Navigation bannerBettina Arnold's Home PageCourses TaughtHeuneburg ProjectLocal archaeology eventsPublic lecturesCurriculum vitae


Female burial graphic Male burial graphic
From the Ground Up: Beyond Gender Theory in Archaeology

October 9-10, 1998
Student Union, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

  Axelsson, Susanne, Department of Archaeology, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Sund, a Swedish Iron Age Farm Seen in a Different Light

In the fifties and sixties a Late Iron Age cemetery was excavated in Värmland, Sweden. Underneath and between the graves were found remnants of an Iron Age farm. The farm and the cemetery were seen as the remnants of the farm of a petty chief, strategically situated at the estuary of the river Byälven, where it meets the biggest lake in Sweden, Lake Vänern. During the nineties excavations were continued on part of what was left of the site. The excavation is now purely done for research purposes and the idea has been to use the results from both the old and the new excavations to say something about gender relations on an Iron Age farm and about what contacts the farm people had with others in the vicinity and further away. I want to discuss some of the ways we have been working with the material in order to answer these questions, as opposed, or sometimes complementary to, the older, "petty chief" interpretation of the site.   [Back]

Bellas, Monica L., Department of Anthropology, University of California, Riverside

Women in the Mixtec Codices: Ceremonial and Ritual Roles of Lady 3 Flint

The extant Mixtec codices of Mesoamerica recite the genealogies and histories of the Postclassic ruling dynasties located in the Mixteca Alta of present-day Oaxaca, Mexico. The study of these documents, which Alfonso Caso and other archaeologists spearheaded in the early decades of this century, has concentrated on the exploits of male rulers as outlined in the screenfold documents. Few studies have been made of the lives and actions of the women depicted in the codices. Women are typically depicted in the codices as wives and mothers. A very few are shown participating in political and ceremonial aspects of elite life, although ethnohistoric documents suggest that elite Mixtec women did so. The ritual and ceremonial actions of one woman, Lady 3 Flint Shell Quechquemitl, are depicted in the obverse of the Codex Zouche-Nuttall. She interacts directly with the deities and, with her consort, begins the arduous task of establishing the sacred bundle cult of Lord 9 Wind in the Mixteca. The description and analysis of her participation in these ceremonial actions, as discussed in this paper, provide a deeper understanding of the multiple roles of elite women among the Postclassic Mixtecs.  [Back]

Benson, Kristi, Department of Archaeology, University of Calgary

The Warp and Weft of It: Cloth Production and Gender Parallelisms in Mesoamerican Prehistory

Gendered Mesoamerican archaeology is a small but growing area. This paper, a work in progress, presents a contribution to this inchoate field and provides a step towards a better understanding of how gender worked in Mexican prehistory. The role and relations of weaving and cloth production are examined using archaeological, historic, and ethnographic data. To this end, the area of Oaxaca is employed as an example in the exploration of the gender roles maintained through the actions, products, and language of back-strap weaving. These include what is produced (costume or other cloth), what colors and designs are used, and the frequent gender parallelisms that pervade the language and ritual of weaving. The economic implications of cloth production also provide a thread in the complex Mexican tapestry of gender and cloth examined in this paper.  [Back]

Brown, Tammy Macenka, Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

The Nature and Status of Celtic Women

The European Iron Age often is characterized by a male aristocracy within Celtic society, but literary as well as historic sources suggest that the status of women was a complicated issue. Celtic women certainly enjoyed more autonomy than their classical sisters, being able under the law, to own property, and divorce their husbands as well as hold a variety of occupations ranging from warrior to healer, or from priestess to merchant. Several recently excavated burials indicate that women may have been powerful in their own right. Does the archaeological evidence support the historical sources? In the 19th century antiquarians plundered many Celtic cemeteries, destroying valuable information through poorly documented, unsystematic excavations plus the mixing of grave inventories during museum curation. In recent years, a method has been developed to identify gender based on grave goods and personal adornment. Previously undetermined burials can now be engendered with this new technique as well as through the use of genetic evidence (where available). As new discoveries are made and new techniques developed, evidence supporting the claim of elevated women's status within the Celtic community has come to light, vindicating Classical sources. Drawing on available material enriches our understanding of history and offers a new perspective on the problem.  [Back]

Brumbach, Hetty Jo and Robert Jarvenpa, Department of Anthropology, SUNY-Albany

The Gendered Nature of Living and Storage Space in the Canadian Subarctic

The social roles and cultural expectations of women and men in creating residential structures and their associated storage facilities and work stations are investigated. Ethnoarchaeological research among Subarctic Dene (Chipewyan), Cree and Metis communities employs a gender-conscious approach for understanding how feature size and alignment, general site organization, and intra- vs. inter-site uses of space are linked to complex decisions and actions made by both women and men. Moreover, gender patterning in the archaeological materials is linked to an array of economic, social and political factors reflecting late fur trade political economy of north-central Canada. Information for this analysis derives from ethnoarchaeological surveys conducted at a regional network of 44 late historic sites in northwestern Saskatchewan. Most of the sites represent multi-family seasonal encampments and trading outpost settlements occupied in the period between 1890 and 1950.  [Back]

