Skip to main content

Gender and Archaeology: Where Are We Now?

Abstract

This article seeks to bring focus to the state of awareness of gender concerns in archaeology. It seeks to do so through addressing three key points. The first of these is a concern with the ongoing marginalisation of gender as a sub-discipline. The second of these is a review of the implicit and unconscious bias of presentism in assuming universality of gender constructions. The third is a brief reference to the potential for finding a better way of studying the past using approaches informed by intersectional perspectives. The article is intended as a starting point for debate and reflection of the internal practices of archaeological method and theory.

Résumé

La finalité de cet article est d’apporter un éclairage sur l’état des connaissances concernant les questions liées au genre dans le domaine archéologique. Il entreprend de le faire en se penchant sur trois points clés. Le premier d’entre eux a trait à la constante marginalisation du genre en tant que sous-discipline. Le second est une étude du préjugé inconscient et implicite de présentisme tenant pour acquis l’universalité des constructions du genre. Le troisième est une brève référence au potentiel d’une méthode optimisée pour l’étude du passé, recourant à des approches enrichies par des perspectives intersectionnelles. Cet article a vocation à initier un débat et une réflexion sur les pratiques internes de la méthode comme de la théorie archéologique.

Resumen

Este artículo busca enfocar el estado de conciencia acerca de las preocupaciones de género en la arqueología. Busca hacerlo a través de abordar tres puntos clave. El primero de ellos es la preocupación por la marginación actual del género como una subdisciplina. El segundo de ellos es una revisión del sesgo implícito e inconsciente del presentismo al asumir la universalidad de las construcciones de género. El tercero es una breve referencia al potencial para encontrar una mejor manera de estudiar el pasado utilizando enfoques basados en perspectivas intersectoriales. El artículo pretende ser un punto de partida para el debate y la reflexión de las prácticas internas del método y la teoría arqueológicos.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Figure 1

Notes

  1. The reader is referred by blogs by prominent academics, such as http://norseandviking.blogspot.no/ and https://howardwilliamsblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/28/viking-warrior-women-an-archaeodeath-reponse-part-5/.

References

  • Andrén, A. (2008). Lies about Gotland. In K. Childis, J. Lund, & C. Prescott (Eds.), Facets of archaeology: Essays in honour of Lotte Hedeager on her 60th birthday (pp. 47–56). Oslo: Unipub Institutt for Arkeologi, Konservering og Historiske Studier, Universitetet i Oslo.

    Google Scholar 

  • Arboleda, V. A., Sandberg, D. E., & Vilain, E. (2014). DSDs: genetics, underlying pathologies and psychosexual differentiation. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 10, 603–615.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Arnold, B. (1990). The past as propaganda: Totalitarian archaeology in Nazi Germany. Antiquity, 64, 464–478.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Arnold, B. (2016). Belts vs. blades: The binary bind in iron age mortuary contexts in Southwest Germany. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 23(3), 832–853.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Arwill-Nordbladh, E. (1998). Genuskonstruktioner i nordisk vikingatid: förr och nu. Göteborg: Göteborgs universitet.

    Google Scholar 

  • Arwill-Nordbladh, E. (2002). Re-arranging history: The contested bones of the Oseberg grave. In S. Tarlow, Y. Hamilakis, & M. Pluciennik (Eds.), Thinking through the body: Archaeologies of corporeality (pp. 201–215). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Arwill-Nordbladh, E. (2012). Ability and disability. On bodily variations and bodily possibilities in Viking Age myth and image. In I.-M. B. Danielsson & S. Thedeén (Eds.), To tender gender: The past and future of gender research in archaeology (pp. 33–60). Stockholm: Stockholm University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bergsdóttir, A. (2016). Museums and feminist matters: Considerations of a feminist museology. Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, 24(2), 126–139.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Butler, J. (1993). Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of “sex”. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Callmer, J. (2006). Ornaments, ornamentation and female gender. Women in eastern central Sweden in the eighth and early ninth centuries. In A. Andren, K. Jennbert, & C. Raudvere (Eds.), Old Norse religion in long-term perspectives: Origins, changes and interactions: an international conference in Lund, Sweden, June 3–7, 2004 (pp. 189–194). Lund: Nordic Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Christiansen, E. (2002). The norsemen in the Viking Age. The peoples of Europe. Oxford: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Clover, C. (1993). Regardless of sex: Men, women, and power in early Northern Europe. Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, 68(2), 363–387.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Conkey, M. W., & Gero, J. M. (1991). Tensions, pluralities and engendering archaeology: An introduction to women and prehistory. In M. W. Conkey & J. M. Gero (Eds.), Engendering archaeology: Women and prehistory (pp. 3–30). Oxford: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Conkey, M. W., & Spector, J. D. (1984). Archaeology and the study of gender. Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory, 7, 1–38.

