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BECOMING GENDERED IN EUROPEAN PREHISTORY: WAS NEOLITHIC GENDER FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT?

  • John Robb (a1) and Oliver J. T. Harris (a2)

Abstract

It is notable how little gender archaeology has been written for the European Neolithic, in contrast to the following Bronze Age. We cannot blame this absence on a lack of empirical data or on archaeologists’ theoretical naïveté. Instead, we argue that this absence reflects the fact that gender in this period was qualitatively different in form from the types of gender that emerged in Europe from about 3000 cal BC onwards; the latter still form the norm in European and American contexts today, and our standard theories and methodologies are designed to uncover this specific form of gender. In Bronze Age gender systems, gender was mostly binary, associated with stable, lifelong identities expressed in recurrent complexes of gendered symbolism. In contrast, Neolithic gender appears to have been less firmly associated with personal identity and more contextually relevant; it slips easily through our methodological nets. In proposing this “contextual gender” model for Neolithic gender, we both open up new understandings of gender in the past and present and pose significant questions for our models of gender more widely.

Es llamativo lo poco que se ha escrito sobre arqueología de género en el Neolítico europeo en comparación con el período posterior, la Edad del Bronce. Esta escasez no puede atribuirse a la falta de datos empíricos o a la ingenuidad de los arqueólogos. Más bien, como proponemos aquí, esta ausencia refleja el hecho de que hay una diferencia cualitativa entre las manifestaciones de género en este período y los tipos de género que emergieron en Europa a partir de 3000 aC. Estos últimos siguen constituyendo la norma en contextos europeos y americanos actuales, y nuestras teorías y métodos están diseñados para analizar estas formas específicas de género. En los sistemas de género de la Edad del Bronce, el género consistió mayoritariamente en una identidad binaria asociada a identidades estables que persistían durante toda una vida y que fueron expresadas en complejos recurrentes de símbolos de género. En contraste, el género en el Neolítico parece haber tenido una asociación más tenue con la identidad personal; en cambio, parece haber sido más relevante a nivel contextual. Por lo tanto, las manifestaciones de género del Neolítico se nos escapan a través de nuestras redes metodológicas. Al proponer un modelo de ‘género contextual’ para el Neolítico mediante la identificación del cómo y del porqué de esta diferencia, ofrecemos nuevas formas de comprender el género en el pasado y presente del Neolítico, planteando al mismo tiempo cuestiones de relevancia más general para nuestros modelos de género.

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BECOMING GENDERED IN EUROPEAN PREHISTORY: WAS NEOLITHIC GENDER FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT?

  • John Robb (a1) and Oliver J. T. Harris (a2)

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