Saturday, December 30, 2017

Mistress, Miss, Mrs or Ms: Untangling the shifting history of titles

In a paper published in the autumn issue of History Workshop Journal Dr Amy Erickson unravels the fascinating history of the titles used to address women. Her research reveals the subtle and surprising shifts that have taken place in the usage of those ubiquitous M-words. 

It seems that it was not society’s desire to mark either a woman’s availability for marriage (in the case of ‘Miss’), or to mark the socially superior status of marriage (‘Mrs’) which led to the use of titles to distinguish female marital status. Rather, socially ambitious young single women used ‘Miss’ as a means to identify their gentility, as distinct from the mere businesswoman or upper servant.

“’Those who objected to ‘Miss’ and ‘Mrs’ argue that they define a woman by which man she belongs to. If a woman is ‘Miss’, it is her father; if she is addressed as ‘Mrs’, she belongs to her husband,” says Erickson. “It’s curious that the use of Ms is often criticised today as not 'standing for' anything. In fact, it has an impeccable historical pedigree since it was one of several abbreviations for Mistress in the 17th and 18th centuries, and effectively represents a return to the state which prevailed for some 300 years with the use of Mrs for adult women – only now it applies to everyone and not just the social elite.”

read more here @ University of Cambridge

Friday, December 29, 2017

New Renaissance: how Florence is freeing its great female artists

From The Guardian:

Unfairly neglected … Rossella Lari restores The Last Supper by Plautilla Nelli.
Rossella Lari restores The Last Supper by Plautilla Nelli.
Ask most people to name a female artist, and chances are they will come up with a contemporary figure: Tracey Emin, Rachel Whiteread or Paula Rego. Or they’ll name a 20th-century artist such as Frida Kahlo, or Georgia O’Keeffe. What they won’t do, though, is name one of the 16th- or 17th-century women who painted during and in the years following the Renaissance. Nelli is one of many female artists – including Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the most accomplished followers of Caravaggio, and Marietta Robusti who learned from her father Tintoretto – that history has unfairly neglected.

Now, though – nearly half a millennium on – that is beginning to change. AWA, which was established in 2009 by US philanthropist Jane Fortune, is committed to rediscovering all the works by women that lie forgotten in the museum attics and churches of Florence: at least 2,000 so far. When a painting is found, crowdfunding and special appeals pay for its restoration.

read more here @ The Guardian and here @ AWA (Advancing Women Artists)


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Elite companions: sex work in ancient Athens

When the Athenian politician Pericles delivered his famous Funeral Oration at the end of the first year of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC), commemorating those who had fallen during the course of the year, a rumour emerged that his companion, Aspasia was the real author. Other hetairai, like Neaira, were put into the trade as children and trained for a life of satisfying wealthy clients. 

The lives of other girls and women reveal the hardships they faced. In addition to hetairai, there were those who worked their whole lives (until they were of no further use) in brothels. The price of women varied according to their age and condition and the quality (or lack thereof) of the business. As the hetairai were trained in the skills required to please men, women in brothels were sometimes modified to suit certain male tastes.

read more here @ The Conversation

Celebrating Mary Somerville: the Queen of Science

Mary Fairfax Somerville: despite little formal education, she was determined to understand the natural world.When the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) issues its new ten-pound note towards the end of 2017, the 19th century’s “Queen of Science” will surely inspire new generations in her homeland. But the legacy of self-taught mathematician Mary Fairfax Somerville reaches way beyond Scotland: she was a brilliant translator of science for the public and a passionate advocate for women’s education.

The RBS’s new polymer note shows Mary as a young woman; but she was 50 years old by the time she shot to fame in 1831, after the publication of her cutting-edge Mechanism of the Heavens. Academics were astounded: it was said that no more than five men in Britain were capable of writing such a demanding book, based as it was on the work of leading French mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace. It was a phenomenal achievement for a woman who taught herself science and mathematics at a time when most universities did not admit females. Mechanism of the Heavenswas not just a momentary curiosity; it was used as a textbook in Cambridge’s advanced mathematical astronomy classes for the next century.

read more here @ Cosmos Magazine


Forensic Dogs In Search For Amelia Earhart

"Forensic dogs have been able to detect graves that are thousands of years old,” Pettigrew said. “So finding something 80 years old doesn't sound to me like a stretch."

