- The Bowery Boys: New York City History
- The Feminist Majority Foundation


Suffrage March - October 1917 - New York
This NY Times article covers the Fifth Avenue Parade in 1917. Many leaders from various groups, including NAWSA, were a part of this event that used the fighting for democracy in World War I to help promote their cause for fighting for democracy at home. This parade, filled with patriotism for our troops, also used President Wilson’s suffrage endorsement to support their cause. While women, like Carrie Chapman Catt, walked in the parade, NWP members were in the crowd passing out their newspapers and encouraging the protest of the war time President. (Source: New York Times)

Read more here at:
- Women's Suffrage in the United States (wikipedia)
- New York Times: 1917 - When Women Won Right ToVote
- Yates County History Centre
- Night of Terror
- Timeline of Women's Suffrage in United States (wikipedia)
- National Archives - Women's Suffrage Party Petition
- New York Rediscovered
- Digital Documents - Women's Suffrage