Saturday, July 3, 2010

Jezebel, oh Jezebel... Part 2

Just a brief note from Barbara Walker's "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets."

Sidonian queen of Israel, maligned in the Bible for worshipping Astarte instead of Yahweh. (1)  Jezebel and her husband King Ahab were murdered in a civil war fomented by Yahweh's devotees.  Her daughter, Athaliah became queen, but seven years later she too was murdered by treachery.  (2 Kings 11:16).  Thus, worship of the Goddess was abandoned.(2)


(1) Boulding, 236.
(2) Stone, 188.
Well - not really.  The worship of Astarte a/k/a Ashtoreth a/k/a Asherah never totally disappeared.  Her "poles" and sacred groves of trees remained on scattered sacred high areass in Israel as well as throughout the Middle East (and elsewhere all through Europe and Asia) right through the time of Buddha, Zoaroaster, Confucius, Christ, Mohammed, and thereafter.  The Goddess gave the early 'founding fathers' of Christendom fits because women would insist, year after year, on producing their 'hot cross buns' at Easter as well as promoting such symbols of the ancient fertility goddess as eggs and rabbits!  Across the world, the fathers of various patriarchal-oriented religions tried to wipe out the worship of the Goddess - to no avail.  Even today, in the Islamic Republic of Iran the festivities of Nowruz, harking back to celebrations surrounding the Persian version of the fertility/warrior goddess is popularly celebrated throughout the countrby Muslims. 

Many of the ancient sacred spots of the Goddess survive today, under a gloss whatever religion happens to hold sway in the particular country in which the Goddess' sacred places are located.

Jezebel, oh Jezebel...

I've written about this famous, er, infamous lady from biblical time before at this blog but do you think I can find that information now? Nope.  I did find one blog entry related to Jezebel but it's not the entire biblical account of her 'final' days that I distinctly recall typing out.  Oh well.  Just remember darlings, the patriarchs were doing all of the writing back then and they didn't take too kindly to 'uppity' females. Personally, Jezebel is a hero of mine, despite the absolute horrid casting of - gasp - Bette Davis - as a 19th century Jezebel (a southern belle) opposite equally bad casting of Henry Fonda in the winpiest role I'ver ever seen him do, ever (he was so much more appealing in his later years, particularly in his role as primo bad guy in "Once Upon a Time in the West" where he downright sizzled on the screen).  Pay attention - Bette Davis' Jezebel is mentioned later in the article. You'll also have to read the entire article and the notes afterward to appreciate the reference to the "woman in the window" which should remind you of a post I did a few days back...

Queen Jezebel's Seal, prior post. For the life of me I can't find the other stuff I know I wrote about Jezebel, including the scriptural account of her last day.  Perhaps it wasn't here I posted that info.

From Biblical Archaeology Review's website:

How Bad Was Jezebel?
by Janet Howe Gaines
June, 2010

For more than two thousand years, Jezebel has been saddled with a reputation as the bad girl of the Bible, the wickedest of women. This ancient queen has been denounced as a murderer, prostitute and enemy of God, and her name has been adopted for lingerie lines and World War II missiles alike. But just how depraved was Jezebel?

In recent years, scholars have tried to reclaim the shadowy female figures whose tales are often only partially told in the Bible. Rehabilitating Jezebel’s stained reputation is an arduous task, however, for she is a difficult woman to like. She is not a heroic fighter like Deborah, a devoted sister like Miriam or a cherished wife like Ruth. Jezebel cannot even be compared with the Bible’s other bad girls—Potiphar’s wife and Delilah—for no good comes from Jezebel’s deeds. These other women may be bad, but Jezebel is the worst.1

Yet there is more to this complex ruler than the standard interpretation would allow. To attain a more positive assessment of Jezebel’s troubled reign and a deeper understanding of her role, we must evaluate the motives of the biblical authors who condemn the queen. Furthermore, we must reread the narrative from the queen’s vantage point. As we piece together the world in which Jezebel lived, a fuller picture of this fascinating woman begins to emerge. The story is not a pretty one, and some—perhaps most—readers will remain disturbed by Jezebel’s actions. But her character might not be as dark as we are accustomed to think ng. Her evilness is not always as obvious, undisputed and unrivaled as the biblical writer wants it to appear. [Painting: John Byam Liston Shaw.  From article:  Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Bournemouth, UK/Bridgeman Art Library.  Israel’s most accursed queen carefully fixes a pink rose in her red locks, in John Byam Liston Shaw’s “Jezebel,” from 1896.  In the foreground, the peacock with its spread tail in the lower right corner represents Jezebel’s vanity; the black cat perched at her feet hints at Jezebel’s darker side.

Jezebel’s long-standing reputation as the most dangerous seductress in the Bible stems from her final appearance on the biblical scene: Jezebel’s husband King Ahab is dead; her son has been murdered by the usurper Jehu; Jezebel is waiting as Jehu’s chariot races toward the palace, where he will kill Jezebel. As the horses approach, “[Jezebel] painted her eyes with kohl and dressed her hair, and she looked out of the window” (2 Kings 9:30).

But is this a sign of vanity or a display of strength when facing certain death? In the accompanying article, Janet Howe Gaines questions the common characterization of Jezebel as the wickedest woman in the Bible.]

The story of Jezebel, the Phoenician wife of King Ahab of Israel, is recounted in several brief passages scattered throughout the Books of Kings. Scholars generally identify 1 and 2 Kings as part of the Deuteronomistic History, attributed either to a single author or to a group of authors and editors collectively known as the Deuteronomist. One of the main purposes of the entire Deuteronomistic History, which includes the seven books from Deuteronomy through 2 Kings, is to explain Israel’s fate in terms of its apostasy. As the Israelites settle into the Promised Land, establish a monarchy and separate into a northern and a southern kingdom after the reign of Solomon, God’s chosen people continually go astray. They sin against Yahweh in many ways, the worst of which is by worshiping alien deities. The first commandments from Sinai demand monotheism, but the people are attracted to foreign gods and goddesses. When Jezebel enters the scene in the ninth century B.C.E., she provides a perfect opportunity for the Bible writer to teach a moral lesson about the evil outcomes of idolatry, for she is a foreign idol worshiper who seems to be the power behind her husband. From the Deuteronomist’s viewpoint, Jezebel embodies everything that must be eliminated from Israel so that the purity of the cult of Yahweh will not be further contaminated.

As the Books of Kings recount, the princess Jezebel is brought to the northern kingdom of Israel to wed the newly crowned King Ahab, son of Omri (1 Kings 16:31). Her father is Ethbaal of Tyre, king of the Phoenicians, a group of Semites whose ancestors were Canaanites. Phoenicia consisted of a loose confederation of city-states, including the sophisticated maritime trade centers of Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean coast. The Bible writer’s antagonism stems primarily from Jezebel’s religion. The Phoenicians worshiped a swarm of gods and goddesses, chief among them Baal, the general term for “lord” given to the head fertility and agricultural god of the Canaanites. As king of Phoenicia, it is likely that Ethbaal was also a high priest or had other important religious duties. According to the first-century C.E. historian Josephus, who drew on a Greek translation of the now-lost Annals of Tyre, Ethbaal served as a priest of Astarte, the primary Phoenician goddess. Jezebel, as the king’s daughter, may have served as a priestess as she was growing up. In any case, she was certainly raised to honor the deities of her native land.

