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ARTICLE

Copyright © 2002 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi)
Vol 2(1): 81–108 [1469-6053(200202)2:1;81–108;020598]

Representations of women in Spanish
Levantine rock art
An intentional fragmentation
TRINIDAD ESCORIZA MATEU
Departamento de Historia, Geografía e Historia del Arte, Facultad de
Humanidades, Unversidad de Almería

ABSTRACT
Key diagnostic features allow the sexual identification of figures in
Spanish Levantine rock art in a great number of cases. The analysis
conducted here suggests the existence of a sexual division of labour,
and that inequalities in this indicate that women were a socially
exploited group. The emphasis on hunting found in the paintings
responds to an ideology imposed by the dominant patriarchal order,
and underscores the fact that masculine activities had greater social
value. I argue that control over women is reflected in the scarcity of
representations such as maternity, the cancellation of sexual attributes, and the invisibility of female activities. The politico-ideological
strategy of concealment gave limited social value to women and their
role in creating the conditions for social life.
KEYWORDS
domestication • feminist archaeology • food production • gender •
patriarchy • prehistoric economy • representation • rock art • Spanish
Levant

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■ FEMALE IMAGES AND PATRIARCHAL THOUGHT
Interpretations of the female body in prehistoric art are socially constructed
and marked by a series of norms using the language of the patriarchal order;
men have presented women to be observed and revealed. This has meant
that most studies on the representation of women’s bodies, from distinct
disciplines, present clear androcentric characteristics. From this basis we
can affirm that the consideration and contemplation of the principal female
materiality, the body, initiates from a different material and symbolic order,
that of the masculine gaze. It is for this reason that the images generated
appear as alien, strange and sometimes even uncomfortable for many
women carrying out research on female representations in all periods of
history.
Two crucial facts result from this situation. First, the absence of the body
as a principal reference for women as subjects, since this has been defined
by a different social subject (Irigaray, 1987). The second is the cancellation
of the female sex represented through the realization of historical interpretations that silence women as necessary subjects in the production and
maintenance of social life (Escoriza Mateu, 1995, 1999; Hachuel and
Sanahuja Yll, 1996; Sanahuja Yll, 1997a).
Historical and archaeological studies of images of women continue to
draw on premises derived in one way or another from a symbolic system –
constructed and imposed by a masculine ‘other’ – that neither belongs to
them, nor refers to them. Women do not appear constituted as political
actors in the majority of interpretations (Muraro, 1994: 46).1 This implies
that the patriarchal order enjoys both the power to structure material
dominion over women’s bodies, and to develop a symbolic order whose
function is to channel, exemplify and give meaning to the existing social
reality (Escoriza Mateu, 1999; Sanahuja Yll, 2001).2 In the case of the production of images of female bodies, it defines a priori, presents and regulates the meaning of the forms and/or patterns of representation, and the
expression of the contents with respect to the bodies represented.
All symbolic orders are born in a close relationship with existing material
conditions, and reinforce the patriarchal order in which they are continually reproduced. The double power of the patriarchal order, material and
symbolic, can be defined as a ‘colonization’ that has usurped women
through the imposition of an image of the female body, attempting to
replace their knowledge of their own bodies. This has generated, among
women, a ‘schizophrenia’ between what they really are and what is
demanded of them in order to be recognized as social actors. This has
resulted in a position of weakness, and has created the false expectation
known as the ‘equality trap’ as the only apparent means of salvation. For
some authors, the strategy of equality seems insufficient, given that the

1994: 80). enveloped in the bodies of men or women. Thus feminism aimed at equality has encountered in the maternal body an impediment.04 Mateu (JG/d) 8/1/02 1:10 pm Page 83 Escoriza Mateu Representations of women in Spanish Levantine rock art present social order is not ours from the point of view of the difference between the sexes (Irigaray. but does not name women. or in which the category of gender is used as an alternative to that of sex. even coming to see it as a transmitter of the patriarchal system (Rivera. the relations and behavioural patterns of gender do not have a fixed essence. we are social beings. appear incomprehensible and may be labelled as unprogressive or outmoded. unfortunately.3 Conversely. According to gender archaeology (Conkey and Gero. and it seeks academic legitimacy through feminist research (Scott. In grammatical terms. From another perspective. relating them ambiguously to the material anchor of the body. under the premise of a false ‘human identity’. some researchers 83 . feminine and neuter. 1988). The category of gender defines ‘genders’ as constructs specific to determined cultural ambits or different societies. genders are in constant construction and depend upon historical contingency or particular cultures.4 This arises from the fact that the normal approach involves scientific discourses in which the paradigm of neutrality is accepted. as such recreating a clearly patriarchal discourse (Rivera. However. is something that the patriarchy has continuously silenced. gender lacks the analytical power to confront and change historically existing schemas and paradigms. 1990). Gender is presented as an analytical category exempt from the ‘bothersome’ biological or corporeal connotations presented by the concept of sex. As such. For this reason some feminist approaches tend to scandalize. This means. and the neuter does not exist as a material biological referent. that. that we ask why the concept of gender enjoys such a wide diffusion and acceptance. Conkey and Spector. as this would imply a return to biological determinism. and are variable within and with time. It must not be forgotten that the existence of a material difference.. 1996). It also explains the rejection of the recent vindication of the body as a starting point and a focus for reflection in certain sectors within the feminist movement. especially in academic circles such as archaeology. It is in relation to that. from the moment of our birth. we are born into the body of a woman or of a man. academic and power-holding circles remain controlled mainly by dominant patriarchal thought patterns. with the rejection of the body as a referent. there are three categories: masculine. There have been numerous criticisms and discussions surrounding the use of the category of gender. For some authors. from which the category of gender originates. 1984). it does not represent a real critical force. Sanahuja Yll. 1994. Gender includes. possibly in order to avoid a confrontation between the sexes themselves (Colomer et al. that gender discourse continues to ‘collaborate’ in the maintenance of the inexistence of an objective condition of sexual difference throughout history. This needs to be set against the reality. 2001). 1991. that of sexually differentiated bodies.

