gender and archaeology

Kelley Hays-Gilpin (KAH2@A1.UCC.NAU.EDU)
Mon, 18 Apr 1994 10:26:00 -0700

--Boundary (ID 3Ln7ATYaeVbvSXnxTUd1+g)

Bonnie Blackwell asked some good tough questions about my gender and archaeology
syllabus, and has given her permission to forward her messages with my answers.
I think I figured out to do this (still struggling with a very odd mail program)
--Kelley Hays-Gilpin
Navajo Nation Archaeology Dept. at Northern Arizona Univ.

P.S. to D. Bernier--if you send me your e-mail address, I will resend the biblio
refs. I posted. My mail program cuts off the original sender's name and reply

--Boundary (ID 3Ln7ATYaeVbvSXnxTUd1+g)
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Date: Mon, 18 Apr 1994 10:22:00 MST
From: "Kelley Hays-Gilpin"
Subject: Bonnie's questions
Posting-date: Mon, 18 Apr 1994 00:00:00 MST

i have a serious question for you here. in an archaeological perspective
how can you identify any gendre issues except for things found in
intimate association with the a sexable body? if the culture is no
longer extant (as is the case for 99% of the cultures we study as
archaeologists, then how can you identify anything else as having a given
gendre? And without that, how can then make any gendre-based
conclusions that have any significant probability?
Given that the error on any one object being male or female is
50%, and that therror for two objects both being correctly sexed
75%, etc., byt the time you have more than 10 items the probability is very

btw you can be a scientist in your method, a humanist in your social
interactions and moral convicitions, a feminist next etc.
those who say you cannot be a humanist anbd scientist at the same
time are saying you cannot eat applies and oranges on the same day!

note i did not post this to the net. if you wish to forward it please do so.

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Date: Mon, 18 Apr 1994 10:22:00 MST
From: "Kelley Hays-Gilpin"
Subject: methods
Posting-date: Mon, 18 Apr 1994 00:00:00 MST

Bonnie--good serious questions! The short answer is read some of the cited
material, but I will attempt a longer more courteous one here. You can post it
to the list if you know how to merge your file with mine--I am still failing
e-mail 101 and can't get my program to do a "reply text" or I'd append my answer
to your question and post it.
The first thing is to use the gender/sex distinction as a sort of thought-tool
to think about things other than bodies having gender. Work, tools, space, and
art styles can be gendered. How do you find out if they are gendered and what
their gender association might have been? 1. direct historic approach. Here in
the Southwest probably 99% of the sites we study resulted from the activities of
peoples whose descendents still live here. I realize that the opposite ratio is
true most places, as you note. Hey, call us lucky. Even though colonization,
massive pre-Columbian migrations, and all kinds of internal changes happened, we
have a lot of evidence for continuity in many aspects of life, including many
matters of art, architecture, and religion. So I am able to trace some gendered
aspects of pueblo religion, such as the womb imagery in many emergence/migration
stories, through kiva architecture and certain images in rock art and other
media, the kiva being a womb metaphor now, and I hypothesize, for quite some
time. There is also a historically attested notion in Pueblo religion that the
agricultural fertility rituals are conducted by men because what women have
naturally (fertility) men men must attain through ritual knowledge and practice.
So men control (well, partake of and facilitate) the fertility of maize which as
in all mesoamerican derived agricultural ritual (i.e. Cherokee also) is the body
of a female holy person who sacrifices her body that humans may live.

2. ethnographic analogy. The old statistical law criterion is often invoked to
justify the working assumption that women were responsible for gathering plants,
horticultural labor, and the processing, storage, and serving of food in the
house. The spatial domain of the hearth and house is assumed to be gendered
female, then. Men are associated with hunting (and one has to define hunting
carefully--women do hunt small game in lots and lots of societies, but men
usually hunt anything bigger than the ol' breadbox, and usually considerably
fiercer). Men are of course associated with warfare virually always, and very
frequently with long-distance trade and with control of the majority of ritual
activity and knowledge. Because these are generalizations the exceptions are of
considerable interest, you need to be careful with this. But it does provide a
plausible scenario, against which you can test your spatial distributions of
things and your other evidence. Ethnoarcheology also has lots to contribute

3. biological evidence for sex, which is as you note, the most (but not the
only) important criterion of gender. When burials can be sexed, this is of
course all to the good. In the most interesting study I have managed to do, I
had fiber aprons with menstrual staining on them, and rock art depictions of
women wearing these items, AND female burials wearing them. You can also see
figures with breasts and babies wearing these aprons on Mimbres pottery,
although it was made 500 years later and hundreds of miles to the south of my
study area.

Then you put together your multiple lines of evidence.
For example, the design on these aprons match those on the pots, baskets, and
tump lines for carrying baskets--gathering, storing, and serving food again, and
all found in household contexts. The structure inferred to have been a ritual
place (great kiva) was located away from the houses in the cave, and the rock
art around it includes womb images and lines of phallic humans. What I make of
all this can wait for another time (I can't say buy the book yet because it
is only half finished. That half is available from Univ. Microfilms but really
needs to be un-dissertated to be the least bit enjoyable. I cannot recommend
it). The totality may appear one day when I am next unemployed, or perhaps I
just need more inspiration from my vitual colleagues out there.

Finally, if your lines of evidence aren't there or don't come together, you
either don't have a society that's saying much about gender with their material
culture, or you just don't have enough evidence, something we are all familiar
with. My overall argument is why stick to subsistence and technology just
because there's a better change of evidence for these domains being preserved?
If you aren't asking more interesting questions, more interesting answers are
not likely to suggest themselves. The other side of this is exactly what you
suggest, and with which I concur--if it ain't there, it ain't there, and in most
specific archaeological sites, it probably ain't there anymore. But you don't
see unless you know how to look (which is also true for seeing subsistence,
seeing technology, and so on).


--Kelley Hays-Gilpin
Navajo Nation Archaeology Dept. at Northern Arizona University

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Date: Mon, 18 Apr 1994 10:23:00 MST
From: "Kelley Hays-Gilpin"
Subject: bonnie's repsonse
Posting-date: Mon, 18 Apr 1994 00:00:00 MST

thanks for your very detailed answers. you suggested some things that
had escaped my imagination because i work with materials that are
Neolithic at the youngest, and usually older than Middle Paleolithic.
There the ehtnohistory is just too far removed for utility (or at
least believability in my opinion). Obviously preservation and the
"fuzziness" in the record have destroyed much of the material that might
answer your questions. Frankly, I have always been sceptical of the
tools association approach to classifying tool kits as male and female.
Although the male-hunter female-gatherer principle may indeed be
pervasive through time and space, even that I suspect can be overturned
in some cultures, as suggested by the myths of the amazons.

as for posting these, i did not save my questions. i can forward
your response by using the forward option - one you should learn
because it is very useful.

--Boundary (ID 3Ln7ATYaeVbvSXnxTUd1+g)--