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Tomb of the Tattooed Sorceress Queen, The Lady of Cao

Tomb of the Tattooed Sorceress Queen, The Lady of Cao


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The day had been spent in ritual battles, and a group of individuals who were vanquished, naked, and tied-together were marched up the long stairs to the top platform of the great pyramid where there they were killed, throats cut, sacrificed to their supreme deity. A great silver goblet, the mark of a ruler in Moche society, was used to collect the blood and then the blood was consumed by the priestess-queen and the circle was completed, for life feeds on life, and this seems to have been a fundamental cultural concept for the violent, passionate Moche society.

This ritual is depicted on the walls of the Moche temples and while not a great deal is known about this enigmatic pre-Incan culture, what we do know from their wall paintings and reliefs as well as their exquisitely executed pottery is that these people lived life as voraciously as they embraced death. They celebrated nature, engaged in sexual acts, violence, birth, and death with great aplomb, accepting and celebrating the balance and duality of the world.

When archaeologists first began to discover these images of Moche life painted on their tomb walls and moulded in their pottery, they thought that the depictions were so horrific surely they could not be real – the pictures must be some sort of metaphorical representation of cosmic events, and certainly no culture could really have powerful blood-drinking priestess mystics who ruled such a society. Surely, people so violent and literally blood-thirsty must be ruled by men?

Rich tombs had been excavated from the Moche culture but one of the most famous was the tomb of the Lord of Sipan, discovered in 1987. Based on the findings in his tomb it was of course assumed that this was a male controlled society, but the tombs of the Moche had many surprises yet to come and the first was the tattooed mummy of El Brujo in 2006.

On the beautiful northern coastline of Peru overlooking the blue Pacific, the place known as Huaca El Brujo (Sacred place of the Wizard) gives us an incredible glimpse into the culture of the Moche and the ‘Wizard’ buried there. Its two main pyramids, Huaca del Sol and the Huaca de la Luna, were once the centre of social and religious functions in the area and the final resting place of the tattooed mummy, who has come to be known as the Lady of Cao. Not an elderly woman, she died in her mid-twenties about fifteen hundred years ago, probably as a complication of childbirth.

The Moche did not mummify their dead purposefully, but the conditions for desiccation just happened to preserve the Lady of Cao and by doing so also preserved her intricate tattoos. Although it is not believed that the more common members of Moche society were tattooed it could certainly be inferred from this burial that the highest status members were, and the tattoos probably represented and strengthened the individuals connection with the divine through sympathetic magic. If you want the strength of the tiger get a tattoo of a tiger…this thought process has not changed since the beginning of the art form and it continues today.

The Lady of Cao’s tattoos included serpents, crabs and spiders – all animals associated with the Moche pantheon of divine creatures – and their presence further linked her to the world of the supernatural and probably increased her perceived power among her people; the divine literally lived in her skin. Since most Moche burials are not preserved like the Lady of Cao we will never know for certain if all the elite were tattooed, but pottery portrait jugs suggest that they may have been.

The surprise discovery of the tattooed female in the Hill of the Wizard certainly caused archaeologists to have to reconsider their male-centric model of the Moche political structure and I am sure they would have eventually come to consider her an anomalous female ruler like Hatshepsut, Boudicca, Makeda, Cleopatra, or Penthesilea. But the subsequent discoveries of eight more Moche Queens have made it quite clear that this was not a male ruled society . It appears that Moche society was based on loosely aligned ‘states’ ruled by high priest kings or priestess queens and that the division of government was of a more balanced nature. Most of these discoveries have been within the past decade and I truly believe if they had been turn-of-the-century discoveries the women in these tombs would have been remembered in history as ‘wives, regents or concubines’, not the rulers that they were. I think one of the greatest hidden mysteries of our past is that our societies have not always been male dominated as we have been led to believe, and hopefully more objective archaeology in the future will tell us more.

Several years ago, when I first read of the discovery of the tattooed mummy and her fabulous riches I was immediately struck by the statement in the article that they were confused as to who she might be. I thought, she is buried in the Sacred Place of the Wizard…she is the wizard, the sorceress. I guess if it had been called the Place of the Secretary there would have been no confusion.