Pettigrew said the dogs "alerted at the very spot" where the search organizers theorize Earhart expired, but a subsequent dig found no leftover bones. The crew collected soil samples at the site in a long shot bid to extract remnant DNA of the presumed castaway.

This summer's expedition was organized and led by Tom King, an archaeologist, author and TIGHAR board member from Silver Spring, Maryland. Besides the dog handlers and land-based excavation, King recruited an underwater search team.

read more here @ KUOW

Centuries-old ovarian tumour discovered

Archaeologists excavating a graveyard in Portugal have discovered an ovarian tumour that is hundreds of years old. 

The type of tumour, known as a teratoma, often contains a range of body tissues, such as hair and teeth, that form when cells that should become eggs instead develop into other tissues.

It was discovered at a graveyard next to the Church and Convent of Carmo, which is believed to have been used between the early 1400s and 1755, when it was badly damaged in an earthquake.

The discovery was made during excavation work of 42 graves in 2010 and 2011 but the tumour was only recently identified.


read more here @ The Independent

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Ruthless Conquerer Who Cross-Dressed Her Way to Infamy

From OZY:

After 20 years of roaming the Americas brawling, gambling and murdering close to a dozen people, the man known as Alonso Díaz Ramírez de Guzmán had one last option. Having often turned to the church for sanctuary when waist-deep in trouble, and now facing execution, the soldier and explorer chose the nuclear option: admitting to the bishop that he was actually a woman.

Now known as Catalina de Erauso, a mesmerizing and confusing figure in Basque history, the prisoner not only avoided being executed but also got to meet the pope. Given the protection of Peru’s Bishop Agustín de Carvajal following an examination that determined she was not only a woman but also a virgin, Erauso was sent back to Spain, where she wrote a MEMOIR that remains eye-poppingly off-putting to this day.

read more here

@ OZY




Two Ancient Teenage Girls

For more than 12,000 years, the adolescent girl’s bones lay deep in a Mexican cave. Now analysis of her skeleton is revealing details of her harsh existence in the early Americas — which probably included pregnancy and childbirth before death at a young age.

The bones show that the girl, whom researchers nicknamed Naia, is likely to have travelled long distances on foot, but didn’t carry much on her journeys. The skeleton also reveals that Naia experienced severe and repeated nutritional stress that scarred her bones and teeth, according to results presented on 30 March at a meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Vancouver, Canada.

For that work, divers examined Naia in the water-filled cavern in the Yucatán Peninsula where she was discovered in 2007. But intruders subsequently tampered with her remains. To prevent further meddling, the bones were gently carried out of the cave in 2014 and 2016 — which also gave scientists easier access to the specimens.


On a ranch near the Santa Maria River in northern Chihuahua, researchers have unearthed more than 18,000 artifacts, including thousands of stone flakes, cores, and hammers, along with 370 projectile points, and a dozen stone ovens.

rancho-santa-maria-skullBut the most surprising find has been the grave of a teenage girl, who was interred among the rocks, alone and unadorned, some 3,200 years ago.

Her remains, researchers say, may help unlock the history of the people who brought agriculture to this arid region, and who were the first known farmers of corn in the Chihuahuan Desert.


Archareologist Discover More About Peru's Moche Priestesses

Excavated tombs of Peru’s Moche priestesses provide archaeologists with troves of artifacts, dataFrom Phys Org:
When archaeologists unearthed a large chamber tomb in San José de Moro, a ceremonial center of pre-Columbian Moche civilization on the northern coast of Peru, they found the remains of a woman who had been laid to rest with lavish offerings, befitting a priestess or a queen or both.

The discovery of the splendid burial shattered archaeologists' notions about the Moche, which until recently had been perceived as a society ruled by male warriors, said Peruvian archaeologist Luis Castillo, the 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Visiting Professor in Latin American Studies Lecture.

The royal tomb, the eighth found in 25 years, was discovered by the San José de Moro Archaeological Program, which is shepherded by Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and headed by Castillo. All eight tombs showcased women wearing rich headdresses and beaded necklaces, and surrounded by sacrifice victims and exquisite relics including silver goblets.

Called the priestesses of San José de Moro, they highlight the prominent role of women in Moche society.

