Sunday, September 14, 2014

Examining the Lives of Ancient Egyptian Women

The case of an ancient Egyptian woman named Tjat from Bible History Daily:

Tjat appears in the tomb of Khnumhotep II (tomb 3), a local ruler from around the middle of the Twelfth Dynasty (ca. 1900 B.C.). You may have heard about this tomb before because of its so-called scene of Asiatics (people depicted in the typical way that the ancient Egyptians used to distinguish people to the northeast of Egypt)—figures who have been variously interpreted as everything from local nomads to immigrants from the Near East to Biblical figures. However, much less attention has been paid to the woman named Tjat who appears in prominent positions in four different scenes throughout this tomb and is labeled there as a “sealer” (sometimes translated “treasurer”).

Melinda Nelson-Hurst is an Egyptologist at Tulane University whose interests lie in the social history and archaeology of ancient Egypt. She has worked most extensively on families and their influence within the state administration during the period of the Middle Kingdom. Since starting a new research project on the Egyptian Collection at Tulane University in 2012, her interests have expanded into the modern history of the field of Egyptology and of Egyptian collections. You can read more about Dr. Nelson-Hurst’s research on her blog ( Follow her on Twitter @dr_mgnh.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Letter From Cromwell To Henry VIII

From the Telegraph in June 2012:
A rare letter written by Thomas Cromwell attempting to speed up Henry VIII's marriage to Anne of Cleves has emerged for sale.

Unfortunately for Cromwell the king was repulsed when he finally saw his bride because she looked nothing like her portrait - and he was beheaded.

The letter, dated November 8, 1539, was sent to the clerical diplomat, Dr Nicholas Wootton.

The diplomat was in Cleves in Germany finalising arrangements for what would turn out to be the shortest of Henry's six marriages.

Cromwell had promoted the match with the staunchly Protestant Anne as a means of tightening the Reformation in England.

Anglo Saxon Christian Burial

A fascinating story that featured back in March 2012.

From the Daily Mail:
Laid to rest in her best clothes and lying on an ornamental bed, she was probably of noble blood.  Quite how the 16-year-old Anglo Saxon girl died and who she was remain a mystery.  But she was buried wearing a gold cross – suggesting she was one of Britain’s earliest Christians.

Her well-preserved 1,400-year-old grave has been discovered by Cambridge University scientists, who described the find as ‘astonishing’.

The burial site at Trumpington Meadows, a village near Cambridge, indicates Christianity had already taken root in the area as early as the middle of the 7th century.

The grave is one of 13 Anglo Saxon ‘bed burials’ to be discovered. Usually reserved for noble women, they involved being laid to rest on a wood and metal frame topped with a straw mattress. Such burials are not found after the 7th century. The girl’s inch-wide gold cross, studded with cut garnets, has been dated to between 650 and 680AD.

From BBC News:
An Anglo-Saxon grave discovered near Cambridge could be one of the earliest examples of Christianity taking over from Paganism, archaeologists said.

The skeleton of a teenage girl was found buried on a wooden bed, with a gold and garnet cross on her chest.

The grave is thought to date from the mid-7th Century AD, when Christianity was beginning to be introduced to the Pagan Anglo-Saxon kings.

It was uncovered at Trumpington Meadows by Cambridge Archaeological Unit.

The cross is only the fifth to be discovered in the UK.

The Case of Mistress Mary Hampson

From the Daily Mail comes a harrowing tale of marital abuse from the 17th century:
A pamphlet detailing the beatings, threats and intimidation endured by a Yorkshire housewife more than 300 years ago has been uncovered by academics at the University of Huddersfield.

In the work, which dates from 1684 (A Plain and Compendious Relation of the Case of Mrs. Mary Hampson, as it Now is: And Formerly Printed for the Satisfaction of a Private Friend, But Now is Set Forth by Her Relief), a woman named Mary Hampson lists the catalogue of abuse she suffered at the hands of her overbearing and violent husband.