By Margaret Moose

References

Mystery of the Tattooed Mummy, An ornately tattooed 1,600-year-old mummy unearthed in Peru could be a warrior queen of the violent Moche people. By A. R. Williams National Geographic

Unearthed Peruvian tomb confirms that women ruled over brutal ancient culture By Scott Sutherland August 26, 2013 12:00 PM Geekquinox

Tomb of a Powerful Moche Priestess-Queen Found in Peru Discovery helps change ideas about the roles of elite women in Moche society. A. Williams National Geographic Aug 8 2013

Remarkable Tattooed Mummy Brought Back To Life In Stunning Realistic Recreation: https://allthatsinteresting.com/senora-of-cao-recreation

Tattooed mummy, baptized the Lady of Cao, discovered in Peru
May 16, 2006. Source: MSN News, AP, National Geographic

Andean Androgyny and the Making of Men CAROLYN DEAN

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA CRUZ Gender in Pre-Hispanic America Published by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection Washington, D.C. www.doaks.org/etexts.html Cecelia F. Klein, Editor Jeffrey Quilter, General Editor

Moche mummy likely a ruler or warrior princess By John Noble Wilford
NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE May 17, 2006


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Mighty Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes Tribe and Friend to Rome

Cartimandua was Queen of the Brigantes tribe, which occupied the region known today as northern England, said to be the largest tribe on the British Isles. When the Romans under the emperor Claudius invaded Britain in A.D. 43, the Brigantes tribe became a client kingdom of Rome, whose loyalty to the empire ensured its autonomy.

In A.D. 57, a quarrel arose between Cartimandua and her consort, Venutius. This resulted in a civil war when Venutius, angered by the capture of his brothers and relatives by Cartimandua, invaded her territory. The Romans decided to interfere by sending military aid, first auxiliaries, and then a legion, to their client. As a result, Cartimandua was able to secure her throne, and it seemed that the queen and Venutius were reconciled for the time being.

However in A.D. 69, Roman emperor Nero died and the Roman Empire was plunged into chaos. The time was ripe for Venutius to settle old scores, and Cartimandua had to act swiftly. Venutius led a revolt against Cartimandua. Once again, Cartimandua sought the Romans for help. This time, however, the Romans could only afford to send auxiliaries, as the legions were busy fighting in other part of the empire. Although she lost her throne, Cartimandua managed to flee to the Roman fort at Deva (modern day Chester). From that point on, the once mighty queen simply vanished from the historical records, her fate unknown.


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Ten Powerful and Fearsome Women of the Ancient World

Via ancient-origins.net by Joanna Gillan

A quick perusal of the Forbes ‘World’s Most Powerful Women’ list for 2017, will reveal female politicians, heads of industry and billionaire philanthopists at the top of the list. The likes of Angela Merkel, Theresa May and Melinda Gates top the list for the influence their actions have on the modern world. However, when it comes to the Forbes 2018 Worlds Most Powerful People list, there are only 3 women in the top 50 positions. In a similar vein, in most civilizations of the past, it was mainly the men who were engaged in the bloody business of winning power through war… but not always. There have been female figures throughout history who held powerful roles or played significantly influencial parts too. Throughout history there have been many powerful women who have led nations or guided armies into war, renowned not only as fearsome fighters, but also as cunning strategists and inspirational leaders. There were others who made a name for themselves in a domain traditionally held by men and whose stories, carried forward over the centuries, continue to be told today.

Throughout history, Vietnamese women have been instrumental in resisting foreign domination. The most well-known of these heroines are the Trung sisters, who led the first national uprising against their Chinese conquerors in 40 AD.

Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị were born sometime around the year 12 AD to a powerful lord in Giao Chỉ province. During the era in which the sisters were born, all of Vietnam was under the control of the Chinese Han Dynasty. The Trung sisters grew up in a household where they studied the art of warfare, learned fighting skills, and were well-versed in martial arts. In 39 AD, the Trung sisters took a revolutionary path to oppose the Han Dynasty’s oppressive rule. They rallied supporters – many of whom were women – to fight against the Chinese. The sisters rode into battle upon the backs of elephants, and within a few months their forces overtook more than 65 citadels from Chinese control.

