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Female Remains Found at Strictly Male-only Greek Monastery

Female Remains Found at Strictly Male-only Greek Monastery

An examination of some bones has surprised many experts in Greece. Some of the bones seem to be female remains and this is raising eyebrows among many academics. If the bones are confirmed to be female it may force researchers to rethink the history of Mount Athos, which is one of the holiest places in Orthodox Christianity.

A restorer, Phaidon Hadjiantoniou, who has been working at the site for decades, unearthed the bones in a chapel’s subsoil, during conservation work. The chapel is dedicated to St Athanasios, which dates back to the Byzantine Empire and is part of the monastery of Pantokrator. Hadjiantoniou was intrigued and it was the first time he had found bones beneath a chapel floor and he immediately contacted a specialist.

Mysterious bones

The remains unearthed ‘included a forearm, shinbone and sacrum’ according to The Guardian . There are believed to have been seven people buried under the floor. It appears that they had been initially buried elsewhere and were at one time interred under the chapel, in what is known as a secondary burial. The monastery’s abbot and monks were perplexed at the finds.

Laura Wynn-Antikas, an American anthropologist examined the bones and compared them with others found at the monastic site. Some of those found in the chapel’s subsoil were not as robust as others found at Mount Athos and appear too small to be from men. The anthropologist found that some of the bones unearthed ‘had measurements that noticeably fell in the range of a female’ according to The Guardian . This led her to conclude that the bones were female remains.

Some of the bones found at the Chapel of Athanasios seem to be female. (Phaidon Hadjiantoniou)

Raising questions

Wynn-Antikas told The Guardian that, ‘If we are talking about a woman or indeed more than one woman, it will raise a lot of questions’. This is because of the unique history of the autonomous monastic community on Mount Athos. There have been Christians living on the mount for almost 1800 years. Today there are over 20 monasteries on the mountain and nearby peninsula, and it is home to almost 2500 monks, some of which live in caves and huts.

For millennium women and even female animals have been banned from the enclave which is an autonomous political entity in the Greek Republic. Women were banned from Mount Athos in order to ensure that the monks kept their vows of celibacy. The only females allowed in the area are female cats - presumably they are needed to catch mice.

Mount Athos’ prohibition on lady visitors is very controversial and the European Union has declared it illegal to ban women. However, the ban on women remains and only a limited number of male pilgrims can visit per day. This is what makes the possible discovery of the female bones so important. Hadjiantoniou stated that, “If a woman is found among the bones it will be the first known incident of a female finding her final resting place on Mount Athos” according to The Guardian .

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Monastery of Pantokrator, Mount Athos. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Pirates and raiders

One possible explanation for the discovery of female remains may be related to the troubled history of Mount Athos. The area was plagued by raiders and pirates for much of its history and there are recorded instances when the monks opened up the monastery to women seeking sanctuary. What is clear is that the bones almost certainly belonged to someone who was rated as important by the monks.

Being buried in a chapel was a singular distinction. If some of the bones are shown to be female, they probably belonged to a woman or women of high social or religious standing. There have been recorded instances of females staying in the monastery, despite the 1000-year-old ban. Hatjiantoniou has speculated that the female remains ‘might possibly belong to a woman called Stasha, the wife of a 16th-century landlord called Barboul or Barbouli who lived at the monastery with his sons’ according to The Greek Reporter.

Solving the mystery

Investigating the remains is challenging as there are no skulls and the bones were also removed from their original burial place. International Business Times quotes Wynn-Antikas as saying that ‘the bones have been moved from their original burial, so information has been lost’. The remains have been safely stored and have been transported to Greece’s Demokritos research center in Athens.

Here the bones will be carbon dated by a leading Greek expert and their DNA tested, and it is hoped that this can help to clear up the mystery of the female remains in a male-only monastery. Moreover, if it is proved that a woman was buried on Mount Athos, it could lead to more calls for the monasteries to end their ban on females.

Saint Catherine's Monastery

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Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Greek Orthodox monastery situated on Mount Sinai more than 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) above sea level in a narrow valley north of Mount Mūsā in the Sinai peninsula. Often incorrectly called the Sinai Independent Greek Orthodox Church, the monastic foundation is the smallest of the autonomous churches that together constitute the Eastern Orthodox church. The abbot of the monastery, who is also the archbishop of Sinai, Paran, and Raithu, is elected by the brotherhood and consecrated by the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem. One of its early abbots was St. John Climacus. The monastery was at first under the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem patriarch its independence was recognized by Constantinople in 1575. The number of monks is limited to 36 this figure includes those living in annexes (metochia) elsewhere, which today are chiefly at Cairo and Suez in Egypt. The laity of the Church of Sinai are some Christian Arabs employed by the monastery and fishermen on the Red Sea coast at al-Ṭūr (Tor, formerly Raithu). The Muslim Bedouin Arabs who live near the monastery have always acted as its guards and have in turn been supported by it.

Founded in 527 by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, the building of the monastery dates from 530 ce , when Justinian, after complaints of robber incursions from the hermit monks who had settled there, fortified the traditional site of the burning bush observed by Moses on the lower slopes of Mount Sinai. During the 7th century the monastery provided a centre of refuge for scattered communities of Christians threatened by the rise of Islam. Spared by the Muslims, the monks, according to tradition, conciliated the invaders by erecting the small mosque within the walls where local Bedouin Arabs still worship. The monastery was a pilgrimage centre during the Middle Ages. St. Catherine’s still retains much of its original appearance and has had an unbroken history since the 6th century. The original gray granite walls (280 by 250 feet [85 by 76 metres]) still stand, and so does the church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which was built at the same time. In the apse is a restored mosaic of the Transfiguration, also dating from the early Byzantine period.

