Monday, December 23, 2013

More on St Ketevan

Further on from my post "Mystery of Saint Ketevan" in June 2011, comes this article from Past Horizons - Search for relics of martyr Queen Ketevan:

DNA analysis has confirmed that a relic discovered by archaeologists amongst the ruins of St. Augustine’s Church in Goa, southeast India, is likely to be that of 17th century Queen Ketevan from the Kingdom of Kakheti in eastern Georgia.
Since 1989, various delegations from Georgia have worked together with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to locate Ketevan the Martyr’s relics within the Augustinian church which was founded in 1572. There have been several unsuccessful attempts at locating the relics, but finally the continued searching has paid dividends for the team.
As per the literary sources, the relic box of Queen Ketevan was expected to be at the second window of the chapter chapel towards the Epistle side. Therefore, this area was systematically explored in 2004 for a stone sarcophagus, which was found broken into pieces due to the collapse of the wall. Whilst clearing the rubble the team also found an arm bone. Two other bone relics were recovered from outside the second window area, within intact stone boxes.
See also this post on the "Wordcraft & Statecraft" blog: Queen Ketavan's Bones Discovered & Identified

Friday, December 20, 2013

Celebrating Nadia Mehr

From the Malaysia Sun - First Pakistani girl gets doctorate in medieval history in Indian Kashmir:
Nadia Mehr has scripted history by becoming the first Pakistani female to complete a doctorate in medieval history from the Kashmir University here.

She completed her thesis titled: "The Development of Science, Technology, Arts and Language during the Sultanate period in Kashmir". Hailing from Kasur near Lahore, 31-year-old Mehr was selected under the South Asia Foundation programme.

See also the articles from -
A Pakistani girl Nadia Mehr daughter of Mehr Din of Lahore, Pakistan has completed her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in History from Kashmir University. She is the first Pakistani girl to have completed the doctorate from this Srinagar-based varsity under the South Asia Foundation (SAF) program.
The KU officials said Nadia pursued the research program vide University Registration No: 52-PhD-2010 from the Institute of Kashmir Studies. She did her thesis on “The Development of Science, Technology, Arts and Language during the Sultanate Period in Kashmir”, under the supervision of Prof Gulshan Majeed, Institute of Kashmir Studies.


The Tribune:
After a difficult visa process, bouts of violence and four years of hard work, Nadia Mehr Din has completed her PhD in history from the University of Kashmir, Srinagar. She is the first Pakistani woman to have completed the doctorate from Indian-administered Kashmir under the South Asia Foundation (SAF) programme, report Kashmiri newspapers.
Her dissertation was titled “The Development of Science, Technology, Arts and Language during the Sultanate Period in Kashmir”, under the supervision of Prof Gulshan Majeed, Institute of Kashmir Studies and she received her degree on December 9.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Stone Babies

From Authint Mail:

An elderly Colombian woman has been found to have a 40-year-old fetus inside her abdomen.
 Such a medical event is an extremely rare occurrence. It is known as a lithopedion, or a “stone baby”. This is the result of an ectopic pregnancy where a fetus happens to be conceived outside of the uterus.
 There have been only about 300 documented cases of lithopedia in recorded medical literature. The earliest which was recorded happened in 1582. In that event, physicians were performing an autopsy on a 68-year-old woman and discovered she had most likely carried a stone baby for almost 30 years.
 However, archaeological evidence reaches back even farther. There is an example of a “stone baby” which was discovered in a fourth century Roman dig in France.
The medical condition was even discussed by the ancient physician Albucasis in a tenth century dissertation even though he did not know what it was.



The Tattooed Priestess’ of Hathor

She was known as the mother of god and the daughter of god, the eye of god, the creatrix of the rays of the sun, the embodiment of the circular essence of life. She was the Lady of the Limit or the one who spreads to the edge of the universe and the Lady of the West who welcomed souls to the afterlife. She was the goddess of fertility and assisted women in childbirth. She was Hathor the Celestial Cow whose legs formed the pillars of the sky and the Milky Way ran across her belly.
It is this trend towards the marginalization of women within the temple that leads us all the way to the late 19th century when several tattooed female mummies were discovered. Before this discovery only pictures in tombs and on pottery were the best evidence that some Egyptians were tattooed. Previously tiny faience female figurines showing tattoo patterns on their thighs, wrists, abdomen, and upper body had been discovered in tombs and the tattoos on the newly discovered mummies were in many instances almost identical to the figurines.  Suddenly it became obvious that the tiny figurines were actually depicting real tattoos and their meanings could be directly traced to the priestess’ of Hathor.