For more than three years, the Chinese fought to retake control of Vietnam, but the Trung sisters’ forces fought them off and retained control until 43 AD, when they were eventually overcome. Rather than accept defeat at the hands of the Chinese, the sisters committed suicide. Their courageous spirit has served as an inspiration to the people of Vietnam for nearly two thousand years and their legacy remains firmly embedded in the culture and national identity of the country to this day.

These are the words of Queen Boudicca, according to ancient historian Tacitus, as she summoned her people to unleash war upon the invading Romans in Britain. Boudicca, sometimes written Boadicea, was queen of the Iceni tribe, a Celtic clan which united a number of British tribes in revolt against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in 60-61 AD. While she famously succeeded in defeating the Romans in three great battles, their victories would not last. The Romans rallied and eventually crushed the revolts, executing thousands of Iceni and taking the rest as slaves. Boudicca’s name has been remembered through history as the courageous warrior queen who fought for freedom from oppression, for herself, and all the Celtic tribes of Britain.

Grace O’Malley, the 16th Century Pirate Queen of Ireland

Grace O'Malley was Queen of Umaill, chieftain of the O Maille clan, rebel, seafarer, and fearless leader, who challenged the turbulent politics of 16th century England and Ireland. She was born in Ireland in around 1530, as a daughter of the wealthy nobleman and sea trader. Upon his death, she inherited his large shipping and trading business, along with his money.

Under the policies of the English government at the time, the semi-autonomous Irish princes and lords were left mostly to their own devices. However this changed with the Tudor conquest of Ireland, when more and more Irish lands came under their rule. The O'Malleys were one of the few seafaring families on the west coast, and they built a row of castles facing the sea to protect their territory. From their base at Rockfleet Castle, they reportedly attacked ships and fortresses on the shoreline. O'Malley's ships would stop and board the traders and demand either cash or a portion of the cargo in exchange for safe passage the rest of the way to Galway.

Ambitious and fiercely independent, her exploits eventually became known through all of Ireland and England. By March, 1574, the English felt they could no longer ignore her ‘predatory sieges’, so a force of ships and men laid siege to O’Malley in Rockfleet Castle. Within two weeks, the Pirate Queen had turned her defence into an attack and the English were forced to make a hasty retreat.

At the age of 56, O’Malley was finally captured by governor Sir Richard Bingham and closely escaped the death sentence. O’Malley petitioned the Crown for redress, and then set sail for England. During a historic 1593 meeting with Queen Elizabeth I, she somehow managed to convince her to free her family and restore much of her lands and influence.

Mighty Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes Tribe and Friend to Rome

Cartimandua was Queen of the Brigantes tribe, which occupied the region known today as northern England, said to be the largest tribe on the British Isles. When the Romans under the emperor Claudius invaded Britain in A.D. 43, the Brigantes tribe became a client kingdom of Rome, whose loyalty to the empire ensured its autonomy.

In A.D. 57, a quarrel arose between Cartimandua and her consort, Venutius. This resulted in a civil war when Venutius, angered by the capture of his brothers and relatives by Cartimandua, invaded her territory. The Romans decided to interfere by sending military aid, first auxiliaries, and then a legion, to their client. As a result, Cartimandua was able to secure her throne, and it seemed that the queen and Venutius were reconciled for the time being.

However in A.D. 69, Roman emperor Nero died and the Roman Empire was plunged into chaos. The time was ripe for Venutius to settle old scores, and Cartimandua had to act swiftly. Venutius led a revolt against Cartimandua. Once again, Cartimandua sought the Romans for help. This time, however, the Romans could only afford to send auxiliaries, as the legions were busy fighting in other part of the empire. Although she lost her throne, Cartimandua managed to flee to the Roman fort at Deva (modern day Chester). From that point on, the once mighty queen simply vanished from the historical records, her fate unknown.