The monastery’s greatest treasures are its icons, some of which were painted before the 8th century, and its manuscripts. These, housed in a library built in 1945, are mainly Greek and Arabic. In 1949–50 most of the manuscripts were microfilmed by the American Foundation for the Study of Man, acting on behalf of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and with the assistance of the University of Alexandria. The manuscript collection includes the Codex Syriacus, a Syriac text of the Gospels written about 400. A nearly complete Codex Sinaiticus, a Greek manuscript of the Bible dating from the 4th century that formerly belonged to St. Catherine’s, is now in the British Museum in London. In 1975 workmen accidentally penetrated a wall and discovered behind it a trove of some 3,000 additional manuscripts, including ancient biblical texts and other documents known but long lost, along with assorted works of art. Among the find were missing parts of the Codex Sinaiticus, some 50 other incomplete codexes and 10 nearly complete ones, and other Greek texts in uncial script that shed new light on the history of Greek writing. Even more numerous documents were found in various Semitic, Afro-Asiatic (formerly Hamito-Semitic), and Indo-European languages, dating from the 6th century and earlier. The monastery was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2002.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.


Humans have marked their bodies with tattoos for thousands of years. These permanent designs—sometimes plain, sometimes elaborate, always personal—have served as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment. Joann Fletcher, research fellow in the department of archaeology at the University of York in Britain, describes the history of tattoos and their cultural significance to people around the world, from the famous " Iceman," a 5,200-year-old frozen mummy, to today’s Maori.

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What is the earliest evidence of tattoos?

In terms of tattoos on actual bodies, the earliest known examples were for a long time Egyptian and were present on several female mummies dated to c. 2000 B.C. But following the more recent discovery of the Iceman from the area of the Italian-Austrian border in 1991 and his tattoo patterns, this date has been pushed back a further thousand years when he was carbon-dated at around 5,200 years old.

Can you describe the tattoos on the Iceman and their significance?

Following discussions with my colleague Professor Don Brothwell of the University of York, one of the specialists who examined him, the distribution of the tattooed dots and small crosses on his lower spine and right knee and ankle joints correspond to areas of strain-induced degeneration, with the suggestion that they may have been applied to alleviate joint pain and were therefore essentially therapeutic. This would also explain their somewhat 'random' distribution in areas of the body which would not have been that easy to display had they been applied as a form of status marker.

What is the evidence that ancient Egyptians had tattoos?

There's certainly evidence that women had tattoos on their bodies and limbs from figurines c. 4000-3500 B.C. to occasional female figures represented in tomb scenes c. 1200 B.C. and in figurine form c. 1300 B.C., all with tattoos on their thighs. Also small bronze implements identified as tattooing tools were discovered at the town site of Gurob in northern Egypt and dated to c. 1450 B.C. And then, of course, there are the mummies with tattoos, from the three women already mentioned and dated to c. 2000 B.C. to several later examples of female mummies with these forms of permanent marks found in Greco-Roman burials at Akhmim.

What function did these tattoos serve? Who got them and why?

Because this seemed to be an exclusively female practice in ancient Egypt, mummies found with tattoos were usually dismissed by the (male) excavators who seemed to assume the women were of "dubious status," described in some cases as "dancing girls." The female mummies had nevertheless been buried at Deir el-Bahari (opposite modern Luxor) in an area associated with royal and elite burials, and we know that at least one of the women described as "probably a royal concubine" was actually a high-status priestess named Amunet, as revealed by her funerary inscriptions.

And although it has long been assumed that such tattoos were the mark of prostitutes or were meant to protect the women against sexually transmitted diseases, I personally believe that the tattooing of ancient Egyptian women had a therapeutic role and functioned as a permanent form of amulet during the very difficult time of pregnancy and birth. This is supported by the pattern of distribution, largely around the abdomen, on top of the thighs and the breasts, and would also explain the specific types of designs, in particular the net-like distribution of dots applied over the abdomen. During pregnancy, this specific pattern would expand in a protective fashion in the same way bead nets were placed over wrapped mummies to protect them and "keep everything in." The placing of small figures of the household deity Bes at the tops of their thighs would again suggest the use of tattoos as a means of safeguarding the actual birth, since Bes was the protector of women in labor, and his position at the tops of the thighs a suitable location. This would ultimately explain tattoos as a purely female custom.

Who made the tattoos?

Although we have no explicit written evidence in the case of ancient Egypt, it may well be that the older women of a community would create the tattoos for the younger women, as happened in 19th-century Egypt and happens in some parts of the world today.

What instruments did they use?

It is possible that an implement best described as a sharp point set in a wooden handle, dated to c. 3000 B.C. and discovered by archaeologist W.M.F. Petrie at the site of Abydos may have been used to create tattoos. Petrie also found the aforementioned set of small bronze instruments c. 1450 B.C.—resembling wide, flattened needles—at the ancient town site of Gurob. If tied together in a bunch, they would provide repeated patterns of multiple dots.

