ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Egyptian hieroglyphs at Mnamon: Ancient writing systems in the Mediterranean: A critical guide to electronic resources

Ancient Egypt for kids - Egyptian Crowns and Headdresses of Gods

A Very Remote Period Indeed: A blog reviewing recent archaeological publications having to do with Paleolithic archaeology, paleoanthropology, lithic technology, hunter-gatherers and archaeological theory.

Untangling an Accounting Tool and an Ancient Incan Mystery (NYT, 2 January 2016)

Diodorus Siculus describes the Assyrian king Sardanapallus (perhaps Ashurbanipal) as a transvestite / transgender bisexual and blames him for the destruction of the Assyrian Empire - although the Greek historian's account mostly sounds like a pretty ordinary war.

Ancient Egyptian herbal wines (Patrick E. McGovern, PNAS 106(18), 5 May 2009) | Archaeological team prepares 4,000-year-old Hittite meals (Slate, 8 September 2016)

Ancient 'Mad Libs' Papyri Contain Evil Spells of Sex and Subjugation (LiveScience, 20 May 2016)

Scientist debunks nomadic Aboriginal 'myth' (GA, 9 October 2007) | Waking our sleeping Indigenous languages: 'we're in the midst of a resurgence' (GA, 31 August 2016) | Indigenous Australians most ancient civilisation on Earth, DNA study confirms (GA, 21 September 2016) | World-first genome study reveals rich history of Aboriginal Australians (ABC, 22 September 2016) | Indigenous Australians know we're the oldest living culture – it's in our Dreamtime (GA, 22 September 2016)

A Lost European Culture, Pulled From Obscurity (NYT, 30 November 2009). Review of the exhibition The Lost World of Old Europe: the Danube Valley, 5000-3500 B.C.

How human sacrifice helped to enforce social inequality (Aeon, 8 June 2016)

The Exotic Animal Traffickers of Ancient Rome (The Atlantic, 30 March 2016)

Female King Ruled in Canaan, Carving Suggests (National Geographic, 10 April 2009)

Scientists use 'virtual unwrapping' to read ancient biblical scroll reduced to 'lump of charcoal' (GA, 21 September 2016)

Unearthing the origins of East Africa's lost civilization (CNN, 19 October 2015)
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Spiritual Power? 18th-Century Artifacts Unearthed in Caribbean

The Archaeologist as Titan [review of Belzoni: The Giant Archaeologists Love to Hate]

Remains of Long-Lost Temple Discovered in Iraq: "'One of the best results of my fieldwork is the uncovered column bases of the long-lost temple of the city of Musasir, which was dedicated to the god Haldi,' Marf Zamuatold Live Science in an email. Haldi was the supreme god of the kingdom of Urartu. His temple was so important that after the Assyrians looted it in 714 B.C., the Urartu king Rusa I was said to have ripped his crown off his head before killing himself."

Oops! Etruscan Warrior Prince Really a Princess

Archaeological cave dig unearths artefacts from 45,000 years ago (Australia)

Bisexual Viking idol marks ancient circle (2004)

Was Cleopatra a drag queen? (2005) (Three known artifacts show Cleopatra VII dressed as / represented as a man.)

Brooklyn Museum to publish a handbook for the recently deceased (Book of the Dead of Sobekmose)

One-of-a-kind Egyptian spider rock art dates back to 4,000 B.C.

Alan D. Eames, 59, Scholar of Beers Around the World, Dies

Ancient Egyptian mummies buried near Barnsley

Barnsley lass Joann really digs Egypt (not what I was looking for, but pretty entertaining nonetheless :)

Clues to Lost Prehistoric Code Discovered in Mesopotamia (looking inside clay envelopes with CT scans)

Die Auferstehung der Göttin Sachmet (The Resurrection of the Goddess Sekhmet) and Egyptian goddess statue unveiled in İzmir’s Red Basilica - an 8.5 metre tall statue in Pergamon

More Sekhmet statues unearthed at Amenhotep III's temple in Luxor

4,000-year-old [Old Babylonian] erotica depicts a strikingly racy ancient sexuality

 
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Presumptive "ocular prosthesis" found in the Burnt City - Tumblr discussion, including artist's impression. :)

Evolution of Angels: From Disembodied Minds to Winged Guardians

Africans in Roman York?

