Sunday, May 21, 2017

Women in 1066: the Power Behind the Throne

Whether in fact or fiction, a competition for the crown is usually dominated by men. It is they who seek to be king, who lead and fight in armies and who hold the majority of political power. But, there are times when women come to the fore. Although few women have been crowned, history is filled with examples of them using family connections in the political arena, and the period surrounding the Norman Conquest was no different.

In the chronicles of the time, the Battle of Hastings is dominated by the thoughts and tactics of the men of war. But careful reading reveals that women also played important roles before and after the Battle.

At this time it was rare for individual women to appear in the historical records and where they do, it is in their role as mother, wife, sister etc. of important men. The role of women (particularly queens, who were the best recorded) was as advisors to their husbands, supporters of their sons and the voice of religious moderation.

They had influence and power over men – and the three women profiled below wielded particular power behind the throne in 1066.

read more here @ English Heritage
read also Women of History: Women and Domesday (29th July 2007)

Was Hathor Egyptian or Semitic?

The goddess Hathor is considered central to the Egyptian pantheon. Personifying female aspects of love, music, fertility, and more Hathor was the deity responsible for welcoming the ancients to the afterlife, and an object of worship specifically to miners. But was she actually Egyptian?

However, the presence of Semitic peoples as turquoise miners in the Sinai over 4,000 years ago, plus the evidence of trade connections between the Semitic miners and Egypt going back millennia, plus the inscription, suggest that Hathor found her way to Egypt as Baalat sometime in the second millennium B.C.E. This suggests that at least the original shrine to Hathor in the Sinai, and possibly the later temple, were most likely built by, and for, the local workers, who brought the goddess with them to Egypt.

read more here @ Haaretz

Building for Egypt's First Female Pharaoh Discovered

Ancient stone blocks depicting Queen Hatshepsut have been discovered on Egypt's Elephantine Island, providing insights into the early years of her reign, Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities announced this week. The blocks may have been part of a building that served as a way station for an ancient Egyptian deity.

On several of the blocks, Queen Hatshepsut was represented as a woman, according to the Ministry, suggesting that the blocks and building it came from were erected during the early part of the first female pharaoh's reign, which lasted from 1473 B.C. to 1458 B.C. Later in her reign, the queen was depicted as a male.

read more here @ Live Science

The Truth Behind the Story of Dinah and the Red Tent

Biblical historian Ralph Ellis readily admits the Bible is not short of tales of violence, epic blood-shed and revenge. 

Hidden away in Chapter 34 of the book of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, is the story of Dinah.

One of the shortest yet most dramatic Old Testament tales, the story is one of rape, murder and pillage, with family feuds and bloody acts of revenge thrown in.

And now it is about to hit our screens in a new mini-series with steamy sex scenes, gory murders and even baby-snatching.

"The reality is very different, It is good that people get to hear the story of Dinah, because it actually makes the historical accounts that we find in the Bible more real."

read more here @ Wales Online and @ Christianity Today

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Lifting the Veil on Queen of Sheba's Perfume

From Popular Archaeology in October 2016:
It is mentioned more than twenty times in the Bible, where it is one of the gifts offered by the Three Wise Men. Frankincense (also called olibanum), one of the world's oldest fragrances, is a gum resin that exudes from the bark of Boswellia trees, which grow in countries bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. It has been used for more than 6,000 years by every civilization, from Mesopotamia to the present. Regularly burned during religious ceremonies, it contributes to the very particular smell of churches. Despite its long history and the large amount of research dedicated to it, the exact nature of the molecules that give frankincense its distinctive fragrance surprisingly remained unknown.

