Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Medieval Baby Bottle

Have you ever wondered how babies were fed in medieval times when Mum or the Wet Nurse was not around. I did - and now I know.

From an archaeological dig at Veliki, Novgorod, courtesy of Russia-ic:
"A group of archeologists carrying out diggings in Veliki Novgorod have found several ancient feeding bottles for babies. The finds were discovered at the digging site in Mikhailova Street. Here the archeologists found wooden feeding devices made of cow horns. The Slavs used to attach leather sacks with milk to the broad ends of hollow horns and their babies would suck the milk through holes in the narrow part of horns. It is interesting to note that not far from the archeological excavation site there is a working municipal kindergarten. "

I would be interested to know if similar items were used in other countries ....

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

On the trail of Cleopatra

The legendary Queen of Egypt is making headlines again this week.

About a month ago, it was reported that Egyptian archaeologist, Zahi Hawass was close to locating the final resting place of Cleopatra and Marc Antony - see: "Cleopatra's Tomb" .

This month, The Times has further reported that:
" ..... with a team of 12 archeologists and 70 excavators, Zahi Hawass, 60, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, has started searching for the entrance to her tomb. And after a breakthrough two weeks ago he hopes to find her lover, the Roman general Mark Antony, sharing her last resting place at the site of a temple, the Taposiris Magna, 28 miles west of Alexandria.

Hawass has discovered a 400ft tunnel beneath the temple containing clues that the supposedly beautiful queen may lie beneath. A fortnight ago Hawass’s team discovered a bust of Mark Antony .... "

And Fox News:
"Hawass has discovered a 400-foot tunnel beneath the temple containing clues that the supposedly beautiful queen may lie beneath. "We’ve found tunnels with statues of Cleopatra and many coins bearing her face, things you wouldn’t expect in a typical temple,” he said."

In addition to the bust of Marc Antony, Hawass has discovered an alabaster head thought to be that of Cleopatra in the Tapsiris Magna Temple.

Yahoo News:
"Some 20 bronze coins stamped with Cleopatra's face were found in underground tunnels 50 metres (164 feet) deep in the archeological site, Hawass said."

If Hawass is correct in his assumptions, his discovery has been compared with that of Carter. However, Hawass has his critics:
"Other experts are cautious, though. John Baines, professor of Egyptology at Oxford University, warned that searching for royal tombs often proved a “hopeless” task. He also doubted that Antony would be buried alongside his lover."

It will be very interesting to see what other "evidence" of the presence of Queen Cleopatra will be unearthed in this Temple.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ancient Persian Women

Women's Rights In Ancient Persia
By Tamara Ebrahimpour, Press TV, Tehran (17th May 2008)

"Zoroastrian texts such as the Avesta clearly define the status of Persian women and reveal that at a time when many women in the world were deprived of their basic rights, Persian women enjoyed social and legal freedom and were treated with great respect.

Avestan texts mention both genders asking them to share responsibility and make decisions together. They are equally praised for their good deeds rather than their gender, wealth or power.

In ancient Persia, women could take the throne in case the king passed away and the crown prince was still a minor. One such woman was Pourandokt, the first Persian queen regnant in Ctesiphon. Ancient scriptures describe her as a wise, just and good-natured woman who did her best to revive the Sassanid sovereignty.

Avestan texts address the issue of leadership and tell us that a ruler may be a woman as well as a man.

According to Zoroastrian texts, female members of the Persian society were allowed to participate in religious ceremonies and sometimes even head the event as the priest.

Persian women were free to choose their spouse and Zoroaster urged them to make their decision based on wisdom.

Although noble Persian women had to act within a defined framework set by the king, they also enjoyed economic independence and had control over their wealth."

The article has a great link to some beautiful Perisan jewelery.

Witchcraft In Kenya

In case you missed this last week, 15 women were recently burned to death after being accused of witchcraft.

Link: Press TV
"At least fifteen women accused of being witches have been burned to death by a rampaging mob in a village in western Kenya, police say.

A gang of about 100 people moved from house to house searching for the women in Kisii District late Tuesday, tied up their victims and set them ablaze, Local official Mwangi Ngunyi and witnesses said. They also torched 50 houses in Nyakeo village, located some 300 kilometers (180 miles) northwest of the capital Nairobi.

Mwangi Ngunyi condemned the murders, saying a security operation has been launched to hunt down villagers suspected of killing the women. "People must not take the law into their own hands simply because they suspect someone," AFP quoted Ngunyi as saying.