Oldest Perfumes Found on "Aphrodite's Island"

Peking Man Was a Fashion Plate

Papyri Point to Practice of Voluntary Temple Slavery in Ancient Egypt

Study shows 'gene flow' from India to Australia 4000 years ago

Stirling Castle's Amazon warrior revealed

Sekhmet's bits: Forgotten statue uncovered

Temple find shows sway of ancient Egyptian religion

War was central to Europe's first civilisation - contrary to popular belief

Ancient "Egyptian blue" pigment points to new telecommunications, security ink technology

DNA sleuth hunts wine roots in Anatolia

Robot Finds Mysterious Spheres in Ancient Temple (Best headline ever. The temple's in Teotihuacan.)

Uncovered: Ritual public drunkenness and sex in ancient Egypt

Linguists identify words that have changed little in 15,000 years

Classic gags discovered in ancient Roman joke book

Cosmic find unearthed using Aboriginal Dreaming story

Digging for the truth at controversial megalithic site (Indonesia's Gunung Padang)

Folk magic found in old Brisbane basement

The earliest iron artifact ever found was made from a meteorite

Evidence of 3,000-Year-Old Cinnamon Trade Found in Israel

Cheese first made at least 7,500 years ago

How Egyptian god Bes gave the Christian Devil his looks

Ancient Magician's Curse Tablet Discovered in Jerusalem

Egyptian goddess statue unveiled in İzmir’s Red Basilica (It's a nine-metre tall Sekhmet. Wow!)

Finds in Israel add weight to theory God “had wife”

ETA:

Evidence of fire-raining comet discovered on Earth: "The sea of silica was a well-known area of study as its glass was found in highly valuable jewelry, including a brooch of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun."

Untangling the Mystery of the Inca (khipu)

ETA (thanks, [livejournal.com profile] alryssa!):

"Lost City" of Tanis Found, but Often Forgotten

Photos from the submerged ancient city of Heracleion
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
"First Skyscraper" Built to Fight Solstice Shadow? - the Tower of Jericho

Ancient Tablets Decoded; Shed Light on Assyrian Empire

Prehistoric Americans Traded Chocolate for Turquoise?

Ancient Tablet Found: Oldest Readable Writing in Europe - Linear B

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/04/pictures/110415-egyptian-mummies-ct-scans-heart-disease-science-pictures/ | http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/04/110415-ancient-egypt-mummies-princess-heart-disease-health-science/ | http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/05/110531-africa-mummies-parasites-schistosomiasis-science/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/10/111013-oldest-art-studio-early-humans-science-archaeology/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/11/111208-oldest-mattress-africa-archaeology-science/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/01/120119-national-popcorn-day-corn-peru-archaeology-food-science/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/02/pictures/120207-egypt-bird-mummies-snails-fed-science-ibis-ancient/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/07/120717-palmyra-roman-city-syria-science-farming-world-ancient/

Seventy Egyptian artefacts found in illegal possession are authenticated (including Late Period Sekhmet amulets)

Ancient Clay Tablets Recovered from 9/11 Attack Restored and Translated

Black Magic Revealed in Two Ancient Curses: "Both curses feature a depiction of a deity, possibly the Greek goddess Hekate, with serpents coming out of her hair, possibly meant to strike at the victims."

http://www.smh.com.au/world/cave-women-in-a-different-light-20120515-1yp30.html (personally, I think it looks like a horseshoe crab)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/may/10/mayan-astronomical-charts-guatemalan-jungle

Concealed shoes: Australian settlers and an old superstition

Ancient language controls crime rings. This sounds more esoteric and odd than it actually is: Nahuatl, a language about as old as English, is a living tongue with one and a half million speakers.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21792-thank-grandmothers-for-lower-incidence-of-cancer.html

