Browsing by Author "Berg, Ria"

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  • Berg, Ria (2010)
    The subject of the study is the classical Latin concept 'mundus muliebris', usually translated simply as women’s toiletry items. The task of the research is, on one hand, to find a more accurate and comprehensive literary definition for the concept as used in the early Imperial period, and on the other, to examine whether it is possible to find corresponding groupings of material objects among the finds from Pompeian houses destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The study is based on two different bodies of evidence, literary and material, and consequently uses two independent methods of research. In the philological part of the study, all occurrences of the concept 'mundus muliebris' in classical Latin texts were identified and analysed in their proper literary context, paying special attention to information about the nature of the objects included (name, owner, quantity, value, location in the house). On the basis of this analysis, mirrors were chosen as the key elements of the archaeological research, being ̶ hypothetically ̶ the most probable objects to be found among any extant 'mundus muliebris' contexts in Pompeian houses. In the archaeological part of the study, all mirrors deposited in the Archaeological Storerooms of Pompeii, mostly unpublished, were examined, together with their original find contexts. For more detailed documentation, classification, as well as quantitative and functional analysis, the fifty-nine best preserved household or shop contexts were chosen. Among these contexts, only a few ‘ideal’ groups closely corresponding to the literary definitions were found. However, in most cases a functional artifact pattern of toiletry items could indeed be found grouped together with the mirror. The arrangement of the contexts in the domestic space also revealed a clear pattern. Firstly, the contexts consistently seem to be found in the place of storage, inside locked boxes, not in the place of use. Secondly, they show that for the storage of such objects small closed rooms flanking the main entrance of the house were preferred. Culturally, 'mundus muliebris' can be described as a very complex multi-layered concept intimately interrelated with the female gender, an instrument of its bodily creation and a symbol of its nature. Concretely, it has at its core mirrors and instruments for the care of skin and hair, and includes, in more technical definitions, washing equipment as well. In the Roman domus, lacking specific women’s quarters, this box containing toiletries and other personal objects could be defined as the true, although mobile, private space of the household’s female members.