The Ivory Bangle Woman

The Ivory Bangle Woman of York, reconstructed from her remains.

The Ivory Bangle Woman, so called because of the jewelry she was buried with, was seemingly one of the wealthiest women in Eboracum, or Roman York.  Archaeologists have recently proved that she was African.

Glass jug from Cologne, buried with the Ivory Bangle Woman of York.

Where Rome was, so was the world.  (The Mediterranean, North Africa and Europe, at least.) In Roman York, one did not have to be from one tribe or another– one could be Roman despite being born elsewhere.  It is difficult to imagine this in modern Yorkshire,  where ideas of what is British can often seem quite narrow.  But these ancient streets were once full of people from many different places– and they were not just slaves or men hired to be laborers or soldiers.  The modern tourist trade here may give us a glimpse of this diversity, but a migrant is not a tourist. (Though I’m often mistaken for the later, despite living in England for over seven years now, but I digress.)

As an immigrant, you become a paradox, of two places at once, and none but another  such stranger can understand this way of being.

I wonder at this woman, far from her first home in the sun.  What did she make of this green island, her new home?  She died here, accumulated wealth and was loved. Her grave goods on display in the Yorkshire Museum have fascinated me.  The beautiful objects, 16 centuries old, are simple, elegant and evoke the mixture of who she was. A perfect blue glass bottle from the workshops in Cologne and two bangles: one of African ivory– the other, Whitby Jet.

Eboracum: Glass earrings inspired by the grave goods of the Ivory Bangle Woman.

3 thoughts on “The Ivory Bangle Woman

  1. Very Interesting, and once again beautiful jewelry response(same with fossil hunter). I think Adrienne(drummer) is very interested in getting some earrings. Also love the cat photos! I have 4(crazy cat man alert). Reading book on London at time of Plague(1665), average # of cats per household was 6! Then they killed them all to stop plague spreading, bad idea of course.

  2. Hi Dylan, it’s always great to hear from you. Adrienne has blown me away every time I have seen her play. She is amazing. I would be really honoured if she wore one of my pieces! I remember you dedicating one of the songs in Leeds to a cat that had just passed away. Cats are really amazing little beings. I wish I could have more (finally can, now that we are no longer renting– in the UK being a renter is completely without rights, but I digress). Would love to hear about your 4 cats sometime! Have you ever read William Burroughs book on cats? It left a big impression on me. There is a lot of love in it, unlike so much of his other work. What book are you reading on the plague? Yes– I was researching the 15th century plague and the same thing happened– mass slaughter of cats which of course made the rat population boom.

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