When Jezebel comes to Israel, she brings her foreign gods and goddesses—especially Baal and his consort Asherah (Canaanite Astarte, often translated in the Bible as “sacred post”)—with her. This seems to have an immediate effect on her new husband, for just as soon as the queen is introduced, we are told that Ahab builds a sanctuary for Baal in the very heart of Israel, within his capital city of Samaria: “He took as wife Jezebel daughter of King Ethbaal of the Phoenicians, and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar to Baal in the temple of Baal which he built in Samaria. Ahab also made a ‘sacred post’”a (1 Kings 16:31–33).2

Jezebel does not accept Ahab’s God, Yahweh. Rather, she leads Ahab to tolerate Baal. This is why she is vilified by the Deuteronomist, whose goal is to stamp out polytheism. She represents a view of womanhood that is the opposite of the one extolled in characters such as Ruth the Moabite, who is also a foreigner. Ruth surrenders her identity and submerges herself in Israelite ways; she adopts the religious and social norms of the Israelites and is universally praised for her conversion to God. Jezebel steadfastly remains true to her own beliefs.

Jezebel’s marriage to Ahab was a political alliance. The union provided both peoples with military protection from powerful enemies as well as valuable trade routes: Israel gained access to the Phoenician ports; Phoenicia gained passage through Israel’s central hill country to Transjordan and especially to the King’s Highway, the heavily traveled inland route connecting the Gulf of Aqaba in the south with Damascus in the north. But although the marriage is sound foreign policy, it is intolerable to the Deuteronomist because of Jezebel’s idol worship.

The Bible does not comment on what the young Jezebel thinks about marrying Ahab and moving to Israel. Her feelings are of no interest to the Deuteronomist, nor are they germane to the story’s didactic purpose.

We are not told whether Ethbaal consults his daughter, if she departs Phoenicia with trepidation or enthusiasm, or what she expects from her role as ruler. Like other highborn daughters of her time, Jezebel is probably a pawn, packed off to the highest bidder.

Israel’s topography, customs and religion would certainly be very different from those of Jezebel’s native land. Instead of the lushness of the moist seacoast, she would find Israel to be an arid, desert nation. Furthermore, the Torah shows the Israelites to be an ethnocentric, xenophobic people. In biblical narratives, foreigners are sometimes unwelcome, and prejudice against intermarriage is seen since the day Abraham sought a woman from his own people to marry his son Isaac (Genesis 24:4). In contrast to the familiar gods and goddesses that Jezebel is accustomed to petitioning, Israel is home to a state religion featuring a lone, masculine deity. Perhaps Jezebel optimistically believes that she can encourage religious tolerance and give legitimacy to the worship habits of those Baalites who already reside in Israel. Perhaps Jezebel sees herself as an ambassador who could help unite the two lands and bring about cultural pluralism, regional peace and economic prosperity.

What spurs Jezebel to action is unknown and unknowable, but the motives of the Deuteronomist come through plainly in the text. Jezebel is a bold and impious interloper who has to be stopped. From her own point of view, however, she is no apostate. She remains loyal to her religious upbringing and is determined to maintain her cultural identity.

According to the Deuteronomist, however, Jezebel’s desire is not merely confined to achieving ethnic or religious parity. She also seems driven to eliminate Israel’s faithful servants of God. Evidence of Jezebel’s cruel desire to wipe out Yahweh worship in Israel is reported in 1 Kings 18:4, at the Bible’s second mention of her name: “Jezebel was killing off the prophets of the Lord.”

The threat of Jezebel is so great that later in the same chapter, the mythic prophet Elijah summons the acolytes of Jezebel to a tournament on Mt. Carmel to determine which deity is supreme: God or Baal.

Whichever deity is capable of setting a sacrificial bull on fire will be the winner, the one true God. It is only then that we learn just how many followers of Jezebel’s gods and goddesses are near her at court. Elijah challenges them: “Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, together with the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah who eat at Jezebel’s table” (1 Kings 18:19). Whether the grand total of 850 is a symbolic or literal number, it is impressive.
Yet their superior numbers can do nothing to ensure victory; nor can petitions to their god. The prophets of Baal “performed a hopping dance about the altar” and “kept raving” (1 Kings 18:26, 29) all day long in a vain attempt to rouse Baal. They even gash themselves with knives and whoop it up in a heightened emotional state, hoping to incite Baal to unleash a great fire. But Baal does not respond to the ecstatic ranting of Jezebel’s prophets. At the end of the day, it is Elijah’s single plea to God that is answered.

Standing alone before Jezebel’s host of visionaries, Elijah cries out: “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel! Let it be known today that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your bidding. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that You, O Lord, are God; for You have turned their hearts backward” (1 Kings 18:36–37). At once, “fire from the Lord descended and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones and the earth;...When they saw this, all the people flung themselves on their faces and cried out: ‘The Lord alone is God, the Lord alone is God!’” (1 Kings 18:38–39). Elijah’s solitary entreaty to Yahweh serves as a foil to the hours of appeals made by Baal’s followers.

Jezebel herself is absent during this all-male event. Nevertheless, her presence is felt and the Deuteronomist’s message is clear. Jezebel’s deities and the huge number of prophets loyal to her are powerless against the omnipotent Yahweh, who is proven by the tournament to be ruler of all the forces of nature.

Ironically, at the conclusion of the Carmel episode, Elijah proves capable of the same murderous inclinations that have previously characterized Jezebel, though it is only she that the Deuteronomist criticizes. After winning the Carmel contest, Elijah immediately orders the assembly to capture all of Jezebel’s prophets. Elijah emphatically declares: “Seize the prophets of Baal, let not a single one of them get away” (1 Kings 18:40). Elijah leads his 450 prisoners to the Wadi Kishon, where he slaughters them (1 Kings 18:40). Though they will never meet in person, Elijah and Jezebel are engaged in a hard-fought struggle for religious supremacy. Here Elijah reveals that he and Jezebel possess a similar religious fervor, though their loyalties differ greatly. They are also equally determined to eliminate one another’s followers, even if it means murdering them. The difference is that the Deuteronomist decries Jezebel’s killing of God’s servants (at 1 Kings 18:4) but now sanctions Elijah’s decision to massacre hundreds of Jezebel’s prophets. Indeed, once Elijah kills Jezebel’s prophets, God rewards him by sending a much-needed rain, ending a three-year drought in Israel. There is a definite double standard here. Murder seems to be accepted, even venerated, as long as it is done in the name of the right deity.

After Elijah’s triumph on Mt. Carmel, King Ahab returns home to give his queen the news that Baal is defeated, Yahweh is the undisputed master of the universe and Jezebel’s prophets are dead. Jezebel sends Elijah a menacing message, threatening to slaughter him just as he has slaughtered her prophets: “Thus and more may the gods do if by this time tomorrow I have not made you like one of them” (1 Kings 19:2). The Septuagint, a third- to second-century B.C.E. Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, prefaces Jezebel’s threat with an additional insult to the prophet. Here Jezebel establishes herself as Elijah’s equal: “If you are Elijah, so I am Jezebel” (1 Kings 19:2b).3 In both versions the queen’s meaning is unmistakable: Elijah should fear for his life.

These are the first words the Deuteronomist records from Jezebel, and they are filled with venom. Unlike the many voiceless biblical wives and concubines whose muteness reminds us of the powerlessness of women in ancient Israel, Jezebel has a tongue. While her verbal acuity shows that she is more daring, clever and independent than most women of her time, her withering words also demonstrate her sinfulness. Jezebel transforms the precious instrument of language into an evil device to blaspheme God and defy the prophet.

So frightened is Elijah by Jezebel’s threatening words that he flees to Mt. Horeb (Sinai). Despite what he has witnessed on Carmel, Elijah seems to falter in his faith that the Almighty will protect him. As a literary device, Elijah’s sojourn at Horeb gives the Deuteronomist an opportunity to imply parallels between the careers of Moses and Elijah, thus reinforcing Elijah’s exalted reputation. Nevertheless, the timing of Elijah’s flight south makes him look suspiciously like he is afraid of a mere woman.

