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Wagamaga OP t1_j8wbjkj wrote

The rare and unusual life of an anchoress, a woman who devoted her life to prayer while living in seclusion, has been unearthed by the University of Sheffield and Oxford Archaeology, thanks to a skeletal collection now held at the University.

Analysis of the collection, which includes a staggering 667 complete skeletons dated to the Roman, Medieval, and Civil War era, has revealed one in particular that is likely Lady Isabel German, an important anchoress - or type of religious hermit - who is documented to have lived at All Saints Church in Fishergate, York during the 15th century.

As an anchoress, Lady German would have chosen to live a life of seclusion. Living inside a single room of the church without direct human contact, she would have devoted herself to prayer and accepted charity to survive.

Skeleton SK3870 was discovered in 2007 during excavations at what was once All Saints Church on the site of the famous York Barbican. Not found in the cemetery alongside the others skeletons in the collection, this medieval woman was buried in a tightly crouched position within the apse of the church foundations, a small room located behind the altar.

Only clergy, or the very rich were buried inside churches at this time, so the new study suggests the location of this highly unusual burial makes SK3870 a prime candidate to be that of the All Saints’ anchoress, Lady German.

Dr Lauren McIntyre, University of Sheffield Alumna and Osteoarchaeologist at Oxford Archaeology Limited, conducted the analysis of the historical and osteoarchaeological evidence, which included using radiocarbon dating and isotopic investigation to examine skeleton SK3870.


conventionalWisdumb t1_j901x8s wrote

That’s really early in the timeline for syphilis in Europe isn’t it? Is it a known thing that the Colombian Exchange came east prior to Columbus? I know small pox reached the Americas prior due to fishermen, never thought syphilis would have hitched a ride on the trip back.


yohohoanabottleofrum t1_j92jtts wrote

Ok, your comment got me wondering as it seemed like if it was originally from the Americas, it would have been the first disease I'd hear about doing this. Here's an NIH article on the history....,arid%20climate)%20around%207000%20BC.


conventionalWisdumb t1_j92pdke wrote

Hmmm… …seems like the origins are still being debated. This hermit dig does seem to provide evidence of pre-Colombian syphilis in Europe but it’s still ambiguous whether the disease we know it as today came to Europe via the Americas. A similar finding from a century or two earlier would be more conclusive though one could still make the argument that Vikings could have brought it to Europe though that seems like a huge stretch considering the first recorded outbreak was in Naples in 1494/5. The European origin still has many plausible hypotheses between it being confused with leprosy and the possibility that the outbreak in Naples was from a mutation of a precursor. So yeah…. …who knows.


yohohoanabottleofrum t1_j93ly65 wrote

Super interesting. Especially the way it was blamed on out groups. I'd be interested to see if it's found on any pre Columbian corpses in the new world. Either way, it's an extremely interesting intersection of biology and sociology.


kptkrunch t1_j9070u8 wrote

Ah, you see the hypocrisy!? I show up after the funeral processions with a shovel and everyone's up in arms--some fancy college folk start their own "skeleton collection" from unearthed remains and we all nod in approval! At least I was gonna put 'em back


RabidBeaverLake t1_j8wevse wrote

That must have been some serious suffering. What a merciful god she had.


KnottaBiggins t1_j8xcdsk wrote

Probably why she spent her whole life wasted in prayer - wanting that god to cure her.

Thoughts and prayers...


FraseraSpeciosa t1_j8wzort wrote

It’s amazing, after all these years, people still fall for the logical fallacies she did. It’s sad more than anything. These kinds of people are trapping themselves.


billybobbobbyjoe t1_j91ka26 wrote

No offense but you have absolutely no clue about what would have been the best options for her back then. She was a doomed woman so how was she trapping herself if her actions granted her access to resources she otherwise wouldn't have had access too?


Penis_Envy_Peter t1_j8yto4t wrote

It's unfortunate, but not surprising, that people in a world of pain cling to outlandish ideas. You can even reach the conclusion that suffering is good, as the article suggests the subject did.


VoltaicSketchyTeapot t1_j916fbd wrote

>people still fall for the logical fallacies she did.

She didn't fall for a logical fallacy. With the information she had at the time (apparently this was very early for syphilis), she made the most logical decision for her life.

People today have the opportunity to understand more of the underlying science. They're different and we shouldn't insult this woman comparing her to current events.


CorporalOtter t1_j8zhe1y wrote

Believing in God or yearning to connect to something deeper is one thing. But it’s how we frame these urges that can lead to misguidedness.

If we keep an open mind, that’s one thing. But if we plant belief flags into our version of the ‘truth’, that’s when the concept of ‘being right’ starts to capsize.


teddy_002 t1_j8xxlnb wrote

believing in god doesn’t inherently mean you believe god has the power to affect your physical health.

it’s also sad when people perpetuate stereotypes about religion through ignorance.


FwibbFwibb t1_j8y4imc wrote

> it’s also sad when people perpetuate stereotypes about religion through ignorance.

What's really sad is when people perpetuate religion through ignorance.


teddy_002 t1_j8y6001 wrote

thank you for admitting you don’t know what you’re talking about! i have no problem with anyone disliking religion, just don’t spread misconceptions :)


FwibbFwibb t1_j8yajz5 wrote

> i have no problem with anyone disliking religion, just don’t spread misconceptions :)

I'm not. If you get 3 people who think a magic turtle created the universe, they are called crazy and ignored. Make it 1 billion people, and suddenly it is a religion and should be "respected".


teddy_002 t1_j8yc83i wrote

claiming someone inherently believes god causes illness because they are christian is in fact a misconception.


FiendishHawk t1_j8xj5oj wrote

I wonder if she assumed she had leprosy and that’s why she became an anchorite


mrdounut t1_j8zu83e wrote

That’s a really really good point, while it’s pure speculation thanks for sharing as it points out how easily we can interpret events that have happened centuries ago.


conventionalWisdumb t1_j9024vw wrote

This is crazy early for syphilis in Europe so yeah she had no clue, no one did in Europe at that time.


kellyasksthings t1_j8yilbf wrote

I read a historical novel once that had one character who was SA’d as a young girl and decided to become an anchorite both in penitence and self-protection - if you’re literally walled into a tiny room in a church then no one can get to you. Obviously that was all speculation, but I wonder how common it was?


Bekiala t1_j8zkrsg wrote

That is really an interesting idea. Being an anchorite would have given you food, protection, shelter and a bit of standing in the community.


HollywoodThrill t1_j8xagq5 wrote

"thanks God, I have VD. What's that? You want me to live the rest of my life in seclusion without contact with other humans? Sure, that tracks."


purchankruly t1_j91alx9 wrote

I see religion’s compassion hasn’t changed over the years.


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Fivethenoname t1_j928sj8 wrote

Why is this in this sub? It sucks how the sub names that have the most potential get trashed by pop culture


eatingganesha t1_j934y15 wrote

Anthropology is not pop culture. And archaeology is a science.