Re: Women inventing agriculture

Dave Rindos (arkeo4@UNIWA.UWA.EDU.AU)
Thu, 6 Apr 1995 08:28:07 +0800

On Wed, 5 Apr 1995, Anita Cohen-Williams wrote:

> Isn't this sort of discussion rather meaningless? Unlike a great many
> achievements, who invented agriculture is one of the great unknown and
> unknowable things out there.

No. You can't have an inventer unless you are dealing with an invention.
It is simply FALSE to claim to agriculture was (or even could be) invented.

[So there! I said it]

> I seem to remember a simliar discussion of this sort of female-centric and
> prehistory many years ago. Dr. Adrianne Zihlman published something in which
> she stated that man was the hunter because he was expendable. Boy, what a row
> that kicked up!

But, (and not to be kicking up rows, even though that seems to have some
relevance to agriculture) in the sense of "expendable" she was using, she
was perfectly correct to make that claim. A society can lose a lot of
males without it interferring with the potential poplulation of the next
generation. Not so with females. Back when the number one problem in
the world was *not* the sheer number of people, such matters mattered.


PS: Frazer's good old Golden Bough (1912) was the earliest source I
bothered to find on the domesitcatrix business. I'm sure he had plenty of
predecessors. The most blatant recent manifestation was by Reed (1977).
Anybody who wants to buy into this is perfectly welcome to do so. Here
is an brief exerpt showing the role of the female in domestication (here
of animals) and the "reasons" for it:

Little girls, increasing as they grow, have estrogens coursing
in their bloodstreams; little girls play with dolls, have
maternal instincts. They are not yet, as their mothers may be,
innured to killing and the necessity of killing; a little girl
might well adopt, protect, and tend a wened lamb, kid or baby
pit, thus establishing the that one-to-one social relationship
necessary for abolition of the flight reaction.

The survival of such a relationship between girl and adopted
orphan must usually have been cut short by the death of the latter
dut to natural causes, dogs, adult males, or a group of gleeful
boys. . . . . [he then goes on at great length to say how a
change in social norms was required as the next step in the
process, concluding] What induced the change in attitude...?
We may never know, but I suggest again that a little girl did
lead them.