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Chapter 1

Gender in Archaeology
Cheryl Claassen
Appalachian State University

The papers in this collection were presented at the Anthropology and Archaeology of Women Conference,
held at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, May 1991. The idea of the conference
lurked about me for several years and two events precipitated its planning in Fall 1990: Joan Gero's
simple bitnet message that one didn't need money to have a conference and my appointment as interim
director of Women's Studies at Appalachian State. The conference, held May 2-4, 1991, was planned from
Universidad de las Americas, Puebla, Mexico, where I was teaching at the time and the chair of
Antropologa, Gabriela Uruella provided postage and facilitated my obtaining a bitnet account, via
which most of the advertising was disseminated. Sue Keefe, Chair of the Anthropology Department and
Don Sink, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, both of Appalachian State University, also provided
monetary and other tangible support.
Women in archaeology are eager for intellectual forums such as this one. I incorrectly surmised that
there would not be enough archaeological material/thought on gender at this time to hold a conference on
such short notice exclusively focusing on archaeology so I broadened the topic to Anthropology and
Archaeology of Women. Contrary to my expectations, I received 4 cultural anthropology papers and 14
archaeology papers, as well as numerous calls from women archaeologists wanting to attend. To better
serve those attenders not presenting papers, three workshops were created: teaching about gender,
engendering the Pleistocene-Holocene environmental transition, and engendering the Contact period.
Prehistory Press is to be applauded for agreeing that informal as well as formal discussion of this topic
merits publication. James Knight was supportive, from the beginning, of my idea to publish not only the
papers but transcriptions of the workshops and teaching syllabi. A publication of the archaeology papers
alone was possible because three of the four cultural anthropology papers were to be published elsewhere.

A History of Gender and Archaeology as a Topic

After the Conkey and Spector article appeared in Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory,
1984, the authors expected a flood of response, papers, symposia--but it did not follow for some time. In
1987, there was a session at the Plains conference, and a session at the American Anthropological
Association. In 1988, The Role of Gender in Precolumbian Art and Architecture (Miller 1988) appeared
in print and the entire issue of the Cambridge Archaeology Review was dedicated to gender issues. Joan
Gero and Meg Conkey began organizing the Wedge Conference in 1987 which brought 12 archaeologists
and anthropologists from the US, England, and Australia together on the topic of gender and archaeology
in April of 1988. It was supported by NSF and Wenner-Gren, and had a publisher in Basil Blackwell from
its inception. Several of those participants repeated their papers at the 1989 Society for American
Archaeology meetings in Atlanta. The Fall 1989 Chacmool conference qualifies as the first truly public
meeting on the topic of gender and archaeology anywhere in the world given its widely advertised open
invitation to participate. Symposia on gender and anthropology with archaeology papers followed at the
1990 Central States meeting, and the 1990 AAAs, and the 1990 Society for Historic Archaeology
meetings in Tucson featured a large symposium on gender in historic archaeology. In the Fall of 1990
there were at least two courses offered in the US on archaeology and gender--one at University of South
Carolina, the other at Oberlin.
In 1991 there have been even more meetings at which this topic is the focal point. The year began with a
mini-plenary session on current gender issues in Historical archaeology at the annual Society for
Historical Archaeology meeting in Richmond. A large conference on archaeology and gender was held in
February in Albury Australia, the plenary session at the Mid-Atlantic Archaeological conference focused
on gender and the following May, at Appalachian State University, this conference was held. In the midst
of them all came the publication of Engendering Archaeology: Women and Prehistory, the Wedge
Conference papers. Courses on the topic were taught in the Spring semester at Appalachian State and Fall
semester of the 1991-1992 academic year at New York University. As an outgrowth of the Boone
conference, Ruth Trocolli and Kathy Bolen organized a gender session for the Southeastern
Archaeological Conference, held late in 1991. The second Boone conference, to focus on women in the
discipline of archaeology, will be held in October 1992. Not since the early Binford papers, the birth of
the New Archaeology, has there been such a flurry of intellectual activity in archaeology as now
surrounds the topic of gender.

Seeing Gender Archaeologically

The New Archaeology argued it could know anything about past human life if it only asked the right
question. While the 1960s saw an interesting focus on social organization, such as residence patterns and
burial population variability, it soon lost interest in society. In spite of a commitment to recover past
societies, archaeologists of the 1970s and 80s persistently de-gendered and de-cultured the past. As
Barbara Bender reminded us in 1985 (1985: 52), we had rejected "both specific history and principals of
social structure in favor of an assumed ecological common denominator". The common act of de-
gendering, even de-peopling activities is done for three reasons--a) the gender of the actor is deemed
unimportant to the study, b) assumptions of gender seem unwarranted, or c) the investigator believes that
all (or both) genders of the society performed the activity. In all three cases, researchers seem to recognize
no merit in pursuing more specific behavioral information about the social organization of activities.
Just which sex or gender made tool X or invented pottery or were the handaxe manufacturers can not be
known. Since gender assignments are untestable, gender is irrelevant in archaeology, goes the argument.
However, gender can be productively incorporated into our enterprise and indeed provides nothing short
of a revitalization movement for archaeology, offering new vigor to research undertakings as it has in
many other academic fields. Without a doubt, gender impacts the archaeological record as well as
archaeologists and our inquiry; gender must be an issue for us all and testability cannot stand as the only
criterion by which so fundamental a social phenomenon is admitted into archaeology.
In the initial meeting of this conference, the teaching gender workshop, two very crucial questions were
raised. The first was our collective understanding of the difference between an archaeology of gender and
a feminist archaeology. The second was the archaeological visibility of gender.

The discussion about an archaeology of gender or a feminist archaeology emphasized the different
research programs and differences in methodology. While Alice Kehoe voiced her opinion that the two
are interwoven, Joan Gero referred to a recent paper by Alison Wylie which argues a feminist archaeology
is better archaeology than is typically performed because it is explicit about assumptions and paradigm.

Can We Find Gender in the Distant Past?

For many feminists, exploring the social status of the genders "man" and "woman" in the past is a major
program of a feminist archaeology. Smaller numbers of investigators want to see an inquiry into the
number of genders in different past societies, and an exploration of when sex became gendered (see for
instance, Whelan 1991). Many assume that burials will provide the most obvious and reliable source of
data from which to address these questions. Sex, the biological condition, and gender, the cultural
condition, a dichotomy accepted by most but not all anthropologists, have different degrees of
archaeological visibility.
Mary Whelan (1991: 362) critiques B. Bender's (1989) claim of male dominance in the Upper
Paleolithic saying that the evidence could just as well be interpreted as the beginning of gendered rituals,
not hierarchy. In looking for relative social status of the genders "man" and "woman", where should we
look? David Thomas (1979: 342) states that equalitarian societies are characterized by generally equal
access to important resources while ranked societies have people with unequal access to the basic life
sustaining resources. Important resources can be different from life sustaining resources. Life sustaining
resources are certainly food, water, shelter, and human companionship. But how do we define important
resources? Is an important resource recognized by its numerical rarity, such as galena or copper in
Woodland period burials, or by its numerical superiority, such as shell beads? If the average age at death
or the life expectancy at age 5 or at age 25 is the same for men and women, does this mean they had equal
access to life sustaining resources? Does it mean that the society was egalitarian? If women had equal
access to life sustaining resources or to important resources through their connections with adult men,
how would we see their dependency, their lack of autonomy? Elenor Leacock (1978) distinguished
"egalitarian" from "autonomous" stating that while no one really wants to be equal to another human,
many people want autonomy. The issue of women's autonomy was more at the heart of the inquiry, she
suggested. Autonomy is as difficult to see archaeologically as is gender.

An Unanswerable Question?
I propose that the question of how many genders there were in Inuit society at 1300AD or among the
Bantu speaking tribes of 2000 years ago is unanswerable from the perspective of material culture, spatial
associations, or archaeological context. I furthermore propose that while the assumption is that there have
always been two sexes and two genders, we do not know that this is the case, nor do we understand
adequately how gender is encoded in the material culture of different societies. We may well have had but
one gender yet two sexes at some point in our history.
Peebles and Kuz (1977) found at Moundville that "adult" status was indicated by unworked deer bones,
bird claws, turtle bones; adult males alone had stone celts; and "child" status was marked by miniature
pottery, undecipherable clay things, and unworked freshwater shells. These artifactual associations with
age and sex suggest that there may be artifactual associations with gender as well. Within a burial context
there are only two sexes. If we demand at least some unique material markers or unique combinations of
material culture for each gender, wouldn't the items be assigned to the sex of the associated burial and
then to the typical gender attributed to that sex thus eliminating any possibility of identifying gender
independent of sex?
The gender coding on artifacts could well be misattributed to craft specialists, broader sex roles, class
differences, or even special activity areas, not a different gender. In an early introductory archaeology
textbook, the authors Hole and Heizer (1973:397) made the following comment

"One would normally expect to find male artifacts buried with males and female artifacts
with females. That this may not always have been the custom is suggested by data from
central California. . . mortars and pestles occurred with about the same frequency in graves
of both sexes; the same is true of arrow-points. . .presumably made, owned, and used by men."

In a recent presentation, Jay Custer (1991) discussed the burials from the Island Field Site in Delaware.
The only individuals with grave goods were several females with complete flintknapping tool kits. The
author's conclusion was that women did the flintknapping in this community, not men as is stereotypically
assumed. But, I wonder, what would a different gender look like from an artifactual perspective?
Manipulation of lithic raw materials could be an activity assigned by this society to a third gender,
assuming there were two others. Within the village area of a prehistoric community, objects associated
with the activities of a third gender and deposited around work areas would most likely be interpreted as
evidence of special activities of either men or women. Berdache individuals of Native American cultures
are arguably a third gender, or a between-gender, but their material culture is indistinguishable from that
of women or men. (See Spector 1991 for a more optimistic perspective.)
If all unusual, or un-stereotypic associations of artifacts and sex are interpreted as additional genders,
we will be limited to four genders, all possible combinations of sex and artifacts, and we will never
challenge sex-role stereotyping in reconstructions of the past.

The Social Function of Gender

What, in fact, is the social function of two genders? What would be the social function of three or more
genders? If, as is commonly assumed, the function of gender is to organize labor, it would seem that the
number of genders is infinite. What types of labor are sufficient to "cause gender"? In a capitalistic
society are not laborer and manager marked by clothing, language, and labor? Are they two genders?
Within modern American universities there are janitorial staff and senior faculty. Are they two genders?
Surely in 1991 there are differences in labor performed by different classes that far exceed any labor
differences between males and females, now or in the past. Are these labor differences equivalent to
"achieved gender"? Within other societies there are castes with strikingly different labors. Are classes and
castes, barrios and guilds, all ways of organizing dramatically different labors, genders?(Have they
replaced the need for genders?)
I think not. Instead, the social function of gender is to mark appropriate sexual partners (e.g. Butler
1990:1-20). Gender hierarchies and gender oppression are to insure that sexual partners will be available.
If the reader accepts this social function of gender, then archaeology of gender is archaeology of
sexuality. Such a definition of gender does seem to describe its function among the Maya (Rosemary
Joyce, Teaching Workshop, Chapter 13.)

Contrary to my demand for a single utility for gender distinctions, Rosemary Joyce would expect
different social functions for gender in different societies. Both she and Joan Gero would further expect
gendering to function differently within the same society at different points in its history (from workshop
If Not Gender, Sex?

The problem with gender is that its cultural construction is inextricably linked to physical bodies. If
gender is constructed, who does the constructing of archaeological skeletal populations? Most certainly
the archaeologist. If gender is indeed too elusive to attempt to follow through the past or to assign to
burials and past actors, then perhaps we can be satisfied with a focus on sex, particularly sex roles, rather
than gender roles.
Not all feminists or anthropologists agree that sex is simply biological, distinct from cultural influence
or cultural definition. Within archaeology or physical anthropology, sex is certainly culturally created.
Consider the following example: sex is assigned to a complete adult skeleton using either an implicit or
explicit set of observations. At the end of the examination, the tally of traits within the male range of
variation and the tally of traits within the female range of variation are summed and the percentage of
traits typically male, for instance, is used to determine a sex for the skeleton. That a body should be and
must be declared either male or female is cultural baggage carried by the investigator. That statistics are
used for deciding a sex is cultural baggage. Furthermore, sexing biases have been identified among the
methods used in sexing skeletons. In fact, when sex is assigned to a skeleton of unknown sex, it is a
cultural act. Within the realm of archaeology and skeletons, sex is cultured. Admitting that both gender
and sex are culturally determined would seem to indicate that there is no point in distinguishing these
terms and that all exploration into the subject will be fraught with points of contention (post-processual

Clarifying the Question(s)

Is it the history of the sex roles that we want to explore? Many would answer yes but the inquiry is based
on the assumption that two genders derive from the two sexes. Sex roles derived from burial data
can obscure gender roles. Is it the occurrence of egalitarian societies? How much longer will we
tolerate the archaeological definition of egalitarian as "all things being equal accept along gender
lines". Just who is equal to whom, then? And which type of egalitarianism do we find, among
hunter/gatherers, in PaleoIndian times, in any particular egalitarian society? Is it equality at birth
(the American ideal) with equal opportunity to become unequal, or leveling mechanisms within a
society that operate on adults (the Amish reality)? How could we see a difference between these
two types of egalitarianism in material culture? (Tocqueville, in one comparison of the
Americans and Europeans remarked on the European's quest for autonomy and the American's
obsession with equality. Is the notion of egalitarian societies in American archaeology so easily
assigned to this 200 year old obsession?) Joan Gero argued at this conference (see Workshop 3)
that a more interesting question would be when, and under what conditions, are gender
distinctions emphasized and when are they relaxed.

The question for which archaeological inquiry is best suited is probably the temporal depth, or history, of
modern social stratification and sex roles. Perhaps the only way to see gender in prehistory is
through art and text, where gender is symbolized and sex is ambiguous or unknown. This point
would mean that only in recent literate past societies can gender relationships and the number of
genders be addressed.

We need to clarify our questions, clarify the term "egalitarian", recognize the politics involved in
the inquiry, and recognize that we are bound by two significant problems--(1) the probable
impossibility of fruitfully exploring the assumption that two genders have always characterized
human history, and (2) the probable impossibility that prehistoric gender(s) can be seen,
measured, probed and prodded. This argument for the invisibility of gender is diametrically
opposed to the writings of Spector and to Whelan's (1991) assertion that "[gender] may be more
accessible [than any other prehistoric behavior] because gender systems tend to be materially
and spatially rich (i.e. archaeologically visible). Her examples, however,-- division of labor and
male/female status--are examples of sex difference rather than gender difference. I do think we
can see social hierarchy, sometimes, but our inability to pin down gender, separate from sex,
means that the source of the stratification or hierarchy is forever clouded for us. Engendering
Archaeology: Who and What
Before discussing selected individual papers presented in this volume, I want to point out two
sociological aspects of their authors. There were, essentially, four generations of archaeologists presenting
papers these two days. Undergraduates, graduate students, both Masters and doctoral candidates,
professionals who received their degrees since 1982, and professionals who received degrees before
1977. This age structure is itself a feature of feminism which has argued that all women should be heard.
In keeping with this attitude, all papers that were delivered and submitted are included and transcriptions
of the workshops, rather than summaries, are offered.

One way to put this symposium into perspective is to summarize how the papers here either echo others
now available or break new ground. From a personal bibliography of 237 entries of gender and
archaeology conference papers, (to be published in Vol. 1, No. 2 of Annotated Bibliographies for
Anthropologists), I found but 21 papers looking at North American prehistory. The three papers reprinted
here-Hollimon, Mitchel, Sassaman- account for 15% of those available about this prehistoric region.
Historic archaeology is a far more popular arena for a gendered inquiry (46 entries in bibliography).
Three papers in this volume, those by Stine, Trocolli, and Hollimon, address the historical archaeological
record. The paper by Mitchel concerns an historical data base and many would consider Rosemary
Joyce's paper to fall into this category also, dealing as it does with the literate Maya.
Several of the archaeology papers presented at the Boone conference were theoretical in content (Gero,
Kehoe, Claassen, Hayden, Mitchel, Mann, Bolen) as are most of those in the bibliography. Eagerness to
theorize and the reluctance to address data and the archaeological record could be indicating that, like
archaeology generally in the 1990s, theoretical issues predominate and constitute what some would call
dominant discourse. (Only 17 of the bibliography articles appeared before 1989). Women, in particular,
believe they have something to say on gender and the topic is dominated by women; the articles listed in
the bibliography represent the work of 167 different women. Not only do women have something to say,
many women anthropologists have appropriate theoretical backgrounds via their own participation in the
Women's Movement to contribute to this discourse. There are rewards for being identified as a
theoretician in archaeology and some women are rushing to make their mark in this emerging literature.
The lack of published papers dealing with gender and archaeology suggests that we aretalking to
ourselves, however.

Perhaps more than all these things, the lack of papers which directly confront excavated data suggests to
me an uncertainty about how to proceed, how to do an engendered archaeology. The workshops included
in this collection--Engendering the Pleistocene-Holocene transition and Engendering the Contact Period--
were formulated specifically to address this uncertainty. In the transcriptions of both workshops, data
bases are identified and research questions specified. Papers by Rosemary Joyce, Sandra Hollimon, and
Ken Sassaman successfully engender prehistoric data.

There are, of course, many topics that could have been treated from a gender perspective but were not
addressed at this conference. One topic that was very successfully presented at the Australian conference
in February of 1991 was the interaction of gender and cultural resource management work, particularly
the ghettoization of women in CRM, CRM as archaeological housework, and feminist issues in cultural
resource management. What do American women have to say about CRM work?
Also missing, is any serious discussion of children (see Hammond and Hammond 1981, and
Lillehammer 1989); the role they played in past social organizations, material culture distribution, site
formation processes, site destruction. While traveling in several other cultures, I have been struck by the
activities of children. Children taking care of children primarily, on the streets, in shops, in yards.
Childhood is a cultural construct, the one familiar to us Westerners being no older than the
Enlightenment. Because childhood is and was perceived differently, mothering was different, in activities,
in attention. (See Kathy Bolen's paper for some much needed alternative models of mothering).
Children are non-productive members of our imagined past societies. They distract, they demand, they
serve. They do not build, destroy, achieve, share, contribute to basic survival or environmental adaptation.
Mothers must do everything for them, from feed to entertain to indulge, think archaeologists, in spite of
anthropological literature to the contrary. But the activities of mothers and the activities of children in
non-middle class settings today do not conform to this stereotype. A study of 186 cultures with
particularly good information on childcare (Barry and Paxton 1971) found that while in 46% of these
societies mothers were the principal or sole caretakers of infants, in less than 20% of these societies were
mothers the principal caretakers of children. I have observed among the Tarahumara, girls and boys under
the age of eight mending corrals and stock pens, herding animals, grinding maize on adult as well as their
own smaller metates, washing dishes and babies, making wheeled toys, carrying, walking, tending
younger children, shopping. I saw rock shelters where children had built corrals and simple beds for
themselves, for overnight and longer stays with goats. In those places, both boys and girls had built
innumerable fires, broken pottery, and were possibly responsible for lithic debris. Male children took my
group to burial caves some distance from their homes. (What, Lewis Binford, was the territorial
knowledge of Nunimuit Eskimo children? or of women?) I was struck by the fact that the archaeological
record of the Sierra Tarahumara is being strongly influenced by the constructive and destructive activities
of children. I was also struck by how often I saw Tarahumara women in towns, pueblos, paths, roads, and
fields without children. I am unwilling to speculate on the degree of autonomy of Tarahumara women but
it seems great for Tarahumara children. The several studies which document the amount of time mothers
and children devote to particular activities in different cultural settings and economic adaptations (Barry
and Paxton 1971; Levine 1987, 1988; Nag et al. 1978; Nerlove 1974; Van Esterik and Greiner 1981;
Weisner and Gallimore 1977) make this point quite clearly. When will we see ethnoarchaeology reports
about women and children?

Undoubtedly, these topics and dozens of others will appear in the near future as the enterprise grows.
Essentially everything in archaeology can and should be examined from a gender perspective.

Introduction to the Papers

This collection begins with the paper by Katharine Victor and Mary Beaudry, a particularly forboding
paper about the probability of women archaeologists being heard, contributing to the discourse, and
participating in the reward structure of the profession. Earlier papers by Gero (1985) on NSF funding and
Beaudry and White (1991) on publications in Historic Archaeology have painted a similarly grim
impression. What explains why so few women are published in these other forums? Many women
professionals teach at smaller colleges and universities that are not publish or parish--consequently those
individuals may wait longer to formulate their statements and/or may not seek publication in these two
journals. What are the statistics for various monograph series, the New York State Archaeology Bulletin,
Northwest Archaeological Research Notes,Southeastern Archaeology or book series such as those
sponsored by Academic Press and Cambridge Press? What are the rejection rates for women and men at
journals and presses. Many conference papers end up as publications--what are the ratios of presenters at
conferences? Given that symposium organizers contact potential symposium members, what are the ratios
of female and male organizers? How do we change the pattern of decreasing publications by women?
Carol Mason's paper was first aired in 1989 at the SAA meetings in Atlanta, and was represented at this
conference. There have been several additional papers since chronicling aspects of women's history and
archaeology's history. Mason's paper deals with particular women working in archaeology in the 1940s
and 1950s primarily in the Eastern US.

There are many histories to write. Susan Bender's 1989 Chacmool paper (Bender 1991) covers some of
the same geography as does Mason's yet none of the same women. We need histories of women in
particular graduate programs and critical analyses of, even sociological/psychological studies of,
particular scholars and teachers. I would like to see those men who refuse/ed to take women into the field
or as graduate students, named. We have no detailed account of the Black women WPA excavation
crews--who were those women at Irene Mound? What communities did they come from, what was the
impact of the WPA experience on the rest of their lives, were any of those women promoted beyond the
worker category? What shape did their community of women take? There have been subsequent all-
women expeditions and crews, in the United States and abroad. What stories are untold? What post
processual concerns would be unveiled in a feminist analysis of say, East European prehistory as penned
by Gimbutas and/or Tringham and that by Renfrew, Milisauskas, and/or Jovanovich?

Alice Kehoe's keynote presentation discussed the partnership of class, sex and race discrimination and
then entertained us with slides which reinterpreted many of the famous Venus figurines as penises. The
paper she presented for publication however, focuses on the former topic and will make apparent to the
reader one point of discord among those doing a gendered archaeology. In correspondence that has passed
between Kehoe and Gero since the conference, Gero has objected to Kehoe's interpretation of the role of
the Wedge conference, presented in her paper here, in the emerging discourse on gender. Gero insists that
the discourse and issues are open to any and all while Kehoe insists that the use of an exclusive
conference and the selection of "experts" to participate as well as the history of the topic contained in the
Conkey and Gero Preface to Engendering Archaeology sets up dominant discourse which effectively
excluded voices.

Brian Hayden provides, in his own words "a male perspective on the issue of gender in prehistory". His
position is one of logical positivism and his paper caused some controversy by his failure to embrace
feminist literature which contradicts some of his points. It was thus labelled "dominant discourse" by one
participant in this conference who also called for its exclusion. Not only is there a new research arena
being developed in this conference and other forums like it, but there is a history being made as well, a
history of this discourse. The testy areas were identified for Hayden, whose paper was read in absentia,
and he was asked to consider anew his discussion, but the topic remains open to any and all. There will
not be a single female perspective, a single male perspective, or a single feminist perspective in this
enterprise of engendering the Past or the profession.

Kathy Bolen draws needed attention to the unquestioned application by archaeologists of the
contemporary notions of mothering. She draws on literature from many fields outside anthropology and
distinguishes biological mothering from social mothering. Her points require a consideration of past
social systems, so often overlooked by archaeologists. In our field, in explanations of problems as
seemingly disparate as bipedal posture and sex role attribution, all women have babies, the most
productive part of a woman's life is spent in child bearing and caring, and all women reproduce and were
reproducing all their lives.

Rosemary Joyce presents the most defensible discussion of gender, that in Mayan stone carving. Gender
confusion and bi-gendered figures were the norm in Mayan carvings. Joyce sees gender and sexual
complementarity in those images, a complementarity used to construct statements of political power.
Alice Kehoe emphasizes this same type of complementarity for native American groups in the
Pleistocene/ Holocene workshop.

Ken Sassaman has hit upon a particularly important realization for North American prehistorians----our
incongruity in data when categorizing a site as either Woodland or Archaic. That the Archaic markers of
stone are most often found at temporary camps and the Woodland markers of clay are most often found at
long term settlements, that the former artifacts are associated primarily with men and the latter primarily
with women, mean that our pictures of prehistoric life in these two major time divisions are
incomparable. This paper is his third in a series engendering the Archaic-Woodland transition.
Sandra Hollimon provides some much needed data from biological anthropology on the physical
differences in male and female skeletons in two groups with very different subsistence practices. There is
a glaring lack of precisely this kind of data which is so valuable for engendering past cultures. Her
bibliography will bring to the reader's attention a recent literature relevant to prehistoric Chumash
women's lives.

Christi Mitchel critiques James Deetz's classic work on the Arikara. Under scrutiny here are his
selection of sources, his avoidance of examples of active, rather than passive, Arikara women, and his
insistence on a single cause for the change in pottery design associations. Several points raised by Mitchel
are contradicted by discussion in the Contact period workshop.

Ruth Trocolli's paper discusses the impact of colonization on Timucuan peoples of Florida and women
in particular. Timucuan women were conservative in their material culture and continued teaching Indian
skills to their mestizo children after contact in their roles of housekeepers, cooks, and field laborers for
the Spanish.
Linda Stine continues to develop her thoughts on rural women evident in the historic archaeological
record, in this, her third paper on this topic. Her setting is the Stine family home and that of a neighboring
family, exploring how gender, race, and class affect the material culture record.

As the individual papers clearly demonstrate, a gendered archaeology is not so simplistic as to ask what
men were doing and what women were doing in xBP. There is nothing sacred in the archaeological
cannon and the smorgasbord offered in this collection and that from the Chacmool conference The
Archaeology of Gender and the Engendering Archaeology books should provide ample example and
stimulation for new research endeavors.

References Cited

Barry, H. and L. M. Paxton

1971 Infancy and Early Childhood: Cross-cultural Codes 2. Ethnology 10:466-508.
Beaudry, Mary C., and Jacqueline White
1991 "Cowgirls with the Blues? The Experience of Women in Historical Archaeology." Paper presented at
the 24th annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Richmond, VA.

Bender, Barbara
1985 Emergent Tribal Formations in the American Midcontinent. American Antiquity 50:52-62.

1989 The Roots of Inequality. In Domination and Resistance, edited by D. Miller, M. Rowlands, and C.
Tilley, pp. 83-95. Unwin Hyman, Boston.

Bender, Susan
1991 The History of Women in Northeastern American Archaeology. In The Archaeology of Gender,
edited by Dale Walde and Noreen Willows, pp. 211-216. Archaeological Association of the University of
Calgary, Calgary.

Butler, Judith
1990 Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Routledge, New York.

Conkey, Margaret and Janet Spector

1984 Archaeology and the Study of Gender. In Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory, vol. 7,
edited by Michael Schiffer, pp. 1-38. Academic Press, New York.

Custer, Jay
1991 "Women's Work" in Middle Woodland Times: Tool Kits From the Island Field Site, Kent County,
Delaware. Paper presented at the Mid-Atlantic Archaeological Conference, Ocean City.

Gero, Joan
1985 Socio-politics of Archaeology and the Woman-at-Home Ideology.American Antiquity 50:342-350.

Gero, Joan and Margaret Conkey

1991 Engendering Archaeology: Women and Prehistory. Basil Blackwell, Oxford.

Hole, Frank and Robert Heizer

1973 An Introduction to Prehistoric Archeology. Holt, Rinehart, Winston, New York.

Hammond, Gawain and Norman Hammond

1981 Child's Play: A Distorting Factor in Archaeological Distribution. American Antiquity 46:634-636.

Leacock, Elenor
1978 Women's Status In Egalitarian Society: Implications for Social Evolution. Current Anthropology
Levine, Nancy E.
1987 Differential Child Care in Three Tibetan Communities: Beyond Son Preference. Population and
Development Review 13:281-304.

1988 Women's Work and Infant Feeding: A Case From Rural Nepal. Ethnology 27:231-252.

Lillehammer, Grete
1989 A Child is Born. The Child's World in an Archaeological Perspective. Norwegian Archaeological
Review 22:90-105.

Miller, Virginia E. (editor)

1988 The Role of Gender in Precolumbian Art and Architecture. University Press of America,

Nag, Moni, B. White, and R. C. Peet

1978 An Anthropological Approach to the Economic Value of Children in Java and Nepal. Current
Anthropology 19:293-306.

Peebles, Christopher and Susan Kus

1977 Some Archaeological Correlates of Ranked Societies. American Antiquity 42:421-448.

Spector, Janet
1991 What this Awl Means. In Engendering Archaeology: Women in Prehistory, edited by J. Gero and M.
Conkey, pp. 388-406. Basil Blackwell, Oxford.

Thomas, David Hurst

1979 Archaeology. Holt, Rinehart, Winston, New York.

Van Esterik, P. and T. Greiner

1981 Breastfeeding and Women's Work: Constraints and Opportunities. Studies in Family Planning

Weisner, Thomas S. and Ronald Gallimore

1977 My Brother's Keeper: Child and Sibling Caretaking.Current Anthropology 18(2):169-190.

Whelan, Mary
1991 Gender and Archaeology: Mortuary Studies and the Search for Gender Differentiation. In The
Archaeology of Gender, edited by Dale Walde and Noreen Willows, pp. 358-365. Archaeological
Association of the University of Calgary, Calgary.
Chapter 2

Women's Participation in American Prehistoric and

Historical Archaeology:
A Comparative Look at the Journals American
Antiquity and Historical Archaeology

Katharine L. Victor and Mary C. Beaudry

Boston University


This paper presents a comparison of the preliminary results of two studies: one by Beaudry and White on
the representation of women within the journal Historical Archaeology and one by Victor on the
representation of women within the journal, American Antiquity. Both studies involve the tabulation of
occurrence of women as officers of the sponsoring societies of the journals (the Society for Historical
Archaeology, and the Society for American Archaeology), of women as members of the editorial staffs of
the journals, of women as authors of articles, of women as book reviewers, and of women as cited by
their colleagues.
Because women's roles as authors are varied (i.e., women are observed as sole authors, as senior authors
with male junior authors, and as junior authors with a male senior author), it is difficult to quantify the
representation of women by using only raw counts. To resolve this problem, Victor developed the
statistical ranking scheme of the E-score. With this scheme, if the article were written by male author(s)
only, it is coded with a "0", if the article had a man as senior author with a woman as junior author, it was
assigned a "1", if the senior author were a woman with a junior male, the article is coded with a "2", and
if the article were written by only women, then it was assigned the value of "3". To calculate the E-score,
the frequencies within each category were multiplied by the coded "rank", the products summed, and the
sum then divided by the number of articles (minus any articles of which the gender of the author could
not be determined).
E-score = m0 + j1 + s2 + w3



0=All male authors, multiple or single author

1=Multiple authors,mixed genders male senior author, and at
least 1 female junior author
2=Multiple authors, mixed genders, female senior author, and at
least 1 male junior author.
3=All female authors, multiple or single author


m=the number of articles with male author(s)

j=the number of articles with male senior author, female junior author
s=the number of articles with female senior author, male junior author
w=the number of articles with female author(s)
u=the number of articles where the gender of the author(s) is

With the E-score, the representation of women within the journals may be expressed in a single number
facilitating the comparison of women's representation over time and between the journals. If there existed
equality in the representation of men and women, the E-score would be 1.5.

The first section of the paper examines the role of women in the journal of Historical Archaeology while
the second section examines the journal American Antiquity. The final section involves a brief comparison
and contrast of the results from the first two sections, to determine which environment, that of historical
archaeology or that of American prehistoric archaeology as represented by the two journals, has a "chillier
climate" (Wylie and Backhouse 1991).