    Google Scholar 

  • Connell, R. (1987). Gender and power: Society, the person and sexual politics. Cambridge: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crenshaw, K. W. [1989] (2011). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sez: A black feminist critique of doctrine, feminist theory and anti-racist politics. In M. T. H. Vivar, H. Lutz & L. Supik (Eds.), Framing intersectionality: Debates on a multi-faceted concept in gender studies (pp. 25–42). Ashgate: Farnham.

  • Danielsson, I.-M. B. (2012). Much ado about nothing? Gender research in journals during the last 30 years of archaeology. In I.-M. B. Danielsson & S. Thedéen (Eds.), To tender gender: The pasts and futures of gender research in archaeology (pp. 19–32). Stockholm: Serie: Stockholm Studies in Archaeology Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Danielsson, I.-M. B., & Thedéen, S. (2012). Gender questions. In I.-M. B. Danielsson & S. Thedéen (Eds.), To tender gender: The pasts and futures of gender research in archaeology (pp. 9–16). Stockholm: Stockholm Studies in Archaeology, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies, Stockholm University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dewar, G., Halkett, D., Hart, T., Orton, J., & Sealy, J. (2006). Implications of a mass kill site of springbok (antidorcas marsupalis) in South Africa: hunting practices, gender relations, and sharing in the Later Stone Age. Journal of Archaeological Science, 33, 1266–1275.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dobres, M.-A. (2010). Archaeologies of technology. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 34, 103–114.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eriksen, M. H. (2015). Portals to the past. Oslo: IAKH, University of Oslo.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fahlander, F. (2012). Facing gender corporeality. Materiality, intersectionality and resurrection. In I.-M. B. Danielsson & S. Thedeén (Eds.), To tender gender: The past and futures of gender research in archaeology (pp. 137–152). Stockholm: Stockholm University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fausto-Sterling, A. (1993). The five sexes: Why male and female are not enough. The Sciences, 33, 20–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fine, C. (2016). Testosterone rex: Myths of sex, science and society. London: W.W Norton and Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • French, J. (2018). Archaeological demography as a tool for the study of women and gender in the past. Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 29(1), 141–157.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fuglestvedt, I. (2014). Declaration on behalf of an archaeology of sexe. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 21(1), 46–75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gardela, L. (2013). ‘Warrior-women’ in Viking Age Scandinavia? A preliminary archaeological study. Analecta Archaeological Gicaressoviensia, 8, 276–341.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gero, J. M. (1991). Genderlithics: Women’s roles in stone tool production. In J. M. Gero & M. W. Conkey (Eds.), Engendering archaeology: Women and prehistory (pp. 163–193). Oxford: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gero, J. M., & Conkey, M. W. (1991). Engendering archaeology: Women and prehistory. Social archaeology. Oxford: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ghisleni, L., Jordan, A. M., & Fioccoprile, E. (2016). Introduction to “binary binds”: Deconstructing sex and gender dichotomies in archaeological practice. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 23(3), 765–787.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gifford-Gonzales, D. (1993). You can hide, but you can’t run: Representations of women’s work in illustrations of palaeolithic life. Society for Visual Anthropology Newsletter, 9(1), 22–41.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gilchrist, R. (1999). Gender and archaeology: Contesting the past. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gosselain, O. P. (2016). To hell with ethnoarchaeology! Archaeological Dialogues, 23(2), 215–228.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Grammaticus, S. [Approx. 1200] (1996). Gesta Danorum. In H. E. Davidson (Eds.), The history of the Danes: Books IIX (P. Fisher, Trans.). Brewer, Woodbridge.