"These women were among the most important individuals in their society," said Castillo. "Their elaborate burials are narratives of their lives, and the ornaments they were buried with are indicators of their high status."

read more here 

Lady of Cao - Facial Reconstruction

Scientists in Peru have managed to recreate the face of a female Peruvian leader who died 1,700 years ago, with the use of 3D printing. The Lady of Cao was discovered in the ruins of the Huaca Cao Viejo pyramid back in 2006, buried with a crown and several artifacts made from copper and gold.

"Technology allows us to see the face of a political, religious and cultural leader of the past," Culture Minister Salvador del Solar said when he unveiled a life-like bust of the woman on Tuesday in Lima.

The woman, dubbed the Lady of Cao, belonged to the Moche culture that thrived in the northern coastal region between 100 and 800 AD.

The discovery of the Lady of Cao's mummified remains in 2005 shattered the belief that the ancient Moche society, which occupied the Chicama Valley from about 100 to 700 AD, was patriarchal. Several Moche female mummies have been found since in graves with objects denoting a high political and religious standing.

read more here 





Pueblo Bonito - Prehistoric Society Where Women Ruled

The ancient Mexican Puebloans of the 12th century BC endure as some of the earliest and least understood inhabitants of the region. This culture persisted for several centuries, leaving behind pit houses and stone huts when they finally joined the choir invisible. Pueblo Bonito, the largest and most excavated dig site, recently revealed some more secrets of this long-gone culture when intrepid archaeologists from Penn State carried out a 2017 expedition.

From the remains of nine bodies extracted from the mound, forensic evidence revealed some fascinating connections: all nine bodies shared a maternal ancestry. Mother and daughter lay in repose, grandmother and grandson close by. 



Saturday, December 16, 2017

High status female found buried at Aspero archaeological site in Peru

The expression on the ancient face that looks out from the virtual image is that of a benign and ordinary looking woman. But, according to Dr Ruth Shady, director of the Caral Archaeological Zone (ZAC), the individual, who anthropologists concluded died between the ages of 40 and 50 years old, was anything but ordinary 
Archaeologist Ruth Shady and her research team found the remains of a high-status woman buried about 4,500 years ago at the archaeological site of Aspero —Caral civilization’s fishing town. Shady noted the importance of this discovery to further understand the dynamics of the oldest social organization in the Americas. 

The body was unburied from Huaca of the Idols. “Investigators analyzed the skeletal remains and concluded the body belonged to a 40-year-old woman. The place and the way she was buried revealed the high rank she held 4,500 years ago,” she said. “This find shows evidence of gender equality, that is, both women and men were able to play leading roles and attain high social status more than 1,000 years ago,” Shady underlined. 

Dr Shady explained: 'It's exciting to see the computer-generated 3D image of a person who we believe was a noble woman with important social standing and authority in the ancient Caral civilisation. 'Her discovery refers to the four brooches or 'cuatro tupus' carved from animal bones and shaped like monkeys and birds, that were found pinned to the fabric covering her remains. 'We know that these ornamental fasteners were used by women of prestige in traditional societies as symbols of their affluent social status.

read more here @ Andina and the Daily Mail and Archaeology Magazine

The Feared and Respected Old Norse Völva Sorceresses

In the Viking Age, the völvas (female shamans) were both feared and respected: they exercised seiðr (Norse magic) and were supposedly in direct contact with Odin, the Allfather. The word völva derives from the Old Norse vǫlva meaning “wand carrier”, a traveling sorceress and seeress who got well paid for her services.

A number of women’s graves found in Scandinavia contained what is believed to be a völva’s wand. The graves are often well equipped and rich, and show that these women were involved in practicing magic.

The völvas were the foremost religious interpreters in the Norse society. The most famous example of a völva’s prediction is in the Eddic poem Völuspá (Old Norse: Vǫluspá, meaning ”Prophecy of the Völva”). The poem tells the story of the creation of the world until its coming end of Ragnarök (“The Doom of the Gods”), told by a Norse sorceress addressing Odin.

read more here @ Ancient Origins

Ancient burial sites show just how badly our ancestors treated older women

Grave 94When archaeologists Christine Cave and Marc Oxenham analysed three Anglo-Saxon burial sites, they found that women were often less respected than men in death.

Cave and Oxenham looked into the burials of 200 people dating back to the 6th century AD. They focused their attention on three cemeteries: Greater Chesterford in Essex, Mill Hill in Kent, and Worthy Park in Hampshire.