Statuette of Ankhesamon

From Hurriyet Daily News:
Image by Winifred Brunton
Egypt said Sunday it has recovered a statue of pharaoh Tutankhamun's sister looted from the southern Mallawi museum during riots by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
 
The 32 centimetre limestone statue of Ankhesamon, sister of the famous boy king and daughter of pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled around 1,500 BC, was stolen on August 14.
 
"The piece is one of the most important in the museum," said antiquities minister Mohamed Ibrahim in a statement.


Links to Ankhesenamun:
Ankhesenamun on wikipedia
Ankhesenamun on Ancient Egypt Online
Ankhesenamun - Ancient Egypt on St Louis University website
Ankhesenamum on Spiritweb

Tale of Trotula

Time has not been kind to the woman known as Trotula Plataerius, Trotula di Ruggiero or Trotula of Salerno. Was she the author of the famous 11th century De passionibus mulierum (On the Diseases of Women) or was she a mythical.

Now the controversy continues with this article from :
These arguments came to a head in the 1500s, when historians and doctors announced that there never was a Trotula in the first place. Since then, she's become a semi-mythical figure. Even those who believe in her existence sometimes doubt her work. The few facts that anyone has pertaining to the woman - that she may have been from a noble family, that she may have had a physician for a husband or a son - have been used to attribute the book to male relatives who used her name as a cover.

See article from
International Journal of Cosmetic ScienceVolume 30, Issue 2, pages 79–86, April 2008
Among these women, there was Trotula de Ruggiero (11th century), a teacher whose main interest was to alleviate suffering of women. She was the author of many medical works, the most notable being De Passionibus Mulierum Curandarum (about women’s diseases), also known as Trotula Major. Another important work she wrote was De Ornatu Mulierum (about women’s cosmetics), also known as Trotula Minor, in which she teaches women to conserve and improve their beauty and treat skin diseases through a series of precepts, advices and natural remedies. 



From Google Books:




Friday, December 6, 2013

Iran: Baluchi Sunni Woman Elected Mayor

From al-monitor:
Samiyeh Balochzehi, 26, was elected mayor of Kalat in Sistan-Baluchistan, an unprecedented event in one of Iran's most conservative provinces.
The election of the first Baluchi woman last week as the mayor of Kalat, a city in the south of Iran, was an unprecedented event in one of the most underprivileged and conservative provinces in Iran. It is a significant step which local experts believe that can inspire Baluchi women to work for more rights and break boundaries that have been created by both the state and society.
Electing a female mayor is by itself a very rare event in Iran. Female mayors who are Shiite and come from the majority Persian ethnicity are extremely rare, but electing a female mayor from two distinct minority sets in Iran, the Baluchi and the Sunnis, is unprecedented.


China: Prostitutes & Poets

From The World of Chinese:
Prostitution is oft cited as the oldest of professions, but is it possible that it might just be the most noble as well? Today, we view prostitutes, typically, as women who engage in sexual activity for payment. However, back in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), a modern man would be astounded by the brothels of the day and the women living in them; modern interpretations simply fail to grasp the complexity of the “prostitute” of yore. Our sexual time traveler would find an artistic trade that transcends the simple and tawdry exchange of sex for money.
Marriages were matters of social hierarchy, leaving endless scholars and aristocrats with marriages that lacked both the affection and communication that can be found on a deeper, more spiritual plane. Prostitutes were exceptions to the rule. Unlike the girls brought up in ordinary families who were deprived of education, prostitutes were taught to become—not merely entertaining performers—but the mental equals to aristocrats, scholars, government officials, and all manner of high society.
By the Qing Dynasty and right through to today, the noble art of prostitution has been in decline—making them little more than objects of men’s sexual desires. They are no longer seen as having great minds, being supreme dancers, pitch-perfect singers, or enchantresses who both write and are revered in the finest poetry.