These instruments are also remarkably similar to much later tattooing implements used in 19th-century Egypt. The English writer William Lane (1801-1876) observed, "the operation is performed with several needles (generally seven) tied together: with these the skin is pricked in a desired pattern: some smoke black (of wood or oil), mixed with milk from the breast of a woman, is then rubbed in. It is generally performed at the age of about 5 or 6 years, and by gipsy-women.”

What did these tattoos look like?

Most examples on mummies are largely dotted patterns of lines and diamond patterns, while figurines sometimes feature more naturalistic images. The tattoos occasionally found in tomb scenes and on small female figurines which form part of cosmetic items also have small figures of the dwarf god Bes on the thigh area.

What were they made of? How many colors were used?

Usually a dark or black pigment such as soot was introduced into the pricked skin. It seems that brighter colors were largely used in other ancient cultures, such as the Inuit who are believed to have used a yellow color along with the more usual darker pigments.

This mummified head of a woman from the pre-Inca Chiribaya culture, located at the Azapa Museum in Arica, Chile, is adorned with facial tattoos on her lower left cheek. (Joann Fletcher) The tattooed right hand of a Chiribaya mummy is displayed at El Algarrobal Museum, near the port of Ilo in southern Peru. The Chiribaya were farmers who lived from A.D. 900 to 1350. (Joann Fletcher) A tattooed predynastic female figurine (c. 4000-3500 B.C.) is displayed at the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford. (Joann Fletcher) The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is home to this tattooed predynastic female figure. (Joann Fletcher) This female figurine from Naszca, Peru, is now displayed at the Regional Museum of Ica. (Joann Fletcher) Small bronze tattooing implements (c. 1450 B.C.) from Gurob, Egypt, can be found at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London. (Joann Fletcher) This blue bowl (c. 1300 B.C.), housed in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden, Amsterdam, features a musician tattooed with an image of the household deity Bes on her thigh. (Joann Fletcher)

What has surprised you the most about ancient Egyptian tattooing?

That it appears to have been restricted to women during the purely dynastic period, i.e. pre-332 B.C. Also the way in which some of the designs can be seen to be very well placed, once it is accepted they were used as a means of safeguarding women during pregnancy and birth.

Can you describe the tattoos used in other ancient cultures and how they differ?

Among the numerous ancient cultures who appear to have used tattooing as a permanent form of body adornment, the Nubians to the south of Egypt are known to have used tattoos. The mummified remains of women of the indigenous C-group culture found in cemeteries near Kubban c. 2000-15000 B.C. were found to have blue tattoos, which in at least one case featured the same arrangement of dots across the abdomen noted on the aforementioned female mummies from Deir el-Bahari. The ancient Egyptians also represented the male leaders of the Libyan neighbors c. 1300-1100 B.C. with clear, rather geometrical tattoo marks on their arms and legs and portrayed them in Egyptian tomb, temple and palace scenes.

The Scythian Pazyryk of the Altai Mountain region were another ancient culture which employed tattoos. In 1948, the 2,400 year old body of a Scythian male was discovered preserved in ice in Siberia, his limbs and torso covered in ornate tattoos of mythical animals. Then, in 1993, a woman with tattoos, again of mythical creatures on her shoulders, wrists and thumb and of similar date, was found in a tomb in Altai. The practice is also confirmed by the Greek writer Herodotus c. 450 B.C., who stated that amongst the Scythians and Thracians "tattoos were a mark of nobility, and not to have them was testimony of low birth.”

Accounts of the ancient Britons likewise suggest they too were tattooed as a mark of high status, and with "divers shapes of beasts" tattooed on their bodies, the Romans named one northern tribe "Picti," literally "the painted people."

Yet amongst the Greeks and Romans, the use of tattoos or "stigmata" as they were then called, seems to have been largely used as a means to mark someone as "belonging" either to a religious sect or to an owner in the case of slaves or even as a punitive measure to mark them as criminals. It is therefore quite intriguing that during Ptolemaic times when a dynasty of Macedonian Greek monarchs ruled Egypt, the pharaoh himself, Ptolemy IV (221-205 B.C.), was said to have been tattooed with ivy leaves to symbolize his devotion to Dionysus, Greek god of wine and the patron deity of the royal house at that time. The fashion was also adopted by Roman soldiers and spread across the Roman Empire until the emergence of Christianity, when tattoos were felt to "disfigure that made in God's image" and so were banned by the Emperor Constantine (A.D. 306-373).

We have also examined tattoos on mummified remains of some of the ancient pre-Columbian cultures of Peru and Chile, which often replicate the same highly ornate images of stylized animals and a wide variety of symbols found in their textile and pottery designs. One stunning female figurine of the Naszca culture has what appears to be a huge tattoo right around her lower torso, stretching across her abdomen and extending down to her genitalia and, presumably, once again alluding to the regions associated with birth. Then on the mummified remains which have survived, the tattoos were noted on torsos, limbs, hands, the fingers and thumbs, and sometimes facial tattooing was practiced.

With extensive facial and body tattooing used among Native Americans, such as the Cree, the mummified bodies of a group of six Greenland Inuit women c. A.D. 1475 also revealed evidence for facial tattooing. Infrared examination revealed that five of the women had been tattooed in a line extending over the eyebrows, along the cheeks and in some cases with a series of lines on the chin. Another tattooed female mummy, dated 1,000 years earlier, was also found on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, her tattoos of dots, lines and hearts confined to the arms and hands.

Evidence for tattooing is also found amongst some of the ancient mummies found in China's Taklamakan Desert c. 1200 B.C., although during the later Han Dynasty (202 B.C.-A.D. 220), it seems that only criminals were tattooed.