The Dramatic Life and Death of Penthesilea: Queen of the Amazons

Penthesilea was a Queen of the Amazons, a legendary race of warrior women. The Amazon women were so dedicated to being warriors, that they were known to cut off one of their breasts so that they would be better able to wield a bow. While hunting one day, Penthesilea accidentally killed her sister Hippolyta with a spear. This caused Penthesilea a great deal of grief, and led her to wish for death. However, as a warrior, and an Amazon, she could only die honorably and during battle.

Penthesilea’s reign as queen was during the years of the Trojan War. The Amazons did not take a particular side in the war, and Penthesiliea made an effort to stay away from the conflict. However, when Achilles killed the Trojan prince, Hector, and upon the accidental killing of her sister, Penthesilea decided that it was time for the Amazons to intervene, so she led the Amazons into war.

It is written that she blazed through the Greeks like lightning. She wanted to prove that the Amazons were great warriors. She wanted to kill Achilles to avenge the death of Hector, and she wanted to die in battle. Although Penthesilea was a ferocious warrior, her life came to an end, at the hands of Achilles. While he was drawn to her with the intention of killing her, he fell in love with her upon seeing her eyes and as his sword struck, Achilles was overcome with enormous grief and regret.

Ching Shih – from Prostitute to Pirate Lord

Ching Shih was born in the Guangdong province of China in 1775. She became a prostitute who worked in a floating brothel in Canton. In 1801, Pirate Zhèng Yi, who commanded a fleet of ships called the “Red Flag Fleet,” noticed Ching Shih’s beauty and took her as his wife.

With Zhèng Yi and Ching Shih side-by-side, the Red Flag Fleet quickly grew from 200 ships to more than 1700 ships. Zhèng Yi died in 1807, only 6 years after marrying Ching Shih. At the time of his death, the Red Flag Fleet consisted of approximately 50,000 – 70,000 pirates. Ching Shih, wishing not to go back to a life of prostitution, knew that this was her opportunity to rise to power. Ching Shih was a strict and regimented pirate lord. She focused much on business and military strategy. She even went to great lengths to form an ad hoc government under which her pirates were bound to and protected by laws and taxes. She also set forth strict rules regarding the treatment of captured prisoners – female prisoners in particular. Female captives who were considered to be “ugly” were released, unharmed. A pirate who wished to take a beautiful female captive as their wife was free to do so, but they were bound to be faithful and to care for her. Unfaithfulness and rape were both offenses punishable by death.

When it appeared Ching Shih could not be defeated, the Chinese offered amnesty to all pirates, hoping to eliminate Ching Shih’s reign over the sea. Ching Shih entered negotiations with the government until it was agreed that she would end her career as a pirate as long as she was permitted to keep all of her loot. Ching Shih returned to Canton and opened a gambling house, where she remained until she died in 1844.

Zenobia, the Warrior Queen of Palmyra, Syria

Zenobia was a Palymerene queen, born around 240 AD in Palmyra, at that time a Roman province. She was married at the age of 18 to Septimius Odaenathus, an influential member of Palmyrene society. However, only 9 years later, he and his son from his first wife were assassinated. Zenobia’s son, Vaballathus, became king of Palmyra, whilst Zenobia ruled as regent. As Rome was gripped by the Crisis of the Third Century, it was the perfect opportunity for Zenobia to extend Palmyrene rule.

In 269 AD, Zenobia sent her general, Zabdas, to claim the Roman province of Egypt as her own. With help from their Egyptian ally, Timagenes, the Palmyrenes were able to defeat the Roman prefect of Egypt. To consolidate her position in Egypt, she claimed that she was a descendent of Cleopatra. Following the conquest of Egypt, Zenobia then marched her army into Anatolia, conquering Roman territory as far west as Ancyra. She then moved on to conquer Syria, Palestine and Lebanon using a blend of military might and ideological propaganda.

Initially, the Palmyrene Empire was recognised by the new Roman emperor, Aurelian, who was occupied with the campaign against the Gallic Empire in the west. However, having defeated the Gallic Empire, Aurelian turned his sights on the East, eventually defeating the Palmyrenes and capturing Zenobia, whose final fate is unknown.