Brumfiel, Elizabeth M., Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Albion College

Ground Rules and Wall Designs: Gender and the State at Teotihuacan

Some general rules are suggested for archaeological studies of gender. These include: defining significant research questions, using multiple lines of evidence and/or comparative data sets, and generalizing conclusions. These rules are then used to explore the character of gender ideology and state authority at Classic period Teotihucacan, Mexico. First, using comparative examples, I ask if gender ideology in states that rely upon the authority of corporate kinship groups differs from gender ideology in states that do not rely upon kinship authority. Second, I use several sources of evidence (ceramic figurines, painted murals, and burials) to characterize the gender ideology of the Teotihuacan state. Third, I draw conclusions about the character of state authority at Teotihuacan and suggest how these conclusions might be further tested. Finally, I comment upon the value of general models in the archaeology of gender, given Silverblatt's critique of the "gender and the state" literature.  [Back]

Chesson, Meredith S., Department of Anthropology, Harvard University

Embodied Identities: Death and Society in an Early Urban Community

The analysis of mortuary practices provides an important link between feminist theory and archaeological interpretation in exploring how living members of a community map individual and group identities onto themselves and the deceased. Examining the complex interplay between grave goods, the nature and timing of the memorial ceremonies, and biological sex of individual(s) in an archaeological skeletal population, I explore powerful changes in household structures, systems of kinship, and interaction between women, men and children during the first period of urbanization at the Early Bronze Age settlement of Bab edh-Dhra', Jordan. Dynamic changes in mortuary practices through time at Bab edh-Dhra', specifically the shift from shaft tomb burials to charnel houses, were associated with the transition from a non-sedentary lifestyle to settled life in a fortified town, and a subsequent return to non-urban living. My research suggests that each of these profound shifts in lifestyle involved fundamental changes in the societal bonds of the community, particularly structures of kinship, and explores how the process of urbanization and ruralization transformed the relationships of gendered individuals within the shifting structures of kinship, houses, and the broader community.  [Back]

Crass, Barbara A., Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Gender and Mortuary Analysis: What Can Grave Goods Really Tell Us?

Burials have been described as containing more information per cubic meter than other archaeological features. Since human remains can often be sexed, burials can provide important clues to the identification of genders, assuming that gender roles were signaled in a mortuary context. But is it really that straightforward? Special considerations must be taken into account, especially with portable items associated with burials, such as grave goods. Did the grave goods belong to the deceased, or were they offerings which reflected the roles of the giver? Were items stolen, looted or otherwise removed, either prehistorically or in modern times? Were items replaced, and if so, why and with what? This paper will discuss some of the implications of using grave goods to identify gender roles. Ethnological and archaeological data from Inuit burials will be used to support and challenge what we think grave goods can really tell us.  [Back]

Doucette, Dianna, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University

Interpretation of Atlatls in Archaic Period Mortuary Contexts

During a recent archaeological investigation at the Annasnappet Pond site in Carver, Massachusetts, atlatl weights and projectile points were found in-situ as grave goods providing an exciting opportunity to challenge traditional hunting models in the Eastern Woodlands. In this paper, I first explore how weighted atlatls have been interpreted as grave goods in Archaic Native American mortuary contexts with specific regards to those found in female and male burials at the Indian Knoll site along the Green River in Kentucky during the first half of this century. Since the first excavations at Indian Knoll in 1916, the tool and its components have been portrayed as having various non-gender specific functions, but once identified as weighted atlatls, very specific gender functions were applied in relation to male and female burials. Using feminist theory, engendered archaeology issues, and data from the Annasnappet Pond site, I will revisit and reevaluate some of these older interpretations, and address the possible ideology governing the inclusion of weighted atlatls as grave goods in female and male burials.  [Back]

Eaverly, Mary Ann, Department of Classics, University of Florida

Brown Men, White Women: Color and Gender in Ancient Painting

Much scholarly attention has been devoted to the representation of gender in ancient art. One area has, however, been overlooked, namely the color conventions employed by ancient painters in the representation of men and women. Men are shown with dark, usually brown skin and women with white. All books on ancient painting mention this convention, but only the most cursory attempt has been made to connect it to broader issues of the conception of gender in the ancient Mediterranean. Nor has an attempt been made to take into account the remarkable persistence of the convention. It appears in Egypt, in Minoan Crete, in Mycenaean as well as Archaic and Classical Greece and continues through Roman wall-painting. The time is now right to address the question of the uses of color as a gender signifier in ancient painting. Such a study will make a significant contribution not only to our understanding of the status of women, but also to our understanding of the ways in which cultures borrow from each other and transform those borrowings to fit their own societal needs.  [Back]

