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Education

Scientists studied the bones of ancient women, and we might need to rethink 'women's work'

Women of the Bronze Age were anything but weak.

Bronze Age, physical fitness, agriculture, prehistoric
Canva

Certainly not the story we've been taught to believe

Think about the illustrations you've seen of men and women of the Bronze Age who lived thousands of years ago.

Perhaps there's one you recall from your elementary school text book — in which men are probably depicted hurling bronze spears and strangling lions with their bare hands, while the women are most likely pictured leading children around, sifting through grapes or weaving tiny reeds into baskets (presumably to hold the fruits of their husbands' labor).


It's an idealized image for some. Men and women, dividing labor according to their relative physical strength. Women did important work, but entirely in the domestic sphere, in part because they were less equipped to handle difficult manual labor. Each gender in their natural place. A comforting image of the way the world is "supposed to be."

And according to new research, it's an image that's totally wrong in a major way.

According to a groundbreaking new study, Bronze Age women were jacked.

body building, science, gender roles, research, history

Bronze Age woman or 1980s champion weightlifter Karyn Marshall? Hard to say.

Photo by Virginia Tehan/Wikimedia Commons.

Armed with a small CT scanner and a group of student guinea pigs, University of Cambridge researchers discovered that the arm bones of Central European women of the era were roughly 30% stronger than those of modern women — and 11% to 16% stronger than those of modern women on the the world champion Cambridge women's crew team, who spend multiple hours a day training to rowing a 60-foot boat as fast as humanly possible.

"This is the first study to actually compare prehistoric female bones to those of living women," explained Alison Macintosh, research fellow at the University of Cambridge and lead author of the study, in a news release.

The paper was published in the open-access journal Science Advances.

Agriculture, it turns out, is hard work. Work that Bronze Age women handled on the reg.

huts, community, agriculture, research, historical studies

Bronze Age huts offer a glimpse into life in Clare, Ireland.

Photo via Angella Streluk/Geograph.uk.

Particularly grinding grain into flour, which requires the use of ludicrously heavy stones.

Based on evidence from societies that still produce bread products this way, the researchers determined the prehistoric women likely spent up to five hours a day pulverizing the edible bits so their villages could actually eat food while the men were derping around trophy hunting hyenas.

"The repetitive arm action of grinding these stones together for hours may have loaded women's arm bones in a similar way to the laborious back-and-forth motion of rowing," Macintosh said.

In addition to grinding grain, researchers speculate ancient ladies got up to a range of other muscle mass-building activities...

...including hauling food for livestock, slaughtering and butchering animals for food, scraping the skin off of dead cows and deadlifting it onto hooks to turn it into leather, and planting and harvesting crops entirely by hand.

And, while punching bears and ceremonially tossing boulders at the sun weren't on the researchers' specific list, it's at least possible the women were doing that too.

"We believe it may be the wide variety of women's work that in part makes it so difficult to identify signatures of any one specific behavior from their bones," Macintosh said.

Study senior author Jay Stock said the results suggest "the rigorous manual labour of women was a crucial driver of early farming economies."

"The research demonstrates what we can learn about the human past through better understanding of human variation today," he added.

If nothing else, the findings should complicate the way we think of "women's work" going back centuries. Since the dawn of time, mankind has had boulders to grind. Animals to wrangle. Big, heavy things to lift, and arm muscles to build. And some woman had do it.

This article originally appeared on 11.29.17

Identity

Celebrate International Women's Day with these stunning photos of female leaders changing the world

The portraits, taken by acclaimed photographer Nigel Barker, are part of CARE's "She Leads the World" campaign.

Images provided by CARE

Kadiatu (left), Zainab (right)

True

Women are breaking down barriers every day. They are transforming the world into a more equitable place with every scientific discovery, athletic feat, social justice reform, artistic endeavor, leadership role, and community outreach project.

And while these breakthroughs are happening all the time, International Women’s Day (Mar 8) is when we can all take time to acknowledge the collective progress, and celebrate how “She Leads the World.

This year, CARE, a leading global humanitarian organization dedicated to empowering women and girls, is celebrating International Women’s Day through the power of portraiture. CARE partnered with high-profile photographer Nigel Barker, best known for his work on “America’s Next Top Model,” to capture breathtaking images of seven remarkable women who have prevailed over countless obstacles to become leaders within their communities.

“Mabinty, Isatu, Adama, and Kadiatu represent so many women around the world overcoming incredible obstacles to lead their communities,” said Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE USA.

Barker’s bold portraits, as part of CARE’s “She Leads The World” campaign, not only elevate each woman’s story, but also shine a spotlight on how CARE programs helped them get to where they are today.

About the women:

Mabinty

international womens day, care.org

Mabinty is a businesswoman and a member of a CARE savings circle along with a group of other women. She buys and sells groundnuts, rice, and fuel. She and her husband have created such a successful enterprise that Mabinty volunteers her time as a teacher in the local school. She was the first woman to teach there, prompting a second woman to do so. Her fellow teachers and students look up to Mabinty as the leader and educator she is.

Kadiatu

international womens day, care.org

Kadiatu supports herself through a small business selling food. She also volunteers at a health clinic in the neighboring village where she is a nursing student. She tests for malaria, works with infants, and joins her fellow staff in dancing and singing with the women who visit the clinic. She aspires to become a full-time nurse so she can treat and cure people. Today, she leads by example and with ambition.

