Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tomb of Empress Jingu

An interesting article appeared in the "National Geographic News" on Monday, 28th April 2008 - "Japanese Royal Tomb Opened to Scholars for First Time".

Archaeologists from the Japanese Archaeological Associated were permitted to enter the Gosashi Tomb complex in February. They have published the results of the visit.

The Gosashi Tomb complex is the burial place for members of the Japanese Imperial Family, and dates back to the Fifth Century.

From the article:
"The event marked the first time that scholars had been allowed inside a royal tomb outside of an official excavation led by Japan's Imperial Household Agency.

Archaeologists have been requesting access to Gosashi tomb and other imperial sites since 1976, in part because the tombs date to the founding of a central Japanese state under imperial rule.

But the agency has kept access to the tombs restricted, prompting rumors that officials fear excavation would reveal bloodline links between the "pure" imperial family and Korea—or that some tombs hold no royal remains at all.

Although the team's visit didn't lay any of those issues to rest, experts celebrated it as a first step toward expanded access to the mysterious tombs."

Apparently, the Gosashi Tomb is also the resting place for the legendary Empress Jingu, who acted as regent for her son in 200AD.

Empress Jingu

Monday, April 28, 2008

Germaine Tillion - Anthropologist

Saturday saw the passing of noted anthropologist, Germaine Tillion.

From Yahoo News:
"French Feminist Anthropologist Germaine Tillion Dies Aged 100":
"Born to a prosperous family in mountainous central France on May 30, 1907, Tillion trained as an anthropologist in the 1930s and cultivated a life-long interest in Algeria. Between 1934 and 1940, she made four trips to Algeria, travelling on horseback and camping with Berber nomads as she gathered her firsthand observations. But it was her wartime experiences that first brought her to wider public attention as a founding member of the "Museum of Mankind" intellectual resistance network at the start of German Occupation during World War II. In 1942 she was betrayed by a priest working for the Gestapo and arrested at the Paris' Gare de Lyon station.

At the same time her mother -- also in the group -- was picked up for hiding a British airman, and the two were sent to the all-woman concentration camp of Ravensbruck in late 1943. Tillion used her academic training as a tool for survival, treating the camp as a case-study for observation -- and after the war bringing out two definitive books on Ravensbruck. Tillion was one of France's most decorated people, being one of just five women awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion d'honneur. She was also honoured with her country's croix de guerre and Resistance medals, and Germany granted her the title of Commander of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic in 2004."

Another Historic Bishop

Sorry this one is a bit late .....

As the title suggests, on Friday, 25th April 2008, another woman, Canon Barbara Darling, was appointed as an Assistant Bishop in the Church of England, Dandenong (Australia). This comes hot on the heels of the appointment of Kay Goldsworthy in Perth earlier this month.

An article by Mike Edmonds, appeared in Melbourne's "Herald Sun" newspaper:

"Archdeacon Goldsworthy and Canon darling were among the first women in Australia to be ordained into the Anglican priesthood in 1992. Canon Darling will be consecrated as bishop on May 31 in St. Pauls Cathedral."

Prior to her entrance into religious life, Canon Darling taught Secondary School for 6 years and lectured in theology for 14 years at Ridley College, Melbourne University.

"Canon Darling said her elevation did not mean a female archbishop was just around the corner."

However, lets hope that this will not be another 16 years in the making.

April certainly has been "Women's History" month here in Australia!

Australia's First Female Bishop

Friday, April 25, 2008

"The King's Whore"

I was reading Robin Maxwell's "The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn" (it was a very slow week, and as everyone had been raving about this book, I decided to jump on the bandwagon), and was struck by a couple of passages in the book:

Anne: "My father's fortunes risen over Mary's debauchery" ~~~ this was Anne lamenting the fact that her father found favour and fortune when daughter Mary became mistress to King Henry VIII of England.

It was true, the Howards and Boleyns did find favour when Mary became the willing mistress of King Henry - for a young woman at court, to catch the eye of the King, and he was still a handsome and imposing figure at this early stage, was no mean feat. However, to maintain that allure was another thing. But Mary herself was no stranger to "debauchery" - her time at the court of the French King had earned her the nickname of "the hackney". But unlike Anne, Mary enjoyed her time in the spotlight for what it was, knowing that at any moment she would be replaced in the King's favour.

More on Mary Boleyn:
Mary Boleyn
Mary Boleyn

A bit later, Anne again bemoans the fate of women: "A woman is a castle or a piece of land, most valued, oft admired, improved upon. Then she's sold or bought by fortune's sake, for heirs, a bribe, a prize, a debt repaid. Her flesh, her mind, aching heart forgot, nay considered not at all."