finally. in which socialization plays a fundamental role. As Irigaray (1985) has pointed out. we have to make a double effort: on the one hand we have to recover the female body. In order to germinate this change of meaning. This results in a resuscitation of the over-worked idealism-materialism debate (Colomer et al. since their relation to reality is mediated by a distinct discursive order that does not take them into account (Muraro. the basic production process through which women allow and facilitate the continuity of social life. blurs the universal difference which it establishes with respect to the reproductive capacity of the female sex’. as Sanahuja Yll (1997b) pointed out: ‘The rejection of the category of sex. Consider the female body as the necessary starting point for reaching an understanding of the social. and on the other. it is necessary to change the existing material conditions. due to the supposed biological determinism which it implies. allows us to contemplate the body represented as a social materiality and as an exponent of a sexual difference that establishes itself fundamentally in the framework of social production. and to un-authorize the logic of the forms of representation of women’s bodies. In archaeology one of the greatest problems posed by the category of gender is that it does not require a material anchorage. to rewrite it. But. because of their capacity to contain one body inside another. and even consider it to be no more than a ‘disguise’. or that represents them. Finally. For this to occur.. 1990). with a fluid identity (Butler. through the fear of being sexually assaulted (Bocchetti.04 Mateu (JG/d) 84 8/1/02 1:10 pm Page 84 Journal of Social Archaeology 2(1) concentrate on the opacity of the concept of gender. instead of gender. Nor have they used the language that belongs to them. because of a determined means of relating with the maternal. Some authors have even suggested that women lack a symbolic competence over the real. to consciously flee from the patriarchal symbolic system. 1994). 1996). it is necessary to construct a world of meanings different from the ones that have been established.6 In this regard Bocchetti argued that women’s bodies are ‘more body’ than men’s bodies for three fundamental reasons: firstly. Queer archaeological concerns also question feminist archaeologists who legitimize and develop gender studies simply because they do not embrace those theories that deconstruct gender and Queer sexuality (Voss. .5 We refer to the creation of bodies. 1995: 108). the use of sex as a category. thereby invalidating the meanings that have invaded us. above all. This effort is necessary since women are not the subjects of their symbolic order. since I feel that materiality conforms or structures the forms of representation of ‘the symbolic’. 1987: 49). although in this case it is focused on relations between the sexes. In this way. a capacity which does not need to become a reality. We need to deconstruct the dominant patriarchal discourse. which gives meaning to and reinforces the reigning material reality. since they have been represented and have represented themselves by means of the language of the ‘other’ (Cavarero. political and ideological reality that surrounds us. and. 2000). second.

1996. both in the forms of interpretation and in the patterns that structure schemes of representation. whose function is to give pleasure and/or stimulate masculine sexuality. by means of the analysis of representations of their bodies.04 Mateu (JG/d) 8/1/02 1:10 pm Page 85 Escoriza Mateu Representations of women in Spanish Levantine rock art An example of this patriarchal domination can be found in representations of female bodies. This loss of themselves begins with the absence of and/or separation of a referential body. and lacked. such that women are converted into the key element of the ‘home’. given that there exists 85 . to their concealment. The character of the Virgin Mary is an example of the most outstanding sacrifice and exclusion of pleasure that could exist (Guerra. A strategy widely used by the patriarchal order. but the patriarchy has resolved that the generation of sons and daughters should constitute the aim. This can be defined as the creation of ‘myths’ that take some part of the female body as reference points. in both cases. the prostitute. eventually acquire the spiritual force which they have required. leading. when they are creators of life. and thus allows the reproduction of the established political and social order. Maternity has never been really valued as another form of socialization for women. references are made to the virgin. is ‘fragmentation’. Thus. the mother is a uterus that gives life. 1981). 1994). The family is conceived of as an institution with a universal character.8 ■ ARCHAEOLOGY AND REPRESENTATIONS OF WOMEN Interpretations of the role of women in past societies. have fed the image of the ‘ideal family’ in accord with dominant patriarchal thought. Irigaray. even as the minimum unit of analysis. These categorizations constitute an ‘intentional mutilation’ of the initial totality of women’s bodies. and in the forms and/or patterns of symbolic representation generated in some past societies. This is the case with Spanish Levantine rock art.7 From this patriarchal perspective. the mother. that of the mother (Bochetti. Such gazes proceeding from the masculine logos have become politically institutionalized and have been accepted in different branches of science. These fragments are subsequently made exclusive in specific functions. which are never interpreted as being responsible for fundamental production within the heart of any society. throughout their lives. 1991). The public woman is a necessary body. and only end of women’s lives (Sau. attitudes or life objectives. a fact that always generates an incomplete socialization of women. which the patriarchal order thinks of as being incapacitated by nature for the purposes of a total and full socialization. an approach which should be considered to be sexist. with the destruction of their bodies. This attitude is evident both in the interpretations resulting from historical and archaeological research. Martyrs.

Lleida). 8. Teruel) . Castellón). Teruel). Cueva del Engarbo 1 (Santiago de la Espada. 13. Abrigo de la Pareja and Abrigo del Cinto de la Vantana (Dos Aguas. 5. 27. Cingle de La Mola Remigia (Ares del Maestre. 10. Valencia). Abrigo de La Risca (Moratalla. 2000b). Barranco del Pajarero (Albarracín. Murcia).04 Mateu (JG/d) 86 8/1/02 1:10 pm Page 86 Journal of Social Archaeology 2(1) the possibility that some women and men may not necessarily be integrated into such cellular units. 25. Abrigo del Arquero de Los Callejones Cerrados (Albarracín. Albacete). Abrigo de Los Trepadores. 9. Los Chaparros (Albalete del Arzobispo. Valencia). Covacho Ahumado. Jaén). 1988). Cova dels Cavalls (Tirig. 23. Barranco Segovia (Letur. Teruel). Roca dels Moros (Cogul. The resulting approaches do not take account of a fundamental issue: that archaeological objects in Figure 1 Location of the main sites with Levantine rock art mentioned in the text 1–3. 15. Alicante). Teruel). 26. 4. Abrigo del Ciervo. 22. Abrigo Grande de Minateda (Hellín. and in the case of Spain. as some authors suggest (Eichler. This limits research to the image itself. Castellón). 7. Abrigo de Los Recolectores. Teruel). Covachos de Los Grajos (Cieza. Cueva del Garroso (Alacón. 21. Cañada de Marco (Alcaine. Castellón). Cueva de la Vieja (Alpera. 24. Albacete). 16–20. Teruel). Cueva de la Araña (Bicorp. This criticism understands the family to be the social group in which the forms of control over women’s bodies within a patriarchal society are imposed (Escoriza Mateu. Cueva de la Higuera (Alcaine. Covetes del Puntal (Ares del Maestre. Barranco de Los Borriquitos. Murcia). Within the field of prehistoric archaeology. 12. Albacete). studies of the representations of female figures have been generally reduced to an appreciation of their artistic value and to the analysis of styles. Cuenca). 11. 14. Selva Pascuala (Villar del Humo. Barranco de las Olivianas (Albarracín. 6. Covachos de la Sarsa (Alcoy. Teruel).

