History Girls

Anna Atkins, original name Anna Children (born March 16, 1799, Tonbridge, Kent, Eng.—died June 9, 1871, Halstead Place, Kent), English photographer noted for her early use of photography for scientific purposes.

Anna Children, whose mother died soon after she was born, was involved from an early age in the scientific activities that occupied her father, John George Children. A respected scientist, he was secretary of the Royal Society and was associated with the British Museum.

While in her early 20s, Atkins made drawings for her father’s translation of Jean-Baptiste de Monet Lamarck’s Genera of Shells (1823), but her prime interest lay in the study of botany. She married John Pelly Atkins in 1825. Through her father’s association with Royal Society members William Henry Fox Talbot and the astronomer and chemist Sir John Herschel, Atkins learned of the photographic process then being invented.

Read More:womenshistorymagazine.com


{June 17, 2010}   The Forgotten Victorians

It’s usually modern art that aims to overturn preconceptions, but a new show of 19th century paintings delivers more shocks than Tracey Emin.

One revelation is embedded in the title — “Black Victorians: Black People in British Art 1800-1900.” The very concept of “black Victorians” may surprise.

There had, of course, been Africans in Britain long before Victoria ascended the throne in 1837, but in the 19th century they were a familiar sight — not that you’d know that from most accounts of the old Queen’s reign. Yet Victorian art depicted many black subjects — not only servants, but also soldiers, sailors, actors, musicians and pugilists. “I began to look more systematically and discovered hundreds [of these images],” Jan Marsh says. “It both reveals Victorian art as not as white as we imagine, but also Victorian society as not as white as we imagine”….

Of course, many black Victorians did still occupy subordinate positions. In Thomas Faed‘s Visit to the Village School (1852), set in Scotland, a local bigwig and his wife listen to the youngest students reading, while some of the older pupils taunt their young black servant.

Such story pictures were put together from studies of professional models. Jamaican-born Fanny Eaton often turns up in the background of biblical subjects, but later in the century black models appeared on the losing side in topical battle pictures. Prints like Lts Coghill and Melville Saving the Colours, Zulu War, 1879 (1882), after Adolphe Alphonse de Neuville, may look stagey to us, but even back then not everyone found them convincing. A critic commented: “[We see] the ordinary Parisian negro-models, reproduced in more or less warlike attitudes”….

For the most part, Victorian society was one in which most thought black people inferior. Yet Marsh observes: “Although Victorian society was racist through and through, this is not reflected in the art.”

Source: Time.com
Image source:   popculturepost.com   

During the surveying of prehistoric rock art at Carr Edge in Northumberland, on 30th October 2005, a previously unrecorded rock art panel was discovered by Yvonne Black, Ian Craig and Derek Gunby, members of Team 4 of the Rock Art Project of Northumberland and Durham.

The panel is an exposure of sandstone rock, 2 m x 1.2 m, upon which is carved a figure of a warrior. The figure holds a sword or spear in his right hand and a shield in his left. There is a sword or knife scabbard at his waist on his right side.

A second figure is located below and to the right of the first. This figure has an almost triangular body and has facial features of eyes and nose. There are several cup and groove marks on the rock and many peck marks.

A carving in the bottom left of the panel may suggest a third, hooded, figure but this requires further investigation. The panel is located on top of a natural mound. It was found close to another new sandstone panel which is carved with cup and groove marks. The mound is in an area of rough pasture with a small wood to the north. It is in an elevated position with a view towards Warden Hill.

Such is the complexity of the panel that it is difficult to ascertain if any of the carvings are contemporary. It is thought that the carvings could range in date from early Iron Age to Romano-British. However, the cup and groove marks may well be earlier than the figure carvings since these are of a more traditional indigenous form…..

Since Carr Edge is just as close in proximity to Warden Hill (Iron Age hill fort) as it is to Hadrian’s Wall the geographical location of the warrior figure does not necessarily suggest a Roman date of origin. However, the Stanegate (Roman road) runs between Warden Hill and Carr Edge, so there is an undeniable Roman presence in the area.

