While on the surface level, archaeology and gender may seem unrelated but by digging a little bit deeper (pun intended), connections may be uncovered.
Women have been mostly absent in the archaeological record since the discipline was born in the late 19th century. With the advancement of modern technology, various analyses have been performed to study excavated materials from different parts of the world yet gender stereotypes persist. An example of this was the human remains discovered in 1889 in Birka, Sweden. Initially, the remains were associated with a man warrior due to the weapons and remains of two horses that were discovered alongside it. However, a 2017 laboratory analysis of its bones and DNA revealed that the remains were biologically female.
This opened up new discussions on the agency and roles of women in Viking society, which put into question and deconstructed certain gendered assumptions and biases. Did the Birka woman Viking fight alongside men? Was she a member of the nobility and masterminded battles alongside her men counterparts? Was the warrior a trans person? Debate continues on her identity and role in 9th century Scandinavia up to this day. Critical discourse is common among archaeologists since reconstructing the past is always subjective. Yet the roles of women in past societies have often been relegated to child-rearing and domestic chores, which reinforces patriarchal assumptions and gender roles. Indeed, the idea of men as hunters and women as caregivers/gatherers might not be as accurate as one might think.
Gender archaeology was a discipline started by women archaeologists in the late 1960s as a response to the androcentric analysis of the past. Over the course of 50 years, the discipline has grown to include discourses on LGBTQIA+Lesbian (L), Gay (G), Bisexual (B), Trans (T), Queer (Q), Intersex (I), Asexual (A), + denotes an umbrella term used by 'marginalized sexual and gender diverse people whose gender, gender expression, or sexual identity do not conform to cis-gender or hetero-dominant gender identity'. This acronym is intersectional by virtue of its nature as well as non-exhaustive and inclusive (as denoted by the +). Over the years, the + has been understood as encompassing Questioning (Q), Two-spirit (TS), or Pansexual (P). In other words, this term represents fluid (non-conforming) notions of gender identity and sexual orientation supposedly transgressing the binary constructs of our society (male v. female and heterosexual v. homosexual).close people from ancient societies, as well as how the archaeological record perceives children and people with disabilities. The discipline continues to evolve and with the help of ancient DNA analysis, osteological, and dental analysis, more groups of people from the ancient past can now be studied and represented truthfully, which ultimately help us to better understand how our predecessors lived.