Sunday, August 25, 2013

Another Peruvian Priestess Found

Ancient Priestess Unearthed In Peru; Tomb Suggests Women Ruled Mysterious, Brutal Culture
The priestess seems to have been a leader of an ancient culture known as the Moche, or Mochia. Around 2,000 years ago, the Moche dominated the cultural landscape of what is now northern Peru, building large pyramids from mud bricks before disappearing without explanation. The name Moche comes from the site of Moche, an ancient capital city.  "It is the eighth priestess to be discovered. Our excavations have only turned up tombs with women, never men."

From the Raw Story: Ancient tomb confirms powerful priestess ruled Peru long ago
The discovery in Peru of another tomb belonging to a pre-Hispanic priestess, the eighth in more than two decades, confirms that powerful women ruled this region 1,200 years ago, archeologists said.

The remains of the woman from the Moche — or Mochica — civilization were discovered in late July in an area called La Libertad in the country’s northern Chepan province.

It is one of several finds in this region that have amazed scientists. In 2006, researchers came across the famous “Lady of Cao” — who died about 1,700 years ago and is seen as one of the first female rulers in Peru.

See also:
From Sky News: Ancient Peruvian Priestess - Facial reconstruction

More on the Poison Ring

Bonnie Petrunova
More news about the poison ring from Bulgaria.

From Fox News: Ring found in Bulgaria thought to be a medieval murder weapon
Drilled into side of the ring is a small cavity, archaeologists say was used to hide poison probably used to murder friends of the aristocrats in the Dobrudja area.  Expertly and exquisitely crafted, the ring is thought to have been imported from Italy or Spain according to dig leader Bonnie Petrunova, deputy director of Bulgaria's National Archaeology Museum.

From Huffington Post: Medieval Poison Ring Discovered In Bulgaria
According to Katherine Lester's 2012 book Accessories of Dress: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, poison rings date back to Roman times but were used up through the 16th and 17th centuries. The rings were originally used as a method of suicide for victims anticipating a violent or painful death, according to Lester. But they were later used as a covert murder weapon.  The lethal piece of jewelry unearthed in Bulgaria was most likely used for the latter purpose during a bitter conflict between a medieval ruler named Dobrotitsa and his son Ivanko Terter, Petrunova said.

From the French Tribune: Speculations over Medieval Ring found in Bulgaria
This ring is 600 years old and is made of bronze ring. It was found during excavations at the ruins of Cape Kailakra. This is a place where aristocrats of the Dobrudja region resided during 14th century.  Local officials said, "This explains many of the unexplained deaths among nobles and aristocrats close to Dobrotitsa".

From the Las Vegas Guardian Express: Discovery of Medieval Ring Reveals Deadly Purpose
The bronze ring has a small cavity drilled into the side that, according to archaeologists, was used to hide poison. When the host offered his “enemy” a drink, he would tilt his pinky finger of his right hand so that the poison would end up in the glass.

From the Inquisitr: Medieval Poison Ring Found In Bulgaria, Could Solve Ancient Murders
It is believed the bronze ring was once owned by Dobrotitsa, a noble who ruled the Dobrudja region during the second half of the 14th century, reports NBC News. There were several unexplained deaths among the nobles and aristocrats close to Dobrotitsa, according to local officials. The bronze ring was exquisitely crafted and was deliberately hollowed out, with a small hole that could have allowed its owner to sneak poison into a dinner party.  Bonnie Petrunova, deputy director of the National Archaeology Institute and Museum, believes that the ring played a part in the bitter conflict between Dobrotitsa and his son, Ivanko Terter. She explained that their feud wasn’t known by many, but that Ivanko was one of few who dared stand up to the leader. It is unclear if the poison ring has been swabbed to see if any of the lethal liquid still remains.

More about: Bonnie Petrunova at National Institute of Archaeology with Museum - Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Medieval Murder Ring

Bulgarian archaeologists have unearthed a medieval bronze ring that might have been used for political murders some 700 years ago, local authorities have announced.

Found at the site of a former medieval fortress in Cape Kaliakra, not far from the Black Sea coastal town of Kavarna in northeast Bulgaria, the finely crafted ring was probably worn by a male on the little finger of the right hand.
Intriguingly, it features a round, hollow cartridge decorated with granulation and an artificial hole.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Ancient Cleopatra Coin

From Haaretz:
"Found in an archaeological dig in Bethsaida, this rare bronze coin tells of love, trade ties and globe-shaking jealousies. And what if Marc Antony had won the war?

A few thousand years is a mere blink of an eye when it comes to the vital ties between this land and Egypt, as attested by a rare coin carrying historical weight far greater than its 7.59 grams, which depicts the notorious lovers – and which emerged last year from the ruins of a first-century house at Tel Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee.