Although Mrs Hampson eventually escaped her abusive spouse, she first endured being beaten and starved and a violent incident involving a gun - all of which is detailed the 1684 pamphlet.

In her new book, The Case of Mistress Mary Hampson, academic Dr Jessica Malay includes the full text of the 1684 pamphlet plus extensive extra material, which examines the episode in depth and rounds out the story of Mary, who died in 1698, after a few short, final years of relative peace and prosperity.

For more on the story see:

Gospel of Jesus' Wife

In September 2012, Harvard’s Hollis Chair of Divinity Karen L. King announced the discovery of a Coptic papyrus fragment that includes the text “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …’” After an extended silence while the papyrus was subjected to extensive scientific tests, Harvard’s Divinity School announced that “testing indicates ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ papyrus fragment to be ancient,” following the April 2014 issue of Harvard Theological Review’s (HTR) publication of carbon-14, paleographical, spectroscopy and other scientific analyses. Harvard Divinity School’s website includes updated images, Q & A and other resources on the papyrus.

However, the subject is still open for debate. In the second postscript to his forward in the same issue of HTR, Brown University’s Leo Depuydt writes, “All this still leaves me personally 100% convinced that the Wife of Jesus Fragment is a forgery.”

Just when the debate regarding the authenticity of the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” reached a fevered pitch, it was silenced. The Harvard Theological Review pulled King’s article, and Smithsonian suspended the airing of a documentary about the papyrus. HTR announced that the fragment would undergo testing, though the lack of specific information frustrated interested scholars and journalists (see: Bible History Daily: Is the Harvard Theological Review a Coward).

The “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” is back in the April 2014 issue of Harvard Theological Review. HTR gives the papyrus fragment considerable treatment beyond Karen L. King’s critical presentation of the papyrus; the issue includes a paleographic analysis by Malcolm Choat, a chemical ink analysis by James T. Yardley and Alexis Hagadorn, microspectroscopy results by Joseph M. Azzarelli, John B. Goods and Timothy M. Swager, spectrometry radiocarbon analyses by Gregory Hodgins andNoreen Tuross, a condemnation as a forgery by Leo Depuydt, and, finally, a response by Karen L. King.

See Also:
Harvard Divinity School: The Gospel of Jesus' Wife

Queen Helena of Adiabene

Queen Helena of Adiabene lived in the first century C.E. in the semi-autonomous kingdom of Adiabene in the upper Tigris region of Assyria. She famously converted to Judaism and spent many years in Jerusalem—where her generosity and piety earned her a lasting legacy.

In “Queen Helena’s Jerusalem Palace—In a Parking Lot?” in the May/June 2014 issue of BAR, R. Steven Notley and Jeffrey P. García explore Queen Helena’s Jerusalem tomb and the recently excavated Jerusalem palace that might belong to her.

Louis Félicien de Saulcy excavated the Tomb of the Kings—really the tomb of Queen Helena of Adiabene—in Jerusalem in 1863. He discovered five sarcophagi in the tomb, as well as a broken sarcophagus lid. 

Essentially, the only line of argument for the identification of the sarcophagus with Helena is (a) Queen Helena of Adiabene was buried in one of the chambers in the tomb, and (b) the woman buried in the inscribed sarcophagus is called “queen.”

Who Was Queen Helena?
Helena of Adiabene was queen of Adiabene (a Persian province on the northern Tigris and vassal kingdom of the Partihian Empire) and sister-wife of Monobaz Bazaeus I (source: Josephus . Jewish Antiquities xx. 4, § 3;). With her husband she was the mother of Izates II and Monobaz II. She was possibly Zoroastrian prior to her conversion to Judaism c.30CE.

