Thursday, February 16, 2017

Buchi Emecheta, Nigerian Novelist, Dies at 72


Buchi Emecheta, a British-based Nigerian writer who, in “Second-Class Citizen,” “The Joys of Motherhood” and other novels, gave voice to African women struggling to reconcile traditional roles with the demands of modernity, died on Jan. 25 at her home in London. She was 72.  The cause was dementia, her son Sylvester Onwordi wrote in the British magazine New Statesman.

Ms. Emecheta (pronounced BOO-chee em-EH-cheh-tah) came to the attention of British readers in the early 1970s when New Statesman began running her accounts of the travails of a young Nigerian woman in London. Adah, a thinly disguised version of the author, lived in a dreary apartment, worked menial jobs to support her young children and abusive husband, studied at night and weathered the slights meted out by a racist society. Buoyed by ambition and pluck, she remained undaunted.

In the Ditch,” a novel based on those columns, appeared in 1972.  With the publication two years later of a second Adah novel, “Second-Class Citizen,” critics in Britain and the United States hailed the arrival of an important new African writer. Like her immediate predecessor Flora Nwapa, Ms. Emecheta revealed the thoughts and aspirations of her countrywomen, shaped by a patriarchal culture but stirred by the modern promise of freedom and self-definition.

The Improbable Life of the Inventor of the Modern Bra

Mary Phelps, known as Polly to friends, was born in 1891 to a family that could trace its heritage to such luminaries as William Bradford, Plymouth Colony’s first governor, and Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamboat. As New England royalty, Polly grew up in New Rochelle, New York, wanting for nothing.
It wasn’t until 1910 that Polly realized something important was missing from her life. She was busy one day preparing for a debutante ball when she looked in the mirror and realized she loathed the way a corset made her look. It bunched up her bodice and squished her breasts into a single, uncomfortable monobosom. In her memoir, The Passionate Years, she referred to it as “a box-like armour of whalebone and pink cordage.”
Like all great innovators before her, necessity was the mother of Polly’s invention. She grabbed a handkerchief, ribbon, and a needle, and before the party was off the ground, had fashioned herself a new undergarment: the modern bra.
Read More Here: Atlas Obscura

Was it Love or Witchcraft?

Usually, the Empress of the Han Dynasty was invincible, untouchable, and protected by the law more than anyone else. However, in the case of Empress Chen of Wu, the accusation of practicing black magic destroyed her life. Nowadays, she is remembered as an ancient Chinese witch.
She was the wife of Emperor Wu of Han, who ruled between 141 and 87 BC. Their marriage was arranged and was not based on love. She was her husband’s servant when she was a little girl. Instead of playing and having fun like most children, she had to follow the strict rules laid out for Han Dynasty women.
Read more here: Ancient Origins

Ancient Egypt was one of the most feminist societies ever

Although the West tends to nod to ancient Greece when remembering its cultural heritage, there is at least one important cultural movement whose roots are firmly buried in ancient Egypt: Feminism.
Ancient Greek women – with the exception of the Spartans – had virtually no rights. In fact, they weren't even regarded as citizens, were excluded from many public spaces and were basically seen as the property of their fathers and husbands.
Even though Spartan women were an exception to this practice, their rights and freedoms still fell far short of those afforded by ancient Egyptian women. You see, in Ancient Egypt, men and women were regarded essentially as equals.
"From our earliest preserved records in the Old Kingdom on, the formal legal status of Egyptian women - whether unmarried, married, divorced or widowed - was nearly identical with that of Egyptian men," a professor of Egyptology Janet Johnson told Al Jazeera.
So, thousands of years before Women's Suffrage was a thing in Europe and America, Egypt had things more or less figured out. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

PLOS ONE: Queen Nefertari, the Royal Spouse of Pharaoh Ramses II: A Multidisciplinary Investigation of the Mummified Remains Found in Her Tomb (QV66)

PLOS ONE: Queen Nefertari, the Royal Spouse of Pharaoh Ramses II: A Multidisciplinary Investigation of the Mummified Remains Found in Her Tomb (QV66) 

Queen Nefertari, the favourite Royal Consort of Pharaoh Ramses II (Ancient Egypt, New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty c. 1250 BC) is famous for her beautifully decorated tomb in the Valley of the Queens. Her burial was plundered in ancient times yet still many objects were found broken in the debris when the tomb was excavated. Amongst the found objects was a pair of mummified legs. They came to the Egyptian Museum in Turin and are henceforth regarded as the remains of this famous Queen, although they were never scientifically investigated. The following multidisciplinary investigation is the first ever performed on those remains. The results (radiocarbon dating, anthropology, paleopathology, genetics, chemistry and Egyptology) all strongly speak in favour of an identification of the remains as Nefertari’s, although different explanations—albeit less likely—are considered and discussed. The legs probably belong to a lady, a fully adult individual, of about 40 years of age. The materials used for embalming are consistent with Ramesside mummification traditions and indeed all objects within the tomb robustly support the burial as of Queen Nefertari. 