Yes, that was the fate of women before her and for some time after her. Women were considered the "property" of the fathers, and then once married, of their husbands. Marriages were arranged - for political considerations, for financial advancement, for social advancement - love and the young woman's own inclination did not enter the equation. Father's sought to ensure that their daughters were seen by those who could enable advancement for the family, and they were married off before they knew what was going on, oft times to a man many many years older.

In the case of royalty, a marriage to a reigning sovereign was considered one of the highest achievements for a young noblewoman. But this also brought with it a new set of constraints. Consider the example of the Tudors - infidelity was treason which result in death; marrying a King did not always entitle one to eternal happiness - this was far from the case more often than not; and of course, though the woman was bound by fidelity, this did not apply to the lusty monarch. Henry VIII is a good example - whilst applauding virtue, obedience and fidelity in his women, he rarely practised it himself.

Yes, catching the eye of a monarch had its rewards. In the case of Mary Boleyn, her family found favour and enrichment (land, money, preferment at court) - Mary herself was rewarded with jewels and money, and a child (though it is speculated that as Henry did not officially acknowledge the child that it may have been fathered by Mary's husband). Yes, even husband's gained advancement and reward for allowing the monarch "use" of a wife.

I again refer to Robin Maxwell's book:
George Boleyn: "I would think him [William Carey, husband of Mary] wise if her were making use of it, seeking favour in return for use of Mary." Yes, much mileage was to be gained from Mary's "use".

But as we know, with hindsight, it was Mary who had the last laugh on them all. She survived her time at the Tudor Court, and more importantly, unlike her sister, Mary kept her head!

The Other Boleyn Girl's Story: the Real One

Cleopatra's Tomb

An article in AKI (Andnkronos International Egypt) reported that the tomb of Egypt's great Queen, Cleopatra, and her lover, Marc Antony will be unearthed later this year.

Egypt: Tomb of Cleopatra & Her Lover to be Uncovered
"Zahi Hawass, prominent archaeologist and director of Egypt's superior council for antiquities announced a proposal to test the theory that the couple were buried together. Hawass said that the remains of the legendary Egyptian queen and her Roman lover, Mark Antony, were inside a temple called Tabusiris Magna, 30 kilometres from the port city of Alexandria in northern Egypt.

Until recently access to the tomb has been hindered because it is under water, but archaeologists plan to drain the site so they can begin excavation in November. Among the clues to suggest that the temple may contain Cleopatra's remains is the discovery of numerous coins with the face of the queen."

Much has been written about this spectacular Egyptian Queen, and much also speculated. Here was a woman who managed to captured the affections of two leading Roman Generals, and still rule a powerful country. And yet, in the end, rather than surrender and become yet another "trophy" of the Roman Triumph, she took her own life. And even now, the manner of her death still intrigues us all, and still leaves many questioned unanswered.

Hawass hopes that by opening the tomb, we will know, once and for all, if two of the world's greatest lovers were buried together for all eternity.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Reading "God's War"

At the moment I am reading "God's War" by Christopher Tyerman. Its heavy going as the book is basically (an understatement really) a history of the Crusades - all of them! Not just those to Jerusalem, but literally all of them.

I have finished with the First through to Fourth Crusades, and have begun on the Albingensian Crusade.

Word of caution - if you know nothing of the Crusades - don't read this first! I pride myself in knowing something of this subject, but even I am finding the book (over 1000 pages) to be a rather weighty tome. But continue on I shall and will render my verdict sometime in the not too distant future.

Antonio Foscarini

For those interested in politics and intrigue in Medieval / Renaissance Venice, drop by my good friend Jason's "Executed Today" website and have a read of "The Execution of Antonio Foscarini".

A tale of jealously, political intrigue, a foreign woman, a secret execution!

I really love this site!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Australia's First Female Governor-General

Yesterday, another first for Australia and Australian women, as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that Queensland Governor, Quentin Bryce, will become our next Governor-General. Why such fanfare - Ms Bryce is the first woman in the 107 year history of the vice-regal position, to be appointed to such heights.

A bit about Ms Bryce and her appointment from Misha Schubert's article in today's "The Age" newspaper:
"THE woman chosen to become Australia's first female governor-general — ending a 107-year male stranglehold on the vice-regal post — hopes her rise from humble origins in a little bush town will serve as an inspiration for other women and girls. Former sex discrimination commissioner Quentin Bryce, whose appointment yesterday was hailed by feminists and senior political figures as a watershed, said the breakthrough was a great moment for the nation's women.

Ms Bryce, 65, was raised in the outback Queensland town of Ilfracombe and is married with five children and five grandchildren. A former lawyer, her past roles include inaugural director of Queensland's Women's Information Service, founding chairwoman of the National Childcare Accreditation Council and principal of the University of Sydney's Women's College."