From Cultural ChinaLiu Rushi - The Most Respectable Courtesan in Chinese History
Liu Rushi(1618-1664), originally named Yang Ai'er, was also known by her literary name "Yinglian" and "Hedong Jun". She was a famous courtesan in the late Ming dynasty and later became concubine of the celebrated poet Qian Qianyi.

Despite having a profession that most of society look down on, Liu Rushi was considered the most respectable prostitute in Chinese history. She showed exemplary values when faced with danger during times when she helped the country. During the Manchurian occupation, she tried to persuade her mate, who was then a respectable Confucian scholar, to commit suicide for the love of country. Unfortunately, the guy refused stating that the water in the middle of the river was too cold. Nevertheless, after her mate’s surrender, she was able to redeem herself from her profession when she was considered as a model of pure morals during the end of the Ming dynasty.
In addition, the Chinese beauty was also well versed in calligraphy, drawing, and writing poems.

Female Sacrafice at the Shimao Ruins

From Raw Story:
Archaeologists in China have unearthed the skulls of more than 80 young women who may have been sacrificed more than 4,000 years ago, state media reported Monday.
The skulls were found in what appears to have been a mass grave at the Shimao Ruins, the site of a neolithic stone city in the northern province of Shaanxi.
The women’s bodies were not present, the official news agency Xinhua said, adding that archaeologists concluded that the skulls were “likely to be related to the construction of the city wall” in “ancient religious activities or foundation ceremonies” before construction began.
In 2005 archaeologists at Hongjiang in the central province of Hunan found an altar devoted to human sacrifice as well as the skeleton of one victim.
A separate altar was used for sacrificing animals at the 7,000-year-old site, which is believed to be the earliest human sacrificial site ever found in the country.


The discovery is not the first instance of researchers unearthing remains related to human sacrifice in early China. Kings and emperors were regularly buried along with their servants and concubines, who were sometimes killed first -- and on other occasions buried alive.
The Shimao Ruins cover more than four square kilometres and were discovered in 1976.
Archaeologists have also found more than 100 remains of murals as well as large amounts of jade ware at the site of the ancient city, which sits in the Yellow River basin and is believed to date back to 2000 BC.


These skulls are likely related to the building of the city wall, suggesting that ancient religious activities or foundation ceremonies were organised before construction of the neolithic city began, state-run Xinhua news agency said. 
Built about 4,300 years ago, the city was abandoned about 300 years later during the Xia Dynasty, the first dynasty in China to be described in ancient historical chronicles.


The skulls were found in what appears to have been a mass grave at the Shimao Ruins, the site of a neolithic stone city in the northern province of Shaanxi, China.
The women's bodies were not present, suggesting they were victims of human sacrifice and experts believe they could even be related to the founding ceremony of the ancient city, according to state media.


The discovery is not the first instance of researchers unearthing remains related to human sacrifice in early China. Kings and emperors were regularly buried along with their servants and concubines, who were sometimes killed first and on other occasions buried alive. The total includes 40 skulls that the Shaanxi provincial government said earlier had been discovered at the site last year.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Debate on French Royal Head

Further on from my post "Henri IV of France Identified" back in 16th December 2010 and the post from Live Science of 14th December 2010 (Mummy Head (and Brain) Identified as Long-Lost French King), comes this series of articles now doubting the identification of the royal skull.


PhysOrg: French King Henri IV's Head Stars In Forensic Dispute:
Doubt - and a reportedly royal severed head - haunts a murky corner of forensic science these days, as researchers squabble over an unearthed packet of mummified remains thought to have belonged to King Henry IV of France.
At the heart of the macabre drama is an embalmed head with several vertebrae still attached. The remains were found in 1919 in the Royal Basilica of St. Denis outside Paris and reportedly secreted away by a civil servant. Reappearing almost a century later, the specimen still had its soft tissue and organs intact, right down to the open mouth and partially closed eyes.

