Sexual division of labour in early agricultural Central Europe: an argument against androcentric bias in bioarchaeology




Craig, Caitlin

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A common assumption in anthropology is that agricultural intensification involves increasing male labour contributions. This assumption is affected by substantial androcentric bias, and bioarchaeological investigations of past populations do not always support it. In Central Europe, previous studies have shown marked differences in terrestrial mobility and upper limb manipulative behaviours between males and females, as well as consistently high levels of female humeral loading. However, humeral loading and relative interlimb loading in contemporaneous males have not been investigated. This study analysed humeral and tibial cross-sectional geometric properties ( J and I max / Imin ) in Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, and early Medieval Central European males. The results show a lack of significant change in the intensity and directionality of upper limb loading over time, but significant declines in tibial loading in all time periods relative to the Neolithic. The first ~6150 years of agricultural intensification in Central Europe can thus be characterized as having disproportionately affected male lower limb relative to upper limb loading, likely related to increasing sedentism following the introduction of agriculture. This contrasts with previous findings in contemporaneous females, among whom interlimb loading patterns document very high levels of manual labour relative to terrestrial mobility through to the early Medieval period. This research offers insight into sexual divisions of labour in early Central European farming populations, and addresses the androcentric and methodological biases that affect perceptions of agricultural labour in the bioarchaeological record.



Sexual division of labour, Bioarchaeology, Androcentrism, Agriculture, Central Europe