Reassessing the Presence of Women at Humayma in a Regional Context Across the Nabataean and Roman Cultures

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Bouchard, Laurence
Humanities and Religion , Ancient History , Material Culture , Classical Archaeology , Near Eastern Archaeology , History and Philosophy
First recognized by scholars as an important area of study in the 1970s, research on the female presence and experience in antiquity has grown to become a major area of scholarship in classical studies and archaeology. However, notwithstanding this important rise in popularity, delving into questions of gender and inquiries pertaining to the life of ancient women remains to this day a laborious enterprise due to the androcentric nature of the field. Academics have indeed long slighted the subject of antique females altogether, limiting their mention of a feminine presence to heavily stereotyped mythological or literary characters and to a few, often controversial, historical figures. Moreover, as the surviving written accounts mostly recall the point of view of the Greek and Roman elite, the study of gender and women’s presence in antiquity also remained for the longest time confined to the Greek and Roman states, thus leaving aside any other ancient civilization. Over the last two decades, this prejudiced literary-based view started to be challenged by members of the scholarly community who turned to the analysis of material culture to fill in those historical and regional lacunae. In an attempt to further this line of inquiry, this research paper will address how the presence of ancient women can be substantiated by the material evidence uncovered in archaeological contexts using examples from the site of Humayma, an antique desert settlement in southern Jordan that witnessed and thrived through a large spectrum of occupation. Focusing on the material record associated with the Nabataean and Roman cultures uncovered at the site while also taking into account relevant finds from other similar contexts, this research paper will offer an overview of the ways in which inscriptional, skeletal and artefactual evidence can attest to the presence of ancient females in an antique Near Eastern settlement. More specifically, several types of written documents, inscriptions, epitaphs, graffiti, skeletal remains, grave goods, as well as different categories of artefacts associated with a feminine presence will be discussed in order to offer a more holistic approach to the analysis of women’s presence at the site of Humayma, thereby shining a light on the female experience in the ancient Near East.
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