Archaeology and Women
“Digging Up Women” is the title of a new article posted at The Bible and Interpretation. Elizabeth McNamer provides some insight into the daily life of women using biblical texts and archaeological finds from Bethsaida. She writes:
Most of the artifacts found at Bethsaida are in the domain of women: loom weights, ovens, cooking pots, jugs, juglets, grinders, flourmills, fish plates, olive bowls, pruning hooks, oil lamps, water jugs, jewels, wine jars (and cellars), needles, ungent jars, eating utensils.
Clothes were made of linen and wool. Making wool was a time-consuming task. It involved sheering the sheep, sorting and grading, spinning the yarn, and dying the wool, setting up the loom to make the fabric and then making it into clothing. Spinning was mandated by the Talmud (even rich women were required to spin). So many linen spores have been found at Bethsaida that we think there may have been a linen factory there. (It was required for sailing boats and for shrouds for the dead among other things). To clothe a family of six would have required about three hours a day of labor (and taking the Sabbath off). If she produced more than her family required, there were local markets and fairs at which the surplus could be sold.
The article provides some of the “other side” of the story, for archaeology is often most concerned with fortifications, palaces, and other discoveries built and destroyed by men.