Saturday, October 21, 2017

The forgotten 'female Lawrence of Arabia' - Gertrude Bell


In a picture taken to mark the Cairo Conference of 1921, Gertrude Bell - characteristically elegant in a fur stole and floppy hat, despite being on camel back - sits right at the heart of the action. To one side is Winston Churchill, on her other TE Lawrence, later immortalised in David Lean’s 1962 epic, Lawrence of Arabia.

Bell was his equal in every sense: the first woman to achieve a first (in modern history) from Oxford, an archaeologist, linguist, Arabist, adventurer and, possibly, spy. In her day, she was arguably the most powerful woman in the British Empire - central to the decisions that created the modern Middle East and reverberate still on the nightly news.  Yet while Lawrence is still celebrated, she has largely been forgotten.

read more her @ The Telegraph



About Gertrude Bell
  • The Extraordinary Gertrude Bell edited by Mark Jackson & Andrew Parkin
  • Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations by Georgina Howell
  • Queen of the Desert: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell by Georgina Howell
  • Daughter of the Desert: The Remarkable Life of Gertrude Bell by Georgina Howell
  • Desert Queen by Janet Wallach
  • Gertrude Bell: The Lady of Iraq by H.V.F. Winstone



Written By Gertrude Bell:
  • Persian Pictures
  • Syria
  • A Woman In Arabia
  • The Hafez Poems of
  • The Desert & The Sown: Travels in Palestine and Syria
  • The Arabian Diaries, 1913-1914
  • Review of the Civil Administration in Mesopotamia
  • The Letters of Gertrude Bell - Volumes 1-2
  • Tales from the Queen of the Desert
  • The Arab of Mesopotamia

Ceramic Heads of Possible Goddesses Discovered in Ancient Waste Dump

Another intriguing article from Live Science:
The remains of at least four female heads, made out of ceramic, have been discovered at the ancient town of Porphyreon, located in modern-day Jiyeh, Lebanon.
The four female ceramic heads have a mix of Greek and Phoenician traits, as well as elements of Egyptian origin, Gwiazda said. For instance, one of the heads has a depiction of a Wadjet amulet (a type of amulet that shows an eye) on its breast, Gwiazda said. These amulets were originally used by the ancient Egyptians, who believed that these charms could help protect the wearer from harm. 

read more here @ Live Science

Sarah Siddons - The most famous tragedienne of the 18th century

Sarah Siddons was an actress born in Wales and was the most famous tragedienne of the 18th century, most notably for her role as Lady Macbeth, the wife of the play’s protagonist in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Sarah Siddons was a star. A charismatic character that enchanted everybody on and off stage. Unfortunately, her private life wasn’t as bright as her social life and acting career. In 1773, when she was only 18, Sarah married the actor, William Siddons.
They had seven children together, but Sarah outlived five of them, while her marriage ended up in an informal separation. Sarah died in 1831, at the age of 75, and was interred there in Saint Mary’s Cemetery at Paddington Green.

read more here @ The Vintage News

Early Egyptian Queen Revealed in 5,000-Year-Old Hieroglyphs


About 60 drawings and hieroglyphic inscriptions, dating back around 5,000 years, have been discovered at a site called Wadi Ameyra in Egypt’s Sinai Desert. Carved in stone, they were created by mining expeditions sent out by early Egyptian pharaohs, archaeologists say. They reveal new information on the early pharaohs. For instance, one inscription the researchers found tells of a queen named Neith-Hotep who ruled Egypt 5,000 years ago as regent to a young pharaoh named Djer. Archaeologists estimate that the earliest carvings at Wadi Ameyra date back around 5,200 years, while the most recent date to the reign of a pharaoh named Nebre, who ruled about 4,800 years ago.

read more here @ Live Science


Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun's wet nurse might have been his sister

From The Guardian comes this article on the family life of Egyptian Pharaoh, Tutankhamun:
Archaeologists believe Maia, Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun’s wet nurse, may have actually been his sister Meritaten.
Maia was the wet nurse of Tutankhamun, whose mummy was found in 1922 by renowned British Egyptologist Howard Carter in the Valley of Kings in Luxor along with a treasure trove of thousands of objects.
DNA tests have proven that the pharaoh Akhenaten was the father of Tutankhamun. The identity of his mother has long been a mystery, although she is not believed to be Akhenaten’s Queen Nefertiti. Some theories suggest the boy king’s mother was one of his aunts.
“Maia is none other than princess Meritaten, the sister or half-sister of Tutankhamun and the daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti,” Zivie said.
The mummy of Meritaten has not been found, but antiquities minister Mamduh al-Damati said on Sunday it could be in a secret chamber inTutankhamun’s tomb.

read more here @ The Guardian

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Devil letter written by 'posessed' nun finally translated

From Daily Mail Online comes this mystery from 1676:
A 17th century 'letter from the devil' written by a Sicilian nun who claimed to be possessed by Lucifer, has finally been translated thanks to the dark web.