Helene played an important role in the succession of her son, summoning the nobles of the kingdom and informing them that it had been her husband’s wish to nominate Izates king. Declining their advice to put Izates’s brothers to death in order to avoid plots against him, she instead placed her elder son, Monobazus, as guardian of the country until the return of the heir. Josephus lauds her for all these sage decisions.  On Izates’s death in 55CE, she returned to Adiabene to see her elder son Monobazus crowned king. 

The Talmud speaks of important presents which the queen gave to the Temple at Jerusalem which included a golden candlestick (sometimes called a lantern) and golden plate (also referred to as a plaque); she was also generous with gifts to aid the famine stricken city of Jerusalem in 46–4CE.

She died shortly after the coronation of Monobazus c.56CE, having moved to Jerusalem. The bodies of both Helene and Izates were then buried in the royal sepulchre (pyramidal tomb) she had built while in the city.  These tombs are now said to be located in the catacombs known as the "Tomb of the Kings", said discovered in the 19th century by Louis Felicien de Saulcy.

See Also:
Haaretz: A Royal Return
Chabad dot org: Queen Helena

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Discovery of Bronze Age Woman

Image from The Scotsman
From Past Horizons:
In March 2012, a GUARD Archaeology team, led by Maureen Kilpatrick, undertook a rescue excavation when a cist was inadvertently disturbed during landscaping works following the construction of an access track through Cullaird Wood in West Torbreck, south-west of Inverness in Scotland.
The cist, which was capped with a small cairn, contained the remains of a crouched inhumation burial, whose grave goods included seven fragments of flint and a plain Beaker vessel. The burial appeared consistent with a period of use in the early Bronze Age, which has recently been confirmed by radiocarbon dating of 1982-1889 cal BC provided by a sample of the human bones.
Maureen Kilpatrick, who is one of GUARD Archaeology’s Osteoarchaeologists, undertook post-excavation analysis of the human bones recovered from the cist and discovered that these were the remains of an adult female individual who had attained the age of 40 – 44 years at death.

From Herald Scotland:
THE remains of a physically active woman with poor dental hygiene, who died 4000 years ago, have been found.
The discovery, along with others, is said by experts to underline the archaeological significance of the area around Inverness, which was important for prehistoric groups from early times.
Two years ago, a team from GUARD Archaeology, which has bases in Glasgow and Edinburgh, was led by Maureen Kilpatrick to undertake a rescue excavation when a cist, or tomb-like box made of stone, was disturbed during landscaping works for an access track through Cullaird Wood.
The cist contained the remains of a crouched burial, whose grave goods included seven fragments of flint and a plain beaker vessel.

From The Scotsman:
A BRONZE Age grave uncovered in the Highlands has revealed the remains of a woman in her forties who was suffering from toothache before she died 4,000 years ago.
Osteoarchaeologist Maureen Kilpatrick analysed the bones and discovered that they belonged to a woman aged between 40 and 44.
She said: “As the radiocarbon date demonstrates, this occurred at some point between 1982BC and 1889BC.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Blanche Mortimer Found

Blanche Mortimer
From Medievalists dot com:
The discovery of a body inside a church memorial has caused amazement in the world of archaeology and surprised experts. Michael Eastham, a conservator of sculpture has been working on the memorial in a Herefordshire Church for nearly two years but was taken aback when a mysterious coffin was discovered jammed inside the tomb-chest.

“We could not work out what it was when we first took the stone panels from the front of the memorial,” said Michael. “We thought it might be a layer of slate but as we explored further we realised it was a lead coffin. It’s the first time in more than thirty years as a Conservator that this has ever happened.”

Originally it was feared the coffin had been hidden during the construction of the tomb in the late 14th century or possibly even added at a later date. It has now been decided that it is almost certainly the coffin and remains of Blanche Mortimer whose memorial it is, wife of Sir Peter Grandison and daughter of Roger Mortimer, the powerful noble who had Edward II murdered and was the de facto ruler of England for three years before being himself overthrown by Edward’s eldest son, Edward III.