Galle, Jillian, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia

The Fabric of the Southwest: Cotton and Gender Interactions in the Late Prehistoric Pueblo Region

For over a decade, archaeologists have struggled to reconcile the seemingly egalitarian nature of historic Pueblo societies with archaeological evidence of growing sociopolitical and religious hierarchy during the late prehistoric period in the American Southwest. Although long held assumptions about the continuity between the ethnographic present and late prehistory are being challenged, few archaeological and ethnohistoric studies have moved beyond the Western androcentric models of Puebloan life established by Eggan and Titiev in the 1940s and 1950s. In this paper I investigate the transformations that took place in Pueblo gender roles during the Protohistoric Period (A.D. 1450-1750). In doing this I focus specifically on the growth and control of cotton. Long overlooked by archaeologists, cotton use and ownership was an important factor in determining the authority of both male and female politico-religious leaders. Cotton was also a valuable domestic and trade item that enhanced community. Using archaeological and ethnohistoric evidence I argue that, prior to Spanish contact, Pueblo women had particular control and authority in the agricultural and communal spheres in which cotton was grown, stored, and processed. In turn, women's control was balanced by the ceremonial and ritual authority men obtained through their involvement with textile production. Archaeological, ethnohistoric, and ethnographic evidence all point to a prehistoric Pueblo society in which women and men equally contributed to the economic and sociopolitical well-being of their household and clan.  [Back]

Gräslund, Anne-Sofie, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, Sweden

Is There Any Evidence of Powerful Women in Viking Age Scandinavia?

The paper deals with the question of women's status in Viking Age Scandinavia. The archaeological evidence, above all the grave material, as well as the runic inscriptions, provide us with a good deal of information about the conditions of Viking Age women. Even if the traditional gender roles were already established, the division between a public and a private sphere as reflecting male vs. female can be questioned, as they often intersect. In addition, there is no reason to believe that the domestic sphere was less important than the official one in those days.  [Back]

Griffin, Will, Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan

Gendered Graffiti from Madagascar to Michigan

Many rock art studies in archaeology have attempted to understand cultural constructions such as gender through a contextual interpretation of the residual material evidence. At the same time, a number of important ethnoarchaeological studies have shown the sorts of relationships possible between gender and the material record. However, combining the two approaches into an ethnoarchaeology of rock art has largely been avoided by archaeologists, who often go to great lengths to stress that rock art of various forms is always more than just "graffiti." By emphasizing the differences, such researchers fail to understand the nature of graffiti itself and miss the obvious similarities it holds with the more traditionally studied forms of rock art. This paper reports the results of a cross-cultural study of contemporary images and inscriptions created by individuals on public surfaces alongside the highways of Madagascar and on the campus of the University of Michigan. Each case study will examine the integral role of gender in the production, consumption, and content of the resulting material evidence, and will provide a unique perspective on the globalization of culture, the construction of gender, and the practice of archaeology.  [Back]

Hays-Gilpin, Kelley, Department of Anthropology, Northern Arizona University

From Fertility Shrines to Sacred Landscapes: Gendered Rock Art Research in the Western U.S.

As long ago as the late 1800s, ethnographers recorded "fertility shrines" in many Western states. Many of these included natural or modified rock features, pecked cupules, petroglyphs, and pictographs. Until recently, professional archaeologists largely ignored rock art, while avocationalists actively recorded, preserved, and interpreted such sites. The enthusiasm for interpreting rock art sites as "fertility shrines" seems to have peaked among avocational archaeologists in the 1970s, only to give way to archaeoastronomical theories, and finally an interest in shamanic trancing. Anthropological archaeologists at last profess an interest in rock art, and are bringing a new set of interpretive ideas, such as landscape archaeology, to this material. We must now acknowledge the substantial contributions of avocationalists and Native American traditional practitioners to understanding this often intractable subject, and to preserving many sites from destruction by vandals and development. As a result, we also now bear the burden of deconstructing a century of gendered interpretation about fertility, puberty rites, and gender roles. This paper will examine the history of gender-related rock art interpretation in the Western United States. Research bias and assumptions about gender may impede our ability to understand and effectively protect and manage rock art sites for the wide variety of audiences attracted to such localities.  [Back]

Hollimon, Sandra E., Jenner, CA

Gender and Warfare in the Northern Plains: Osteological Evidence of Violence and its Interpretation

Ethnographic and ethnohistoric information suggests that women participated in Plains warfare more frequently than is generally presented in anthropological and historical literature. This study is an examination of osteological indicators of conflict-related injuries (scalping, projectile point wounds, blunt-force trauma) in Northern Plains populations. The data are analyzed with regard to distribution by sex and age, and are considered in the context of "women warrior" roles documented in this area.  [Back]

