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ANAHITA  December 1999

ANAHITA December 1999

Subject:

Re: Young Citation and Pre-historic Woman's Status

From:

Allison Nies <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Thu, 30 Dec 1999 08:58:45 -0800

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text/plain (84 lines)

Susan Kray asks the question what should anthropologists and
archaeologists look for in prehistorical digs to prove that
there is an egalitarian social structure.

I wrote her a private message which was intended for the list,
but got sent to her personal email URL by mistake.  Anyway,
what I would look for is . . . an absence of a structured
heirarchy or social roles in the group. And from what I
understand, "foraging groups" in pre-literate societies of
the modern world and the pre-historic world of 50,000 to
100,000 years ago do not have a rigid heirarchy, or rigid
social roles.  Members of the nomadic group do not own much
property, only that which they can carry.  Men and woman
and each person has about the same status, doing many of
the same jobs in the group.

The older generation of male archaeologists emphasized the
role of "man the hunter."  They gave the general public the
erroneous impression that males played the dominant role
in pre-history, a very long time period of some 3 million
years for hominids, pre-humans.  People still think in terms
of pre-historic man dragging pre-historic woman back to
the cave, etc.  These male archaeologists also played up
the important of "man the tool-maker" or "man the weapons-
maker."

In the intervening years, researchers have found that women
played a much more important role in these foraging groups.
They gather most of the food, they use tools called micro-
liths to process the food; they make other tools like baby-
carriers from ropes and nets, etc.

I will quote from a book entitled Women in Prehistory by
an academic from England, Margaret Ehrenberg.  On page 50,
she writes:

"It can therefore be argued that the crucial steps in human development
were predominantly inspired by females.  These include ecomonic and
tech. innovations, and the role of females as the
social center of groups. This contrasts sharply with the trad.
picture of the male as protector and hunter, bringing food back
to a pair-bonded female. That model treats male aggression as
normal, assumes that long-term, one to one, male-female bonding
was a primary development with the male as the major food pro-
vider, and that male dominance was inherently linked to hunting
skills.  None of these patterns, however, accords with the behavior
of any [group, society] but the traditional Western male."

On the subject of matriarchy, she writes (on page 63):

". . . if a matriarchal society ever existed in the distant past it
maust have been during the Paleolithic, and the subject must therefore
be seriously considered by any archaeologist interested in feminism
or social organization in general. . . Many archaeologists today
would hesitate to reject with such certainty any possibility that
evidence for matriarchy might yet be found, even if it is not
clear quite what form such evidence might take."

I repeat, I would look for evidence such as the absence of rigid
roles, and a set heirarchy of power and status.  If woman and
men equally contribute to gathering food, and everybody has to
pull their own weight so to speak, then doesn't that suggest an
egalitarian society.

Allison Nies
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