Blanche was born around 1316 at Wigmore Castle in Herefordshire, and was the youngest child of Sir Roger Mortimer and Joan de Geneville. She became the wife of Peter de Grandison , but died in 1347. They had one son, Otto.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Discovery of Maiden Crown

From Past Horizons Archaeology:
During excavations in Roskilde Cathedral, Denmark, archaeologists found burials dating between 11th – 17th centuries and included a grave that obviously belonged to a noblewoman. She had been buried with her head resting on a pillow sewn with gold threads and had been wearing a maiden crown.
The crown was found at the head of the grave and had initially been interpreted as a headband. Most of the decoration consists of many small flowers made of twisted copper wire wrapped with silk thread. The metal salts in the copper have ensured the silk thread has been preserved.
Detail of a family painting showing the difference between married (left) and unmarried (centre and right) headgear. Photo:

Friday, January 17, 2014

Wanted: Adriana Rivas

Adriana Rivas with Manuel Contreras
From the Australian:
AUSTRALIA is being asked by Chile's Supreme Court to extradite a woman accused of involvement in torture and murder during Chile's 1973-1990 military dictatorship.
The court requested the extradition of Adriana Rivas overnight.
She is wanted for her role in the 1976 murder of a Communist Party leader who was held in a secret prison before he was suffocated and thrown into the ocean.
Ms Rivas was assistant to Manuel Contreras, the head of the DINA secret police during General Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.
She moved to Australia in 1978 but was detained during a visit to Chile in 2006.

Ms Rivas was released after some months on probation and escaped to Australia.

In an interview last year with SBS, she insisted she was innocent of the charges.

From SBS: The Other 9/11

Obit: Professor Halet Çambel

One of the most important figures in the archaeology world, Istanbul University’s retired academic Professor Halet Çambel, has died aged 98. Turkish archaeologist and writer Çambel was found dead in her house on Jan. 12. 
After a ceremony to be held tomorrow at 10 a.m. at the Bosphorus University, Çambel will be buried next to the grave of her husband in the western province of Muğla. 
She played a key role in the understanding of Hittite hieroglyphics by discovering a tablet with the Phoenician alphabet, which allowed philologists to decipher the inscription. 

Medieval Women & Armour

Rather interesting article from  - What Kind of Armour Did Medieval Women Really Wear:

We know that skimpy armor that shows off a woman's cleavage is rather impractical for combat and that sculpted "boob plate" armor can be a hazard to your health, but on occasions that women did don armor in medieval Europe, what kind of armor did they actually wear? And is shapely, feminine armor a modern convention, or does it have some roots in the Middle Ages?
Even if they aren't necessarily historically accurate, depictions of armor worn by men in European historical fictions or European-inspired fantasies tend to have at least some basis in fact, whereas women's armor is often depicted in a more fantastical manner. There are, of course, the infamous body-bearing suits of armor with scale mail bras and chain mail loin clothes that seem to scream, "Please, stab me in my fleshy stomach!" And then there is the overly sculpted boob-plate breastplate for suits of plate mail, which gives fictional woman warriors the appearance of femininity, but places a rather dangerous metal protrusion right at the wearer's sternum.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

History of the Hennin

Nothing says “princess” like a pointy, cone-shaped hat. From kids’ costumes to medieval paintings, the cone hat—more formally known as a hennin (or henin)—is a sure sign of royalty. But here’s something you might not know about the hat that adorn the heads of pale-skinned ladies: they were actually modeled after the hats of Mongol warrior queens.

Medieval PoC points to the book Secret History of the Mongol Queens, where author Jack Weatherford writes:
The contraption struck many foreign visitors as odd, but the Mongol Empire had enjoyed such prestige that medieval women of Europe imitated it with the hennin, a large cone-shaped headdress that sat towards the back of the head rather than rising straight up from it as among the Mongols. With no good source of peacock feathers, European noblewomen generally substituted gauzy streamers flowing in the wind at the top.