  • Harrison, S. H. (2015). “Warrior graves”? The weapon burial rite in Viking Age Britain and Ireland. In J. H. Barrett & S. J. Gibbin (Eds.), Maritime societies of the Viking and medieval world (pp. 299–319). Leeds: Maney Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hedenstierna-Jonson, C., Kjellström, A., Zachrisson, T., Krzwinska, M., Sobrado, V., Price, N., et al. (2017). A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 164(4), 853–860.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jesch, J. (2010). The warrior ideal in the late Viking Age. In J. Sheehan & D. Ó. Corráin (Eds.), The Viking Age: Ireland and the west (pp. 165–173). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jesch, J. (2015). The Viking diaspora. The medieval world. London: Routledge.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Jochens, J. (2002). Vikings Westward to Vinland: the problem of women. In S. M. Anderson & K. Swenson (Eds.), Cold counsel: Women in Old Norse literature and mythology: a collection of essays (pp. 129–158). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Joel, D., Bermanb, Z., Tavorc, I., Wexlerd, N., Gabera, O., Steind, Y., et al. (2015). Sex beyond the genitalia: The human brain mosaic. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 112(50), 15468–15473.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jordanova, L. (1993). Gender and the historiography of science. The British Journal of the History of Science, 26(4), 469–483.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Laqueur, T. (1990). Making sex: Body and gender from the Greeks to Freud. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lee, R. B., & DeVore, I. (1968). Man the hunter. Chicago: Aldine.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lévi-Strauss, C. (1969). The elementary structures of kinship. Boston: Beacon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lucas, G. (2005). The archaeology of time. Themes in archaeology. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mauss, M. [1925] (1990). The gift: The form and reason for exchange in archaic societies. Essai sur le don. London: Routledge.

  • Maynes, M. J., & Waltner, A. (2012). Temporalities and periodization in deep history technology, gender, and benchmarks of human development. Social Science History, 36, 59–83.

    Google Scholar 

  • McGlade, J. (1999). The times of history: Archaeological narrative and non-linear causality. In T. Murray (Ed.), Time and archaeology (pp. 139–163). London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • McLeod, S. (2011). Warriors and women: The sex ratio of Norse migrants to eastern England up to 900 AD. Early Medieval Europe, 19(3), 332–353.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moen, M. (2011). The gendered landscape: A discussion on gender, status and power in the Norwegian Viking Age landscape. BAR international series (Vol. 2207). Oxford: Archaeopress.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moen, M. (2019). Challenging gender: A reconsideration of gender in the Viking Age using the mortuary landscape. Oslo: IAKH, The University of Oslo.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mørck, G. (1901). Indberetning om arkæologiske undersøgelser paa Nordre Kjølen, Aasnes pgd, Solæer. Aarsbereting for Foreningen til Norske Fortidsminnesmerkers bevaring, 1900, 68–74.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nelson, S. M. (1997). Gender in archaeology: Analyzing power and prestige. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nordbladh, J., & Yates, T. (1990). This perfect body, this virgin text: Between sex and gender in archaeology. In I. Bapty & T. Yates (Eds.), Archaeology after structuralism (pp. 222–237). London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pedersen, A. (2011). Military organization and offices: The evidence of grave finds. In B. Poulsen & S. M. Sindbæk (Eds.), Settlement and lordship in Viking and early medieval Scandinavia (pp. 45–61). Brepols: Turnhout.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Price, N. (2002). The Viking way: Religion and war in late Iron Age Scandinavia. Uppsala: Dept. of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Price, N., Hedenstierna-Jonson, C., Zachrisson, T., Kjellström, A., Storå, J., Krzewińska, M., et al. (2019). Viking warrior women? Reassessing Birka chamber grave Bj.581. Antiquity, 93(367), 181–198.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Raffield, B. (2016). Bands of brothers: a re-appraisal of the Viking Great Army and its implications for the Scandinavian colonization of England. Early Medieval Europe, 24(3), 308–337.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Robb, J., & Harris, Oliver J. T. (2018). Becoming gendered in European prehistory: Was Neolithic gender fundamentally different? American Antiquity, 83(1), 128–147.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Roesdahl, E. (1987). Vikingernes verden: Vikingerne hjemme og ude. København: Gyldendal.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rubin, G. [1975] (2006). The traffic in women: Notes on the “political economy” of sex. In L. Lewin (Ed.), Feminist anthropology. A reader. Oxford: Blackwell.