Jiao, Tianlong, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University

Gender Studies in Chinese Neolithic Archaeology

In light of the theoretical achievements of modern gender archaeology, this paper explores the trajectory of gender status in Neolithic China (ca. 10,000 BC to 2,000 BC). Chinese Neolithic societies underwent a process from a relatively egalitarian period to a ranked stage. Consequently, the status between the two sexes changed along with the alteration of the social-historical context. The relatively egalitarian gender system of the Early and Middle Neolithic period (ca. 10,000 BC to 3,500 BC) was replaced by a system of gender ranking during the Late Neolithic period (ca. 3,500 BC to 2,000 BC). The analysis of mortuary practice and iconography in Chinese archaeological literature provides a number of gender case studies in different periods. These case studies are re-analyzed according to the contextual approach applied in this paper. The changing scenario of gender status in the Chinese Neolithic period indicates that the social and historical context is essential in gender archaeological studies.  [Back]

Kapler, Todd, Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado-Boulder

Replicating Victorian Culture: Women Associated with the Frontier Army

In most complex societies, material culture represents a visual indicator of one's place in that society. Groups displaced over time and space from their parent society often use material goods as status indicators to mimic the social indices of the dominant mainstream culture. This paper will examine women associated with the frontier army during the Indian Wars period (1866-1891). Specifically, how, and to what extent, did female groups use material goods to replicate Victorian values, behaviors, and social stratification in a vastly different physical landscape. Although hundreds of scholarly publications have addressed male personnel and strategic planning during the Indian Wars period, comparatively little research focuses on the women who accompanied soldiers westward. As such, it is unclear if limited social mobility and restricted access to the mainstream society's symbols of status created an alternative class structure or if these women used artifacts as a link, a material reminder that they were only physically, not culturally separated from their parent society. Using recovered material culture from known high status groups (officers' wives) and known low status groups (laundresses) from army forts, this study will examine the extent to which artifacts were used to reinforce societal association and maintain social stratification.  [Back]

Klein, Michael, Center for Historic Preservation, Mary Washington College

Shell Midden Archaeology and "Gendered Lithics"

In part because shell middens occur in nearly every coastal region, the study of shell middens has been at the center of advances in archaeological method and theory. In the Potomac River valley of Virginia and Maryland, archaeologists have analyzed the remains of shellfish and fauna to study seasonality and subsistence, and have examined the artifacts from stratified midden deposits to define temporally-diagnostic artifacts. These studies, however, do not exhaust the potential of shell midden archaeology. Ethnographic studies from throughout the world demonstrate the predominance of females in shellfish gathering, and during the Late Woodland period (AD 900-1600) in the Potomac Valley shell middens reflect short-term occupations by task-specific groups. This analysis tests these propositions, and builds upon these results by investigating the political economy of women's lithic production and use through the analysis of data from shell middens.  [Back]

Langdon, Susan, Department of Art History and Archaeology, University of Missouri-Columbia

Visualizing Gender in Dark Age Greece

Recent discussion of gender in Greek archaeology has focused on the Archaic and Classical periods but paid scant attention to the less documented cultures of early Greece. This paper addresses the reasons for this oversight and proposes an approach to studying gender construction in the Dark Age (1000-700 BCE). Literary and visual sources suggest complex social roles and relationships, both human and divine, already in place. Bronze anthropomorphic votive figurines in particular provide a way of exploring gender in cult and religion. Found at sanctuaries across Greece, these small nude images newly emphasize gender as a factor in social discourse. Their distinctive formal abstraction includes sufficient detail to indicate sex and occasionally elements of dress or weaponry. Quantified analysis of gesture and typological distribution of the figurines among recipient deities addresses fundamental issues, such as factors shaping iconographic types, their significance to a mortal audience, and the identity of their donors. The interplay of local invention and foreign ideas creates visual asymmetries among the figurines that articulate male and female differently. The co-existence of hierarchy and equality among these objects suggests both exclusion and resistance to the feminine role in cult development as religion assumes greater symbolic value.  [Back]

Martelle, Holly, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

Redfining Craft Specialization: Women's Labour and Pottery Production - An Iroquoian Example

Traditional models of craft specialization, derived primarily from more economically complex state-level societies, seem inadequate in both a theoretical and analytical sense for explaining the ceramic record for Iroquoian communities. By questioning the sweeping, yet restrictive, archaeological definitions of "household", "specialization" and "household organization," the Iroquoian example emphasizes the need to situate production activities within larger social, economic, and gendered contexts. Craft specialization among Iroquoian women may have developed, not as any function of economic conditions, but instead as a necessary and suitable method for dividing work among women. The workload of Iroquoian women was heavy; they were responsible for most horticultural and subsistence activities, pottery production, as well as those tasks commonly viewed as "women's work"). Hence, when potting activities are placed within the broad cultural context of Iroquoian women's work - an egalitarian, matrilineally-based community - several possibilities for productive arrangements are presented. Recent research on the existence of micro-styles in Iroquoian ceramics suggests only a limited number of women were potters. New data run contrary to the household level of ceramic production suggested for the Iroquois by traditional capitalist, male-centred, and market-based production models.  [Back]

