A particle of precious blue lapis lazuli is trapped in the fossilized dental plaque of a medieval woman.
Medieval woman artist unmasked by her teeth
Precious dust found in the mouth of a woman buried a thousand years ago opens a previously unknown window into the lives of female scribes.
In popular imagination, scribes and manuscript illuminators of the Middle Ages were men: Monks hard at work in candlelit scriptoria, busy copying the world’s knowledge onto parchment pages. “It’s always monks, monks, monks,” says Alison Beach, a historian at the Ohio State University. “When you imagine a medieval scribe, you picture a man.”
But a new discovery suggests that some of that work was done by women—and that female scribes and artists were highly skilled, highly regarded, and entrusted with some of the most expensive pigments available to 11th-century artists, according to a multidisciplinary team led by Christina Warinner, a paleogeneticist at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. The results of their study were