Japanese men began adorning their bodies with elaborate tattoos in the late A.D. 3rd century.

The elaborate tattoos of the Polynesian cultures are thought to have developed over millennia, featuring highly elaborate geometric designs, which in many cases can cover the whole body. Following James Cook's British expedition to Tahiti in 1769, the islanders' term "tatatau" or "tattau," meaning to hit or strike, gave the west our modern term "tattoo." The marks then became fashionable among Europeans, particularly so in the case of men such as sailors and coal-miners, with both professions which carried serious risks and presumably explaining the almost amulet-like use of anchors or miner's lamp tattoos on the men's forearms.

What about modern tattoos outside of the western world?

Modern Japanese tattoos are real works of art, with many modern practioners, while the highly skilled tattooists of Samoa continue to create their art as it was carried out in ancient times, prior to the invention of modern tattooing equipment. Various cultures throughout Africa also employ tattoos, including the fine dots on the faces of Berber women in Algeria, the elaborate facial tattoos of Wodabe men in Niger and the small crosses on the inner forearms which mark Egypt's Christian Copts.

What do Maori facial designs represent?

In the Maori culture of New Zealand, the head was considered the most important part of the body, with the face embellished by incredibly elaborate tattoos or ‘moko,’ which were regarded as marks of high status. Each tattoo design was unique to that individual and since it conveyed specific information about their status, rank, ancestry and abilities, it has accurately been described as a form of id card or passport, a kind of aesthetic bar code for the face. After sharp bone chisels were used to cut the designs into the skin, a soot-based pigment would be tapped into the open wounds, which then healed over to seal in the design. With the tattoos of warriors given at various stages in their lives as a kind of rite of passage, the decorations were regarded as enhancing their features and making them more attractive to the opposite sex.

Although Maori women were also tattooed on their faces, the markings tended to be concentrated around the nose and lips. Although Christian missionaries tried to stop the procedure, the women maintained that tattoos around their mouths and chins prevented the skin becoming wrinkled and kept them young the practice was apparently continued as recently as the 1970s.

Why do you think so many cultures have marked the human body and did their practices influence one another?

In many cases, it seems to have sprung up independently as a permanent way to place protective or therapeutic symbols upon the body, then as a means of marking people out into appropriate social, political or religious groups, or simply as a form of self-expression or fashion statement.

Ancient Greek Architecture – Doric and Ionic Temples

During the earlier periods of Greek history (eg Minoan) there were no separate temples and the places of worship of the gods were located inside the palaces or mansions. After the geometrical age however, the Greeks had been in contact with the cultures of the eastern peoples and they were influenced by them, so they began to build separate buildings, temples to worship their gods there.
Inside the temple there was nothing except the statue of the god or goddess. The people remained outside the temple. Moreover the altar for the sacrifices was located outside the temple as well, except for rare occasions. After having showed special care for the construction of the statue, ancient Greeks would look after the appearance of the temple as well. For the ancient Greeks the temple was a “statue” as well. Besides, the word statue in ancient Greek means “what makes the Gods happy”.
The first temples were wooden, but later on they were made of marble. The temple’s direction was always from the East to the West, in contrast to the Christian churches that direct from West to East.

The temple was divided into three parts:
1) The vestibule. It was a small space that is found on the front of the temple.
2) The nave. It was the main part of the temple. Here stood the statue of the god.
3) Opisthodomos. It was an area located at the rear of the temple.
4) In some temples, such as the Parthenon, there is a fourth space behind opisthodomos called “opisthonaos”.
As usual, a temple had columns on its narrow sides. If it had columns only at one narrow side it was called “prostylos”. If it had columns at both its narrow sides it was called “amphiprostylos”. In many cases around the temple there were columns that created the “peristylio”. When the temple was surrounded by a row of columns, it was called “pavilion”. When surrounded by two rows of columns it was called “dipteral”. According to what we said above, the Parthenon is an “amphiprostylos” temple.
In ancient Greek architecture there were two main temple styles: The Doric temple style and the Ionic Temple style. They had almost the same specifications except for a few differences. The Doric temple style was austere and strict with heavy proportions, while the Ionic temple style was characterized by lighter and more decorative proportions.