Historical Archaeology

At the January, 1991, meetings of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Mary Beaudry and Jacqueline
White delivered a paper that presented preliminary results of a study of the representation of women in
the field of historical archaeology. Their research, which is still underway, involves close scrutiny of
women as officers and directors of the Society for Historical Archaeology, as members of the editorial
staff and review board of the Society's journal, Historical Archaeology, as authors of articles and book
reviews in the journal, and as "authorities" or sources cited by authors, male or female, who publish in the
journal. They also looked at the topics about which men and women wrote and published.
One of the issues Beaudry and White sought to explore in looking at women's representation in
historical archaeology's major organization and journal was the notion that historical archaeology,
because of its close association with the field of historic preservation (cf. Woodall and Perricone 1981), is
somehow more open to and congenial for women than prehistory or other areas of archaeology. Hence a
further goal of the study was simply to document women's actual representation as opposed to perceived
representationBeaudry especially was repeatedly told in informal contexts that "there are lots of women
in important positions in historical archaeology," "women's participation in historical archaeology has
really increased over time," "women do historical archaeology," and even that "there are too many women
in historical archaeology!"
Beaudry and White employed raw counts of numbers of women represented in the categories listed
above; they did not carry out any statistical tests on their data. Even without tests for statistical
significance, however, it was clear that although women's representation has improved in almost all areas
of historical archaeology, it would be preposterous to suggest that they dominate the field in any way. In
general, women's representation, in the journal especially, is far below that of males and far from being on
a par with women's representation as members of the Society for Historical Archaeology, which runs at
approximately 50% of the total individual membership. From 1967, the year of the journal's founding, to
1990, 309 articles appeared in Historical Archaeology, 88 (29%) of which had women as sole or senior
author. Out of a total of 312 book reviews published during the journal's history, 59, or 19%, were written
by women. Throughout this time, a total of 6701 references were cited, of which 1228 (18%) were
women authors, 213 of whom appeared as junior authors with male senior authors. (Subtracting these
articles, one ends up with 17% representation of women in citations).
For this paper we compared the results of Victor's analysis of women's representation in the Society for
American Archaeology and its journal, American Antiquity (Victor 1991), with the Beaudry and White
results. In this case we applied a statistical test, the E-score, developed by Victor and explained above, as
a way of measuring and comparing women's overall representation in the two fields/journals; the data
were cast in such a way as to allow for delineation of what we termed "research spheres." We thought this
term more apt than "women's work" because it is eminently clear that there are almost no research topics
or areas that are exclusively female precincts; on the other hand, there are areas from which women are
absent and others in which they are virtually invisible (cf. Gero 1991b).
Most striking in terms of historical archaeology is the area of botanical analysis, for which the E-score
is 1.5. This impressive score reflects relatively recent interest in [paleo]ethnobotanical analysis in
historical archaeology and in fact is based on a grand total of three articles that have appeared since 1989.
Women are well represented in the area of ceramic analysis (1.15), bead research (1.2), miscellaneous
artifact studies (1.0), regional surveys (1.05), clay pipe studies (0.9), and urban archaeology (0.9). They
have also made a respectable showing in the areas of site reports, gunflint studies, faunal analysis, and
several women have authored obituaries (we note here that Kathleen Gilmore is Memorials Editor).
Topics on which women seldom publish in the journal include military sites, methods, theory, maritime
archaeology, and fur trade/contact. Apart from military sites and methodological studies, however, these
subjects are not regularly covered in Historical Archaeology (e.g., articles on maritime archaeology
appear rarely because the SHA publishes separately the underwater archaeology proceedings from its
annual meetings).
We note that women have become increasingly active and visible in the field of historical archaeology.
Whether they have become authoritative voices on behalf of this area of archaeology is questionable,
however, given the infrequency of citations of publications by women, even when women are doing the
citing. Comparison with women's representation in American Antiquity brightens the overall picture for
women as historical archaeologists only slightly.

American Antiquity

When American Antiquity was established in 1935, its editor, W.C. McKern, remarked that "it will
become an instrument of value in coordinating the research efforts of all sincere students of American
Archaeology" (McKern 1935). In 1935, the number of women represented in the pages of American
Antiquity were few; yet, with time the representation of women would presumably increase, especially in
the period 1967-1991 (volumes 32-56) with the changes in American society's perception of acceptable
roles for women.
To examine whether American prehistoric archaeology as represented by the journal American
Antiquity exhibits an increase over time in the representation of women, several aspects within the journal
were considered: Women as officers and on the editorial staff, women as authors of articles, women cited
in the articles, and women as reviewers and as reviewed authors. In addition, the type of article and the
gender of the author of the article were considered in order to determine if women's research spheres do
indeed exist. The years of this examination are 1967 until 1991, chosen to correspond with the years of
the Historical Archaeology study.

Officers and Board Members

respect to women as officers and on the editorial board, Figure 1 shows the relationship between the
number of men and women officers over time. The years 1983 and 1984 represent an anomalous peak in
the general trend of relatively poor representation. It is interesting, although perhaps somewhat
disheartening, to note that after the peak in the mid 80s, the numbers of women in these positions
decrease. With regard to the number of women in relation to men on the editorial board, as shown by
Figure 2, there is also an apparent peak in the mid 80s. This peak coincides with the editorships of Dena
Dincauze and Patty Jo Watson. The potential correlation between the gender of the editor and the
representation of women on the editorial staff proved to be statistically significant with a correlation
coefficient of .92, indicating a very strong positive correlation between the gender of the editor and the
representation of women on the editorial staff.
Again, after the peak, and coincidentally when a man became editor, the number of women as members
of the editorial staff decreases. It thus seems logical to conclude that women appoint women to the
editorial staff, and men do not. A regression analysis based on the correlation between the year and the
representation of women proved to be statistically insignificant. Using the regression equations, the
predicted years in which the number of women would be equal to that of men as officers and as members
of the editorial staff would be the year 2000 and the year 1992, respectively. Parity seems unlikely,
however, given the recent decreasing trend in women's selection seen in Figures 1 and 2.

With respect to the number of women as authors of articles, the picture is quite grim. Of the 974 articles
published since 1967, only 11% are written by women, 7% with women as junior authors with male
senior authors, 5% with women as senior authors, men as junior authors; 74% were written by men (in
2% of the articles we could not determine the gender of the author).
Figure 3 shows the E-score values of authors plotted against time for the years 1967 to 1991. This display
does indeed reveal an increasing trend in the overall representation of women as authors in American
Antiquity within the last 24 years; however, when considering the actual values of the E-scores, which are
low, this increasing trend loses some significance. The graph is thus exaggerating the correlation between
time and the representation of women, which proved to be statistically insignificant. Yet if we utilize the
regression equation (which is a statistical faux pas, given the requirement that there exist a significant
linear relationship between the variables was not satisfied), by the the year 2046, women will be
represented equally to men.

Book Reviewers
Figure 4 represents women as reviewers of books. Again, there is an apparent slight increase over time
of the representation of women as reviewers as expressed by the E-score values. However, this correlation
between time and women reviewers is not statistically significant. Despite the slight increase over time of
women as reviewers, it is important to note that the use of women is never equal to that of men, which it
would be if the E-score were 1.5. Again, as in the pattern exhibited for women as officers and women on
the editorial staff, and to some extent, women as authors, in the late 1980s there is a dramatic decrease in
the representation of women as reviewers. At this rate, it will be the year 2031 AD before the use of
women as reviewers will be equal to the use of men.
Reviewed Authors

Figure 5 shows the change over time of women as authors of works reviewed. Again, there is a slight
increase over the 24 year period, but as the actual values of the E-score show, the degree to which women
authors are reviewed is consistently very low, with the highest E-score value occurring in 1979, volume
44. Even at their greatest degree of representation as reviewed authors, women are only reviewed half as
frequently as are men. If this trend continues, the regression equation predicts that not before the year
2051AD will there be equal reviewing of women's writing!

To consider the degree of representation of women in citations in American Antiquity, a twenty-five
percent random sample was examined, one issue per volume, with the number of the issue determined
randomly. It is our feeling from past experiences with sampling that this twenty-five percent sample is
more than adequate to predict the degree to which women are cited by their colleagues. Figure 6 offers
the pictorial display of the relationship between time and the citation of women authors. With the
exception of a few rogue values, the E-scores are consistently below the equality mark at 1.5. As is
obvious in the graph, the data are plagued by heteroscedasticity, and thus correlation and regression
analyses are statistically insignificant. However, despite the inconclusive inferential statistical results, the
regression equation predicts that women cannot expect to be cited as frequently as men, until the year
2051 AD.
An impression that over time American prehistoric archaeology has become more friendly to women is
not supported by the several inferential statistical tests employed; it is only mildly supported by
exploratory data analysis and the several graphs generated. Are we to conclude, given W.C. McKern's
opening editorial statement and the underrepresentation of women within the journal American Antiquity,
that women are not deemed to be "sincere students" of archaeology?

As we have seen, if the journals Historical Archaeology and American Antiquity are representative of
their respective subfields, the climate for women in both is quite chilly. With regard to women

as officers of the Society for Historical Archaeology and of the Society for American Archaeology (see
Figures 7 and 8), there is a peak in the early 1980s in which women in the SHA reach parity and
women in the SAA actually outnumber men; however, for some reason there is also a dramatic
drop in the representation of women in both societies in the late 1980s. This pattern is shown
quite clearly in Figures 7 and 8. Figure 9 offers a comparison between the representation of
women in published articles in Historical Archaeology and American Antiquity. It seems here
that the climate for women in historical archaeology is less chilly than that in American
prehistoric archaeology; however, for historical archaeologists this can only be somewhat
comforting as the overall E-scores for both are around .5, which is only one-third of equality,
with women historical archaeologists only slightly better regarded than women prehistoric
archaeologists. For example, with regard to women as authors and co-authors of articles in the
journals, the overall E-score for Historical Archaeology is .66, that for American Antiquity 51.
For women as reviewers, Figure 10 shows that the lesser degree of "chilliness" is in favor of
American Antiquity. However, in neither journal do women reach parity as reviewers. Figure 11
is a graphic comparison of the representation of women in citations. Lutz notes that citation is a
form of "'symbolic capital' that confers intellectual legitimacy and boosts professional standing"
(Lingua franca 1991:6). By examining the frequency with which women are cited by their
colleagues, we can then determine the degree to which women may be deemed "authorities" in
their specialities. The graph seems to imply that women are thus not deemed to be authorities at
any time, as the highest frequency with which women are cited is twenty-two percent. Again,
though, the climate appears to be more favorable (or rather less unfavorable) for women in
historical archaeology than women in prehistoric archaeology.
The final area in which we examined the representation of women was in subject matter. Do
there actually exist "women's research spheres", or areas in which women tend to publish more
frequently? We calculated E-scores in relation to subject (see Figure 12 and legend for
explanation of coding of subjects). The scores tend to be relatively low with the exception of the
"U" category (relevant to American Antiquity only), which represents textiles and textile
manufacture, and the "F" category (ethnobotany) for women in Historical Archaeology. With the
exception of the U and F categories, in which women are more prominent, all subject areas are
dominated by men. However, despite the preponderance of men, women have apparently begun
to carve out niches in other study areas: ceramics (B), beads (BD), ethnobotany (F), to a lesser
extent, faunal analysis (G), analysis of human remains (H), metallurgy (I), pipes (PI), and to a
great extent textiles (U). In this graph it is also evident that there are more women in publishing
site reports and site interpretations (A) than there are in American Antiquity. The same holds true
for women publishing articles on the interpretation of regional patterns and interaction (P). In
American Antiquity there is no category in which women are absent; however, of the categories
represented in the journal Historical Archaeology women are absent in articles on gravestones.
There does seem to be a trend towards the establishment of women's research spheres.
Historical Archaeology
In conclusion, both the studies of women in historical archaeology and American prehistoric
archaeology as reflected in the journals Historical Archaeology and American Antiquity have shown that
women in the fields are not represented at levels even remotely equal to men or to their membership in
those organizations. In light of Gero's (1991a) statement that women comprise 20% of fully employed
archaeologists, it is clear that women who publish in Historical Archaeology and American Antiquity
represent only about one-half of the total number of women in archaeology. The next logical step in our
study is to begin to answer the questions: Why do women remain underrepresented as authors and
authorities relative to their numbers in the field? Why is women's researcheven when prominently
publishedso apparently devalued in the field of archaeology? How can we make the climate for women
in historical and prehistoric archaeology less "chilly"? And just what do we have to do to make women's
voices heard and to transform women's spheres of research into women's spheres of influence?
Key for Figure 12 Research Subject Types.
A= Site report and or interpretation
B= Ceramics analysis
BD= Beads (HA only)
C= Lithics analysis
D= Archaeological Methods
E= Archaeological Theory
F= Palaeoethnobotany
FT= Fur Trade/contact (HA only)
G= Faunal analysis
GL= Glass (HA only)
GR= Grave stones (HA only)
H= Analysis of Human skeletal remains
I= Metallurgy (AA only)
IA= Industrial Archaeology (HA only)
M= Miscellaneous Artifact studies
MA= maritime (HA only)
MI= Military sites (HA only)
O= Geoarchaeology (AA only))
OB= Obituary (HA only)
P= Regional studies/discussion
PI= Pipes (HA only)
Q= Miscellaneous (AA only)
T= Rock art/ carvings (non-Mesoamerican) (AA only)
U= Textiles and Textile manufacture (AA only)
UR= Urban Archaeology (HA only)
W= Mesoamerican writing, calendar, and iconography (AA only)

Beaudry, Mary C., and Jacqueline White
1991 "Cowgirls with the Blues? The Experience of Women in Historical Archaeology." Paper presented at
the 24th annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Richmond, VA.

Gero, Joan M.
1991a Gender and Power in Knowledge Construction: The Paleoindian Example. Keynote address, The
Anthropology and Archaeology of Women Conference, Boone, NC.

1991b The Social World of Prehistoric Facts: Gender and Power in Prehistoric Research. Paper presented
at the Women in Archaeology Conference, Albury, Australia.

Lingua franca
1991 Where the Boys Are. Lingua franca 1(3): 6-7.

McKern, W.C.
1935 Editor's Introduction. American Antiquity 1:1-2.

Victor, Katharine L.
1991 Women in American Antiquity? Ms. on file, Department of Archaeology, Boston

Woodall, J. Ned, and Philip J. Perricone

1981 The Archeologist As Cowboy: The Consequence of Professional Stereotype. Journal of
Field Archaeology 8:506-509.

Wylie, Alison, and Constance Backhouse

1991 Prospectus for: The Chilly Climate for Women Faculty: Voices from the Sacred Grove.
Unpublished manuscript available from the authors.

Chapter 3
The Muted Class: Unshackling Tradition

Alice B. Kehoe
Marquette University

Dominant groups dominate discourse. Subordinated groups whose discourse differs from the dominant
mode may not be heard; Edwin Ardener (1975) termed them "muted groups". Shirley Ardener explained,
in her introduction to Defining Females (1978), that muted groups are not deficient in their capacity for
language, nor are they necessarily more quiet than the dominant group. "The 'mutedness' of one group
may be regarded as the inverse of the 'deafness' of the dominant group, as the 'invisibility' of the former's
achievements is an expression of the 'blindness' of the latter. Words which continually fall upon deaf ears
may, of course, in the end become unspoken, or even unthought" (S. Ardener 1978:20). I want to suggest
here that the concept of mutedness is a powerful entre into the field of scholarship focusing on women,
whether we are discussing women as subjects of research or women as scholars.

Dominant Discourse Muting Gender, Race, and Class

Let us first note that in 1989, the Modern Language Association published a handbook on
Language,Gender, and Professional Writing (Frank and Treichler 1989) that gave its imprimatur to the
standard of non-sexist writing. The handbook illustrated the absurdity of traditional formal practice with
excerpts such as this:
The central issue in man's evolution was bipedalism. When man thrust himself erect, he truly became
Homo erectus: for he discovered front-to-front copulation. And woman in her turn was rewarded by
orgasm, unknown to all other species (Frank and Treichler 1989:189).

Not to mention, "Man, being a mammal, breast-feeds his young" (Frank and Treichler 1989:4). These
examples do more than flag foolishness; from the Ardeners' perspective, they show how thoroughly the
dominant class has expropriated the accomplishments of the subordinated class, in this case, of women.
We who are women are members of a class for whom formal higher education was until this century
generally proscribed. What was on top of our heads -- our long and tediously arranged hair -- was our
crowning glory; what was inside our heads was muted. Take this 1921 note from a male professor at
Smith College:
Mme. Curie is to be here tomorrow. . . . The average student, however, I imagine to be much more
interested in the Prom. . . . These students seem much less interested in the pursuit of learning than in
avoiding as far as possible its pursuit of them (quoted in Rossiter 1982:357 n. 59; my italics).
The philosopher Marjorie Glicksman Grene recounts a story typical of women who persisted in scholarly
interests rather than Proms:
Alasdair MacIntyre . . . was lecturer in philosophy . . . when . . . I myself fell luckily into a temporary
lectureship. . . . I was teaching Descartes to Kant . . . and MacIntyre had drummed into the students the
thesis "There is no philosophy from St. Thomas to Hegel." Every time I came close to convincing the
class that something in my period was worth attending to, I could just see their dear little minds ticking
over: "But MacIntyre says there is no philosophy from St. Thomas to Hegel" (Grene 1986:356).

Parenthetically, we can point out that Grene's notion of luck seems rather perverse. She studied at
Harvard, at Freiburg with Heidegger and at Heidelberg with Jaspers, and upon completing her doctorate
(in 1935), wrote to 129 schools seeking a position. "[N]obody gives jobs to women in philosophy," she
was told, but a small junior college did take her, and then the University of Chicago as an instructor
during World War II, until the boys came back and she was, as she says, "forcibly retired". For fifteen
years, she was "exiled from her profession," struggling on a "shabby, back-breaking, debt-ridden farm"
until Michael Polanyi hired her as his research assistant in Manchester (Grene 1986:355-356).
The standard histories of archaeology seem to avoid as far as possible the pursuit of identifying
women's contributions to the discipline. Willey and Sabloff's sole reference, in their History of American
Archaeology, to Memoir No. 1 of the Society for American Archaeology, the work of a woman, is via
somebody else's citation:
"It was John W. Bennett who realized the functionalist implications of Martin's and Rouse's writings. In
1943, he published an article . . .in which . . .he referred to archaeological uses of the concept of
acculturation, by T. M. N. Lewis and Madeline Kneberg in Tennessee (1941) and by D. L. Keur (1941) in
the southwestern United States" (Willey and Sabloff 1980:135; their italics).
What happened to Dorothy Keur? She gave up attempting to work in archaeology and used her
husband's connections to carry out ethnographic study -- pioneering study, as had been her Big Bead
Mesa work -- in Holland and the Caribbean. And Madeline Kneberg? She and Lewis rate a second
reference (Willey and Sabloff 1980: 138) via Walter Taylor's praise of them.
At the 1987 Carbondale conference "Writing the History of Archaeology", I brought up Willey and
Sabloff's muting of women's contributions. In the published version of the conference, editor Andrew
Christenson (1989:76) states, "of 562 individuals whose gender I could determine in the index of Willey
and Sabloff (1980), 31 (6%) were female and of 405 individuals in Daniel's (1981) index, only 12 (3%)
were female." Christenson continues (1989:76-77), "These data do not necessarily indicate any gender
bias in these volumes because we do not know the actual gender ratio of archaeologists for the times and
locations covered." Ratios seem hardly relevant beside the historical fact that Keur's monograph
inaugurated the memoir series of the preeminent organization of American archaeologists.
When I began planning a women's studies' course in my university, it seemed to me that the course
could best be considered revisionist history. I wanted to share with the students information on interesting
people who had raised radical questions. This to me was another way of teaching anthropology, the
discipline that raises profoundly radical questions about human nature and societies. My students had
read about Tom Paine, I wanted them to know the ideas and the tragic life of his fellow writer for the
Analytical Review, Mary Wollstonecraft (whose Vindication of the Rights of Women appeared in 1790, a
year before Paine's Rights of Man. They had heard of Susan B. Anthony and perhaps Elizabeth Cady
Stanton, two respectable middle-class ladies, and I wanted them to hear about Victoria Claflin Woodhull,
not respectable in the eyes of the dominant class but the first woman to run for president of the United
States (with ex-slave Frederick Douglass as her running mate), first woman stockbroker on Wall Street,
first to publish in America an English translation of Marx and Engels'Communist Manifesto. Revisionist
history is the history of muted groups.
What about the anthropology component of my course? Revisionist anthropology? I did use that term in
a paper in Current Anthropology in 1981 (Kehoe 1981). There I challenged the standard view of
American Indians as largely non-agricultural, arguing that our Eurocentric picture of agriculture
obstructed our recognition of the alternative agricultural practices developed in America. Jennings (1975)
had labeled colonist entrepreneur' blindness to American Indian accomplishments the "cant of conquest,"
and Trigger (1980) made it quite clear that American archaeologists' conventional interpretations of
American Indian history uncritically perpetuate racist images. Indians, like Americans of African descent,
are relegated to castes labeled "primitive" and therefore to be without histories. Coupled with historians'
reluctance to recognize historical knowledge in the discourse of Indians (cf. e.g., Berthong 1989) the first
nations of our continent have been effectively muted for half a millennium.
In social anthropology, the work of Jane C. Goodale on Tiwi Wives (1971) published eleven years after
the conventional analysis on the Tiwi by her fellow graduate student Arnold Pilling, and the more recent
Women of Value, Men of Renown by Annette Weiner (1976) are certainly revisionist anthropology. In each
case, a woman anthropologist worked among the same people studied by male anthropologists, and in
each case she obtained the obverse of their pictures of the societies. Tiwi women, Goodale found, marry
younger men. Kiriwina men, Weiner found, work to provide means for their wives to present themselves
as persons of value. Women, it was demonstrated, were muted in the studies of male anthropologists, not
so much because they as men were excluded from women's rituals, but more so because they paid little
attention to women's activities, premising a priori that only men's activities would figure significantly in
understanding the society. Goodale and Weiner threw off the shackles of this tradition when they gave
voice to the muted class.
Victoria Claflin Woodhull dramatically proves that class, as well as gender and caste, biases mute much
of human history. Claflin's father was a stablehand and horse trader, her mother a house servant. To earn a
few bucks, the parents exhibited Victoria and her sister Tennie as imitation Fox Sisters on the mid-
nineteenth-century county fair circuit. Entirely without formal education, Victoria became an effective
orator, invited by Congressman Benjamin Butler to herself read before the House Judiciary Committee
her memorial arguing that the recently passed Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution
gave the vote to women. (Her interpretation rested on the fact that women are members of the human
race, and race membership, she pointed out, cannot be used to deny the franchise). Cady Stanton admired
Claflin and attempted to link her crusades to the National Women's Suffrage Association. The Association
would have nothing to do with the woman they denounced as a Free Lover and excoriated (quite
inconsistently) as the accuser of Henry Ward Beecher, America's most-admired minister. (Claflin
published, in her weekly newspaper, the adultery case brought by Beecher's assistant Theodore Tilton
against his employer.) Stanton was forced to drop her alliance with Claflin. When it is remembered that
the Woman's Suffrage Association membership overlapped considerably with the eugenics movement, the
acceptance of these ladies' campaigns in the standard histories of the dominant class is obvious. Giving
the vote to women threatened the rationale of dominance by literate propertied Western European men,
but Anthony and Cady Stanton pleaded that their votes could strengthen their class's power. Claflin and
her associates, on the other hand, demanded an end to the false consciousness fostered by that class.
Challenging bourgeois cultural dominance was a truly subversive act, a real rebellion. Claflin was
imprisoned and then induced into exile.
Gender, class, caste: each attribute is used to mute the presence of millions of persons destined to
subordination under the ideology of the dominant class of propertied Western European men. Legal
scholars are now discussing critical legal histories that one practitioner, Mari Matsuda has termed
"outsider jurisprudence." She says her term is preferable to "minority" because that "belies the numerical
significance of the constituencies typically excluded from jurisprudential discourse" (Matsuda 1989:2323
n. 15). "Outsider jurisprudence" is a powerful departure from dominant discourse. "Minority" is part of
the dominant structure -- the word is meaningless without inclusion in the larger whole -- and
"revisionist" still tries to remain in the canon. "Outsider" asserts exclusion, it forces recognition that there
are universes outside the dominant cosmology. The position is subtly and masterfully developed by
Robert A. Williams, Jr., a Lumbee: "The ultimate goal of such a scholarship is to rediscover through this
disinterring act our own discrete insurrectionist discourses suppressed by the tyranny of totalizing visions
of knowledge and power" (Williams 1987:104).
Another legal scholar, Joan C. Williams, emphasizes the insurrectionist foundation of outsider
discourses when she claims that they attack and undermine the theory of possessive individualism central
to modern dominant discourse. "The term," she explains, "refers to the liberal premises that society
consists of market relations, and that freedom means freedom from any relations with others except those
relations the individual enters voluntarily with a view to his own self-interest" (J. Williams 1989:810; she
takes the term from C.B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, 1962). This
theory of possessive individualism pervades mainstream anthropology, from the expectation that
economic analyses will be prominent in ethnographies, to the lower evolutionary standing assigned to
societies that seem not to privilege market relations and, at the extreme, the acceptance of sociobiology.
Because it converts to subhuman status persons (slaves, serfs, peons, laborers, discriminated "racial"
groups, women, children (Haraway 1991:145-147)) who are not free to enter into market relations with a
view to their own self-interest, it promotes the continuing dominance of propertied European men. The
damning evidence for the cruel self-interest maintained by the dominating discourse lies right in our
Declaration of Independence and Constitution, where the authors write of the "self-evident . . . inalienable
right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," then count slaves as three-fifths of a man and refuse the
franchise or the full protection of the Constitution to women.

Dominant Discourse in Scholarship

Drawn largely from the professional and upper classes (Ryan and Sackrey 1984), academic researchers
tend to accept the tenet of possessive individualism as naturally as Kabyles accept their habitus (cf.
Bourdieu 1977:72-95). The "marketplace of ideas" is more than a metaphor; scholars' ideas are indeed
their working capital (Barnes 1977), and the relations of competition premised in the Western concept of
the market lie unconformably with the ideal of selfless cooperation once propounded by Robert Merton.
Cartels in academia are most visible in citation cliques (Cribb 1980), but they build through a more
fundamental exclusionary strategy, the definition of what is to count as relevant discourse.
Alasdair MacIntyre's hegemonic strategy can be glimpsed even in the recent book Engendering
Archaeology, edited by Gero and Conkey (1991). The editors declare that in 1987, "There was simply no
archaeological literature to cite as contributions, nor was there any defined circle of experts to fall back
upon"; only "A tiny smattering of literature identified the existence of women in prehistory" (Gero and
Conkey 1991:xi, their italics). Presumably the smattering consisted of the six studies focusing on
inferring gender from prehistoric archaeological data, selected for recommendation in the article
"Incorporating Gender into Archaeology Courses," (Spector and Whelan 1989) published after a three-
year, well-publicized development project begun in 1985. That article cited, of course, the path-breaking
methodological paper presented at the 1977 Plains Conference by Janet Spector and subsequently
published in the resulting volume, The Hidden Half, edited by Albers and Medicine (1983). Choice, the
librarians' journal, selected The Hidden Half as one of the top ten academic books published in 1983. The
research tradition inaugurated by Spector's paper was reinforced at the 1987 Plains Conference in a
session organized by Marcel Kornfeld and published as Memoir 26 of the Plains Anthropologist
(Kornfeld 1991) . That same year, a session at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting
featured five papers on inferring gender from the archaeological record, and this session, too, has been
published (Nelson and Kehoe 1990). Mesoamericanists' work "engendering archaeology" saw print in
1988 as The Role of Gender in Precolumbian Art and Architecture, edited by Virginia Miller. And most
obviously, Marija Gimbutas' explicitly gendered The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe had been
published in 1974 (second edition, 1982). There was, in 1986, no "defined circle of experts" on
archaeological identification of gender roles in prehistoric societies, but there were a number of
concerned researchers.
Ironically, it was in the landmark volume The Socio-Politics of Archaeology , co-edited by Gero (Gero,
Lacy and Blakey 1983), that Wobst and Keene described "Archaeological Explanation as Political
Economy" (Wobst and Keene 1983) . They emphasized the "superb fit" of precisely the research for
which Conkey is noted with the "political economy" of the profession of archaeology, describing the
strategy she used, of selecting "the Paleolithic of the periglacial Upper Pleistocene," as likely "[t]o be
particularly successful . . . in achiev[ing] control . . . [and causing] other archaeologists . . . to have
become enmeshed within a cone of dependence, deference, and predetermination where before they had
enjoyed relative explanatory independence." The greater one's success in this political economy, they
state, "the higher will be one's citation count" (Wobst and Keene 1983:82-84). Gero and Conkey invited
"researchers who had a solid and demonstrated working knowledge either of specific classes of
archaeological data (e.g. ceramics, botanical remains, shellfish) and/or of particular perspectives in
prehistory (e.g. complex hunter-gatherers, early agricultural societies)" (Gero and Conkey 1991:xii).
Exactly as Wobst and Keene outline (1983:81-82), this strategy toward control of a career field chooses
"classificatory behavior" (cf. Reiss 1982) from which "a series of statements is then contrived." How this
constrains archaeological research and interpretation is confessed, in the Gero and Conkey volume, by
Ruth Tringham, "My wish to retain respectability and credibility as a scientific archaeologist was stronger
than my motivation to consider gender relations" (Tringham 1991:95). Conkey elsewhere (1991:111-112)
cites Wobst and Keene's paper to explain archaeologists' obsession with "origins," but seems not to
recognize the reflections of the strategy they outline in her own career.

What must be foregrounded in our discussions of feminist critiques and gender-focused research in
archaeology is the fundamental issue of alternative discourses (Haraway 1991:147; Wobst 1989). The
"cone" strategy of commandeering discourse that Conkey discusses very well, if not reflexively, in her
1991 article is an exclusionary maneuver useful in the maintenance of dominance. From the perspective
of outsider jurisprudence, who dominates--white upper-class male or white upper-class female--is beside
the point. We can reject the hierarchy of dominance, the 'defined circle of experts," in toto. We can reject
the early-modern Western worldview with its insistence on a monolithic centered discourse, and in its
place, stipulate the kind of decentered, multiplex, dynamic interplay congruent with modern evolutionary
biology and physics. We should assert the validity and viability of 'emergent, differentiating, self-
representing, contradictory social subjectivities, with their claims on action, knowledge, and belief," as
Haraway (1991:147) passionately urges. Not a canonical literature, but a praxis of research and
stimulating discussion, an "archaeology of humans" (Wylie 1991:22) should be the goal nourished by a
feminist consciousness.
Back in the beginning of archaeology as a professional discipline, Sir John Lubbock pursued the
strategy for hegemonic control, omitting citation of work he plagiarized in his establishment of the canon
for prehistory (Kehoe 1991). Lubbock was a member of a small self-selected dining club of men openly
plotting the takeover of the Royal Society, and in chronicling this group, historian Ruth Barton (1990:72,
81) remarks, "The X-Club devoted enormous energy to gaining power. It is less clear what the Club did
with this power: the records are patchy [but] . . . the greatest symbolic achievement of the X-Club was . . .
a conflation of science, church and state," no less! Anthropology, even archaeology, are not the spinning-
out of truth within ivory towers. From Asad (1973), Leacock (Etienne and Leacock 1980, Leacock and
Safa 1986), and the burgeoning wave they set in motion in social anthropology, through the more recent
reflective studies in archaeology (e.g., Fowler 1987, Hinsley 1981, Kehoe 1985, 1989, Kristiansen 1981,
1985, Schvelzon 1988), the clear connection between the practice of mainstream anthropology and
service to the dominant class in Western states has been amply, though far from exhaustively,

In his brilliant critique of the New Archaeology, Gibbon (1989:180) concluded "that archaeology is a
more uncertain, open, challenging and perhaps anxiety-ridden enterprise than our positivist heritage has
The grand gesture of embedding quotes from designated muted classes in our dominant discourse will
neither absolve us from the moral obligation to listen, nor assist us toward deeper understanding of our
species and ourselves. As scholars, we must resist control by favored schools of research, their mapped-
out modes of discourse and quoting circles, as earnestly as we seek to uncover field data. Pure science is a
virgin mother: either a miracle unlikely to be met in our lives, or a chimera. Cold appraisal of the lovely
vision is discomfiting but necessary if we are not to simply replace one elite group with another
politically astute privileged X-Club.


When we as anthropologists struggle to throw off the shackles of tradition, to hear the muted groups, to
see the obscured, we are fighting for the recognition of human worth to which Franz Boas committed his
energies. Let us remember that in 1919, the traditionalists nearly cast out Boas from the American
Anthropological Association (Pinsky 1988). Woman or man, we as anthropologists betray the best of our
discipline if we blindly hew to the imperialist doctrines still embedded in the theories and only slowly
fading from the practice of mainstream anthropology. We who are women particularly should engage in
the historically sensitive, emic anthropology developed by Boas and his colleagues, so many of whom
were, because of him, women.
Boas was an outsider. I think we might, following Matsuda and Rob Williams, say we are engaged in
outsider anthropology. We risk never getting prestigious positions, seldom getting cited, seldom invited to
participate in popular symposia, but outsiders do get to meet some of the world's most interesting and
admirable people. After all, outsiders are by far the largest component of the population of planet Earth.

