Conceptualising Neolithic gender: the sexual division of labour amongst early farmers
In a recent paper, John Robb and Oliver Harris provocatively argue that gender has been overlooked in the Neolithic because it was of a very different form to that found in the Bronze Age. Conversely, isotopic and aDNA analysis are increasingly favouring a patrilocal, and assuming a patrilineal Neolithic. In this talk, I will present a study which finds a rather strong sexed division of labour from the early Neolithic culture of the Linearbandkeramik - the earliest phase of farming in central Europe (5500-5000 cal BC). However, does difference between the sexes mean that we should argue for a binary form of gender in which “male” and “female” are exclusive categories? Do the arguments for a patriarchal Neolithic arise in our own biases or is it a good explanation for the archaeological record? These are not easy questions to answer. By exploring the intersection of different types of evidence from the burial record - burial practices, grave goods, isotopic evidence, health and skeletal markers, alongside drawing on ethnographic evidence - I will suggest that we need to explore different value systems to explain the diversity we see in the archaeology of gender.