The Position of Governor-General:
As Australia is still part of the British Commonwealth - yet to gain our independence - the position of Governor-General is one of leadership. The Governor-General is the Queen of England's representative here is Australia, acting on her behalf. Technically, the appointment must be approved by the Queen - however, the Queen usually accepts the advice of the Prime Minister. The length of service is normally five years.

Governor-General - Parliament of Australia website
Polished Trailblazer - Damien Murphy
The First & Last Post - Gerald McManus, Herald Sun
Woman of Substance - Ben Packham, Herald Sun
You Can Do Anything: G-G - Herald Sun newspaper

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Anglo-Saxon Cult Burial

Could an Anglo-Saxon woman, whose remains have recently been unearthed, have been at the center of a pagan cult? That is the question archaeologists are now asking.

In November 2007 two articles came to my attention:

BBC News: "Dramatic” Ancient Cemetary Found" and 24Dash: "Royal Burial Ground Unearthed". Both articles reported on the discovery of an Anglo-Saxon burial that, from the items discovered with the burial, could indicated that it was a royal burial. The excavations had been underway since 2005 - but these new items were recent.

Both BBC News and 24Dash commented upon the fact that traditionally Anglo-Saxon burials took place in the southern parts of England. And the grave contained many objects considered to have been typical amongst "high status" people. As such, it has been speculated that it could have belonged to Ethelburga, Princess of Kent, who married Edwin, King of Northumbria.

In "Bejeweled Anglo-Saxon Burial Suggests Cult" Jennifer Viegas of Discovery News speculates that this 7th Century woman could have been the leader of a pagan cult.

" ... jewelry-draped body was laid out on a specially constructed bed and buried ..... Her jewelry, which included a large shield-shaped pendant, the layout and location of the cemetery as well as excavated weaponry, such as knives and a fine langseax lead the scientists to believe she might have been a member of royalty who led a pagan cult a time when Christianity was just starting to take root in the region."

This burial first came to light in November 2007 when some of the most beautiful jewelry was discovered:

"Mounted by a central blue gemstone, the piece has scalloped-shaped carving with 11 separate lobes and a scalloped lower edge. Small red gems resting on gold foil, which would have reflected light when the piece was worn, surround the central stone."

Even today, speculation as to the identity of the woman has ranged between a number of leading 7th Century Anglo-Saxon queens - including Ethelburga, the wife of King Edwin of Northumbria, and Eanflaed, the wife of King Oswiu, or even Oswiu's daughter, Aelflaed.

Why this Anglo-Saxon cemetary is so important lies in its age - in the 7th Century, Britain was on the cusp of Christianity becoming the more dominant religion. Pagan Kings and Queens were following the examples of those on the other side of the Channel, and adopting baptism from the missionary priests. It was a time where two religions collided and slowly merged becoming one.

Website: Anglo-Saxon Heathenism

Australia's First Female Bishop

With a heading like that you would expect it to be front page news. It was for one leading Melbourne newspaper - it never made the ink on the other.

Melbourne's "The Age" newspaper yesterday (Friday 11th April 2008), reported on the forthcoming consecration of Perth Archdeacon, Kay Goldsworthy, making her Australia's first female Bishop. It was front page news today in "the Age". However, the "Herald Sun" - the "other" Melbourne paper - made no report on the historical event (I read both papers today - and yes, not one mention).

So, for those interested, here is a little tidbit from: Epiphany to Bishop by "Age" reporter Ben Doherty:

"In 1986, she was one of Australia's first female deacons. In March 1992, she was among the first 10 women to be appointed priests in Australia. Now, the 51-year-old married mother of twin boys is set to break the final, patriarchal barrier of the Australian Anglican church. Next month, Archdeacon Goldsworthy will be consecrated as Australia's first woman bishop after a decades-long battle promoting women's ordination in the church."

But all has not gone smoothly for this woman, who at the age of 16yo, received "The Call":

"Not surprisingly, her appointment has been controversial. Conservative dioceses, in particular the wealthy and influential diocese of Sydney, do not allow women priests, and would not recognise Bishop Goldsworthy. But the majority of Anglican dioceses in Australia — 18 of 23 — accept women in the ministry. The diocese of Melbourne has about 70 women priests, representing about one-fifth of the clergy, and the proportion is similar across most of Australia."

So, the first steps have been taken .......

Bravo Kay!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Medieval Re-enactment in Australia

To coincide with the "Medieval Imagination" exhibition at the State Library of Victoria (Australia), "The Age" newspaper's Patricia Maunder as a wonderful article entitled "Ye Olde Hobby", exploring the (medieval) world of the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) in Australia.