Dobres. In contrast. thanks to the discovery of the so-called ‘macro-schematic’ rock art (Hernandez and Centre d’Estudis Contestans. Beltran. the former (Martí Oliver and Cabanilles. although at present there is almost unanimous agreement that this is a post-Palaeolithic art form (Alonso and Grimal. and question the role of women as social subjects and the use and/or social function of the figures (Bolger.04 Mateu (JG/d) 8/1/02 1:10 pm Page 87 Escoriza Mateu Representations of women in Spanish Levantine rock art themselves do not allow us to understand their presence and their meaning. from Barcelona to Cadiz. Only by analysing the material conditions of the communities that produce and/or give meaning to the figurative representations can we explain them. does not stand in the way of integrating artistic studies into holistic investigations of forms of social life. or at least contemporaneous with. allows us to date this artistic style to the early Neolithic. Levantine-style art can be identified as corresponding to this period. however. 1996. Recently Spanish Levantine rock art has been located within the context of the Neolithic societies in the Mediterranean zone of the Iberian Peninsula. 1999. 1992. Joyce. Thus. and at the edge of the sea. These approach the images from a perspective that is not merely descriptive. 87 .9 Within this corpus are whole series of compositions and/or pictorial panels found generally in accessible open shelters. a number of important feminist approaches have studied representations of women in different societies. 1993. Thus. 1996. situated on hillsides and rocky escarpments. Their geographical distribution is wide and covers a broad territory. The chronological framework of these representations has been established in this historical moment since the 1980s. This limitation. with specific functions in relation to the constituting elements within social practices. 1999. A good example of this is provided by Spanish Levantine rock art. 1982). Albacete and Guadalajara (Figure 1). on the basis of which the latter can be considered to be later than. There has been widespread debate regarding the chronology of Levantine rock art. including zones in the interior such as Teruel. Macro-schematic representations have been discovered beneath Levantine-style paintings. 1995) In prehistoric archaeology. we are unable to arrive at an understanding of the prevailing meanings in the past. on some of the earliest ceramic products in the western Mediterranean. 1999). Brumfiel. Meskell. outside Spain. it is not surprising to find an absence of studies relating these representations to their respective archaeological contexts. considered as instruments of specific ideological forms. it becomes necessary to establish transitive relations between the conditions of the production of social life (social practices) and their material. The great similarity between macro-schematic art and the decorative themes that appear in cardial-style ceramic decoration. archaeological expression. Cuenca. or to the one immediately following it. and the particular intentions of the authors or authoresses. Aparicio and Morote. 1987). 1996. In this way it becomes possible to socially re-dimension the material images of women’s bodies.

In the face of the aggression. and the distinct form of ‘revealing themselves’. Galiana Botella.04 Mateu (JG/d) 88 8/1/02 1:10 pm Page 88 Journal of Social Archaeology 2(1) There are certain problems in the chronology of Levantine art. When women appear in a composition. or the existence of superimposed paintings within a single composition. for me. other studies have tried to establish a relationship between the figures represented. However. adornments and clothing in general. 1966: 91).10 ■ WOMEN AND MEN IN SPANISH LEVANTINE ROCK ART The human figure occupies a central position within the various compositional types of Levantine rock art. which may derive from a ‘corporeal difference’ between men and women. 1986–7. 1980. a sensation of calm and tranquillity. 1995). the instruments or objects that they carry. the groups of archers. competition ‘staging’ and death present in many of the Levantine panels.11 The scenes with male subjects have been at the centre of research interest: the hunting drives. 1994. This suggests an important difference in the subjects displayed. there is something that makes them different. defined and socially signified in terms of the existence of a number of a priori sexist stereotypes (Garcia del Toro. such as the lack of correspondence between shelters containing Levantine paintings and inhabited sites. Traditionally. the war scenes. 1982: 174). it was the context of the women in those panels. the analysis of the figures has been approached via the definition and systematization of the forms represented. 1985). Documentation exists for a great number of scenes in which women and men appear engaged in different social practices and a range of different activities. violence. these women and the activities that they carry out are trivialized or even ignored (Beltran. Thus. which induced me to consider them more carefully. the women represented in the Levantine pictorial panels have been identified. arguing that they do not identify women as social subjects. the images of female bodies produced. In the discourse that resulted. Generally. the ‘military’ parades. with a concentration on anatomical description (Viñas. 1983). Ripoll. using these associations as a possible element of chronological character (Blasco. Previously. the rituals with ithyphalic persons (men with exaggeratedly large sexual organs). 1996). which makes the interpretation of scenes more difficult. 1974. Studies stress the narrative character . while some studies have focused on analysing the dress and positions of the arms of the female figures (Alonso and Grimal. although they are situated at the margins of the central scene. Both questions can be clarified once an adequate chronology for the paintings has been established. principally protagonized by male subjects. Jordá Cerda. I have called attention to the interpretation of female silhouettes featured on rock panels (Escoriza Mateu.

