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A Blue Clue In Medieval Teeth May Bespeak A Woman's Artistry Circa 1,000 A.D.

Analysis of fossilized dental tartar of a medieval woman buried in a German monastery reveals specks of blue to be lapis lazuli — a luxurious pigment used to create gorgeous illuminated manuscripts.
This image shows Guda, a 12th-century nun, and the inscription reads, "Guda, a sinful woman, wrote and painted this book." It's a rare example of a manuscript signed by a female scribe. Source: Frankfurt University Library

Tiny bits of blue pigment found in the teeth of a medieval skeleton reveal that, more than 850 years ago, this seemingly ordinary woman likely was involved in the production of lavishly illustrated sacred texts.

The unexpected discovery, described in the journal Science Advances, astonished scientists who weren't setting out to study female artists in the Middle Ages. It adds to a growing recognition that women, and not just monks, labored as the anonymous scribes who painstakingly copied manuscripts and decorated the pages to dazzle the eye.

This particular woman lived in a small religious community at Dalheim, Germany. Little is of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany.

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