Tel Bethsaida rises from the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee, but the coin was minted in another city by another sea – the Mediterranean port of Akko - today better known as Acre. The coin, made of bronze, is about the size of a quarter, being 21–23 millimeters in diameter (it is not perfectly round, at least not any more). Its date shows that it was minted in the last half of the year 35 or the first half of 34 BCE.

Mark Antony, the most powerful man in the world at the time, is on one side of the coin and Cleopatra graces the other. On her side are the Greek words “of the people of Ptolemais.” "

Ancient Indian Poetesses

A community’s development can be easily measured by the level of women’s education or status. If we take all the ancient cultures into account, India has a unique place in the world. Lot of countries gave women-- education, freedom, right to inherit property, right to attend religious ceremonies and a status ---several centuries after ‘India that is Bharat’ gave them.

Vedas and Sangam Tamil literature have the highest number of women poets (poetesses) in the world. It is amazing to see they were able to compose poems and attend assemblies.

We have over 25 Vedic poetesses and over 25 Tamil Sangam poetesses. No culture in the world had so many poetesses 2000 years ago. It was a world dominated by men. Law giver Manu said that a community will be destroyed if women are not respected.

Obit: Barbara Mertz (Elizabeth Peters)

Barbara Mertz, an erstwhile Egyptologist better known to millions of readers as Barbara Michaels or Elizabeth Peters, the noms de plume on the covers of her dozens of top-selling historical mysteries and romantic thrillers, died Aug. 8 at her home near Frederick, Md. She was 85.
Her daughter, Elizabeth Mertz, confirmed her death and said she did not yet know the cause.
She wrote two scholarly books on ancient Egypt in the 1960s but was unable to find employment in academia. When she turned to fiction, she discovered that she had a talent, and that readers had an appetite, for particular tales of historical intrigue.
By weaving the curiosities of ancient Egypt, archaeology and other rarefied fields into her fiction, Dr. Mertz produced one crowd-pleasing yarn after another.

Goddess Statue Discovered

"The head of an 8,000-year-old statue of a goddess has been found during excavations in İzmir’s Yeşilova tumulus. 

Associate Professor Zafer Derin said they had found very important pieces during this year’s excavations, adding that the four-centimeter head of the statue had a special meaning as it was the first of its kind discovered in Turkey."

The Ghost Rapes of Bolivia

Six days ago a most disturbing article was posted on the website VICE, written by Jean Friedman-Rudovsky entitled "The Ghost Rapes of Bolivia".

From Jean's article:
"For a while, the residents of Manitoba Colony thought demons were raping the town’s women. There was no other explanation. No way of explaining how a woman could wake up with blood and semen stains smeared across her sheets and no memory of the previous night. No way of explaining how another went to sleep clothed, only to wake up naked and covered by dirty fingerprints all over her body. No way to understand how another could dream of a man forcing himself onto her in a field – and then wake up the next morning with grass in her hair.

Then, one night in June 2009, two men were caught trying to enter a neighbour’s home. The two ratted out a few friends and, falling like a house of cards, a group of nine Manitoba men, ages 19 to 43, eventually confessed that they had been raping Colony families since 2005."

Menno Simons, a 16th century Protestant Reformer from 
whom the Mennonites get their name

Jean's article goes on to report a disturbing case of mass rape and other violence against the women (and in some cases, men and boys) of the small Bolivian community, dating back (from today's date) over eight years. It is a disturbing indictment against the masculine views of this community towards this horrid situation - and one which in this day and age seem almost medieval.

For Jean's article on VICE, please use this link: The Ghost Rapes of Bolivia

For items posted on this blog that also focused on this tragedy, please see:
Victims of Mennonite “Old Colonies” in Bolivia posted 27th August 2011
Bolivia - Violence Against Women and Girls posted 28th June 2009

See also:
History of the Mennonite Church
Mennonites on wikipedia

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mysterious Mona Lisa - Update

Well, the tomb of what is believed to be Lisa Gherardini, model for da Vinci's Mona Lisa is about to be opened and the remains DNA tested with current family members to determine her identity once and for all.

For the latest news on the tomb opening:
Yahoo News:

Huffington Post:

The Independent:

And Science World:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mysterious Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa
With interest in the Mona Lisa in the media over the past few years, I have decided to share with readers some of the more interesting articles that have appeared.

From BBC News: Mona Lisa pregnancy mooted –
The famous smile on Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa could be because she is pregnant or had just had a baby, research suggests.