The area has witnessed similar attacks in the past when people suspected of engaging in witchcraft have been killed or ostracized. Dozens of suspected people were killed in western Kenya in the 1990s, amid allegations of sorcery. "

Also: Herald Sun - Mob burns "witches" to death
"Several cases have also been reported in recent months in neighbouring Tanzania, forcing President Jakaya Kikwete to order special protection for albinos, who were murdered and mutilated for good luck by witch-doctors."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

You Go Girl!

A little bit of humour to come out of New Zealand today:

"Woman strips after wolf whistle"
Thursday May 22, 09:56 AM

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Road workers in a small New Zealand town got their wish granted when a woman stripped saying she was fed up with their wolf-whistles.

The Israeli tourist was about to use an ATM in the main street of Kerikeri, in the far north of the country, when the men whistled, the New Zealand Press Association reported. She calmly stripped off, used the cash machine, before getting dressed and walking away. The woman told police she didn't take too kindly to the whistling from the men repairing the road. "She said she had thought 'bugger them, I'll show them what I've got'," Police Sergeant Peter Masters told NZPA.

"She gave the explanation that she had been ... pestered by New Zealand men. She's not an unattractive looking lady," Masters said. "She was taken back to the police station and spoken to and told that was inappropriate in New Zealand."

Reporter: Adrian Bathgate. Editor: Sanjeev Miglani

Now, that's what I call affirmative action!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Elamite Royal Burial

Some interesting news out of the Middles East .....

From Mehr News:
"A team of archaeologists studying two graves discovered in the city of Ramhormoz in southern Iran said that they bear their remains of a girl and a woman who were most likely members of an Elamite royal family.

The team led by Arman Shishegar was assigned to carry out a series of rescue excavations in the Jubji region of the city in Khuzestan Province in May 2007 after the Khuzestan Water and Waste Water Company stumbled on two U-shaped coffins containing skeletons of a girl and a woman along with a great number of artifacts.....

The girl was about 17 years old and the woman was between 30 and 35 years old at the time of death, Shishegar told the Persian service of CHN on Tuesday. The girl was discovered wearing a golden bracelet embellished with pieces of agate on her wrist. The bracelet bears the female name Ani-Numa.

During the rescue excavations, the archaeologists found five rings of power among the coffins’ artifacts, which were usually used by royals in Mesopotamia. One of the rings, which bears the name of King Shutruk-Nahhunte of Elam (c. 1185–c. 1155 BC) in a cuneiform inscription was previously surmised to belong to the king.....

Due to the large quantity of valuable artifacts found in the coffins, the archaeologists believe that the girl and the woman had most likely been Shutruk-Nahhunte’s relatives or family members ....

Another of the five rings, which bears a cuneiform inscription, was handed over to two ancient languages experts but their studies led to different results. One of them deciphered the inscription as a female name but the other said it was the name of a local official.

A golden armlet with floral motifs, two golden bracelets bearing deer-head patterns at each end, some ornamental stones with floral decorations, 155 golden buttons of various sizes, several statuettes of goddesses, a golden necklace, golden plaques with floral motifs, 99 golden necklace beads, 23 golden necklace pendants of various sizes, three marble stone dishes, earthenware and bronze dishes, several bronze bracelets, a fish-shaped goddess ornament, and a number of other artifacts have been discovered at the site."

The Tehran Times also carries the story.

Edit: Press TV - Two women owned Elamite treasure

So, who were the Elamites??

According to Wikipedia:
"Shutruk-Nahhunte was king of Elam from about 1185 to 1155 BC, and the second king of the Shutrukid Dynasty. Elam amassed an empire that included most of Mesopotamia and western Iran. Under his command, Elam defeated the Kassites and established the first Elamite Empire, which proved to be very short-lived as Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylon conquered Elam around 1120 BC, bringing the empire to an end."

It seems that Elam was established under Shutruk-Nahhunte I (c.1160BC) and was centered around Susa. In its short history, Eleam became a great military power, its Kings - Shutruk-Nahhunte and Kutir-Nahhunte - successfully invaded Mesopotamia (reaching as far as Persepolis) and were responsible for the destruction of the Kassits (c.1155BC). Even Babylon had cause to fear these Elamite Kings when Shutruk-Nahhunte I captured this ancient Kingdom.

Despite Ancient History not being an area I am overly familiar with, especially that based around the heart of civilisation, this makes for interesting reading nonetheless.

I would welcome further recommendations for reading more of the history of this ancient region.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Queen of Sheba

Archaeologists believe that they have found this legendary Queen's palace at Axum in Ethiopia.