Jezebel indeed shows herself as a person to be feared in the next episode. The story of Naboth, an Israelite who owns a plot of land adjacent to the royal palace in Jezreel, provides an excellent occasion for the Deuteronomist to propose that Jezebel is not only the foe of Israel’s God, but an enemy of the government.

In 1 Kings 21:2, Ahab requests that Naboth give him his vineyard: “Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it as a vegetable garden, since it is right next to my palace.” Ahab promises to pay Naboth for the land or to provide him with an even better vineyard. But at 1 Kings 21:3, Naboth refuses to sell or trade: “The Lord forbid that I should give up to you what I have inherited from my fathers!” The king whines and refuses to eat after Naboth’s rebuff: “Ahab went home dispirited and sullen because of the answer that Naboth the Jezreelite had given him...He lay down on his bed and turned away his face, and he would not eat” (1 Kings 21:4). Apparently perturbed by her husband’s political impotence and sulking demeanor, Jezebel steps in, proudly asserting: “Now is the time to show yourself king over Israel. Rise and eat something, and be cheerful; I will get the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you” (1 Kings 21:7).

Naboth is fully within his rights to hold onto his family plot. Israelite law and custom dictate that his family should maintain their land (nachalah) in perpetuity (Numbers 27:5–11). As a Torah-bound king of Israel, Ahab should understand Naboth’s legitimate desire to keep his inheritance. Jezebel, on the other hand, hails from Phoenicia, where a monarch’s whim is often tantamount to law.4 Having been raised in a land of absolute autocrats, where few dared to question a ruler’s wish or decree, Jezebel might naturally feel annoyance and frustration at Naboth’s resistance to his sovereign’s proposal. In this context, Jezebel’s reaction becomes more understandable, though perhaps no more admirable, for she behaves according to her upbringing and expectations regarding royal prerogative.

Without Ahab’s direct knowledge, Jezebel writes letters to her townsmen, enlisting them in an elaborate ruse to frame the innocent Naboth. To ensure their compliance, she signs Ahab’s name and stamps the letters with the king’s seal. Jezebel encourages the townsmen to publicly (and falsely) accuse Naboth of blaspheming God and king. “Then take him out and stone him to death,” she commands (1 Kings 21:10). So Naboth is murdered, and the vineyard automatically escheats to the throne, as is customary when a person is found guilty of a serious crime. If Naboth has relatives, they are now in no position to protest the passing of their family land to Ahab.

Yet the details of Jezebel’s underhanded plot against Naboth do not always ring true. The Bible maintains that “the elders and nobles who lived in [Naboth’s] town...did as Jezebel had instructed them” (1 Kings 21:11). If the trickster queen is able to enlist the support of so many people, none of whom betrays her, to kill a man whom they have probably known all their lives and whom they realize is innocent, then she has astonishing power.

The fantastical tale of Naboth’s death—in which something could go wrong at any moment but somehow does not—stretches the reader’s credulity. If Jezebel were as hateful as the Deuteronomist claims, surely at least one nobleman in Jezreel would have refused to assist in the nefarious scheme. Surely one individual would have had the courage to expose the detestable deed and become the Deuteronomist’s hero by spoiling the plan.5

Perhaps the biblical compiler is using Jezebel as a scapegoat for his outrage at her influence over the king, meaning that she herself is being framed in the tale. Traditionally thought to be a narrative about how innocent Naboth is falsely accused, the story could instead be an exaggeration of fact, fabricated to demonstrate the Deuteronomist’s continued wrath against Jezebel.

As a result of this incident, Elijah reappears on the scene. First Yahweh tells Elijah how Ahab will die: “The word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: ‘Go down and confront King Ahab of Israel who [resides] in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard; he has gone down there to take possession of it. Say to him, “Thus said the Lord: Would you murder and take possession? Thus said the Lord: In the very place where the dogs lapped up Naboth’s blood, the dogs will lap up your blood too”’” (1 Kings 21:17–19). But when Elijah confronts Ahab, the prophet predicts instead how the queen will die: “The dogs shall devour Jezebel in the field of Jezreel” (1 Kings 21:23).c Poetic justice, as the Deuteronomist sees it, demands that Jezebel end up as dog food. Ashamed of what has happened and fearful of the future, Ahab humbles himself by assuming outward signs of mourning, fasting and donning sackcloth. Prayer accompanies fasting, whether the Bible explicitly says so or not, so we may assume that Ahab raises his penitential voice to a forgiving Yahweh. For once, Jezebel does not speak; her lack of repentance is implicit in her silence.

When Jezebel’s name is mentioned again, the Bible writer makes his most alarming accusation against her. Ahab has died, as has the couple’s eldest son, who followed his father to the throne. Their second son, Joram, rules. But even though Israel has a sitting monarch, a servant of the prophet Elisha crowns Jehu, Joram’s military commander, king of Israel and commissions Jehu to eradicate the House of Ahab: “I anoint you king over the people of the Lord, over Israel. You shall strike down the House of Ahab your master; thus will I avenge on Jezebel the blood of My servants the prophets, and the blood of the other servants of the Lord” (2 Kings 9:6–7).

King Joram and General Jehu meet on the battlefield. Unaware that he is about to be usurped by his military commander, Joram calls out: “Is all well, Jehu?” Jehu responds: “How can all be well as long as your mother Jezebel carries on her countless harlotries and sorceries?” (2 Kings 9:22). Jehu then shoots an arrow through Joram’s heart and, in a moment of stinging irony, orders the body to be dumped on Naboth’s land.

From these words alone—uttered by the man who is about to kill Jezebel’s son—stems Jezebel’s long-standing reputation as a witch and a whore. The Bible occasionally connects harlotry and idol worship, as in Hosea 1:3, where the prophet is told to marry a “wife of whoredom,” who symbolically represents the people who “stray from following the Lord” (Hosea 1:3). Lusting after false “lords” can be seen as either adulterous or idolatrous. Yet throughout the millennia, Jezebel’s harlotry has not been identified as mere dolatry. Rather, she has been considered the slut of Samaria, the lecherous wife of a pouting potentate. The 1938 film Jezebel, starring Bette Davis as the destructive temptress who leads a man to his death, is evidence that this ancient judgment against Jezebel has been transmitted to this century. Nevertheless, the Bible never offers evidence that Jezebel is unfaithful to her husband while he is alive or loose in her morals after his death. In fact, she is always shown to be a loyal and helpful spouse, though her brand of assistance is deplored by the Deuteronomist. Jehu’s charge of harlotry is unsubstantiated, but it has stuck anyway and her reputation has been egregiously damaged by the allegation.

When Jezebel herself finally appears again in the pages of the Bible, it is for her death scene. Jehu, with the blood of Joram still on his hands, races his chariot into Jezreel to continue the insurrection by assassinating Jezebel. Ironically, this is her finest hour, though the Deuteronomist intends the queen to appear haughty and imperious to the end. Realizing that Jehu is on his way to kill her, Jezebel does not disguise herself and flee the city, as a more cowardly person might do. Instead, she calmly prepares for his arrival by performing three acts: “She painted her eyes with kohl and dressed her hair, and she looked out of the window” (2 Kings 9:30). The traditional interpretation is that Jezebel primps and coquettishly looks out the window in an effort to seduce Jehu, that she wishes to win his favor and become part of his harem in order to save her own life, such treachery indicating Jezebel’s dastardly betrayal of deceased family members. According to this reading, Jezebel sheds familial loyalty as easily as a snake sheds its skin in an attempt to ensure her continued pleasure and safety at court.