The coded letter was written by Maria Crocifissa della Concezione at the Palma di Montechiaro convent in 1676, and she claimed it had been scribed by Satan using her hands.

Some 340 years later, a group of Italian computer scientists unscrambled the code using decryption software they found on the dark web, and found it does carry a devilish message - describing God and Jesus as 'dead weights'.

Sister Maria Crocifissa della Concezione was born Isabella Tomasi in 1645, but was rechristened once she entered the Benedictine convent at Palma di Montechiaro aged 15.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Queen Mother Idia of the Benin Empire

The Benin ivory mask is a portrait of the Queen Mother Idia of the Benin Empire in the 16th century, made like an African traditional mask.
This miniature sculpture was worn as a pendant by the queen’s son Oba (which means King) Esigie. There are two almost identical pendant masks today, one of them is in the British Museum in London, and the other one is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The bought masks are portraits of the queen and symbolize the legacy of the Benin dynasty that continues to the present day.

read more here 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Egypt Uncovers Remains Of Pharaoh's Daughter in 3,700-Year-Old Tomb

From an article in Newsweek

Archeologists have uncovered the 3,700-year-old tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh’s daughter near a newly discovered pyramid in the Dashur royal necropolis south of Cairo. Within the burial chamber, archeologists from Egypt’s ministry of antiquities retrieved an ornately inscribed wooden box containing four pharaonic jars used for the preservation of organs. It is believed the tomb belonged to the daughter of King Emnikamaw (Ameny Qemau), a ruler from ancient Egypt’s 13th Dynasty whose own burial pyramid is located 650 yards away in the same necropolis.

Not much is know of Ameny Qemau of his reign which lasted only two years.






2,500-year-old seal unearthed in Jerusalem

From an article published by CNN
An ancient seal from Israel's "First Temple era" was recently uncovered, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. The "First Temple," also known as Solomon's Temple, goes back to Biblical times. It's believed this seal is more than 2,500 years old and belonged to a woman described as "exceptional" or quite well-off in society at the time.
"Finding seals that bear names from the time of the First Temple is hardly a commonplace occurrence, and finding a seal that belonged to a woman is an even rarer phenomenon," the Antiquities Authority said in a news release. "She had legal status which allowed her to conduct business and possess property," it went on.


Hama: Forgotten Queen of Assyria

Who was Hama, queen of Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, daughter-in-law of Adad-nerari?  Very little is known about either Hama or her husband, Shalmaneser IV (r. 783–773 BC).  We conjecture that Hama's husband succeeded one brother and was himself succeeded by another.  However, this was a period of turmoil, of weak central government, and palace intrigue was at its zenith.  Courtiers held power, and Shalmaneser IV's reign was dominated by the powerful Field Marshall, Samsi-ilu, and the Palace Herald, Bel-Harran-belu-usur. The Assyrian Empire was systematically weakened by plague and civil war, and there were rumours that the royal family was murdered due to internal dissatisfaction with the monarchy.  


From an article in USA Today
In a crumbling Middle Eastern palace, a woman’s coffin lay undisturbed for millennia, her remains surrounded by treasure and protected by an ancient curse. Now scientific sleuthing has revealed her identity: she was Hama, queen of an empire.
Hama died young, and perhaps suddenly, hinting at why she was interred in a bronze coffin rather than the usual stone sarcophagus. She was no more than 20, but the gold crowns and other riches in her grave signal her power and wealth.
Seal of Hama
Hama was entombed near other queens at the sprawling Northwest Palace in the Assyrian capital of Nimrud, near present-day Mosul. Discovered by Iraqi archaeologists nearly 30 years ago, Hama’s coffin held a breathtaking array of riches, including chunky gold anklets, a beautifully worked gold jug and jeweled rings.
Amid the hoard was the nearly complete skeleton of a short, slender woman. On her head was a delicate gold crown depicting pomegranates, flowers and female winged genies. By her side was a gold stamp seal like those used to stamp documents. The script on it read in part, “Belonging to Hama, queen of Shalmaneser.”
Near Hama’s coffin was a tablet written with a curse warning, “Anyone later who removes my throne … may his spirit receive no bread!” But the curse, which was installed for another queen, didn’t stop Islamic State fighters. They blew up part of the Northwest Palace with barrel bombs in 2015 and wrecked Mosul’s museum, which held Hama’s bronze coffin.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

New images reveal Tamworth’s Warrior Queen taking shape


Tamworth's landmark ‘Warrior Queen’ statue is taking shape, with latest images of the work in progress revealing a little glimpse of just how impressive and magnificent the new sculpture will be.