such as: static. which extended from gestation. although we know that they would have been more important from the perspective of the satisfaction of alimentary requirements. and the absence of arms.. birth and suckling. 1982: 113). to the subsequent maintenance of the children. These places were not inhabited on a continuous basis. ■ WOMEN IN SPANISH LEVANTINE ROCK ART Levantine rock paintings are found in rock shelters that are almost always situated on hillsides and/or rocky escarpments. harvesting). which are considered always to be of masculine character (Beltran. in contrast to those in which women are documented.. (1995). 1995: 182). In contrast to this we find the limited presentation. If there were no male compensations. androcentric approaches remain in force (DiazAndreu. Thus. one of the sure indicators of a figure being female is the type of activity being carried out. This is a problem that ought to be addressed within the global framework of feminist archaeology. we know that in the Neolithic a considerable demographic growth took place. 1998). and even the occultation of those jobs carried out by women (cultivation. Following Sanahuja et al. This should not stop us from undertaking an in-depth analysis of the activities realized by the women in these panels. tools and/or work instruments. a process that certainly had repercussions for the increase in women’s work. women’s quality of life may have been reduced as Neolithic societies were consolidated (Castro et al. 1966: 90). The women in the artwork can be recognized in specific interpretable attitudes. feminist archaeology as it stands has focused more on the critique of androcentricism in archaeological discourse. which are qualified as representing ‘non-defined activities’.12 Moreover. Stress has been placed on the more common and more diverse appearance of the male figure than the female one. As a consequence of the limited impact of feminist studies in rock art at both the theoretical and methodological levels. Occasionally it has been said that egalitarianism was a characteristic of Neolithic societies. and not in proposing an alternative theoretical and methodological approach. However. Themes that are important from a feminist perspective have not been considered relevant. passive or isolated (Andreu et al.04 Mateu (JG/d) 8/1/02 1:10 pm Page 89 Escoriza Mateu Representations of women in Spanish Levantine rock art that these scenes present. we can find important evidence in Levantine paintings that contradicts this proposed egalitarianism. which allows us to talk of the existence of a certain level of exploitation of women by the adult men. in scenes of hunting or archers and group fights. In view of this dilemma one should highlight the contributions of a number of authors who have offered an interesting analytical approach in the analysis of Levantine art. understood in terms of work. We see the social power of men as a collective reflected in these paintings. Rather. for some authors. they were spaces dedicated to 89 .

there is another way of identifying the sex of the figures – by means of their clothing. 2–4). 2.04 Mateu (JG/d) 90 8/1/02 1:10 pm Page 90 Journal of Social Archaeology 2(1) communication by means of symbols and/or representation of a whole series of knowledge and experience (Lull et al. 1994: fig. 2. allows us to consider this article of clothing to be an Figure 2 Representations of women with possible digging sticks or vegetable elements 1–3. Cingle de la Mola Remigia (Mateo. 3). always found in figures with breasts. based on an ambiguous definition of the criteria for sexual categorization. 6. which implies the existence of asexual figures that cannot be used in the ascription of activities to different sexual groups. In the case of women. Abrigo del Ciervo (Alonso and Grimal. Covacho Ahumado (Fortea Pérez and Aura. 1999). We can say that sociopolitical practices are expressed in these areas. 7. there exist two clear elements of sexual representation: breasts and penises. the repeated presence of skirts.13 The studies of activities represented in the Levantine paintings are characterized by a non-systematic ascription of work to one sex or the other. El Barranco del Pajarero (Alonso and Grimal. 9–10).. 2.14 In the face of this ambiguity. 1987: fig. 4–5. These elements do not always appear in the images. 1992: fig. 3.15 Fortunately. 1994: fig. 21) .

They show women carrying out work related to the clearing and/or cleaning of fields. as happens with figures positioned frontally. In the case of the men. Cueva del Garroso (Ortego Frias. Abrigo de Los Trepadores (Ortego.16 The Levantine representations indicate the existence of a series of economic activities in which women appear as the principal subjects. Abrigo de Cinto de la Ventana (Jordá Cerda. a woman appears carrying a tool identified as a hoe (Soria and López. carrying digging sticks. Teruel. 1948). in the Cueva del Engarbo I (Jaén). 4. 1951: 21). see Jordá Cerda. although represented in smaller quantities than those conducted by men. in the Abrigo del Ciervo (Dos Aguas. 1963). poles and/or collecting vegetable elements. Castellón) where a woman appears inclined forwards. 1974) or in the Cingle de la Mola Remigia (Ares del Maestre. 1999: 10). see Jordá Cerda and Alcacer. even in those cases in which the breasts are not clearly defined. in El Barranco del Pajarero (Albarracín. holding plants or digging sticks. harvesting and perhaps even sowing.04 Mateu (JG/d) 8/1/02 1:10 pm Page 91 Escoriza Mateu Representations of women in Spanish Levantine rock art additional element for use in sexual categorization. These are representations of women involved in the production of foodstuffs (see Figure 2). Another figure in Covacho Ahumado Figure 3 Representations of ‘male agriculturalists’ 1. Similarly. Abrigo de Los Recolectores (Jordá Cerda. we do not find any element of clothing that is sufficiently widespread to use it as an element for sexual categorization.17 These are productive activities that indicate the broad participation of women in the economy. 1971). 1971) 91 . 2. Thus we see. In these they appear bent over the ground. together with a figure that suggests bull-like characteristics (Ripoll. 1948). Valencia. 3.

More importantly. see Jordá Cerda. 15). 1948: fig. 1996). with objects in their hands and their arms outstretched. Cueva de la Araña (Hernández-Pacheco et al. 1971). see Jordá Cerda.18 I would highlight a collection of figures from the Abrigo de Los Trepadores (Alacón. Abrigo de Los Trepadores (Fortea Pérez and Aura. Such is the case of the so-called ‘man with a spade’ in the Cueva del Garroso (Alacón. in which the supposed spade appears to be a type of lance and/or arrows (Ortego Frias. 1948: fig. 1971). who have been interpreted in relation to agricultural practices. but who should also be considered in relation to the contiguous bellicose compositions (Mateo. Although other figures (identifiable as male) are also shown engaged in agricultural activities. 2–4. 27–29).04 Mateu (JG/d) 92 8/1/02 1:10 pm Page 92 Journal of Social Archaeology 2(1) represents a women wrapped in a long skirt associated with vegetable elements (El Mortero. see Figure 3). Teruel. 380). partly because in these cases the figures are asexual. Teruel. 1975: fig. Valencia. nos. or the plough and the spade of the individual from the Abrigo de Cinto de la Ventana (Dos Aguas. no clear association can be established. 1987: fig 2) .. 15). the identification of the work tools has been incorrect. 3. Figure 4 Representations of the collection of honey and/or of individuals in relation to vegetable elements 1. Teruel. Covacho Ahumado (Fortea Pérez and Aura. 5. 1987: fig. Teruel). Alacón. see Ortego Frias. Nor is it possible to identify as an agricultural tool the supposed hoe associated with the figure from the Abrigo de Los Recolectores (Alacón.