From the South China Morning Post: Forensic scientists in debate over head of King Henry IV of France:
Obtaining a sample of the mummified tissue, they conducted a genetic analysis and compared it with DNA samples given by three male descendants. Analysing the Y chromosome of the three descendants, and genes that reveal matrilineal descent, they found similarities among the three descendants. But none matched the disembodied head.
The team further compared the Y chromosome taken from the mysterious head with that taken from a blood-soaked handkerchief said to contain the genetic material of Louis XVI. The two samples did not match.

From Newser: Does This Head Belong To France's Henri IV?
Forensic researchers have a royal dispute on their hands: They can't agree on whether a mummified head belongs to France's Henry IV, explains the Los Angeles Times. The question seemed settled in 2010 when a team of researchers used facial-reconstruction techniques to conclude that it was indeed "Good King Henry," who was assassinated in 1610. But now a second team of scientists says it isn't so because DNA tests don't match Henry's living relatives.

From Fox News - Live Science: Lost Kings: DNA Fails To Solve History Mysteries:
The tale of the head and the gourd, however, is not quite so straightforward. In 2010, a forensic analysis suggested the head belonged to French King Henry IV. DNA later linked the head to the blood in the gourd, leading researchers to identify the blood's owner as Henry's descendant, French King Louis XVI. Now, however, a second DNA analysis has thrown those findings into disarray, suggesting perhaps the head and the blood belong not to royalty, but to nobodies.

From The Independent: Academics Scratch Heads Over Mystery of French King's Skull:
Four academics – including two who contributed to a report in the British Medical Journal which claimed a skull found in 1919 was the head of Henri IV – have now challenged the research after new DNA tests cast doubt on the authenticity of the remains.
The original report, published in the BMJ in December 2010, saw France’s pre-eminent forensic examiner, Dr Phillipe Charlier, and his team identify the partly preserved severed head as that of the monarch, who was assassinated in 1610 and is famous for ending the country’s religious wars.

From UPI: Forensic Researchers Debate Whether Head Belongs To Henry IV:
Forensic researchers have a royal dilemma on their hands: They can't reach consensus on whether a mummified head belongs to Henry IV of France.
In 2010, a team of researchers used facial-reconstruction techniques to conclude that it was indeed "Good King Henry," who was assassinated in 1610.
The case seemed closed.
Now, a second team of scientists says it can't be the royal head, since DNA tests do not match Henry's living descendants.

Prince Really A Princess

Last month, archaeologists announced a stunning find: a completely sealed tomb cut into the rock in Tuscany, Italy.
The untouched tomb held what looked like the body of an Etruscan prince holding a spear, along with the ashes of his wife. Several news outlets reported on the discovery of the 2,600-year-old warrior prince.
But the grave held one more surprise.
A bone analysis has revealed the warrior prince was actually a princess, as Judith Weingarten, an alumna of the British School at Athens noted on her blog, Zenobia: Empress of the East.

Osteological analysis of the bones, however, quickly turned their speculations upside down.  The skeleton with the spear turned out to be a female, aged 35-40 when she died, whereas the cremated bones were the remains of a male.

See also: Bones Don't Lie by Katy Meyers
So let’s break this down- when the skeleton was male the lance was a sign of royal status, and now that the ‘prince’ is a female the lance is a sign of marriage unity between the two individuals. Isn’t this secondary interpretation just as biased as the first one? Why can’t a female have a lance as a symbol of her power?

See also:
Ancient History Encyclopedia: Etruscan -> http://www.ancient.eu.com/etruscan/

The Lady in Number 6

The Lady in Number 6 - Malcolm Clarke's documentary profiles 109-year-old pianist Alice Herz Sommer, the oldest living Holocaust survivor, who shares her story on the importance of music, laughter and how to live a long happy life. 

