“It’s time to develop a gender archeology: the finds tell us a lot about women’s past”

by time news

twelve o’clock, 10 March 2021 – 15:12

Interview with Professor Grazia Semeraro (Universit del Salento) who held a conference on the subject at the MarTa in Taranto on 8 March

of Francesco Mazzotta



Vasi, jewels and other splendid finds: the heritage of any museum guardian of ancient memories, but almost always declined in the masculine. Inevitable when you stop to observe only the surface of objects. If instead we replace the aesthetic approach with an anthropological vision, then we really discover a feminine past, says archaeologist Grazia Semeraro, full professor at the University of Salento, who on Monday 8 March told the other half of the story for a of the initiatives organized by the MarTa Museum of Taranto on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

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Ancient women in the MarTa collection

In short, an archeology with a gender perspective to better understand distant eras, turning the spotlight on stories of women in a world of men. Hidden female figures, of which – explains the teacher – we have many testimonies also in Puglia. One dating back to almost 28,000 years ago: Delia, the woman from Ostuni found in a terminal state of pregnancy. It reminds me of the Venuses of Parabita, one of the first artistic documents of prehistory to which the theme of motherhood is linked, so at the center of archaic societies, says the Salento scholar.
And if we look at the Magna Graecia period?
I think of the dancers of Ruvo di Puglia, of the women who wore the splendid golds kept at the MarTa, of the Canosine princess Opaka Sabaleisa, whose trousseau also kept in the Museum of Taranto, or of the poetess Nosside, a follower of Sappho, valued only last twenty years on the wave of gender studies.
Hidden women of the Roman age?
Many, and some even very rich, unlike the Greeks. Calvia Cristinilla, for example, was a large landowner. He also owned huge estates in the territory of Taranto, during the period of Nero. In the Brindisi area there was Mummy Laenilla. Furthermore, recent excavations in Rudiae conducted by Francesco D’Andria have revealed that the resources for the construction of the local amphitheater were allocated by the daughter of a Roman senator, Otacilia Secundilla. Maybe one day we discover that another woman inspired the construction of the Taranto amphitheater, a treasure to be brought to light.
The female character that struck you the most?
Also at the MarTa, a beautiful woman depicted on a vase. Wearing a purple-red cloak woven with gold threads, she sees the world from the window of the house in which she is locked up, the victim of a patriarchal society.
Since then, great strides have been made.
But there is still a lot to do. I wonder why, when you go up the hierarchical ladder, the equality between the sexes begins to waver until it disappears completely.
What is the situation in Italian universities?
Well, there are seven directors out of eighty. But even when it comes to teaching, we are below 25 percent. In my department at the University of Salento, I am the only woman out of eight full professors. Yet, when we study the history of humanity from a genetic point of view, the technique we use is based on mitochondrial DNA, therefore on matrilinearity. Really paradoxical.
Beatrice Venezi prefers to be defined as conductor, not conductor of the orchestra.
Better our Carolina Bubbico, who called herself director at the Sanremo Festival. Naturally Venezi is free to do what she wants, but she proves to be the victim of a system that has established top roles for men. I confess that in the past I too made the same mistake, signing myself “professor”. And I was wrong. Because the substance forms.

March 10, 2021 | 15:12

© Time.News


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