From: "The Earth Times"
"The University said scientists led by Helmut Ziegert had found remains of a 10th-century-BC palace at Axum-Dungur under the palace of a later Christian king. There was evidence the early palace had been torn down and realigned to the path of the star Sirius. The team hypothesized that Menelek had changed religion and become a worshipper of Sirius while keeping the Ark, described in the Bible as an acacia-wood chest covered with gold. Remains of sacrifices of bullocks were evident around the altar.

The research at Axum, which began in 1999, is aimed at documenting the origins of the Ethiopian state and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. "The results we have suggest that a Cult of Sothis developed in Ethiopia with the arrival of Judaism and the Ark of the Covenant and continued until 600 AD," the announcement said. Sothis is the ancient Greek name for a star thought to be Sirius. The team said evidence for this included Sirius symbols at the site, the debris of sacrifices and the alignment of sacred buildings to the rising-point of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky."

More from "Times Online"
"After she died her son and successor, Menelek, replaced the palace with a temple dedicated to Sirius. The German researchers believe that the Ark was taken from Jerusalem by the Queen — who had a liaison with King Solomon — and built into the altar to Sirius.

“The results we have suggest that a Cult of Sothis developed in Ethiopia with the arrival of Judaism and the Ark of the Covenant, and continued until 600AD,” an announcement by the University of Hamburg on behalf of the research team said. Sothis is the ancient Greek name for the star Sirius.

The Ark was made, according to the Bible, of gold-plated acacia wood and topped with two golden angels. It is said to be the source of great power. In about 586BC, when the Babylonians conquered the Israelites, the Ark vanished."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


There are two stories of St. Sunniva.

(1) Sunniva was an Irish girl who was taken back to Norway back Vikings who were raiding Ireland in the 10th Century. Upon arriving in Norway, Sunniva persuaded her companions to commit suicide with her, rather than face a worse fate at the hands of heathens. Sunniva became the patron Saint of Norway.

(2) Sunniva was the daughter and heir of a 10th century Irish King. To escape an unwelcome marriage to a heathen King, Sunniva fled upon his arrival on Irish shores.

With a group of loyal followers, Sunniva landed an Selje and took refuge in a nearby cave. Unfortunately for the group, the locals thought that they were stealing their livestock (sheep or cattle), and an armed force was sent to bring them before Jarl Hakon.

Sunniva prayed that she and her companions would not be allowed to fall into the hands of these heathens, and thus rocks, caused by a landslide, sealed the entrance to the cave. Sunniva and her group were never seen alive again.

Many years later, under the Christian King Olaf Tryggvasson, the cave was opened (c.996). The body of Sunniva was found intact and uncorrupted. A Benedictine monastery was built upon the site in her honour.

According to later sources, Sunniva is accompanied by her siblings - her brother Saint Alban, and her sisters, Saints Borni and Marita.

Queen Mary's Treasure

No, not Queen Mary I of England, nor the ship of the same name, but Queen Mary of Hungary.

In 1526, following the defeat of the Hungarians and the death of her husband King Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia in the Battle of Mohacs, and in the face of the ever encroaching Ottoman army, 21yo Queen Mary of Hungary fled to Vienna. Her journey was by boat along the Danube. However, all was not smooth sailing, and a number of ships sank, with her belongings still aboard.

The whereabouts of this queenly regalia remained unknown for many centuries - until now.

"According to, a team of Hungarian archaeologists are launching an underwater excavation of the Danube to find ships identified by American radar technology. The investigation is bound to be interesting, says Attila J. Tóth, departmental leader of the Hungarian Alliance Archeology and History of Art (Magyar Régészeti és Művészettörténeti Társulat), but whether or not the remains of the submerged sunken ships actually belong to the Hapsburg Queen's caravan can only be determined with intensive scuba diving. The team is serious in their quest, the portal reports, and plans to explore more than ten kilometers of the Danube. So far, Hungarian divers have had successful underwater historical excavations. Previously they unearthed remains of ships, pile-dwellings and an underwater village. Perhaps the most interesting find was a fleet of 30 ships with copper vessels inside that dated to the Ottoman era in Hungary."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"Women's" Groups

Throughout my recent working life, I have come across a couple of women's groups that, at first, I didn't really know much about - except that their objectives seem to be dedicated to women's and family issues.

Zonta International
This group was founded in the US in 1919 to serve "as a platform for increased advocacy and service delivery for advancing the status of women worldwide".

Aims of Zonta:
  • improve the legal, political, economic, health, educational and professional status of women through service and advocacy;
  • work for the advancement of understanding, goodwill and peace through a world fellowship of executives in business and the professions;
  • promote justice and universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  • be united internationally to foster high ethical standards, implement service programs, and provide mutual support and fellowship for members who serve their communities, their nations and the world.

