Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Defining Beauty

Lots of women through out history have dealt with the issue of their looks. They want to feel beautiful and will try many things to achieve it. Today is far from uncommon for women to have surgeries that "fix" or change their bodies. Physical change, though, is not only found in this age of first world countries, it has been through out the world and history itself.

World Record Holder
One of the most well known forms of body modification is the corset. While few use it to the extremes of centuries past, they are still around. Women wore them to narrow their waist as much as possible. The garment was made of cloth and bone (later metal) and changed the waist by forcing the organs down and the ribs in and up. Books written in the time this was common often had women who boasted that their husbands could wrap both hands around their waists- and they were not exaggerating. There is a woman alive today, Cathie Jung, who, with the help of corsets, has narrowed her waist to 15in as confirmed by Guiness.

Women from Surma, Africa used to (and some still do) fit their lower lips with plates. Around twelve, when they hit puberty, they would have their lower teeth removed and a their lower lip cut and a plate inserted. As the years went by, they used bigger and bigger plates. This was because when they were to be married, their families could charge a greater bride price in cattle for a larger lip plate. In recent years girls have begun to refuse the plates though some men in their area say they will never marry a plateless woman.

In Padaung, women fit their necks, wrists, and ankles with metal rings that give them the appearance of being stretched. The rings push down the shoulders and lift the chin. These rings begin to be added at the age of 2-5 and one is added each year. By the time the women are in their twenties, they can no longer hold their heads upright without the rings or someone holding their head. To remove the rings without someone holding their head would mean that they would choke to death. Today women still do this because it brings tourists with money, its beginnings were much different. Wars in the region left many tribes without women, as their enemies would kidnap and/or rape them. To protect the women, they decided to make them ugly to every one but their own tribe and thus used the rings.

Lotus Shoes
Something that few people know about, though, was the Lotus feet from China. Girls between 4 and 7 would soak their feet in water and then clip the nails off. Next, their mothers would massage the feet and brake all but the big toe. The foot would then be bound tightly and placed in the shoe. It was very painful and caused girls to be unable to run and play like most. It began in the upper classes and spread through the lower.

Lotus Bound Foot
While it might sound cruel to do this to a child, it was often the only way for a woman to marry well. Families looking for wives for their sons would specify that they wanted a woman who had feet 3in or less in length. Binding their daughters feet, while keeping them from running and dancing, assured that they would marry into wealthy families. Bound feet were believed beautiful because they caused a slow walk with a sway that men found attractive. It was outlawed in 1912 but still practiced in secret. This is a webpage that tells how these women have lived since the practice was stopped.

Also, so that you know, the picture below is of a lotus foot. Those are not fingers holding the bottom of the foot, those are her toes.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Remains of Pompeii- Part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Amongst the other remains of Pompeii, preserved food was discovered. Whole meals left on the family table, the beginnings of dinner in the kitchen, and carts full of wares. Loaves of bread were found still bearing the marks of the bakers who made them (Albentiis 117). Such allowed archaeologists to see what was in the everyday diets of people living in Pompeii. Abundances of one item and scarcity of another would be shown through the storerooms full of things stored for the future. Though they did not know it, the people of Pompeii set up stores that would impact more than just their own world.

Much has been learned from what is left of Pompeii. How people lived, what they wore, and what they ate in this city gives a window into all of Rome. Not only that, but what has been found is not all that is yet to be discovered. As of the year 2000, only 66 acres of the recorded 163 acre city had been excavated (Sonneborn 65). That leaves around forty percent of Pompeii still unseen. What important discoveries will still be made in Pompeii in the years to come?

Works Cited

Albentiis, Amidio de. Secrets of Pompeii: Everyday Life in Ancient Rome. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum. Hardcover.
Beard, Mary. The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008. Hardcover.
"The Destruction of Pompeii, 79 AD," EyeWitness to History, http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/  (1999). April 24, 2013.
Dwyer, Eugene. Pompeii's Living Statues: Ancient Roman Live Stolen from Death. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. Hardcover.
History.com. A&E Television Network, LLC, 1996-2013. http://www.history.com/topics/pompeii. April 24, 2013.
Sonneborn, Liz. Pompeii: Unearthing Ancient Worlds. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2008. Hardcover.

Written by Rebekah Gyger

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Remains of Pompeii- Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

Considering the importance of wine to the people of Pompeii, it being made from the the numerous vineyards that had covered the mountain side, it is not surprising that evidence of Bacchians was found in Pompeii. Bacchus was the god of theater, wine, and revelry. A fresco in the House of the Centenary was found depicting Bacchus, dressed in grapes, standing beside Mount Vesuvius. Another fresco in the Villa of Mysteries showed the phases of an initiation right into the cult. Oddly, no temple to Bacchus has been found in Pompeii, however, that may be due to worship of Bacchus being prohibited in 186 B. C. by the Roman Senate (Albentiis 50-55). Full of wine and “revelry”, Bacchanalians were festivals held by Bacchians which often became disorderly and frightened citizens not involved in the cult, which caused the laws against them.