After several weeks of back-breaking labour by artist and sculptor Luke Perry, work to create a steel statue of the iconic Lady Aethelflaed has reached the halfway point.

Once complete, the Saxon Queen will rise six metres above the ground on the Offa Drive/Saxon Drive roundabout, outside Tamworth Railway Station, where she will greet visitors as they step off the train, and point them towards the town centre.




Also known as Tamworth’s ‘Lady of the Mercians’, Queen Aethelflaed, played a pivotal role in English history by building a chain of fortifications against Viking invaders throughout the Kingdom of Mercia. Her fortification of Tamworth in 913 AD became the forerunner to Tamworth Castle. Daughter of Alfred the Great, Aethelflaed’s accession as a female ruler has been described as one of the most unique events in early medieval history.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Mother, dancer, wife, spy: the real Mata Hari

As the centenary of Mata Hari’s execution approaches (15th October), there are signs of renewed interest in her story.

Here is an article by Julie Wheelwright in the Guardian:
Since her execution on the outskirts of Paris almost a century ago, the Dutch exotic dancer Margaretha “Gretha” MacLeod – universally known as Mata Hari – has been synonymous with female sexual betrayal. Convicted by the French of passing secrets to the enemy during the first world war, MacLeod’s prosecutors damned her as the “greatest woman spy of the century”, responsible for sending 20,000 Allied soldiers to their deaths. MacLeod’s status as both a foreigner and a divorcee, who was unrepentant about sleeping with officers of different nationalities, made her a perfect scapegoat in 1917.

Read more here:





Who Was Julie d’Aubigny - aka Mademoiselle Maupin?

From OZY comes this interesting post on 
How many duels do you think you could fight in a single day? A glimpse at one badass French swordswoman in action offers a possible answer: three. After attending a royal ball dressed as a man, and romancing and then kissing another woman on the dance floor, she was challenged by three men. She proceeded to take them on one by one, and to best all three.

“Most of the more astonishing events happened before she was 20.” While researching Goddess, [Kelly] Gardiner visited every known location of one of d’Aubigny’s most notorious exploits and pored over primary sources for information about her wily subject. What she found: a woman who flouted social convention, class, gender, marriage and the law.
Read more here @ Kelly Gardiner's website and also an interview here @ NPR
Read more about Julie d’Aubigny @ wikipedia

How the British treated 'hardcore' Mau Mau women

From the University of Cambridge:

New research on the treatment of 'hardcore' female Mau Mau prisoners by the British in the late 1950s sheds new light on how ideas about gender, deviancy and mental health shaped colonial practices of punishment.
The research, published in the Journal of Eastern African Studies, was conducted by Gates Cambridge Scholar Katherine Bruce-Lockhart and is the first study to make use of new material on a camp in Gitamayu used to hold "hardcore" female detainees.
Bruce-Lockhart is interested in the treatment of "hardcore" Mau Mau women in the final years of the Emergency Period, one that was marked by uncertainty, violence and an increasing reliance on ethno-psychiatry.
From 1954 to 1960, the British detained approximately 8,000 women under the Emergency Powers imposed to combat the Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya. The majority of female detainees were held in Kamiti Detention Camp and its importance has been widely acknowledged by historians.

‘Merely Nuns’? Exploring Female Agency in Hospitaller Houses in the Middle Ages - Museum of the Order of St John

Blog post by Nancy Mavroudi, Museum Assistant, Museum of the Order of St John, on women in the Hospitallers:

If we were to generalise, we would probably say that Hospitaller women were primarily wealthy, noble women, from aristocratic or powerful families who, in many cases were even forced to join the Order by their families for spiritual benefits – the Order’s blessing for the family. However, although popular, such generalisations are not always accurate. To start with, there is evidence that many women joined voluntarily, simply because they so wanted. Joining a community of Sisters could bring about a change in their lives in which they themselves might have found comfort – especially given that, as discussed in further detail below, the Order could potentially be a more privileged and safe space to be.
Read more here at Museum of the Order of St John.

