Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 854–869 | Cite as

“Seek and you Shall Find.” How the Analysis of Gendered Patterns in Archaeology can Create False Binaries: a Case Study from Durankulak

  • Susan StrattonEmail author


The gender structures of the communities of the Late Neolithic and Copper Age in South East Europe have been firmly placed in a binary system by past archaeological analysis. The analysis of cemetery remains has indicated that binaries are expressed through differences in body position and the types of artefacts placed in the grave. However, re-evaluation of evidence from Durankulak cemetery on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast demonstrates that such interpretations may result from the imposition of a modern Western understanding of gender as binary based on sex; these assumptions can lead to the exclusion of data which points to more complex and varied gender relationships. This paper briefly discusses the problems in starting archaeological analyses from an assumed binary in both sex and gender. It is argued that any approach that starts with this binary is likely to be misleading, and that large-scale data sets, such as cemeteries, should be investigated using multivariate statistical techniques to uncover a variety of horizontal and vertical social categories and roles, of which gender may be a part. It demonstrates that in the case of Durankulak, while there are gender differences, there was a great deal of more complexity than a simple male/female division. Some artefacts are exclusively associated with male burials, while female graves have less variety in their assemblages.


Durankulak South-East Europe Late Neolithic Gender Sex Binaries Grave goods Correspondence analysis 



I would like to thank the organisers of the ‘Binary bind’ session for giving me the opportunity to present this research at EAA 2014 in Istanbul and be part of this important discussion. I am very grateful for the detailed and helpful comments of John Chapman, Marcia-Anne Dobres, and the anonymous reviewers. At various stages of development, this paper has benefited from comments and suggestions from Dušan Borić, Lindsay Powell-Jones, and Penny Bickle.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of History, Archaeology and ReligionCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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