Description: When Nicola Denzey leads tour groups into the Roman Catacombs, participants are struck by the splendor of the burial chambers, many of which were created by or for women. The Bone Gatherers introduces us to these powerful women who, until recently, had been lost to history. It was often only in death that ancient women became visible—through the buildings, burial sites, and art constructed in their memory—and Denzey uses this archaeological evidence, along with text records, to resurrect the lives of several fourth-century women.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 martyrs—figureheads for sexual purity. These depictions belie a power struggle between the sexes within early Christianity—one that women lost, and one that has had long-lasting implications for the roles of women in the Church.
Subjects: Methods, Historical Approaches, History, Early Church Origins
Review by Paul Dilley
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Citation: Paul Dilley, review of Nicola Denzey, The Bone Gatherers: The Lost Worlds of Early Christian Women, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2008).
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