The Lioness of Brittany and her Black Fleet of Pirates

In the midst of the Hundred Years War between England and France, an enraged French woman named Jeanne de Clisson took to the sea with a fleet of warships, where she mercilessly hunted down ships of King Philip VI to avenge her husband’s death, who was executed following rumors that he had defected to the English side. For her ferocity, she eventually acquired the name The Lioness of Brittany. Jeanne and her crew would slaughter the crew of the King’s ships, leaving two or three sailors alive, so that the message would get back to the King that the Lioness of Brittany had struck once again.

In her efforts to keep the English Channel completely free of French ships, she formed an alliance with the English, laundering supplies to their soldiers for battles. She continued her work as a pirate even after the death of her enemy, King Philip VI, in 1350.

Jeanne de Clisson fought as a pirate for thirteen years. When her quest for revenge ended, it was not through losing a battle, nor was it through the French authorities finally catching up with her. Jeanne found love in English noble Sir Walter Brentley, who had been King Edward III’s lieutenant during a campaign against Charles de Blois, her arch enemy. She married Sir Walter in 1356 and settled into a quiet life in the Castle of Hennebont in France, which was a territory of her Montfort allies, and later died there in unknown circumstances.

Tattooed Sorceress Queen, The Lady of Cao

The day had been spent in ritual battles, and a group of individuals who were vanquished, naked, and tied-together were marched up the long stairs to the top platform of the great pyramid where there they were killed, throats cut, sacrificed to their supreme deity. A great silver goblet, the mark of a ruler in Moche society, was used to collect the blood and then the blood was consumed by the priestess-queen and the circle was completed, for life feeds on life, and this seems to have been a fundamental cultural concept for the violent, passionate Moche society.

In 2006, archaeologists in Peru made an incredible discovery. On the beautiful northern coastline of Peru, the place known as Huaca El Brujo (Sacred place of the Wizard), once a center of social and religious functions, researchers discovered the final resting place of a tattooed mummy, who has come to be known as the Lady of Cao. Like the description presented above, the Lady of Cao was a powerful priestess mystic who engaged in violent rituals and ruled over the Moche.

The surprise discovery of the tattooed female in the Hill of the Wizard caused archaeologists to reconsider their male-centric model of the Moche political structure. The subsequent discoveries of eight more Moche Queens made it quite clear that this was not a male ruled society. It appears that Moche society was based on loosely aligned ‘states’ ruled by high priest kings or priestess queens and that the division of government was of a more balanced nature.

Nefertiti, Queen of the Nile

Nefertiti was the chief consort of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten (formerly Amenhotep IV), who reigned from approximately 1353 to 1336 BC. Known as the Ruler of the Nile and Daughter of Gods, Nefertiti acquired unprecedented power, and is believed to have held equal status to the pharaoh himself.

Nefertiti was married to Amenhotep IV around 1357 BC and was later promoted to be his queen. In the fourth year of Amenhotep IV's reign, the sun god Aten became the dominant national god. The king led a religious revolution closing the older temples and promoting Aten's central role. Nefertiti had played a prominent role in the old religion, and this continued in the new system. She worshiped alongside her husband and held the unusual kingly position of priest of Aten. In the new, virtually monotheistic religion, the king and queen were viewed as "a primeval first pair," through whom Aten provided his blessings. They thus formed a royal triad or trinity with Aten, through which Aten's "light" was dispensed to the entire population.

During Akhenaten's reign (and perhaps after) Nefertiti enjoyed unprecedented power, and by the twelfth year of his reign, there is evidence that she may have been elevated to the status of co-regent, equal in status to the pharaoh himself. She is often depicted on temple walls in the same size as him, signifying her importance, and is shown alone worshiping the god Aten.

In the regal year 12, Nefertiti's name ceases to be found. The reason for her disappearance from the historical record continues to remain a matter of speculation and debate.


Watch the video: Lady Cao Ruler of The Moche People (May 2022).