"This type of gauze dress ... was typical of the kind worn in early 16th Century Italy by women who were pregnant or who had just given birth," said Bruno Mottin of the French Museums' Center for Research and Restoration.

This led to a discussion held on the Shadowed Realm History Forum (and included the identity of the Mona Lisa):

From Live Science: Amateur historian claims he has found Mona Lisa’s resting place –
An amateur historian said Friday that he has found the final resting place of the woman some believe inspired Leonardo da Vinci's most renowned painting, the "Mona Lisa.''

A death certificate shows that Lisa Gherardini—the Renaissance woman some believe was the model for the "Mona Lisa''—died on July 15, 1542, in Florence and is buried in a convent in central Florence, Giuseppe Pallanti said.

From The Telegraph: Riddle of Mona Lisa solved: she was the mother of five –
Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, the world's most enduring symbol of feminine mystique, is actually a portrait of the virtuous wife of a family friend, who had five children including two daughters who became nuns.

"The portrait of Mona Lisa, done when Lisa Gherardini was aged about 24, was probably commissioned by Leonardo's father himself for his friends, as he is known to have done on at least one other occasion.

"This would have been Ser Piero's way of giving a helping hand to his son, who was hopelessly vague when it came to money matters."

Mr Pallanti also found the registration of the wedding on March 5, 1495, between Lisa, then 16, and Ser Francesco, who was 14 years her senior. His first wife, Camilla Rucellai, had died the previous year.

Nude Mona Lisa
From Discovery News: Nude, Mona Lisa like painting surfaces –
Leonardo da Vinci, in a Renaissance version of Mad Magazine, may have painted his famous Mona Lisa in a number of ways, including nude. Now, a painting has surfaced that looks much like the original, sparking debate over just how far the master took his iconic painting.

The newly revealed painting, hidden for almost a century within the wood wall of a private library, shows a portrait of a half-naked woman with clear links to the famous (and clothed) Mona Lisa.

A note dating to 1845 records that the Cardinal bought "the portrait of the Mona Lisa, mistress of Francis I, by Leonardo da Vinci," from the Rospigliosis, a rich aristocratic Roman family.

From IOL News: The eyes have it –
Hidden in the dark paint of her pupils are tiny letters and numbers, placed there by the artist Leonardo da Vinci and revealed only now thanks to high-magnification techniques.

Experts say the barely distinguishable letters and numbers represent something of a real-life Da Vinci code.The revelation could have come straight from the pages of Dan Brown’s best-seller “The Da Vinci Code”, in which the Mona Lisa is said to contain hidden clues about the Holy Grail.

From Live Science: 25 Secrets of the Mona Lisa Revealed –
New images uncover 25 secrets about the Mona Lisa, including proof that Leonardo da Vinci gave her eyebrows, solving a long-held mystery.

"The face of Mona Lisa appears slightly wider and the smile is different and the eyes are different," Cotte said. "The smile is more accentuated I would say."

From The Telegraph: Identity of Mona Lisa revealed –
However, academics at Heidelberg University say scribbled notes in the margin of a book 500 years old are the evidence that proves the woman with the strange half-smile, whose portrait hangs in the Louvre in Paris, is Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Giocondo, a Florentine merchant.

Many aficionados have long supposed La Gioconda, as she was also known, was the sitter, from comments made by Giorgio Vasari in 1550.

But Vasari's identification was made 50 years after Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa, and, the university said he was noted for elaborating the truth.

Now notes written by Agostino Vespucci, who knew Leonardo, found in the university library, confirm the sitter as Lisa del Giocondo.

From Discovery News: Was Mona Lisa a dude? –
Italian researchers who specialize in resolving art mysteries said Wednesday they have discovered the disputed identity of the model for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa -- and claimed he was a man.

Mona Lisa
Salai as da Vinci's
John the Baptist
Salai, real name Gian Giacomo Caprotti, an effeminate young artist who worked with da Vinci for 25 years, is thought to have served as a model and muse for several of his paintings. The pair had an "ambiguous" relationship and were probably lovers, Vinceti said.

Comparisons between the facial characteristics of figures from several of da Vinci's works -- such as "St. John the Baptist" and the "Angel Incarnate" -- reveal striking similarities with the Mona Lisa's nose and mouth, he said.

From SIFY News: Hunt for Mona Lisa: Archaeologists Find New Tomb –
Archaeologists digging for the remains of a 16th-century woman believed to be the model for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa have found a crypt and a stairway to a second tomb inside a medieval convent in Florence.

But most modern scholars now agree the Mona Lisa sitter was Del Giocondo, the wife of a rich Florentine silk merchant, who according to Leonardo expert Giuseppe Pallanti became a nun after her husband's death and died in the convent July 15, 1542, aged 63.

