Thursday, 12 March 2009

Women in archaeology

Since it was International Women's Day on Sunday, I thought I'd write about women in archaeology.

Agatha Christie famously said that one should marry an archaeologist, as he's the only man who will become more interested in you as you grow older.  I followed her advice, and found it excellent.  But she was an archaeologist in her own right, and her depth of knowledge was appreciated by her husband and colleagues:
 She became very expert, and was much respected by Max's colleagues for her painstaking and skilled work.
70 years ago, Dorothy Garrod became a professor of archaeology at Cambridge.  She was the first female professor at Cambridge long before the admission of women to the university.

Other prominent female archaeologists include:
Now there is an organisation, British Women Archaeologists (originally started as a Facebook group but now with its own website, and seemingly well on its way to becoming a professional association) with their own strand at TAG 2009.

There's also the archaeology of women to be considered - for example the excavation of the Greenham Common peace camp; the archaeology of gender roles; the discovery of Amazons in Sarmatia and Amazons in Britain; the archaeology of identity; and women's material culture and social and economic status in the past. 

Some feminist archaeologists (and some feminist Pagans too)  got very excited about the idea of a pre-Indo-European goddess-worshipping matriarchy, but the idea really doesn't stand up to scrutiny.  Certainly attitudes to women were different in the past and the degree of patriarchy varied from one society to another, but there wasn't a Europe-wide Goddess-worshipping culture.  There is little or nothing to suggest that the famous "Venus" figurines actually were goddesses.  Unless you find an unequivocally female statue in a temple (such as the Sleeping Lady at Hal Saflieni in Malta) you can't be sure it is a goddess.  Also, having goddesses doesn't necessarily guarantee that women themselves are respected.

Further reading

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