read entire article here @ Popular Archaeology

Women Who Defied Gender Roles Were Once Imprisoned In Asylums

Article by JR Thorpe @ Bustle:
Society always throws up a lot of roadblocks for women who want to break from oppressive gender norms — but women in the 19th century who spoke up and pushed back against sexist oppression faced a distinctly awful possibility: being locked away in mental institutions, which at the time were generally known as "asylums."
The trend of locking women in asylums was so widespread that Nellie Bly, the pioneering journalist, made her name by getting herself committed to a women's asylum, and reporting on abuses and mistreatment from the inside in 1887. But the real horror isn't just the way many women in asylums were abused — it's how they ended up in there. To be thrown in an asylum for the crime of, say, protesting your husband's affair with your niece was a real thing that happened — and a thing that happened not all that long ago.

read more here @ Bustle

The History of Makeup Is Surprisingly Elitist

From How Stuff Works Now comes this article on the history of make-up:
People of all walks of life have found ways to enhance their features throughout history. But for centuries, it was the rich folks and aristocrats who had the luxury of using extravagant cosmetics. 
  • By 4000–3500 B.C.E., Egyptians were lining their eyes in that famous cat-eye fashion. 
  • Nail polish started to become the rage in ancient Asian cultures around 3000–1500 B.C.E. 
There also a link to a podcast for the rest of this article.

You might also be interested in 26 Facts About Lipstick from Buzzfeed

How Women Fought For The Right To Be Educated Throughout History

Great little article from Bustle:

Women's pursuit of an equal, in-depth, high-level education as adults has met many stumbling blocks over the centuries: inferior standards (or the complete absence) of education for young girls, beliefs in women's intellectual inferiority, and worries that education in non-domestic subjects wouldn't adequately prepare women for their "natural" role as wives and mothers. To the women of a century ago, the fact that 11.7 million women started college in America in 2016 — a majority of the total number of new students — would seem like a miracle. The ability to get your degrees as a woman isn't something to be taken for granted, so let's have a look at the history of women who just wanted to have the same education as everybody else — and the incredible fight it took to get them there.

read entire article here @ Bustle

Dr Helen Pankhurst: 'The suffragettes were violent freedom fighters."

As a new exhibition about women's suffrage opens, Dr Helen Pankhurst, the great granddaughter of suffragette leader Emmeline, explains why it made her chuckle and recalls the truly damaging tactics of her ancestors.

One hundred years ago, the National Portrait Gallery was issued surveillance photographs of suffragettes, including my great-grandmother Emmeline Pankhurst, by the Criminal Records Bureau. It was hoped that, as a result, staff would be able to recognise women planning to attack the gallery’s artworks in their campaign of political protest. Such concerns were justified: on March 10 1914 Mary Richardson slashed the Rokeby Venus, hanging just a few steps away in the National Gallery, with a small axe. She was also arrested for arson, vandalising the Home Office and bombing a railway station.
Now the internal warning memos and surveillance images of my great-grandmother and her fellow campaigners are themselves part of a fascinating exhibition at the NPG, entitled “Suffragettes: Deeds not Words”. I must confess that I chuckled on first seeing the display. What a wonderful irony it is that the Gallery is now positively promoting those whom it once looked out for in fear. Trouble makers have, over time, become worthy of tribute.
Read entire article here @ the Telegraph

Medieval Mothers Had to Marry and Murder to Get Their Way

Love this article from the Smithsonian:

In the rough-and-tumble setting of medieval England, royal mothers were expected to do far more than just ensure their children, the future monarchs, were healthy and well-educated. She had to wield all her influence and patronage to keep her son in power—and keep her husband from killing him.

Before the Norman Conquest of 1066, royal succession was not fixed. The inheritance rights of young children were often passed over to ensure that an experienced warrior was on the throne. It provided the perfect recipe for royal intrigue, and mothers with sons to defend often faced down tradition—and their own husbands—along the way. Queens were supposed to value their roles as both wives and mothers, but when forced to pick between the two, their children always came first.