Mona Lisa Excavation
From The Telegraph: Mona Lisa “Crypt” Found –
Professor Silvano Vinceti is leading the hunt for Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo who is widely believed to be the mystery woman behind the 500 year old painting of Mona Lisa.

The crypt was found under the floor of the St Ursula convent in Florence after a foot of modern concrete was removed and unearthed a layer of ancient, 35 inch wide bricks.

The aim of the dig is to find Mona Lisa's remains, compare her DNA with that of two her children buried in Florence's Santissima Annunziata church, then reconstruct her face and compare it to Leonardo's painting.


From CBS News: Is Buried Skeleton What Remains of Real Mona Lisa –
Archaeologists searching for the remains of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa have uncovered a skeleton that may belong to the mysterious woman.

The skeleton was unearthed in a Florence convent where researchers are searching for the remains of Lisa Gherardini Del Giocondo, the women believed to be the model for da Vinci's famous painting. Based on an early look at the cranium and pelvis, the skeleton appears to be female, Bologna University anthropologist Giorgio Gruppioni told news agencies Friday (May 27).

From The Telegraph: Attempt to return Mona Lisa to Italy dismissed –
The 500-year-old Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece was painted in Florence before he took it to France where it has lived ever since.

Art historian professor Silvano Vinceti, who is currently looking for the final resting place of the women believed to have posed for the painting, had launched a campaign to bring the painting back to Florence.

From The LA Times: And you think you knew the Mona Lisa –
This much is well established: On Aug. 21, 1911, an Italian house painter named Vincenzo Peruggia, who had briefly worked on a project at the Louvre, walked out of the Paris museum with the celebrated masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci. He kept police and newspapers speculating about the crime for more than two years before sending a letter to a Florence art dealer signed "Leonard V." offering him the painting. Peruggia was soon caught and successfully tried. But in 100 years of fascination with the theft that has produced books, articles and even a documentary, a number of odd or puzzling facts have emerged — some more compelling than the question of who did it.

From ADNKronoso International: Archaeologists hunting for Mona Lisa unearth tomb and staircase –
Archaeologists digging for the remains of a 16th-century woman believed to be the model for Leonardo's Mona Lisa masterpiece have found a crypt and a stairway to a probably second tomb inside a former medieval convent in central Florence.

The dig began on Wednesday in the hallways of the convent and Roman said the team's radar had shown there could be burials there dating back to Gherardini's time as little as two metres below the surface of what was formerly a cloister.

From Hispanic Business dot com: Search for Mona Lisa’s remains to resume –
Archeologists will resume the search for the remains of the noblewoman who posed for Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa masterpiece 500 years ago.

Florence province, owner of the site that once was the convent of Saint Orsola where Lisa Gherardini was buried in 1542, has requested that the search continue. 

Archeologists in May 2011 thought they had found her remains when they located a grave containing a woman's skeleton. 

From the Herald Sun: Archaeologists uncover Mona Lisa model’s remains –
IT'S the face that launched a thousand imitations. Now, archaeologists are convinced they've found the body of the real Mona Lisa.

Buried in a crypt beneath a convent in Florence, Italy, archaeologists believe they have uncovered the skeleton belonging to the model who posed for Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece in 1504.
The wife of a rich silk merchant, Lisa Gheradini, is generally accepted by historians to be the woman with the mysterious smile.

Lisa Gheradini, whose married name was Giocondo, became a nun after her husband's death. She was buried in the grounds of the Convent of Saint Ursula where she died in 1542, aged 63.

Mona Lisa Skeleton
From ABC Radio Australia: Italian archaeologists have unearthed a skeleton which they think may belong to the real-life Mona Lisa –
Italian archaeologists have found a skeleton buried inside the Sant'Orsola monastery in Florence that could belong to Lisa Gherardini, the woman who inspired the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting.

Several bodies have been discovered in the hunt to find the mortal remains of Lisa Gherardini, the Florentine noblewoman widely believed to have served as Leonardo's muse.

Although the researchers had previously discovered bits of bones and two sets of remains in the convent, the latest skeleton to be unearthed is the best preserved, crucially, with the skull intact.
It also lies close to the tiny nunnery's Franciscan altar, thereby placing the grave in the right historic period.

But as with the previous remains, this skeleton may also prove to be unrelated.

In that case, new digs will begin in September, to unearth other bodies the researchers believe lie on the other side of the altar, in a larger grave.

From Discovery News:  Mona Lisa’s skeleton found –
Known for controversial claims, like that letters and numbers are hidden inside the Mona Lisa painting, Vinceti has based his search in the convent on documents found by historian Giuseppe Pallanti some years ago.