a) The sill and the stylobate. There were three levels (stairs) on which were underlying the pillars. The last step was called “stylobate”, because the pillars were placed on it. An Impressive technical detail of the stylobate is the “boss” which was applied for the first time at the temple of Apollo at Corinth (540 BC) only to reach perfection when applied on the Parthenon. The curving meant that the stylobate was not a completely horizontal surface, but the middle of each side is slightly higher than the edges. On the Parthenon, for example, the long sides’ curving reaches 11 cm the short sides’ curving reaches 7 cm.
b) Base. The base is a characteristic only met at an Ionic Temple. It was located on top of the stylobate and it was where the pillar was put on.
c) Column. A column on an Ionic temple consists of grooves that end in curves, while on the Doric style the grooves end on edges (tips). The number of grooves varied from 16 to 20. The depth of the grooves may vary, so sometimes the grooves were deeper at the top of the column (Parthenon), sometimes they were deeper at the bottom (Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, Temple of Aphaia in Aegina) and sometimes the depth remained the same ( Propylaea -Thissio). The purpose of the grooves was the intonation of the circular shape of the column and of course the sensation created by the shadows. The columns, in most cases, and especially in the Doric style, were consisting of fragments, vertebrae, which were not visible at the end of the work, because they were covered with a light coating (plaster). Characteristic of the columns is the intensity, the slight curvature observed in the column. In the classical period, the peak intensity was observed at 2/5 of the height of the column. The intensity was in no case greater than the diameter of the base of the column.
Another characteristic of the columns is the reduction, the column as it rises and becomes thinner. To put it in other words, the diameter of the column at the top is smaller than the diameter of the column at the bottom.
At the end of the column at the point where it meets the capital there were ring slots, three or four. Four rings were used during the archaic period (Aphaia Temple in Aegina). In the classic era we have only one ring, while in the Hellenistic era the feature disappears completely.
According to the most common standard, the number of columns on the long side is double plus one of the columns of the narrow side. (2a +1). If for example one temple had 6 columns at the narrow side, then the long one would have 6*2+1 = 13.
An important element of the columns is the inclination towards the nave, in other words they were not vertical. The four columns that were placed at the corners were inclined to the diagonal. This means that the temple did not form a rectangle but a pyramidal arrangement.
d) Capital. The column ended at the capital. In the Doric temple style it consisted of the echinus and the abacus, while in the Ionic it consisted of the volutes and the abacus. The capitals of the Doric temple were more “heavy” while those of the Ionic were more elaborate.
e) The architrave. This is a rectangular piece of marble that connected the columns. On the smaller monuments the architrave could be integral, ie it consisted of a solid piece of marble. On larger sites it consisted of two elements, or even three, as the Parthenon. The piece that was placed inside the monument was called antithima. The architrave had no decoration except for the temple of Assos where it had some sculptures. The Parthenon, in retrospect had hung shields and bronze inscriptions. Finally the architrave showed the same curvature with the stylobate.
f) The triglyphs and metopes – The frieze.
On Doric Temples after the architrave we have the “triglyphs” and the “metopes”. The Triglyph was a rectangular plate of marble which had 3 vertical molding, two full and two halves right and left. Metope was a rectangular plate of marble, which was often embossed or painted. In the section between two columns there were two triglyphs and three metopes. On the Ionic temples we the frieze, ie an area of embossed plates.
g) The cornice. The cornice protected the triglyphs and the metopes or the frieze from the rain. The architrave, the triglyphs and the metopes or the frieze and the cornice together form the entablature.
h) The Pediment or drum. It was the triangular portion at the top of the facade of a temple. It was named Pediment because its shape evokes an eagle with outstretched wings.
Finally it should be remembered that the ancient Greeks used to paint their temples (except the columns and architrave) with bright colors, especially red and blue, as well as their statues.

LOOKING BACK AT OUR HISTORY: Women as warriors have a long history

The American experience with true women warriors&mdashnot just our wonderful Hollywood Wonder Woman&mdashhas only recently begun. However, with the benefit of recent archaeological discoveries and re-examinations, we can say that women have been warriors&mdashor certainly hunters&mdashfor millennia.

When the U.S. ended the draft in 1973, women represented only 2% of enlisted personnel and 8% of the officer corps. Today the figures for the officer corps are significantly higher across almost all services. As of 2018, women represented 19% of the Army officer corps, 19% of the Navy&rsquos, 21% of the Air Force&rsquos, and 8% of the Marines&rsquo.

An important milestone occurred in 1976, when the first young women were allowed to enter the three service academies. I was privileged to teach the first group at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and, in 1980, to witness the first female cadets graduate in 1980 and become second lieutenants.

A significant transformation in the roles women play in the military took place in December, 2015, when the Department of Defense opened to women combat roles across the services. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter stated: &ldquoThere will be no exceptions.&rdquo &ldquoThey&rsquoll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat. They&rsquoll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men.&rdquo

In that same year the Army opened its most challenging training course to women&mdashRanger School. Lieutenants Kristin Geist and Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate from the school,--a tough, 61-day course&mdashthe most demanding training I underwent in my 21-year Army career. As of April 2020, 50 women have graduated from the course.

Today women Army officers are commanding infantry and armor combat companies, indicating that they soon may be commanding combat battalions and larger Army units.

Recent archaeological discoveries and studies show that these current women warriors have actually a long pedigree. Women as warriors&mdashor certainly hunters and not simply gatherers&mdashhave a long history reaching back thousands of years to pre-history.

In November of last year, researchers found that the remains of a 9,000-year-old hunter buried in the Andes mountains was a woman. The specialized tool/weapon kit at the burial site indicates she was a big game hunter.

This discovery encouraged the researchers to re-examine evidence from 107 other graves throughout the Americas from the same time period. Out of 26 graves with hunter tools, they were surprised to discover 10 contained women.

These discoveries challenge the traditional beliefs about gender roles in pre-recorded history: Men hunted and women gathered. The picture is now more mixed.

The richest body of literature and artifacts on women warriors in ancient Western history is found in ancient Greek history, and it deals with the mythical Amazons. Amanda Foreman, writing in the &ldquoSmithsonian Magazine,&rdquo (April, 2014) explains that the ancient Greek poet, Homer, writing in the 8th century BCE, was the first to mention these women warriors. In his &ldquoIliad,&rdquo he mentions them briefly as Amazons &ldquoantianeiria,&rdquo a term translated variously as &ldquoantagonistic to men&rdquo or &ldquothe equal of men.&rdquo In any case, Homer made these women brave and stalwart military opponents to the Greek male military heroes, who of course always vanquished these women warriors.