Alice Herz-Sommer is known for her grace and wisdom. The 109-year-old, who is the oldest living pianist and Holocaust survivor, is undoubtedly one of the most inspirational people in the world.
Now, a documentary called "The Lady In Number 6" is telling her incredible story from beginning to end -- but just the 11-minute preview in itself is amazing enough.
"Every day in life is beautiful," Herz-Sommer says in the video above. "Every day. It's beautiful."
The 38-minute-long documentary is directed by Malcolm Clarke and produced by Nicholas Reed and has already been shortlisted for the Academy Awards' documentary short subject category, according to the Los Angeles Times.


Website dedicated to Alice -> http://nickreedent.com


Book on Alice -> A Century of Wisdom by Caroline Stoessinger




Awan - The Wife of Cain

From Biblical Archaeology:
While there are many examples of strong and inspiring men and women in Genesis, the book is also packed with stories of dysfunctional families, which is evidenced from the very beginning with the first family—Adam, Eve and their two children, Cain and Abel. In no short amount of time—just 16 verses after announcing the birth of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4—Cain has murdered his younger brother and is consequently exiled from the land.
Given that the wife of Cain is only mentioned once in the Old Testament, she would not be counted among the famous women in Genesis. Nevertheless, her identity is still worth investigating. Who did Cain marry? Mary Joan Winn Leith first explores the traditional Jewish and Christian answers that contend that the wife of Cain was another daughter of Adam and Eve. According to this reasoning, Cain would have married his sister—one of Abel’s twin sisters no less, according to the Genesis Rabbah.

Wikipedia goes further and names the sister:
The Targumim, rabbinic sources, and later speculations supplemented background details for the daughters of Adam and Eve. Such exegesis of Genesis 4 introduced Cain's wife as being his sister, a concept that has been accepted for at least 1800 years. This can be seen with Jubilees 4 which narrates that Cain settled down and married his sister Awan, who bore his first son, the first Enoch, approximately 196 years after the creation of Adam. Cain then establishes the first city, naming it after his son, builds a house, and lives there until it collapses on him, killing him in the same year that Adam dies.

From The Book of Jubilees, Chapter 4 at Sacred Texts:
And Cain took ’Âwân his sister to be his wife and she bare him Enoch at the close of the fourth jubilee. And in the first year of the first week of the fifth jubilee, houses were built on the earth, and Cain built a city, and called its name after the name of his son Enoch.

An interesting love triangle theory from Diabolical Confusions:
According to some Hebrew and Islamic scholars, the reason Cain’s heart was not righteous was because of a woman: their sister, Awan. It is believed that Awan was intended for Abel, but Cain fell in love with her. This can be seen in the Book of Jubilees. Adam & Eve had nine (9) children. And this is where the story takes an interesting turn. Genesis, by the way, has no problems with incest, specifically brothers an sisters marrying. That is because there is no other option at this point. So, from this point of view, God has favored Abel in both marriage AND sacrifice.

From Folklore & Mythology Electronic Texts: various versions of the story of Cain & Abel






Medieval Discovery of Roman Girl



Some of our greatest archaeological finds have happened by accident, revealing wonders from the past. 
Such a thing could also happen in the Middle Ages, such as when the perfectly preserved body of a girl was discovered along the Via Appia just outside of Rome. The discovery took place in April of 1485.
The name of this girl, however, would continue to remain a mystery, as any inscriptions from this site had long since disappeared. One rumour that was spread around was that this was the body of Cicero’s daughter Tulliola. Another said that had an inscription had been found, saying ’Here lies Julia Prisca Secunda. She lived twenty-six years and one month. She has committed no fault, except to die.’ Everyone did agree that this girl must have been famous and wealthy. In his diary, Antonio di Vaseli, who also saw and marvelled at the body, explained she “must be an illustrious one, because none but a noble and wealthy person could afford to be buried in such a costly sarcophagus thus filled with precious ointments.”


Women in the Wari Empire

From Peruvian TimesArchaeologists Uncover Remains of Girl Sacrificed Some 1,500 Years Ago
Archaeologists have uncovered remains of a girl who was most probably used as a sacrifice some 1,500 years ago, according to RPP Radio.
The discovery was made in the district of Yautan, 40km inland from Casma in the Ancash region. The remains of the girl were discovered in a tomb by a group of archaeologists and students from the University of Santiago Antunez de Mayolo in Huaraz.
The archaeologists believe the girl could have been sacrificed as an offering to gods of the sea, perhaps as protection against the climate changes caused by the El Niño ocean current.
The Wari empire spanned much of modern Peru during the 8th and 9th Centuries A.D. Experts say that its capital, Huari, had a population of some 40,000 people, which would have been a major global urban center at the time. Much is still not known about the Wari, which like other pre-Hispanic civilizations, is overshadowed in Peru by the Incas.