1. In Conkey's own research specialty, none other than the revered doyen l'Abb Breuil published in 1949
a series of views of a remarkably gendered prehistory where women can be seen doing many activities
they are later denied by modern archaeologists. Perhaps his experiences with one of his most eminent
pupils, Dorothy Garrod (Boyle et al. 1963), raised his consciousness of the importance of prominently
considering gender roles in human history. Perhaps we are seeing the quiet influence of Miss Mary Boyle.

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Chapter 4

Observing Prehistoric Women

Brian Hayden
Archaeology Department
Simon Fraser University

Gender issues have become increasingly important in social sciences over the past two decades. In order
to develop a clear understanding of gender-related behavior and attitudes, it is important to understand
how this behavior varies cross-culturally, how it evolved, and what causes differences in behavior
between genders.
As a prehistorian, my main interest is in documenting and explaining inferable gender differences in the
past. As such, I am concerned with how gender-related behavior can be inferred from the material
remains of past cultures. However, one of the main avenues that enables prehistorians to model past
behavior passes via the comparative analysis of traditional ethnographic cultures. Confronted by a
plethora of conflicting claims about gender relations and behavior in the popular and prehistoric literature,
I would like to examine the types of evidence that are most useful in inferring prehistoric gender
behavior. The target information concerns women's and men's behavior, the relative status of men and
women, and their relative power in prehistory.
I have been preoccupied by the question of how gender-related activities might be identified in the
prehistoric record for over two decades. While carrying out ethnoarchaeology among Australian
Aboriginals, I attempted to determine if there were specific types of stone tools that might be associated
with women (Hayden 1977, 1979). This concern was again raised in terms of bipolar flaking techniques
(Hayden 1980). I also examined ethnographies in regard to the sexual division of labor and gender
mobility patterns among hunter/gatherers (Hayden 1981); I attempted to determine if single-gender
households could be identified in Highland Maya communities from material inventories during
ethnoarchaeological work (Hayden and Cannon 1984); and I have examined women's status among
ethnographic hunter/gatherers in relation to ecological variables, particularly in relation to resource stress
(Hayden et al. 1986). It is hunter/gatherers that interest me most, and I will primarily focus on problems
associated with gender interpretations at this level of cultural organization.
At the level of prehistoric hunter/gatherers, can past gender behavior, status, or attitudes be reliable
inferred? If so, how? I believe they can, although considerable future research is required. The remainder
of this article is a discussion of the ways in which such interpretations can be most reliably established.

Approaches to the Problem

There are two basic approaches that can be used in dealing with gender issues: nomothetic (theoretical
generalizations) and particularistic. From the prehistoric perspective, particularistic explanations are not
very useful because they tend to be highly subjective ad hoc formulations that do not lend themselves to
testing or certification. As I have argued elsewhere (Hayden and Cannon 1982, 1984), particularistic
explanations of behavior are frequently appropriate for understanding an individual's behavior. Like
quantum-level particles, individual behavior is often variable or difficult to predict on the basis of laws or
principles. In contrast, aggregate human behavior, like averaged atomic counterparts, conforms much
more closely to general principles especially where there are issues of self-interest, economy of effort,
material benefits, and short vs long term gain. When considered in aggregate, i.e., at the community level,
human idiosyncratic behavior is not significant for our understanding of changes that affect the
Prehistory is primarily the study of changes in average behavior, or in community wide behavior. Group
size, levels of violence, use of exotic vs. local stone materials, species of game used, and specific
technologies are average types of behavior that prehistorians can monitor. We see the dominant trends in
human behavior, the major concerns, themes and solutions adopted by the average person in groups as
well as ranges of variability. Although we must assume that an individual made a particular stone tool, or
sustained a particular injury, or killed a particular animal, specific individuals can rarely be identified,
followed, or be assigned values for other parameters. The ideas, values and rules that motivate individuals
are as elusive as they are idiosyncratically variable. Even in the case of individual burials, it is often not
the character or life-attributes of the buried individual that are reflected in the grave goods and grave
elaboration so much as the character of the group responsible for doing the burying. The community or
the household, not the individual, is the most productive focus for prehistory. It is difficult to see how
concentrating on the individual will advance our understanding of gender patterns in the past. There are
simply too many possible explanations and motivations for individual material expressions; and no way
has been suggested for testing such interpretations archaeologically.
The material products of berdechic male activities cannot be distinguished from real females if they act
the same as females. Due to the many other randomizing factors that blur patterning in the archaeological
record, occasional arrowheads made by females cannot be distinguished from those made, used, or
abandoned by males; nor would a few female manufactured arrowheads significantly change any
statistical inferences based on the much larger number of arrowheads made, used, and abandoned by
males. Occasional hunting by women would be almost impossible to identify in communities, nor would
it be significant or important for prehistorians unless it were a routine type of women's activity. Almost all
communities tolerate low levels of many kinds of idiosyncratic behavior on the part of a few individuals.
Given all these factors, it is not surprising that what prehistorians can see most clearly, and what is most
important from an ecological viewpoint, are the general trends, the most common practices, and the
overall changes in group behavior. Changes in the behavior of entire groups imply that strong forces are
at work capable of influencing large numbers of people, whether in terms of their residence, hunting
practices, submission to hierarchical control, trade, kinship reckoning, or gender relationships.
General patterns or principles are difficult enough to discern, substantiate, and explain. Particularistic
events are far more difficult to deal with. Yet, appeals to particularistic and culture-determined gender
roles tend to dominate much recent theoretical discussion of gender (cf. Conkey and Spector 1984).
Unless there are good, causally sound theories to back up particularistic conclusions, they will always be
suspect. What kinds of approaches have the most potential for generating sound theories and
generalizations? I suggest that there are and will discuss six fundamental approaches that have been used:
comparative ethnographies, skeletal and mortuary studies, early texts, art and mythology, physiological
studies, comparative zoology and gross physiology.

Comparative Ethnographies
One major approach for inferring gender roles among Pleistocene as well as post-Pleistocene
populations is the use of comparative ethnographies. Within the last 40,000 years of prehistory, it
becomes increasingly pertinent to examine contemporary hunter/gatherer societies that can be argued to
have had adaptational problems similar to fully sapient prehistoric communities. While such analyses
must be carried out with caution due to the ecological variability and historical changes that may have
affected ethnographic hunter/gatherer societies (as demonstrated by the debate about the
BushmenSolway and Lee 1990), there is a wide enough diversity of well documented ethnographic
hunting/gathering and horticultural societies in the world to render the comparative ethnographic
approach potentially one of the most rewarding for generating reliable conclusions about prehistoric
gender-related behavior from the Upper Paleolithic to the present and perhaps even in earlier times.
Conkey and Spector (1984), like many others have argued that caution must be exercised in regard to
"androcentric biases" in the extant ethnographies. While these criticisms contain a germ of truth, they
overlook the facts 1) that most ethnographers have been specifically trained to minimize their own
cultural biases, 2) that there are many entirely unambiguous accounts of general relationships (involving
craft specialization, ritual or political participation, rape, and beatingssee Begler 1978), 3) that cross-
cultural tests of women's roles in societies show no significant differences when stratified by male versus
female ethnographers (Levinson and Malone 1980:270), and 4) that strong coherent relationships between
gender roles and environmental variables do emerge from the extant ethnographic data base. Strong
patterning between ethnographically recorded gender behavior and independent variables such as
environment cannot be explained if there are pervasive or systematic androcentric biases in the
ethnographic data base (see Hayden et al. 1986). To try to totally vitiate the present ethnographic data
base with nothing to fill the void other than vague programmatic plans for future ethnographic work is
The consistency of some observations on ethnographic generalized hunter/ gatherers in terms of sharing
(Winterhalder 1986), mobility, alliances, dominance hierarchies (Tiger 1970:295), and sexual division of
labor (Hayden 1981), irrespective of historical conditions, is a strong argument that such responses would
also have characterized prehistoric groups of fully sapient human hunter/gatherers. Moreover, some
plausible causal explanations for these types of behavior can be found in evolutionary ecology and
cultural ecology. Few other paradigms can claim as much success in explaining these patterns.
Within the comparative ethnographic approach, one of the keys to making significant progress in gender
studies may be to refine causal theories to account for the sexual division of labor and the relative
intensity of its development. There are numerous suggestions as to precisely why the sexual division of
labor has emerged among hunter/gatherers (see Hayden 1981, as well as Hurtado et al.'s 1985 discussion
and statistical demonstration that the expression of the division of labor is a function of parental
investment and child care requirements in at least one group).
The sexual division of labor in which hunter/gatherer males hunt, make war, and engage in other
exclusively male activities (Frayser 1985:90-91), while women concentrate more on gathering and infant
care is supported by a very large body of objective observations. This pattern may even imply that the
cross-cultural preponderance of hunter/gatherer males in public forums and in dealings with non-local
groups (Tiger 1970:30; Wilson 1978:128) may be an extension of the division of labor since in
hunter/gatherer, and most other traditional societies, males are most involved in defense, they travel more
extensively, and they are more likely to first encounter non-local groups (see Rodseth et al. 1991:238-9).1
Although some researchers have questioned the universality of the sexual division of labor among
hunter/gatherers, (Conkey and Spector 1984; Goodman et al., n.d.; Leacock 1978) or tried to deny that a
clear pattern exists, there is little general doubt that this patterning of gender behavior is the expression of
a fundamental principle of organization of hunter/gatherer societies and even more complex traditional
societies. In more complex traditional societies, sex exclusive tasks include: lumbering, boatbuilding,
stoneworking, mining, metalworking, bonesetting, and shell, bone or horn crafts. These are exclusively
performed by men in traditional societies the world over (Murdock and Provost 1973). Such patterns,
together with the potential use of axes in combat, make it highly likely, for instance, that the fine axes
which are featured so prominently in the high status Neolithic tumuli and ideology of Brittany (Patton
1990) were associated with males.
These strong cross-cultural patterns are among some of the best foundations that can be hoped for in
modeling prehistoric gender behavior. It has never been clear why the notion that women, in the
collective sense, did not generally hunt or make war in hunter/gatherer societies is anathema to some
people involved in gender studies.
There are a number of other generalizations that have emerged from cross-cultural studies that have not
as yet been attached to any theoretical foundation. These include the almost universal role of women in
scraping and preparing hides in societies without specialists, in grinding foods, and in processing fish for
storage. If substantiated and explained, these observations would make it possible to view small grinding
stones, mortars, and hide-working tools as material manufacturing signatures of women's tasks, just as
projectile points and bifaces are generally considered male signatures. Both observations may make sense
as part of the general sexual division of labor mentioned above, but no one has explicitly made this link as
yet or explained why these specific tasks should be performed by women rather than by men. In the case
of bifaces, I would suggest that given the male orientation toward hunting which entails the highest
mobility patterns (Hayden 1981), it can be argued that resharpening strategies and tools which are
adapted to the highest mobility conditions (e.g., handaxes and bifaces) should be primarily and perhaps
exclusively associated with male tasks since these are high investment tools and the risk of ruining or
breaking these tools in resharpening them is also high. High investment tools that others can easily
damage or break are unlikely to be liberally shared. Rather, such tools are more likely to be reserved as
exclusively personal gear. The study of prehistoric tool and food remains in order to deal with gender
issues constitutes a special branch of comparative ethnography since the interpretation of these remains
relies ultimately on analogy although supplementary kinds of inference are sometimes used, such as
archaeological grave goods or internal spatial associations between tool types or activity areas in
archaeological sites (e.g., Stevenson 1984).
Perhaps the study of prehistoric cultural remains should be a separate category of gender inference,
however, at this stage of development, I feel it is inextricably linked to comparative ethnographic analysis
as exemplified by the preceding discussion of projectiles, bifaces, end scrapers, and grinding stones.
These specific examples are strongly supported by empirical cross-cultural observations of
hunter/gatherers. Some aspects of these patterns can be supported by causal theoretical models involving
the adaptive values of specific activities (e.g., hunting and defense) as a part of a sexual division of labor.
This does not mean that there are no exceptions, or that situations might not have been different in the
past. However, in the face of an empirically grounded causal model, substantial arguments must be
advanced for alternative interpretations to be considered seriously. Even at this relatively early phase of
inquiry the working models and explanations for the sexual division of labor (with associated tool types
such as projectile points) are more useful than anecdotal cases or summary rejections of gender-specific
tool interpretations lacking concrete alternatives (per Conkey and Spector 1984). Prehistorians can
currently point to only a few tool types that have the potential for directly monitoring prehistoric gender
behavior. These tools constitute rare anchors in a chaotic prehistoric sea of material remains. To argue that
we should cut ourselves loose from these anchors without better replacements would be very limiting and
would subject gender issues to the whims and storms of political conviction rather than scientific inquiry.
It is unfortunate that most stone tools remain unassigned to gender. Except for bifaces, and endscrapers,
this leaves the vast majority of the Paleolithic period with no clear gender-specific tools.
Aside from the sexual division of labor and sex-specific tool uses, other important cultural regularities
in women's status have been demonstrated by comparative ethnographic analyses. Some of these
regularities are related to sex ratios. For instance, Divale and Harris (1976) have indicated that warfare
has a major adverse effect on the ratio of males to females, as well as on the status of women, perhaps not
dissimilar to conditions described by Smuts (1990). I (Hayden et al. 1986) have indicated that resource
stress and famines are strongly associated with low female status among hunter/gatherers, and I have
provided several suggestions as to why this might be so.
Perhaps one of the most promising topics that I see in comparative hunter/gatherer studies involves the
relative value of women's labor. In some societies such as those of the Plains or of Interior British
Columbia, women's labor constituted the major bottleneck in the production of food and wealth. At
certain seasons on the plains, many more buffalo could be killed by men than could be processed by
women for furs and dried meat. On the middle Fraser River, many more salmon could be caught by men
than women could fillet and dry. In these societies, and I suspect in the rich reindeer based societies of the
French Upper Paleolithic, women's status was not particularly high, and the wealth that was generated
supported hierarchical polygynous social structures. These relationships may characterize many wealth-
accumulative societies where women's labor is the limiting constraint. Such a tendency is hinted at in
studies on women's labor status by Dahlberg (1980), Levinson and Malone (1980:275), Sanday (1973,
1974, 1981), Whyte (1982), and especially Heath (1958). I suspect that a narrowly focused study of
female labor constraints to wealth accumulation in band and tribal societies will produce some very
insightful results.
It might also be suggested that at much later periods, when full-time specialization appears, many tasks
which are traditionally carried out by women may become appropriated by men when those tasks become
the principal means of household support (e.g., pottery manufacturing, hide working, milling, weaving,
tailoring, agriculturefor the latter, see Burton and White 1984; Ember 1983). Specialization may be the
only condition under which these activities are regularly performed by males for cultures in the
ethnographic present. Even this conclusion, however, requires cross-cultural substantiation and may not
be extended to periods before the Upper Paleolithic. Even if it can be demonstrated that males assume
traditionally female tasks only when those tasks become the principal economic basis of family support,
explaining why such shifts should occur on theoretical grounds is an unexplored issue.
In all of the above comparative ethnographic approaches, it is important to determine if a particular
behavior is nearly universal. If so, what accounts for this universality? If the behavior is not universal,
what factors are responsible for the variations that are observed. While there are a few near-universal
types of behavior, there is also important variability in many facets of gender behavior. Far too often,
people dealing with gender issues ignore this variability even when it is striking. That all band societies
are gender egalitarian (Leacock 1978), and that hunter/gatherers are ignorant of the biological basis of
conception (Rabuzzi 1988), are some of the most common, and unsupportable generalizations. In general,
it is the variation in gender behavior which provides the most useful key to understanding the origin of

Skeletal and Mortuary Studies

Skeletal remains and mortuary practices constitute a second approach to prehistoric gender. Skeletal
remains represent the evolutionary history and life history of individuals. They are rich, largely untapped
reservoirs of information on prehistoric gender behavior. Skeletal remains can frequently be accurately
sexed. Once this is accomplished, prehistoric males and females can be compared in terms of nutritional
status, diets, physically stressful activities, life tables, and final burial.
Nutritional status is indicated by a diverse series of measures, including dental hypoplasia, Harris lines,
cortical thickness of longbones, overall stature, and relative frequency of disease (Martin et al. 1985).
Differences in diet may be revealed by delta carbon-13 values in human bone, as well as other elements
(Gilbert 1985).
The study of injuries, deformities, and diseases has been a traditional means of inferring past activities
that were physically stressful. Skeletal modifications due to stressing activities include prolonged running
(Dutour 1990), archery, carrying heavy loads with tumplines (Hedges 1984:190), intensive hide working
that affects arm bones (Plisson 1990), chewing hides or performing other tasks with teeth (Merbs
1983:179), net or basketry manufacturing (Collier 1982:91, 116, 123-125), seed grinding (Molleson
1989), and fighting (parry fractures and similar battle injuries). It is interesting to note that the heavily
worn teeth of Neanderthals characterize both females and males, and probably are partially responsible
for their massive facial structures. It is unfortunate that the tasks responsible for this wear have not yet
been identified with certainty (Brace et al. 1981; Trinkaus 1983:457).
Life tables may also be sensitive to differential risks incurred by gender specific activities (Hedges
1984:186). However, survival profiles derived from prehistoric burials can be influenced by many other
factors such as preferential infanticide and differences in status-related burial treatment. Life tables are
extremely important sources of inference about gender, but they must be carefully analyzed. It is
interesting, for example that in both the Middle and the Upper Paleolithic in both western Europe and the
Near East, males constitute about 65% of the burials while females constitute 35% (Defleur 1987:215).
Given the temporal and geographic consistency of these results, sampling biases do not appear to be
likely explanations for this pattern. In some areas of Australia and in some age classes of the Neolithic
Orkneys, male burials outnumbered females by seven to one (Collier 1982:13; Hedges 1984:186). How
can this be explained if not by differential risk?Are there other viable explanations aside from preferential
infanticide or status differences?
Finally, differential placement and treatment of burials according to sex is a rich source of information
about gender roles and social organization. Longacre (1968) noted separate burial areas in Pueblo sites
within which grave goods associated with females seem similar. Longacre argued that this indicated
prehistoric matrilocal residence. Pearson (1981) and Zhong-Pei (1985) have also used grave goods to
argue for prominent roles for women in Neolithic Chinese society. Similar studies have been conducted
for the Hungarian Plain and in the American Archaic (Skomal 1986; Winters 1969). Because of the strong
symbolical content of grave goods and questions concerning the local vs. trade origin and meaning of
grave goods, some of these studies have been severely criticized (Plog 1980; Stanislawski 1978). This
issue will be more fully discussed in Section 4. For the present, it is sufficient to note that inferences
drawn from grave goods about gender roles or behavior must be done carefully and cautiously. Other
lines of evidence and general theoretical expectations must be consulted wherever appropriate.

Early Texts
A third approach to prehistoric gender involves early texts. To diverge from hunter/gatherers briefly,
some of the clearest indicators of gender behavior, status, and power are to be found in written texts left
by past civilizations. Unfortunately, these only begin to occur in the last 5,000 years. In Sumer (Kramer
1963), texts indicate the legal status of women and wives. Later texts can indicate the position of women
in terms of political power (Rathje 1972) and other basic rights. There are always problems of author
biases and motives in the analysis of such texts; however, some texts such as legal codes are relatively
unambiguous in terms of the fundamental rights that society accorded to wives, husbands, mothers and
fathers. Such texts are invaluable aids wherever they occur, and constitute relatively strong methods for
inferring gender behavior or status in civilizations. Unfortunately, they rarely reveal anything about pre-
state cultures, and even when they do, such statements must be treated with extreme caution.

Art and Mythology

The fourth approach to prehistoric gender involves art and mythology. Because stylized portrayals of
humans can represent a wide diversity of meanings, and because of the difficulty in determining these
meanings for the artisan, the patron, the users, or the viewers of such portrayals, it should come as little
surprise that figurines and art motifs are among the least reliable means of determining prehistoric gender
behavior, status, or power. There are no generally agreed upon principles for interpreting or testing the
meaning or significance of such art. Most studies in this vein have lacked rigor and relied excessively on
subjective impressions (see Hayden 1986). At present, no one has even proposed a method of testing
competing interpretations using these types of data. Certainly, artistic representations and figurines appear
to hold important information on gender related issues. However, comparative and other types of studies
offer little support for the claims that are often made on the basis of art interpretation.
For example, in what is often presented as a relatively straight-forward case, it is assumed that
representations of female deities demonstrate high status and power for women in the Balkan Neolithic.
On the other hand, numerous examples of prominent female deities and artistic representations can be
found in societies considered as classic examples of patriarchies. These examples include the emphasis of
the Virgin Mary in many Medieval and Renaissance communities, the central role of Athena and the
Eleusinian Mysteries in Classical Athens, and the omnipresent representation of Queen Victoria in
Victorian England. Numerous authors have warned against the facile and apparently misleading
assumption that prominent mythological deities represent actual behavior, concerns, or social
circumstances (Werblowsky 1981). As one author overstates this idea:
There appears to be a universal law...which states that wherever you find a religious or mystical system
that exalts the feminine, making of it a divine attribute through which salvation may be known, in the
society where that view is furthered you will find a proportionate disregard of woman as social being
(Ponc 1983:75).
To cast further doubt on claims for a Neolithic Balkan matriarchy, Fluehr-Lobban (1979) argues that
there is no ethnographic evidence for matriarchies; and in all cross-cultural studies to date, feminine
status and roles sometimes equal those of men, but are never recorded as surpassing them (Rosaldo 1974;
Sanday 1981:165; Whyte 1978:167-168).
Discrepancies between economic-social realities and major ideological-mythological themes are
relatively common. For instance, the major figures in Northwest coast totems, religion, and art are bears,
frogs, ravens, beavers, otters, and coyotes rather than the salmon and halibut that supported the
subsistence economy. Similarly, in the European Upper Paleolithic, it is clear that the animals of most
importance in the ritual cave sanctuaries were not those of greatest importance in subsistence (Butzer
1986:212). Moreover, exactly why female figurines should be associated with domestic structures while
male figurines, phalli, copulation scenes, and sexually complementary themes should characterize the
cave sanctuaries has never been addressed. I suspect that a full understanding of these issues will not be
achieved until we have a better understanding of women's involvement in producing subsistence, trade,
and wealth items in rich Upper Paleolithic areas, as well as how subsistence value and labor were
transformed into wealth and status value. As I previously suggested, women may have been limiting
factors in the production of curried skins for trade and in the processing and drying of meat for storage. In
this scenario, women may have been valued as producers of wealth and children (labor) in a hierarchical
system in which women were not necessarily in control.
In other ideological domains there is also frequently a discrepancy with social reality. For instance, it is
not true that matrilineal descent systems or even matrilocal residence implies female dominance in
traditional societies (Bale 1984; Blackman 1982:50; Harris 1979:96-7). Prolonged absence of males for
trading or warfare, and the prevention of male factional fighting within complex politics, appear to be
more relevant to explaining matrilocality and by extension, matrilineality.
If we return to the Balkan Neolithic, there are other important indicators in art and other social domains
that are inconsistent with a society dominated and run by women: notably the many indicators of warfare
during the Neolithic (fortified settlements such as Nea Nikomedia, Dhimini, Sesklo, and evidence for
Minoan long distance trading and territorial expansionAndel and Runnels 1988; Milisauskas 1978, 1986;
Rodden 1965; Theocharis 1973). On the basis of comparative ethnography, military activity and long
distance trading are strongly associated with male dominated cultures. Moreover, the emphasis on
Neolithic female cult figurines all but ignores the prominent role of bucrania and horns of consecration,
which most prehistorians view as symbols of masculine fertility (e.g. Mellaart 1965:94-95). Finally, none
of the proponents of prehistoric matrifocal societies have explained how women might have achieved
dominance when confronted with the substantially greater physical force, aggressive penchants, and
weaponry of men. Appeals to cognitive respect for women's procreative faculties are difficult to take
seriously given a lack of ethnographic examples and the more powerful constraints of subsistence,
economy, defense, and dominance competition.
In sum, it is difficult to determine if myths and material representations of myths or ceremonies are
meant to portray actual relationships in the real world, imagined rationalizations for why certain
behaviors exist, overcompensations for inequalities that really exist in societies, idealizations of utopian
but nonexistent states, or some other factors (Trigger 1989:351). To endorse approaches based primarily
on symbolic or ritual behavior in material culture (e.g. Ardener 1975; Conkey and Spector 1984) without
a means for establishing reliability or testing interpretations is to reduce the study of gender to subjective
Particularistic, or idiosyncratic, expressions are expectable when dealing with symbolic material
culture. In symbolic material culture, there are no significant constraints on the meaning that a group can
attach to a particular symbol or act. There are no serious consequences if one community attaches a bad
connotation to the number four or the color red rather than a good connotation. On the other hand,
particularist behavior is much more constrained when dealing with practical domains where consequences
are real and can influence survival and well-being. Thus, it is important to know the domain in which
objects were used in past cultures. For instance, in the case of the Archaic atlatls buried with women
noted by Winters (1969) and criticized by Conkey and Spector (1984), the critical question is whether
such occurrences represent symbolic or practical use of the atlatls. Winters' purported personal biases are
not an issue and are even irrelevant since he listed numerous possible interpretations and concluded that
the data were not strong enough to choose any one of them at the time of his analysis. The main issue is
whether these atlatls represent genuine exceptions to a strong general model based on practical factors
like the sexual division of labor, and if so, what circumstances are responsible for creating the exceptions.
If not, then do these burials present misleading symbols of real behavior that are placed in the
archaeological record due to particularist cultural practices and values. How can such issues be decided?
There can be no doubt about the symbolic status of burial goods in general; there is a question about the
actual use of goods and the individuals interred with them.
I suggest that reliance on general practical models with clear causality and abundant empirical
ethnographic support is far preferable to particularistic speculations lacking causality and eschewing
notions of underlying regularities in behavior. However, to settle such issues, innovative tests can
frequently be devised on the basis of the other avenues of inference previously discussed. In the Archaic
example, for instance, skeletal remains of men versus women could be examined for evidence of bone
phenotypical deformations from repeated throwing.
In contrast to actual behavior with adaptive or survival consequences, the content and intent of many
ideologies and their artistic representations are likely to be heavily influenced by specific culture histories
and therefore are likely to require particularist kinds of explanations. Unfortunately, these are precisely
the types of reconstructions that are most difficult for archaeologists to make with any reliability. No
sound methodology has yet been developed. Until such a methodology is developed, it appears that the
best basis for dealing with prehistoric gender issues comprises the comparative ethnographic approach,
skeletal evidence, physiological differences, written texts, and comparative zoological/primatological
inferences which I will turn to shortly.

Physiological Studies
A fifth approach to gender studies involves internal physiological differences. It has been established
that sex hormones affect levels of aggression and secondary sexual traits (see Fisher 1990; Parker and
Parker 1979). It has also been established that levels of sex hormones have clear effects on brain
development in fetuses and there are important indications that female hormones have a positive effect on
fine motor skills and an adverse effect on hunting related spatial tasks (Barnes 1988; Kimura 1987; Wittig
and Petersen 1989). On the other hand, males perform better in gross motor tasks and women perform
better in spatial tasks associated with gathering (Fisher 1990; Kimura 1987; Silverman and Eals 1990).
Levy (1981) has shown that the female brain tends to be less asymmetrical than males', while Lacoste-
Utamsing and Holloway (1982) have demonstrated sex differences in the corpus callosum in the brain,
arguing that such differences may be related to different visuo-spatial functions. Durden-Smith and de
Simone (1983) and Kimura (1987) have documented these and other gender differences in the
organization of male and female brains, and they suggest that there may be some predisposition to
different types of behavior because of this factor (see also Gibbons 1991). Different balances of hormones
according to gender as well as differences in brain physiology may have considerable potential for
explaining persistent sexual psychological differences relating to male aggression, competition,
dominance, object orientation, spatial analysis, and mathematic dexterity (Benbow and Stanley 1983;
Maccoby and Jacklin 1974; Tiger 1970:330; Wittig and Peterson 1979). Given the strong hormonal
relation to sexual activity, it does not even seem unreasonable to suggest that hormones may also be
responsible for the differences in male vs. female sexual fantasies documented in a cross-cultural study by
Ellis (1990). Other physiological studies indicating that stress in women leads to lowered fertility
(Anderson 1986) may provide potential causal mechanisms for the evolution of some of these differences.
Similarly, selection for success in infant survival, care, and socialization may provide a causal scenario
for women's somewhat higher sensitivity to nonverbal and verbal communication (Kimura 1987; Wittig
and Peterson 1979).
If one assumes a sexual division of labor similar to that outlined in the section on comparative
ethnography, then male success in hunting and in dealing with other groups, both as allies and enemies,
could also have affected survival rates of offspring and could have selected for an enhanced genetic
expression of psychological traits such as spatial and object orientation and lower thresholds for
aggression (also expectable given competitive dominance and mating systems). Where congruences
between independent types of data occur, as with comparative ethnography, comparative
zoology/primatology, and physiological studies, then strong causal models can often be developed with
powerful explanatory and predictive capabilities.
While the notion of biological differences in attitudes, values, or psychology are considered to be
politically incorrect by some students of gender, where the existence is well established, as in the case of
hormonally-related aggression, these differences can provide important sources of inference regarding
past gender behavior. Such differences can be used to understand gender preferences for particular types
of tasks (such as group defense) observed in comparative ethnographies and may even be linked to
different mating and survival strategies. The explanation of such internal physiological differences in
terms of evolutionary selective advantages should certainly provide an interesting topic for future

Comparative Zoology and Gross Physiology

A final approach that can help in the reconstruction of gender behavior is the study of gender
differences in other primate species and in gross anatomical differences between the sexes. For much of
the early Paleolithic, there is so little material culture and there are so few gender-specific remains that
comparative zoology, particularly primatology, provides an important line of evidence for inferring
gender differences among very early prehistoric populations (Rodseth et al. 1991). The hominid forms of
these earlier periods differ significantly from fully sapient forms and primate comparisons can provide
some useful considerations. To extend the scope of these comparisons even further, sociobiologists have
suggested that arguments concerning the reasons for the evolution of gender differences in physiology
and behavior among a wide variety of species can be developed (Wilson 1978).
In terms of comparative zoological approaches within the primates, (e.g., Emlen and Oring 1977), there
are several types of observations that can be employed for inferring gender differences in behavior. The
first of these is physical sexual dimorphism, a trait that tends to characterize most of the higher primates.
The explanation of such physiological differences in evolutionary terms must entail consequences for
differential general mating strategies, social roles, risks, behavior, status, and attitudes among Pleistocene
hunter/gatherers. Clutton-Brock et al. (1977) and Wrangham (1980) have shown that sexual dimorphism
in the primates is most likely to result from competition between males for females. This conclusion is
further bolstered by research on sexual dimorphism in other animal species, including many ungulates.
Wilson (1978:20) has argued that a number of behavioral traits appear to be common to all higher
primates, including male competition for females.
More recently, Hooks and Green (1990) have stated that comparative studies show that primate females
(including humans) compete for male support in child-rearing and protection. Therefore primate females
try to form alliances with males and females compete most intensively for the highest ranking male.
Tooke et al. (1990) argue that even in Industrial societies, the use of physical deception by women in
mating strategies is part of a primate pattern, as is the use of deception by men, where the strategy is to
appear of greater standing than warranted and to feign commitment.
The development of female breasts and male beards are other sexually dimorphic physical
characteristics that are generally regarded as reflecting mating strategies and sexual selection as is the
disappearance of estrus in humans (Campbell 1974; Fishir 1982; Gallup 1982; Montagna 1985).
Another approach in comparative zoology is to examine gender behavior in the primate species that are
closest to humans both in genetic terms and in terms of environmental adaptations. Chimpanzees and
bonobos are frequently considered the closest primate parallel to humans. Here, too, Smuts (1990) has
documented dramatic differences in sexual behavior between males and females, largely centered on
competition between males for females. She also documents distinctive female strategies for survival in
this competitive environment and for the protection of offspring. Other researchers have argued that sex is
used by chimpanzees and humans to reduce male aggression and the danger of injury or social breakup
(Blount 1990).
While some of these interpretations are exploratory, it seems clear that distinctive behavior of female
chimpanzees reflects dramatically different constraints and concerns from those of males. Fisher (1990)
argues that human gender differences in spatial vs. verbal skills, aggression, and motor coordination are
incipient in chimpanzees, while Wilson (1978:27) observes that both chimpanzee and human males hunt
cooperatively, forage over larger areas than females, engage in territorial aggression, and occupy the
highest positions of highly structured dominance hierarchies. Similar conclusions have been supported in
Rodseth et al.'s (1991) exemplary analysis of primate and human behavior.
Other obvious types of possible sexually dimorphic behavior that can be modeled by using primate data
include the stability and configuration of mating (Johanson and Shreeve 1989:273); greater propensity
among females to retain close ties and form alliances with kin (Cheney et al. 1986); formation of
dominance hierarchies (Eibesfeldt 1989; Tiger 1970; Waal 1982; ); planned male offensive actions against
other groups and overall higher aggressiveness among males (Goodall 1986, 1989; Johanson and Shreeve
1989:277; Parker and Parker 1979); abuse versus protection of offspring (Hendry 1979); male versus
female exogamy (Frayser 1985:114; Johanson and Shreeve 1989:277); and age differences in male-
female partnerships. These issues entail expectations for differential gender behavior among both early
and later hunter/gatherers. Where these behaviors characterize both primates and ethnographic
hunter/gatherers, very plausible models can be formulated for prehistoric hunter/gatherers. In terms of
causal explanations, it is reasonable to assume that differential sexual involvement in activities would
have been affected by such factors as risk, mobility, physical strength, pregnancy and child protection,
dominance, inter-group hostilities, or other factors that could affect performance, survival, and
competitive advantages.