Applying eye makeup (kohl) and brushing one’s hair are often connected to flirting in Hebraic thinking. Isaiah 3:16, Jeremiah 4:30, Ezekiel 23:40 and Proverbs 6:24–26 provide examples of women who bat their painted eyes to lure innocent men into adulterous beds. Black kohl is widely incorporated in Bible passages as a symbol of feminine deception and trickery, and its use to paint the area above and below the eyelids is generally considered part of a woman’s arsenal of artifice. In Jezebel’s case, however, the cosmetic is more than just an attempt to accentuate the eyes. Jezebel is donning the female version of armor as she prepares to do battle. She is a woman warrior, waging war in the only way a woman can. Whatever fear she may have of Jehu is camouflaged by her war paint.

Her grooming continues as she dresses her hair, symbol of a woman’s seductive power. When she dies, she wants to look her queenly best. She is in control here, choosing the manner in which her attacker will last see and remember her.

The third action Jezebel takes before Jehu arrives is to sit at her upper window. The Deuteronomist may be deliberately conjuring up images to associate Jezebel with other disfavored women. For example, contained within Deborah’s victory ode is the story of the unfortunate mother of the enemy general Sisera. Waiting at home, Sisera’s unnamed mother looks out the window for her son to return: “Through the window peered Sisera’s mother, behind the lattice she whined” (Judges 5:28). Her ladies-in-waiting express the hope that Sisera is detained because he is raping Israelite women and collecting booty (Judges 5:29–30). In truth, Sisera is already dead, his skull shattered by Jael and her tent peg (Judges 5:24–27). King David’s wife Michal also looks through her window, watching her husband dance around the Ark of the Covenant as it is triumphantly brought into Jerusalem, “and she despised him for it” (2 Samuel 6:16). Michal does not understand the people’s euphoria over the arrival of the Ark in David’s new capital; she can only feel anger that her husband is dancing about like one of the “riffraff” (2 Samuel 6:20). Generations later, Jezebel also appears at her window, conjuring up images of Sisera’s mother and Michal, two unpopular biblical women.

The image of the woman at the window also suggests fertility goddesses, abominations to the Deuteronomist and well known to the general public in ancient Israel. Ivory plaques, dating to the Iron Age and depicting a woman peering through a window, have been discovered in Khorsabad, Nimrud and Samaria, Jezebel’s second home.6 The connection between idol worship, goddesses and the woman seated at the window would not have been lost on the Deuteronomist’s audience.

Sitting at her window, Jezebel is seemingly rendered powerless while the active patriarchal world functions beyond her reach.7 But a more sympathetic reading of the situation suggests that Jezebel has determined the superior angle from which she will be viewed by Jehu, thus giving the queen mastery of the situation.

Positioned at the balcony window, the queen does not remain silent as the usurper Jehu arrives into town. She taunts him by calling him Zimri, the name of the unscrupulous predecessor of Omri, Jezebel’s father-in-law. Zimri ruled Israel for only seven days after murdering the king (Elah) and usurping the throne. “Is all well, Zimri, murderer of your master?” Jezebel asks Jehu (2 Kings 9:31). Jezebel knows that all is not well, and her sarcastic, sharp-tongued insult of Jehu disproves any interpretation that she has dressed in her finest to seduce him. She has contempt for Jehu. Unlike many biblical wives, who remain silent, Jezebel has a distinct voice, and she is unafraid to articulate her view of Jehu as a renegade and regicide.

To demonstrate his authority, Jehu orders Jezebel’s eunuchs to throw her out of the window: “They threw her down; and her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, and they trampled her. Then [Jehu] went inside and ate and drank” (2 Kings 9:33–34). In this highly symbolic political action, the once mighty Jezebel is shoved out of her high station to the ground below. Her ejection from the window represents an eternal demotion from her proper place as one of the Bible’s most influential women.

Jezebel’s body is left in the street as Jehu celebrates his victory. Later, perhaps because the new monarch does not wish to begin his reign with such a disrespectful act against a woman, or perhaps because he realizes the danger in setting a precedent for ill treatment of a dead ruler’s remains, Jehu orders Jezebel’s burial: “Attend to that cursed woman and bury her, for she was a king’s daughter” (2 Kings 9:34). Jezebel is not to be remembered as a queen or even as the wife of a king. She is only the daughter of a foreign despot. This is intended as another blow by the Deuteronomist, an attempt to marginalize a formidable woman. When the king’s men come to bury Jezebel, it is too late: “All they found of her were the skull, the feet, and the hands” (2 Kings 9:35). Jehu’s men inform the king that Elijah’s prophecies have been fulfilled: “It is just as the Lord spoke through His servant Elijah the Tishbite: The dogs shall devour the flesh of Jezebel in the field of Jezreel; and the carcass of Jezebel shall be like dung on the ground, in the field of Jezreel, so that none will be able to say: ‘This was Jezebel’” (2 Kings 9:36–37).

While the biblical storyteller wants the final images of Jezebel to memorialize her as a brazen hussy, a sympathetic interpretation of her behavior has more credibility. When all a person has left in life is the way she faces her death, her final actions speak volumes about her character. Jezebel departs this earth every inch a queen. Now an aging grandmother, it is highly unlikely that she has libidinous designs on Jehu or even entertains the notion of becoming the young king’s paramour. As the daughter, wife, mother, mother-in-law and grandmother of kings, Jezebel would understand court politics well enough to realize that Jehu has far more to gain by killing her than by keeping her alive. Alive, the dowager queen could always serve as a rallying point for anyone unhappy with Jehu’s reign. The queen harbors no illusions about her chances of surviving Jehu’s bloody coup d’état.

How bad was Jezebel? The Deuteronomist uses every possible argument to make the case against her. When Ahab dies, the Deuteronomist is determined to show that “there never was anyone like Ahab, who committed himself to doing what was displeasing to the Lord, at the instigation of his wife Jezebel” (1 Kings 21:25). It is interesting that Ahab is not held responsible for his own actions.8 He goes astray because of a wicked woman. Someone has to bear the writer’s vituperation concerning Israel’s apostasy, and Jezebel is chosen for the job.

Every biblical word condemns her: Jezebel is an outspoken woman in a time when females have little status and few rights; a foreigner in a xenophobic land; an idol worshiper in a place with a Yahweh-based, state-sponsored religion; a murderer and meddler in political affairs in a nation of strong patriarchs; a traitor in a country where no ruler is above the law; and a whore in the territory where the Ten Commandments originate.

Yet there is much to admire in this ancient queen. In a kinder analysis, Jezebel emerges as a fiery and determined person, with an intensity matched only by Elijah’s. She is true to her native religion and customs. She is even more loyal to her husband. Throughout her reign, she boldly exercises what power she has. And in the end, having lived her life on her own terms, Jezebel faces certain death with dignity.

1. For a fuller treatment of Jezebel, see Janet Howe Gaines, Music in the Old Bones: Jezebel Through the Ages (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1999).

2. All references to the Bible, unless otherwise noted, are to Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures: The New JPS Translation According to the Traditional Hebrew Text (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1985).

3. The translation of the Greek text is my own. According to Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton (The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English, 3rd ed. [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1990], p. 478), the translation of the entire line is “And Jezabel sent to Eliu, and said, If thou art Eliu and I am Jezabel, God do so to me, and more also, if I do not make thy life by this time tomorrow as the life of one of them.”

4. For a discussion of Phoenician customs, see George Rawlinson, History of Phoenicia(London: Longmans, 1889).

5. As corroborating evidence, see the story of David’s plot to kill Uriah the Hittite in 2 Samuel 11:14–17. Like Jezebel, David writes letters that contain details of his scheme. David intends to enlist help from the entire regiment as confederates who are to “draw back from” Uriah, but Joab makes a shrewd and subtle change in the plan so that it is less likely to be discovered.

6. Eleanor Ferris Beach, “The Samaria Ivories, Marzeah, and Biblical Text,” Biblical Archaeologist 56:2 (1993), pp. 94–104.