From the Telegraph: Wari empire royal tomb discovered in Peru
Archaeologists in Peru say they have unearthed a massive royal tomb full of mummified women that provides clues about the enigmatic Wari empire that ruled the Andes long before the Incas.

From Adventure Life: Ancient Peru Brewery
Archeologists have only scratched the surface of discovery in many areas. A recent itch: the historic mountain-top city of Cerro Baúl. Here, at over 8,000 feet above sea level, an ancient brewery of the Wari Empire was found. Twenty ceramic 10 to 15 gallon vats suggest that this was much more than a Mom-and-Pop-shop. In fact, it may be the oldest large-scale brewery ever found in the Andes. It was used to produce great quantities of chicha, a fermented beverage similar to beer made from barley and berries of the pepper tree, Schinus molle.

From ABC News: Royal Peruvian tomb with scores of mummified women sheds light on Wari empire
Archaeologists in Peru have unearthed a massive royal tomb full of mummified women which provides clues about the enigmatic Wari empire that ruled the Andes long before their better-known Incan successors.
The mausoleum, unearthed a few months ago at a coastal pyramid site called El Castillo de Huarmey, 299 kilometres north of Lima, contained gold pieces, ceramics and 63 skeletons about 1,300 years old.
Researchers said the discovery will help them piece together life in the Andes centuries before the rise of the Incan empire, which was written about in detail by the conquering Spaniards.

From National Geographic: First Unlooted Royal Tomb of Its Kind Unearthed in Peru
Three queens were buried with golden treasures, human sacrifices
It was a stunning discovery: the first unlooted imperial tomb of the Wari, the ancient civilization that built South America's earliest empire between 700 and 1000 A.D. Yet it wasn't happiness that Milosz Giersz felt when he first glimpsed gold in the dim recesses of the burial chamber in northern Peru.
Giersz, an archaeologist at the University of Warsaw in Poland, realized at once that if word leaked out that his Polish-Peruvian team had discovered a 1,200-year-old "temple of the dead" filled with precious gold and silver artifacts, looters would descend on the site in droves. "I had a nightmare about the possibility," says Giersz.

Love Letter to Eung-Tae


A poetic love letter written by a mourning Korean wife that was found beside the mummified body of the woman's husband has grabbed the limelight many a time since its discovery more than a decade ago.

Archaeologists at Andong National University found a 16th century male mummy in Andong City in South Korea in 2000. Along with it was a heart-rending letter written by the dead man's pregnant wife who poured out her grief into what has become a testament of loss, lamentation and berievement.
The 5-feet-9-inches mummy was identified as that of Eung-tae, after a total of 13 letters addressed to that name were found in the tomb.



From about dot com - the Tomb of Eung Tea

Eung Tae is the name of a 16th century elite member of the Joseon Dynasty, who was buried in the traditional neoConfucian manner called LSMB by archaeologists, resulting in the excellent preservation of his corpse and his grave goods. One of approximately 100 Joseon royal tombs excavated to date, Eung Tae's tomb is rare in that it contained perfectly preserved written documents, including letters written to the 31-year-old man from his family.
Eighteen letters found within the elite tomb of the Joseon dynasty member Eung Tae provide us with an intimate glimpse of medieval life in 16th century Korea.
Eung Tae was a member of the prominent Kosung Yi clan of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea, when he died in 1586. As was traditional for elite members of society in those days, he was buried in nested pine coffins stuffed with clothing and sealed in a concrete-hard layer of lime and soil. That method led to preservation of his body and grave goods, which included 18 letters written to the deceased, detailing life and society in medieval Korea, and making fascinating reading for us today.