VIEW Club:
VIEW was founded by the Smith Family in 1960 "as a service to women. It provided an opportunity to promote the Voice, Interests and Entertainment of Women at a time whem women were restricted by legislation and regulation..."

"Today, VIEW has continued as an organisation with a twofold purpose: to provide a support network for women to meet in friendship and to support the work of The Smith Family."

I know from first hand experience (ie: eavesdropping on a few of their luncheon meetings) the good work that VIEW does. The women meet each month, organise social and fund-raising events to assist those less fortunate than ourselves. I know the women of my local VIEW Club do a lot of work in providing school supplies (books, stationary, scholarships) for kids who might otherwise go without.

So, just a quick rundown on a couple of women's groups in my local area that really do subscribe to the "charity begins at home" creedo.

What's going on in your local area .....

New "pregnancy" insurance

This is a really sensitive topic and I have been giving it some thought before deciding to post - but decided I would as I would like others' views on the subject.

On 9th April 2008, Insurance giant ING launched a new insurance policy to "cover for babies and pregnancy – with the median age of new mums now nearly 31, (up from 27 in 1985), the risk of pregnancy complications and birth defects increases dramatically. For a women aged 35 or more the risk of stillborn is 1 in 440, as opposed to 1 in 1000 for younger women."

What this actually means is, for every birth-defect or stillborn child, you get a payout.

For example: "payouts of up to 50,000 dollars (46,640 US) for babies born with Down's syndrome, spina bifida or a cleft palate ....... a stillborn baby could get a 10,000-dollar payout while women who suffered complications during pregnancy or birth could also be awarded a pay-out."

There has already been some criticism in medical circles:
"This new insurance policy is drawing some criticism with New South Wales Midwives Association because it draws on the fears that pregnant women already have.

"It is making women think about the terrible things that can happen when the reality is there are very few mothers who suffer from complications during pregnancy," secretary Dr Hannah Dahlen told the Sun-Herald. "It is marketing fear and uncertainty when women are vulnerable during pregnancy." "

Whilst other are in praise: "some people will think it's not ethical but the cost of covering for a disability is monstrous and that’s why people will look at this," said Investment and Financial Services Association head Richard Gilbert. "Considering the high costs involved when babies are born with disabilities this insurance program could be a step in the right direction."

Yahoo News: "Mums can insure unborn babies"
Yahoo: "Mums can insure unborn babies in Australia"

My views on this are mixed - finally insurance companies are recognising "real" risks and complications associated with pregnancy; on the other hand ......

The jury's still out on this one.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Just a little note of thanks to all those who drop by and read this blog.

The articles posted here are just an eclectic range of items that interest me.

I have written more extensive articles over at my original Women of History website, so fee free to drop by.

Oh, and don't bother signing my guest-book attached to this blog, it playing up and so is being deleted as we speak - apparently you can't use inappropriate words - like thanks!

Anyway, THANKS again my loyal yet anonymous readers!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

"Cave" woman reinterred

The remains of a women have been re-interred in the cave in which she was buried almost 1900 years ago.

Rob Preece from the Yorkshire Post reports:

"She was returned in a special ceremony to the mysterious limestone cave where she was discovered by two Yorkshire divers more than a decade ago.

Phillip Murphy, an academic at Leeds University, and his friend Andrew Goddard found the woman's skull by chance during a diving mission at the cave, dubbed the Wolf Den, in 1997.

Carbon dating tests confirmed that the remains dated back to Roman times, and further visits to the site unearthed the bones of some medieval wild dogs and the first set of prehistoric cave footprints ever seen in Britain.

A forensic expert at Sheffield University, Dr Stephanie Davy-Jow, has even managed to draw a reconstruction of how the woman's face would have looked, using the latest 3D computer modelling techniques.

Mr Murphy, a technician in Leeds's school of earth and environment, said: "We know that our Roman lady wasn't thrown down the cave shaft to her death because there were no injuries on the skull consistent with that.

"The bones were definitely placed in the cave, but they weren't found in an articulated skeleton, so they may have been placed there after her body had decomposed elsewhere, which was common in those times."

While returning the skull to the cave, Mr Murphy and Mr Goddard found yet more bones – the femur of a large man, who would have been more than 6ft tall, a large Roman Age horse and some Neolithic cattle.

The cave entrance has now been resealed, and its location kept secret, so the important archaeological site will not be disturbed by the public."