Marucci, Georgina Elizabeth, University of Northern British Columbia

Women's Ritual Sites in the Interior of British Columbia: An Archaeological Model

Numerous ethnographic and historical resources for the interior of British Columbia from the turn of the century up to the 1900's provide detailed descriptions of rituals related to the onset of womanhood with several First Nations communities. Common themes throughout these descriptions include a period of seclusion ranging from several days to three years which occurred in a separate structure or room, strict food taboos, and intense instruction in women's social and economic responsibilities, including the manufacture of clothing and basketry. This paper represents an archaeological model focusing on the nature and visibility of Athabaskan women's ritual sites in the archaeological record. Women's ritual sites likely exist and will eventually be encountered, but will only be recognized as such if archaeologists are aware of the potential. This paper attempts to develop this awareness and outline criteria for identifying these sites.  [Back]

Naruta, Anna, Department of Anthropology, UC-Berkeley

Feminist Pedagogical Insights and Public Interpretation: A Case Study of the 'Conversational' Approach to Public Archaeology at Andrew Jackson's Hermitage

Archaeological practice increasingly includes a wide range of public involvement from inviting visitations of archaeologists' work in public settings to incorporating laypersons into excavations and other research. As commitment to and reflexivity about the practice of public archaeology grows, it is valuable to draw upon insights from the field of pedagogy. Feminist pedagogy has researched how gendered tropes of education, such as the banker's model, the adversarial model, the connected learning model, and the midwife model, influence the effectiveness of communication and learning. This paper discusses the assumptions behind and ramifications of these ways of interacting with laypersons relative to public archaeology programs in specific institutional settings. Particular attention is paid to the implications of the conversational approach to site interpretation as practiced at the Hermitage plantation, Nashville, Tennessee.  [Back]

O'Gorman, Jodie A., Center for American Archeology, Kampsville, Illinois

Life, Death, and the Longhouse: A Gendered View of Oneota Social Organization

In southwestern Wisconsin ca. AD 1300 to 1600, Oneota Tradition communities were involved in a pattern of periodic relocation and reoccupation of villages. Longhouse structures, the spatial arrangement of storage and processing features, and archaeological remains of a mortuary program at the Tremaine Village site provide a context for examining aspects of gender-specific relationships at the household, interhousehold, and community levels. I have explored the possibility that social inequalities, based on and cross-cutting gender, shaped Oneota social organization. I propose that particular women within households had control over the production, storage, and access to staple grain crops. Women may have also produced surplus staples to create obligatory relationships or to underwrite status-gaining ventures of the household. I also find some gender-specific evidence for minor degrees of social inequality between and within households in the mortuary program. While I argue that a level of social inequality exists within and between households, I find that relationships of relative social equality were also important. This is particularly visible and enlightening when results of domestic economic analyses are considered in juxtaposition to those of the mortuary study.  [Back]

Palka, Joel W. , Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois-Chicago

Classic Maya Elite Marriage Alliances, Male/Female Site Transference, and Parentage Statements: Insights on Ancient Politics and Social Organization from Hieroglyphic Texts

Important new research in ancient Maya hieroglyphic writing provides exciting information on elite gender roles, social organization, and political structure in Classic Maya society. The recorded names of elite men and women, plus written parentage statements on carved monuments and painted pottery, help us understand Classic Maya marriage alliance systems, rights of rulership, and relative power of Maya lineages and centers. Recent studies of Maya texts indicate that the general interpretation of only elite Maya wives leaving their natal cities to reside elsewhere has to consider elite male transference to new sites as well. The movement of people and creation of dynastic alliances may reflect the existence of integrated regional polities, traditions of inheritance and rulership, and patterns of spouse exchange in Classic Maya culture. Additionally, the rank, status, and heritage of a ruler's parents, particularly that of the mother, was crucial in legitimizing ascension to the throne and retaining power and prestige in Mesoamerica as a whole.  [Back]

Prine, Elizabeth, Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

Considering Gender through Household Behavior: A Case Study from the Northern Plains

Early gender studies in archaeology often used a modified systems approach, presuming that gender could be analyzed as an individual component working within the larger contexts of past cultures. While this was logical early step in an engendered archaeology, research to date has shown that removing gender from its cultural milieu is at best difficult; at worst, a systems approach simply projects a simulacrum of Euro-American culture into the past. Nonetheless, gender appears to be a fundamental cultural category which functions continually in everyday behavior. As such, gender is integrated into all aspects of culture and should be an important component of our research. Archaeologically, gender can be quite visible in the everyday materiality of households. This paper refocuses archaeological approaches to gender through a discussion of its workings within Hidatsa households. The Hidatsa were matrilineal, matrilocal horticulturalists living in fortified villages on the northern Plains beginning in circa 1450 AD. Specifically, I consider the ways household-related lithics provide evidence of connection to distant points on the landscape and show how these data can enrich our understanding of gendered social motivators such as kinship that contributed to Hidatsa travel and trade patterns.  [Back]