Read More here @ PLOS ONE and Science Recorder

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Medieval Movement of Belgian Holy Women

Beguines were a religious movement of women who weren’t wives but also weren’t fully ordained in a religious order. There is a long history of Christian mystics, and they occupied a twilight zone in which they could move between the secular and religious worlds. They didn’t need to bear the burden of married life, but also weren’t forced to seclude themselves as nuns did, leading active and economically useful lives as single women. 
The movement founds its origin in 12th century when mulieres religiosae, holy women, began grouping together in cities of present day Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Northern France. Here they lived in voluntary poverty and preached sexual abstinence, while living lives in the service of the poor and marginalized. One such holy woman, the 23-year old widow Juetta of Huy, left her family in the city of Liege around 1181 to serve lepers. She then spent the last 36-years of her life immured as an anchorite.
Around 1230 these holy women had started to be called “beguines”, a term that was most likely initially used pejoratively, but whose original meaning is lost to history. Some of these communities formed separate, walled communities called beguinages, located just outside the city walls. 
Read More here at Atlas Obscura - Medieval Beguines




Crusader debris found on Mount Zion

Debris from crusader attack on Queen of Jerusalem found on Mount Zion - Archaeology - Haaretz - Israel News | Haaretz.com

Excavations carried out on Mt. Zion have found a destruction layer dating to the 12th century C.E., when Baldwin III stormed the crusader citadel in order to wrest power over Jerusalem from his mother, Queen Melisende.
The intriguing layer of black ashy deposits, dated to around 1153 C.E., was discovered on the west side of the excavation site on Mt. Zion by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte this summer, led by Shimon Gibson, James Tabor and Rafi Lewis.
That said, a coin found in this layer was identified by coins expert Robert Kool of the Israel Antiquities Authority as belonging to the “rough series” of coins issued by Baldwin III, possibly starting in 1152 or 1153. The coin attributed to Baldwin III raises an interesting historical episode. It was in 1152 that Baldwin III (who reigned from 1143-1163) came to Jerusalem, to wrest power from his mother, Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem from 1131 to 1153 through no design of her own. Melisende at the time was residing in the palace next to the citadel on the west side of the city.
Read More At Haaretz dot com

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Skeleton Of Medieval Giantess Unearthed From Polish Cemetery

Skeleton Of Medieval Giantess Unearthed From Polish Cemetery


Just outside of the Medieval church of the Ostrów Lednicki stronghold in Poland, archaeologists have unearthed the strange burial of a giantess. The woman’s skeleton showed that she reached a towering height of 7’2″ but also that her short life was full of traumatic injuries and disease.
The giantess was found in a cemetery that was once used solely by the elite of the area: dignitaries, the very wealthy, and people connected with Bolesław the Brave, the king of Poland in the early 11th century, and with the local Piast ruling dynasty. By the late 12th century, though, the cemetery saw more and more burials of commoners, with over 2,500 skeletons recovered at the site of Ostrów Lednicki Island.
But in spite of the elite nature of the cemetery, its most famous resident is a woman from a lower social class who died in her late 20s. Writing recently in the book New Developments in the Bioarchaeology of Care, archaeologists Magdalena Matczak and Tomasz Kozłowski detail the intriguing skeleton and the odd nature of the grave.
Read more here >>> Forbes dot com

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Vestiges of the Vikings

Vestiges of the Vikings: Magic Buried in a Viking Woman's Grave | Ancient Origins

Murky, elusive and undefined, the religion of the pre-Christian Vikings has long been subject to debate. Contemporary texts of their spiritual worship do not survive, and the later records that do survive stem from Christian authors. Thus they are tainted with a Christian worldview and anti-pagan opinions. The magic of the Vikings, however, is somewhat a secondary field of interest. Though intricately linked with the pagan beliefs of the Norse, it is in many ways more undefined due to the ritual sacrifice of magical items.
In 1894, a curved metal rod was discovered in a 9th-10th century female grave in Romsdal, Norway. Scholars have debated its intention for years, shuffling between theories that it was a "fishing hook or a spit for roasting meat", before realizing in 2013 that it was likely a form of a magic wand. The bend toward the top of the wand was seemingly made just before the wand was laid to rest with the woman, as if to stem its magical properties. This particular wand fits the traditional mold of a seiðr wand based on previous discoveries dating from the 9th and 10th centuries. It is long (at 90cm), made of iron (consistent with the materials circulating of the Norse Iron Age) with "knobs attached to them" for the benefit of the wielder.
Read more at Ancient Origins