By the 13th century, an orderly law of succession began to take shape in England. These days, English royals must fend off the paparazzi instead of Vikings. What remains the same for royalty is the experience of parenting in the public eye—one that’s always trained on mothers of children who will wear the crown.

read entire article here @ the Smithsonian

Monday, May 8, 2017

Mongolian mummy buried in 'Adidas boots'

Intriguing new details have emerged about a medieval mummy known for her 'Adidas' boots - which she wore more than a millennia ago. 

The body of the woman was discovered a year ago this week in the Altai mountains region of Mongolia.  And her body and possessions remained so remarkably preserved that experts are still uncovering some of the secrets they keep.

Now, scientists have discovered that the mummy suffered a significant blow to the head before her death. 

The Mongolian woman - aged between 30 and 40 - hit headlines in April 2016, thanks to her modern-looking footwear, which some likened to a pair of trainers. 

The woman was buried alongside a number of her possessions - including a handbag and four changes of clothes.  A comb and a mirror from her beauty kit were also found, along with a knife.  Her horse and a saddle with metal stirrups in such good condition that it could be used today were buried as well.

They are still seeking to verify the exact age of the burial, but they estimate it took place in the tenth century - more recently than originally thought. 

Read more here @ Daily Mail

Searchable Map For Ireland’s Mystifying Sheela-Na-Gigs

More than 100 ancient Irish sculptures of women brazenly baring their genitals have been plotted on an interactive map. The bizarre sculptures, found in medieval tower-houses, church sites and holy wells, have puzzled historians for decades.

Experts are still not quite sure what to make of the sheela-na-gig. The small, often stylized and exaggerated stone relief carvings of women exposing their genitals typically date to the medieval era, and can be found all across Ireland and the British Isles in churches, castles and other notable structures. And while the sheela-na-gig has recently become a recognizable symbol inextricably linked to Irish culture, its significance remains debated among experts.

Heritage Council head of policy and research Beatrice Kelly said in a release for the project: “Sheela-na-Gigs are very evocative symbols of the feminine in old Irish culture and their prominent positions in medieval churches and castles attests to the importance of the female in Irish society. 

Read more here @ the Observer and @ the Daily Mail and @ Irish Central

Access the map here @ Heritage Maps

Sunday, May 7, 2017

February: The Cruelest Month of Scotland's Stuart Dynasty

February was a cruel month if your name was Stewart or Stuart and you were part of that extraordinary dynasty which held the throne of Scotland for more than 340 years.

So why should they have feared February? It just happens to be the month of the year when a lot of untoward things happened to, or were caused to happen by, the royal descendants of the High Steward of Scotland.

Here is condensed timeline:
  • 22nd February 1371 - the Stewarts gain the throne of Scotland with the end of the Bruce line with Robert Stewart (III) becoming King
  • February 1406 - James I (son of Robert III) was sent into exile aged 12yo - it lasted 25 years, during which time he married Joan Beaufort (12th February 1424). 
  • 21st February 1431 - James I is brutally murdered
  • 22nd February 1452 - James II (heir of James I) in an attemtp to deal with the powerful Douglas clan, ended up brutally stabbing James, Earl of Douglas, which led to a long period of civil war
  • 2nd February 1488 - James III (heir of James II) had has troubles with rebellious nobles - his son, future James IV, was handed over to the rebels - was was inevitable.
  • 21st February 1507 - James IV's wife Margaret Tudor gives birth to a son James 
  • 27th February 1508 - James IV's son, infant James died
  • 10th February 1567 - death of Henry Darnely, husband of Mary Queen of Scots (granddaughter of James IV)
  • 8th February 1587 - execution of Mary Queen of Scots - the order signed on 1st February.
  • 5th February 1649 - Charles II was acclaimed King of Scotland following the execution of his father Charles I (the succession in Scotland was unbroken)
  • 6th February 1685 - death of Charles II - he was succeeded by his brother James II
  • February 1687 - Anne, sister & successor to Mary, lost her two daughters to illness
  • 13th February 1689 - reign of James II officially over when William & Mary proclaimed
  • 13th February 1693 - William I signs the order for what will be known as the Glencoe Massacre
  • 5th February 1716 - the uprising to put James Stuart (the Old Pretender) back on the throne ended in failure - the Stuart claim to the throne was officially over.
  • February 1687 - Queen Anne (born 6th February 1665)
    , sister & successor to Mary, lost her two daughters