"There are three SCA groups in Melbourne, re-creating a living history of medieval combat, music, calligraphy, clothes and feasting, including inner-metropolitan’s Barony of Stormhold ....... There are a few other re-enactment groups in Melbourne, including the New Varangian Guard, La Trobe Medieval Society and Order of the Crown. "

SCA - Australia
New Varangian Guard
ARLHO - Australasian Register of Living History Organisations
Order of the Crown

"Medieval Imagination"

The State Library of Victoria (Australia) is playing host over the next few months, to some of the world's most unique medieval manuscripts.

Manuscripts have been collected from the collections based at Cambridge University. Over 90 manuscripts will feature - coming from such places as England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The exhibition will feature five sections: The Bible, The Book and Church Services (Liturgical services and rituals), The Personal Prayer Book (Books of Hours and Psalters), The Book and Knowledge, and The Book and the Renaissance.

There will be featured talks, guided tours, medieval sacred music, and the medieval faire (20th April).

Carmel Bird from Melbourne's "The Age" newspaper has written an excellent article on this event: "Hundreds of years ago, hundreds of people, most of whom are unknown, worked for untold hundreds of hours to produce the texts, images and decorations and to construct the books that they formed ...... To move through the exhibits, to gaze at the glowing detail of the pages, can be to experience a kind of meditation. "

Visit: State Library of Victoria - Medieval Imagination

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Beatrice De Cardi

The World's Oldest Archaeologist

In an article for The Independent, Jonathan Brown had this to say:
"At 93, Miss De Cardi can lay claim to being the world's oldest practising archaeologist. An expert on the pre-Islamic history of the Lower Arabian Gulf states and the civilisations of her beloved Baluchistan, she is part-Indiana Jones, part-Miss Marple. Her life is an extraordinary testament to a woman whose intense motivation has never left her. One who steadfastly refused to compromise in what was – and many argue still is – an avowedly man's world."

Brown goes on further to describe this pioneering woman, whose exploits would have made for "edge-of-your-seat" reading:
"She describes a pioneering time, fraught with peril. "We camped out sharing a water channel with a pack of wild dogs who raced past our tent to drink twice daily," she said. "At night the howls of wolves in the adjacent hills served as a reminder that Baluchistan was a wild and dangerous place. The impression gained substance when we moved back to Surab and were not allowed to camp at Siah-damb on account of a djinn [spirit] greatly feared by our workmen. I suspected a more material power and accepted a revolver lent by the local official."

In 1960 the region was closed to foreigners and Miss De Cardi was forced to approach from the Iranian side at Bampur. Finds here led her to the lower Gulf, now part of the United Arab Emirates. In the northernmost state Ras al-Khaimah, she discovered lost tombs now obliterated by new motorways funded by the petrodollar billions. Eventually she was forced to quit the country because of encroaching hostilities. But not before she had come to the attention of the emirate's ruler and later that of the government of Qatar, who asked her to lead an expedition charting the country "from Stone Age to Oil Age", something she was required to do in just 10 weeks.

Miss De Cardi, who never married, continues to travel to the region each year to catalogue new finds at the national museums she was instrumental in founding."

Whilst Beatrice's adventures may not have created the headlines that Carter's discovery of Tut's Tomb generated, her work in the Middle East was just as significant. Beatrice has written many articles of Antiquity and Archaeological resources, and is a well respected and honoured member of the Archaeological community.

Further Reading:


- Women in Archaeology


- "Excavating Women: A History of Women in European Archaeology" Edited by Margarita Diaz-Andreu and Marie Louise Stig-Sorensen (Routledge 1998)

- "Breaking Ground: Pioneering Women Archaeologists" Edited by Getzel M. Cohen and Martha Sharp Joukowsky

Pearl Cornioley

WW2 heroine, Pearl Cornioley has made news again. Following her death in February 2008, Pearl's wartime records are being released by the British National Archives on Monday 7th April 2008.

According to the article in the Telegraph, Pearl ".....became one of the most illustrious members of the Special Operations Executive - set up to foster resistance to the Germans across Europe during the Second World War - after being parachuted into occupied France. Taking control of 1,500 resistance fighters, she led a number of daring attacks on the Germans and boasted of capturing 18,000 enemy troops."

The International Herald Tribune had this to say:
"She escaped France before the Nazi invasion and returned to Britain via Spain. Upon returning to Britain, she worked briefly at the Air Ministry in London but used her French to gain a slot as a Special Operations Executive agent — one of about 40 women to serve. The Air Ministry became part of the Ministry of Defense in the 1960s while the Special Operations Executive evolved into the Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6. Early in her training with the Special Operations Executive, supervisors noted that she lacked the natural moxie to excel as an agent, but she compensated with her social nature, innate skill with weapons and useful memory."

Read the Women of History post "Pearl Cornioley Honoured" from February 2008.