Isatu

international womens day, care.org

When Isatu was three months pregnant, her husband left her, seeking his fortune in the gold mines. Now Isatu makes her own way, buying and selling food to support her four children. It is a struggle, but Isatu is determined to be a part of her community and a provider for her kids. A single mother of four is nothing if not a leader.

Zainab

international womens day, care.org

Zainab is the Nurse in Charge at the Maternal Child Health Outpost in her community. She is the only nurse in the surrounding area, and so she is responsible for the pre-natal health of the community’s mothers-to-be and for the safe delivery of their babies. In a country with one of the world’s worst maternal death rates, Zainab has not lost a single mother. The community rallies around Zainab and the work she does. She describes the women who visit the clinic as sisters. That feeling is clearly mutual.

Adama

international womens day, care.org

Adama is something few women are - a kehkeh driver. A kehkeh is a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, known elsewhere as a tuktuk. Working in the Kissy neighborhood of Freetown, Adama is the primary breadwinner for her family, including her son. She keeps her riders safe in other ways, too, by selling condoms. With HIV threatening to increase its spread, this is a vital service to the community.

Ya Yaebo

international womens day, care.org

“Ya” is a term of respect for older, accomplished women. Ya Yaebo has earned that title as head of her local farmers group. But there is much more than that. She started as a Village Savings and Loan Association member and began putting money into her business. There is the groundnut farm, her team buys and sells rice, and own their own oil processing machine. They even supply seeds to the Ministry of Agriculture. She has used her success to the benefit of people in need in her community and is a vocal advocate for educating girls, not having gone beyond grade seven herself.

On Monday, March 4, CARE will host an exhibition of photography in New York City featuring these portraits, kicking off the multi-day “She Leads the World Campaign.

Learn more, view the portraits, and join CARE’s International Women's Day "She Leads the World" celebration at CARE.org/sheleads.


Health

Over or under? Surprisingly, there actually is a 'correct' way to hang a toilet paper roll.

Let's settle this silly-but-surprisingly-heated debate once and for all.

Elya/Wikimedia Commons

Should you hang the toilet paper roll over or under?


Humans have debated things large and small over the millennia, from the democracy to breastfeeding in public to how often people ought to wash their sheets.

But perhaps the most silly-yet-surprisingly-heated household debate is the one in which we argue over which way to hang the toilet paper roll.

The "over or under" question has plagued marriages and casual acquaintances alike for over 100 years, with both sides convinced they have the soundest reasoning for putting their toilet paper loose end out or loose end under. Some people feel so strongly about right vs. wrong TP hanging that they will even flip the roll over when they go to the bathroom in the homes of strangers.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not merely an inconsequential preference. There is actually a "correct" way to hang toilet paper, according to health experts as well as the man who invented the toilet paper roll in the first place.

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Of course, Newman is using some broad stereotypes in calling for a return to Boomer parenting ideas when many Gen X, Millennial and Gen Z parents share the same values. But, as someone who deals with children every day, she has the right to point out that today’s kids are entitled and spend too much time staring at screens.

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@nostalgicallyrachel/TikTok, @mrvaughntrainor/TikTok

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This is thanks in large part to the digital age, and the countless ways to access information. Radio, magazines, television, books, online blogs, Facebook parent groups, informational podcasts, public studies…thousands of voices helping shape family dynamics and warn of potential dangers.

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Health

Reimagining what 'beauty influencer' means: an expert in the psychology of beauty weighs in

Dr. Rhett Diessner's research points to beauty being so much more important than we might think.

Photo (left) by Megan Ruth on Unsplash, Photo (right) by lucas wesney on Unsplash

Let's take a deep dive into how beauty influences us.

When you picture a "beauty influencer," you probably don't imagine a balding, bearded, bespectacled retired psychology professor surrounded by piles of papers. But I would put Dr. Rhett Diessner up against any TikTok creator on Earth when it comes to beauty, as he's spent over two decades deeply studying the subject and has a profound understanding of how it influences us.

Around 1998, while teaching at a small international university in Switzerland, Diessner had an epiphany. As he explored the villages, lakes and mountains in the area, he found himself enamored with the picturesque landscapes, soaring cathedrals, incredible art and soul-stirring ideas that surrounded him. In moments of meditation, he began to see appreciation of beauty as more than just an enjoyable pastime.

"It dawned on me that beauty has spiritual roots," Diessner tells Upworthy. "That it's really a foundational aspect of being human, a very important aspect of our soul." Searching religious scripture confirmed this idea, and he decided he would focus his academic research on the human trait of attraction to beauty.

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Joy

I’ve been on 10 Disney Cruises. Here are the top 5 most magical experiences.

"You’d have to be on board for a full year to take advantage of it all."

via LAuren Passell (used with permission)

The very Disney obsessed Lauren Passell and Goofy.

I’m a Disney nerd in every sense of the word—90% of my wardrobe is Disney t-shirts, I named my company after Tinker Bell, I once won the Disney Princess half-marathon wearing a Tinker Bell costume and I try to hit up the parks as often as I can. Of all the Disney nerdery I participate in, cruising is my favorite.

For the tenth year in a row, U.S. News & World Report named Disney Cruise Line the Best Cruise Line for Families and the Best Cruise Line in the Caribbean. But that’s not why I love it. Everywhere you look, there are elements of magic and surprise. You’ll spot your favorite Disney characters hanging out…in their bathing suits…on board, and there’s so much to do that I think you’d have to be on board for a full year to take advantage of it all.

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