The second figure is probably female as it is comparable in form to carvings of the Romano-British triple goddess, examples of which may be seen at Housesteads and Bath. The carving at Bath has not been dated, but is assumed to be Roman. The Deae Matres or the Matronae (the three mother goddesses) together form a unity representing strength, power and fertility.

The origin of the ‘power of three’ dates to the Iron Age as triplism was prevalent in Celtic religion and the triskele was a recurring motif in Celtic art. Only one female figure is present on the Carr Edge panel but it may be that the carving was not completed. It could, of course, depict only one Celtic mother goddess – The Morrigan. The Morrigan is the unification of a triad of goddesses, Morrigan, Badb and Nemain. She is both fertile and destructive.

The potential hooded figure could represent a genii cucullati (guardian spirits with hooded cloaks). These are also known to represent the male triple god of fertility and frequently appear alongside the triple goddess in Celtic iconography. Both the genii cucullati and the Matronae are known to be protectors of springs and rivers. There is evidence to suggest that a spring once existed close to the figure panel at Carr Edge.

Souce: archaeologydataservice.ac.uk
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{April 18, 2010}   Pornography in Clay

New pornographic figurines from the Stone Age have been discovered in Germany. But researchers can’t agree on what the 7,000-year-old sculptures mean. Were our ancestors uninhibited sex fiends, or was reproduction strictly controlled to improve mobility? An increasing number of finds seem to indicate the Stone Age was an orgy of sexual imagination.

The project itself was far from extraordinary. Workers near the Eastern German city of Leipzig were digging a ditch for a new gas line. Hum drum. But what they discovered was far from routine. A backhoe unearthed a 7,200-year-old, Stone Age garbage pit — and it was filled with refuse from some of the first farmers on the European continent.

Moreover, upon rushing to the site, archeologists discovered an 8.2 centimeter (3.2 inches) clay torso buried underground. The legs, abdomen and head were missing, but, according to the lucky archeologists, the figure still had its most important features intact: a “well-shaped behind” and a “short, but impressive” penis…..

And the project is becoming ever more fascinating as archeologists continue uncovering additional fragments while sifting through the Stone Age garbage pit. One fragment, which extends from the left calf to the pelvis, appears to be part of a female statue; Adonis, apparently, had a girlfriend. In fact, in an article soon to be published in the journal Germania, Staeuble speculates on how the pieces could fit together. He writes that “there is strong evidence that this is a copulation scene.”

According to Staeuble, the fragments show that the man was standing with his pelvis at a slight angle. The woman in front of him was bent forward, almost at a 90-degree angle. Another indication that the two figures belong together is the fact that they are both made to the same scale — both figures were originally just under 30 centimeters (11.7 inches) tall.

The only depictions of sexual activity known until now were Greek paintings, but they were created more than 4,000 years later. Given this enormous difference in time, the Saxony find has created some confusion. Some believe it was a toy. Archäo, a professional journal, speculates that it may have been “chic” to display these types of sculptures in the “houses of the first farmers between the Saale and Elbe rivers.” Researchers speculate that the figure could also be evidence of a “fertility cult” — a theory that sounds as straightforward as it is vague.

Source:  Spiegel Online International

He may have come down from the trees, but prehistoric man did not stop swinging. New research into Stone Age humans has argued that, far from having intercourse simply to reproduce, they had sex for fun. Practices ranging from bondage to group sex, transvestism and the use of sex toys were widespread in primitive societies as a way of building up cultural ties.

According to the study, a 30,000-year-old statue of a naked woman – the Venus of Willendorf – and an equally ancient stone phallus found in a German cave, provide the earliest direct evidence that sex was about far more than babies. Timothy Taylor, reader in archeology at Bradford University, reviewed evidence from dozens of archeological finds and scientific studies for his research.

“The widespread lay belief that sex in the past was predominantly heterosexual and reproductive can be challenged,” said Taylor. He argues that monogamy only became established as hunter-gatherer societies took up agriculture and settled in houses, allowing the social roles of men and women to become more fixed. Experts believe research such as Taylor’s may help overturn false assumptions that sex for the purposes of reproduction is the form closest to nature.

