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The Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology


Representaion of jewellery-bedecked female figureOutside of funerary portraits, evidence of real women in Egypt is remarkably scarce. Yet we know that they used many of the objects that have come down to us, notably containers, weaving and other tools (such as spindle whorls and loomweights), and jewellery, even the textiles they wove. Much more is known about Greek women, including their activities, attire, and even names, in part because of the wealth of images of them on Greek vases.

Women were usually married once they began to menstruate, and to older men (30 years of age was the average at Athens). The weddings rituals entailed ritual bathing, sacrifices, three days of processions, along with gift giving, and of course the giving away of the bride. Thereafter they were expected to remain in the female quarters of the house, the gynaikeion, along with young children and slaves, and perhaps other female relatives: at Athens they weren't even allowed to socialise with male friends visiting their homes! Their primary job was to produce and rear children; they would also oversee household organisation; poorer women would help in the fields. But in Greece, as in Egypt, the luxury of staying inside is reflected in the depiction of women with white skin on vase painting through the 6th c. BC. Although women were restricted in their movements, they played an active role in the religious life of the city, and were allowed to serve as priestesses, mourn, and attend religious festivals on occasion. It is perhaps because of their importance in religion, as well as life stages (birth, marriage, and death) that women are so well attested in Greek arts in the archaeological record.

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File last modified: 02 Aug 2012