7. For an excellent, detailed discussion of biblical imagery concerning women seated at windows, see Nehama Aschkenasy, Woman at the Window (Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1998).

8. For a reassessment of Ahab’s character based on the archaeological remains of his building projects and extrabiblical texts, see Ephraim Stern, “The Many Masters of Dor, Part 2: How Bad Was Ahab?” BAR 19:02.

a. Asherah is the biblical name for Astarte, a Canaanite fertility goddess and consort of Baal. The term asherah, which appears at least 50 times in the Hebrew Bible (it is often translated as “sacred post”), is used to refer to three manifestations of this goddess: an image (probably a figurine) of the goddess (eg., 2 Kings 21:7); a tree (Deuteronomy 16:21); and a tree trunk, or sacred post (Deuteronomy 7:5, 12:3). See Ruth Hestrin, “Understanding Asherah—Exploring Semitic Iconography,” BAR 17:05.

b. In the Septuagint, 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings are all included in Kings, which therefore has four books, 1–4 Kings.

c. A similar statement is made by the unnamed prophet who anoints Jehu king of Israel in 2 Kings 9:10.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Expert Says She's Not a Female Gladiator

Read the article first, I have some pithy commentary at the end.

Roman Mystery Woman Discovered Near Hereford: Not a Female Gladiator
Submitted by bija on Fri, 07/02/2010 - 13:21
An unusual Roman burial has been uncovered at a site near Hereford. The female, buried in the first or second century AD, was unusually strong and is buried in a well made coffin.

Robin Jackson, senior project manager from Worcestershire council's Historic Environment and Archaeology Service, was excavating at the site. He said: “We've been working on the site for three months now and four burials have been found under a building. One of these is slightly unusual, in that it contains the remains of a woman who was very strongly built. She had obviously done hard physical work during her life, suggesting possibly a peasant labourer, but the anomaly is that she is buried in a slightly higher status coffin.”

The explanation for this intriguing set of circumstances is not yet clear. At first it was thought the individual was male due to the long thigh bones. However, according to an archaeological osteologist at the site, the pelvis and skull show female characteristics, suggesting that the individual was in fact a tall female.

The experts were able to tell that she had been physically strong due to ridges and puckering on the bones where the muscles and tendons had been attached and had exerted pressure on the bone.

The bones need to be analysed at a laboratory to establish a more exact date of burial, the age of the woman and other information such as height, health and race or provenance. This process will take up to a year.

Roman Kenchester
The site being excavated is on the outskirts of Credenhill about 6km north-west of Hereford. It's at the site of the Roman town of Kenchester, known as Magnis to the Romans, which was an important market town for the Dobunni tribe. It's also near a Roman road built in the first century AD, which today runs between Stretton Sugwas and Burcott.

The excavations are being carried out in preparation for the Yazor Brook Flood Alleviation Scheme, which is diverting a local river in order to avert flooding at Hereford. The excavation is being carried out by Amey Consulting and Herefordshire Council's archaeology team.

Roman Burials
The woman is laid out in a foetal position and the remains of three metal straps and bronze decorative bindings suggest that the coffin may have been large and similar to a sea chest in shape.
Burial traditions during the four centuries of Roman occupation of Britain varied. Cremations, burial in pots, coffins and shrouds were all used. Robin Jackson said: “It was common to be buried in a coffin in Roman times, but it would indicate someone who had a bit of money.”

Pottery and a cow bone have also been found in the grave, suggesting that the woman was buried with an offering of beef – not uncommon, according to the site's excavators.

The Female Gladiator?
The BBC reported yesterday that the burial could possibly be that of a female gladiator.

This is highly unlikely, according to Robin Jackson. He said: “There are no weapons buried in the grave with her, nor are there any icons that gladiators often had buried with them. There isn't even any evidence of an arena at Kenchester, so there is no evidence suggesting this was a female gladiator.”

So there are few similarities between the strong woman buried near Hereford and the grave of the female gladiator excavated in London near the Roman arena.

Is there a more rational explanation for this female burial near Hereford?

At this stage, very little can be said with certainty but Mr Jackson would bet money on her not being a female gladiator: “That is very unlikely,” he said. “A much more likely explanation is that she was born into a peasant family in Roman-occupied Britain, but then made a good marriage and was buried in a well made coffin.”
So, this tall muscular female was from a peasant family, used to hard work and a hard life that led to her developing such muscles and such height that she stood out from the 'ordinary,' but she made a good marriage.  Okay.  Fine.  But where are the other uber-tall and uber-muscular female peasants - by the thousands - if hard work practically from the day they were born was the criteria for creating such a body?  What is remarkable is the LACK of evidence to support Mr. Robin Jackson's suppositions.

Hellooooooooooo!  Mr. Jackson is letting his prejudices show all too clearly.  This out of the ordinary female burial indicates to me that the woman was probably NOT a farmer's daughter but was a gladiator or someone trained from a very early age on (enough to influence bone structure and the way musculature was attached) in whatever activities it took to develope such a body.  We may never figure out her story but I can tell you that if hard work alone on a farm mucking cows, sowing, reaping, spinning, weaving, bearing children, cooking non-stop and building stone walls and houses and such as was a woman's life back then was enough to create a tall unusually muscled woman, then there should be millions of such women buried in the ground all around the world.  But there aren't. 

In any event, you can be sure she probably did not look like Pink, Beyonce or Britney Spears in the now classic "We Will Rock You" Pepsi commercial.  Har!

It's Friday Night and I'm Allright!

Yippee - my three day weekend is here!

I've a full agenda - like - yard work and house work.  I haven't vacuumed since I removed the house from the market in February.  Things are decidedly dusty and it's time to at least do a token cleaning.  Sigh.  I tell you, the only way this house is ever going to go on the market again is when I'm carried out feet first!  I had it up to my forehead with constant cleaning and trying to keep a perfect house.  Yeah - just me and no staff, no husband or kids to help out.  Rush home from work and spend a couple of hours vacuuming and dusting and trying to figure out what to do with the day's mail (no clutter allowed, can't leave it on a countertop or, Goddess forbid, on the kitchen table!)

The weather has been good the past five days or so - no AC needed!  But it's now getting progressively hotter and more humid and by Sunday will be back to tropical dew points and in the high 80's.  That means - yep, you guessed it - the threat of severe weather on Monday, our "official" July 4th holiday.  LOL!  So many barbecues are going to be ruined - mark my words.  So that means I've got to hustle my butt tomorrow and cut the front AND the back, which is extra long once again because I never did cut it last week.  I'm getting decidedly lazy, that's not a good thing.

In my defense, I have been spending countless hours online doing genealogical research.  I seem to be uniquely suited to sniffing out the smallest details that leads to clues about a person's ancestors, or some additional fact of interest (only to a person doing such work), sometimes after real gaffes!  Well, enough of that.  I'm uber-busy with it and I've got notebooks all over the messy kitchen table filled with my scribblings and print-outs and some pretty damn good family trees going.

Knowing I did not want to trek to the Pick 'n Save tomorrow (grass-cutting day), I stopped tonight after work and with my few small groceries I decided for the first time to use the recently-installed auto-check out thing.  What is nice about it is that you usually don't have to wait in line and there is a cashier on duty to help out and also process beer, wine and alcohol purchases (must show ID, no exceptions, even if you are grey-haired, wrinkled and in a wheelchair). 

So, I push my cart to one of the thingies and decide to get my boxed wine out of the way first - an experiment, as it were.  I punch the start button and this mechanical female voice comes on and says SCAN FIRST ITEM.

So I scan the wine box and the machine beeps and stops.  The on-duty clerk comes over and I show her my id, she waves a card in front of the machine and punches in something and voila, the wine is accepted.  I pick it up and put it in a bag, then I put the bag into my cart.