Future Greek writers continued referencing the Amazons. For example, they supposedly fought for the Trojans in the Trojan War. Also, the demi-god Heracles completed his ninth labor by taking the magic girdle of the Amazon queen, Hippolyta.

Thus tales of the Amazons became inextricably intertwined with the rise of Athenian democracy which began in the 6th century BCE. In this century, images of Amazons battling Greeks spread they appear not only on pottery but also on their architectural friezes, jewelry, and household items.

Recent archaeological discoveries dating back to the 5th century BCE indicate that the Amazons were rooted in real equestrian, nomadic women of Eurasia&mdashthe Scythians. Adrienne Mayor, writing in &ldquoNational Geographic History&rdquo (May/June 2020) states that the Greeks would have encountered these women in the 7th century BCE as they established colonies around the Black Sea.

Excavations of Scythian burial mounds began in the 1940s, and revealed skeletons with spears, arrows, axes, and horses. Originally identified as male, more recent DNA testing shows that some human remains were women. About one-third of the Scythian women found in the burial sites had weapons. Also, their bones have indications of combat: marred ribs, fractured skulls, and broken arms.

It is clear that the more egalitarian society we Americans continue to strive to create had an antecedent on the steppes of Eurasia.

11 Badass Women In History Who Pretended To Be Men

Wouldn't it be great if, in 2015, there was finally an end to gender discrimination and inequality? Can you imagine a world where young girls could go to school, choose their own career paths, and make names for themselves in this world? We've still got a while to go before reaching gender equality in America and abroad, but that hasn't stopped strong women (and men) from fighting the good fight. But what about women from back in the day who had trouble being heard for the sheer fact that they were women? Plenty of strong women in history pretended to be men because frankly there just weren't many options and they wanted to, well, get shit done.

Women posing as men isn't a new concept. It's a classic Shakespearean trope that's manifested itself plenty of times in real life. Unfortunately, though, it's still a relevant topic today. After last week's debate among Republican presidential hopefuls, satire site The Onion published an article proclaiming the GOP had promoted Carly Fiorina to "male candidate" after she did well in the debate. The joke was spot-on — even today, women have to be characterized as male to be taken seriously in their professional lives. Fiorina is far from the first woman to experience an uphill struggle in a male-dominated industry, and these badass women throughout history didn't let their society's limits on their sex stop them from achieving their goals.

1. Charlotte Brontë

The 19th-century English novelist and author of Jane Eyre used a more gender-neutral pen name, Currer Bell, when publishing her first works, including originally publishing Jane Eyre under the male name. Brontë's sisters Emily and Anne used the same tactic — using Ellis and Acton, respectively — and the three published a joint collection of poems under their male pseudonyms. Brontë later wrote that the trio had purposely chosen names that were "positively masculine," because female writers were "liable to be looked on with prejudice." The Brontë sisters wanted their writing to be given its fair due by critics and readers — even if that meant writing under false names.

2. Elisa Bernerström

The story of a woman disguising herself as a man to go to war extends further than the legend of Mulan. Elisa Bernerström disguised herself as a man so she could serve as a soldier for the Swedish army in the Finnish War between Sweden and Russia in 1808 and 1809. (Women weren't allowed in the Swedish military until the 20th century.) Bernerström's husband, a soldier named Bernard Servenius, was stationed in Stockholm, and Bernerström disguised herself so that she could stay with her husband, even if that meant enlisting in the army. Bernerström's gender was eventually discovered — it was hard to keep her true identity a secret at war, especially when she was a member of the queen's regiment — but she was still commended for her bravery in battle.

3. Rena Kanokogi

In 1959, Rena Kanokogi disguised herself as a man to enter a YMCA judo tournament in New York. Kanokogi won the event, but she was forced to return her medal when the officials figured out she was a woman. Kanokogi didn't give up on her judo dreams, though. She traveled to Japan to continue her training, and she became the first woman to train with the men at the Kodokan Institute in Tokyo. Kanokogi went on to found the world's first female judo world championship, held in the Felt Forum at Madison Square Garden.

4. Malinda Blalock

Malinda Blalock disguised herself as a male in order to fight in the American Civil War. Her husband, Keith, had joined the 26th North Carolina Regiment, and she decided to follow him to help in the fight, enlisting under the name Samuel Blalock in 1862. The couple eventually deserted the army in order to become scouts for the Union army.

5. Norah Vincent

Norah Vincent, a journalist, went undercover as a man for 18 months, calling herself "Ned Vincent." Vincent wanted to uncover whether or not she would be treated differently if people thought she was a man. Vincent committed herself to the assignment, too — she took voice lessons to speak like a man, and she wore a jock strap with padding to make the look more realistic. Vincent joined a bowling league as Ned, befriending men to see what they talked about when women weren't around. Vincent was often surprised at the men's conversations, though. She told 20/20's JuJu Chang the men on the bowling team "really showed me up as being the one who was really judgmental," saying they befriended her (as Ned) with "no judgments attached."

6. Kathrine Switzer

Kathrine Switzer signed up for the Boston Marathon under the name K. V. Switzer in 1967 because women weren't allowed to compete in the race at the time. Not long after Switzer participated in the event, officials removed the ban on women running the marathon. In addition to making history for female runners, Switzer also set an impressive personal record — she won the New York City Marathon in 1974.