Another activity represented is the collection of honey by asexual individuals who hang from ropes or long branches. although in smaller numbers. 1992: p. 1987: fig. 181). Women are also shown engaged in activities such as shepherding (Figure 5). 1948: fig. evidenced in the Abrigo del Arquero de Los Callejones Cerrados (El Rodeno de Albarracín. 4.. in which it is not possible to be sure what type of activity is being enacted (Jordá Cerda. Murcia. and from the Abrigo de Los Recolectores (Alacón. 1987). 11. Fortea Pérez and Aura. Teruel). Ortego Frias. 2. El Milano (Eiroa. Cova dels Cavalls (Viñas. Valencia) in which an asexual figure. Figure 5 Representations of herding and hunting 1. An example is the famous scene in the Cueva de La Araña (Bicorp. 4). 1996: fig. and with a basket in its hands. 3). Although they do not carry any sort of weapons or objects.04 Mateu (JG/d) 8/1/02 1:11 pm Page 93 Escoriza Mateu Representations of women in Spanish Levantine rock art Hence we cannot talk of the existence of ‘agricultural men’ as a representative theme. Albacete). Abrigo del Arquero de Los Callejones Cerrados (Collado et al. 1915: fig. Cañada de Marco (Escoriza. 90. another from the Abrigo de Los Trepadores (Alacón Teruel) (Cabré. Alonso and López. 1994: fig. and the uncertainty of the activities which they are carrying out. as in the Abrigo de ‘El Milano’ (Mula.11) 93 .19 Other cases are the figure from the Cueva de La Vieja (Alpera. 1975). Teruel.. climbs up a cord towards a hole in the rock (Figure 4). see Collado et al. We also find female figures forming part of hunting scenes. 3.. 1971). Teruel. they might be acting as stalkers or beaters. surrounded by what might be bees. 15). Because of the asexual character of the figures. we cannot establish a clear relationship between economic activity and gender in this type of scene. 1982: fig. see Hernández Pacheco et al. 1992: 14–15) or in the Barranco de Las Olivanas (Albarracín.

4). Barranco de Los Borriquitos (Escoriza. 1948). There is added the problem of whether these figures were added later (Mateo. Murcia) (Garcia del Toro. 5. and maintains that the women are not in dancing positions. 4). 1994: 150). so-called by Breuil and Almagro. or relating to dance. 2. ceremonial. 1996: fig. 3. in which both women and men appear. 1996: fig. Cingle de La Mola Remígia (Escoriza. 1996: fig. Cingle de La Mola Remígia (Escoriza. Figure 6 Representations interpreted as domestication and/or riding of animals 1. Abelanet rejects this interpretation. Ortego Frias. This type of scene is repeated in the Abrigo I del Barranco de Los Grajos (Cieza. Abrigo de Los Trepadores (Escoriza. although their political and/or economic significance cannot be established with certainty. These are activities that are difficult to interpret and have given rise to a great range of possible readings. 1996: fig. see Figure 7) where a group of women is arranged around a ‘man-satyr’. Lleida. Selva Pascuala (Escoriza. 4. 1996: fig. 1986). there are scenes in the Cingle de La Mola Remígia (Ares del Maestre.20 There are some compositions. referred to as ritual. or in the case of Minateda (Jordá Cerda. But all of these cases show asexual figures. An example comes from La Roca dels Moros (Cogul. the Abrigo de Los Trepadores and Barranco de Los Borriquitos (Ripoll. Castellón). 4) . 1996). 4). 4). All these scenes illustrate practices in which individuals of both sexes appear. in which occasionally the bare outlines lead us to doubt whether they are representations of people (Figure 6). 1963. 1987). and that they are facing away from the male character (Abelanet.04 Mateu (JG/d) 94 8/1/02 1:11 pm Page 94 Journal of Social Archaeology 2(1) With regard to the tasks of riding and/or training of animals. They are certainly scenes of socio-political practice.

With the cancellation of the representation of the mother figure. This type of representation was very common in earlier periods. compared with women’s bodies.. sometimes with the breasts covered. Their sexual organs are never shown.04 Mateu (JG/d) 8/1/02 1:11 pm Page 95 Escoriza Mateu Representations of women in Spanish Levantine rock art ■ REPRESENTATIONS OF MOTHERS IN SPANISH LEVANTINE ROCK ART There is a notable absence of representations of pregnant women in Spanish Levantine rock art. in Levantine art. 2). exemplified by the images of the so-called Palaeolithic Venus (Hachuel and Sanahuja Yll. La Roca dels Moros de Cogull (Hernández-Pacheco et al. In many cases. The sexual difference manifest in the Palaeolithic. 2. we begin to find other elements and objects of an ornamental character associated with women’s bodies. Barranco de Los Grajos (Mateo. which generally appear dressed. With the concealment of images of women. 1996). is not represented. In the Levantine rock art there does not seem to be the necessity for maternity or birth to be represented through images. Their absence in later work has had little in-depth discussion. It is significant that. we have to conclude that a selection process in the representation of economic activities existed. representations of men were more prolific. Since gestation and suckling are productive activities for society as a whole. We are confronting women within a new and different symbolic and material order: a patriarchal Neolithic order which no longer contemplates maternity within the sphere of symbolic representation. there is also a cancellation of the sexual attributes of women. In contrast. in the Figure 7 Representations of ‘ritual and/or religious’ character 1. 1994: fig. 1975: p. the only labour that men cannot engage in. 63) 95 . maternity. the male sexual organs take on a more important role.