Read a more detailed timeline in The National

Rare medieval skeletal remains excavated in Wales date to 13th century

The remains of a woman who died around the late 12th or early 13th century were excavated under the foundation a Welsh church that has been converted into a museum. The church was built over an older church in the 1820s.

Archaeologists found the skeleton of the woman, who they say died in her 60s, during reconstruction work on the museum. The church was St. Mary’s and now houses the Llŷn Maritime Museum in Nefyn, Gwennyd, Wales. They say it is rare to find any remains that old in North Wales 

“This lady would have lived through some exciting times in North Wales and in her later life she would have seen the unification of Gwynedd and much of mid and south Wales as well as the raise of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (the last),” the museum says.

Read More Here @ Ancient Origins

Finding James I & Joan Beaufort

James I was 42 when he was killed by a gang of noblemen on February 21, 1437 while lodging at Blackfriars monastery in Perth, as part of a conspiracy to seize the throne of Scotland.

Now a major heritage project has been launched 580 years on from the king’s murder to locate and then recreate his final resting place.

James was buried at the Charterhouse in Perth, a religious institution he intended to become a royal tomb for the Stewart dynasty. But the priory was destroyed in the reformation a century after his death and now no-one is exactly sure where his grave is.

James’ queen, Joan Beaufort, survived the attack and wreaked a terrifying retribution upon the traitors in one of the most brutal reprisals Scotland had seen.

The couple were both buried at the Charterhouse, and a century later, the sister of Henry VIII of England, Margaret Tudor, consort of James IV, was also buried there.

A stone monument at the corner of Perth's King Street and Hospital Street marks the fact he is buried somewhere in the area.

Discovering the murdered King's exact location would be a major historical find - and a coup for the city of Perth.

Read More Here:

The Innocence of Joan Little

Will Packer ~ ~ ~ Joan Little
Will Packer is getting ready to develop a miniseries adaptation about the landmark case of Joan Little, called The Innocence of Joan Little, reports Shadow and Act.

Little’s case in 1974 drew national attention to a jail in Beaufort County in Washington, North Carolina, after Little was found innocent for killing a jailer who attempted to rape her. It was a landmark case, not only the first in United States history to recognize a woman’s right to kill a potential rapist in self-defense but also a case that acknowledged the rights of prisoners in the United States. She was found not guilty by a jury of six whites and six African-Americans.

Little was the first woman in US history to be acquitted under the defense that she killed 62-year-old Clarence Alligood, her would-be rapist, in self-defense. Her case set off a wave of support from civil rights, feminist, and anti-death penalty movements at the time as well.

Will Packer’s Will Packer Productions as well as Paulist Productions are on board to develop and produce the miniseries, though no network is yet attached, and there has been no word on casting. The series will be based on the book by author James Reston Jr., “The Innocence of Joan Little: A Southern Mystery.”

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Romsey Abbey: The mystery of the hair in the coffin

For the past few months, archaeologists have been testing a full head of hair found in a coffin. Is it the hair of a saint?

In October 1839, the work of some gravediggers came to an abrupt halt when their tools hit something hard. It was a lead coffin. Inside they found some hair. Human hair.

When it was originally uncovered deep beneath the abbey, it was thrown as rubbish into the coal hole before someone thought it should be rescued and fished it out again.

The hair is shaped as if it is still sitting on a head but there is no skull. According to the archaeologists, the white bits - visible in the photos - are the remains of the scalp. There is even a plait which is several inches long.