7. Saint Marina

The 8th-century Marina disguised herself as a boy so she could accompany her father to a monastery because women weren't allowed inside. Marina did a lot more than just watch her father there, though. She became a monk herself, using the name Marinus. After several years at the monastery, Marina was traveling with her father when an innkeeper's daughter falsely claimed Marinus had impregnated her. But instead of revealing the truth, Marina raised the child herself after being kicked out of the monastery. Her true identity remained a secret until her death.

8. J.K. Rowling

Though J.K. Rowling has one of the most recognizable names in the world now, she originally chose her pen name so that her gender would be less obvious. Rowling's publicist wanted Harry Potter's target audience to consist primarily of young men, so she used initials rather than her full name, Joanne Rowling, to publish the series.

9. Mary Ann Evans

Mary Ann Evans, a 19th-century author who didn't want her work's reception clouded by gender stereotypes, chose to publish her six novels, including Middlemarch, under the pen name George Eliot.

10. Sarah Edmonds

Like Blalock, Sarah Edmonds disguised herself as a man to join the American Civil War. Edmonds, who was born in Canada, served as a member of the Union army as a male field nurse as well as a spy. After the war was over, Edmonds became a nurse at a soldiers' hospital in Washington, D.C., where she no longer needed to hide her female identity.

11. Joan of Arc

15th-century Joan claimed she heard the "voices" of various saints telling her to lead the French army. She fought during the Hundred Years' War while disguised as a man. Though she died when she was only 19, Joan of Arc is remembered for her heroic efforts to fight for France, and she is respected by both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

These women definitely prove that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, even in adverse circumstances. While it's great that male disguises helped them achieve their goals, let's hope that in the future, women can be respected on their own, without having to pose as men to gain respect.

The Surprise Discovery of Lapis Lazuli on a Medieval Woman’s Teeth May Change How We View Illuminated Manuscripts

The discovery of traces of the precious blue gemstone shows that female religious artists may have been more common than previously thought.

Traces of lapis lazuli were found in the dental tartar of a woman who lived at a 12-century German monastery, leading researchers to believe she was a highly skilled artist who worked on illuminated manuscripts. Courtesy of Science Advances.

Medievalists may have to reconsider long-held assumptions about who, exactly, painted all those gorgeous illuminated manuscripts. The intricate role of the scribe has been popularly attributed to medieval monks, but many of those artists may have actually been nuns.

When examining a woman’s skeleton from a monastery complex at Dalheim, Germany, Anita Radini of the archaeology department at the University of York was shocked to discover blue dental tartar. Testing eventually revealed that it was lapis lazuli, and the most likely cause is that the woman worked as an artist, licking her paint brush, or inhaling dust while grinding the expensive ultramarine stone used to make the rare pigment.

“This woman represents the earliest direct evidence of ultramarine pigment usage by a religious woman in Germany,” wrote Radini and her co-authors in a paper published in the journal Science Advances. The remains of the woman, who would have been between 45 and 60, were radiocarbon-dated to the 10th and 11th centuries.

Traces of lapis lazuli were found in the dental tartar of a woman who lived at a 12-century German monastery, leading researchers to believe she was a highly skilled artist who worked on illuminated manuscripts. Courtesy of Science Advances.

Other ruled out theories include pigment transfer from the kissing of illuminated manuscripts, but the practice was not common until some three hundred years after the woman would have died. And although there are Greek and Islamic manuscripts that prescribe lapis lazuli as medicine, it was not a treatment in Germany at that time, and the fineness of the powder suggests it was ground specifically for pigment.

Radini had been studying the teeth in an effort to see what tartar samples could reveal about monastic medieval diets, while her co-author Christina Warinner, a microbiome researcher at the Germany’s Max Planck Institute, was investigating the DNA of ancient oral bacteria. The blue tartar, obviously, sent them down a totally different avenue.

“Can you imagine the kind of cold calls we had to make in the beginning?” Warinner askeld the Atlantic. “‘Hi, I’m working with this thing on teeth, and it’s about 1,000 years old, and it has blue stuff in it. Can you help me?’ People thought we were crazy. We tried reaching out to physicists, and they were like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ We tried reaching out to people working in art restoration, and they were like, ‘Why are you working with plaque?’”

Luckily, they found Alison Beach, a historian at Ohio State University who specializes in 12th-century female scribes in Germany, who immediately recognized the significance of the presence of the lapis lazuli.

Traces of lapis lazuli were found in the dental tartar of a woman who lived at a 12-century German monastery, leading researchers to believe she was a highly skilled artist who worked on illuminated manuscripts. Courtesy of Science Advances.

“Only scribes and painters of exceptional skill would have been entrusted with its use,” Beach said in a statement quoted by CNN.

The discovery means that women religious artists may have been more common than previously thought. Unfortunately, the monastery where the teeth were found was destroyed by fire in the 14th century, leaving no further evidence of the lives of the nuns who lived there, or their artistic activities.

“Identifying the early contributions of religious women to medieval book production is challenging due to the limited number of surviving books, the precarious documentation of women’s monasteries, and the tendency of scribes to leave their work unsigned,” explains the paper.

But the discovery of lapis lazuli in a woman’s teeth means that dental remains could be a new place to start looking for clues about women artists. It has also opened up a new area of research, with Warinner studying other tartar samples to see what she can learn about a person’s diet or occupation from what’s embedded in the buildup. So far, she has found traces of varied materials, such as wool fibers, insects, opium, and flower pollen.