Africans in Roman York?
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
Dropping in with a snippet from Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome which I have to return to the library yesterday. I've commented before that I keep coming across the idea that "androgynous" and "neuter" are somehow synonymous. Discussing Dionysus, Michael Jameson contrasts Dionysus' strong association with sex with the god's own seeming lack of interest in it: "One can refer to the god's detachment as 'asexuality' [but] one might also speak of his bisexuality, the coexistence of elements of both genders that may, in effect, cancel each other out, or even of his transcendence of sexuality." No time to outline Jameson's full argument here, but there are two possible explanations for why, according to some thinking, if you're both sexes then you're neither. (Jameson also compares Dionysus to the male lead singer of a rock band, "neither traditionally masculine nor yet effeminate". :)

__
Jameson, Michael. "The Asexuality of Dionysus". in Golden, Mark and Peter Toohey (eds). Sex and Difference in Ancient Greece and Rome. Edinburgh, EUP, 2008.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Will Roscoe's article "Priests of the Goddess" compares the Graeco-Roman gallus, the Mesopotamian gala (and similar cultic performers), and the Indian and Pakistani hijra.

They have several things in common:

  • they are priests of a goddess (or goddesses)
  • they're organised into groups, and employed by temples
  • they dance, sing, and play instruments
  • they are reputed to be homosexual and/or sex workers
  • they have an alternative "third" gender
  • and they have magical powers.

    It's those two last features I'm particularly interested in.

    The galli, singular gallus, "were originally temple personnel in the cities of central Anatolia", worshippers of the goddess Cybele, whose cult eventually spread throughout the Graeco-Roman world. The hijra are devotees of the goddess Bahuchara Mata; like the galli, they tell fortunes and can "utter fearful curses". (Lifting their sari to show their scars "doom[s] the viewer to calamity".) Their tradition may date back as far as "the early first millennium". The galli were called the "third sex" and the "middle kind"; the hijra are called "third gender", "not-male", and "woman-man" (Cf UR.SAL, "man-woman", ie assinnu.)

    As Roscoe points out, while the gala et al were said to be "gender transformed" by Inanna/Ishtar, we don't know whether this was a physical transformation. Interestingly, though many hijra are ritually castrated, many postpone this and some never go through with it; it's not an absolute requirement of the job. Roscoe points out that the same may have been true for the galli.

    This may have reflected an understanding of sex and/or gender which isn't reduced to the genitals, but has to do with cultural traits such as dress, behaviour, and profession. The galli wore "partly female and partly galli-specific dress", the hijra formerly mixed male and female clothing but now wear women's clothes; the gala sang in emesal, the woman's dialect, the kurgarru and assinnu "portrayed the goddess in ritual, by wearing masks and cross-dressing", the saĝ-ur-saĝ mixed male and female dress. Roscoe suggests that "since homosexual practices were, for the receptive partner, considered androgynizing, the sexual activity of galli served to overdetermine their status as androgynes". (p 205)

    "Why is gender transgression so often attributed with religious meaning?" ponders Roscoe. Nanda writes that the hijras "call into question the basic social categories of gender on which Indian society is built. This makes the hijras objects of fear, abuse, ridicule, and sometimes pity. But hijras are also... conceptualized as special, sacred beings... both Indian society and Hindu mythology provide some positive, or at least accommodating, roles for such sexually ambiguous figures."

    ETA: By contrast, Piotr Michalowski's article on the Ur III period gala doesn't mention gender at all. (He does state that "Ur III ceremonial life" was based on concepts and symbols "very different from any that became before and after".) He remarks that "galas were important players in economic and religious life", involved in funerals, funerary cults, and organising official music performances, and possibly other entertainment. It's possible that men could temporarily take the role of a gala, such as at a wedding.

    ETA: More on the galli from The Gods of Ancient Rome by Robert Turcan, who states that Cybele's cult was overseen by "foreign priests (a Phrygian man and woman, as well as by galli... castrated like Attis, the companion who was both lover and son to the goddess."

