The Bone Gatherers: The Lost Worlds of Early Christian Women

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When Nicola Denzey leads tour groups into the Roman Catacombs, participants are struck by the splendor of the burial chambersmany of which were created by or for women. Yet until Denzey began her research for The Bone Gatherers, no one had ever drawn on this evidence to read into those womens lives.

The Bone Gatherers introduces us to these powerful women who, until recently, had been lost to historyfrom the sorrowing mothers and ghastly brides of pagan Rome to the child martyrs and women sponsors who shaped early Christianity. It was often only in death that ancient women became visiblethrough the buildings, burial sites, and art constructed in their memoryand Denzey uses this archaeological evidence, along with text records, to resurrect the lives of several fourth-century women.

Surprisingly, she finds that representations of aristocratic Roman Christian women show a shift in the value and significance of womanhood over the fourth century: once esteemed as powerful leaders or patrons, women came to be revered only as virgins or martyrsfigureheads for sexual purity. These depictions belie a power struggle between the sexes within early Christianityone that women lost, and one that has had long-lasting implications for the roles of women in the Church.

Written in a lively narrative style, The Bone Gatherers is pitched perfectly to both the interested general reader and to scholars. Denzeys expert placing of the funerary images of early Christian and pagan women into their social and cultural milieus, and her rich, well-researched iconographical reading of ancient imagery helps us to see the changing roles of womenboth Christian and paganduring the early centuries of Christian Rome. Ann Steinsapir, author of Rural Sanctuaries in Roman Syria: The Creation of a Sacred Landscape and education specialist at the J. Paul Getty Museum

Nicola Denzeys impeccable scholarship and intimate and vivid style of writing makes tangible and credible the power of the holy that was mediated by womenwomen saints and women patrons. The Bone Gatherers allows the reader to transcend both historical and scholarly distance to encounter the forgotten women who also shaped Christianity. Karen Jo Torjesen, author of When Women Were Priests: Women's Leadership in the Early Church and the Scandal of their Subordination in the Rise of Christianity

Nicola Denzey's lively, readable book opens up a fascinating, long hidden world of early Christian women. This fine work not only lets us into their world, but shows how it was kept hidden so long. Elaine Pagels, author of Beyond Belief and Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity

The Bone Gatherers resurrects the voices of long-forgotten, but significant women in ancient Rome, as Denzey attempts to restore their rightful place in history. Whether or not you're religious, it's a great feminist read. M.L. Madison, Feminist Review

Nicola Denzey is a lecturer in the study of religion at Harvard University. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Religions of Late Antiquity from Princeton and recently served as a faculty research associate in Harvard Divinity Schools Womens Studies in Religion Program.
 

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The bone gatherers: the lost worlds of early Christian women

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Through the narrow window of third- and fourth-century Rome, Denzey carefully explores the condition of Christian women of the time in relation to the developing Church. A scholar of late antiquity ... ҹԴ繩Ѻ

Death Takes a Bride
1
Proba and the Piglet
25
Waiting in the Afterlife
58
Praying with Prisca
89
Petronella Goes to Paradise
125
The Silent Virgin and the Pale Child
148
Pope Damasus Ear Tickler
176
TURTURAS VEIL
205
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
212
NOTES
216
BIBLIOGRAPHY
261
INDEX
273
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Nicola Denzey is a lecturer in the study of religion at Harvard University. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Religions of Late Antiquity from Princeton and recently served as a faculty research associate in Harvard Divinity School's Women's Studies in Religion Program.

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