"Lisa Gheradini did exist and lived a rather ordinary life," Pallanti, who is not involved in the project, told Discovery News.

The historian traced back Lisa's life from her birth on June 15, 1479, to her death at the age of 63.

In his research, Pallanti found several important documents, such as Francesco del Giocondo's will. There, the merchant asked his younger daughter, Marietta, to take care of his "beloved wife," Lisa.

At that time, Marietta, one of Lisa and Francesco's five children, had become a nun, thus she brought her mother to the nearby convent of Sant'Orsola.

Lisa remained there until her death, according to a document known as a "Book of the Dead," found by Pallanti in a church archive.

"Lisa di Francesco Del Giocondo died on July 15, 1542 and was buried in Sant'Orsola," the document stated.

From France 24 International News: Louvre's Mona Lisa may be copy of an 'earlier version’ –

A Swiss art foundation claims it has proof that an “earlier” version of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa masterpiece at the Louvre is a genuine painting by the Italian master.

“The Louvre version is far more advanced and of far higher quality, but it is a copy made by Leonardo himself from the earlier one.”

Feldman believes that the Swiss painting was probably left unfinished before Leonardo painted the second version that now hangs in the Louvre.

From Time Newsfeed: Mona Lisa: was there more than one –
Could it have been possible that Leonardo da Vinci painted Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of a wealthy Florentine merchant, twice? According to Mona Lisa Foundation, the answer is yes. The Zurich-based organization made buzz last week by announcing that an earlier version of the famed painting — in which Mona Lisa appeared younger, slimmer and happier — is authentic.


From The Art Newspaper: Earliest Copy of Mona lisa found in Prado –
Prado Mona Lisa
Conservators at the Prado in Madrid recently made an astonishing discovery, hidden beneath black overpaint. What was assumed to be a replica of the Mona Lisa made after Leonardo’s death had actually been painted by one of his key pupils, working alongside the master. The picture is more than just a studio copy—it changed as Leonardo developed his original composition.

But what is most exciting about the Prado replica is what it reveals about Leonardo’s original. In the Madrid copy there are areas that are better preserved than in the Louvre painting. The replica gives us more detail of the spindles of the chair, the frill on the edge of the fabric on Lisa’s chest and the semi-transparent veil around her left shoulder, arm and elbow. 

Isleworth Mona Lisa
From Time Newsfeed: “Second” Mona Lisa deemed authentic –
New tests appear to have confirmed that the Isleworth Mona Lisa — a painting thought to be an earlier version of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous portrait — is indeed authentic, reports the Guardian.

According to a carbon-dating test by the Zurich Institute, the canvas of the Isleworth painting dates to somewhere between 1410 and 1455, refuting claims that it was a late 16th century copy, the Huffington Post reported, which appears to depict a younger version of the same woman in the Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre in Paris.

From The Star: Lost diaries hold key to mysterious Mona Lisa –
A package of diaries said to have been posted to the US from Britain in the 1960s could provide a vital clue to the origin of a controversial portrait presented in Geneva last month as Leonardo da Vinci’s original Mona Lisa.

But notes by early 20th century British connoisseur and collector Hugh Blaker disappeared and the address they were sent to seems to have never existed.

The diaries would also help establish if the so-called Isleworth variant of the world’s most famous painting could indeed be an earlier portrayal by Leonardo of the enigmatic smiling lady.

From Discovery News: Is this the Mona Lisa’s first smile –
In his work "Lives of the Artists," 16th century painter and art historian Giorgio Vasari(1511–1574) named Lisa Gherardini, the wife of the wealthy Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo as the subject of the portrait. He dated the painting shortly after Leonardo’s return to Florence in 1500, and stated that it was left unfinished after four years.

Vasari's version is confirmed by an acquaintance of Leonardo da Vinci, Florentine city official Agostino Vespucci, a relative of the explorer, navigator and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci.

Perhaps the earliest witness of the masterpiece, Agostino Vespucci wrote in October 1503 that Leonardo was working on three paintings at the time, including a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo. Vespucci's annotations were found in 2005 at the Heidelberg University's library (Link:

Another account can be found in the travel journal of Antonio De Beatis, the secretary of the cardinal Louis d'Aragona. Written between 1517and 1518, the diary reported that Leonardo had finished the Mona Lisa by 1517, and that it was completed for Giuliano de’ Medici.

To add to the contradiction, the account of the Renaissance historian Gian Paolo Lomazzo (1538 – 1592) referred in his 1584 Treatise on Painting, to "a Gioconda and a Mona Lisa."

The Louvre – Mona Lisa