since it is impossible to see any anatomical correspondence between this figure and the female body (Beltrán. Castellón. Beltrán. who also display bulging bellies in profile.‘Venus de la Valltorta’ of Covetes del Puntal (Alonso and Grimal. The so-called Venus de la Valltorta (Covetes del Puntal. with fights and death. 1982: 165) presents a body which is naked. 1). see Viñas. Woman of Los Chaparros (Alonso and Grimal. Teruel. There are several exceptional cases.04 Mateu (JG/d) 96 8/1/02 1:11 pm Page 96 Journal of Social Archaeology 2(1) reproductive capacity of women. that leads us to think that the male collective controls the representations of ‘life cycles’. Ares del Maestre. Another female image appears in the Cueva de la Higuera (Alcaine. 3). together with the fact that women appear only marginally in relation to scenes of a warlike character. I would argue against this interpretation. 2. 4. leads us to think that pregnancy is not depicted here. 1994: fig. 2. Teruel) and. 3. and lacking in any ornamental elements. 10) . 5). 1995: 217). 7. Women of La Risca 1 (Alonso and Grimal. due to the representational form of the female body (Figure 8). It is precisely the absence of women as givers of life. The other image comes from Los Chaparros (Albalate del Arzobispo. which at first sight reminds us of a pregnant woman. according to Beltrán. 1994: fig. 1994: fig. Mother and child from Barranco de Minateda (Alonso and Grimal. The protagonism of women Figure 8 Representations of the female body 1. was hidden in Levantine Neolithic society’s art. represents a woman in an advanced stage of pregnancy. 4. although the figure’s proximity to a group of archers. 1995: p. 1989) and shows a prominent belly.

Murcia). Although it is still necessary to confirm the precise chronology of the Levantine paintings. This has been limited in scope because of the scarcity of radiometric series and because palaeobiological analyses have been relatively rare among excavated sites.22 The transition from a hunter-gatherer economy to one based upon agricultural and pastoral strategies is a theme that has attracted a great deal of research. ■ CORROBORATING EVIDENCE FROM THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL RECORD? After analysing the types of compositions in the Levantine panels. with two female figures of different sizes. We find them in the Abrigo Grande de Barranco de Minateda (Hellín. may represent the beginning of the ‘culture of death’. 1994: 160).. given that her breasts are clearly outlined (Garcia del Toro.21 These are compositions in which female figures appear together with children (Figure 8). 1987: 19) and in the Barranco Segovia (Letur. 1996). in this case. who are represented as future male subjects (Hachuel and Sanahuja Yll. Albacete) (Alonso and Grimal. A case that cannot be ignored is the representation of La Risca I (Moratalla. These important changes produced at the level of representation are amplified by the appearance of scenes related to activities traditionally considered ‘domestic’. probably two women of different ages. Albacete) (Jordá Cerda. in which the protagonist is male. replacing that of birth. The representation of mother-son figures. her male product.04 Mateu (JG/d) 8/1/02 1:11 pm Page 97 Escoriza Mateu Representations of women in Spanish Levantine rock art in the creation of new individuals is eliminated. the sons. Palaeobotanical data indicate a degradation of the forest areas at the beginning of the early Neolithic. we can relate them to the Neolithic settlements from the Mediterranean zone of the Iberian Peninsula. pollen analyses indicate a gradual clearing of the forest areas as a result of human activity (Molist et al. 1996: 783). we can evaluate the information for food production at various archaeological sites. represented in previous ages by the figures of future mothers. We can also contextualize Levantine art in relation to the material conditions in those communities. rather than mother-daughter ones. The agricultural techniques employed have 97 . 1995: 16). Specifically. The Neolithic. strongly implies that men were involved in the control and management of the product. In some cases the figure of a woman holds a boy by the hand. The idea that the smaller figure is a girl can be discarded. and they are left at the margins in the final process of death. In the entire Catalan region there was a clear preference for sites with potential for the development of agriculture and for the exploitation of forest resources.

1987: 118). Hunting also continued to be practised at this time. since the technique improves fertility but also degrades wooded areas. horn and so on (Martí Oliver and Cabanilles. Martí Oliver and Cabanilles have pointed out that its importance is not related to the quantities of meat provided. hides. These practices accord with the degradation evident in certain zones. The principal domesticated species are sheep. Among the cereals naked wheat and barley and hulled barley are most common. cattle. while in others we find agriculture and pastoralism. If we also consider the presence of axes and hoes for clearing the forests and grinding stones for the preparation of flour. then agricultural production appears to be a clearly consolidated activity in the communities which produced the Levantine art (Martí Oliver and Cabanilles. lentils and beans. a type of agricultural development known as long fallow (Martí Oliver and Cabanilles. These always represent a higher percentage than the wild specimens within the total assemblages of fauna. a recent study by Schuhmacher and Weniger (1995) analysed this period of transition between two economic models. which takes into account varied and diverse modes of subsistence according to geographical zones. 1987). goats. and probably gathering. They used the archaeological record for the east of the Iberian Peninsula. pigs and dogs (Martí Oliver and Cabanilles. between 8000 and 5000 BC (Epipalaeolithic and early Neolithic). archaeozoological investigations corroborate the presence of domestic animals. The role of hunting can be best . hunting must be considered to be a complementary activity. evidenced by acorns and wild olives in the Levant (Buxó. 1997: 150). For legumes we find peas. suggesting that agricultural production was complemented by important livestock resources. The vegetable remains recovered also corroborate the continuation of previous gathering practices. Moreover. Looking at the remains of fauna found. The archaeological evidence suggests that during the early stages of the Neolithic a mixed economy prevailed based on agriculture and livestock. Finally. Archaeobotanical remains found in the Catalan area and in the Levant indicate the cultivation of diverse species in these early moments of the Neolithic. This study invalidates the proposition that hunting was the main economic activity in the Mediterranean communities of the Iberian peninsula. 1987: 118). On the basis of the previous data. In some areas the economy was more oriented towards hunting. 1987: 118–21).04 Mateu (JG/d) 98 8/1/02 1:11 pm Page 98 Journal of Social Archaeology 2(1) suggested rotation and the use of fire for preparation of the fields. analyses of the age profiles of specimens from some settlements make it possible to verify that a meat-based diet was centred on domesticated rather than wild animals. but rather to the provision of materials such as skins. supported by the remains of wild animals found in the majority of sites in the Mediterranean fringe of the Iberian Peninsula. Their study concludes that the subsistence of Neolithic groups can be understood and explained by means of the so-called ‘mosaic model’.