Rathje, Lillian, Department of Archaeology, University of Umeå, Sweden

The Amazon and the Hunter

Earlier research about the coastal area in northern Sweden during the Iron Age has concentrated on maritime resources, and it has been proposed that there were small villages engaged in organized seal hunting parties. The society has seldom been problematized from a gender perspective. In the northern area, where stock-holding in historical times was of importance for subsistence, there is a tradition of cooperative work. This social group was of great importance and provided the participants with contacts beyond their own farmstead group, functioning in much the same way as the seal-hunting parties for the adult men. There are two areas that are especially important in the production and reproduction of gender roles. For the males, it is in the seal hunting groups that the tales are told and the examples are made, and for women it is in the chalets. Both these areas are surrounded with many taboos aimed at the exclusion of the other gender. On the other hand there are many other tasks in which men and women were engaged together or took on different parts in a working process and where gender differentiation played a minor or no role at all.  [Back]

Rehak, Paul, Department of Art & Art History, Duke University

The Aegean Landscape and the Body: A New Interpretation of the Thera Frescoes

Aegean frescoes from the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1700-1200 BC) have usually been analyzed as artistic works or for their religious iconography. Since 1967, excavations on the island of Thera (Santorini) have uncovered buildings with extensive pictorial compositions preserved in situ. This talk explores the program of paintings from a single building, Xeste 3, as social documents that reveal important new information about the gendered nature of Theran society. Within the building, women and men are depicted in sexually segregated groups performing activities organized according to parallel age grades. Meaning in the human figures is revealed by body morphology, hairstyle, costume, jewelry, and how figures are structured individually and in groups. Three compositions center around female initiation rites during prepubescence, at menarche, and in adulthood. The scenes with women include repeated visual references to saffron crocus. In addition to its use as a food and dyestuff, saffron was an important prehistoric source of vitamins A and B, and in large doses it could be used as an abortifacient. The pharmacological value of many plants in Aegean nature scenes suggests that landscape paintings are neither simply artistic nor religious: instead, they served a didactic purpose and defined a particular area of women's activities and knowledge.  [Back]

Spencer-Wood, Suzanne M., Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University

Feminist Historical Archaeology and the Domestic Reform of Boston's Landscape

Feminist theory and feminist history were critical to my ongoing survey of over 120 domestic reform sites on Boston's landscape. Across the U.S., Europe, and Australia, women's reform institutions contested male dominance in public urban landscapes. Western culture and gender ideology were transformed from the 19th century into the 20th century by social reformers who conflated and combined the domestic and public spheres to make it acceptable within the dominant gender ideology for women to have public professions. Domestic reformers socialized housework tasks to create women's professions and public cooperative housekeeping institutions, from kindergartens and day nurseries to public kitchens, public health clinics, and settlements. Archaeological excavations can reveal the extent to which the special scientific material culture advocated for domestic reform was actually used and discarded at sites, in contrast to ordinary household artifacts. My survey of over 120 domestic reform sites in Boston shows how women's institutions and landscapes such as playgrounds, parks and gardens, came to physically dominate areas of public urban landscapes. Further, geographical patterns among sites express relationships between women reformers and the different classes and ethnic groups for whom institutions and programs were created. Finally, contrary to the social control thesis, I found that women reformers sought not only to assist immigrants in succeeding in American culture, but also sought to preserve the immigrants' ethnic cultures and their pride in them.  [Back]

Staller, John E.

Gender & Cosmology: Feline Symbolism in Valdivia Phase VIII Figurines from the Site of San Lorenzo del Mate

Excavations at the Phase VII-VIII Valdivia Phase site of San Lorenzo del Mate have uncovered evidence of a previously undocumented figurine style within the ceramic sequence. These figurines are discussed in terms of their symbolic and ideological content and what they infer about the nature of Valdivia religion. A predominance of the female form in the Valdivia figurine tradition is explored in terms of what it may reflect regarding religious and political power within the society. The artistic and symbolic transformation of Valdivia Phase VII-and VIII figurines are also analyzed and evidence is presented to document a developmental relationship to the subsequent Machalilla figurine tradition. A predominance of feline symbolism in various aspects of Phase VII-VIII material cultural suggests that Valdivia cosmology and political ideology was central to the formation of similar or related symbolic expression in other regions of western South America during 1850-1650 BC., and in subsequent time periods.  [Back]

Stalsberg, Anne, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, Norway

Visible Women Made Invisible: Women´s Finds and the Overall Interpretation of Varangian-Rus' Relations