Their findings, titled Sex and the Elderly were published in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

The archaeologists found that, while men did receive non-normative burials, more women received them than men in every age category. "Only women were buried face down, or prone," they note, "a form of non-normative burial treatment often seen as having negative connotations." In fact, two of those prone women appear to have been bound or restrained.

read more here @ IB Times and Forbes

The grim reality of the brothels of Pompeii

From The Local:
The conditions in which the women worked were of no concern to brothel owners, clients or anyone else for that matter, as most sex workers in ancient Italy were slaves. As the ancient attitude towards slaves was one of indifference at best, and violent disdain at worst, the lives of women were no source of empathy to those outside their class.

The sex workers fulfilled a utilitarian function and nothing else. Confined to the premises by (usually) male pimps who provided them with only their most basic needs, the women were essentially cut off from the outside world. This rendered them vulnerable to the whims of both pimp and client alike.

read more here @ The Local

Winfarthing Woman

The chance discovery of a mysterious wealthy lady in poor farmland soil is about to rewrite the history of Anglo-Saxon England.

The find by Tom Lucking, a student, of the remains bedecked with an exquisite gold pendant and diplomatic coins has led to a reassessment of the powerbases of the Anglo-Saxon elite in the 7th century.

The “Winfarthing Woman”, named after the village in Norfolk where she was found, was described yesterday as a high-status individual who might have even been royal. The pendant found with the body features hundreds of tiny individually set garnets, some used to create an interwoven serpent-type motif, whose hand-cut garnet eyes are half a millimetre in diameter.

Face of Ancient South American Queen Reconstructed

Some 1,200 years ago, a wealthy noblewoman, at least 60 years old, was laid to rest in Peru—richly provisioned for eternity with jewelry, flasks, and weaving tools made of gold.
Now, more than five years after her tomb was found untouched outside of the coastal town of Huarmey, scientists have reconstructed what she may have looked like.

In 2012, Giersz and Peruvian archaeologist Roberto Pimentel Nita discovered the tomb El Castillo de Huarmey. The hillside site was once a large temple complex for the Wari culture, which dominated the region centuries before the more famous Inca. The tomb—which looters miraculously missed—contains the remains of 58 noblewomen, including four queens or princesses.

read more here @ National Geographic

Friday, December 1, 2017

Secret talent of Henry VIII’s last Queen

Katherine Parr was, in fact, a master of public relations who rallied England behind its King on the road to war, according to an academic who is preparing the first performance in 470 years of the queen’s secret musical work.

Dr. David Skinner, fellow and Osborn director of music at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, is to oversee the 21st century debut of Thomas Tallis’s Gaude gloriosa Dei Mater, with words, written in English, by Parr herself.
The lost manuscript, thought to have belonged to 16th century organist Thomas Mulliner, was used to stuff cracks in the walls of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, possibly by builders ignorant of its significance.

When it was uncovered in 1978, it was identified as being from the six-part Gaude gloriosa, which is among Tallis’s greatest works.

read more here @ National Post

Women in a Temple of Death

Trenches Peru SacrificeArchaeologists have long known that ancient societies on Peru’s north coast killed male prisoners of war and drank their blood in grisly sacrifice ceremonies. Now researchers have found an unusual twist on that scene: the remains of six young women, sacrificed in a ritual in about A.D. 850. Their bones were found under the floor of a mudbrick temple complex in Pucalá, near the city of Chiclayo. The women show no signs of disease and had been wrenched into odd positions. Four lay atop each other in a single grave, and two others rested a few feet away, accompanied by a baby llama. Most are missing rib bones, indicating that their remains were left exposed and that their organs had been eaten by vultures after death, a “purification rite” that the bodies of male sacrifice victims were also subjected to, says archaeologist Edgar Bracamonte of the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum.

read more here @ Archaeology Magazine

Unravelling the Mysteries of the Tomb of the Red Queen of Palenque

A remarkable tomb dating back to 600 or 700 AD was discovered by Mexican archaeologist Arnoldo Gonzalez Cruz in 1994. When the researchers opened the burial chamber they couldn't believe their eyes… 

The tomb is located inside Temple XIII, among the ruins of the ancient Maya city of Palenque. Excavations were carried out at the temple to discover its construction sequence and the methods used in building it. Works began in 1973 by a team led by Jorge Acosta. He located the space which he called the burial chamber.