"The radio carbon tests that we carried out suggest something in the mid to late Saxon era," Cameron reveals.

The results showed that the person almost certainly died sometime between the years 895 and 1123. To be slightly more specific, there is a 68.2% probability that the death occurred between 965 and 1045.

read more here @ BBC News

Women in Southern Germany Corded Ware Culture

Map of the Corded Ware culture
Women in Corded Ware Culture may have been highly mobile and may have married outside their social group, according to a study published May 25, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Karl-Göran Sjögren from Göteborg University, Sweden, and colleagues.

The Corded Ware Culture is archaeologically defined by material traits, such as the burial of the dead under barrows alongside characteristic cord-ornamented pottery, and existed in much of Europe from ca. 2800-2200 cal. B.C. To better understand this culture, the authors of the present study examined human bones and teeth from seven sites in Southern Germany dating from different periods of Corded Ware culture, including two large cemeteries. They used carbon dating and additional dietary isotope analysis to assess the diet and mobility of the population during this period.

read more here @ Eureka Alert and also @ PLOS One

Birth Control and Abortion in the Middle Ages

The use of birth control and abortion have a long history, and a long history of being contentious. The idea that pregnancies can be prevented or stopped has raised ethical and moral issues, and, like today, in the Middle Ages you will find many opinions about what should or shouldn’t be done. However, the medieval period might be unique in that it is perhaps the only time when you can read the same author in one work condemning the use of birth control and in another giving directions on how to use it.

In the end, much of the knowledge about birth control practices in the Middle Ages is lost to history – these were issues that women had to deal with on their own, and they could usually only turn to other women for help and guidance. Some could try a medical treatment that had limited chances of success, but many would have realized that an unwanted pregnancy was something that had to be managed and/or hidden. The fate of children born in this way varied – some might have been placed in the care of another family or given to a monastery, but others might also be killed and disposed of. It may have been that in the Middle Ages the most dangerous time for an unwanted child was just after birth.

read entire article here @ Medievalist 

read also "Abortion in the Middle Ages c500 - 900" by Zubin Mistry

The historical heroines you've never heard of

From Boadicea of the Iceni to Queen Victoria, there is no shortage of women who have made their mark on history.

But for every Eleanor of Aquitaine or Elizabeth I, there have been many more whose efforts have gone unrecognised, largely because of their sex.

Now a new BBC series, the Ascent of Women, aims to change all that and shed light on the forgotten heroines of the past.

From the start, says presenter and historian Amanda Foreman, men have 'conspired' to control speech while women, lacking the educational opportunities of their male peers, have failed to realise that 'speech is power'.

But not everyone has been content to remain silent. From the Celtic warrior queen who kept the Romans from her door to the Sumerian priestess who invented literature, meet the women who deserve to be remembered.

read about these amazing women here @ The Daily Mail

Chasing Amelia Earhart

When a team of experts travels to a remote Pacific island next year in search of clues that Amelia Earhart landed there nearly 80 years ago, Eugene archaeologist Rick Pettigrew hopes to document the expedition.

These are some of the Amelia Earhart-related artifacts
recovered from Nikumaroro Island by
The International Group for Aircraft Recovery.
Pettigrew and filmmaker Teal Greyhavens want to film an international research team as it voyages to the island of Nikumaroro to uncover a rock cairn where Earhart’s navigator is believed to be buried, scuba dive along the nearby reef to look for traces of Earhart’s airplane and search the island for bone fragments and other traces of human life.

The international research group said in a statement late last month it believes new evidence shows partial skeletal remains found in 1940 on the island could belong to Earhart. The bones were first analyzed in 1940, but a doctor concluded they belonged to a male and the bones were later lost. In 1998, the international team discovered files about the remains, including skeletal measurements, and researchers determined the bones were actually consistent with a female of Earhart’s height.

Read entire article here @ The Register-Guard

I have posted many news items on this mystery - read more here: