An investigation dives into the Neolithic to find the origins of inequality between men and women


By CAPosts 12 April, 2021 - 10:20pm 4 views

Archeology is a difficult science: too many questions for too little evidence. However, the study of Prehistory can provide fundamental keys to understand serious problems of the present. The researcher at the University of Seville Marta Cintas-Peña, with the support of the Marie Sklodowska Curie research plan of the European Commission, delves into the origin of inequality between men and women, aware that, as she affirms, “it is a social process and cultural created that has consolidated an unjust system ”. To retrace this path, Cintas-Peña has studied the origin of this scourge and has found an element that could have been key: the mobility of women to the environment of men (“patrilocality”), which is beginning to be evidenced in a relevant way in the Peninsula from the Copper Age, between 3,200 and 2,300 years before Christ

What the cemetery of the aristocrats of the Bronze Age tells about inequality

Leonardo García Sanjuán, professor of Prehistory and Archeology at the University of Seville and co-author of the study, pending publication and which is part of the project included in the website, explains that “patrilocality is the residential rule by which women, when they get married, go to live in the village or town of the husband, a typical action of patriarchal societies ”. “This practice”, as she explains, “is very transcendent in the study of the early origin of patriarchy because, when leaving their families and their own villages and going to their husbands, women are decontextualized from their family framework and from the support from their relatives and friends, which makes them much more vulnerable to oppression by their husband and family. ”

The analysis of the women's data shows that these do not correspond to their burial sites in more than twice as many cases as those of men, which means that they came more frequently from another place

To confirm this practice and avoid interpretations biased by ethnographic parallels (attributing past roles based on current cultural behaviors), Cintas-Peña has analyzed all the strontium isotope data available to date for this period in the peninsula. Iberian. This data set provides information on 476 individuals from 26 different sites. According to the archaeologist, this system, through the comparison of the isotopic mark of the region and the isotopic mark of the bone remains, makes it possible to determine if an individual was buried in the same place where he lived, thus addressing his mobility .

This study, according to the research, "provides the first vision of the residential patterns of the Chalcolithic in the Peninsula as well as a new approach that includes gender as a central element among the variables studied" .

The results cast little doubt on mobility . The analysis of women's values shows that these do not correspond to their burial sites in more than twice as many cases as those of men, which means that they came more frequently from another place. One possible explanation for this is patrilocality. The study confirms a statement by American anthropologist Marvin Harris: "The overwhelming majority of known societies show male-centered patterns of residence and affiliation."

There is a hierarchy, an increase in social complexity by which certain characters accumulate power and establish lineages that seem to benefit men more often than women Marta Cintas-Peña, researcher at the University of Seville

García Sanjuán clarifies that this practice intensifies when societies begin to have surpluses that generate family assets and inheritance, according to the archaeologist, “it begins to become a key issue socially and economically”: “For men to have security that the legacy is going to pass on to their own biological children, an ideology of control of women begins to take place ”

Cintas-Peña adds that“ patrilocality ”could have taken place in parallel to sedentarization and the accumulation of surpluses: "There is a hierarchy, an increase in social complexity by which certain characters accumulate power and establish lineages that seem to benefit men more often than women."

Recreation of a prehistoric house from the exhibition 'Neolithic. From nomads to sedentary. 'LA CAIXA FOUNDATION

Patrilocality, along with other elements in which differences can be seen from the Neolithic period, such as the analysis of traumas of the skeletons, the greater presence of projectiles in male burials or the representation of women in Levantine art, more linked to maintenance tasks, begins to show a differentiation that did not occur before.

The researcher highlights that " this inequality arises from processes that are not always the same , but that do reach the same point." “There is no single cause. They are processes with different ingredients that cook slowly. But it is clear that inequality is a cultural process, that there is no biological determinism ".

In the same vein, archaeologist Steve Kuhn pointed out that" the division of labor by gender is more a product of social norms than of gender. biology or psychology ”. And this is not a process as old as it has been wanted to see, as recent findings of remains of women who participated in activities such as hunting demonstrate 8,000 years ago.

Recreation of a prehistoric scene from the exhibition 'Neolithic. From nomads to sedentary 'LA CAIXA

FOUNDATION Evidence suggests that the origin of inequalities began to appear regularly from the Neolithic Age and that there is a relationship with mobility. An article published in the journal Science analyzed, from the study of the tombs and the objects that were found next to the human remains, the way of life of a community that inhabited the Lech Valley, near Augsburg (Germany), ago 4,000 years. The authors point out how it went from societies in which all were born equal to others in which some claimed to be descendants of those who created the norms that ordered society or even of the gods. The women who lay alongside aristocrats and who shared their high status had not been born in the Lech Valley. Analysis of the enamel of their teeth contained chemical elements that were not linked to the composition of the local water, as was the case in men. They had grown up far from there and had come to get married. The only local women were poor, buried with no objects around, or girls from rich families who had died before adolescence.

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Source: Elpais

Science Neolithic Prehistory Social inequality Machismo Women Scientific research Archeology Men Patriarchy Society

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