The team started to clean the area they believed to be the tomb and discovered a small blocked-up door on the vertical section of the substructure's second level, about 2.80 meters (9.19 ft.) over the level of the Temple Plaza. When they removed the block, they saw a six meter (19.69 ft.) long corridor which led to one of the best preserved galleries discovered in Palenque to date. A few meters later, between the other magnificent corridors and chambers there was a treasure waiting – one which overwhelmed the researchers.

read more here @ Ancient Origins

The Murder of Mary Phagan

On April 26th, 1913, Confederate Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember the armed forces of the Confederacy, most of the stores and business were closed in Georgia, as they were in other Southern states.

However, one of the offices in the National Pencil Company in Atlanta was open that day. Inside, superintendent Leo Frank, a young Cornell University graduate, was working on his financial report and delivering wages to the employees.

One employee, 13-year-old Mary Phagan, stopped by to obtain her wages and what happened to her that day had lasting repercussions for Georgia, the South, and the entire United States. Mary Phagan was murdered in the factory where she worked for only 10 cents per hour. There was an investigation to find her killer, a trial, public outrage, and finally a lynching.


read more here




Vatican unveils frescoes in Catacombs of Priscilla

Newly restored Italian frescoes have revealed what could have been women priests in the early Christian Church.

The frescoes, dating back to between 230 to 240 AD, are housed inside the Catacombs of Priscilla of Rome and were unveiled by the Vatican this week.
A fresco is pictured inside the catacomb of Priscilla in Rome. The catacomb, used for Christian burials from the late 2nd century through the 4th century, reopened yesterday to the public after years of restoration
Proponents of a female priesthood have said that the frescoes prove there were women priests in early Christianity.

The area is often called the ‘Queen of the catacombs’ because it features burial chambers of popes and a tiny, delicate fresco of the Madonna nursing Jesus dating from around 230 to 240 AD - the earliest known image of the Madonna and Child.

read more here @ The Daily Mail

Treasure-filled tomb of Etruscan 'princess' unearthed



Treasure-filled tomb of Etruscan 'princess' unearthed


From The Local:
Excavations of a tomb in northern Lazio dating to around the 8th century BC have uncovered treasures including an amber necklace, a golden Egyptian scarab amulet and rare pottery that archaeologists say likely belonged to an Etruscan princess.

The excavation of the Tomb of the Golden Scarab follows its discovery earlier this year in the archaeological site of Vulci, a former Etruscan city.

Anthropological research helped back the theory that the tomb belonged to a princess within the ranks of the nascent Etruscan aristocracy. A few bones wrapped in precious cloth are all that remains of her.
The excavation of the tomb was carried out in the laboratories of the Vulci foundation in Montalto di Castro near Viterbo.

A group of international archaeologists are set to begin a new digging campaign at the Vulci site in April.

read more here @ The Local

New rooms discovered at Constantine's mother's house

From ANSA:

New rooms have been discovered in the domus (house) of Empress St. Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, in the bowels of the basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome, officials said Friday.

"These are nothing less than the living quarters of Helen's court ladies," said superintendent Francesco Prosperetti.

"We have shed more light on the main entrance into the domus and better established the divisions between the various rooms," said archaeologist Anna De Santis.

The Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme or Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem is a Roman Catholic minor basilica and titular church in the Esquilino district of Rome.

According to tradition, the basilica was consecrated circa 325 to house the relics of the Passion of Christ, including parts of the True Cross, brought to Rome from the Holy Land by Helena. At that time, the Basilica's floor was covered with soil from Jerusalem.

Helena ranks as an important figure in the history of Christianity and of the world due to her major influence on her son, who legalised Christianity, helping make it the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. photo: Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.

Mummy study reveals clues to girl's story

Who is she, this little mummy girl? Northwestern University scientists and students are working to unravel some of her mysteries, including how her body was prepared 1,900 years ago in Egypt, what items she may have been buried with, the quality of her bones and what material is present in her brain cavity.

Just over three feet long, the little girl's body is swaddled in a copious amount of linen. The outermost wrappings have been arranged in an ornate geometric pattern of overlapping rhomboids and also serve to frame the portrait. The face, painted with beeswax and pigment, gazes serenely outward, her dark hair gathered at the back. She is wearing a crimson tunic and gold jewelry.

read more here @ Popular Archaeology