The machine says PUT THE ITEM ON THE PAD.  I say I already did.  The machine says PUT THE ITEM ON THE PAD.  I say I already did, look see? It's already been on the pad and it's already in a bag from the pad and now put into my cart. The machine says PUT THE ITEM ON THE PAD.  I tell the machine to do something nasty to itself.  The machine says YOU ARE A BAD PERSON.  PUT THE ITEM ON THE PAD.  I once again tell the machine what to do - I won't go into details.  I wave the upc code of my next purchase at the machine glass eyes.  It refuses to accept  it. 

By now I've got steam coming out of my ears and I'm ready to tear the machine apart with my bare hands.  Such mechanical monsters must not be allowed to live!  We'll all end up like Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Terminator."  Egoddess, what a thought!   The young clerk comes back over and asks me sweetly if I'm having a problem?  I say yes, your machine is full of BLEEP.  She waves another card in front of the machine and it is magically restored to civility.

The rest of the time I'm testing the machine to see if it is actually recording my purchases and their prices correctly.  It does.  I finish  'ringing up' my purchases and swipe my debit card, get my receipt.  The machine says HAVE A NICE DAY.  I say BLEEP YOU, MACHINE.  I swear to you as I was leaving the machine made a rasberries sound at me.

Just wait until next time, machine. I'm bringing Mace, and will be fully prepared to use it. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Did Cleopatra Drug Herself to Death?

Unbelievable! Yet another article about THE Cleopatra, that is, Cleopatra VIII of the Ptolemy family.  The last legit Queen of Egypt. Why do I get the feeling that Cleo would blend in quite seamlessley with today's "It" people?  Too bad Cleo isn't getting residuals...

From Discovery News online
Cleopatra Killed by Drug Cocktail?
Legends allege that the last queen of Egypt died from a snakebite. But a new study could rewrite history.

By Rossella Lorenzi
Thu Jul 1, 2010 08:07 AM ET

Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt, died from swallowing a lethal drug cocktail and not from a snake bite, a new study claims.

According to Christoph Schäfer, a German historian and professor at the University of Trier, the legendary beauty queen was unlikely to have committed suicide by letting an asp -- an Egyptian cobra -- sink into her flesh.

"There was no cobra in Cleopatra's death," Schäfer told Discovery News.

The author of a best-selling book in Germany, "Cleopatra," Schäfer searched historic writings for evidence to disprove the 2,000-year-old asp legend. His findings are to be featured on the German channel ZDF as part of a program on Cleopatra. [How much $$$ did he make?]

"The Roman historian Cassius Dio, writing about 200 years after Cleopatra's demise, stated that she died a quiet and pain-free death, which is not compatible with a cobra bite. Indeed, the snake's venom would have caused a painful and disfiguring death," Schäfer said.

According to German toxicologist Dietrich Mebs, a poison specialist taking part in the study, the symptoms occurring after an asp bite are very unpleasant, and include vomiting, diarrhea and respiratory failure.

"Death may occur within 45 minutes, but it may also be longer with painful edema at the bite site. At the end, the dead body does not look very nice with vomit, diarrhea, a swollen bite site," Mebs told Discovery News.

Ancient texts also record that Cleopatra's two handmaidens died with her -- something very unlikely if she had died of a snake bite, said Schäfer.

The Queen of the Nile committed suicide in August 30 B.C. at the age of 39, following the example of her lover, the Roman leader Marc Antony, who killed himself after losing the Battle of Actium.

At that time, temperatures in Egypt would have been so high that "it was almost impossible for a snake to stay still enough to bite," Schäfer said.

"The main problem with any snakebite are the unpredictable effects, because the venom of the snakes is highly variable. The amount they spent for the bite may be too low. Why taking a risk even to survive with such unpleasant symptoms?" Mebs said.

According to the researchers, who traveled to Alexandria where they consulted ancient medical texts, a plant poison mixture which is easily dosed and whose effects are very predictable could have worked much better.

"Ancient papyri show that the Egyptians knew about poisons, and one papyrus says Cleopatra actually tested them," Schaefer said.

Schaefer and Mebs believe that Cleopatra chose a drug cocktail made of opium, aconitum (also known as wolfsbane) and hemlock, a highly poisonous plant from the parsley family that is believed to have been used to poison Socrates.

The drug cocktail, Schäfer claims, was known at the time to cause a rather painless death within a few hours.

"Cleopatra reportedly carried out many toxicological experiments, an imitation of Mithradates VI. In her quest for the most peaceful and painless way to die, she would have observed the deaths of many condemned prisoners by many different poisons and combinations, including snakebite," Adrienne Mayor, author of the Mithridates biography "The Poison King," told Discovery News.

"In my opinion, Cleopatra would have taken a high dose of opium as a sedative and then succumb to a cobra bite within a half hour," Mayor said. "She would be sedated and calm, feeling no pain, as the cobra venom slows her respiration, and she breathes her last and dies."

According to Alain Touwaide, an international authority on medicinal plants of antiquity at the Smithsonian Institution and the Institute for the Preservation of Medical Traditions in Washington , D.C., the drug cocktail would have technically worked well.

"A mixture of opium, aconitum and hemlock would have been a very intelligent combination. Opium and hemlock would have contributed to a painless death, easing the action of aconite, believed in antiquity to have deadly effects on the gastro-intestinal system. However, it wasn't common at all to mix vegetable poisons at Cleopatra's time," Touwaide told Discovery News.

"Cleopatra is a constant source of legends and theories, and is often credited with the writing of treatises on poisons, cosmetics and medicines," Touwaide said. "I believe finding her body and applying forensic methods of analysis would be the only way to solve the mystery of her death."
Well, if anyone can come up with the body of THE Cleopatra, I'll fall off my bar stool in a dead faint.  Darlings, do you really think the Roman barbarians of the day, particularly Octavian, who became Augustus Caesar (enough said), would have let Queen Cleopatra's body lie in state sacrosanct forever inside a tomb in Egypt?  Oh please! 

I have no doubt that after she died Cleopatra's remains were ruthlessly hunted down by the Romans, her body stripped of her queenly adornments and then either fed to the crocodiles or burned until there was nothing left, not even ashes.

Fnding Cleopatra VII's body is the ultimate Pipe Dream!  It does not exist.  All the baloney Zahi Hawass is feeding people about finding Cleopatra's "tomb" in Alexandria is just so much bullshit!  Shame on you, Dr. Hawass, for pretending to believe such nonsense in the name of generating yet more tourist dollars for Egypt.

So who is the woman on the linchpin of a Bronze Age chariot?

From the Universit of Haifa
Archaeological mystery solved
Published by Editor at 10:49 am under Press Releases
July 1, 2010

A 3,200-year-old round bronze tablet with a carved face of a woman, found at the El-ahwat excavation site near Katzir in central Israel, is part of a linchpin that held the wheel of a battle chariot in place. This was revealed by scientist Oren Cohen of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa. “Such an identification reinforces the claim that a high-ranking Egyptian or local ruler was based at this location, and is likely to support the theory that the site is Harosheth Haggoyim, the home town of Sisera, as mentioned in Judges 4-5,” says Prof. Zertal.

The El-ahwat site, near Nahal ‘Iron, was exposed by a cooperative delegation excavating there during 1993-2000 from the Universities of Haifa and Cagliari (Sardinia), headed by Prof. Zertal. The excavated city has been dated back to the end of the Bronze Age and early Iron Age (13th-12th centuries B.C.E.). The city’s uniqueness - its fortifications, passageways in the walls, and rounded huts - made it foreign amidst the Canaanite landscape. Prof. Zertal has proposed that based on these unusual features, the site may have been home to the Shardana tribe of the Sea-Peoples, who, according to some researchers, lived in Harosheth Haggoyim, Sisera’s capital city. The city is mentioned in the Bible’s narratives as Sisera’s capital, and it was from there that the army of chariots set out to fight the Israelites, who were being led by Deborah the prophetess and Barak, son of Avinoam. The full excavation and its conclusions have been summarized in Prof. Zertal’s book “Sisera’s Secret, A Journey following the Sea-Peoples and the Song of Deborah” (Dvir, Tel Aviv, 2010 [Hebrew]).