From Letters of Note - transcript of the letter
How could you pass away without me? Who should I and our little boy listen to and how should we live? How could you go ahead of me?

From Without Wax - another transcript of the letter

A mournful note and a pair of sandals from the 16th century have captivated South Korea. On June 1, 1586, a pregnant widow in the east wrote to her husband: "You always said you wanted to live with me until our hair turns gray. How could you pass away without me?" She left the letter in his tomb, along with shoes she'd made as a sign of love for her ailing spouse, woven from her hair and hemp bark. There they lay until the city of Andong began moving graves to make way for houses.





Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Helena Wright and The Sex Factor In Marriage

Helena Rosa Wright
From a rather interesting article by Paul Spicer at the Mail Online with the headline of "Desperate wives and the man known as Derek who fathered 500 children with women whose war hero husbands were too shell-shocked to make love" :
These days there are sophisticated and scientific solutions to the dismal problem of childlessness — IVF, Viagra and well-established egg and sperm donor services. We think of these as recent advantages and give thanks for the modern age.

But what only very few people are aware of is that long before sperm donation was practically or ethically possible, in the early 20th century a secret sperm donation service existed for those women most in need.

Helena Wright was a renowned doctor, best-selling author, campaigner and educator who overcame the establishment to pioneer contraceptive medicine in England and throughout the world. Kind, intelligent, funny and attractive, Helena had a way with words and a devoted set of friends. She adored men and spent her life helping women.

She had a great hit in America and Europe with a book called The Sex Factor In Marriage, which financed her innovative medical practice. She opened two London clinics: one for very privileged women in Knightsbridge, one for the poor in Notting Hill.

And it was from these offices that she undertook perhaps her greatest work: to assist hundreds of women whose husbands had returned from World War I unable to father children.


And this from the Spectator with its headline "A secret sperm donor service in post-first world war London":
Between 1914 and 1918 one million Englishmen were killed in France and Belgium. Thousands more were wounded, gassed or shellshocked in the trenches. The appalling losses of the war left many women widowed and led to a shortage of potential husbands, a gender imbalance compounded by the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. They were known as ‘the mateless multitude’.

Among the men lucky enough to return home to wives after the war, many were un-able to perform sexually, whether because of direct injury or shellshock — what we’d call post-traumatic stress disorder. It was a tremendously delicate subject — witness D.H. Lawrence’s decision to make Clifford Chatterley ‘only half a man’, deprived of his virility by war; this aspect of the novel was considered to be the cruel breaking of a taboo.

No wonder, then, that by 1918 Helena Wright had many hundreds of women on her books who had confided to her that they needed help. These women loved their husbands and would never have left them, but they also craved children. What they needed was a sperm donor, before such a thing existed.


More on Helen Wright:
Helena Wright on wikipedia
Helena Rosa Wright on the Margaret Sanger Papers Project


Further Reading:
"Freedom to choose: the life and work of Dr. Helena Wright, pioneer of contraception" by Dr Barbara Evans





Monday, November 11, 2013

Cornell Returns The Garshana Archives


From an article in the LA Times Online:
Cornell University is preparing to forfeit to Iraq a vast collection of ancient cuneiform tablets in what is expected to be one of the largest returns of antiquities by an American university.

The 10,000 inscribed clay blocks date from the 4th millenium BC and offer scholars an unmatched record of daily life in ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization.

Among the tablets is the private archive of a 21st century BC Sumerian princess in the city of Garsana that has made scholars rethink the role of women in the ancient kingdom of Ur. The administrative records show Simat-Ishtaran ruled the estate after her husband died.

During her reign, women attained remarkably high status. They supervised men, received salaries equal to their male counterparts' and worked in construction, the clay tablets reveal.


See also:

Garsana Tablets in the Cuneiform Library at Cornell University
Sumerian Shakespeare - website dedicated to Sumerian art, culture & history



More on Ancient Sumerian Women

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rahab the Harlot


In the Book of Joshua, Rahab (a heroine nonetheless known as “Rahab the Harlot”) assisted two Israelite spies in escaping out a window and down the city wall of Jericho. Who was Rahab in the Bible? A Biblical prostitute or just an innkeeper? Did she live on the wall of Jericho or within it, in what is known to archaeologists as a casemate wall? Anthony J. Frendo addresses these questions about the life of Rahab in the Bible in the September/October issue of Biblical Archaeology Review. Whether or not she was a Biblical prostitute, archaeology may at least be able to answer whether Rahab lived on or in the casemate wall of Jericho.

