Crystals with precious stones found in the teeth of the 11th century nuns highlight the role of women in the creation of medieval religious texts


The unintentional discovery of microscopic crystals of rare and precious Middle East stone embedded in the 11th century German nun teeth has created a new light on the role of women in the painting of medieval religious texts traditionally assumed to be predominant. Men's monks.

The most likely explanation, according to a new scientific article, is that this woman painter who used a beautiful blue dye that came into her mouth when she brushed her brush with her lips in a fine spot.

"It looked almost like robber's eggs," said Christina Warinner of the Department of Archeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Human History. She recalled the discovery of blue stains in her tooth with her colleague, while both studied other aspects of the remnants, such as diet and illness. The teeth are part of 150 skeletons, both male and female, excavated in 1989 during the reconstruction of the medieval monastery in Germany, which was for most of men's history, but was originally a female municipality between about 1000 and 2000 years old. probably inhabited by rich, educated, literate, religious women.

Later she suffered two plagues and the consequences of the fighting, which caused catastrophic fire and dispersal, even the murder of women.

An enlarged view of the particles of the lapis lazuli embedded in the dental account of a medieval woman.

Monica Tromp

After consulting with physics, Warinner learned that there are two minerals present in stains that are present only in the lapel lapel, a stone that they only dig in part of northern Afghanistan, and a classic example of luxury in medieval Europe and Asia. She was valued for her rich blue color and was often processed into a dyestuff, called ultramarine, which was used in luxurious gospels and prayer books that were handmade in European monasteries.

Crystals of lapis lazuli have been stored in this woman's plaque, "sticky bacterial biofilm" that has accumulated on the teeth and can catch particles of everything in the mouth, from food starch to plant pollen. If we do not remove it as in modern dentistry, we will calcify it in a plaque, which is the only part of the human body that literally fossils in life, said Warinner.

Another alternative theory of painting is that she was not involved in the making of manuscripts, but that she "performed an emotionally devotional oscillation of illuminated books that were created by others" in accordance with the new Warinner document and colleagues. In other words, she may have kissed books, although this theory is less supported, authors conclude.

Only skippers and painters of exceptional skill would be able to use them

As the lazuli lapel came to a religious community in northwestern Europe, the story of trade and the empire, which probably includes traders with precious stones in the Middle East, paint manufacturers in the main center, such as Alexandria in Egypt, and Venetian traders who sprayed ultramarine coloring throughout Europe.

This nun, whoever it was, "was connected to an extensive global trading network stretching from the Afghan mines to its community in medieval Germany, through the commercial cities of Islamic Egypt and the Byzantine Constantinople. The rising economy of Europe from the 11th century demanded a valuable and excellent pigment that transported thousands of miles through a merchant carriage and ships to serve the creative ambition of this woman, "said co-author Michael McCormick of Harvard University.

A study of the skeletal remains of nuns shows that she was 45 to 60 years old when she died without obvious trauma or signs of illness.

A page from the Beatus manuscript around 1180.

Metropolitan Museum of Art through AP

Warinner said that the study of the social context of medieval German monasteries shows that a woman is probably what the anthropologist called "the top end of the social ladder" from a family that she could afford in such a community.

She probably was also a painter of some knowledge and authority that was entrusted with such valuable materials that would normally be provided by the one who ordered the religious text that was painted.

"As part of medieval art, the use of ultra-pure ultramarine in illuminated parts was limited to luxury books of great value and significance, and only writers and painters of exceptional abilities would be entrusted with the use," wrote the paper in Science Advances.

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