A sexual division of labour at the start of agriculture? A multi-proxy comparison through grave good stone tool technological and use-wear analysis

Penny Bickle, Alba Masclans, Christian Jeunesse, Caroline Hamon

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This work demonstrates the importance of integrating sexual division of labour in the research of the transition to the Neolithic and its social implications. During the spread of the Neolithic in Europe, when migration led to the dispersal of domesticated plants and animals, novel tasks and the tools used to accomplish them, appear in the archaeological record. By examining the use-wear traces from over 400 stone tools from funerary contexts of the earliest Neolithic in central Europe we provide insights into what tasks were carried out by women and men. The results of this analysis are then examined for statistically significant correlations with the osteological, isotopic and other grave good data, informing on sexed-based differences in diet, mobility and symbolism. Our data demonstrate males were buried with polished stone tools used for woodwork, and butchery hunting or interpersonal violence, while women with those for the working of animal skins, expanding the range of tasks carried out. The results also show variation along an east-west cline from Slovakia to eastern France, suggesting that the sexual division of labour (or at least its representation in death) changed as farming spread westwards.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0249130
Number of pages41
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 Masclans et al.

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