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Lecture 6

ANTHROP 1AA3 Lecture 6: Week 4: Lecture 1

Course Code
Tristan Carter

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How do we know the sex of past peoples?
Rely on physical remains
Skeletons (preservation)
Genetics (DNA)
Why do skeletal features differ by sex?
Hormonally controlled
Sex hormones (estrogen, testosterone etc) increase at puberty
Not evident in infants/children
Varies within a population and between populations
Best Places on the Skeleton to Determine Sex
Cranium (#2)
Male chins square, female chins rounded
Pelvis (#1)
Females have wider pubic inlet
Different-shaped pubic arch
Low and broad
Males: high and narrow
Other bones (#3)
Height (by sex) bimodal distribution
Vertical Diameter of the Head:
Females <43mm
Undetermined 44-46mm
Males >47mm
Length of humerus
Epicondylar width
Limits of Skeletal Method to Determine Sex
Issue of individual’s age
Pre-adolescents’ bodies less distinct
infants/children = ???
Issues of preservation
If youjust’ have teeth
Some claim statistically significant size difference
Focus on incisor
Crown dimensions/length
Others less sure
If you just’ have teeth OR hair …
Genetic data (DNA)
Chromosomal data
Tells us sex of individual
How do we know about past gender roles?
Text: bias issues, doesn’t always deal with masses
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Iconography: rarely depicts ‘the masses’/propaganda
Bioarchaeology: how were the dead disposed?
Main insight of roles via body
Archaeology of death: cultural specific customs
Grave foods - index of gender roles?
Case Study: Reconstructing gender roles at Abu Hureyra
Transition to agriculture
Hunting & wild cereals
Who performed tasks?
162 burials - good sample
Seek activity-specific stress markers on bones
Prehistoric RSI
Focus on joint wear/tear
On upper vertebrae (neck)
Strains from carrying heavy loads on head
Grain, game, mudbricks?
Main adolescents
Male and female
On arms (biceps), knee, toe
RSI from squatting/grinding
Women = cereal workers
Case Study: Hunters at Nemrik
Cereals and hunting
162 burials - good sample
Pattern of developed gluteal and adductor muscles
Muscles from running
Related to chasing quarry
Men and women
Determining Gender Roles with Archaeology: patterns in association of sexed burials
with specific types/sets of material culture
Need a skeleton (or parts)
Need ‘grave goods’
Need good sample size
Acidic soils - no skeletons
Case Study: The ‘Chief of Varna’
5th mill. BC (Bulgaria)
Richest tomb in prehistoric Europe
Represents ‘maleness, or ‘status’?
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