Further Considerations

One of the thorniest issues in studies of gender behavior involves the degree to which there may be
innate differences between males and females. Sociobiologists have been the strongest proponents of
genetic based gender differences in mating and reproductive strategies, and by extension, in activities and
attitudinal differences (Barash 1977; Wilson 1978). In contrast, social scientists have been sceptical that
any genetic gender differences exist at all, preferring to see all extant gender differences as resulting from
cultural values. This question has considerable importance for the reconstruction of gender roles in
Rather than adopt or reject either of these positions on a priori convictions, it would seem most
reasonable to leave the question open to empirical investigation and testing. Even in the realm of
established gross physiological differences between the sexes, there is a great deal of overlap in such
fundamental properties as height and weight. If there are genetic influences on the psychology of the two
sexes, similar overlap can probably be expected in most basic traits. How can it be determined whether
inherent psychological tendencies do exist, especially given geneticists' insistence that genetic
propensities are not immutable, but can always be somewhat modified by strong enough environmental or
cultural pressures? For instance, there have certainly been some societies in which some women have
been warriors.
The main question is: if women and men were raised and treated in exactly the same fashion and given
exactly the same opportunities, would there be any tendency for them to react differently to the same
situations, to choose different tasks, to adopt different strategies for acquiring mates and reproducing, to
choose different types of recreation, to choose different roles, or to have different attitudes and values?
For example, would women choose the profession of warrior, administrator, politician, or butcher as often
as men? Are there compelling reasons why we should expect exactly equal representations in all fields if
cultural values can be neutered? These are obviously extremely difficult questions to empirically test.
However, there are some slightly less direct approaches to the question involving the use of comparative
zoology, comparative ethnographies, and physiological studies.
When behavior or psychological traits consistently characterize an entire order, suborder, or genus of
animals, including humans, this provides a basis for assuming some genetic component to that behavior.

Similarly, when specific behavioral or psychological traits characterize the vast majority of cultures
irrespective of history, environment, and other cultural values, then there are also grounds for assuming
that these traits stem from something more basic in human nature than cultural malleability. When
physiological differences can be demonstrated to affect attitudes and behavior, as with sex hormones and
aggression, these differences ought to be taken into account. Finally, if gender differences in behavior and
reactions can be observed in infancy, prior to the absorption of cultural values, these too can be inferred to
depend on innate tendencies.
The strongest arguments of all are based on consistent or compatible results in all four approaches to the
problem. A few pioneering studies (Parker and Parker 1979) have attempted just such a synthesis and
proposed significant innate gender differences in aggressiveness and individual competition. Such
conclusions constitute important building blocks for the interpretation of past gender behavior. They
provide clear causal models for why some behaviors differ between the sexes, and they provide strong
empirically based general expectations for interpreting past behavior. They can be the anchors that give
stability to more exploratory studies. It is difficult to imagine how particularist cognitive explanations can
ever achieve an equal degree of power or certainty.
Although prehistorians are frequently admonished for not presenting full causal models of prehistoric
gender behavior (Conkey and Spector 1984), it should be apparent from the above discussions that such
models do exist, although they are sometimes presented in fragmentary or implicit forms. Prehistorians'
models center on the basic adaptiveness of such things as: different strategies for mating and protecting
offspring; the development of inter-group alliances; and competition and cooperation in dominance over
mates, resources, and influence. From these basic conditions, a second level of outcomes can be derived,
including: the sexual division of labor (hunting/warfare/politics vs. gathering/child rearing), differential
adaptations for mobility, aggression and defense, effective emotional and analytical communication, and
possibly even spatial aptitudes. A third, more specific, level of inferences may be formulated from these
domains concerning precise tasks and tool types likely to be associated with each sex under specific
conditions. These tasks may include processing different types of food, grease production (Stevenson
1984), hunting, hide working, fish butchering, garment manufacturing, and political-ritual performances.
Unfortunately, even where clear patterns exist in comparative ethnographies, causal explanations for why
many of these tasks tend to be gender specific have often been neglected.
The entire question of what differences in gender-specific behavior existed in the past, how such
differences are to be demonstrated, how they may have changed, and how they are to be explained, is an
extremely difficult and complex topic. Far too often, it has been approached in an overly simplistic
fashion by both male and female archaeologists. If women have frequently been neglected in prehistory, it
has largely been because of the difficulty of distinguishing their activities from males on the basis of
stone tools or because of the difficulty in interpreting symbolic representations. One of the ways out of
this conundrum is to develop and test much more powerful general theories that can in turn be used as
building blocks for refining our understanding of women's and men's tool manufacture and use. In this
quest, it is important to remember that prehistory is primarily a record of averaged group behavior with
specifiable ranges of variation. Before the advent of writing, individuals are almost impossible to deal
with as discrete entities that can be related to other variables. Ideas, values, and rules are elusive and
ambiguous. Behavior is the aspect of humans and culture that is most easily perceived in the
archaeological record, and perhaps it is ultimately the only aspect that really matters. Even with written
records there is often little relation between actual behavior and the ideas, rationalizations, and self-
images portrayed in writing.
There are many underutilized avenues of investigating prehistoric gender behavior, including the study
of skeletal evidence and the integration of comparative and physiological studies in gender theories.
Prehistorians in conjunction with ecologists, physiologists, and comparative ethnologists have made
significant progress in identifying the types of major forces that affect past cultural adaptations.
Proponents of particularistic cognitive models of past gender behavior seem to have a different agenda
that ignores or attempts to diminish the strongest indicators of patterning and causality in past gender
behavior. They supplant strong models with weak ones, reliable inferences with subjective speculative
ones. I suggest that the time is overdue for such counterproductive approaches to be recognized for what
they are. There is more than enough work to keep future generations of prehistorians occupied in the
more grounded aspects of gender studies.


1. As it turns out, there may be no society in which women dominate the top 10 per cent of political
positions (Tiger 1970:30; Wilson 1978:128). To the extent that rituals are used for political ends
(Paige and Paige 1981), this may pertain to ritual life as well.


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Chapter 5

Prehistoric Construction of Mothering

Kathleen M. Bolen
University of California, Berkeley

Motherhood integrates bio-procreational and social processes; it includes notions of sexuality,
reproduction, personhood, child care, social order, domestic organization and power. Motherhood has
often placed the abstract woman on a pedestal, as the only "known" parent is the mother (Gough
1975:55). In our society, childbearing and child care hinders participation within wider society; we too
easily project similar notions onto our prehistoric constructs. Problematizing mothering allows for a
consideration of the ways gender may operate within a prehistoric context.
Cross cultural and ethnographic research demonstrate tremendous variety in what mothers do, what it
means to be a mother, what expectations are placed upon mothers, what maternal behavior entails, and
who actually mothers. This paper suggests such potential variability in prehistory by emphasizing the
cultural construction of motherhood. If woman-as-mother best describes prehistoric social strategies, then
critical consideration of what these mothers do forces serious reorientation in our understanding of the
resulting divisions of labor and social organization. Alternatively, if prehistory provides situations of less
or differently gendered visions of society, ethnography and research on modern mothering suggest
potentially diverse ways of organizing society to fulfill the requirements of infants and children.
The literature on mothering derives from a variety of disciplines. By pulling many writings together I
hope to provide an understanding of our construction of motherhood and discuss alternatives for
evaluation of such an institution in prehistoric contexts. Psychobiology, psychology, primatology,
sociobiology, behavioral studies, and biosocial approaches all attempt to scientize mothering. Feminist
influence in the literature has focused on validating mothering for women, recognizing Mothering as a
crucial issue for women (and men). My superficial treatment of these contributions to the mothering
literature does not highlight any deterministic influences, as "there is no single, undisputed claim about
universal human behavior (sexual or otherwise) " (Fausto-Sterling 1985:199). Rather, I present
plausibility arguments which focus on various aspects of people and the way they have been understood.
For conceptual clarity, two aspects of motherhood are often distinguished: biological mothering (the
birth relation) and social mothering, although such divisions or categories must remain fluid and
permeable, as we are not "stratified into a biological base and a cultural superstructure" (Errington
1990:14). There is a relevant undeniable biological "fact" in that females give birth. This reality contrasts
with the changing ambiguity of parenting within ethnographic contexts and the growing acceptance of the
cultural construction of "biologically" based explanations. The conceptual distinction between mothering
labor and birthing labor is important. Birthing labor, which isbiological and culminates in giving birth, is
undeniably female and remains universally in the realm of women (Ruddick 1989:50). Raising, feeding,
protecting, and caring for children commonly defines the activities of motherhood, and occur under a
variety of conditions. Socially, all women are potentially mothers, yet often overlooked is the fact that
these social functions are not limited to women (Reed 1975:13), or even specific age groups. Throughout
this paper, I entertain the idea that these aspects of mothering can be fulfilled by different individuals or
groups of individuals.
The concept and practice of Motherhood is by definition gendered - women, through biology, mother
(Chodorow 1978; Collier and Rosaldo 1981; DeBeauvoir 1952; Miles 1989; Rich 1976) - but my focus
does not attempt to impose this contemporary phenomena on prehistory. Rather, considering the extent to
which mothering is part of the past requires serious attention to mothers, fathers, children, and elders in
society. It requires approaching the social system as a whole.
Much of the literature on mothering does assume (or promote) a universal model of the woman/mother.
The universal Woman possesses a universal distinguishing feature - the capacity to Mother. As humans
are social beings, and infants are not self sufficient (Reed 1984; Lancaster 1985), the most essential task
of this Mother is bearing and raising children. As with any universally applied concept, the Mother
concept creates analytical problems through reliance on a transhistorical, universal, sexual division of
labor. The extent to which generalizations can be accepted and the need for explicitness of context raise
crucial problems to be resolved in the mothering literature. Once mother becomes an issue and not just a
factor, and the specific contexts in which mothering activity takes place have been defined, discussions of
mothering activity most often revolve around discussion of women. In contrast to this genderization of
mothering we may need to "de-gender" mothering, in light of the consideration of mothering as not solely
reliant on the definition of woman-as-biology.
In this assimilation stage, I deal with theoretical considerations of prehistoric motherhood. As theory is
often a self-fulfilling prophecy, it orders experience into the frameworks it provides (Hubbard 1983:46)
thus opening up future interpretation. Heavily informed by feminist theory, I attempt to deconstruct
Mother at its most basic level - biology-reproduction-woman-mother - and offer some alternative
constructions. By looking beyond the confines of our gender conceptions to the social relations operating
within prehistoric societies, this paper seeks a framework for understanding the social construction of
gender, through Mother. Such questioning forces consideration of alternative scenarios for how
prehistoric adults organized around children. I argue that much of mothering activity cross cuts gender -
and does not require a bipolar gender construction of woman-as-mother. There is no one prehistoric type
of mother. In conclusion I will consider ways to envision prehistoric mothers.

Why prehistory?

Often those working in historic periods and with ethnographic continuity claim greater access to
'knowledge' and profess more accurate descriptions or depictions of the past (Watson and Gould 1982).
Models for constructing the past strengthen and collapse in relation to the specific "evidence" being
applied. Those working in "far-back prehistory" simply do not have the evidence to say much about
people or social relations, some would argue. Yet prehistorians do have material remains, and thus the
archaeological tools for reading the past. Prehistory potentially holds more flexible models for the past
than simply transplanting modern gatherer-hunters or nuclear families.
Despite difficulties derived from an unwillingness to expand the boundaries of our knowledge,
understanding the past remains essential to understanding and surviving the present. The patriarchal
society we operate within shapes our knowledge and consideration about women and mothers;
simultaneously, archaeology is shaped by sociopolitical concerns (Leone 1982). The combination of these
influences while constructing the past creates a reproductive path for prehistoric women which correctly
mirrors contemporary society and its ideologies. "We legitimize the division and inequalities in our own
society by making them the inevitable outcome of inevitable forces" in the past (Bender 1986:5). Women
today are believed to be unequal, weaker, biologically inferior and evolutionary unimportant; under
patriarchal, androcentric, and traditional archaeological frameworks, this ideology creates similar women
in the past. Aspects of the past re-defined in relation to the present are pushed back in time, naturalized,
and thereby given continuity (Conkey 1991).
Archaeology is a powerful method for constructing prehistory; prehistory exists as creative tensions
between world views - those of the present and those of the past (as viewed through the present). The
strongest determinant for "knowledge" of prehistory is contemporary influences, from funding source, to
audience, to explicit and implicit agendas underlying research. Prehistory is a period in time created to
serve our interests - the prehistoric 'Other' lives in a different time and place, accessible through
archaeology, paleontology, and analogy and homology to other primates and ethnographic examples.
Many disciplines discuss prehistoric peoples to a variety of ends, yet only archaeology is concerned with
the material dimensions of society and is responsive to the material parameters.

Archaeologists attempt to display the cultural diversity of prehistoric people and develop "culture"
chronologies. Often though, this diversity appears in lithic assemblages, ceramic production technique, or
resource procurement strategy. The people of these archaeological cultures become mono- groups, not
individualistic and variable assemblages of people. The common acceptance of static groups rather than
critically constructed people escalates the problem of considering active prehistoric people. If there is no
homogeneous "prehistoric people", then there can be no one prehistoric mother but negotiated, different
At this point, archaeology informs us about mothers mainly as reproductive units, and it and other
disciplines then import these biologically adaptive mothers into the past to validate models of evolution
and development. Yet we know from cross cultural, ethnographic, and historic contexts that the institution
of motherhood entails more than strict biological reproduction, which may or may not describe how
things were in the past. What mothering involves then, must be addressed next, prior to a consideration of
mothering within archaeological contexts.
Addressing mothering: Myths and Construction of Alternatives

The relative lack of focus on mothering is unsurprising, given the contemporary devaluation of mothers
in Western society, nonrecognition of children as individuals, and societal subordination of women. In
popularizing the 'universal' experience of (white, middle class) mothers, many feminists (Chodorow 1978;
Gilligan 1982; Rich 1976; Ruddick 1989, among others) argue from a specific western historic tradition,
but suggest that motherhood is natural and has historic and prehistoric antecedents. Within the feminist
literature many writers also do not question biodeterminist notions (for example, DeBeauvoir 1952;
French 1985; Lerner 1986; Rich 1976). Use of a generalized notion of prehistory, and discovery of a "lost
primitive egalitarianism" (Collier and Rosaldo 1981:277) becomes not only a basis for construction of a
glorious past (Miles 1989; Stone 1976) but then becomes an ideal for the future (Eisler 1987; Gadon
In many ways, research on the past selectively seeks "evidence "to maintain the dominant view of what
our early social relations were or alternatively provides oppositional views which offer a "certain
psychological and political sense of well being" (Fausto-Sterling 1985:175). Feminist approaches in
anthropology and archaeology have begun to deconstruct biased literature and the concept of the
universal woman.Yet clearly such work has not been integrated throughout disciplines. Archaeologists, as
writers of prehistoric knowledge and narrative, must address this manifestation of the present in the past
to provide more plausible models for the past. Although relativism and pluralism have been critiqued as
ultimately paralyzing, research must operate within a growing holistic approach to reality and the past.
Women's capacity to have children, or men's inability to "have children", distinguishes them from each
other. Our persisting distinctions in gender categories depend on reproductive technologies. This
conflation of female identity with reproduction and female sexual biology "mimics a similarly narrow
view of the contemporary female" (Campbell 1991:2).Yet, as Collier and Rosaldo have argued, themes of
motherhood and sexual reproduction hold various degrees of centrality to conceptions of women (Collier
and Rosaldo 1981:275-6). Reluctance within our society to allow women reproductive rights reflects the
prevailing woman-as-reproducer model, which is assumed for the past as well. As Conkey and Williams
have argued for origins research, the present is invoked in research of the past (see also Leone 1982); this
past is used to explain (and I would argue, justify) the present (Conkey and Williams 1991:19).
Archaeology practices a "'masculinist construction of the world', in which females are assumed to exist
primarily for the use of males, sexually or reproductively" (Nelson 1990:16) or for labor.The division of
labor within early groups has been conceived of as a sexual one, based on the limitations of women for
full participation in sustaining activities and defining women's activity based on a constraining model of
motherhood. "Because of natural or normal involvement with pregnancy, nursing and or care of the
young, [women] were inclined and ultimately required to refrain from certain subsistence activities .."
(Leibowitz 1986:47). According to such views, demands on childcare limit compatibility of tasks for
women and determine the sexual division of labor; responsibility in childcare must be reduced or
economic activity must be such that it is concurrent with childcare (Brown 1970:1075). The "ability to
give birth has been transformed into a liability ..." (Leacock 1972:35). Rather than constructing divisions
of labor or activities as forming around child care (Burton et al. 1977), women were viewed conjoined to
other activities for reproductive success. This assumes a unquestioned biologically based motherhood and
sees a sexual division of labor as natural with women tied to children and "housebound" (Bender 1986:3).
Yet women do not operate within a "set of natural given tasks common to all societies at all times; nor can
it be assumed that all women perform these tasks" (Moore 1988:53). In the "denigration of domesticity"
(Strathern 1984:30) that prevails today, mothering is not considered an official "job" and "being at home"
is not an acceptable occupation, attitudes which influence presentation of a prehistoric division of labor.
Woman-the-gatherer may be an gynocentric inversion of the androcentric model, but a serious
consideration of the divisions of labor and gender relations moves away from simple unquestioned
acceptance of biased stereotypes. Evolutionary-based approaches propose innovations and inventions by
women in prehistoric society and indicate the selective and active role of females in their reproduction
(Fedigan 1986; Tanner and Zihlman 1976; Zihlman 1978, 1981). One of the valuable lessons learned
through considerations of woman-the-gatherer (Dahlberg 1981; Slocum 1975) was that earlier notions of
prehistoric subsistence revolving around big game had to be revised. However, a fundamental flaw in the
evolutionary/woman as gatherer models is its acceptance of present day notions of childrearing for
prehistoric contexts, although none of our divisions or obligations are written into nature (Bender
1986:3). Although our understanding of hunting has changed, the male terminology and emphasis
Slocum claims that the mother-child bond is the major enduring bond in gatherer society (Slocum
1975:43). Lerner (1986) also considers the mother-child dyad the most basic one throughout history. The
prolonged infancy, immaturity and helplessness of the child necessitates the assistance of others for
survival. The long childhood and maternal care produces a close relationship between mother (or care
provider) and child (Gough 1975:55). The need to organize for feeding and socializing the child after
weaning involves complex social and emotional bonds and relationships. Much of the modification
through learning and cultural molding considered essential to survival depends upon 'maternal' care yet
contrary to the dyad argument does not require woman mothers. The formation of a child-adult bond, the
differentiation from self, the struggle for autonomy, and the awareness of 'other' that occurs during early
child development can flourish with fathers, siblings, or other adults in place.
Our understanding of early societies often incorporates a view of Mother within the Family. We see
early societies as bands or tribes, and construct our models of their existence on loosely based,
heterosexual relations which organize around continuation of the species. To free women from their
biology threatens both the social unit of organization, if it is based in biological reproduction, and the
subjection of women to their biological destiny (Motherhood and the Family) (Reed 1984:139). Our ideas
of mothers are products of history, in which we recognize the producer:offspring relationship in nuclear
family terms. Yet the family is a historical development rooted in a so called natural necessity (O'Brien
1981) which privileges the biologically rooted mother-infant bond. Thus the biological nuclear family
requires antecedents in prehistory; it must be the 'natural' (therefore unchangeable) way. However, a
variety of sources indicate that family formation varies significantly; monogamy, polygamy, single
parenthood, faculative polyandry (Lancaster 1988:5). It is within these specific social configurations, that
biology, psychology, and other forces articulate with the people of these contexts.
Human reproduction does require pregnancy, however, the extent of physical "limitation" (if any) this
imposes can vary, and some pregnancies do not reach full term. Ethnographic data (in gathering-hunting
societies and predictions for Pleistocene populations) suggest that the actual birth rate for babies
demonstrates high infant mortality, and a high percentage of babies die before they reach one year of age;
estimated prehistoric child mortality averages 50% (Deevey 1968; Hassan 1975; Konner 1976; Lancaster
1985:12). Furthermore, and often ignored in prehistory, cultural factors act on child mortality: control and
regulation of childbirth, affects of living conditions, nutrition, healthcare, disease, accidents, neglect
(Lillehammer 1989:100). Clearly such considerations factor into the composition of the female mothering
population. Not all women in society are under the "physiological confinements" of eternal mothering;
not all women constantly (or ever) produce children. There are periods within a sexually reproductive
female's life span when she does not fall victim to the 'limitations' of biology; some women may be
infertile, post menopausal, or otherwise chose not to reproduce.
The most significant biological "reality" of females beyond birth is the demand for lactation of
dependent young. Yet, the practice of lactation shows variability at many levels - frequency, length of
time, multiple feeders of children, non-biological mothers feeding, or alternative food sources. Lactation
assures the maintenance of proximity between mother and newborn (Rossi 1985:176) yet infants do not
demand strictly their biological mother, they just need to be fed which may shift the location of this
relationship. Composition of prehistoric groups often relies on "required" mother-infant lactation as
"natural" birth spacing. Cavalli-Sforza (1983:60) points to evidence that after one and one half or less
years of lactation, menstruation will begin again, which contrasts with common assertions of birth
spacing every three to four years when nursing. Lancaster (1988:61) claims that a return to menstruation
does not equate or necessarily imply a return to ovulation, which is the crucial requirement for
reproduction. And, as ethnographic examples indicate, women can also "lose" the ability to breast feed
(Scheper-Hughes 1992) or otherwise practice no lactation, yet their baby survives. In such cases,
however, the "natural", universal, essential mother-child bond is threatened. Thus, arguments for birth
spacing and lactation must be questioned, as patterns can be less "biologically" determined.
The origin of attachment, often considered critical to infant development in psychology, has been
attributed to predatory selection pressures (Bowlby 1969), presumably deriving from early prehistory.The
desired quality of physical intimacy/closeness in psychological theorizing does not require a specific,
biological mother. However, social influences can be shown to be more important than behaviorist
stimulus (Haraway 1989) as Harlow demonstrated with desirable quality-enhanced inanimate figures.
Harlow's experiments in primate attachment have demonstrated a multi-attachment system (as cited in
(McKinney 1985:246)) rather than assumed monotrophy (Tronick et al. 1985:294); infant to non-mother
bonds work equally well in fulfilling both nutritional and social aspects of infant development.
In addition to underlying assumptions that children do survive, discussions of historic, ethnographic,
and prehistoric people implicitly enforce our definition of the child as an individual from birth (or
conception, dependent upon stance). Ethnographic data indicate a variety of cultural recognitions of an
individual; postponed naming, baptism, and other treatments of babies indicate varying degrees of
defining when an offspring becomes an individual/person (Morgan 1989; Scheper-Hughes 1992).
Infanticide, "passive" neglect, indifference, and killing of infants have been cultural responses to specific
environmental, social, and economic conditions and stress. Depending upon cultural context, such actions
do not negate the ideals of mothering or maternal care; this cultural response reflects an alternative
conception of death rather than bad mothering, and mothers are not responsible for such "tragedy".
"Infanticide, then, with all the moral repugnance it evokes in the West, is a cultural construction rather
then a universal moral edict" (Morgan 1989:98).

Material Culture of Mothering

Having explored the cultural construction of mothering activity, I turn to a brief consideration of
archaeological contexts. We "know" there were female and males and children in prehistory because we
are a sexually reproducing species, yet we emphasize our "knowledge" of women and men in accordance
with the prevailing bipolar conception of gender and models of adaptive success which require
heterosexuality. Our knowledge of contemporary women and men peoples prehistory and clearly
improves on accounts of prehistoric Man although there still remain few alternatives to our bipolar gender
In their refusal to accept that reproduction is an arena of active social relations, not just a biological
phenomena, prehistorians in general assume woman-as-mother, a result of the reproductive process. The
traditional Man-the-Hunter and woman-the-gatherer models of prehistoric people can be extended to
woman-as-mother and man-as-toolmaker; not only do women not make (formal) tools (but see Gero,
1991), but they do make babies (Al-Hibri 1981). Yet women are not active agents in these prehistoric
contexts, despite their primary role as re-producers (Conkey and Williams 1991:20). In fact, it is men who
(re)produce Cultural Man and the dominant paradigm through the object of women. Cultural Man evolves
with his subservient, child producing "wife". Not only does the woman-at-home ideology characterize
archaeology (Gero 1985), but in prehistoric contexts, woman-at-home is woman-as-mother.
A necessary precursor to looking archaeologically for social relations as evident in mothering activity
must be engendering archaeology. Feminist archaeologists suggest and demonstrate the importance of
considering how and in what contexts women were active participants in society; various lines of
evidence have been engendered, setting the precedent for further delving into the social relations of
prehistoric contexts (especially articles in Gero and Conkey 1991). In both biological and social
manifestations, motherhood requires more than passive women in prehistory.
Like gender, we can not "find" motherhood as we "find" lithic debris or ceramic sherds. The lack of direct
identification of artifacts which cry out "I am evidence of mothering" like a projectile point supposedly
indicates hunting activity is indicative of the responsibility of archaeologists to deal with the "less visible"
aspects of the archaeological record. What kind of evidence does 'mothering' leave archaeologically?
How can we "find it" empirically? For a start I return to defining what 'it' is. Separating the activity of
mothering, which may be configured in different ways, from the biological role, clarifies the
understanding of what one is looking for. A mother, as biological relation, can potentially be indicated
through analysis of skeletal remains. Birth results in morphological indications on the pelvis; yet retrieval
of such physical evidence of birthing is rare and we can not expect or rely on associated, well-preserved
cemeteries for all archaeological research. Material and skeletal evidence of children, and the continuing
presence of people through time proves that some women actually produced children and these children
were sufficiently raised and survived.
Mothers may feed infants, but breast feeding leaves no known material evidence and preparation of
alternative baby foods falls within the general archaeological realm of food production or subsistence
activities. Chemical analyses of skeletal remains can indicate food (especially meat vs. plant) differences,
and subsistence evidence suggests dietary patterns (Price 1988). Archaeologists potentially can
differentiate beyond female and male dietary patterns to explore food systems and social relations
(Hastorf 1991).
Women carry their infants (burdening), keeping them in close contact. An innovation, such as a strap or
sling to facilitate transport of the infant, would not likely preserve, and such mention appears infrequently
in archaeological literature (see Reed 1975; Slocum 1975; Zihlman 1978). Baskets made to hold or
encage children likewise would not leave archaeological traces. By overlooking or ignoring the potentials
of such less archaeologically visible evidence, the infant always on the mother's hip continues to burden
prehistoric women.
Social mothering blends together some research on kinship, gender, and social organization. Mothers
are claimed to be primary socializing agents, yet archaeologists struggle with "seeing" social interaction
as directly reflected in material culture. Some of the social and symbolic communication preserved within
the archaeological record may have operated within the social mother's realm. Such culturally motivated
aspects of society require informed interpretation from archaeological materials, a shift to considering the
active people behind the appearance of exotic materials, technology, artifacts, architecture, food, and
refuse, and forces consideration of the social relations within which all this occurs. Thus we have access
to aspects of socialization which may describe mothering activity.
In a rare critical consideration of mothers in prehistory, Rice (1981) suggests that the European "Venus
figurines" represent women through their life cycle. If such analysis can be taken as suggestive of
prehistoric social make up, a model of group composition and the place of mothers can be projected
having four reproduction-related age groups: pre-reproduction, reproductive and pregnant, reproductive
and not pregnant, post reproductive. Only a minority of a given population actually produces infants at a
given time, yet other individuals within the society can contribute to social mothering.
Little material culture evidence seems to "get at" prehistoric mothers directly. Do we discard this
discussion as too problematic, intangible, and ultimately non-informative or not "provable"?
Archaeologists do, to various extents, recognize the accessibility of gender, and no technological
breakthrough, highly significant find, or even hoards of skeletal material have stimulated this. Repeatedly,
feminist archaeology and archaeologies of gender have stressed the changing methodological/theoretical
focus that will allow for us to understand gender in the past. The emergence of social archaeology,
contextual approaches, and interpretive archaeology (Hodder 1991) has been an integral part of this trend.
What is visible to archaeology is constructed through the research strategy, data recovery, and
interpretation. Therefore, openness to alternative interpretations expands the archaeological record and
allows for understanding prehistoric people.

Discussion: Archaeology & Implications

Many of the myths of motherhood raised here need closer examination yet my brief overview serves as
a trampoline for constructing a broader theoretical framework. As can be demonstrated in a wide
ethnographic sample, there are alternatives to the biological mother as primary care giver. Children born
of biological mothers dying in childbirth would require alternative caretakers and food providers. Failure
to carry to full term or early loss of infants provides baby-free women, who are not "burdened" by infants
and could participate in nursing and other caring activities. If the breast food link can be severed and the
feeding of the infant accomplished another way, the possibilities for who provides primary care open up.
Ethnographic cases of gatherer-hunters demonstrate children in charge of infants and children, yet the
Mother, who plays no active role, periodically "supervises", and maintains the (non-practiced) role
(Draper 1976; LeVine 1974; Shostak 1976). Even if the biological mother nurses the baby, this does not
require a full time commitment to a mother-baby pair. The model of indulgence (LeVine 1974) and
constant feeding does not necessarily hold for prehistory. Placing women in domestic contexts, and
depositing children with them, limits our understanding of archaeological sites, and neglects the
awareness that any mother-child dyad, created by proximity or lactation, is ultimately enmeshed within
the social group (Rossi 1985:176). Constraints on activity and divisions of labor change if one can feed
sporadically and leave the baby with others in between.
During early prehistory, evolutionists would have us believe that life was a struggle, which only the
fittest survive. It would follow then that those creating and enabling this survival are irreplaceable. For
survival and perpetuation of the species, reproductive and caretaking work would be critical. If women do
fulfill such essential societal roles, the responsibility for perpetuation of the species through role as
mother is central to social organization. Men's traditionally accepted role - that of hunter - results not
from physical strength or innate aggressiveness but as a supplementary role to mothering activity.
Hunting takes men off in rounds, removed from the "essential" tasks of childcare/feeding, indicating
either (social) inadequacy or social prescriptions to perform these tasks or the potential of the community
to survive and defend itself with this peripheral male participation.

Deconstructing Mother allows for construction of Father, beyond simple images of an expendable hunter
out on raids; childcare becomes an area for men's activity. "Men and women must have done other things
with their tine besides hunting and gathering" (Ingold 1987:79), and mothering and fathering activities
add to a fuller understanding of prehistoric social organization. Bowlby's (1969) classic work on
attachment suggests that the patterns of attachment shown with men (as fathers) resembled that of women
(as mothers). Such correlation in behavior patterns reinforces the interchangeability of woman mothers
and men fathers as care givers (Klaus and Kennell 1983) and broadens potential conceptions of social
The question of choice and desire, as well as value of role, infrequently enters into discussions of early
prehistoric people. But clearly consideration of people (especially women) as active decision makers
changes the conceptualization of persons-as-pawn within equilibrium. If women can be freed from a strict
mothering role, the prehistoric division of labor depends less on gender limitations. Thus, we can see the
hunting=male model for the idealized notion that it is. The definition of the past, through our
periodization and construction of prehistory, is undoubtedly male-oriented. However, deconstruction of
our notion of woman and mothering helps us reconceptualize prehistoric divisions of labor and leads to
the possibility of transforming social relations in the past and freeing them from the idealized present.
The next progression in this analysis is consideration of childhood, which is equally culturally
constructed. The validity and necessity of covering childhood has been noted (Lillehammer 1989) and
explored in anthropology (Mead 1959, 1970; Whiting 1963) and social history (Aries 1962; deMause
1974; Erikson 1963). Inclusion of active people within social theory oriented studies leads to addressing
the context of the transference of culture and tradition - from one generation to another. This transference
occurs through existing social configurations; adult to adult, children to adults, between children.
Technology, symbolism, ideology, production, subsistence strategies, and hunting all pass through and
articulate within socialization and interrelations. Archaeologists do study these issues as expressed in
material culture yet are only now considering the social embeddedness and broader orientations of
technological production (Dobres 1991a). Focusing on the divisions of labor in productive activities and
critically considering daily social interaction can not proceed without a broadened understanding of
prehistory. Thus, the transformation of unsocialized infants to socially recognized person provides the
ideal context for the ideas of culture, tradition, and culture change which archaeologists attempt to
Bachofen's (1861:xvii) argument for matriarchy relies on the "simple fact" that babies survive only
because of maternal care and thus posits that the relation at the origin of all culture is that between Mother
and child. Such a belief essentially condemns mothers to a life oriented around motherhood, yet also
suggests a primary role for women in society. In questioning this role as the dominant model for society
and in challenging and freeing women from the burdens of motherhood, I wish to keep both options as
viable, to be considered against the material parameters of culture to which archaeologists have access.
The division of labor, relations of production, family, and household are important elements in
construction of the past but unquestioned reliance on the "most basic relation", woman-as-mother, will
only continue to perpetuate our cultural constructions within the past rather than critically evaluate what
archaeological knowledge can add to understanding these relations.
This paper has focused on whether woman-as-mother can be applied universally to prehistory, as often
assumed. By considering some of the relevant discussion of infant development, I do not deny the
significance of parental-infant, parental-child relations, but I attempt to broaden our visions for unknown
(and different) prehistoric contexts and the potential ways people - men, women, and however else gender
may have been socially organized - cared for children. Seriously rethinking models for the diversity of
social relations, by questioning what mothering as social activity entails, and who might fulfill these
tasks, provides insight into alternative but plausible readings of the archaeological record, as meaning and
organization must be understood within the complex social whole (Collier and Rosaldo 1981:315).