More on Rahab:
Rahab the Prostitute from about.com
Profiles of Faith: Rahab - From Harlot to Heroine from the Good News
Who Was Rahab The Harlot? from Share Faith
Rahab from Women of the Bible
Rahab from Jewish Virtual Library


Monday, October 7, 2013

Six Century Old Murder Hunt Begins In Fife



THE hunt is on to find the body of an heir to the Scottish throne who is believed to have been murdered and dumped in an unmarked grave more than six centuries ago.
David Stewart was the first Duke of Rothesay, the same title now used by Prince Charles when he is in Scotland.
The tragic Duke was just 24 when he was arrested by his ambitious uncle, imprisoned and – it is widely suspected – murdered.
The body was buried in an unmarked grave 1402 somewhere in the grounds of  Lindores Abbey, Fife, and has lain there for the past 611 years.
Now a team of historians and archaeologists plans to pinpoint the grave, exhume the body, and settle once and for all the mystery of how Prince Charles’ predecessor met his end.

Empress Dowager Cixi

Bel Mooney's review of Jung Chang's "Empress Dowager Cixi" from the Mail Online:
She was a version of Margaret Thatcher, in a different age, an alien culture. From humble origins yet a natural leader, she used a powerful mixture of intelligence and natural charm to get her way, fighting a single-minded path to the top.

Autocratic and determined, she would let few things or people stand in the way of her ambition to change history.

The lady knew how to manipulate men who were weaker - which was most, even in a male-dominated culture. Powerful rivals held no terror for her, and heaven help those who made her their enemy.

Depending on whether you’re a detractor or an admirer, she was ruthless or tough-minded, devious or shrewd, cruel or simply pragmatic according to the standards of the age. Nobody can argue that this stateswoman made a significant mark on history, yet history’s jury is still out.

Was she an innovator or a despot? The answer is almost certainly - both.


Other Links:
Article on Cixi featured in the Smithsonian Magazine: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/da-cixi.html






Ancient Female Burials

From Peninsula Daily News: Remains of centuries-old Native woman buried at Tse-whit-zen
The remains of a native woman who likely lived on the North Olympic Peninsula centuries ago have been returned to the earth.

Lower Elwha Klallam tribal members met under rainy skies Sept. 28 to inter the remains at the tribe's Tse-whit-zen site along Marine Drive, the historic location of one of the largest prehistoric Klallam villages on the Peninsula. 

“It was a funeral service that day,” said Frances Charles, chairwoman of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe.

After 73 years in the collection of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, the remains, found somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula in the 1920s, were given to the tribe earlier this summer.


From the Star: Moche priestess tomb
She was a priestess who offered blood to the gods, and was laid to rest more than 1,200 years ago.

Her chamber tomb was a rare find that most archaeology students can only dream of adding to their resumé, but Matthew Go, 20, has done just that.

Go is the only Canadian on a team of archaeologists in Peru who in July discovered a Moche priestess chamber tomb buried between AD700-800. The tomb is the eighth in a cluster of priestess tombs found since 1991 at the San Jose de Moro archaeological site in the Jequetepeque Valley in northwest Peru.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Collegiate Foundress: Dervorguilla of Galloway


From BBC News:

An Oxford University college may have taken its name from a medieval lord, but it was under the watchful eye of his widow that it thrived.

Balliol College claims to be the institution's oldest college, and is currently celebrating its 750th year.

John Balliol was spurred into the charitable act of its foundation after being whipped for upsetting a bishop.

But he died shortly after its formation in 1263 and it was Dervorguilla of Galloway under whose guidance the college blossomed.

The grief-stricken widow kept her husband's heart on her at all times, safe in a silver casket.

And she was determined Balliol College would make its mark, according to Dr John Jones, its archivist.