Petra Boynton, a relationship counsellor and health lecturer at University College, London, found the study “refreshing”. “So much evolutionary theory promotes the idea that humans, particularly women, are preprogrammed for monogamy, but that is often simply overlaying science on a preexisting view of society,” she said.

Taylor, whose research is published by Haworth Press in the Handbook of the Evolution of Human Sexuality, says the human attitude to sex arose from the complex interaction of physical and mental development. By comparison with modern humans, who appeared about 300,000-100,000 years ago, apes have tiny male genitals, no female breasts and are hairy. But they are easily able to distinguish the sexes because males can weigh up to three times as much as females.

Humans, by contrast, are far less easy to distinguish by size. Taylor says that prominent male genitals and female breasts developed to aid recognition of the opposite sex in creatures of similar size and shape. The similarity in size, combined with the ease of face-to-face sex, allowed intercourse to become a vital part of social interaction, communication and inventiveness.

Source: The Sunday Times

The most famous early image of a human, a woman, is the so-called “Venus” of Willendorf, found in 1908 by the archaeologist Josef Szombathy in an Aurignacian loess deposit in a terrace about 30 meters above the Danube river near the town of Willendorf in Austria.

The earliest notice of its discovery appeared in a report by the Yale anthropologist George Grant MacCurdy (1863-1947) who happened to be in Vienna in the summer of 1908. Although the greater part of the collection of finds from the site had not yet been unpacked, MacCurdy reported excitedly that before he left Vienna Szombathy had very kindly shown him a single remarkable specimen – a human figurine, full length, carved out of stone.

The statuette, which measures about 11.1 centimeters in length, is now in Vienna’s Naturhistorisches Museum. It was carved from a fine porous oolitic limestone not found in the region and so must have been brought to the area from another location. It may well be the case that the carving, which was presumably done with flint tools, was not done locally.

When first discovered the Venus of Willendorf was thought to date to approximately 15,000 to 10,000 BCE, or more or less to the same period as the cave paintings at Lascaux in France.  In the 1970s the date was revised back to 25,000-20,000 BCE, and then in the 1980s it was revised again to c. 30,000-25,000 BCE. A study published in 1990 of the stratigraphic sequence of the nine superimposed archaeological layers comprising the Willendorf deposit, however, now indicates a date for the Venus of Willendorf of around 24,000-22,000 BCE.

Her great age and pronounced female forms quickly established the Venus of Willendorf as an icon of prehistoric art. She was soon included in introductory art history textbooks where she quickly displaced other previously used examples of Paleolithic art. Being both female and nude, she fitted perfectly into the patriarchal construction of the history of art. As the earliest known representation, she became the “first woman,” acquiring a sort of Ur-Eve identity that focused suitably, from a patriarchal point of view, on the fascinating reality of the female body.

Source: witcombe.sbc.edu/willendorf/

{August 17, 2009}   Britain’s first nude?

“But according to some of the UK’s leading experts on ice-age art, this highly stylised image, carefully engraved in a Derbyshire limestone cave 13,000 years ago, may be the earliest nude in the history of British art”

The drawing is part of a stunning haul of animals discovered last year in the Creswell Crags. Until the engravings came to light, Britain had no ice-age cave art.

Almost all of Europe’s late stone-age cave art comes from France, Iberia and Italy. Some archaeologists have claimed that the early northern Europeans were either prehistoric philistines or Britain’s climate eroded any traces of their art.

The Creswell Crags has changed that and become, along with the discovery of a 500,000-year-old Boxgrove Man in the mid 1990s, one of the most important finds in UK archaeology.

The story of the find began at an Oxford University dinner in late 2002 where two experts were debating the mystery of Britain’s missing Palaeolithic cave art.

At the table were Dr Paul Pettitt, a former Oxford research fellow in human evolution now based at Sheffield University, and Dr Paul Bahn, the independent archaeologist regarded as Britain’s top cave art expert.

Bahn had long puzzled over the missing art. During the ice age, Britain was connected to the rest of Europe and was periodically occupied by hunter gatherers. But while they left bones, tools and some portable art, they left no cave engravings or paintings”….

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

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