  • Sawyer, B. (1992). Kvinnor och familj i det forn- och medeltida Skandinavien. Occasional papers on medieval topics 6. Skara: Viktoria.

  • Sawyer, B., & Sawyer, P. (1993). Medieval Scandinavia: From conversion to reformation, circa 800-1500. The Nordic series 17. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

  • Sawyer, P. H. (1996). Kings and Vikings: Scandinavia and Europe: AD 700-1100. Repr. ed. London: Routledge.

  • Schjødt, J. P. (2011). The Warrior in Old Norse religion. In G. Steinsland, J. V. Sigurðsson, J. E. Rekdal, & I. Beuermann (Eds.), Ideology and power in the Viking and middle ages. Scandinavia, Iceland, Ireland, Orkney and the Faroes (pp. 269–295). Leiden: Brill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sigurðsson, J. V. (2008). Det norrøne samfunnet: Vikingen, kongen, erkebiskopen og bonden. Oslo: Pax.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sigurðsson, J. V. (2010). Den vennlige vikingen: Vennskapets makt i Norge og på Island ca. 900-1300. Oslo: Pax.

    Google Scholar 

  • Skogstrand, L. (2006). Kjønn som analytisk kategori og kroppslig kulturelt fenomen. In L. Skogstrand & I. Fuglestvedt (Eds.), Det Arkeologiske Kjønn (pp. 109–126). Oslo: Unipub.

    Google Scholar 

  • Solberg, B. (2003). Jernalderen i Norge: ca. 500 f.Kr.-1030 e.Kr. 2. utg. ed. Oslo: Cappelen Akademisk Forl.

    Google Scholar 

  • Spector, J. D. (1991). What this awl means: Toward a feminist archaeology. In J. M. Gero & M. W. Conkey (Eds.), Engendering archaeology: Women and prehistory (pp. 388–406). Oxford: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thedéen, S. (2012). Box brooches beyond the border: Female Viking Age identities of intersectionality. In I.-M. B. Danielsson & S. Thedéen (Eds.), To tender gender: The pasts and futures of gender research in archaeology (pp. 61–81). Stockholm: Stockholm University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tomášková, S. (2011). Landscape for a good feminist: An archaeological review. Archaeological Dialogues, 18(01), 109–136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Villa, P.-I. (2011). Embodiment is always more: Intersectionality, subjection and the body. In M. T. H. Vivar, H. Lutz, & L. Supik (Eds.), Framing intersectionality: Debates on a multi-faceted concept in gender studies (pp. 171–186). Farnham: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vivar, M. T., Herrera, H. L., & Supik, L. (2011). Framing intersectionality: Debates on a multi-faceted concept in gender studies. The feminist imagination: Europe and beyond. Farnham: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wiesner-Hanks, M. E., & Meade, T. (2004). Introduction. In M. E. Wiesner-Hanks & T. Meade (Eds.), A companion to gender history (pp. 1–7). Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Williams, G., Pentz, P., & Wenhoff, M. (2013). Viking. København: Nationalmuseet.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wylie, A. (1991a). Feminist critiques and archaeological challenges. In D. Walde & N. Willows (Eds.), Proceedings of the 22nd annual chacmool conference the archaeology of gender (pp. 17–23). Calgary: University of Calgary.

  • Wylie, A. (1991b). Gender theory and the archaeological record: Why is there no archaeology of gender? In J. M. Gero & M. W. Conkey (Eds.), Engendering archaeology: Women and prehistory (pp. 31–54). Oxford: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marianne Moen.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

No known conflict of interest is foreseen with this manuscript.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Moen, M. Gender and Archaeology: Where Are We Now?. Arch 15, 206–226 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11759-019-09371-w

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11759-019-09371-w

Key Words

  • Gender
  • Intersectionality
  • Interpretative frameworks
  • Presentism in gender constellations
  • Binary gender