This paper was stimulated by my participation in a seminar on the Cultural Construction of

Motherhood, taught by Nancy Scheper-Hughes, which forced me to deal with the inadequate treatment of
mothers in prehistory. Ongoing discussion and support from Marcia Anne-Dobres has been invaluable.
Meg Conkey provided encouragement and advice, which is much appreciated. Special thanks to Meg
Conkey, Marcia-Anne Dobres and Amy Grey who all took the time to read an early draft and offered
comments which helped refine my arguments.


1. I do not assume that mothers exist in prehistory, as we can not necessarily find currently known
phenomena in the past.
2. We differentiate biological, step, and adoptive mothers to clearly define the degree of the mothering
relation. In our society we commonly accept that an adoptive mother is not the "real" mother, and that one
who bears a child and subsequently gives it up for adoption is not a "mother" at all, yet we refuse to be
open to such activities in the past (although by Ruddick's reasoning all mothers are adoptive (Ruddick
1989:51). References to "substitute care" implies that a substitute fills in for a normal, real, expected role,
under temporary, less than optimally desired conditions. Common usage of such a notion fails to
recognize the substituter as a viable alternative to our preconceived expectations. Consequently, women
who work, with children under substitute care, remain the mothers of these children, unreflective of who
actually performs the tasks of mothering.
3 Archaeologists "define a culture as an assemblage of associated traits that recur repeatedly" (Childe
4. Work by feminists-of-color (especially Lourde 1984; Moraga and Anzalda 1983, Spretnak 1982) has
provided alternatives to this focus; interestingly often less dependent upon validation through the (white,
androcentric, eurocentric) past - as Lorde notes, "assimilation within a solely western-european herstory
is not acceptable".
5. Mothering in the historical past has taken different forms and fulfilled different ideologies. The values
of mothering are context dependent, not universal or timeless. Social historians recognize that
motherhood (as we know it) was invented in the late 18th century (Badinter 1981; Londa Schienbizer,
personal communication, 1990); and Good Mothering is an invention of modernization (Shorter 1975).
Historically Aries (1962) argues that maternal indifference characterizes traditional society and Badinter
(1981) describes this "maternal indifference" in eighteenth century France.
6. Ethnographic examples raise cases of women hunters (Estioko-Griffin and Griffin 1981; Goodman et
al. 1985) and within "hunting" societies the contribution of hunted meat to subsistence is less crucial than
plant foods (Lee and DeVore 1968).
7. The complex relation between Motherhood and divisions of labor has been addressed yet needs to be
further explored (Mukhopadhyay and Higgins 1988). Leibowitz proposes that sharing between mother
and infant leads to exchange of food and later social patterns of food use (1986). The scope of gathering
arguably results from this bond; female's gathering, carrying, and sharing foods with the young forms
from the logical extension of an intense mother-infant bond (Slocum 1975). Zihlman (1978, 1981) argues
further that women's gathering role may invoke the foundations for hunting.
8. Wealthy eighteenth century women shipped infants off to be raised by wet nurses, as the birth mother
was not desirable for this task (Badinter 1981; Shorter 1975). Baby formula represents the twentieth
century manifestation of alternative feeding.
9. Liebowitz (1986:69) suggests that large proportions of early foraging populations exhibited lesser
physical differences in preadult females and males; adulthood only appears after sex maturation. Such
insight must force us to reconsider gender within such groups; social differentiation may be through age
(adult, preadult, transitional) but only adults are women and men.
10. Rice deals with the "Venus" figurines in an innovative way, and moves beyond simple interpretation
of fertility or Goddess figurines. Yet further caution must be taken in applying biological judgements (as
to reproductive status) as well as conceptions of sexuality (and gender) to figurines exhibiting tremendous
variability and time depth (Dobres 1991b; Nelson 1990).
11. Haraway (1989) claims the American male is physically endowed with all the really essential
equipment to compete with the American female on equal terms in the essential activity of rearing infants.
Yet Americans are unwilling to accept such a construction in the past or present.

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Chapter 6
Images of Gender and Labor Organization in Classic
Maya Society
Rosemary Joyce
Harvard University

"They have the habit of helping each other in weaving or spinning, and they repay each
other for these kinds of work as their husbands do for work on their lands." (Tozzer
1941: 127-128; my emphasis)

Gender is a "set of categories to which we can give the same label cross-linguistically, or cross-culturally,
because they have some connection to sex differences", where the connections are "conventional and
arbitrary insofar as they are not reducible to, or directly derivative of, natural, biological facts" (Shapiro
1981:449; cf. Hubbard 1990:130-140). No particular relationship between gender constructs and
biological characteristics can be presumed a priori (e.g. Reiter 1975, MacCormack 1980, Strathern 1980).
It follows that for every culture, the presence and nature of gender differences must be independently
demonstrated. I argue that gender in Classic Maya society was constructed through image-making. The
representation in different domains and through diverse media of gender categories, particularly a
dichotomized pair of male and female images, created gender as a social fact. The symbolic dimensions
chosen for gender discrimination in Classic Maya images promise to elucidate the features which in Maya
society were conventionally and arbitrarily associated with distinct gender identity.
Classic Maya stone sculpture, carved in the area of modern Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize between
250 and 800 AD, communicates social identity through elaborate costume. Overt sexual identity is not
normally marked in this public medium. The basic body and facial type of Classic Maya sculpture is
essentially sexless, and it is only through the use of distinctive costumes, and of distinct signs modifying
the names of females in texts, that male and female actors have been identified (Proskouriakoff 1961,
Miller 1974, Marcus 1976, 1987; Schele 1979, Bruhns 1988). In pursuing an analysis of gender in public,
carved stone images I identified the representation of a Classic Maya gender dichotomy in terms of
spatial and symbolic features (Joyce 1990). These features were represented as complementary, not
simply in opposition. I have argued that the emphasis on complementary gender categories is a crucial
part of the construction of elite claims to totalizing power. Part of the symbolic representation of
complementarity in Classic Maya public images is implicit reference to complementary labor basic to
social survival. In this paper, I pursue the relationship between gender imagery and complementary roles
in labor through an examination of less public images embodied in ceramic vessels and figurines, and
compare the patterns observed to the only extended sixteenth century report of gender complementarity in
early Maya society, that of Diego de Landa, bishop of Yucatan.

Male and Female Imagery in Classic Maya Monuments

Three kinds of dress have been taken to indicate female gender in Classic Maya sculpture
(Proskouriakoff 1961, Bruhns 1988). Simple wrapped garments covering the breasts but leaving
bare the arms, most typical of painted ceramics, are occasionally seen in stone sculpture.
Elaborately woven huipiles, which cover the entire body, are known from sculptured lintels at
Yaxchilan, painted murals at Bonampak, and stone stelae at Piedras Negras and Bonampak, as
well as abundant ceramic figurines. The third costume indicative of female gender, usually found
on public stone sculpture, is composed of a latticework skirt and cape, usually interpreted as
composed of interlocking jade beads. The cape is occasionally absent or replaced by a bead
collar. Usually accompanying the skirt is a belt with an open, frontal, shark or fish monster
mouth and a pendant bivalve shell.
In a study of public monumental images of figures wearing the beaded net costume (Joyce
1990), I found a regular pattern of pairing with contemporary and adjacent images of male
figures. I suggested that the female costume represents the horizontal plane of the spatial world,
the green sprouting surface of the earth encircled by the ocean, considered part of the
supernatural world by Maya. The complementary male costume, representing the central world
tree supporting a solar bird, established a basic spatial contrast between male and female in these
images. The distributions of paired male and female figures divide space within Classic Maya
centers into two halves, along a variety of axes: front and back, outer and inner, right and left,
north and south, and up and down. Space in these centers is given specific gender characteristics.
Movement and action in the centers took place through this gender laden space. The pairing of
female images with male images is pervasive. It suggests that the underlying gender dichotomy
be conceived of not as an opposition, but as a complementation.

The basis for the complementary pairing of male and female figures in Classic Maya sculpture may be the
actions which they carry out. Human images on Maya sculpture are static, and imply action primarily
through costumes worn and implements held. Figures wearing the net skirt hold many items also held by
figures wearing typical male costume: the double-headed serpent bar of royal power, shields, spears,
ritual staffs, and scepters. Objects held by figures dressed in the beaded lattice costume may directly
mirror the attributes of male figures with which they are grouped, as in two stelae attributed to the site of
El Peru (Figure 1). In other examples, such as images from Naranjo, variation suggests interdependence,
not simply repetition of action (Figure 2). Images from the interior of temples and palaces at Palenque,
while not strictly public like the stelae of other Maya sites, most clearly depict the complementarity of
ritual action by male-female pairs. In a series of panels, male and female actors holding unique
paraphernalia flank a central figure (Schele 1979).
Only one gesture is exclusively associated with net-skirted female figures in these paired images: the
offering of a ceramic vessel, perhaps containing ritual tools. A review of less public sculptural images
showing women dressed in the elaborately woven robe called the huipil reinforces this association, and
extends it to cloth bundles. At Yaxchilan, huipil-clad figures are depicted on lintels inside temples. They
are paired with male figures and share defined status as "ahaw", a title of highest royalty. Male figures on
the Yaxchilan lintels hold ritual staffs, weapons, or scepters. The women in these scenes are repeatedly
shown holding a bowl containing ritual implements, or a tied cloth bundle. I suggest that these gestures
reference exclusively female labor in a system of ideologically exclusive and complementary, gender-
specific productive roles.

Gender and Labor in Classic Maya Images

The ceramic bowls, cloth bundles, and perhaps the ritual tools they contain imply sequences of
production which transformed natural raw materials into culturally defined forms. In the contemporary
Maya community of Zinacantan, Mexico, "male labour produces the raw materials, and female labour
transforms them into objects of use and consumption" (Devereaux 1987:93). This complementary
relationship seems equally applicable to the ancient Maya, and implies that it is women's labor which is
referenced by the presence of culturally shaped objects held and offered only by women in Classic period
monumental sculpture. Support for this suggestion can be found in an examination of gender imagery in
other domains of Classic Maya culture, specifically painted ceramic vessels and molded figurines.
Pottery vessels and figurines are less public than stone sculpture. Their production is likely to have
involved a greater number of people, and the were made in higher numbers than stone monuments. They
are likely to represent elite culture, and may in many cases represent supernatural beings. Nonetheless,
like the images on public stone sculpture, these smaller scale objects also represent a gender dichotomy
which is systematically related to labor.
A survey of painted ceramic vessels from the Maya area (Foncerrada de Molina and Lombardo de Ruiz
1979) illustrates numerous scenes with anthropomorphic figures engaged in identifiable actions. Most of
these figures are masculine. The activities they undertake include a ritualized deer hunt, ritual dancing,
warfare and capture, and the reception of visitors in a throne room. A sherd from the site of Lubaantun,
Belize (Hammond 1975: 320, figure 116c), representing a woman grinding corn on a metate, suggests that
women's activities may also have been represented in this material. Considerably more abundant imagery
of women and their labor is presented in the form of ceramic figurines. Both male and female figurines
are known. Particularly prominent are images of women weaving. Less common, but also found, are
images of women grinding corn or preparing food in pots. Accompanying these images are other figurines
depicting men as warriors and participants in ritual.
Men's labor, as reflected in public monuments, involved ritual dancing, sacrifice, and warfare, three of
the themes also depicted on ceramics. In addition, ceramics record men's activities in hunting, although
these are clearly ritualized hunts. Both large and small scale images of males present a consistent identity.
The pattern is more disjunctive for images of female labor. Ceramic figurines, and more rarely painted
pottery, show women actively engaged in the production of textiles and foodstuffs. The same activities
may be referenced by monumental stone images, but they are represented more subtly, by the products
offered by female figures in ritual sequences. An examination of a sixteenth century account of the
complementarity of male and female in Maya society suggests explanations for this difference in

Male and Female in Sixteenth Century Yucatan

The understanding of gender roles and relationships in native Mesoamerican societies such as the Aztec
(Brumfiel 1991) has been materially advanced by the existence of first-hand documentation by Spanish
observers of these societies The most extensive source of this kind for Maya society is Diego de Landa's
Relacin de las cosas de Yucatan. Particularly influential has been the annotated English translation by A.
M. Tozzer, whose footnotes provide a wealth of comparative data. Unfortunately, the same footnotes
provide intrusive and perhaps inappropriate commentary, particularly on the status of women, which has
impeded the use of this resource. In my view, Landa describes Yucatec Maya society in a way highly
consistent with the image of complementarity described for modern Zinacantan by Devereaux (1987), and
discerned in Classic Maya imagery of gender and labor.
Landa describes the gender division of labor within Yucatec Maya society. Men's roles in warfare and
ritual are particularly prominent. Agricultural land, held by a marital couple, is worked communally, and
women's labor is specifically mentioned in gardening. Women raise animals within the household,
notably Precolumbian birds whose feathers are used in weaving. Women prepare food within the
household. They spin and weave in cooperative groups, and market their products and the animals they
raise. Women are also shamans, who are prominent in preparation for childbirth. The activities described
for everyday life closely match those depicted in small scale ceramic vessels and figurines used within the
household context in Classic Maya society.
Landa also describes the roles of men and women in ritual. Two different contexts for ritual are
described. The first is within the temple. The second is within the house. In both cases, specific reference
to the presence and participation of women is made, and these references strongly suggest comparison
with Classic Maya monumental images. Every ritual includes feasting, described as a communal activity
and implicitly based on the conjunction of men's agricultural labor and women's labor in cooking. "They
ate with dances and rejoicings, seated in couples or by fours", and during these feasts textiles and pottery
vessels were distributed (Tozzer 1941:92).
While men shed their own blood in sacrifice, "women did not practice this shedding of blood, though
they were great devotees, but from all things which they could obtain, whether they were birds of the sky,
or beasts of the land, or fish of the sea, they always smeared the faces of the idols with their blood"
(Tozzer 1941:114). The specific role of women in ritual was to offer "presents of cotton stuffs, of food
and drink and it was their duty to make the offerings of food and drink" (Tozzer 1941:128), products of
women's transformative labor.
Women and men participated together in rituals which took place within the home, and which regularly
ended in feasts of foods which they had prepared. "The physicians and the sorcerers assembled in one of
their houses with their wives", and after purifying their divination tools, "taking the bundles on their
backs, all danced a dance called Chan Tuniah. The dance ended, the men sat down by themselves and the
women by themselves," and took part in a feast (Tozzer 1941:154). Similar ceremonies were recorded for
other specialist groups: "the hunters came together in one of the houses of one of their number and
brought their wives with them like the rest," engaging in the same sequence of purification, dancing and
feasting (Tozzer 1941:155).
A more active, complementary female role in ritual is explicitly recorded for one month, when a ritual
was conducted "to anoint with the blue bitumen, which they made, all the appliances of their pursuits,
from the priest to the spindles of the women" (Tozzer 1941:159). Each child was struck on the hands to
ensure craftsmanship, "and to the little girls, the blows were given by an old woman, clothed in a dress of
feathers, who brought them there, and on this account they called her Ix Mol, that is to say, the
conductress" (Tozzer 1941:159).
Women's role in ritual within the house was clearly important, and their participation an expected
complement to that of men. Ritual within the confines of the temple was more restricted: "Nor did they
allow them to go to the temples for sacrifices, except on a certain festival, at which they admitted certain
old women for its celebration" (Tozzer 1941:128-129). "All the men assembled in the temple, by
themselves; since in no sacrifice or festival, which they celebrated in the temple, could women be present,
except the old women who had to dance their dances. To the other festivals, which took place elsewhere,
women could go and be present there." The participation of old women in the dances was crucial to new
year ceremonies held in the temple. They "danced clothed in certain garments," and held offerings in their
hands as they danced (Tozzer 1941:143, 145, 147). The ceremonies in the temples involved specific
products of women's labor: "They offered other gifts of food" and "a cloth without embroidery, which the
old women should weave, whose duty it was to dance in the temple" (Tozzer 1941:143, 145).
The roles of sixteenth century women are divided, depending on the context of ritual action. Within the
household, they were involved in a variety of productive activities, with weaving and food production
especially notable. They were part of ritual practiced at the household level. Their participation in
communal ritual practiced in temples was more limited. Only a select group of older women took part in
these ceremonies, as dancers. Nonetheless, the offering of textiles and food, prominent in these
ceremonies as well, represents female participation in the division of labor basic to Maya social
organization and encoded in Maya gender identity. A similar interpretation of the distinction between
large scale and small scale imagery of gender in Classic Maya society is possible.

Diversity in Classic Maya Gender Systems

The large and small scale images of gender complementarity in Maya society construct two distinct
gender classifications, each with dichotomous male and female poles. Small scale images directly
represent women's productive labor in the stereotyped roles of weaver and cook, activities practiced at all
levels of society (cf. Hendon 1991 for weaving in elite households). Large scale images indirectly
reference woman's labor in the offerings made by female figures. The cloth bundles held by women in the
Yaxchilan lintels (and the elaborate huipils worn by many women) recall the role of weaver. Ceramic
vessels held in a similar fashion may relate women to pottery production. Landa does not discuss the
production of pottery in general, but in contemporary Highland Maya communities, women produce
domestic pottery (Reina and Hill 1978).
Two different levels of the social construction of gender are indicated in this imagery. In domestic
contexts, direct representation of production is dominant. In Classic period public ritual contexts like
those in which Yucatec women's participation was restricted, direct imagery of female labor is
deemphasized. Also deemphasized in these contexts is overt marking of sexuality. The identification of
female images in pottery, on the other hand, is advanced by the frequent (but not universal) depiction of
breasts. The female genders thus defined are not precisely the same. One, that constructed in small scale
images, is the accepted image of woman as wife, counterpart to man within the household, a unit of social
production and reproduction. The other, that constructed in public, large scale monuments, is woman the
complement to man in ritual and political action.
Public images of women, almost universally labeled in texts as mother, not wife, are also explicitly
identified with supernatural beings whose actions were part of the creation of contemporary order. This
gender role is one which involves explicit personal bloodletting, dramatically depicted on lintels from
Yaxchilan. In this respect, these women are more similar to men than to the women described by Landa or
depicted in small scale ceramic images of the Classic period. This similarity is emphasized by the
physical appearance and scale of female and male figures in large scale images, and presence of
overlapping, and sometimes identical, ritual tools with paired male and female images. Most significant
for the distinction between male and female in large scale images is the consistent spatial associations of
each and the symbolic significance of their unique costume elements (Joyce 1990).
Gender Imagery and Classic Maya Political Process

The emphasis on symbolic and spatial dimensions of gender distinction in large scale images may be
related to the role these images have in establishing Classic Maya centers as sacred spaces. Through the
construction of such sacred spaces, Maya elite asserted a claim to encompass the entire range of the
cultural, natural, and supernatural worlds. This claim was based in many cases on the use of gender as a
primary code for complementation making up a single, interdependent whole. Images in which female
gender identity, expressed in costume, appears to be associated with male sexual identity, may represent
an attempt by male Maya elites to subsume in themselves the totality of social differentiation.
In images of this kind, a single figure is depicted wearing a hybrid costume combining elements of the
net skirt female costume and male garb. A short kilt of bead lattice may take the place of the skirt, but the
shark mouth-and-shell belt ornament is used. Here a masculine identity is usually indicated, not least
when the chest is bare and no breasts are depicted. The substitution of a male loincloth, for the shark
mouth-and-shell belt ornament more commonly modifies an otherwise normal beaded latticework
Classic Maya texts, like Classic Maya sculptural images, suggest that complementary contributions of
male and female were emphasized as part of the construction of political power. Even when no female
image is depicted, parentage statements are a common element in texts. Following the personal name and
titles of the ruler, the paired names of mother and father are presented, linked by signs which have been
glossed as "child of woman" and "child of man". Paired men and women in texts are primarily
represented as the parents of single successors. Culturally constructed male and female roles and images
are the background for the power of individual rulers.
At the same time, large scale gender images implicitly refer to the productive labor of women. This
theme becomes more prominent in the small scale ceramic images which are common in elite domestic
contexts. The difference between these two kinds of images hints at potential contention between central
ruling families, uniquely privileged to be depicted in large scale images, and other elite lineages whose
labor and allegiance was necessary for centralization. Within elite households, fine textiles (Hendon
1991) and other specialized goods were produced by the specialized labor of men and women. Control of
these products must have been a crucial part of the struggle for political power (cf. Silverblatt 1988).
Within the household group, gender is more forthrightly represented as a dimension of production (and,
although not discussed here, of reproduction). Large scale images in the public center stress instead the
control in a very specialized context of the products of women's labor, and their use in ritual.


Classic Maya images not only represent gender categories, they actively construct them. By examining
two distinct sources of gender imagery, some common characteristics of gender in this society have been
exposed. Gender was represented as a product of complementary labor by men and women. The
complementary gender pair is the basic unit of Classic Maya society, a relationship seen also in the
sixteenth century ethnohistoric literature and in contemporary Maya ethnography. In each of these cases,
women's labor transforms the raw materials produced by men into useful products crucial to social, ritual,
and political process.
The emphasis on the primary productive roles of male and female in small scale ceramic images found
within elite households may reflect the interests of the lineage in gendered production. While large scale
images carved in stone and found in public buildings present a similar message of complementarity,
production itself is downplayed in favor of the offering of specific products in ritual. Ritual action by a
complementary pair becomes the message of these more public images. By presenting this image of
complementarity, Maya rulers created a code with which to express the appropriation by single rulers of
dual roles.


This paper grew out of my participation in a symposium at the American Anthropological Association
meetings in New Orleans in 1990, organized by Geoffrey McCafferty and Veronica Kann. I would like to
thank them for the impetus for the original paper, which is to be published with the proceedings from the
symposium. Some of the ideas expressed reflect work in progress with Susan D. Gillespie and with Julia
A. Hendon. Of course, none of these individuals is responsible for any faults remaining in this paper.
References Cited

Bruhns, Karen
1988 Yesterday the Queen Wore...An analysis of women and costume in public art of the Late Classic
Maya. In The Role of Gender in Precolumbian Art and Architecture, edited by Virginia Miller, pp. 105-
134. University Press of America, Lanham, MD.

Brumfiel, Elizabeth
1991 Weaving and Cooking: Women's Production in Aztec Mexico. In Engendering Archaeology: Women
and Prehistory, edited by Joan Gero and Margaret Conkey, pp. 224-251. Basil Blackwell, Oxford.

Devereaux, Leslie
1987 "Gender Difference and Relations of Inequality in Zinacantan." In Dealing with Inequality:
Analysing Gender Relations in Melanesia and Beyond, edited by Marilyn Stratern, pp. 89-111.

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Hendon, Julia A.
1991 Weaving and Spinning in Prehispanic Mesoamerica: The Technology and Social Relations of Textile
Production. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society forAmerican Archaeology, New

Hubbard, Ruth
1990 The Politics of Women's Biology. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ.

Joyce, Rosemary A.
1990 The Construction of Gender in Classic Maya Monuments. Paper presented at the annual meeting of
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MacCormack, Carol
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Miller, Jeffrey
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1978 The Traditional Pottery of Guatemala. University of Texas Press, Austin.

Reiter, Rayna
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Chapter 7

Gender and Technology at the Archaic-Woodland

Kenneth E. Sassaman
South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology

In 1941, archaeologists working in eastern North America assembled to define Woodland cultural patterns
(Woodland Conference 1943). They employed a variety of technological, economic and sociocultural
criteria to delineate the Woodland Period from the preceding Archaic Period. Over the ensuing decade,
researchers reported difficulty in applying the criteria (Griffin 1952; Sears 1948; Willey and Phillips
1958:118). Pottery appeared to be the only distinguishing trait, and this, they argued, was a nondisruptive
addition to the existing Archaic period technology.
Pottery today remains the chief diagnostic trait separating the Archaic and Woodland Periods in the
Eastern Woodlands. However, archaeologists recognize that pottery does not mark a uniform, structural
boundary in time and space (papers in Farnsworth and Emerson 1986; Sassaman 1991b). Rather, the
development and spread of pottery technology constitute complex, nonuniform patterns in the
archaeological record of the Eastern Woodlands. Remarkably, few attempts to explain these broad
patterns have been made. One notable exception is the work of James Brown (1986, 1989), who has
called attention to social and economic factors that may account for the differential acceptance of early
pottery. Otherwise, the variegated patterns of early pottery use remain unexplored, unchallenged, or
indirectly accounted for by technofunctional (Schiffer and Skibo 1987; Skibo et al. 1989) or taphonomic
(Reid 1984) factors.
In this paper I want to build upon the work of Brown to consider how one social variable--gender
relations--can be used to explain patterns of early pottery use. Drawing from a social perspective on
technology, I maintain that gender is the primary social variable of the labor process in forager or hunter-
gatherer societies. I argue further that pottery creates a gender bias in the way we perceive changes in
other technological and economic aspects of the Archaic-Woodland "transition."

The Social Basis of Technology

Let me begin by outlining the premises of my argument. First, technology cannot be understood apart
from society. In fact, technology constitutes a labor process for appropriating nature that is inherently
social. The social basis of the process is the means by which the instruments of work (i.e. tools), are
brought together with the subjects of work (Hindess and Hirst 1975:10-11). How the work of several
individuals is divided, articulated and coordinated exemplifies this union.
At a higher level of articulation, technology is combined with social relations to define a particular
mode of production. Social relations refer to the means by which surplus labor is appropriated. Surplus
labor is present in all modes of production, including non-food-producing societies, but it varies with
respect to the way it is appropriated (Hindess and Hirst 1975:25-27; Saitta and Keene 1990). Among
foragers, surplus labor is appropriated collectively through reciprocal exchange.

Within a forager mode of production, gender is the primary social variable of the labor process. The
sexual division of labor among foragers is thus a baseline for interpreting variation in the design,
production and use of technical apparatus. We can imagine that variation in gender-specific technology,
when it exists, would tell us something about the way labor is organized to ensure domestic livelihood,
and about the differences between men and women in appropriating surplus labor.
Gender status is important in understanding the roles men and women play in extracting social surplus.
Decisions about marriage, settlement and subsistence, and abilities to attract and maintain exchange
relations are all critical factors in appropriating surplus labor.
In forager societies, at least two variables affect gender status. One is the relative autonomy of men and
women in the labor process. Ethnographic data, for instance, show that women's status, measured in terms
of decision-making in public or extra-domestic affairs, varies with control in subsistence production
(Friedl 1975; Gale 1974; Leacock 1972, 1978; Lee 1979). This does not mean that status is based on
subsistence contributions per se, but rather, on whether women control the conditions of their work and
the distribution of the products of their labor (Leacock 1978:252).
The second variable is participation in the "outside economy." Most of our information on "outside
economy" comes from accounts of recent contact between foragers and Europeans (Draper 1975;
Estioko-Griffin and Griffin 1981; Leacock 1955, 1980). In a variety of cases the results are similar: men
enter into market-based trading relations; the ensuing economic transformations result in incipient
ranking, gender inequality, and the inability of women to exercise autonomy over the labor process.
As an entry point into the archaeological record of gender, we should be able to relate data on
subsistence and nonsubsistence production to variation in gender relations, and ultimately to patterns of
technological change. I suggest that observations on women's status can be gleaned from such data, and
that patterns in the adoption of technology used by women can be explained in these terms. I think that
the case of pottery innovation in the American Southeast illustrates these points well.

Fiber-Tempered Pottery in the Savannah River Valley Region

Stallings fiber-tempered pottery from the Savannah River Valley, South Carolina-Georgia, is the oldest
ceramic vessel technology in eastern North America, appearing at about 4500 B.P. and persisting with a
variety of related wares to about 3000 B.P. I recently examined collections from over two dozen sites in
the region to refine the chronology of the ware and to determine its technological, functional and spatial
variability (Sassaman 1991b). Existing stratigraphic and radiometric data enabled me to use lip form and
surface treatment to divide the series into three distinct phases. From technofunctional analyses of sherds
representing over 1200 vessels I was able to discern two distinct vessel forms: round-bottomed pots and
shallow, flat-bottomed basins. I employed criteria of mechanical performance to hypothesize that pots
were used for direct-heat cooking and that basins were used for indirect-heat cooking, or "stone-boiling."
My observations of use-alteration supported these suppositions.
When these results are placed into temporal and spatial contexts, some interesting patterns emerge.
During Phase I, roughly 4500-3800 B.P., fiber-tempered pottery was used in the Coastal Plain portion of
the valley, but not in the Piedmont. In the latter area, an innovative means of indirect cooking had
emerged some 500 years earlier when inhabitants began to procure locally-available soapstone to make
perforated slabs for "stone-boiling." These items were apparently traded with Coastal Plain inhabitants
long before pottery was introduced, and for several centuries after flat-bottomed basins were made and
used. The association of basins and soapstone slabs in the Coastal Plain during Phase I supports the
argument that the earliest pottery was used in a traditional way; that is, early vessels were simply
"portable pits" for indirect cooking.
Changes in the organization of regional populations and in pottery technology unfolded towards the end
of Phase I. Populations appear to have consolidated, and distinct coastal and interior sociopolitical entities
emerged after about 4000 B.P. Among coastal inhabitants a series of pottery innovations appeared, all
apparently directed toward a direct-heat cooking function. Similar innovations appeared in the interior,
but there is no evidence that pots were used directly over fire. Instead, soapstone slabs continued to be
made and used, presumably in conjunction with ceramic vessels. Little to no soapstone was exported into
the Coastal Plain during this time.
The sociopolitical entities of Phase II dissolved alter about 3400 B.P. Pottery technology and direct-heat
cooking were widely accepted among groups dispersed throughout the region. Soapstone slab use
diminished quickly, although soapstone vessels began to be made and used in limited fashion. Soapstone
vessel technology was of course well-developed centuries before in other parts of the Southeast. After
about 3400 B.P., however, production was apparently fueled by the trading incentives of the Poverty Point
exchange network. Ned Jenkins and colleagues suggest that Poverty Point soapstone exchange facilitated
the spread of fiber-tempered pottery technology from the Savannah River region into the Midsouth
(Jenkins et al. 1986; Walthall and Jenkins 1976). While it may be true that some pottery was traded along
these lines, the volume was not significant, nor was the technology widely adopted until Poverty Point
trading ceased.

