Women's lives in the past
Dorothy Hakim aged 16 asked:
How does archaeology help show us what women’s lives were like before we had (many) written records?
Julian Richards replied:
I’m going to stick to prehistory here. This is a difficult one to answer as without written records we cannot be certain of which roles within society were regarded as being women’s or men’s. We do need to get away from the idea that men built things and hunted while women stayed at home in a domestic role, tending flocks and cooking. Pottery production and flint knapping could equally well have been carried out by women and ethnographic evidence tends to suggests that in some societies women actually do most of the work while the men lounge around being important.
One area where we can see equality and the importance of women is in the burial record where skeletal evidence from early Neolithic long barrows like West Kennet shows a mixture of men and women, young and old. So not a male dominated society. And, t the other end of prehistory, from personal experience of helping to excavate an Iron Age ‘chariot’ burial at Wetwang in Yorkshire, I think a lot of people were surprised to find that the person buried with the elaborately decorated cart was a woman.
I need to think about this one a bit more!
Dig deeper into our blog by clicking on one of the words above, or search using this box.