presence in economic activities is much less varied. there was considerable variability in the modes of food production in different areas. while in some cases problematic. Given archaeozoological studies. ■ CONCLUSIONS According to the analyses carried out for the period BC 8000–5000. but not as the basic activity that the scenes from Levantine art seem to suggest. They transcend the domain of different economic strategies. I have classified as asexual those images that do not demonstrate the above-mentioned attributes. which demonstrate a great homogeneity among the different communities. pre-Neolithic times. Furthermore. and agriculture contributed the greater part of their diet. the repeated association of breasts and skirts allows us to consider this item of clothing as another attribute of sexual identification. circulation of products. Livestock. which were favoured and reinforced by means of different mechanisms (alliances between groups. social mobility due to exogamy). sowing. The sexual definition of the figures in the paintings. this suggests the existence of similar socio-political practices and ideological schemata between the different social groups. Rejecting the possibility that these representations might correspond to earlier. With regard to the male representations. In addition. and give a primary position to hunting as an economic activity. From the analysis conducted. in the eastern zone of the Iberian Peninsula. the expression of socio-political practices. fruit and wild vegetable gathering.04 Mateu (JG/d) 8/1/02 1:11 pm Page 99 Escoriza Mateu Representations of women in Spanish Levantine rock art understood as an important complement. although it appears more 99 . and herding. To these we could add the creation of new individuals. there are representations of women engaged in ritual. There are two clear attributes for use in sexual definition: breasts in the case of the women. and underscores the fact that masculine activities had greater social value. The basis of the homogeneity of the Levantine rock art lies in the existence of shared social and economic relations. or the basic production and maintenance of sons and daughters. The emphasis on hunting found in the rock art suggests that it was a response to an ideology imposed by the dominant patriarchal order. This contrasts with the themes represented in the Levantine rock paintings. This implies that those specific activities in which asexual figures are engaged are not classified according to sex. hunting cannot be considered to be the single and most important economic strategy developed by the Neolithic communities who painted the Levantine panels. I suggest that females were represented carrying out tasks such as the clearing and/or cleaning of fields. does not prevent the identification of the subjects’ sexes in a great number of cases. harvesting. and penises in the case of the men.

Those jobs become more important from the point of view of diet requirements for the entire community. Vicente Lull. females in relation to its work in the creation of the conditions for social life. Chapman. In the Neolithic societies that produced the Levantine rock art. Rafael Micó. Geography and History of Art of the University of Almería. that of the father’s view. I would also like to thank Manuel Carrilero Millán and José Luis López Castro. both in the cancellation of representations of pregnant women. This work is also indebted to all of the members of our research team: Pedro V. in general. Her ideas and suggestions have been fundamental at the moment of tackling ‘female difference’ and the complex structure established within archaeological studies. and to give limited social value to. Women. All of this suggests the existence of a sexual division of labour. Sylvia Gili Suriñach. we can hypothesize an existence of control over women that is tantamount to concealment in the Levantine. Cristina Rihuete Herrada. Roberto Risch. a scarce representation of the great variety of activities that they realized. This is a change at the figurative level that implies the establishment of a different material and symbolic order. and in the great proliferation of representations of men and their sexual attributes. colleagues in the Department of History. Montserrat Menasanch and Teresa Sanz. hopes and friendship. the basic production and maintenance of individuals necessary to the continuity of social life. Finally. This new situation of control and exploitation may indicate that important changes occurred in the Neolithic. who undertook the translation of this article.04 Mateu (JG/d) 100 8/1/02 1:11 pm Page 100 Journal of Social Archaeology 2(1) frequently. with whom I share doubts. such as the possible riding and/or domestication of animals and the collection of honey. givers of life. herding. I would like also to thank Alex Walker. I suggest that controls were developed over women and were institutionalized by the dominant masculine power. This control over forms of representation would have been based on material dominance over women that extended to the production of new individuals. the existing inequalities in the division of labour in the Levantine Neolithic communities indicate that women were a socially exploited group. Other activities cannot be classified according to sex. thanks to Lorena Avila and Isabel Quero. women also carried out other tasks such as gestation. due to the scarcity of artistic representations of a variety of activities such as basic production (maternity). and if it does not necessarily imply exploitation. carried out more jobs than them. . the cancellation of sexual attributes and. suckling and care of sons/daughters. Robert W. Sanahuja Yll. The politico-ideological strategy is to hide. But additionally. Castro Martinez. war and ritual. Men appear in scenes that depict hunting. although they share activities such as herding with men. Acknowledgements This article owes a great deal to Mª.E. for their comments on the article. For this reason.

1999. which goes well beyond a simple response to simple biological requirements. The abandonment of the mother’s body at birth truncates an experience common to both. 1990. the exploitation of women has served as a model for other forms of exploitation. 3 For some authors. 1999. and a marked ambiguity. which have been so influential for feminist women in France. 2001). 4 We refer especially to the materialist contributions to the debate surrounding sexual differences. For the woman. with the entry of the child into the realm of the father’s law. the category of gender demonstrates limited utility. through practicing differences. By contrast. this represents an abandonment of herself (Bocchetti. 5 According to the ‘Theory of the Production of Social Life’. Sanahuja Yll. with their institutions. 2001). such as Wittig (1980). 1992. 7 For authors such as Muraro (1994: 46). 1997a. Only in this way can female liberation be achieved.. Italy. 1998. their religions and their codes. and the systematic exercise of coercive power as a basic point of reference (Sanahuja Yll. 6 Basic production or creation of bodies refers to the generation of new men and women. a highly valid cultural construct. the patriarchate not only destroys feminine genealogy and obliterates the figure of the mother-daughter relationship. which avoids the naturalization (concealment) of the same (Castro et al. 1994). and never hiding them (Cigarini. which have one point in common: the cancellation of the maternal figure. Irigaray. 1997b. and has given rise to a range of societies. sex is. the relation of recognition of the mother constitutes the point of balance on which the birth of a new symbolic order is based. 1987. Nevertheless. and identify who we are and what we really want.. in which women are also implicated from a socio-economic perspective. 2 While for some women (among whom I include myself) the system of patriarchal symbolism has died. 1993). Spain and Central and South America (Diotima. Its recognition means considering biological reproduction as being a specific and socially necessary work process.04 Mateu (JG/d) 8/1/02 1:11 pm Page 101 Escoriza Mateu Representations of women in Spanish Levantine rock art Notes 1 As Luisa Muraro (1994). in itself. the three objective conditions in any society are women. it is obvious that social reality continues to be patriarchal (see Libreria De Mujeres De Milan [1996]). On this basis. The patriarchate can be defined in terms of masculine domination of sexuality. the future workforce. Sanahuja Yll. Muraro. 1997a. men and material objects. other authors such as De Lauretis (1994) and Butler (1993) have pointed out that to conceive of female sexuality as being structured around the figure of the mother could result in a universalization of the significance of women without taking account of the differences that exist between women. it also brings women into a masculine frame of reference. and from this point to give meaning to our ‘being women’. 1997b). reproduction and female work in the maintenance of life. 8 For some authors. a member of the Diotima Philosophical Group of Verona University has affirmed. The physical expression of these three objective conditions is the basis of social materiality (Castro et al. the way of bringing about this change is to find ourselves. 101 . 1996).