See also: Hospitaller Women in the Middle Ages - abstract @ Cambridge University Press

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Forgotten Language That Only Women Once Knew

Ever had the sneaking suspicion that women speak in different tongues? If you were a Hunanese peasant woman in 20-century China, there was a kernel of truth to the old joke. Inside a hilly, remote village of Jiangyong County, unschooled women and girls developed a mysterious system of writing called Nüshu to express their innermost thoughts and passed around favorite songs, prayers, traditional tales, birthday letters and wedding congratulations to each other in coded script.

The communications were hidden in plain sight from the men, who largely disregarded Nüshu — which means “women’s writing” in Chinese — as frivolous, not bothering to learn a word.

Similar female scripts arose in Japan and Korea too, but only Nüshu bore a certain mystique. When women died, they had their favorite works burned or buried with them. So we don’t know exactly when Nüshu began, but we know that women were using the script around 200 years ago, when girls weren’t expected to go to school and long before they received any formal education. 

read more here @ OZY


Last Days of Freedom For Anne Frank

"Not being able to go outside upsets me more than I can say, 
and I'm terrified our hiding place will be discovered 
and that we'll be shot," she wrote in her diary in September 1942.

The Jews in hiding had withstood bombs, near-starvation, two break-in attempts, and the many privations of their helpers during over two years in hiding, and the suspense had begun to take its toll. They were pale and malnourished from life without sun, but they were alive.

And then, on August 4, 1944, everything changed.

read more here @ Mental Floss



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Women in the Medieval World

Modern portrayals of medieval women tend toward stereotypical images of damsels in distress, mystics in convents, female laborers in the fields, and even women of ill repute. In fact, women’s roles in the Middle Ages were varied and nuanced, and medieval depictions of womanhood were multi-faceted. Illuminating Women in the Medieval World, on view June 20 –September 17, 2017 at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, reveals the vibrant and complex medieval representations of women, real and imagined, who fill the texts and images within illuminated manuscripts, Art Daily said.


Illuminating Women in the Medieval World will be on view June 20 through September 17, 2017 at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition is curated by Christine Sciacca, former assistant curator of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum, now Associate Curator of European Art, 300-1400 CE at The Walters Art Museum. A richly illustrated book, Illuminating Women in the Medieval World, will be published by Getty Publications to complement the exhibition.

read more here @ PanAmerican

Side Note: I was lucky to have a preview of the booklet accompanying the exhibition. It is a beautifully illustrated work, with carefully selected manuscripts to enhance each chapter which is depicted in the exhibition. We have topics covering the ideals of womanhood (christian saints and martyrs), "warnings" on behaviour (adultery, wantoness), daily life (courtship, marriage, childbirth, death), women in the arts (artists and illuminators), and finally a small section on the renewed interest in women of history.



Bone-Sniffing Dogs to Hunt for Amelia Earhart's Remains

Following on from Women of History: Chasing Amelia Earhart, comes this update on the search for missing aviatrix, Amelia Earhart, and her co-pilot, Fred Noonan:
But the mystery of what happened to Amelia Earhart may be as close as it’s ever been to being solved. An expedition organized by the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) sets sail on June 24 from Fiji. On board will be a team that’s proved astonishingly adept at locating human remains—specially trained forensic dogs.
The expedition’s destination is Nikumaroro, an uninhabited island some 1,000 miles north of Fiji. The members of TIGHAR have devoted the last three decades to testing what they call the Nikumaroro hypothesis—that when Earhart and Noonan couldn’t find Howland, they landed on Nikumaroro.


read more here @ National Geographic

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rediscovering the Story of Egeria - 4th Century Female Pilgrim

Egeria was a young woman who decided to make the trip of a lifetime and go to the Holy Land. But what inspired her to make that journey and walk half of the world all alone?

She was born in beautiful green Galicia and grew up surrounded by pagan stories and sacred sites related to pagan traditions. The people in this area have always known about magic and pagan rituals. Thus, Christianizing Galicia was a very slow process. In fact, even now many people of this North-West part of Spain believe in witchcraft and supernatural creatures.

It is likely that Egeria was still a young woman when she decided to change her life. Her incredible story was forgotten for seven centuries. Much of the information about her has been lost, but there is still a part of the text written by her hand which allows one to have some insight into her thoughts.

read more here @ Ancient Origins (30th October 2016)
read also here @ Women of History - Etheria (10th February 2008)


The extraordinary women of Ghiyas-ud-din Khalji's harem

Female Court Musicians
The phrase “powerful women of Medieval India” either conjures the image of the queen of the Delhi Sultanate, Razia Sultana, who braved enormous opposition from Shamsi nobles and effectively ruled Delhi for three years, or the Mughal Empress Nur Jahan – an able administrator, but also a poet par excellence and a fashionista.