One of the objects uncovered at the site remained masked in mystery. The round, bronze tablet, about 2 cm. in diameter and 5 mm. thick, was found in a structure identified as the “Governor’s House”. The object features a carved face of a woman wearing a cap and earrings shaped as chariot wheels. When uncovered in 1997, it was already clear that the tablet was the broken end of an elongated object, but Mr. Cohen, who included the tablet in the final report of the excavations, did not manage to find its parallel in any other archaeological discoveries.

Now, 13 years later, the mystery has been solved. When carrying out a scrutinizing study of ancient Egyptian reliefs depicting chariot battles, Mr. Cohen discerned a unique decoration: the bronze linchpins fastening the chariot wheels were decorated with people’s faces - of captives, foreigners and enemies of Egypt. He also noticed that these decorations characterized those chariots that were used by royalty and distinguished people.

“This identification enhances the historical and archaeological value of the site and proves that chariots belonging to high-ranking individuals were found there. It provides support for the possibility, which has not yet been definitively established, that this was Sisera’s city of residence and that it was from there that the chariots set out on their way to the battle against the Israelite tribes, located between the ancient sites of Taanach and Megiddo,” Prof. Zertal concludes.
Okay, darlings, I'm tired tonight and I'm in a real bitchy mood.  First of all, I'm not at all sure this is a depiction of a female.  I do not, frankly, see "earrings in the shape of chariot wheels" on this figure.  I see big ears, which are usually the domain of males.  I also see crossed arms under the chin and closed fists, rather like the classic figure of a deceased Egyptian depicted on the outside of a cartonnage or an outer coffin in richer and older burials.  Did the Sea Peoples bury their dead in an identical fashion to the ancient Egyptians?

If this is a female head, how do we know that it is Egyptian and not "Sea Peoples?"  What history tells us at present is that the Egptians were plagued by invasives waves of "Sea Peoples" the same as everyone else in the area!  If this linchpin is Egyptian, what the hell was it doing there in what, I believe, the article suggests was a scene of a battle between Sea Peoples and Caananites?  What is the author suggesting? 

A separate inquiry: What evidence is there that this linchpin depicts "captives, foreigners and enemies of Egypt?"  I don't know much about the Sea Peoples, but if this linchpin was from an Egyptian chariot of the period, how does the author know for sure that it was not depicting the head of an Egyptian female diety? 

Think about it - if you were going into battle in a fragile battle chariot bouncing over rocky desert terrain pulled by a team of horses at full gallop, the bain of eight-spoked wheels and designed-for-speed chariot chassies, would you rather have a figurative head of an "enemy" holding your wheels together, or the figurative head of a favored goddess or god holding your wheels together?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Women in Pharonic Egypt

Did Zahi Hawass really write this?  Well, maybe he did, in light of the half-faint 'praise' given to some of the most powerful females who ever walked the earth, even if their names are not on the tongues of most historians, who mostly seem to be male.  Why, exactly, is that, when history is actually the domain of women?

This article was published by that great bastion of free speech and liberality, 'Asharq Alawsat'  -- "The Leading Arabic International Daily - English Edition."  Whooookay. 

Women in Pharaonic Egypt
By Dr. Zahi Hawass

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- When we talk about the grand history of [Egypt] which extends more than fifty centuries into the past, we find ourselves continually speaking about the ancient Egyptian man, whether this is ancient Egyptian engineers who built temples and pyramids, the ancient Egyptian doctors who carried out the first medical operations in human history, or the ancient Egyptian artists who carved huge statues and inscribed hieroglyphics on the walls of temples and tombs. However we rarely find mention of ancient Egyptian women, as if this great civilization was built by men alone, and as if ancient society was comprised solely of men, which of course is something that is completely untrue.

Yes, there is a clear injustice regarding how the role that was played by ancient Egyptian women in building this ancient civilization is portrayed in comparison to how the role of men is portrayed; however what is strange is that this injustice is a product of modern research and did not exist within ancient Egyptian society. Women played an important role in ancient Egyptian civilization, and they also enjoyed unparalleled luxury compared to other women at the time, and this is why when I decided to publish a book about the role played by women in Pharaonic Egypt I decided that the best and more accurate title for this would be "Silent Images: Women in Pharaonic Egypt."

After a long examination of Pharaonic antiquities I discovered that ancient Egyptian women were represented by a number of goddesses, such as the goddess "Isis" who was the goddess of fertility and worshipped as the ideal mother, the goddess "Hathor" who personified motherhood and was worshipped as a protector, "Sekhmet" the warrior goddess, and "Bastet" the protector goddess. Upper Egypt also worshipped its own patron goddess "Nekhbet" while Lower Egypt worshipped the patron goddess "Wadjet." This represents the religious aspect; however at the political level the wife of the pharaoh also played an important role with regards to the continuation of the royal line, while ancient Egyptian princesses could also politically increase the strength of the ruling family through marriage.

Pharaonic Queens bore the burden of rule and raising their young children and teaching them to govern, for example Queen-Consort "Ankhesenpepi II" the mother of Pharaoh "Pepi II" ruled in her son's name until he was old enough to take power.

Queen "Khentkaus II" also acted as regent for her two young sons Pharaoh "Neferefre" and his successor "Nyuserre Ini" protecting the throne until the latter came of age. Prior to this, historical sources have preserved the name of Queen "Nimaethap" for the important role she played as regent and for her protection of the throne for her son Pharaoh "Djoser" the first King of the Third Dynasty.

Throughout ancient Egypt's history, the names of just a few ruling Queens have been made known, with the great Queen "Hatshepsut" – who became a legend amongst ancient women – enjoying the longest and most successful reign. Hatshepsut ruled over an Egyptian golden age during which ancient Egypt was unrivalled in power in the Near East.

During a 20-year reign, Queen Hatshepsut protected the borders of her empire, wearing the same royal regalia as worn by male Pharaoh's. She attributed her birth and divine right to rule to the ancient Egyptian god Amun-Ra. Queen Hatshepsut did indeed rule over Egypt, and she was responsible for the construction of a beautiful temple complex [Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut] at Deir al Bahari on the west bank of the Nile.

Just one visit to this magnificent temple – which was constructed by a woman – is sufficient for anybody to feel the glory and grandeur of Egypt's past, which is something that fill's one's soul with the conviction that the earth belongs to those who take action, for history does not remember those who don't.

Southwest Chess Club: Summertime Fun!

Hola, darlings!

Now that Goddess has decided not to drown out Wisconsin after all and has, at least temporarily, called a halt to incessant torrential downpours, horrific displays of lightning bolts that have started more than one fire in the area, and nearly non-stop house-rattling thunder, people are pouring (a 'poor' choice of words, har har) into the streets to do what they can while these precious few days of cooler temperatures, sunshine and MUCH lower dew points (my knees finally stopped aching today about 3:34 p.m.) last -- I don't know what the forecast is for the 4th of July and I don't want to know!  Right now, it's lovely outside and for the past two nights it's been cooling down sufficiently at night so one can crank open one's windows and enjoy fresh cool air, snuggle under a blanket and get a good night's sleep free of the fear of being wiped out by a tornado. 

The Big Gig a/k/a Summerfest is building up to its grand climax this weekend.  I am SO looking forward to a three-day weekend as July 4th falls on a Sunday this year that means we get the official national holiday off on Monday, July 5th!  Whoopee!

