by Katharina Rebay-Salisbury (Katharina.Rebay-Salisbury@oeaw.ac.at) and Peter Ramsl (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The workshop ‘Multiple femininities – multiple masculinities ’, organised on 29-30 September 2016 in Klement, Austria, reviewed gendered social roles, their conceptualisations, and how they are attributed to later prehistoric people. The archaeology of personal identities has firmly established age, gender and status as relevant categories of investigation. Beyond the recognition that not all women and men led identical lives, however, there has been little effort to unravel the diversity of gendered lives.
In this workshop, over twenty participants brainstormed for common as well as unusual social roles in prehistory to reconstruct the variability of gendered lifecycles in the Bronze and Iron Ages. In addition, we explored methods of investigating the skeletal, burial and settlement record that aid in understanding the diversity of gendered identities.
Katharina Rebay-Salisbury and Peter C. Ramsl introduced the topic with a review of the archaeology of gendered identities in recent years. Moving on from analysing sex and gender and their dissonances to an investigation of how femininity and masculinity were constructed in the past, the paper evaluated the usefulness of recent theoretical advances in ethnicity research (Fernández-Götz 2013) for gender archaeology. Further, we discussed how we may best research the intersections of gender (Arnold 2016) with other categories of identity such as age and status.
In her paper ‘LGBTQQIA identification in archaeology: an eight-letter riddle’ Estella Weiss-Krejci clarified some misconceptions about the difference between sex and sexual identities, and gave an overview on how modern western people base some of their identity on preferred modes of sexuality. She stressed, however, that in pre-industrial societies, identity is not normally based on sexuality, even if alternatives to the heterosexual model exist (Halperin 1993; Epple 1998). In line with Butler (1988) and Fauso Sterling (2005), she also argued that sex is as much a culturally constructed category as gender and that sex is probably better understood in terms of a spectrum than two binary categories. It is estimated that one person in 100 has some sort of intersex condition, where chromosomal sex characterization contradicts gonadic or genital sex identification (Ainsworth 2015).
Katharina Rebay-Salisbury’s paper ‘Motherhood and alternative life courses’, discussed reproductive pathways as underlying the diversity of female lives. Although in archaeological research, motherhood is often seen as a natural, normal and inevitable part of women’s lives, societies may differentiate between mothers and non-mothers (infertile, unmarried or childless for other reasons). She argued that by taking motherhood as an independent category of identity, we will be better placed to address questions of how the social status of women changed as they became mothers and how reproduction was culturally embedded in different societies.
Doris Pany-Kucera followed with a paper on the physical anthropology of motherhood. Pregnancy and childbirth may leave physical traces on the female skeleton, morphologically described as “parity features”. In addition, tooth cementum and DNA analyses within the framework of the FWF project ‘Der soziale Status von Mutterschaft im bronzezeitlichen Europa’ will help to provide new insights into prehistoric motherhood.
Jan Turek’s comparative presentation of age and gender identities in ancient Egypt and the European Copper Age raised the question of a cultural bracket that encompassed ancient Egypt as well as the Central European Copper Age, and how we understand gender roles within it. Most striking, perhaps, is the realisation that what we thought we knew about strict rules of gendered burial practices based on biological sex, have in fact been recently challenged by modern methods of sexing via aDNA analysis.
comparison of social practices across three different identity groups in the
middle Danube region, Alexandra Krenn-Leeb stressed that object associations
with the gendered human bodies underwent cycles of acquisition and loss over
the lifecycle; grave goods may therefore only inform us about a fraction of the
individual identities. She further brought evidence of care – for children,
elderly and sick – into the discussion.
contribution by a Hungarian team (Vajk Szeverényi, Gabriella Kulcsár, Judit
Pásztókai-Szeőke, Zsuzsanna Siklósi, Viktória Kiss) gave an overview of gender
(pre-) history in Hungary from the Neolithic to the end of the Iron Age, with
many examples as to what to look out for in the archaeological record.
Godiš’s poster on ‘Bronze Age Identities during Koszider Period in the Middle
Danube Region (1550-1450 BC)’ provided a chronological case study.
Beilke-Voigt’s paper on female grave goods in male burials and male grave goods
in female burials discussed practical and theoretical implications of
interpreting ‘mismatched’ graves. She used a range of ethnographic examples to
argue that a binary understanding of gendered roles in prehistory may not be
adequate for archaeological interpretations.
ear - exostosis or abnormal bone growth within the ear canal – was discussed by
Barbara Teßmann. The bone reaction to irritation from cold wind and water is
associated with temperate climates and food procurement from lakes or the sea.
Interestingly, in most examples from all over the world – represented in
anthropological collections in Berlin – these activities were found to be
strongly correlated with the male sex.
presentation opened the second day of the conference, chaired by Gerhard
Tomedi. Baur discussed patterns of weapon deposition in Villanovian graves, and
how they related to evolving ideas of masculinity.
Peter C. Ramsl
presented the first results of his SASPRPO project at the Academy of Sciences
in Nitra, where he investigates male identities in La Tène period cemeteries.
He discussed the identities of children, old people, the rich and the poor, as
well as ‘special’ identities such as those of druids, armed women and male
burials with female markers.
Daria Ložnjak Dizdar and
Marko Dizdar analysed the visibility of male and female identities in the
burial record of the late Bronze and Iron Age in the
southern Carpathian Basin (Croatia), providing both a chronological
and geographic overview of possible gender markers.
Teßmann followed on with a paper on Iapyde women and their costumes, thinking
about their social position in society. She suggested that fibulae and other
bronze dress elements may have marked membership in a family or clan.
New data from recent
excavations presented by Hrovje Potrebica illustrated his assessment of gender
roles in Croatia. He discussed gendered identities of the early Iron Age in the
light of the complexities that arise when multiple aspects of identity are analysed
A preview of Ramona Blecha’s PhD research on Raetian women and
their ritual and religious role provided interesting examples of the
entanglement of indigenous and Mediterranean goddesses and their
representations, demonstrating the connectedness of the Iron Age world.
Fig. 1. Schüttkasten Klement (old grainary), Austria, and conference participants
© Photo: K. Rebay-Salisbury
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workshop was organised by Peter C. Ramsl, Institute of Archaeology, Slovak
Academy of Sciences, Nitra, Slovakia and Katharina Rebay-Salisbury, Institute
for Oriental and European Archaeology, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna. It
was supported by the FWF (Project No. 26820) and SASPRO (1340/03/03), Marie
Curie Actions and FP7 of the European Union.