    The galli left the goddess' sanctuary only on procession days. One procession is described as being accompanied by cymbals, tambourines, trumpets, and flutes, and the frenzied brandishing of weapons; the frightened onlookers showered the galli, who were dressed in multi-coloured garments, with offerings of coins and roses.

    During another procession, mourning the death of Attis, the galli whipped and cut themselves, and amongst all the shrieking, music, and dance, the new would-be galli castrated themselves with a flint. (One ancient writer cheekily referred to this as "the very day when the faithful of the Mother of the gods began to groan and feel sorry for themselves.").

    Legally, Romans could not be galli, as they could not be castrated, so the ritual of the taurobolium was substituted for officials such as the archgallus: he was completely soaked in the blood of a sacrificed bull (followed by a sacred marriage with the goddess "behind the curtain" - I hope he washed first).

    Turcan also mentions the "armed dance" and self-mutilation of the prophetic priestess of another Anatolian goddess, Ma-Bellona; and the "mendicant eunuchs of Atargatis" who similarly "slashed their arms with hatchets or swords" before prophesying.

    ETA: The tablet BM 29616 relates how Enki "upon hearing that Inanna was vexing heaven and earth with her wrath, fashioned the gala, and provided him with an assortment of chants as well as accompanying drum-like musical instruments... in order to soothe the goddess and help calm her rage." (Samuel Noah Kramer's article also notes that the "iršemma is a composition, often melancholy in nature", written in Emesal, "that was chanted by a temple singer known as the gala to the accompaniment of drum-like musical instruments.")

    ETA: More on the hijra from Serena Nanda. The basic definition of a hijra is an impotent man who renounces male sexuality through emasculation. However, there are exceptions to this, such as hijras who were raised as girls, but did not develop breasts or begin to menstruate at puberty, and a girl with intersex genitals who became a hijra. Nanda spoke to a hijra sex worker who was "skeptical" about the idea that hijras lacked sexual desire, and to a hijra in a relationship with a man; another was angered that men who had been married and had children had "joined [the hijra] community only for the sake of earning a living". Nanda says that the "hijra role" encompasses "people whom we in the West would differentiate as eunuchs, homosexuals, transsexuals, and transvestites."

    Nanda states that "wearing female attire is an essential and defining characteristic of the hijra. It is absolutely required for their performances, when asking for alms, and when they visit the temple of their goddess Bahuchara... Long hair is a must for a hijra." They also adopt (and exaggerate) female mannerisms, take female names and address each other with female kinship terms such as "sister" and "aunty". However, they also behave in ways which would be "outrageous" for women - lifting their skirts, smoking, using "coarse and abusive speech and gestures" (Cf the "bawdy speech" of the kurgarru).

    Nanda states that "Whereas Westerners feel uncomfortable with the ambiguities and contradictions inherent in such in-between categories as transvestitism, homosexuality, hermaphroditism, and transgenderism, and make strenuous attempts to resolve them, Hinduism not only accommodates such ambiguities, but also views them as meaningful and even powerful." She points to the plentiful "androgynes, impersonators of the opposite sex, and individuals who undergo sex changes" in Hindu myths, which are familiar through popular culture.

    __
    Kramer, Samuel Noah. Sumerian Literature and the British Museum: the Promise of the Future. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 124(4) August 1980.
    Michalowski, Piotr. Love or Death? Observations on the Role of the Gala in Ur III Ceremonial Life. Journal of Cuneiform Studies 58 2006, pp 49-61.
    Nanda, Serena. "Hijras as Neither Man nor Woman". in Timothy F. Murphy (ed). Reader's guide to lesbian and gay studies. Chicago, London, Fitzroy Dearborn, 2000.
    Roscoe, Will. Priests of the Goddess: Gender Transgression in Ancient Religion. History of Religions 35(3), February 1996, pp 195-230. (The author has shared a huge chunk of the article online!)
    Turcan, Robert. The Gods of Ancient Rome. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000.

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