Right in step is my dear adopted chess club, Southwest Chess Club, with lots of action ongoing this summer.

For those of my observant readers (ahem) you will notice that it has been quite awhile since I referred to it as the Southwest Chess Club of Hales Corners. That is because during some nasty flooding weather (rather reminds me of this year) a couple of years ago, the basement of the bank where the Southwet (har) Chess Club used to meet was flooded out and what was originally thought to be a temporary displacement has turned into what seems to be a permanent one.  The Club no longer meets in Hales Corners, as no suitable location made itself available at the time. 

I digress - what is most important is that the Club held together and its strong leadership found a new place for the members to congregate once a week :)  And so, without further ado - here's some of the upcoming events:

SWCC Simul Kickoff: July 1 (tomorrow night, darlings):

John Becker (2009 SWCC Club Champion) will give a lecture followed by a simul. This is a free event.
LECTURE: 6:15 pm
SIMUL: 7:00 pm

John will be going over his recent simul game vs GM Yermolinsky (interesting game w/o any major errors, and full of tactics!). Also, a game or two that would fall under the idea of creating complications when standing worse or heading towards a blocked position.

The Joe Crothers Memorial SWCC Championship
July 8, 15, 22, 29 & August 5 & 12:

Nn honor of the recently deceased club President, Joe Crothers.

6-Round Swiss in One Section. Game/100. USCF Rated.
EF: $7. (must be a member to participate). SWCC Membership $10 (can join prior to first round).
(Two ½-point byes available in rounds 1 through 5 if requested at least 2 days in advance; no byes available for round 6.)
TD is Becker; ATD is Grochowski.

Resuming on July 15:

Every Thursday night at 6:00 PM (right before the usual games begin). Instructive lectures. Watch the Southwest Chess Club blog for weekly announcements.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Orkney Venus - Update

The eyes of the Goddess are always upon us...

From the
Orkney Venus dig reaches exciting phase, says expert
Published Date: 29 June 2010

An ARCHAEOLOGICAL dig where the Orkney Venus was found last year has entered an "exciting phase" as excavations resumed.

Archaeologists hope the Links of Noltland dig will reveal more about people who lived on the Orkney island of Westray thousands of years ago.The sand dunes protecting the area have been reduced by winds over the past few decades.

Yesterday project manager Richard Strachan, an archaeologist with Historic Scotland, said: "The project is reaching a very exciting phase, as we race against the wind to recover the archaeological remains of the extensive settlement extending for about 1,000 years from the late Neolithic to the Bronze Age.

"We are concentrating on defining the enigmatic and unique cattle skull building uncovered at the end of last season."

The Orkney Venus is the earliest carving of a human figure found in Scotland.

Earlier coverage:

From BBC Online:
16 October 2009

From Heritage Key:
Archaeologists On Orkney Come Face-to-Face With A Neolithic Scot
Submitted by MalcolmJ on Thu, 08/27/2009 - 14:09

Also from Heritage Key:
Orkney Venus And Holm of Papa Westray Lintel Stone Could be Sisters
Submitted by MalcolmJ on Thu, 09/17/2009 - 19:18

Do you see the eyes of the Goddess in the lintel stone?  These remind me of other neolithic 'bird goddess' eyes I've seen.

North American Mitochondrial DNA Study Reveals Surprise with More Predicted

From a press release at
Public release date: 28-Jun-2010

Mitochondrial genome analysis revises view of the initial peopling of North America
June 29, 2010 – The initial peopling of North America from Asia occurred approximately 15,000-18,000 years ago, however estimations of the genetic diversity of the first settlers have remained inaccurate. In a report published online today in Genome Research (, researchers have found that the diversity of the first Americans has been significantly underestimated, underscoring the importance of comprehensive sampling for accurate analysis of human migrations.

Substantial evidence suggests that humans first crossed into North America from Asia over a land bridge called Beringia, connecting eastern Siberia and Alaska. Genetic studies have shed light on the initial lineages that entered North America, distinguishing the earliest Native American groups from those that arrived later. However, a clear picture of the number of initial migratory events and routes has been elusive due to incomplete analysis.

In this work, an international group of researchers coordinated by Antonio Torroni of the University of Pavia in Italy performed a detailed mitochondrial genome analysis of a poorly characterized lineage known as C1d. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is passed down through the maternal lineage, and mtDNA sequence markers are extremely useful tools for mapping ancestry. Similar to other haplogroups that were among the first to arrive in North America, C1d is distributed throughout the continent, suggesting that it may have been also present in the initial founding populations. However, C1d has not been well represented in previous genetic analyses, and the estimated age of approximately 7,000 years, much younger than the other founding haplogroups, was likely inaccurate.

To resolve these inconsistent lines of evidence, the group sequenced and analyzed 63 C1d mtDNA genomes from throughout the Americas. This high-resolution study not only confirmed that C1d was one of the founding lineages in North America 15,000 to 18,000 years ago, but revealed another critical insight. "These first female American founders carried not one but two different C1d genomes," said Ugo Perego of the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation and primary author of the study, "thus further increasing the number of recognized maternal lineages from Beringia."

These findings raise the number of founding maternal lineages in North America to fifteen. Furthermore, this work emphasizes the critical need for comprehensive analysis of relevant populations to gather a complete picture of migratory events.

Alessandro Achilli of the University of Perugia, a coauthor of the report, suggests that the number of distinct mitochondrial genomes that passed from Asian into North America is probably much higher. "These yet undiscovered maternal lineages will be identified within the next three to four years," Achilli noted, "when the methodological approach that we used in our study will be systematically applied."

Forgery exhibit opens in London's National Gallery

By ANDREW KHOURI, Associated Press Writer
Tue Jun 29, 1:57 pm ET
LONDON – An exhibit that combines X-rays, microscopy, and Botticelli opens this week at The National Gallery, detailing how scientists and others have unraveled some of the art world's mysteries.

The exhibit, "Close Examination — Fakes, Mistakes & Discoveries," shows how techniques such as infrared imaging, X-rays and mass spectrometry were used to properly attribute works of art and sniff out forgeries. Art historians and conservators have also contributed to the effort.

Among the more than 40 paintings on show is "The Virgin and Child with an Angel," which was acquired by The National Gallery in 1924 and attributed to Italian painter Francesco Raibolini, known as Francia.

But a 2009 investigation unmasked the painting a fake, finding that the underdrawing was done in graphite pencil — an instrument not available to the Renaissance painter.

The exhibit also explores how paintings evolved over time. "Woman at a Window," a 16th century work by an unknown Italian artist, was altered to reflect the prudishness of the Victorian era [image, right, before restoration in 1978]. The woman, originally a blond with a seductive gaze and a revealing bodice, was transformed into a brunette with more modest dress and a reserved expression. [See A Blonde's Dark Secret.]

When the gallery discovered the change during cleaning in the late 1970s, it removed the new layers of paint and the woman's racy look was restored.

While the experts' work through the years has shown that once-prized paintings were fakes, it's also made previously obscure work more prominent.

The 15th-century painting "Saint Francis of Assisi with Angels," was thought to be painted by a pupil of the Italian master Sandro Botticelli. But, after cleaning and restoration in 2002, the gallery now attributes the painting to Botticelli himself.

Betsy Wieseman, co-curator of the exhibit, said such discoveries take time, but are rewarding.

"You know it doesn't happen in an instant. It is a much slower process, but there often does come that moment when your heart goes pitter-pat, and you suddenly think 'Oh my goodness this is not what I thought it was going to be.'"
Entry to the exhibit, which opens Wednesday, is free and runs until Sept. 12.
Date and time

30 June – 12 September 2010
Sainsbury Wing Exhibition
Admission free
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...