Shellfishing and Women's Production

How are we to explain the variegated spatial and temporal patterns in the adoption of pottery
innovations across the American Southeast? Some researchers have sought functional explanations that
can be related directly to subsistence and food preparation (Stoltman 1974; Goodyear 1988). In this
regard, it is difficult to escape the generalization that pottery was first introduced in the context of
shellfishing. This is a global pattern that holds as well for the Savannah River Valley region (Bullen and
Stoltman 1972). Yet the functional linkages between shellfishing and pottery are tenuous at best, and the
only satisfactory explanation is that they each reflect the larger milieu of economic intensification that
higher population density and increased settlement permanence entailed. What is more interesting about
pottery and shellfishing is that ethnographic generalizations (Arnold 1985:101; Waselkov 1987) permit us
to safely assume that both activities can be attributed to women's labor (cf. Claassen 1991)
To elaborate on this point, let us consider how the innovation of pottery could have emerged and been
widely adopted only under conditions which put increased demands on women's labor. In this regard
shellfishing per se is an unlikely impetus for pottery innovations. We know from seasonality studies that
shellfishing and pottery manufacture were probably mutually exclusive seasonal activities. Considering,
however, that shellfishing represented an increase in, or at least an addition to, women's contributions to
subsistence production, gains in women's status and prestige are expected. These gains would have been
the foundation for increased social demands on women's labor. Coupled with suggestive evidence for a
decrease in the relative contribution of deer to the subsistence economy, the addition of shellfishing had
the potential to restructure gender relations and lead to innovations in gender specific technology to meet
the shifting demands on surplus labor.
Implied by this line of reasoning is a structural shift in the balance of status and prestige between the
sexes. I envision this to include greater decision-making power among women with regard to settlement
choices, production schedules, marriage, and conflict resolution, among other things. I also suspect that
women increasingly occupied central roles in ceremonial activities at coastal shell rings and other
locations of social aggregation. The ability to appropriate surplus labor for ceremonial funds was likely
enhanced by the adoption of pottery. Equally important, however, was the role of prestige leaders in
influencing others to quickly adopt pottery and its attendant innovations. I suggest that the rapidity and
pervasiveness with which pottery and direct-heat cooking were adopted on the coast is explicable because
women (at least some women) were able to assert authority over the production, distribution and
consumption of a key food resource, in this case shellfish.

Interregional Exchange and the Resistance to Pottery Innovations

But while it had the potential to increase women's status in Late Archaic society, shellfishing was not a
sufficient condition for the adoption of pottery or the innovation of direct-heat cooking. Groups
occupying the interior portion of the Savannah River Valley experienced subsistence changes similar to
coastal groups, including the exploitation of shellfish, yet their technological histories diverged. I suggest
that the initial lag in adopting pottery and the ensuing resistance to the innovation of direct-heat cooking
in the interior were consequences of the social relations surrounding the production and distribution of
traditional soapstone cooking technology.
Reintroducing gender into the equation, I suspect that resistance to pottery innovation can be partly
attributed to the increased participation of men in interregional exchanges. Considering the scale and
expanse of the Poverty Point exchange network (Gibson 1980; Walthall et al. 1982), the effects of far-
flung exchange on local production may have paralleled those observed elsewhere in historical times. I do
not mean to imply that market conditions emerged in the fourth millennium, only that production was
increasingly geared toward exchange, and that some individuals were undoubtedly removed from
subsistence production on a part-time basis. Production specialists may have included both men and
women, but the control of exchange probably rested with the individuals who made trading trips. Perhaps
men were predisposed to these roles (Marquardt 1985:81), or suffered fewer negative consequences from
lengthy journeys. Trade routes in the Poverty Point network were indeed long. The commerce in
soapstone vessels, for instance, is thought to have originated in present-day western Georgia, moved
down the Chattahoochee, across the Gulf Coast, and up gulf-draining rivers.
Within the Savannah River Valley and throughout the greater southeastern Coastal Plain, participation
in long-distance exchange apparently dampened individual autonomy over certain labor processes,
including the adoption of innovations. Although men and women alike stood to gain from the use of
pottery, Poverty Point traders, probably men, may have realized an advantage only if they were able to
appropriate women's labor and channel it into long-distance exchange. That this apparently was not the
case argues that soapstone production, as well as exchange, was under the purview of men's labor.
In summary, pottery and its associated innovations were developed and adopted first on the periphery of
soapstone exchange. Periphery connotes two different things in this regard. Spatially, pottery was first
developed for use at locations where soapstone could only be indirectly procured, and it was used strictly
for indirect-heat cooking with soapstone slabs. Later innovations for adapting pots for direct-heat cooking
emerged at locations entirely remote from soapstone exchange networks. When adopted in areas of
soapstone production and exchange, these same innovations were not used to their full potential, being
instead subordinated by the persistence of indirect-heat cooking.
The second connotation of periphery refers to gender. Women were the likely innovators of pottery
design and use, but perhaps not direct participants in long-distance exchanges involving traditional
soapstone cooking technology. Women's choices to adopt innovations were influenced by their own labor
allocation problems and opportunities and by the ritual constraints of male prestige systems. Where
women gained greater control over the subsistence economy through shellfishing and occupied a
peripheral position in interregional exchange, innovations in pottery were quickly adopted for use. Where
women experienced similar economic constraints but were situated within the sphere of exchange,
innovations were adopted but used in modified ways to accommodate both traditional and novel gender
relations in society.
At the pan-southeastern level, the resistance to pottery innovations was even more severe, and pottery
was not widely adopted until interregional exchange networks collapsed. To the extent that the use of
pottery enabled women to appropriate surplus labor for other ends, the adoption of pottery may have itself
undermined male-dominated exchange and prestige systems. I suspect that if we looked at the
geographical peripheries of river-based Late Archaic settlement systems, that is, at upland locations that
were used on a seasonal basis, we would find that women were developing pottery and other innovations
that were otherwise absent during periods of social aggregation and ritual.

Lithic Technology at the Archaic-Woodland Transition

In the remainder of this paper I want to shift the focus to technology normally attributed to men, namely
flaked stone tool technology. A recent paper by Joan Gero (1991) provides ample evidence to show that
women, as well as men, made and used stone tools. Nonetheless, recent models accounting for variation
in stone tool technology fail to include gender as a relevant factor. If we allow that women and men alike
used stone tools, we should anticipate that any differences in the productive activities of men and women
involving stone tools would contribute to technological variation in the material records of those
activities. These records should therefore be relevant to the study of prehistoric gender relations.
To begin, I propose that our perceptions of lithic technological change at the Archaic-Woodland
transition are shaped by the categories used to order archaeological time. As a foundation for this
proposition, let us assume that there was a basic division of labor whereby men hunted game, and women
collected plants and small animal resources. Let us also assume that hunting technology was distinct from
other lithic technology, and that the technological requirements of hunting game contributed to
regularities in tool design that are now useful in dividing archaeological time into meaningful phases or
periods. It follows that time-space systematics in archaeology are largely based on continuity and change
in the design of tools used by men; in North America these consist largely of hafted bifaces, both
projectiles and other bifacial tools associated with hunting activity.
While hafted bifaces comprise the primary diagnostic artifacts for early North American prehistory,
pottery types replace bifaces as the chief time markers during late prehistory. I think it is again safe to
assume that women made and used most of the pottery in these prehistoric societies. It follows then that
late prehistory is subdivided temporally by variation in technology attributed to women.
The significance of this observation becomes apparent when we consider the distinct disposal patterns
of hafted bifaces versus pottery (Figure 1). Hafted bifaces used in hunting are discarded at some domestic
sites, where tools are replaced, and at hunting-related and quarry-related locations used exclusively by
men. In contrast, pottery is discarded at most, if not all domestic sites, and at some locations where
women conducted specialized activities. In short the record of the preceramic period consists almost
exclusively of locations at which hafted bifaces were discarded, while the ceramic period record consists
largely of locations at which pottery was discarded. Insofar as the sexual division of labor ensures that
these locations are not completely isomorphic, the preceramic and ceramic period archaeological records
represent distinct samples of settlement variation. Observed differences in the records of these periods are
interpreted as the result of anything other than gender.
This sort of bias is illustrated in recent models for the apparent shift from formal to expedient core
reduction in flaked stone industries. Because it seemingly reflects a degeneration of the art of
flintknapping, the change is sometimes referred to "devolutionary." similar junctures in the historical
trajectories of local prehistoric populations. Two models have been developed to account for these broad
patterns. One developed by Torrence (1989) points to changes in the risk avoidance strategies of hunters
as societies become increasingly dependent on agricultural production. An alternative articulated by Parry
and Kelly (1987) focuses on the diminishing need for portable bifacial cores as the residential mobility of
hunter-gatherers decreased through time. Both arguments are logically sound and supported by evidence.
However, because the technological change coincides with the adoption of pottery in many parts of the
globe, our perceptions of it are partly shaped by a shift in focus from men's roles to women's roles in
stone tool production and use. If we include What is interesting about the change is that it occurs in so
many different places across the globe, and at gender in the extant models of this technological change we
not only eliminate this bias, but also introduce a variable that accounts for more of the variation in the
design, use and discard of lithic stone tools cross-culturally.

In another paper, I outlined alternatives to the models of Torrence and Parry and Kelly that attention to
gender afford (Sassaman 1991a). I will not reiterate the arguments here, but I do want to provide a few
general comments for consideration.
First, I think lithic analysts need to incorporate expectations about the sexual division of labor in their
models of lithic technology. If we can develop predictions about the types of subsistence activities men
and women respectively perform, and relate these to the timing and severity of risk, we can begin to refer
the bridging arguments Torrence (1989) makes between risk and tool design to gender-specific
technology. We can expect, as Torrence notes, that the risks of hunting mobile game are different than the
risks of collecting plant foods, and that tools will be designed and used accordingly.
In contemplating this, however, we will have to look toward variation in the design and use of formal
tools such as projectiles and other hunting-related bifaces. Regrettably, the expedient tools that comprise a
significant portion of any lithic technology are just not specific enough with respect to function, place,
and the sexual division of labor, to be useful in testing ideas about gender relations. Instead, we must
begin to model variation in biface design and use as it relates to activities other than hunting. Torrence
makes some progress in this direction when she relates the demise of biface technology to the rise of low-
risk food production. However, many of the subsistence pursuits of women in non-food-producing
situations had similar effects on the design and use of hunting technology. Considering this, we should
expect to find a rich and varied record of gender roles and relations that is manifested in variation in male
hunting technology.
A similar case can be made for the model proposed by Parry and Kelly (1987). To expand their model
we need to disentangle the different types of mobility embedded in the seasonal rounds of hunter-
gatherers. Parry and Kelly consider residential mobility--the mobility of entire coresident groups--to be
the critical consideration in technological design. However, the relevant amount of mobility for the
transport of tools is the distance travelled by the tool-user. In this sense, the distances and patterns of
mobility of men and women differ. Thus, the sexual division of labor is a variable that potentially
accounts for combinations of formal and expedient core technology in terms of the mobility parameters
spelled-out by Parry and Kelly. Rather than seeing the two technologies as being mutually exclusive, we
should expect the use of these to be complementary and interdependent.
In terms of production, for example, bifacial and expedient core technologies varied from being
independent, to being interdependent. The two strategies of tool production converged when bifaces were
made from flakes removed from expedient cores. This occurred in parts of the Southeast during the Early
Woodland and continued into late prehistory. The strategy can be partly explained by changes in biface
technology itself, not the least of which was the adoption of bow and arrow technology in the Late
Woodland period. In addition though, we need to consider how women's uses of flaked stone helped to
support the shift from bifacial to expedient core technology within men's technology. For instance,
women's reduction of cores for expedient flakes could have contributed to the sorts of residential
stockpiles that Parry and Keely deem necessary for the observed changes in biface technology.


Issues of gender must take a central role in our interpretations of prehistoric technology because gender
is a fundamental variable in the labor processes of small-scale societies. The need to include gender is
imperative when we consider that variation in technology forms the basis for archaeological time-space
systematics, such as the Archaic-Woodland transition, and is therefore the most influential determinate of
the way we perceive prehistoric societies.
That gender issues have not been important in studies of prehistoric foragers no doubt stems from popular
perceptions of egalitarianism. In this respect, efforts to demonstrate that gender asymmetry is neither
natural nor inevitable in the modern world (e.g., Leacock 1978) have hindered our imagination about
alternative formations. It is counter-productive to dismiss the possibility of gender asymmetry among
prehistoric foragers simply because it may appear to legitimate similar conditions today. This not only
establishes a false dichotomy between the past and present, but it also dismisses the possibility that
variation in gender relations are important in explaining the rich and varied record of prehistoric foragers.


1 Claassen's (1986) seasonality research for sites along the Atlantic Coast shows that shellfish were
procured from fall to early spring. Assuming that dry, warm weather was desirable for pottery

Page 77

manufacture (Arnold 1985:61-98), the best seasons for making pots would have been late spring, late
summer and early fall.
2 Deer bone at coastal shellmidden sites is often pulverized (DePratter 1979:24; Waring 1968:191),
presumably for extracting bone grease. That similar evidence is not found in the interior suggest that
coastal groups had a tougher time acquiring protein. The evidence has been described by Goodyear
(1988) as an indication of economic intensification on the coast.
3 Jackson (1991) describes a situation among Californian Indians in which women control the
construction and supply of acorn granaries, but men sometimes appropriate the stores for purposes of
interregional trade.
4 I refer here specifically to the hunting of solitary game such as white-tailed deer, not herd species such
as bison, reindeer and caribou. Documentary information on the hunting of herd species shows that entire
co-resident groups relocate to kill sites after a successful hunt. Under these circumstances, we can not
anticipate spatial separation of men's and women's activities at the intersite level of analysis.
Unfortunately, equivalent analogs for the organization of white-tailed deer hunting are not available. I can
only assume that some of the intersite assemblage variability observed in the archaeological record of
temperate forest hunter-gatherers reflects a spatial (and sexual) dichotomy in the logistical organization of
deer hunting. Even if this dichotomy is exaggerated, the addition of pottery to the archaeological record
of temperate forest hunter-gatherers assures that we are focussed on locations at which women worked.
This alone creates a potential bias in the way we perceive functional differences between preceramic and
ceramic period sites.
References Cited

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Brown, James A.
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Bullen, Ripley P. and James B. Stoltman (editors)

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K. Johnson and C. A. Morrow, pp. 285-304. Westview Press, Boulder.

Reid, Kenneth C.
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Pottery in the Middle Latitude Lowlands. American Antiquity 49:55-76.

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1991b Economic and Social Contexts of Early Ceramic Vessel Technology in the American Southeast.
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Waselkov, Gregory
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Woodland Conference
1943 The First Archaeological Conference on the Woodland Pattern. American Antiquity 8:393-400.
Chapter 8

Health Consequences of Sexual Division of Labor

Among Native Americans: The Chumash of
California and the Arikara of the Northern Plains

Sandra E. Hollimon
Jenner, California

In this paper, I discuss health consequences of divisions of labor among the Chumash of the Santa
Barbara Channel area and the Arikara of the Northern Plains. This analysis involves the comparison of
human skeletal material, and expectations about health based on ethnohistoric information. As part of my
discussion, I give an example of one way to examine gender in the archaeological record by looking for
evidence of divisions of labor. In addition, one can go beyond a mere documentation of a division of
labor, and ask questions concerning the consequences of a division of labor for the people participating in

Materials and Methods

Ethnographic and ethnohistoric information exist concerning division of labor among the Chumash and
Arikara, including references to the economic activities of women and men (Hollimon 1990, 1991a,
1991b). These references about labor generated expectations about the health of women and men in these
societies. Frequencies of pathological conditions were compared to expected patterns of male and female
This discussion of the health consequences of divisions of labor relies on evidence from human skeletal
material. The Chumash sample consists of 351 males and 512 females. These skeletal remains come from
archaeological sites that range from 3500 B.C. to A.D. 1804 (Hollimon 1990). The Arikara sample is
comprised of 92 males and 78 females. These skeletons were derived from archaeological sites dating
between A.D. 1650 and 1792 (Rogers 1990).

The Study Groups

The Chumash
The Chumash of the Santa Barbara Channel area were people who fished, collected shellfish and plant
foods, and hunted game. Ethnographic information indicates that the Chumash had a division of labor in
which women primarily collected and prepared wild plant foods and shellfish, while men fished and
hunted sea mammals and terrestrial animals (Hollimon 1990).
The Chumash were an unusually complex group of non-agriculturalists (Kroeber 1925). During late
prehistoric times, after A.D. 1150, Chumash society was characterized by a chiefdom level of political
organization. The elite of this society were hereditary members of craft guilds and the political/religious
group known as the "antap" cult (Arnold 1987; Blackburn 1975). By the time of European contact, the
Chumash lived in large, densely populated coastal villages supported by a maritime economy and under
the control of local hereditary chiefs (Arnold 1987).

The Arikara
The Arikara lived in settled earthlodge villages on the Upper Missouri River. These people had a mixed
subsistence economy, in which the women were primarily responsible for the growing of corn, beans,
squash and sunflowers, while the men primarily hunted buffalo (P. Holder 1970; Will and Hyde 1964).
Arikara villages were under the control of local hereditary chiefs (Curtis 1970). The society was
organized into several classes, consisting of elites, those who had gained war honors, doctors, priests, and
the general populace (Gilmore 1928; Rogers 1990).

Health Consequences of Labor Divisions

A number of pathological conditions have been documented among the skeletal remains examined in
this study. These conditions provide evidence of the health consequences of divisions of labor for
Chumash and Arikara women and men.

Demographic analysis provides valuable information concerning differential mortality patterns in
populations. In addition, the difference in demographic profiles between the Chumash and Arikara
populations (Figure 1) may play a significant role in the frequencies of some pathological conditions.
The Arikaras suffered much greater infant and child mortality than did the Chumash (Figure 1, 2). In
contrast, the Chumash population experienced higher death rates in older age categories (Figure 1, 3).
Peak mortality among the Chumash occurred in the 20-25 year category, while the Arikara peak was in
the birth to 5 year category (Figure 1). Both populations had high death rates in the late teenage/young
adult categories.
The mean age at death for Chumash males was 36 years, and for Chumash females was 38 years
(Figure 3). Arikara males had a mean age at death of 35 years, while for Arikara females the mean age at
death was 28 years (Figure 2, Table 1).
These results indicate that the average Arikara died younger than the average Chumash (Figure 1). In
part, this may account for the higher rates of certain pathological conditions among the Chumash. For
example, the Chumash exhibited more degenerative changes in their joints than did the Arikaras. Perhaps
the longer average lifespan of the Chumash accounts for this findi ng.
Alternatively, the Chumash fishing/gathering lifestyle may have been more mechanically stressful than
the hunting/agriculture adaptation of the Arikaras.
The younger age at death of Arikara females (Figure 2) may also account for observed sex differences
in frequencies of pathological conditions. Arikara males tended to exhibit higher rates of conditions that
are in some part age-dependent, such as degenerative joint disease and dental decay. These differences
between Arikara males and females may be due to the seven year difference in mean ages at death (Table
1; Figure 2).
The opposite mortality pattern was exhibited by the Chumash population. Males outnumbered females
in the younger age categories, and the female mean age at death was higher than the male (Figure 3, Table
1). Unlike the Arikara population, the difference in male and female mean ages at death were not
significant. This finding is congruent with the comparable frequencies of age-dependent pathological
conditions among Chumash males and females.

Degenerative Joint Disease

Activity-induced pathologies, especially degenerative joint disease (DJD or arthritis), allows one to
make inferences about the activities a person engaged in during life. Patterns of DJD differ between the
Chumash and Arikara, suggesting that these people incurred different stresses by virtue of their activities.
The percentage of Chumash men and women displaying degenerative changes was roughly equal, while
Arikara males had almost twice the rate of DJD displayed by Arikara females. This pattern could be due
to the fact that Chumash male and female activities were equally mechanically stressful while those of the
Arikara were not. For example, ethnohistoric sources suggest that Arikara women's work was

Table 1. Frequencies of Pathological Conditions by Sex

Chumash Arikara
n= 351 512 92 78
Mean Age at Death (years) 36 38 35 28
Degenerative Joint Disease 189 (53%) 261 (50%) 42 (45%) 20 (25%)
Dental Pathology* 66/166 95/218 61 43
(39%) (43%) (66%) (55%)
Enamel Hypoplasia 108 (31%) 179 (35%) 16 (17%) 11 (14%)
Infectious Disease 138 (39%) 52 (29%) 6 (17%) 5 (17%)
Trauma 28 (7%) 19 (3%) 15 (16%) 6 (5%)
*based on number of individuals with scorable dentition
much more physically demanding than men's activities (Hollimon 1991a). Hoeing, planting, harvesting,
hauling wood and water, earthlodge construction and many other activities are described for Arikara
women, while the men were said to lead lives of relative leisure, with the occasional buffalo hunt
(Hollimon 1991a). In contrast, documentary sources suggest that Chumash women and men worked
equally hard at food procurement (Hollimon 1990). This notion is supported by the finding that overall
rates of DJD among Chumash males and females are roughly comparable, despite the fact that the
location of arthritic joints differs between the sexes (Walker and Hollimon 1989).
Alternatively, this finding could be attributed to the differences in mean age at death in the two
populations. Chumash males and females had comparable mean ages at death. In contrast, the average
Arikara male outlived the average female by seven years (Table 1). The higher rate of DJD in Arikara
males could be due to their older age at death, providing greater opportunities to experience degenerative

Dental Pathology
Dental pathology provides a tremendous amount of information concerning diet, and indirectly provides
data concerning activities. Inferences can be made about food procurement and distribution on the basis
of dental pathology patterns. Dental decay was observed in the form of carious lesions and alveolar
Through time, Chumash females had higher rates of dental caries than did the males (Table 1; cf.
Walker and Erlandson 1986). It has been suggested that the women experienced more tooth decay
because they ate more carbohydrate-rich plant foods than their male contemporaries. Conversely, the men
had greater access to protein, by virtue of their hunting and fishing activities (Walker and Erlandson
Arikara males had higher rates of dental decay than did the females. This could be accounted for if the
males ate much more cariogenic plant food than the females. Ethnographic and ethnohistoric information
indicate that Arikara women controlled the distribution of all foodstuffs (Blakeslee 1975; Deetz 1965;
Orser 1980; Rogers 1990), and that they served the men first. They may have given the men more corn
and squash, while saving more buffalo meat for themselves and their children.
Alternatively, this sex difference could be attributed to the greater age at death among Arikara males.
The seven additional years of an average male's life may have exposed him to the greater chance of dental
decay when compared to the average Arikara female.
Although both the Arikaras and the Chumash had high protein contents in their diets, the Arikaras
appear to have suffered greater rates of dental decay. Stable isotope studies indicate that both populations
were protein-dependent. The Chumash diet was based on marine foods, supplemented by wild plant
foods; the Arikaras ate mostly buffalo meat, with agricultural products rounding out the diet (Tuross and
Fogel 1992; Walker and De Niro 1986). Despite the fact that the Arikara population was younger than the
Chumash, they may have suffered greater dental decay due to the presence of corn in the diet.

Enamel Hypoplasia
Dental pathology also provides information about nutritional status and disease stress. In a study of
skeletal remains spanning 5000 years of Santa Barbara Channel area prehistory, Walker (1984) examined
teeth for evidence of enamel hypoplasia. These defects are deficiencies in enamel thickness that form
when a person's system has been disrupted during enamel formation (Kreshover 1960). These defects
have been convincingly linked to episodes of infectious disease and malnutrition (Pindborg 1982).
Despite a lack of statistical significance, Walker found that women had higher proportions of hypoplastic
teeth than did men throughout the prehistory of this area. This fact suggests that throughout prehistory,
women in this area were at higher risk for nutritional or disease stress than were the men. Walker (1984)
notes that this finding was unexpected, because growing males tend to be more sensitive to stress than
females (Hamilton 1982; Stini 1969). Therefore, he expected to find more hypoplastic defects among
men. The fact that women had a higher proportion of enamel lesions suggests that they were differentially
affected by nutritional and disease stress.
Among the Arikaras, males displayed more hypoplastic defects than did females (Table 1). Apparently,
Arikara males were more susceptible to nutritional and disease stress. This finding is in agreement with
the evidence of infectious disease among the Arikaras. Males exhibited more periosteal lesions than
females did, indicating that infectious pathogens differentially affected males (Table 1).
The Chumash population displayed higher rates of enamel hypoplasia than the Arikaras.
This evidence suggests that the Chumash were under greater nutritional or disease stress than the
Arikaras. A possible explanation for this finding is that the Arikara diet, based on buffalo meat, was more
nutritionallyadequate than the Chumash marine-dependent diet.
It is unlikely that this difference can be attributed to disease stress. The Arikaras displayed higher rates
of infectious disease than the Chumash, but lower rates of enamel hypoplasia (Table 1). The spread of
infectious diseases in the densely populated Chumash villages may also have played a role in the
development of hypoplastic lesions, but a dietary cause seems more plausible given this evidence.
Nitrogen and carbon isotope studies have been conducted on part of the Chumash skeletal material in
my sample, but there were too few individuals of known sex to adequately assess sex differences in diet
(Walker and De Niro 1986). Sex differences in diet were not discussed in the Arikara stable isotope study
(Tuross and Fogel 1992).

Infectious Disease
Infectious diseases leave a permanent record in skeletal tissues. Inflamed bones often indicate that the
person suffered from a streptococcal or staphylococcal infection during life. These infections are
frequently found in populations that live in high densities, because the bacteria are easily spread and
sanitation is often poor. Bacterial infections also flourish in individuals whose immune systems have been
compromised by poor nutrition. This set of conditions almost certainly existed among the large, sedentary
villages of the Chumash, while population density estimates among the Arikaras were much lower (cf.
Owsley and Jantz 1985; Walker and Lambert 1989).
Chumash females display lower rates of infectious disease than their male counterparts (Table 1).
Chumash females were apparently less susceptible to infectious pathogens than were males. This finding
suggests that the difference between rates of enamel hypoplasia among Chumash males and females is
due to a nutritional difference. If the higher rate of enamel hypoplasia among Chumash females were due
primarily to disease stress, we would expect to see higher frequencies of infectious disease among them.
Arikara males and females have equal rates of infectious disease. This finding can be attributed to the
prevalence of epidemic diseases to which the population was subjected during the 18th Century (Rogers
1990). These epidemics combined with other disruptive forces, such as the acquisition of the horse,
increasing European presence in the Missouri River Valley, and intertribal warfare, to produce a steady
depopulation on the Northern Plains. Arikara communities were exposed to smallpox, measles, chicken
pox, cholera, and whooping cough (Owsley and Jantz 1985). These epidemics undoubtedly are reflected
in the high rate of infectious disease in this Arikara population (Table 1).
Paleoenvironmental data show that the climate in the Santa Barbara Channel area became quite adverse
around A.D. 1150 (Pisias 1978). As the Chumash aggregated in large coastal villages and intensified their
use of marine resources, the general health of the population declined. Rates of infectious disease and
enamel hypoplasia increased among Chumash populations through time (Hollimon 1990). Apparently,
this demographic shift was not as disruptive as that experienced by the Arikaras. Severe depopulation was
not observed among the Chumash until they were brought into the Mission system, after A.D. 1780
(Johnson 1989; Walker et al. 1989).

Another health consequence of high population density and unpredictable resources is interpersonal
violence. Traumatic injuries to bones may be inferred as evidence of interpersonal violence. Ethnographic
evidence from California in general, and from the Chumash in particular, indicates that intervillage
raiding was fairly common (Swezey et al. 1975). According to the ethnographic literature, Chumash men
were more often involved in combat than were women (Hollimon 1990). Walker (1989) found that during
all prehistoric periods, males outnumbered females in number of depressed cranial fractures. This
physical evidence supports the notion that males were engaging in raids or other forms of interpersonal
conflict more often than females.
There is no ethnographic evidence to suggest that Chumash women participated in combat during
organized warfare (cf. Hollimon 1990), although they may have been raided while in food gathering
parties away from the village. It seems equally likely that women were engaged in scuffles over resources
within their villages. It is also possible that women were victims of what is called domestic violence in
contemporary American society. These women may have received their injuries at the hands of husbands
or other family members.
Through time, the number of traumatic injuries among Chumash females increased. The slightly higher
number of post-cranial fractures among late prehistoric Chumash females may have been a consequence
of activities not related to interpersonal violence. As the Chumash increased their reliance on marine
resources, the women may have been injured while harvesting shellfish in rocky intertidal zones.
Treacherous footing may have resulted in many falls and some injuries among these women (Hollimon
1991b). Arikara males outnumber Arikara females in traumatic injuries by a ratio of three to one (Table
1). This finding most likely reflects the participation of Arikara men in warfare. Ethnographic and
ethnohistoric information indicate that waging war was an important activity among Arikara men
(Hollimon 1991a). This conclusion is also supported by the location of fractures in Arikara males and
females. Most fractures among males are on the head and face, suggesting that they may have been
intentionally inflicted (cf. Walker 1989). In contrast, most fractures among females occurred in the
vertebral bodies, a concomitant of degenerative changes in the spinal column. Arikara women may have
injured their backs while tending their crops or hauling loads. This finding is congruent with documentary
evidence indicating the Arikara women played a minor role in waging war (Ewers 1992).
Most information about the role of Arikara women in warfare describes them as victims. Travelers
noted that the women were sometimes raided while working in the fields away from the village. This
raiding may have included shooting and scalping (Taylor 1897). Arikara women may have been
particularly susceptible to violence inflicted by the Sioux. Documentary sources indicate that the Sioux
would beat or kill Arikara women during horse stealing raids (Abel 1939). Supporting evidence includes a
probable skeletal example of scalping. A female skull from the Sully site exhibits cuts and infection
suggestive of scalping (Hollimon and Owsley 1992).


In summary, the paleopathological evidence presents a somewhat mixed picture of the health of
Chumash and Arikara males and females. Apparently, Chumash males and females had roughly
comparable health and nutritional statuses, while Arikara males and females diverged in their patterns of
pathological conditions. These findings may reflect the differences in mean age at death between Arikara
males and females. Age-dependent conditions may be exhibited more often among Arikara males and
Chumash females because they tended to outlive their counterparts.
In the case of enamel hypoplasia, the condition reflects nutritional and disease stress among growing
children, not adults. Therefore, observed sex differences in the distribution of hypoplastic teeth in adults
reflects differential health of young female and male children. The results of this study suggest that
female children among the Chumash and male children among the Arikara were in poorer health and/or
nutritionally compromised.

Gender Systems Among the Chumash and Arikara

The approach I have used in this analysis may shed light on the activities of women and men in these
societies, but it almost certainly ignores individuals who belonged to the third gender category. Berdaches
were transvestite males who occupied an intermediate or mixed-gender status. Berdaches existed among
the Chumash (King 1982) and the Arikara (A. Holder 1889).
A complete understanding of Chumash and Arikara gender systems would require an examination of all
gender categories: women, men and berdaches. However, it seems virtually impossible to identify
berdaches in burial contexts (cf. Parsons 1916). If there were a complete dichotomy between the grave
goods associated with the burials of males and females, it might be reasonable to conclude that a berdache
burial would be that of an anatomical male associated with "female" artifacts. However, such dichotomies
do not exist in burials from either group (cf. Hollimon 1990; O'Shea 1984).
Despite difficulties in interpreting burial and artifact associations, the analysis of human skeletal
material provides striking evidence of the relative health status of women and men in prehistory (Cohen
1987). I have demonstrated that there were specific health consequences associated with the divisions of
labor practiced by the Chumash through time in the Santa Barbara Channel area and the Arikaras. These
consequences allow us to examine economic roles of women and men in these societies, and to discuss
the risks they faced by virtue of their activities.

References Cited

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Arnold, Jeanne E.
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Cohen, Mark N.
1987 Osteological Evidence for Gender Roles and Gender Hierarchies in Prehistory. Paper presented at
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Deetz, James J.F.

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Ewers, John C.
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Hamilton, Margaret E.
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Size, edited by Roberta L. Hall, pp. 107-164. Praeger, New York.

Holder, A.B.
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Holder, Preston
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Hollimon, Sandra E.
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1991b Health Consequences of Division of Labor Among the Chumash Indians of Southern California.
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1992 Osteology of the Fay Tolton Site: Implications for Warfare during the Initial Middle Missouri
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Johnson, John R.
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King, Linda B.
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Owsley, Douglas W. and Richard L. Jantz

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Perinatal Infant Skeletons. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 68:321-328.

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Dependance on Marine and Terrestrial Resources in Southern California. American Journal of Physical
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Chapter 10

Activating Women in Arikara Ceramic Production

Christi Mitchell
Honolulu Hawaii

It is necessary for every academic discipline to entertain new additions and innovative revision to its
contemporary and past theoretical and methodological axioms. The developing field of Feminist
Archaeology is one such addition which has received limited consideration within the discipline as a
whole, yet at the same time its appropriateness to the field has spawned dedicated followers and serious
intellectual debates. As a fledgling idea, lost somewhere in the debate between systems theory versus
contextual approaches, and competing to some extent with other developing concepts such as Marxist and
Symbolic Archaeologies, feminist approaches have until now, for the most part, been concerned with
identifying areas of research and constructing appropriate and useful methodologies.
This paper attempts to adopt a feminist perspective and apply it to James Deetz's 1965 monograph, The
Dynamics of Social Change in Arikara Ceramics, in hopes of demonstrating how, by asking engendered
questions, our reconstructions of past social organizations are forced to change. Also I will illustrate how
the androcentric biases and assumptions prevalent in his work have limited and formed his reconstruction
of the past.