Throughout the city of Pompeii are found the physical remains of the people who lived there. Bones of both man and animal were excavated from homes, temples, places of business, and the streets. At first, bones were simply removed from the ashes and moved to other areas to be studied. Once moved, the bones might be relaid in order to reenact the discoveries for visitors (Beard 5). This left little evidence as to clothing and status of the individuals, other than what could be deduced by the bones. Clothing and hair prints could be found in the hardened ash, but most was destroyed in the excavation of the remains. Perhaps one of the most exciting finds was the preserved breast of a woman in the Villa of Diomedes. It was the first body part found, other than a bone, that has been successfully removed from the city ruins (Beard 6).

Though plaster had been available for a while before, it was not used to create casts of Pompeii's victims until 1863. Giuseppe Fiorelli was the one who decided to use the plaster, and ever since it has helped with the further study of the people of Pompeii (Dwyer 1). Plaster casts have allowed archaeologists to view the complete forms of Pompeians in their last moments. It had permitted more detailed study of garments and status as they could be removed from the sites more readily.

With the help of the plaster casts, archaeologists have been able to study the types of clothing worn in Pompeii at the time Mount Vesuvius erupted. Imprints reveal weaves and textures that give a hint as to styles of that time and the technology used to make them. Discovering whether someone had worn wool or linen could also help archaeologists determine what class this person belonged to and their level of wealth. Further study of the Villa of Diomedes revealed the skeletons of eighteen individuals and the garments they wore. La Vega, the excavator, was able to deduce that one was a women of means based on the quality of her clothing. Along side her were those that La Vega hypothesized were slaves as they had no shoes to speak of (Dwyer 9,10).

To be Continued...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Remains of Pompeii- Part 2

Read the first installment here.

Herculaneum was the first of the two cities to be excavated. Under Charles of Bourbon, later King Charles III of Spain, Colonel Rocque Joachin de Alcubierre was assigned to find artifacts remaining from the city in Resina. The first remains were found by a farmer in his field in 1738. Alcubierre dug tunnels in the hard soil of Herculaneum, searching for and removing any remains that Charles would like for his collection of artifacts. As a military engineer, Alcubierre had no idea where to look or how to go about it. Often he would search at random and take only what he believed the best, covering back up the rest. He cared little for the buildings and frescoes found, only the objects that could be displayed elsewhere (Sonneborn 9, 13, 17).

In 1748, Alcubierre heard of marble statues found within a collapsed field in La Civit√°. Alcubierre was not the one to find anything of significance at La Civt√°, however. After a nearly fruitless search he abandoned the site, only to have his assistant, Karl Jakob Weber, find the true break through in 1755. Still, neither realized it was Pompeii that had been discovered until 1763, when the words “Res Publica Pompeianorum” were found on a wall. The words were the official Roman title for Pompeii (Sonneborn 24, 25, 39).

Weber began open air excavations, allowing his men to work faster. Where before this was impossible, in the loose soil of Pompeii, it was far easier. The plan Weber used was to follow any streets in order to hopefully discover more buildings. While the method found little, it did reveal more area than others. He began to uncover whole blocks of homes and paved streets. To those searching for treasure to display, these were disappointments. However, from an anthropological stand point, even these were significant. Buildings uncovered were found to have advertisements painted on them for things ranging from political offices to rooms for rent (Sonneborn 39-42). Such findings allowed a view into the lives of the past.

Advertisements were not the only things found on the walls of homes in Pompeii. Photographs taken by Alfredo and Pio Foglia show murals decorating many a villa and place of business. Preserved by the ash of Mount Vesuvius, these murals were found in nearly perfect condition, most bearing little to no wear. The still vibrant colors reveal the amount of skill Pompeii artists had developed, as well as what was most important to those who lived in the city. Images of Roman gods, theaters, and everyday items were among the numerous findings (Albentiis 91, 110).

Statues were found abundantly in the city of Pompeii. Statues of gladiators and Caesars, gods and goddess abounded. One find of Weber's was that of a small statue of the goddess Diana. This statue was found with its original paint still intact (Sonneborn 51). Other finds were a faun in the House of the Faun and a bronze figure of Apollo used as a lamp stand in the House of Julius Polybius (Albentiis 46, 170).

To be Continued....

Part 3