The paper discusses interpretations of Varangian - Rus´ relations based on the archaeological material of Scandinavian origin from the Viking Age found in Old Rus´. Interpretations of male activities have dominated the literature, although about two thirds of the finds are women´s finds. The paper discusses and demonstrates how attention to the women´s finds decisively influences our understanding of the character of these relations and the Varangian activities in Rus´, how they exclude some and make more probable some other interpretations. Other traits, such as topography, the distribution of Varangian finds in Rus´ towns and in the village sites are of importance, but the relatively large number of women among the Varangians is especially important. The archaeological material leads to the conclusion that the relations between the Varangians and the other inhabitants in these towns must have been one of integration, not hostility and segregation. Piracy and conquest are unconvincing explanations for these relations. Mercenaries and hired officials, some from the highest ranks, are documented in the archaeological material. Special attention is given to the trading equipment found in female graves, indicating that women took some part in their families´ trading activities, and to how this impacts our understanding of how trade was organized.  [Back]

Ströbeck, Louise, Archaeology, University of Lund, Sweden

Challenging the Three-Age System in Scandinavian Prehistory

The concept "engendering" meaning "give rise to" summarizes the endeavors among researchers to move beyond the thorough and profound critical gendered perspective and populate prehistory with individuals and relations, which will increase our knowledge and deepen our understanding of prehistory. It is my intention to make a contribution to the debate on gender archaeology and meet the demand for a continuous development of gender research in archaeology. I intend to show how the traditional - seemingly neutral - chronological system for prehistory in Scandinavia affects and limits gender studies. The Three Age System - the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age - has been synonymous with Scandinavian prehistory since it was established in 1824-25. This system of classification contains preconceived ideas of power and hierarchy, referring to political ideas and ideologies quite different from the context of which the gender perspective is a part, and the systems characterization of prehistory makes it difficult to study mutual relations between individuals in prehistoric societies. I will illustrate with some examples that it is essential to revise previous designations of prehistoric epochs and sometimes even the traditional division into periods when doing gender research, in order to make way for the new stories called for about the past.  [Back]

Sullivan, Lynne P. (NYSM Anth Survey) and Christopher B. Rodning (UNC Research Labs in Arch)

Gender Dynamics and Chiefdoms of the Southern Appalachians

Mortuary patterns associated with the Dallas and Mouse Creek phases and the Overhill Cherokee of eastern Tennessee, and the Pisgah and Qualla phases of western Carolina, reflect complementary gender hierarchies that persisted among native societies of southern Appalachia from the thirteenth through eighteenth centuries. Spatial patterning of burials suggests that men aspired to public leadership roles and women to leadership within kin groups that bound communities together. Our suggestion is that these gender dynamics were integral to the development of chiefdoms in the thirteenth through sixteenth centuries and to their cultural descendants of the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries. Such dynamics may have been an important reason that precolumbian chiefdoms of the southern Appalachians were relatively less hierarchical than other southeastern chiefdoms. These patterns illustrate the need to reevaluate models that generally have not explored the significance of gender as an axis for social differentiation in hierarchical southeastern societies. This paper first reviews relevant ethnographic information and then considers archaeological patterns from eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina that illustrate the presence of complementary gender structures in native societies of the region.  [Back]

Sundkvist, Anneli, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, Sweden

A Man´s Job? A Feminist Approach to Horses in Archaeology

The horse has long been considered a symbol for prestige, power and cult in Scandinavian Late Iron Age (c. 500-1060 AD) society. Many richly equipped graves contain horses and horse tack which were buried together with the deceased. Weapons are also common in these graves, and the buried men have often been interpreted as chieftains, warlords, yeomen or mounted warriors. This has led to a situation where horsemanship has been almost exclusively discussed in terms of warfare and mounted battles and therefore is always seen as part of a male sphere. However, some of the burials with horses are women's graves. Among these is one of the most famous Viking Age finds in Scandinavia, the Oseberg ship burial from Norway. What can the Oseberg grave and other women's graves with horses tell us about how and by whom horses were used? Do these burials give a different picture than the traditional war-related interpretation? Was horsemanship in late Iron Age Scandinavia really horseMANship? Were the horses really trained as warhorses by men and for men? The archaeological material gives a much more nuanced picture of prehistoric horsemanship, with women taking an active part.  [Back]

Sutton, Wendy, Department of Anthropology, Columbia University

Reevaluating the Archaeological Household During the Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric Periods on the High Plains in View of a New Understanding of Polygynous Household Organization

Increases in tipi rings size on the High Plains have been theoretically tied to economic and social changes suggested ethnographically (i.e. Kehoe). Presumably, as involvement in the hide trade increased, economic units/families with more hide processors (i.e. women) became increasingly profitable. These polygynous families would have required more space and would have been better able to acquire horses (to transport larger tipis). However, in our rush to see single structures as representative of entire households we have misrepresented and misunderstood polygynous households. These households frequently did not occupy a single structure; instead, they were often spread between several structures. Using ethnographic evidence, the concept of the household will be reworked. The theoretical and archaeological implications (of this new definition) will be critiqued.  [Back]