Women, Ceramics, and Kinship

James Deetz's aim in the monograph is to demonstrate that the changing social organization of the
Arikara is reflected in the association of stylistic attributes found on their ceramics. In this analysis he
proposes that, as a result of changing environmental and social conditions, Arikara society evolved from a
lineage based descent system with matrilocality to a generationally segmented society with patrilocality;
this change, in turn, was responsible for and reflected in a greater stylistic variation in their ceramics.
Central to Deetz's theory is the idea that the domestic unit was responsible for ceramic production and
that it was the female members of the domestic unit who actually manufactured the ceramics.
Deetz analyzed the ceramic assemblage from the Medicine Crow Site with three temporal components,
each corresponding to a spatial component at the site; 1690-1720, 1720-1750, and 1750-1780. Each sherd
was assigned to one of the time periods, based on the spatial context from which it was recovered, and
then analyzed in terms of the number and type of the over 152 attributes that were identified. Using a
computer Deetz then determined the attribute associations in and between time periods. Although the total
number of attributes identified rose over time the number of attributes regularly seen in association
decreased over time.
This data then became the basis for Deetz's assertion that if attributes and styles were shared by women
of a domestic unit, then the reduced association of attributes indicated disruption of the domestic
organization, and by inference, a change in the social organization of the potters. Underlying this
argument was Deetz's belief that patterns found in assemblages are reflective of patterns in group
behavior, and that in this way patterns of social organization can be exposed. In comparing assemblages
much homogeneity in artifact attributes is thought to reflect much interaction within the production unit.
Conversely, a limited amount of interaction within or between traditional production units would result in
highly variable patterning and less clustering of attributes in assumedly meaningful ways.
In order for this framework to contribute to meaningful reconstructions of the past, the researcher must
ascertain that the group (or production unit) under question is directly and uniquely responsible for the
patterns that are revealed in the archaeological record. The group's influence must be unique as well as
direct or room is left for numerous outside forces to affect the relationship between material product and
manufacturer. Deetz must be able to isolate the one cause and one effect unequivocally.
It was changing post-marital resident patterns that Deetz believed was the cause of the later phases of
Arikara ceramics. "Under matrilocal rule of residence, reinforced by matrilocal descent, one might well
expect a larger degree of consistent patterning of design attributes, since the behavior patterns which
produce these configurations would be passed from mothers to daughters and preserved by continuous
manufacture in the same household" (Deetz 1965: 2).
A change in this matrilocal social structure could result in a change in ceramic attribute patterning if
"this change in any way tended to disrupt the exclusive nature of the shared behavioral patterning existing
under a matrilocal rule" (Deetz 1965: 2). In order to support this logic he outlines a number of social and
economic indicators which suggest social reorganization and then compares these with the stylistic
changes seen in the assemblage.
What, specifically, are the changes in Arikara society? As has already been discussed the association of
ceramic attributes decreased over the proto-historic period. Incomplete language schedules compiled in
the 18th century show that the Arikara language was evolving from lineage based to generationally based
kinship terms, as happened with the Skidi Pawnee nearly a century later. Deetz infers from this that the
Arikara villages were once organized by lineages (as indicated by early Crow style kinship terminology)
and that the appearance of a generation descent system indicated a change away from a lineage based
family group. Concurrently, the size of the Arikara dwellings decreased from a pre-historic range of
thirty-six to fifty feet in diameter to one of twenty five to almost forty feet during the proto-historic
period. Deetz states that "this reduction in house size strongly suggests some change in the size of the
residence group or perhaps even a change in its basic constitution" (Deetz 1965:32). At the same time the
size of the villages decreased as reported by explorers such as Gass in 1811 and Tabeau in the late 18th
century. This change may be in part due to unsustainable soil and lack of wood, although Trudeau, as
noted in Deetz, states that smallpox ravaged the Arikara three times prior to 1795. Deetz states that "there
can be little doubt that such a rapid population decline produces some changes in the later residence
patterns among the Arikara" (Deetz 1965: 31), yet, surprisingly, he searches further for the catalyst of
change. He finds it in one of the activities of the men: trading.
All of the proto-historic primary sources, (Gass 1811, Lowie 1954, Tabeau and Trudeau ) attributed
great importance to trading for the Arikara. Arikara were located at the convergence of the northern gun
trade and the southern horse trade, and they traded maize, tobacco and buffalo products. The importance
of trading to their local economy by the end of the 18th century is stressed by Deetz. Deetz quotes
Murdock as stating that:
"...moveable property or wealth, which can be accumulated by men, is a strong factor in the development
of patrilocal residence. Such wealth has as its accompaniments an increase in the social stature of men at
the expense of that of the women, the introduction of nonsororal polygamy and the disappearance of the
matrilocal residence...and a trend to patrilineal inheritance of the new-found riches of men "(Deetz 1965:
Considering the volume of trade that the Arikara undertook, this appears to be a plausible statement.
Yet, there are indications that the Arikara were poor traders, who were often taken advantage of by the
Sioux, and who were often "put to it when the maize and buffalo failed them" according to Lowie (in
Deetz). Thus, it is possible that the accumulation of wealth among the Arikara males was temporally
relative and not a major force in changing post-marital patterns. Nonetheless, it seems that there was a
shift in the demographics and social organization of the Arikara, which resulted in new residence patterns
and generational descent system. By focusing on trade, Deetz creates a world in which the actions of men
change the society, while those of women, who are almost unmentioned, are directionless. Their ceramics
passively reflect the changes brought about by the men's actions. By examining some of the androcentric
assumptions that Deetz makes regarding Arikara women and their ceramics it is possible to start clearing
away the cobwebs in which this passivity is entangled.
One of the aims of feminist archaeology is to identify the androcentric biases found in reconstructions
of the past. It is important to note that many of the examples of androcentrism in Deetz's study are a result
of the androcentric bias found in the primary sources he uses. Yet, this does not relieve Deetz of blame,
for he chose to accept these sources as objective and valid, while at the same time he chose to cite
selectively the segments of the sources that supported his assumptions regarding the roles and activities of
women and men while ignoring other potentially important information. Perhaps Deetz, along with others
of his generation, never thought to consider gender as an issue, but now there is no reason to ignore it.
Considering that Deetz's analysis centers around kinship and residence rules, and that he bases his
analysis on the presumed activities of women, Conkey and Spector (1984) thought that "there was reason
to believe, given (his) problem orientation that the subject of gender might be explicitly addressed" (1984:
11), rather than relegating the role of gender, and subsequently the role of women, to a passive position in
his analysis which is seen in many of Deetz's examples. First of all, Deetz describes women in relation
either to men, or their presumed role in ceramic production, or their relative position in a descent system.
He quotes and tacitly supports passages by Tabeau that describe women as "slaves," and "property," and
states that matrilocal residence was "possessed" by the culture, at once objectifying and depersonalizing
Arikara women. Furthermore, the activities of women are accorded low status.
Deetz stressed trade as the dominant stimulus for change in Arikara society. His analysis of the
conditions of trade as presented by Tabeau was that "this commerce had acquired an integral position in
the culture and apparently was the basis of the Arikara economy by the end of the eighteenth century"
(Deetz 1965:33). Again this suggests that women neither played an important role in the economy of the
tribe nor actively engaged in contact with traders or Westerners.
Whereas considerable attention is given to the trading patterns of men as well as their possession of
women, the activities of women, including their food producing economic activities or the processes of
ceramic manufacture (in terms of spatial and temporal dimensions) are all but ignored. Deetz's sources do
not include women in the count of village inhabitants and Deetz uses these gender specific accounts to
show the general decline of population size. In all these ways the lives of the Arikara men are made
representative of the Arikara culture.
The accounts that Deetz cites of active women are used to demonstrate women's connection to the
household validating a sequence of residence and kinship term change. The intrinsic, active value of
women was as "chief participants in house construction" (Gass, in Deetz), or as chief laborers in the field
and home, or as owners and tenders of the gardens, planting, cultivating and harvesting is overlooked. For
Deetz each of these activities is used as an indicator of matrilocality. In as much as the women were
connected to the land and structures it seems possible that they had some economic and cultural influence
in terms of the distribution of the traded produce including maize, beans, squash and pumpkins, as well as
influencing the makeup of the family unit. Yet Deetz does not ascribe to them any active influences within
the prevailing cultural processes.
Material in the primary sources hint otherwise. Gass reports that women grew a smoking tobacco, and
Tabeau states that "The women...came in a crowd to trade certain trifles, sure of obtaining a few pieces of
dried meat into the bargain (Deetz 1965: 73). Although "trifles" is an ambiguous term, this passage
indicates that Arikara women were not passive, but took, at least at times, an active role in trading.
Arikara women were not as far removed from active contact with Westerners, through trade, as Deetz
Similarly, Deetz's assertion that the Arikara women were uniquely responsible for ceramic production
can be questioned. His theory hinges upon Bunzell's 1920 "discovery" that Pueblo girls learned design
elements from their mothers, which then buffets the idea that residence patterns are reflected in the
Arikara ceramic assemblage. Deetz then gives us female potters without telling us how we can know that
the potters in question are women. Although there are numerous late 18th and early 19th century
references to Arikara women involved with ceramic manufacture the sources never preclude men from
participation nor do they specifically locate the production unit within the home or lineage. In order to
make the connection between ceramic production and residence patterns it must first be shown that
ceramic production occurred in domestic isolation and that the potters had unique ownership of stylistic
groupings. In Deetz's analysis a limited number of dwellings were excavated which spanned a period of
only 90 to 100 years. Although the ceramic styles have been typed according to stylistic variation and
apparent temporal distribution, there does not appear to be enough information to link certain design
groupings with particular dwelling units within one time period. Ideally, if each household was
matrilocally oriented and produced its own "brand" of ceramic this would be reflected by a decisive
grouping of ceramic variations per household, possibly accompanied spatially by a kiln or other
implement of manufacture.
There are two other points to consider about Deetz's assertions/assumptions regarding domestic ceramic
manufacture. The first and perhaps most obvious question is why, if girls learned their ceramic skills
(along with the particular attribute grouping) from their mothers before marriage, would these skills and
decorative traits not be carried with them after marriage, regardless of the post-marital residence? This
point would seem particularly relevant in a society which was undergoing a shift from a matrilocal
lineage system to a patrilocal generational system. By "holding on" to her natal design attributes the
female potter would be able to "hold on" to and express her heritage in a descent group that differed from
the one she resided in. It does not seem necessary for the potter to have had continual residence in her
natal residence once the skills and attribute groupings had been learned.
The second point to consider is whether the groups producing ceramics were connected to the domestic
sphere at all. Plog reminds us that "other archaeologists have proposed that the patterns [of ceramics] may
represent the location of 'ad hoc' work groups of neighbors rather than residence groups" (1980:11-12).
These groups could also be age groups, or secret society-type units. Each group could own and use a
certain set of design elements as expressions of group entity or purpose. Over time, as contact with
traders increased and the population decreased, the expressions of these "ad hoc" potters could become
more varied as these groups disbanded. One more possibility is that ceramic manufacture was limited to
specialists and contained spiritual or ritual symbolism. These potters may not necessarily have been
related, but as with keepers of sacred medicine, chose to learn the skill. Here too it would be possible for
the change in attribute grouping to correspond with the increased association with Europeans and the
radical decrease in population. Although each of these scenarios is a possible reconstruction of the past
based on the information Deetz presents, they are not fully considered due to Deetz's rigid, preformed
assumptions regarding who makes the ceramics and where ceramics are produced. Most basic to Deetz's
analysis is his devotion to the unstated master of social organization, the sexual division of labor. This
concept is inherent in his assumptions and as such precludes a serious consideration of the role of gender
in ceramic manufacture (as well as in cultural change in general).
There are scenarios that suggest possible alternative readings of the information presented in the Arikara
ceramic assemblage, scenarios that activate the Arikara women. In general, the most obvious ones can be
found in an examination of the economic roles of women. Lowie, Gass and Tabeau each indicated that
women's economic activities involved raising maize, squash, beans and tobacco, as well as processing
pemmican. It is not unreasonable to consider women involved with trade at some level (either directly, by
entering the transaction, or simply by being present at the trading markets), and that this brought them
more and more frequently in contact with other nations or traders.
Two possible explanations open up, then, for the diminished association of stylistic attributes. The
attributes found on the ceramics may have reflected the turbulent, and less cohesive nature of Arikara
society; new ideas and contacts influenced and broke down the old culture that was perhaps carefully
symbolized on the ceramics. It is almost certain that the potters did not create their wares in domestic or
cultural isolation, unaffected by the changes in the social organization, and contact with European
cultures. That three smallpox epidemics nearly decimated the Arikara population attests to the far-
reaching effects of contact.
The choice of certain attributes could be thought of as an expression of the potters' relative position
within any group structure. Deetz suggests that attribute choice reflects a change in post-marital residence
patterns. I believe that it reflects in an increased amount of trade and contact between groups and that
ceramic artistry was an active form of communication (and a particularly important one if we are to
believe that women were potters, and held the same status as slaves). Rather than being passive recipients
of cultural change via descent group reorganization along generational lines and changing post-marital
residence rules as Deetz suggests), the potters (be they male or female) may have taken an active role in
communicating and sharing strategies between the groups in contact with each other or simply expressing
pervasive change through their decorative art. Whereas a high frequency of associated attributes may
have reflected a community cohesiveness, a low frequency could indicate a shift in the belief system to a
more individualistic oriented consciousness, inspired by the materialistic concepts that were being
introduced by traders such as Tabeau. The attributes chosen for decoration probably reflected personal
choice on the part of the potter and in such a time of change, understandably would reflect confusion
rather than cohesion, and thus, discontinuities in patterns of design associations. Regrettably, Deetz seems
to disregard any consideration of the role of personal choice, rejecting the influence of the individual
within the ceramic system. Although the role of ceramics as an artistic medium of communication has not
been discussed here, at the most basic level if there were not some symbolism or meaning attached to
attribute and decoration selection then all Arikara ceramics would be left undecorated and be of virtually
the same shape based on function. Attribute selection was a form of communication within and beyond
the community, and stylistic change reflected not only shifting community social organization but
women's active participation (possibly economic) in social change, intercultural contact, and ceramic
Another scenario is suggested and immediately discounted by Deetz himself. In the final section of his
monograph he presents three possible explanations for the proposed association between ceramic
attributes and post-marital residence. The first is that there is "no relationship whatsoever between
changes in social organization and changes in ceramic design patterning..." (Deetz 1965: 96). For reasons
discussed already, specifically that ceramics would not have been manufactured in total domestic or social
isolation, this scenario is probably inaccurate. The second was that "changes in ceramic patterning in late
Arikara culture and the accompanying changes in the social organization are in fact mutually interrelated"
(Deetz 1965: 96). It has been discussed throughout this paper that Deetz has failed to prove this
association by basing his theory on assumptions regarding a strict sexual division of labor, and on the
social and economic passiveness of women.
This leaves us to consider Deetz's last suggestion, that "there may be a relationship between ceramic
design and social structure in an indirect sense in that some third force was responsible for both changes
seen at the Medicine Crow Site" (Deetz 1965: 89). Although he states that "the possibility of a third
independent variable influence operating to produce change in social organization and ceramic design can
never be completely ruled out due to its intrinsic nature" (Deetz 1965: 56), he further asserts that this
would have to be a more powerful force than a change in post-marital residence systems. This then begs
the question "what then caused the change in the post-marital system"? He states:
While the Arikara certainly experienced a truly disruptive series of influences on their total cultural
pattern during the course of the warfare, epidemics and mobility which mark their existence during the
eighteenth century, these pressures cannot be cited as the primary causal factor in effecting the change in
ceramic patterning (Deetz 1965: 90).

James Deetz was clearly searching for a single cause and effect sequence of change: outside forces
affected the society, causing domestic reshuffling, which resulted in ceramic variation. His statement that
any third "unknown but apparently powerful force" (Deetz 1965:96) indicates again his dedication to a
one-force-creates-one-change ideology. Is it too much to suggest that change does not always occur in a
linear arrangement? In specifically turbulent times it seems foolish to consider that it is possible to isolate
specific cause and effect coordinates, especially in discussions requiring a high level of inference from
the archaeological record such as in this case. Thus, the alternate scenario that is being suggested here is
that perhaps no single "more powerful third force" is responsible for changes in social organization and
ceramic variation, but that a veritable multitude of interrelated forces were at work and that some of these
forces, such as epidemics, bypassed completely the consideration of domestic arrangements, affecting
directly the individual potter and her/his cultural outlook, and then was reflected in the ceramic
assemblage. To require the mediation of change through the post-marital residence system denies the
potter, and females in general, active and direct participation in the general culture and requires all of the
creative and emotional energy that is put into ceramic design to be directly subservient to the domestic
arrangements, or if you will, subservient to the men whom, for Deetz, have gained power through a
changing social structure.

References Cited

Conkey, Margaret and Janet Spector

1984 Archaeology and the Study of Gender. In Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory , vol. 7,
edited by M. Schiffer, pp. 1-38. Academic Press, Orlando.

Deetz, James
1965 The Dynamics of Stylistic Change in Arikara Ceramics. Illinois Studies in Anthropology No. 4.
University of Illinois Press, Urbana.

Gass, Patrick
1811 Gass' Journal of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, edited by James K. Hosmer. A. C. McClurg and
Co., Chicago.

Lowie, Robert H.
1954 Indians of the Plains. Anthropological Handbook No. 1, American Museum of Natural History.
McGraw-Hill, New York.

Plog, Stephen
1980 Stylistic Variation in Prehistoric Ceramics.. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Chapter 10

Colonization and Women's Production: The Timucua

of Florida

Ruth Trocolli
University of Florida, Gainesville
This paper employs gender as a strategic variable in examining the effects of Spanish colonization on the
lives of the Timucuan peoples of Northeastern Florida. The ethnohistoric and archaeological evidence are
drawn together to provide an outline of Timucuan lifeways: the subsistence system, systems of social
organization, and the organization of production are examined. This outline provides the foundation for
highlighting the changes in these systems that resulted from Spanish interference and influence during the
16th and 17th centuries. The Spanish/Timucuan interaction sphere that is the focus of this study consists
of the households in St. Augustine composed of Spanish men and native women. This common social
alliance, the mestizaje process, incorporated the native women into the Spanish domestic sphere,
ultimately proving to be a successful adaptive strategy for both the women and the men.


The process of colonization can be viewed from many scales or levels; at the same time colonization is
international, continental, national, regional, and local. Colonization often involves violent clashes
between political, economic, ideological, and religious doctrines, justified by perceived ethnic and racial
differences. Colonization requires the domination and disenfranchisement of the indigenous peoples to
serve the interests of the colonizers (Lyon 1990:284). Domination and exploitation of native peoples was
standard practice in Spanish territories, institutionalized in practices such as reduccin, repartimiento,
encomienda, and adelantamiento (Deagan 1990b:229; Lyon 1990:283,292).
Essentially, the changes effected through colonization are a form of acculturation. However, I do not use
"acculturation" to imply directional, forced culture changes on native lifeways (Etienne and Leacock
1980:6); I envision a dynamic process or continuum that takes place over a period of time. Since more
than one culture is involved in the interactions and exchanges that are the milieu of acculturation, it is a
process that affects both the colonizer and the colonized. Along these lines, Spaniards altered their
traditions to suit the particular set of constraints that existed in colonial Florida, just as the native
Floridians responded to the Spanish presence in a variety of ways (Deagan 1990b:240).
The Spaniards altered their means for exploiting the region for profit, when they realized that mineral
wealth, which was present in other colonies, was not available in Florida (Lyon 1990:283). The alternate
strategy involved displacing the indigenous peoples, exploiting their labor and extracting surplus
production. Evangelization, carried out through the mission system, was a powerful tool for controlling
the natives' spiritual and social lives. Conversion to Catholicism was used to end intertribal warfare,
promote population aggregation, and legitimate the subordination of native to Spanish institutions
(Etienne and Leacock 1980:18; Thomas 1990:373). Corvee labor, slavery, and demands of tribute
increased the economic burdens for all Timucua, which, along with disease, resulted in a dramatic
population decline (Deagan 1978:89; Thomas 1990:373). Cultural interference by the Spaniards occurred
concurrently with epidemic diseases, undermining the native social system, and reducing their ability to
resist Spanish domination (Deagan 1985b:291-293). Finally, after 150 years of colonization, Timucuan
society was essentially wiped out (Deagan 1978:113).
The replacement of native institutions by Spanish ones profoundly affected most aspects of native
behavior, especially the social relations of production (Deagan 1985b:294). As colonization proceeded,
native status systems and achievement markers were replaced by Spanish measures of social and
economic class; the establishment of private property rights removed the tribal lands from Timucuan
control, denying them access to the means of production, and consequently, the economic means to
achieve Spanish forms of status (Etienne and Leacock 1980:16). Generally, Spanish status was dependent
upon perceived "blood purity". Those of the highest status were Spanish born peninsulares, followed by
their North American-born children (criollo); mestizos, born of Native American and Spanish parents,
were much lower in status (Shepard 1983:65-66). Native Americans and blacks were accorded the low
statuses, but ranked above slaves (Shepard 1983:65-66). Timucuan women could enhance their (and their
families') status through formal or informal liaisons with Spanish men, the mestizaje process (Deagan
1973, 1974, 1985b:306). Mestizo children would be of higher status than a Timucuan mother, but no
matter how successful economically, they could never attain quite the same status as even a poor criollo.
The documentary records contain a wide variety of descriptions of Timucuan life, but are silent about
many activities, which were not "seen" or deemed worth recording by the observers. Native women are
less prominent in the ethnohistoric documents than native men. The male European chroniclers,
predominantly interacted with native men, witnessing men's activities, in nearly all-male settings.
Comparable detailed descriptions of women's activities, production, and rituals do not exist historically,
and it is difficult to distinguish women's activities from men's archaeologically (e.g. Bolen 1988; Gero
and Conkey 1991; and especially Tringham 1991). Some aspects of domestic life and household
production are mentioned in the ethnohistoric accounts, but are not adequately described. For example,
baskets, pottery, shell cups and stone tools are shown in various LeMoyne drawings (Lorant 1946), but no
information is provided on the provenience of these items. How these items were acquired, whether
through trade, domestic production, specialized craft production, or lineage based production
organization, must be inferred. Archaeology provides what Deagan (1983:264) calls a "critical organizing
baseline" for elucidating these issues.
Defining the realm of women's production and detecting alterations in the organizational structure that
accompanies productive strategies is not easy. The goal here is not to attempt to assign gender attributions
to the various craft and productive activities (Gero and Conkey 1991:11), but to focus instead on gender
as an important organizing construct in Timucuan production (Ortner and Whitehead 1981:1), and show
how colonization altered the relations of production that were based on the complementary nature of
women's and men's productive roles. I assume that the household is the basic unit of production and of
social reproduction (Tringham 1991:101). A man and a woman form a household, performing their
respective gender roles to fulfill the subsistence and material needs of the household, and the extra-
household obligations.

The Timucua Peoples

The term "Timucua" is a linguistic designation that distinguishes the proto-historic peoples in north
Florida and southeastern Georgia (Deagan 1978; Milanich and Fairbanks 1980). The eastern Timucua
tribes discussed here were those living in the vicinity of St. Augustine along the St. John's River at the
time of the first European settlements: the Saturiwa, the Agua Dulce and the Acuera (Milanich and
Fairbanks 1980). These three groups continued the cultural traditions of the St. Johns (archaeological)
culture, which began in this area about 500 B.C. (Milanich and Fairbanks 1980:157).
In addition to a long archaeological record, a French artist, Jacques Le Moyne, reportedly recorded
many instances of everyday Timucua life in watercolors and drawings during the 1560s, providing
invaluable evidence for their native lifeways (Lorant 1946). Additional ethnohistoric descriptions for
Timucuan lifeways comes from various accounts by traders, travellers, clergy, and shipwreck victims,
among others.
The first Europeans encountered by the eastern Timucua groups were slave raiders, who periodically
canvassed the coast throughout the early 16th century, capturing natives for the Caribbean plantations
(Merritt 1983:126). The first European settlement in Florida, Ft. Caroline, was established in the vicinity
of St. Augustine in 1564, by the French (Deagan 1978:95). Extensive contact with the Spanish began in
1565, following the expulsion of the French from the area, when the settlement of St. Augustine was
established (Deagan 1978:95).

Timucua Lifeways
Timucua society was tribal in nature, organized in matrilineal, ranked clans (Milanich and Fairbanks
1980:222). The head chief always came from the Deer clan; certain civic functions were always filled by
members of specific clans. Subordinate villages had local chiefs, caciques, but paid tribute to the "great'
or "head" cacique, (Deagan 1978:95). The tribute, surplus foods or cassina leaves, was stored in a granary
in the head chief's village (Milanich and Fairbanks 1980:222). Chiefs served as the focus of redistribution
networks, and hosted periodic reciprocal feasts (Thomas 1990:364). Polygyny was practiced by the male
chiefs and other male elites. Women were at times caciques, the position inherited from their mother's
brother if a male heir was not available (e.g. Deagan 1974:12; 1978:103). The social system has been
called "caste-like" because of the presence of the ranked clan system, and the existence of limited-access
social institutions, i.e. polygyny (Deagan 1978:107). The Timucua had no concept of private property, and
their system of land tenure, was probably related to lineage (Milanich and Fairbanks 1980:226).
Warfare was common; traditional enemies, other Timucuan tribes, were opponents in ritual-laden
military activities. Curers, midwives, herbalists, and shamen, were ritually important public positions held
by both men and women. Ritual use of tobacco and cassina (Ilex vomitoria, Aiton) were common in many
situations. An infusion of parched cassina leaves, a highly caffeinated tea-like beverage, known as the
black drink, was used both as a ritual beverage and as sign of friendship or alliance (Merrill 1979:45).
Ballgames and footraces, ritualized contests, garnered status for the winner (Milanich and Fairbanks
1980:222). Each village had a ballcourt in the central plaza near the council house, the forum for political
meetings and rituals (Deagan 1985b:288). Many types of rituals were performed for specific occasions
such as marriages, hunting, initiation and inauguration of new fish weirs or traps (Milanich and Sturtevant
When cassina was used for ritual purposes, i.e. before going into battle, it was only drunk by high status
men, although it was prepared by women (Hudson 1976:130; Lorant 1946:93). This situation parallels the
use of cassina by the Creek, a confederacy of tribes from Georgia and Alabama with similar forms of
social organization. Fairbanks (1979:138) sees the exclusion of women from the cassina ritual as an
"identification of adult male status in a society otherwise strongly emphasizing female power and
authority". This explanation fits the Timucuan case well, since women in Timucua society did wield
power and authority, and did hold positions of ritual and spiritual importance.

The Timucua region is a rich and varied environment in a humid, subtropical climate (Reitz and Scarry
1985:40). The St. Johns River basin provides easy access to the inland forests, and coastal estuaries and
marshes are within a relatively short distance. The coastal lagoons, estuaries, and marshes are all
extremely prolific, providing most of the dietary plant and animal resources exploited (Larson 1980:13).
At the time of contact, the Timucua people were living a semi-sedentary lifestyle that had endured for
nearly 1,000 years (Milanich and Fairbanks 1980:157). Villages were occupied during the cultivation
season. These villages were usually circular, possibly palisaded, with a wattle and daub thatched hut for
each nuclear family (Deagan 1978:108). In the fall and winter, the villagers dispersed into smaller groups
for specialized hunting and gathering, moving about to take advantage of localized resources, such as
shellfish or nuts (Milanich and Fairbanks 1980:226). Single families or small groups of families (or
extended families) usually made temporary shelters in the same area during the winter and fall.
Archaeological evidence indicates that these small groups shared foodstuffs, especially deer, in a
reciprocal manner (Larson 1980: 224).
Agricultural products supplemented the diet, which consisted primarily of native plants, animals, fish
and shellfish (Reitz and Scarry 1985:46; Scarry and Reitz 1990). Although there is little archaeological
evidence for agriculture prior to European contact, the historic accounts vaguely allude to Timucuan
farming practices (Larson 1980:209-210). The sandy, acidic soil of the region is well drained, with a
natural fertility suitable for the swidden-type cultivation techniques likely employed by the Timucua
(Reitz and Scarry 1985:40; Larson 1980:222). The long frost-free season allows two plantings of maize a
year (Reitz and Scarry 1985:46), so it would not have been necessary to intensify agricultural production
to maintain a quality diet. Maize, beans, pumpkins, squash, and possibly sunflower were cultivated
(Scarry and Reitz 1990:347). Old fields were reused after extensive fallow, but before they were
reclaimed by the forest (Larson 1980:218-219).
All of their cultigens were suitable for drying and/or long term storage. A wide variety of the available
fruits, nuts, and acorns could be stored as well. Shellfish, meat, and fish were dried and smoked over
fires, and stored in household granaries for winter use. (Lorant 1946:83; Milanich and Fairbanks
1980:219). Early springtime could be a critical period for food availability, so the storehouses were
located near waterways for ease of access by canoe (Larson 1980:223; Lorant 1946:83).
In terms of labor costs, the Timucua lived well on minimal effort. The strategy of seasonal relocation
allowed small groups to intensively exploit remote areas during periods of potential resource scarcity. The
diet was nutritionally adequate, utilizing a wide variety of foodstuffs. Storage of seasonal surpluses, both
wild and cultivated, provided a measure of security.

Relations of Production
The deBry engravings of Le Moyne's drawings (Lorant 1946) show many activities (e.g. fishing,
sowing, shellfishing, cooking) which were done by both men and women. Men are depicted hunting with
bow and arrows using decoys (Lorant 1946: 85), and clubs (Lorant 1946: 87). Fishweirs and traps were
important means for collecting fish, but their use does not seem to be relegated to one sex or the other
(Lorant 1946:41). Men are shown smoking game and fish on racks over a fire (Lorant 1946:83). The
incident LeMoyne described where men were cooking, is probably an example of a reciprocal feast; the
caption is: "There is a time of the year when the natives feast each other. For this purpose they choose
special cooks" (Lorant 1946:91, emphasis added). This may imply that male cooks were not the norm.
Men are shown preparing the agricultural fields and the women sowing the crops (Lorant 1946:77). Food
gathering seems to have been shared by men and women. It is probable that a sexual division of labor was
applied to the collection of certain resources, but this topic has not been the focus of sustained research.
Household production was probably divided along gender lines; a man/woman union fulfilled their
respective gender related roles to materially provision a household. Cases where native widowed men
were forbidden to marry available women (by the Catholic authorities) because of perceived "incest" (e.g.
marriage to a sister-in-law) show great hardships (Hawkins 1990). Without a complementary woman
partner, one man claimed that "he would die of hunger without someone to prepare his meal as would his
children if he could not bring them food and fuel" (i.e. if he died) (Hawkins 1990:469). A balance in
productive efforts was maintained by the husband-wife team, following established gender roles.
LeMoyne and other early visitors to the Timucua described "berdaches", male transvestites and/or
"hermaphrodites" that dressed as women and had very specific tasks (Lorant 1946:69,81). Not
uncommon, berdaches were general "beasts of burden, since they are strong" (Lorant 1946:69); they
carried the dead to the burial grounds on stretchers using tumplines, and some may have been curers or
herbalists. Berdaches were also responsible for taking the produce and dried foodstuffs to the storehouse
(Lorant 1946:81). The berdaches were between genders; although most were probably males
physiologically, they transcended the gender roles of both men and women (Whitehead 1981). Berdaches
were not necessarily homosexual, although male and female homosexuality (or bisexuality) was not
uncommon (Milanich and Sturtevant 1972). The assimilation of aspects of both men's and women's
gender roles and productive activities, as well as particular chores that only they performed, indicates that
berdaches occupied a specific status niche within the community, where they were held in esteem (Hauser
LeMoyne noted some, but not all, male and female Timucuan's displaying elaborate tattoos on their
bodies (Lorant 1946). Tattoos are common throughout the Southeast, usually limited to adults who have
achieved a sufficiently elevated rank (Hudson 1976:203). Women acquired status through mechanisms
similar to those used by men, and tattoos served as a public display of their rank as well (Hauser
Unfortunately, my survey of the ethnohistoric record has not revealed the division of labor regarding
specific crafts; the realm of material culture production is only vaguely discussed. I am not surprised that
the the male Spanish and French diarists mostly recorded men's activities. Women's contributions were
probably presumed to be peripheral to the warfare/hunting/political activities of the males, the focus of
many of the descriptions. I assume that women's productive activities included craft production. Indirect
evidence for women's production of ceramics is provided by the association of aboriginal pottery types
with St. Augustine households that incorporated native women into the domestic activities (Deagan 1983:
240, 242).

