Home > Areas of Specialisation > Gender Archaeology

Gender Archaeology

By: Grahame Johnston - Updated: 17 Oct 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Gender Archaeology Ancient Societies Men

Gender archaeology is a sub-discipline investigative method of studying ancient societies through close examination of the roles played by men and women as exhibited in the archaeological record of the past.

Examining the Differences

Gender archaeologists study the relative vocational positions social status, and recognition of men and women by identifying and examining the differences in authority and power that they held according to the material remains of their society.

Such differences, if any, require subjective interpretation and are often open to wide debate, as the archaeological record cannot speak more clearly than simply to supply relative artefacts that have survived through the ages.

Gender relationship and study can inform us about the relationships of other social groups such as class distinction, politics, families, religious orders, and the military.

Interpretation of Gender Data

Gender archaeology injects new questioning into philosophical archaeology and promotes a focussed awareness of the importance of valid interpretation of data as well as causing a revision of existing data. Through challenging the commonly held but preconceived ideas about how men and women inter-related in the past, this sub-discipline demands evidence instead of assertions. Gender archaeologists force us to cease attempting to reconstruct the past interactions of men and women by overlaying the ancient archaeological record with a 21st century template.

The benefits to anthropology generally are in the areas where researchers can learn more about gender roles, gender ideology, and gender relationships.

Ancient Korean Burial Tombs

Gender identification is often difficult, as the biological remains have usually perished long beyond recognition. A Korean archaeological expedition at Silla, in the country’s south, discovered numerous tomb mounds that proved difficult to sex. Identification of the sex of the deceased person was not easy because the burial chambers were on the ground or below ground level allowing moisture to rapidly deteriorate the organic materials.

Added to the complication was that no written inscriptions were present on any tomb that may have provided a gender related name to the inhabitant. When the burial artefacts were studied they showed no gender differences. All of the bodies indicated that they had worn jade and gold earrings, bracelets, toe rings, and necklaces. If interpreted through the dress code of modern society it would lead to the conclusion that all burials were of women.

Who Wields the Sword?

However, it was noticed that in one half of the burials, one or more swords lay beside the remains. Are those with a sword, men? Or were women also warriors? Does a sword mean a warrior? These are the questions that the gender archaeologist seeks to answer in order to better understand gender issues.

Who Ruled the Roost?

Two apparently noble people have been discovered in a large double tomb at the same burial location in what has been labelled Tomb 98. A double burial usually implies a husband and wife. The man, thought to be a nobleman or even a King, was buried in the southern section along with many swords and extensive weaponry. However, in the adjoining northern area the woman had been buried with an array of spectacular crowns and golden belts.

These finds open up the discussion of the role of women in past society. The gender archaeologist is introducing an improvement that refines artefact interpretation. They seek to improve archaeological methodology and in doing so assist us to arrive at a more balanced consideration of the roles, relationships, and beliefs of ancient men and women.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
The article "archaeology and the study of gender" by Margaret W. Conkey and Janet D. Spector is a marvellous read on the theme of gender in archaeology.
SimSam - 17-Oct-17 @ 10:04 PM
I have found this information relevant to me as a student of History,im looking forward to study archaeology in future because iam finding pleasure in it.Im a student at Kenyatta University-Kenya.I will appreciate more if you assist me to understand more about Gender in Archaeology.THANKS IN ADVANCE.SHALOM.
mercenary - 20-Mar-14 @ 8:38 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Bigl80
    Re: Pottery Experts
    I am wondering about this piece of pottery that I found on the ocean floor
    10 June 2019
  • Golflinks
    Re: Pottery Experts
    I found a large part of an old reddish clay flower pot under the original 9th golf green at the world's oldest golf course. during reconstruction,…
    30 May 2019
  • Rubee
    Re: Pottery Experts
    I’ve recently inherited a plate, it’s age 1865 thats been worked out through the stamp on the back however it has the ‘makers’ stamp THE RAOLIN…
    25 May 2019
  • Majid
    Re: Stone Tool Experts
    Sir i have alot of stone in my village every stone has good symbols.i want your help about that and also i have pic of the antimaps on rocks
    20 May 2019
  • Holly
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    Hi, I am currently studying for my A-Levels and plan to study archaeology at university. I am looking for summer work experience…
    18 May 2019
  • Curiosity
    Re: Pottery Experts
    I have an earthenware plate, blue and white, flowers and leaves round rim, no markings, has spiderings throughout and a few imperfections in the…
    18 May 2019
  • tri
    Re: The Megalithic Sites of Carnac
    Carnac, - (Karnak ?) - rays of Sun, or movements of the Moon, centred on one underground point. Ancient Technology ? Ancient…
    10 May 2019
  • Ani
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    I am currently a student in archaeology, but i am study througj distance learning. Thus i would love the oppertunity to get dirty…
    8 May 2019
  • Zoof
    Re: Be a Volunteer Archaeologist
    I would love the opportunity to help out in Pompeii. I have been involved in the building industry for over 35 years. Tony
    6 May 2019
  • JesseM
    Re: Stone Tool Experts
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/6GZBo4BAzwSwrdEK9 Hopefully this allows a picture to be seen. Sorry for the inconvenience
    5 May 2019