Mughal emperor Jahangir, in his Jahangirnama, gives the exaggerated figure of 15,000 women in Ghiyas’ seraglio. He further adds that each woman in the harem was either trained in a particular craft according to her aptitude and talent, or was appointed to some high position at the court of Malwa. 

It is not surprising that medieval Indian chroniclers could not understand and appreciate Ghiyas’ distinguished harem. In an era that treated women as second-class human beings, educated women would have certainly been misfits. This may be why when Ghiyas’ son, after he murdered his father and wrested the reins of Malwa for himself, executed most of the women from his father’s seraglio. Weak rulers are often threatened by empowered women.

read more here @ Scroll.in


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Chinese Actress Liu Xiaoqing on Playing Empress Wu

Liu Xiaoqing as Empress Wu Zetain
In the pantheon of great Chinese actresses, few names come as revered as Liu. The star of more than 60 films and TV shows, Madame Liu, as she likes to be called, has a résumé that includes four marriages, once being China’s richest woman and a jail term for tax evasion. Now 61 years young, she is keen to discuss her latest role over dinner at Beijing’s Four Seasons Hotel. It's a role she has already played four times over.

“The tale of Empress Wu is like jade,” she tells TIME, dressed in a black tee bearing the slogan ”Little Cutie” over a green military-style shirt. “We’re on a treasure hunt for this most precious of treasures, unraveling the mysteries of that period and person.”

That person is Wu Zetian, the only woman to have ever ruled China, and that period is the Tang Dynasty (AD618 to 906). Liu is due to reprise the role in a 14-part series entitled Empress, due to hit American screens late next year.

Empress Wu is legendary in China for using her wit, intelligence and cunning to eclipse all rivals and rise from her position as Emperor Taizong’s favorite concubine to the very apex of court life. She also had scores of lovers, ruled through 72 prime ministers, and is believed to have killed her own daughter. “Only after I acted as Empress Wu did people start thinking positive things about her,” says Liu.

read more here
@ Time



When Will Land Rights for South Asian Women Become a Reality?

In Meghalaya, India’s northeastern biodiversity hotspot, all three major tribes are matrilineal. Children take the mother’s family name, while daughters inherit the family lands.


Because women own land and have always decided what is grown on it and what is conserved, the state not only has a strong climate-resistant food system but also some of the rarest edible and medicinal plants, researchers said. The importance of protecting the full spectrum of women’s property rights becomes even more urgent as the number of women-led households in rural areas around the world continues to grow.

While their ancient culture empowers Meghalaya’s indigenous women with land ownership that vastly improves their resilience to the food shocks climate change springs on them, for an overwhelming majority of women in developing countries, culture does not allow them even a voice in family or community land management. Nor do national laws support their rights to own the very land they sow and harvest to feed their families.

read more here @ The Wire


Friday, June 16, 2017

Gospel of Jesus's Wife Likely a Fake

A papyrus holding text that suggests Jesus Christ was married and whose authenticity has been a matter of intense debate since it was unveiled in 2012 is almost certainly a fake.


Karen King, the Harvard professor who discovered the Gospel of Jesus's Wife and has defended its authenticity, has now conceded that the papyrus is likely a forgery and that its owner lied to her about the provenance and his own background.

The concession comes after Walter Fritz, a resident of North Port, Florida, revealed that he is the owner of the papyrus that claims Jesus had a wife. Fritz said this to Ariel Sabar, a journalist for The Atlantic who wrote an exposé published June 15.


read more here @ Live Science (17th June 2016) and Live Science (3rd February 2015)
and @ Women of History (13th July 2014) and Women of History (25th August 2015)


TIMELINE: A History Of Women In The US Military

In January 2017, the first female Marines graduated from infantry school. In 2016, the first female soldiers became infantry officers. Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson also took over as leader of U.S. Northern Command in 2016, becoming the first female service member to lead a unified combatant command and thus the highest ranking woman in U.S. military history. We also saw female enlisted sailors deploy on submarines for the first time ever.


In every case, these were historic firsts for the armed services, and a reminder that the military still has a long way to go before it is a truly integrated institution. But, since the United States first declared itself an independent nation, American women have found ways to serve their country despite resistance from men, sometimes going as far as impersonating male soldiers to join the fight at the frontlines.

In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, Task & Purpose has compiled a list of historic milestones that changed the course of our nation — milestones set by servicewomen who refused to accept the status quo and paved the way for the next generation. This is by no means a complete timeline; this is simply a snippet of those accomplishments.

read more here @ Task & Purpose


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