Victor, Helena, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, Sweden

The House and the Woman: Re-reading Scandinavian Bronze Age Society

Scandinavian Bronze Age society, c.1800-500 BC, has long been interpreted as hierarchical in form and dominated by male classes of chieftains, warriors and priests. Women have been seen merely as passive observers of the rich sphere of ritual activity around which society was structured. The necessity of deconstructing the Public-Domestic dichotomy, producing such 'passive' women and 'active' men, is now urgent. The paper approaches these issues by focusing on Scandinavian Bronze Age cult buildings, exploring their socio-religious context and female associations against a background of material culture change over time. Emphasis is placed on the shared symbolic language of domestic and ritual structures, and on the consequent relocation of women to a central position in the Bronze Age social order. A study of the archaeological material, in contrast to models built solely on paradigms based around modern perspectives, reveals women as actors rather than spectators and as custodians of sustained communal life. This role as shapers and manipulators of social forces may then be seen as extending further into the rituals used to manifest the organization of the community as a whole, a re-reading that situates the House and the Woman at the core of Bronze Age experience.  [Back]

Weglian, Emily J., Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota

Grave Goods Do Not a Gender Make

Archaeologists make many assumptions regarding gender in mortuary contexts. During the late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age in much of Europe, there seems to be a dichotomy in burial practices which differentiates males and females. These interpretations of burial position and grave goods rely almost exclusively upon a two-gendered, western male/female system. In this system, grave goods are assumed a priori to have a gender association, when there is not necessarily a gender component to the meaning of the artifact. This paper looks at specific graves from the late Neolithic/EBA cemetery at Singen, in southwestern Germany, which are categorized as "anomalous" or "wrong" with regard to sex differentiation in burial practices. Using these burials as examples, I attempt to understand the role of gender in the context of the cemetery as a whole. Using several different possible gender systems, I will analyze the differing interpretations of material culture used as burial furniture and discuss how these interpretations differ from the traditional interpretations.  [Back]

Wehner, Karen Bellinger, Anthropology Department, New York University

Reconstructing Gender Relations in a Southern Plantation Household: A Case Study in Historical Archaeology

This paper presents preliminary conclusions from ongoing research into gender relations at "Chatham," a nineteenth-century Chesapeake Virginia plantation site. Using spatial analysis and archival study, it was possible to reconstruct how architecture, space and things were used at Chatham to negotiate identities and roles within the larger context of a rapidly evolving political economy before, during and after the American Civil War. Ample evidence for how individuals related to each other within this extended household during an intensely volatile period makes Chatham a case study which concretizes the ways in which culturally and historically specific gender, race, and class ideologies shape, but do not dictate, individual experiences at different levels of social organization. Furthermore, evidence for concurrent material and social change at Chatham affirms the degree to which the influences of (and individual responses to) dominant social structures are expressed through as well as experienced in material culture.  [Back]

Weinstein, Elka, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

Images of Women in Ancient Chorrera Ceramics: Mythology Continuity across Two Millennia in the Tropical Forests of South America

This paper discusses representations of women in the Late Formative of Chorrera ceramics from the coast of Ecuador. Their significance is interpreted in light of descriptions of female characters in the mythologies of Tropical Forest Lowland peoples of the Northwestern Amazon. It is argued that there is a continuity of religious and mythic explanation across space and through time in this region, and that this continuity can be demonstrated through an analysis of the imagery on the ceramics.  [Back]

Wicker, Nancy L., Art Department, Mankato State University

Patrons, Goldsmiths, and Women: A Gendered Examination of Migration Period Scandinavian Pendant Jewelry

Grave evidence demonstrates that women were the ultimate consumers of Scandinavian gold bracteate jewelry dating to the fifth- and sixth-centuries A.D. Recently, Lindeberg has tried to illuminate the role of women through the function, runic inscriptions, and iconography of bracteates. A few of these objects display female imagery; however, on the whole, the iconography and production of bracteates seem closely tied to men's activities. Hedeager and Andrén believe that bracteates were given to strengthen bonds of loyalty between warriors and the male political aristocracy. The relationship between women who wore the objects and men who commissioned and made them has been inadequately examined. Arrhenius proposed that bracteates were part of the bride-price; thus these objects were intimately linked with women while manipulated by kinship groups in power-plays of arranged marriages. Andrén has suggested that in areas of political conflict, as in Kent and Pannonia, women wore bracteates as emblems of Nordic ethnic and religious identity, reflecting far-flung marriage alliances to bolster the political ethnicity of the Germanic warrior elite. In this paper, I will further examine the interdependence of the women and men who used bracteates for display of ethnicity, social status, gender, and religion.  [Back]

|  Bettina Arnold Home Page  |
|  Conference Home  |  Program  |  Abstracts   |  BAR Volume  | AltaMira Press Volume |

© 2000 Bettina Arnold, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Design: Homer Hruby, Last Updated: January 24, 2000