As for our female scribe’s teeth, the find also indicates that the rare ultramarine pigment, previously thought to be available in limited capacities in medieval Europe, actually spread farther and more quickly than previously believed. Lapis lazuli typically comes from Afghanistan, and would have come to Europe via the Silk Road, a journey of some 4,000 miles.

Medieval Nuns

Medieval Nuns - Middle Ages Religion - Information about Medieval Nuns - Christianity - Catholic - Catholics - Christians - Medieval Nuns Facts - Middle Ages Religion Info - History of Medieval Nuns - Church - Churches - Information about Middle Ages Religion - Medieval - Midevil - Middle Ages Religion Info - Middle Ages Period era - Midevil - Christianity - Catholic - Catholics - Christians - Middle Ages Period Life - Medieval Period Times - Life - The Middle Ages Religion - Middle Ages Religion History - Church - Churches - Influences on Middle Ages Religion - Christianity - Catholic - Catholics - Christians - Medieval Nuns - Written By Linda Alchin

Places to visit

Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford. Beaumont Street, OX1 2PH. Telephone: 01865 278000. The antiquities collection spans millennia - ranging from the Lower Palaeolithic to the Victorian era. A focus on early Egyptian, European and Near Eastern cultures is reflected in the objects on display.

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, Malet Place, London, WC1E 6BT. Telephone: 020 7679 2884. A museum based on the lifework of archaeologist and Egyptologist William Flinders Petrie. The collection is particularly strong on objects related to life and death in Ancient Egypt.

British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG. Telephone: 020 7323 8000. The British Museum holds a collection of art and antiquities from ancient and living cultures. Housed in one of Britain's architectural landmarks, the collection spans two million years of human history.

Museum of Mummification, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL. Telephone: 0161 275 2634. The origins of The Manchester Museum lie in the improvement in medicine, science and art that has been the hallmark of the world's first industrial city. Their collections include an extensive Egyptology section.

Mystery Woman Buried Near Richard III

Archaeologists found a lead coffin buried in the ruins of an English medieval church, just feet from the grave of British King Richard III. When they opened the tomb, they expected to find the skeleton of a knight or a friar. But instead, they found the bones of an elderly woman.

The woman's identity remains a mystery, but a study of her bones has revealed some key details about her life, the excavators announced today (March 1). She was interred sometime in the late 13th or 14th century, before Richard was hastily buried at the monastery known as Grey Friars in Leicester, England. She must have been of a high status, because her bones show signs of a lifetime of eating well.

She's also not the only woman buried on the grounds of Grey Friars. In fact, Richard III is the only man archaeologists have examined from the site so far. The four other graves, including the lead coffin, belonged to women, archaeologists said. [See Images: The Search for Richard III's Grave]

"We were naturally expecting to find friars," Grey Friars site director Mathew Morris told Live Science. The discovery of four female burials came as somewhat of a surprise.

Richard III ruled England from 1483 until he was killed on the battlefield during the Wars of the Roses in 1485. As his rival, Henry Tudor, ascended the throne, Richard received a hasty burial at the Grey Friars monastery, which was demolished in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation.

Until recently, Grey Friars' exact location was lost to history. In 2012, archaeologists with the University of Leicester found the ruins of the monastery as well as Richard's long-lost grave under a parking lot.

Much of the hype around the excavation has centered on Richard, and his remains have already yielded a wealth of data on the king &mdash he died a violent death he ate quite well while on the throne and he suffered from scoliosis. But archaeologists have also been studying whatever else they can find in the church.

The lead coffin, which is decorated with an inlaid crucifix, was hidden inside a larger limestone sarcophagus. It was discovered during a second excavation at Grey Friars, in August 2013, underneath what would have been the church's floor near the high altar. At the time, the tomb was first billed as the only intact stone coffin ever found in Leicester. The excavators publicly speculated that it might contain one of Grey Friars' founders, such as Peter Swynsfeld or William of Nottingham, or a knight named Sir William de Moton of Peckleton.

"It was such an elaborate burial," Morris said, that it seemed obvious the person inside should be someone of high rank. From historical documents, Morris and his colleagues knew several women were connected with the church as donors and benefactors. The woman's bones indicate she clearly enjoyed a high-status lifestyle &mdash eating a high-protein diet that included lots of meat and fish, with no periods of malnutrition &mdash but she hasn't been linked to a specific historical person.

Two other women between ages 40 and 50 were found buried in wooden coffins (which have since disintegrated, though the nails survive) inside the friary's choir where Richard III was found. Radiocarbon dating showed that they likely died between 1270 and 1400. One of the women had a hip problem that forced her to walk with a crutch, and the other seems to have used her arms and legs regularly to lift heavy weights, suggesting a life of hard physical labor, the researchers said.

There was another set of female bones buried in a pit. Morris said workmen who demolished the church hundreds of years ago may have disturbed a grave and reburied the skeleton as such.

Most other monastic cemeteries in England have female-male burial ratios ranging from 1 female for every 3 males to 1 female for every 20 males, Morris said. The excavators don't know exactly what to make of all the female burials at Grey Friars, and they were cautious about drawing any broad conclusions based on this small sample. The archaeologists identified but didn't examine five other burial pits on the site, and they imagine these burials were just a fraction of the total graves on the church grounds.

However, it's unlikely that archaeologists will unearth more of the graves at Grey Friars any time soon, as most of the cemetery lies beneath housing today, Morris said.