they are documented in almost all of the compositions that have been analysed. children. On the other hand. 1996: 40. By contrast. enjoyment or control of material conditions is effected by agents who are alien completely. prevents us from defining. which significantly have also been interpreted as women with castanets for accompanying a dance (Beltran. sex . 14 Although we are able to sexually differentiate the images according to the established sexual criteria. communicate and/or reinforce a certain set of ideas. This rather unfortunate interpretation requires an explanation regarding why. This last option avoids taking a position of victimization with regard to women as an oppressed and/or exploited collective. Rather. from those who are involved in production and/or maintenance. or in part. 1996: 36). 13 Practices that express agreements or impositions. also known as the Rock Art of the Mediterranean Fringe of the Iberian Peninsula. These last might be the result of an imposition by the dominant social order. or they may result from points of resistance to and/or transgression of the established norms. the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian peninsula called ‘El Levante’ in Spanish. if ‘gender’ were not an important question in these societies. 12 We understand exploitation to mean the social asymmetry that occurs when the consumption. This situation should not necessarily lead us to think mechanically about the existence of a third sex as a non-definable neuter. etc. Furthermore. in its list of World Heritage Sites. we are unable to make suppositions regarding the identity of their producers. 15 The existence of a large number of figures that show no sexual attributes at all. What we can suggest is that these figures are the result of a determined set of politico-ideological practices by means of which an attempt was made to express. and whose objective is the establishment of political and ideological forms that manage maternity and articulate social life (Castro et al. UNESCO included the Spanish Levantine rock art. and why women are hidden in the figurative field. without compensation being given (Castro et al. 11 An illustrative example in this regard is given by some authors in relation to representations of women who carry what might be digging sticks. 10 The paintings have been dated by means of carbon 14 tests on samples of organic material from the paintings. 1998) that the reason for the existence of a large number of asexual figures in the Levantine panels is due to the fact that ‘gender’ and its representation was not a relevant question for these communities. use. 1966: 91). these asexual figures cannot be associated with any particular type of scene. we must disagree with some authors (Diaz-Andreu. the majority of the representations are masculine. To force an interpretation of such figures without any further evidence being available introduces fairly wide speculation. The term will be used in this sense throughout the rest of article. Interpretations of this type of asexual figure are highly varied: adolescents. using the AMS system. biologically.04 Mateu (JG/d) 102 8/1/02 1:11 pm Page 102 Journal of Social Archaeology 2(1) 9 The terms ‘Levant’ and ‘Levantine’ refer to the Spanish Levant. and in which it is not possible to identify elements of clothing (skirts) that are associated with the female sex. the bodies that are represented. 1999: 17). In 1998...

not only of women. given the much more recent development of this activity. Revista de Arqueología 176: 8–17. effects of work. If to these we add DNA studies used to determine kinship.e. As such. The apparent helmet with a horse-rider’s crest at Cingle de la Gassulla appears to correspond to the type of helmets used towards the end of the Bronze Age. J. Both approaches allow a greater understanding of the material conditions in which women were immersed as a collective. for which it will be necessary to revise the original tracings (Hernández-Pacheco et al. Grimal (1995) ‘Mujeres en la Prehistoria’. References Abelanet. destined to satisfying the demands of social life (Castro et al. Sanahuja Yll. The identification of horse-riding activities in a Neolithic society seems highly improbable. This leads us to suggest the need for a clarification of whether the figure is wearing an item of female clothing. Research in the field of physical anthropology can open up a path to understanding the differences between the sexes in relation to life expectancy. and A. which limits the information available relating to the differences between the sexes. fig. the individual appears in some cases with a type of short skirt. and of the differences between them. Alonso. i. a finding that introduces doubts regarding its identification with this style of Neolithic painting. 1997b). and in others without. Paris: Hachette. which was hardly represented. Neolithic burials are still relatively little-known. together with the anthropological study of bodies. general health and diet. because the activities that studies of prehistory attribute to the male sex have also not been sexually identified in many cases. quality of life.. 1975. 1997a. The detailed profile of this figure’s face presents an unusual case in the context of Levantine art. 1998. We have suggested that the analysis of the bodies represented is another means of sexually identifying the past. Practices that take account of the production of foodstuff and tools. but also of men. were of great importance. 1999. 1999: 17). A. A. especially if we compare this panorama with previous periods in which images of women. such as the socalled Palaeolithic Venus figures. and A.. the potential for the study of the relations between the sexes is extremely promising. I am of the opinion that sexual identification is absolutely necessary. ‘women’s work’ or ‘domestic work’ (Castro et al. as well as the expression by which a whole series of politico-ideological practices acquired their bodies as a form of representation. birth and death rates.04 Mateu (JG/d) 8/1/02 1:11 pm Page 103 Escoriza Mateu 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 Representations of women in Spanish Levantine rock art was indeed an important question. 1996: 38. Alonso. Grimal (1994) ‘La Mujer en el Arte de los Cazadores Epipaleolíticos’. 380–1). 103 . The need in every society to maintain objects in good condition demands an investment of work that normally is not recognised as work. Gala 2: 11–50.. (1986) Signes san Proles: Cent Siècles d’art Rupestre en Europe Occidentale. In the reproductions that have been made. resolved to the detriment of the female collective.

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