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Married Women In Ancient Egypt Were Protected By Prenups

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Compared to other classical societies, women in ancient Egypt had a good amount of legal status and protections. Sure, they generally didn't work and their status was generally determined by their father or husband, but even single women could own property in their own name, enter into contracts, sue and be sued, and serve on juries and as witnesses. Compare that to ancient Greece, where women had no legal identity and could not own property, according to Janet H. Johnson, an Egyptologist with the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute.

While Egyptian women has legal protections, social realities meant that these things weren't actually always equal in practice; one papyrus from 1147 BCE in the Brooklyn Museum's collection lists about 10 percent female land owners among thousands. But the option for legal recourse was always there. And one way women used their legal standing was to demand prenuptial agreements to protect their economic standing in the event of a divorce. 

There was no legal or even religious ceremony that accompanied marriage in ancient Egypt. A couple lived together and established a family and this way they were "married," but they did not sign anything vowing personal affection or fidelity. Instead some had marriage contracts that dealt strictly with the finances of the wife and husband. They were, for all intents and purposes, prenups that bound a man to certain annual provisions for his wife and children, both during marriage and, in the event of divorce, after, if the man initiated the separation. In ancient Egypt, either party could be at fault for the divorce if they were unfaithful, and in those circumstances, the cheating party would forfeit their half of the couple's joint property.

Atlas Obscura highlights papyri from different eras that provide evidence of these prenups. One 2480-year-old, 8-foot-long scroll in the Oriental Institute collection, written in demotic—a later form of hieroglyphic shorthand—includes detailed post-divorce provisions for the wife, including "1.2 pieces of silver and 36 bags of grain every year for the rest of her life," says Emily Teeter, an Egyptologist at the Institute. Another lists all the property the wife brought into the marriage and includes a promise from the husband that it would be returned to her if they divorced.

These legal protections for women in ancient Egypt certainly didn't make the Nile basin a feminist haven, but the relative legal status they enjoyed stands in stark contrast to how women were treated in many cultures in antiquity.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Scientists Discover a Mysterious Void in the Great Pyramid of Giza
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The Great Pyramid of Giza, the largest in all of Egypt, was built more than 4500 years ago as the final resting place of the 4th Dynasty pharaoh Khufu (a.k.a. Cheops), who reigned from 2509 to 2483 BCE. Modern Egyptologists have been excavating and studying it for more than a century, but it's still full of mysteries that have yet to be fully solved. The latest discovery, detailed in a new paper in the journal Nature, reveals a hidden void located with the help of particle physics. This is the first time a new inner structure has been located in the pyramid since the 19th century.

The ScanPyramids project, an international endeavor launched in 2015, has been using noninvasive scanning technology like laser imaging to understand Egypt's Old Kingdom pyramids. This discovery was made using muon tomography, a technique that generates 3D images from muons, a by-product of cosmic rays that can pass through stone better than similar technology based on x-rays, like CT scans. (Muon tomography is currently used to scan shipping containers for smuggled goods and image nuclear reactor cores.)

The ScanPyramids team works inside Khufu's Pyramid
ScanPyramids

The newly discovered void is at least 100 feet long and bears a structural resemblance to the section directly below it: the pyramid's Grand Gallery, a long, 26-foot-high inner area of the pyramid that feels like a "very big cathedral at the center of the monument," as engineer and ScanPyramids co-founder Mehdi Tayoubi said in a press briefing. Its size and shape were confirmed by three different muon tomography techniques.

They aren't sure what it would have been used for yet or why it exists, or even if it's one structure or multiple structures together. It could be a horizontal structure, or it could have an incline. In short, there's a lot more to learn about it.

In the past few years, technology has allowed researchers to access parts of the Great Pyramid never seen before. Several robots sent into the tunnels since the '90s have brought back images of previously unseen areas. Almost immediately after starting to examine the Great Pyramid with thermal imaging in 2015, the researchers discovered that some of the limestone structure was hotter than other parts, indicating internal air currents moving through hidden chambers. In 2016, muon imaging indicated that there was at least one previously unknown void near the north face of Khufu's pyramid, though the researchers couldn't identify where exactly it was or what it looked like. Now, we know its basic structure.

A rendering shows internal chambers within the Great Pyramid and the approximate structure of the newly discovered void.
ScanPyramids

"These results constitute a breakthrough for the understanding of Khufu's Pyramid and its internal structure," the ScanPyramids team writes in Nature. "While there is currently no information about the role of this void, these findings show how modern particle physics can shed new light on the world's archaeological heritage."

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For the First Time in 40 Years, Rome's Colosseum Will Open Its Top Floor to the Public
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The Colosseum’s nosebleed seats likely didn’t provide plebeians with great views of gladiatorial contests and other garish spectacles. But starting in November, they’ll give modern-day tourists a bird's-eye look at one of the world’s most famous ancient wonders, according to The Telegraph.

The tiered amphitheater’s fifth and final level will be opened up to visitors for the first time in several decades, following a multi-year effort to clean, strengthen, and restore the crumbling attraction. Tour guides will lead groups of up to 25 people to the stadium’s far-flung reaches, and through a connecting corridor that’s never been opened to the public. (It contains the vestiges of six Roman toilets, according to The Local.) At the summit, which hovers around 130 feet above the gladiator pit below, tourists will get a rare glimpse at the stadium’s sloping galleries, and of the nearby Forum and Palatine Hill.

In ancient Rome, the Colosseum’s best seats were marble benches that lined the amphitheater’s bottom level. These were reserved for senators, emperors, and other important parties. Imperial functionaries occupied the second level, followed by middle-class spectators, who sat behind them. Traders, merchants, and shopkeepers enjoyed the show from the fourth row, and the very top reaches were left to commoners, who had to clamber over steep stairs and through dark tunnels to reach their sky-high perches.

Beginning November 1, 2017, visitors will be able to book guided trips to the Colosseum’s top levels. Reservations are required, and the tour will cost around $11, on top of the normal $14 admission cost. (Gladiator fights, thankfully, are not included.)

[h/t The Telegraph]

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