Before native ways were altered through contact with Europeans, Timucuan women held prominent
positions in their society. They had access to formal political and ritual power. The matrilineal social
organization and method of reckoning chiefly succession formed a stabilizing force in the community.
Clan knowledge was transmitted through the generations; some of the transmission would have been from
mother, or mother's sister to child, along a matrilineage. Households were the primary unit of production,
and women made important contributions to the economic subsistence base, complementing men's
subsistence contributions. Most likely, women gained personal, publicly recognized status, through their
productive activities, just as the men gained (some) status through warfare or hunting. Considerable
amounts of materials were probably produced by women. The traditional Timucuan household comprised
a husband and wife producing for themselves, their children, and to meet their social obligations -
reciprocal gifts and tribute.

Colonization and Acculturation

The impacts of Spanish colonization relate directly to the demise of Timucuan society. Disease, warfare,
enslavement, evangelization, and cultural domination served to weaken and fragment the Timucuans.
Colonization is certainly a catalyst for change in indigenous societies in general, and cross-culturally,
these changes have profound effects on the relations between men and women (Etienne and Leacock
1980:22). Matrilineal societies are pushed towards patrilineality for inheritance purposes; women's
production activities are shifted to men; political power is vested solely in men; women are marginalized
in economic production; and women are subject to sexual abuse (Etienne and Leacock 1980:17-20). A
society weakened by disease and warfare may have less resistance to enforced changes in social structure,
further weakening the overall cultural solidarity.
Surviving in the New World was not an easy task for the Spanish soldier-colonizers. The environmental
conditions in Florida were unsuitable for the characteristic plant and animal foods that the Spaniards
depended upon, and the situados, shipments of supplies provided by the Spanish government for sale in
the colony, were unreliable (Reitz and Scarry 1985:47). Spanish survival required adopting native
subsistence practices in place of ecologically unsuitable Iberian practices (Reitz and Scarry 1985:92;
Scarry and Reitz 1990). The establishment of bicultural households, through marriage, concubinage and
servitude of Timucuan women (and women from other tribes as well), served to incorporate native
knowledge and production directly into the Spanish domestic sphere (Deagan 1985b:289). Ironically, the
process of mestizaje, miscegenation, served to keep alive many native traditions which were handed down
from mother to daughter (Deagan 1973:58). Eventually, a hybrid, creole culture was the result of these
interactions; the domestic/subsistence sphere was dominated by native ways (female), and the public
sector was dominated by Spanish (male) traditions (Deagan 1973:63; 1974; 1985b:305).
The evidence for cultural continuity of some Native American institutions is not surprising when other
studies on the effects of colonization on women's production are considered. Etienne and Leacock (1980)
bring together a series of studies focusing on the effects of colonization on the relations of production.
These cross-cultural examples demonstrate how shifts in gender relations result in the loss of status,
power, autonomy, and rights of women, due to imposition of the often male-dominated cultural
institutions of the colonizers-- the Spaniards for example (Etienne and Leacock 1980; Silverblatt
1980:160-161). Women's work is often devalued, or in cases where it is economically important or
valuable, the production is transferred to the men (Nash 1980:136). However, women are not passive
victims in the face of colonization. Various methods of female resistance such as subversion, self-exile,
collective struggle, defiance, economic competition, and compromise, often proved successful in gaining
at least a temporary advantage, reaffirming the individual's ability to influence her destiny, and reducing
the loss of personal power (Etienne and Leacock 1980:17; Sweet and Nash 1981).
The Spanish ideal of economically dependent women was transplanted to Florida and was the focus of
the transformation of production relations. The "colonizers addressed their demands and their technical
innovations to men" (Etienne and Leacock 1980:19), excluding women from economic relationships
which were formerly their prerogative. The patriarchal Spanish colonial system attempted to divorce
women's domestic production from the public, social, ritual and "economic", spheres of activity, which
are male dominated in traditional Spanish society (Deagan 1985b:305; Nash 1985:144). While in some
ways the subjugation of women was successful in Florida, native women continued to effect cultural
continuity, through social reproduction. For example, women taught their mestizo children Timucuan
ceramic technology and subsistence practices. The process of social reproduction significantly influenced
the course of Spanish-native relations and the form of the evolving hybrid "Hispanic" culture (Deagan
1983:271; 1985a). A significant portion of the population of St. Augustine was mestizo by the end of the
first Spanish period, and they owned about 20% of the house lots within the town walls in 1763 (Deagan

Social Changes
During the earliest period of settlement, until about 1600, the missions were the most widespread forum
for interaction between the Timucua and the Spaniards. Women however, were being incorporated into
town life through marriage or concubinage to the Spanish soldiers, for there were very few Spanish
women present in Florida (Deagan 1973, 1974, 1983:103). Through time, the missions became more
important as an intermediary between the secular demands of the Spanish bureaucracy, and the natives
who were required to pay tribute, taxes, and labor (Thomas 1990:387-389).
Early on, the power of the caciques was recognized as a key to peaceful relations with the Indians. If
the caciques could be converted to Christianity, then the masses would follow (sic). The native clan
hierarchies were incorporated into the structure of the power relations by the Spaniards, being similar to
their own hierarchical status system (Deagan 1985b:299). Once the natives were baptized, they were
subject to fulfilling their religious obligations, following the established doctrines. The 1613
Confesionario, written in Timucuan and Spanish, is a series of questions meant to be addressed to natives
during confession, to test their practice of Catholicism as it was then defined (Milanich and Sturtevant
1972). The questions were based on observed behaviors that were considered sinful, e.g. abortion,
geophagy, belief in magic, rituals, omens, polygyny, adultery, pre-marital sex, animal sacrifice, and so on.
From the inside out, the Church was instrumental in changing Timucuan ways, initially those concerned
with ritual beliefs and behavior. The social and subsistence systems took longer to become "acculturated".
The matrilineal descent system of the Timucuans confused and troubled the Spaniards, and they
gradually enforced patrilineal reckoning in place of "infidel inheritance patterns" (Deagan 1978:103).
After the first generation of native children grew up Catholic, they began to alter their inheritance pattern
to conform with the "holy father-to-son" model (Deagan 1974:12). Women however, were still chosen
cacique despite the initial change. Overt resistance was sporadic but did occur; the 1597 Guale uprising,
in southeastern Georgia, was a backlash against Spanish interference in traditional inheritance patterns
(Deagan 1978:103).
The process of mestizaje started from the first contact between Spaniards and Indians. Marriage
between cacique's daughters and important Spaniards was looked upon as a method of pacification of the
chiefs (Deagan 1990b:229-230). Obviously, the Spaniards did not yet understand the matrilineal descent
system; the Spaniard thought that marrying a chief's daughter he would be aligned with the chief. Instead,
he was marrying into the daughter's mother's lineage, a clan of a different status. However, as the soldiers
stationed in St. Augustine took Indian wives, mestizaje increasingly influenced Spanish lifeways. The
practice grew through time, along with city's population, and as the mestizos themselves began to set up
Archaeological evidence from mestizo, criollo, Spanish and native deposits demonstrates that there
were material differences between households of each status. The criollo households had the fewest
aboriginal ceramics and food remains, adhering to Spanish ways as much as possible (Deagan 1983; Reitz
and Scarry 1985). The mestizo and bicultural households were dominated by aboriginal ceramics used for
food preparation, and non-aboriginal ceramics used for serving, as well as a high proportion of aboriginal-
type subsistence remains (Deagan 1983; Merritt 1983). The bicultural household was dominated by
Spanish architectural elements, and military objects. Mestizo households had fewer goods of Hispanic
origin than either the bicultural or criollo households (Deagan 1983:124). "This pattern of incorporation
of native traits in non-socially visible areas, particularly women's activities, coupled with the maintenance
of Spanish social identification in socially visible areas, has been documented as highly characteristic of
the Spaniard's early colonial adaptive strategy" (Deagan 1990a:308), both in Florida and the Caribbean.


In St. Augustine, Indian and mestizo women were relegated to the realm of domestic responsibilities:
raising the animal and food crops necessary for survival, gathering or procuring wild foods, and
producing utilitarian ceramic forms. Native women lost the public realm of their production and
consequently, of their status. However, because they made such fundamental contributions to urban
households, they were even more important to social reproduction, but their contributions were no longer
publicly acknowledged. Native men were marginalized even more than women, but were outside the
mainstream of the male/female interactive network that characterized the urban mestizaje process.
Women continued to transmit elements of their cultural heritage to their offspring. "Even in the face of
disruption, depopulation, relocation, forced contacts with other Indian groups, as well as new social,
religious, and economic

structures, cultural information about the making ... of pots continued ... unaltered for over 200 years"
(Deagan 1990a:308). This transmission demonstrates the resiliency and adaptiveness of both the
Spaniards and the native women; the women effected (some) cultural continuity within a limited sphere
of power, while the Spaniards needed the women's contributions for survival.
Colonization served to change the mode of production, the traditional relations of production, and the
products as well. These changes profoundly affected Timucuan society, which was in a downward spiral
due to population attrition. Neither male nor female productive activities were spared from the pervasive
effects of Spanish colonial policies.

References Cited

Bolen, Kathleen M.
1988 Women, Gender, and Prehistory: A Feminist Approach to the Linear Pottery Culture. Master's thesis,
University of South Carolina, Columbia.

Deagan, Kathleen
1973 Mestizaje in Colonial St. Augustine. Ethnohistory 20:55-65.

1974 Sex, Status and Role in the Mestizaje of Spanish Colonial Florida. Ph.D. dissertation, University of
Florida, Gainesville.
1978 Cultures in Transition: Fusion and Assimilation Among the Eastern Timucua. In Tacachale, edited
by J.T. Milanich and S. Proctor, pp. 89-119. University of Florida Press, Gainesville.

1983 (editor) Spanish St. Augustine: The Archaeology of a Colonial Creole Community. Academic Press,
New York.

1985a Spanish Colonial Archaeology in the Southeast and the Caribbean. In Comparative Studies in the
Archaeology of Colonialism, edited by Stephen L. Dyson, pp. 77-92. British Archaeological Reports
International Series 233.

1985b Spanish-Indian Interaction in Sixteenth-Century Florida and Hispaniola. In Cultures in Contact,

edited by W.W. Fitzhugh, pp. 281-318. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

1990a Accommodation and Resistance: The Process and Impact of Spanish Colonization in the Southeast.
In Columbian ConsequencesVolume 2 Archaeological Perspectives on the Spanish Borderlands East,
edited by D.H. Thomas, pp. 297-314. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

1990b Sixteenth-Century Spanish-American Colonization in the Southeastern United States and the
Caribbean. In Columbian Consequences Volume 2, Archaeological Perspectives on the Spanish
Borderlands East, edited by D.H. Thomas, pp. 225-250. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

Etienne, Mona and Eleanor Leacock

1980 Introduction. In Women and Colonization: Anthropological Perspectives, edited by M. Etienne and
E. Leacock, pp. 1-24. Praeger, New York.

Fairbanks, Charles H.
1979 The Function of the Black Drink Among the Creeks. In Black Drink: A Native American Tea, edited
by C.H. Hudson, pp. 120-149. University of Georgia Press, Athens.

Gero, Joan M. and Margaret W. Conkey

1991 Tensions, Pluralities, and Engendering Archaeology: An Introduction to Women in Prehistory. In
Engendering Archaeology: Women and Prehistory, edited by J.M. Gero and M.W. Conkey, pp. 3-30. Basil
Blackwell, Oxford.

Hauser, Raymond E.
1990 The Berdache and the Illinois Indian Tribe during the Last Half of the Seventeenth Century.
Ethnohistory 37(1):45-65.

Hawkins, Conrad, O.F.M.

1990 On Franciscans, Archaeology and Old Missions. In Columbian Consequences Volume 2,
Archaeological Perspectives on the Spanish Borderlands East, edited by D.H. Thomas, pp. 459- 473.
Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

Hudson, Charles
1976 The Southeastern Indians. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.

Larson, Lewis H.
1980 Aboriginal Subsistence Technology on the Southeastern Coastal Plain during the Late Prehistoric
Period. University of Florida Press, Gainesville.

Lorant, Stefan
1946 The New World. Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York.

Lyon, Eugene
1990 The Enterprise of Florida. In Columbian Consequences Volume 2, Archaeological Perspectives on
the Spanish Borderlands East, edited by D.H. Thomas, pp. 281-296. Smithsonian Institution Press,
Washington, D.C.
Merrill, William L.
1979 The Beloved Tree: Ilex vomitoria Among the Indians of the Southeast and Adjacent Regions. In
Black Drink: A Native American Tea, edited by C.H. Hudson, pp. 40-82. University of Georgia Press,

Merritt, J. Donald
1983 Beyond the Town Walls: The Indian Element in St. Augustine. In Spanish St. Augustine: The
Archaeology of a Colonial Creole Community, edited by Kathleen Deagan, pp. 125-147. Academic Press,
New York.

Milanich, Jerald T. and Charles H. Fairbanks

1980 Florida Archaeology. Academic Press, New York.

Milanich, Jerald T. and William C. Sturtevant

1972 Francisco Pereja's 1613 Confesionario: A Documentary Source for Timucuan Ethnography.
Division of Archives, History, and Records Management, Florida Department of State, Tallahassee.

Nash, June
1980 Aztec Women: The Transition from Status to Class in Empire and Colony. In Women and
Colonization, edited by Mona Etienne and Eleanor Leacock, pp. 134-148. Praeger, New York.

Ortner, Sherry B. and Harriet Whitehead

1981 Introduction: Accounting for Sexual Meaning. In Sexual Meanings: The Cultural Construction of
Gender, edited by S.B. Ortner and H. Whitehead, pp. 1-27. Cambridge University Press, N.Y.

Reitz, Elizabeth J. and C. Margaret Scarry

1985 Reconstructing Historic Subsistence with an Example from Sixteenth-Century Spanish Florida.
Society for Historical Archaeology Special Publication Series, Number 3.

Scarry, C. Margaret and E. J. Reitz

1990 Herbs, Fish, Scum, and Vermin: Subsistence Strategies in Sixteenth-Century Spanish Florida. In
Columbian Consequences Volume 2, Archaeological Perspectives on the Spanish Borderlands East,
edited by D.H. Thomas, pp. 343-354. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

Shepard, Steven J.
1983 The Spanish Criollo Majority in Colonial St. Augustine. In Spanish St. Augustine: The Archaeology
of a Colonial Creole Community, edited by Kathleen Deagan, pp. 65-97. Academic Press, New York.

Silverblatt, Irene
1980 "The Universe Has Turned Inside Out... There is No Justice for Us Here": Andean Women Under
Spanish Rule. In Women and Colonization, edited by Mona Etienne and Eleanor Leacock, pp.149-185.
Praeger, New York.

Sweet, David G. and Gary B. Nash

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Gary B. Nash, pp. 1-13. University of California, Berkeley.

Thomas, David H.
1990 The Spanish Missions of La Florida: An Overview. In Columbian Consequences Volume 2,
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Smithsonian Institution Press,Washington, D.C.

Tringham, Ruth
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Basil Blackwell, Oxford.
Whitehead, Harriet
1981 The Bow and the Burden Strap: A New Look at Institutionalized Homosexuality in Native North
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H.Whitehead, pp. 80-115. Cambridge University Press, New York.
Chapter 11

Social Differentiation Down On the Farm

Linda France Stine
University of South Carolina, Columbia


Gender, race, class, and status are interrelated, both as social categories of analysis and as negotiated
aspects of human social life. This paper discusses their direct and tangential affects on the agrarian
material record, using data from ethnoarchaeological investigations in the community of Harmony, North
Carolina, at the foothills of the Brushy Mountains.
As an historical archaeologist, I deal with artifact assemblages, features, sites, communities, and
regions. I also investigate documents, standing structures, and cemeteries, and frequently conduct oral
interviews. As an anthropologist, I am interested in exploring issues of social differentiation and
inequality across time and space. As such I need to investigate the structural and relational interplay
between social differentiations such as race, gender, and class. Generated archaeological data can be
related to social action and institutions. This can be accomplished by using a landscape approach.
Landscape serves as an organizing perspective. It helps to integrate three great variables of archaeology:
time, space, and form. A landscape approach concerns human and land connections, and their
transformations over time and space. An individual's knowledge of her environment is created by
culturally-shaped perceptions of the natural world; it is joined to individual preferences and abilities. As a
result, individuals interact with the natural and social environments in culturally informed ways.
Grounding archaeological research within a landscape perspective allows for integration of data
concerning dynamic physiographic and and social structures and their processual relations (Butzer 1982,
Crumley and Marquardt 1987). In Meentemeyer and Box's words, "A landscape may appear to be
heterogeneous at one scale but quite homogeneous at another..." (1987:15). Both physical and social
space may change over time, and such changes are often visible in the archaeological record.

Theoretical Overview
Social differentiation is common to most facets of human social life. Social stratification, the
"systematic ranking of categories of people, especially in their access to livelihood and power" is,
according to Berreman (1981:4), both "pernicious" and "pervasive". Categories become imbued with
specific, negotiated cultural meanings, and as such, become powerful forces in social life. These
meanings are embedded within specific historical contexts, and are subject to the dynamics of change.
According to researchers such as Lloyd Fallers (1973) and Michelle Rosaldo (1980:396) social
differentiation often takes the form of asymmetrical relationships, or relations of social inequality (Fallers
1973; Berreman 1981).
Fallers (1973) points out that social inequality is both a moral and a structural phenomenon; Berreman
(1981:4) adds that such inequalities have behavioral, existential, and material aspects as well. Categories
of race, ethnicity, class, status, age, and gender are interrelated, conjoined in issues of social inequality.
As so aptly demonstrated by Andre Beteille (1981), human variation is not somehow "naturally"
vertically ranked. There are no natural categories of social inequality; human beings create certain
categories and call them natural to justify differential access to various resources.
As Rosaldo has stated, we often think of gender, for example, as "the creation of biologically based
differences which oppose women and men, instead of as the product of social relationships in concrete
(and changeable) societies" (1980:393). In 1976, Kelly-Gadol stated that "the relation between the sexes
is a social and not a natural one" (1976:809-810). Barbara Fields (1990) has demonstrated that the
commonly held idea that race is based on "natural" biological differences underlines the pervasiveness of
social inequality in our own society .
I and others argue that we can not understand issues of social inequality without looking at the
interrelationship of variables, moving away from isolated studies of a single component (Stine 1990).
Rosaldo writes that researchers " to probe the systematic ways that personal facts, like gender, are in
all societies bound up with other forms of social inequality" (1987:289). Gender relations, for example,
permeate all other social relations. In Flax's words "the experience of gender relations for any person and
the structure of gender as a social category are shaped by the interactions of gender...and other social
relations such as class and race. Gender relations thus have no fixed essence; they vary both within and
over time" (1987:624).
The present study of a North Carolina community examines gender relations and some other forms of
social differentiation related to agrarian life from about 1900 to 1940. Data is drawn from oral histories,
architectural studies, documentary research, and archaeological investigations. The focus of research is
Harmony, a small cross-roads community of rolling red clay hills. In particular, two farmsteads were
surveyed and tested. These farmsteads, that of the Nichols, an African-American family, and the Stines,
Euroamericans, share a border. Both families had from six to eight family members at any particular point
in time. Members of these families owned their own homes, having climbed the agricultural ladder from
tenant to small farm owner. Nonetheless, both were often cash poor.
The Stines and the Nichols were from the same relative class stratum. Their status stratum in the
community was similar. Most members of both families are discussed with much respect by various
community members (Stine 1990).
Through a series of interviews, it appears that racism was not explicit in the immediate study
neighborhood. In fact, a sense of community appears to have cross-cut race. Families such as the Nichols
and the Stines were engaged in reciprocal labor exchange. They depended upon each other to plant, weed,
and harvest their subsistence and cotton cash crops. The women tended to help each other with household
related labor, the men, with field labor. The children were expected to help anyone who needed it (Stine
1989; see related discussions in Cleland 1983:42, and Waldbauer 1986).
However, one should never forget that racism was present, if much more muted than anticipated.
Reciprocal labor and reciprocal social interactions were permeated by a sense of what should be, as
opposed to what was. For example, Ms. Emma Nichols would come over to Ms. Essie Stines for lunch
occasionally. She would help cook in the kitchen, and would always indicate that she would eat there,
instead of in the dining room with the Stines. Every time this happened, Essie would say "Lands sake no,
Ms. Emma, you eat right here with us in the dining room" or something to that effect (interview with
Margaret Prekler, in Stine 1989). At a Stine family wedding, overflow kin were asked to stay with the
Nichols next door. They were assured that the Nichols' house was "cleaner than their own". In fact,
standards of being a good neighbor, of cleanliness, and of being good, moral citizens- all aspects of status
stratum- appear to cross-cut some affects of racial differentiation in the study area (Stine 1989, 1990).
If one thinks of race as more of an imposed category, and ethnicity as a chosen category (see Berreman
1981), then certain material correlates to ethnicity should be visible and appropriate for study. For
example, both the Nichols and the Stines were amazed at the physical abilities of Ms. Lizzie, who came to
the Stine place every day to collect three buckets of water. She would carry two in her hands, and one on
her head. Her husband was the local well digger, and was slow in digging her a well of her own. Her
abilities were linked to her African heritage by both the Stines and Nichols family members (interview
with Kenneth Stine and Curt Nichols, in Stine 1989).
When compared, artifact classes and functional groups (South 1977) from the two archaeological sites
were not too different. Statistical tests of association demonstrated that chance could just as easily
account for the range of goods found as could ethnic differences. The ceramic sherds from the two farms
were significantly related using a Chi-square test of association at the 0.05 level (x2=52.82, d.f.4). The
Stine assemblage contained more plain whiteware sherds. Flowerpots and stonewares dominated the
Nichols assemblage. The whitewares from the Nichols site were more often decorated, the Stines
preferred decorated porcelains. Comparison of artifacts by minimum vessel counts did not yield a similar
result, indicating that a differential sherd breakage rate may account better for the relationship than a
cultural variable such as ethnicity. In fact, it appears that their shared access to economic resources or
their similar class influenced their artifact choices more than factors of gender or ethnicity (see
discussions in Stine 1989 and 1990).
In a comparison of the standing structures at the two farmsteads, few differences were noted in material
culture. The Stines lived in an I-house, the Nicholses in a hall-and-parlor house. The houses are almost
mirror images. Each house had two porches, one front, one side. These structures were initially built
facing the road. These ballon-framed structures were similar in design. They have a central hall balanced
by two rooms on either side. The Nichols appear to have invested slightly more money and energy in
ornamenting the interior of their house. The Stine house was much plainer inside, and was larger in
overall floor space. Perhaps the Nichols felt obliged to keep a lower profile in terms of conspicuous
consumption. An ornate interior may have been one form of resistance to social inequality (pers. com.
Dee Dee Joyce, 1991). Nate Shaw, an Alabama sharecropper and small farm owner from this period,
mentions that one African-American was told he could not build his house right on the road like a white
man (Rosengarten 1982).
Turning to a regional analysis, the material culture of Harmony and environs was varied, but the range
of house types was not large (Little-Stokes 1978). Houses, outbuildings, stores, mills, and other features
of the landscape occasionally represented social and sometimes economic differentiation. Farmstead
facades would not help an outsider predict a family's wealth, social status, or ethnic background. Having a
single, as opposed to a double-, story home does not seem to have suggested lesser status or class
position. Having unkept homes, yard, and fields, however, did help neighbors stratify others into lower
positions on the social scale (Hagood 1977:86, 148; Daniel 1985:67; Stine 1990).
Institutional architecture in the community did differ. The local A.M.E. churchyard and cemetery were
very different in appearance than the local white Methodist cemetery and yard. The black cemetery was
much less regimented looking, with fewer permanent markers, less grass on the graves, and more planted
flowers, trees, and shrubs. The white cemetery was highly groomed, clipped, and ordered. This may
indicate differing ethnic perceptions of the afterlife (pers. com. Cynthia Connor 1989; Stine 1989).
Racial inequality, not just differences, may be seen in a comparison of the public schools.
Institutionalized school architecture appears to have symbolized differential access to funds. The small
African-American school (now a residence) was a simple frame building, one story. The Euroamerican
school (destroyed) was a complex consisting of a large brick building and associated specialty structures
of wood (Stine 1989, 1990).
Institutional architecture serves as a material symbol of certain aspects of ideology, such as racism.
Schools also serve as places where students enter a specific institutionalized social landscape. The
Victorian ideology concerning the Cult of True Womanhood, Angel in the House, and/or separate public
and private spheres (Welter 1973), was promulgated at state schools such as Harmony High.
Susan Archer Mann (1987) writes that southern schools first introduced the cult of domesticity in home
economic classes in the 1880s and 1890s. Thus African-American women were not only being prepared
for factory, assembly-line labor like other public school students, they also were being trained for "fitting"
work as house and kitchen maids (Mann 1987:26; see also Jones 1985).
The nineteenth century doctrinal version implies that feminine labor was rightfully subordinate to an
ultimately masculine rule. As women's household labor became devalued in inverse relation to their wage
earning counterparts, the rhetoric of the Cult of True Womanhood was non-parelled (Hume and Offen
1981:264-278; McMurry 1988:97-98). By the turn of the century, Progressives had developed a doctrine
of Separate but Equal spheres of gender labor. The literature of the time is full of farm women railing
against the drudgery of their work and society's lack of appreciation. Increased mechanization in fields
helped save some labor for outside (read men's) work, but little was done to improve inside (read
women's) work. Progressives launched a series of reforms aimed at modernizing farm, field, and
household practices (McMurry 1988; Marti 1984; Richards 1912; Sturgis 1986).
The separation of labor based on separate spheres was institutionalized in the developing American land-
grant colleges and other public schools. For women, they developed programs in Home Economics, for
the men, Agricultural Science (e.g. Daniel 1985, Marti 1984, Sturgis 1986). Even Agricultural Extension
Office literature illustrates this dichotimization of roles, with women pictured dusting or canning inside,
while men are shown laboring in the fields (Bailey 1912, McMurry 1988).
What happened when a woman wanted to buck the system and take agricultural coursework?
At Harmony High in the 1920s, Margaret Prekler excelled in all her classes. She was still not allowed to
take science, being forced to stick to Home Economics (interview 5/27/87, in Stine 1989).
The annual round of farm-related labor was undertaken by all household members. During times of
more intensive work needs, families often called upon their immediate neighbors and/or close kin for
help. Rural farm families usually carried a workload ranging from 11 to 14 hours per day. They labored in
the fields and the house. They also had to keep buildings, tack, and other assorted equipment in constant
repair (Ginns 1977:51, Jensen 1981:162, Vanek 1980:424).
Household members in agrarian families do appear to have shared a certain perception of appropriate
gender labor. Adult men were seen as being in control of the labor and decisions related to field crops.
Decisions and work related to the house were more often relegated to women. Age of the family member
was also taken into account, with the very young working with their mothers, regardless of gender. Older
children were primarily field helpers, although a young women would be more likely to help her mother
in household tasks as needed. Women were in charge of the nearby kitchen garden. Women and children
were also responsible for tending livestock, although men occasionally took over the care of larger stock
(Hagood 1977:42, 58, 86, 87, 159; Jones 1985:80; Mann 1987).
Hagood studied area rural tenant women in 1939. She found that "Patriarchy prevails in form, but not
always in practice" (Hagood 1977/1939:163). The shared or ideal perception of the appropriate division
of labor by gender was often overlooked in practice. Many women refused to do most of the cooking or
sewing, many of their husbands enjoyed those activities.
Some farm women loved field work, preferring it to household labor. This was true regardless of
economic status or ethnic background in North Carolina. (Ethnicity played a vital role in Canadian
farmstead labor- with English women tending to prefer indoor labor, following their cultural ideal.
Women of Eastern European and Native American origin often scorned them as "weaklings". The
"genteel" farm wife, in turn, scorned those "peasant" laborers (Cheney 1989)). Hagood found that over
7/8s of Virginia and North Carolina piedmont tenant women "prefer field work to housework, and were
prouder of their prowess in the field and in the tobacco shed than in the kitchen" (1977:vi). Hagood's
informants (1939) often stated that they were secretly proud that each could labor "like a man" (Hagood
Appellations such as "tomboy" or "mannish" were not uncommon for those women who preferred to
labor outdoors. Many women would call themselves "mannish" (Abbot 1983:43, 155 Thomas 1981:intro).
In Harmony in the early decades of this century, Margaret Prekler was often called a tomboy. She was
nicknamed "Tommy" for playing at "boy games"; the name still slips out occasionally, sixty -odd years
later (Stine 1989).
The division of labor by gender on the farms is described in the literature (e.g. Hagood 1977; McMurry
1988). It is also seen in the actual physical structure of farmsteads. Humbka (1984:151) states that the
typical New England farmstead reflects this division. The feminine sphere is centered on the main house
and related yards, the masculine on the fields and related dependencies. These areas are spatially
separated (Loyd 1982; see also Bailey 1912). The garden, ells, and yards lying between the barn and
house are areas of mutual interaction, mediating the dichotomy between house and barn.
The artifactual patterns at the Nichols and Stine farmsteads do not support this model, at least revealed
through archaeology. In fact, there was no real significant patterning of the data (Stine 1989). However,
when looked at at the scale of structures and extant material culture, a division of activity areas can be
seen. There is some overlap: a few agricultural items are stored in the houses at present, a few household
items in the granaries. However, overall, household goods are used most often in the house, barnyard
items in the barns. Artifacts in themselves do not seem to be simple markers of activities related to
ethnicity or to gender.
Broader patterns of features can sometimes be correlated with social actions. For example, soap making
was an integral part of farm life. It was perceived to be a female task, although husbands and children
often helped (Hubka 1984:150). At the Nichols farm, archaeological and documentary evidence for this
activity was uncovered. The dark staining and layering of ash from soap-making activities was clearly
evident in the red North Carolina clay. This was later confirmed as the site of the Nichols family soap
production by a Nichols family member (see Stine 1989).
Margaret Prekler Stine and her sister Betty had to not only work in the fields, but the barns, the garden,
the orchard, the henhouse, and in the house as well. Their brothers only had to work outdoors. Both
sisters still do not think that was fair. The Nichols divided their labor along similar lines (Stine 1989).
The Stines have a picture of their mother dressed in overalls and slouch hat. On the back she has
poignantly written "see how ugly I am" because she has on male clothes. However, she had to work in the
fields whenever her labor was needed and should not have been ashamed of wearing serviceable clothing.
But she was (Stine 1989). This and the consistent description of being "mannish" for wanting to work
outside indicates that even poorer agrarian women held to a version of the ideal of true womanhood. The
exigencies of farm life meant that they often had to labor outdoors, even if such was supposedly frowned
upon. Many held the ideal, even when these women really preferred working with their families outside.
Nate Shaw (Rosengarten 1984) states that his mother and siblings would have to labor in their
croplands without their father's help. His father tended to go hunting about every day. He says he can see
her with her dress "rolled up nearly to her knees, just so she could have a clear stroke walkin'. Pushed up
and rolled up around her waist and a string tied around it and her dress would bunch up around her hips"
(Rosengarten 1984:121). Shaw felt his mother was sorely abused. He never wanted his wife to help in the
fields and he also helped her with the housework (Rosengarten 1984:121).
These data show that researchers should initially keep questions about gender attribution
epistemologically separate from questions about actual behavior. The relationship of ideological notions
of gender and actual social actions could then be compared, as in the present case.
For example, Schlegel describes how the Hopi seem to have multiscalar meanings of gender. The first is
very abstract and general, or idealized; the second is specific, "the definition of gender according to a
particular location in the social structure or within a particular field of action" (1990:24). These specific
and general meanings sometimes support, sometimes contradict one another. They are mediated at various
levels and using differing means. For instance, at the household, clan, and village-wide levels gender
relations have different tones and effects.
Archaeologists should be able to find correlates of ideology in the manipulation of material symbols
across the landscape. These symbols should be evident at the scale of artifact, feature, site, community,
and region. In the present study, gender and racial ideology is visible in the daily interactions of the
participants. Material evidence for those ideals is not very obvious until one shifts scale to the community
and region, looking at institutionalized architecture such as found in schools and churchyards. Notions of
separate but equal gender spheres can be seen at the regional level as well: in the curriculum of the
schools, and in the literature and art of the period. At the level of the farmstead, household structures have
been physically separated from barnyard dependencies, visually evident to the archaeologist. It has been
shown, however, that specifically, at the scale of individual actions, farmers interpreted cultural ideas and
suited them to their own needs and desires.
Studies of gender, race, and other variables of social inequality indicate that interpreting artifact
patterning in light of normative activities is a chancey undertaking, and perhaps a sterile one. It would be
more appropriate to concentrate on the relationship of ideology to the variable activities and institutions.
Of course, it is much more difficult an undertaking.
In summation, material culture studies can add to our understanding of social differentiation by
broadening the dimensions of time and space. Exploring the relationship of material culture to activities
and ideology is a fruitful avenue of research. As such, archaeologists should be able to contribute to the
debate on issues of social inequality.

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