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Historian discusses the role of women in prehistoric times – 01/03/2023 – Science

Historian discusses the role of women in prehistoric times – 01/03/2023 – Science

Anyone who was a child of the 80s probably remembers the cartoon “The Flintstones”. The story takes place in the prehistoric city Bedrock, where the family that gave the cartoon its name lived: Fred Flintstone, the main character, was the “provider”, who worked and got the game, while his wife Wilma took care of the housework and childcare, Bambam and Pedritta.

Cartoons have cemented a view widely prevalent in the history books about prehistoric societies Hunter-gatherers: the man as hunter and warrior and the woman as the herder, ultimately producing clothing and artifacts from furs and other products of animal origin.

But what if this vision is, in fact, based on the bias of modern conservative societies, though Division of gender roles Reflect the habits and beliefs of specialists who study these peoples without evidence of that?

This is suggested by Marilyn Patou-Matisse, historian and researcher at the CNRS (French Science Support Authority), author of the book “Prehistoric man is also a woman: the history of the disappearance of women”.

Based on archaeological data, including artifacts, cave drawings, and skeletons of mass burials dating back more than 25,000 years before Christ, the period that includes the so-called prehistory (although the author refutes the idea of ​​a prehistoric common, but rather the existence of several prehistoric societies with distinct cultures and origins), Pato Matisse questions the archaic view of some scholars about ancient peoples, who themselves were influenced by the patriarchal view of Western societies, arguing that There is no evidence to support this division.

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“The observation of hunter-gatherer peoples in the early 20th century served as the basis for classifying pre-modern societies as patriarchal. What is indicated is that in the more than 40,000 years of Evolution of modern humans in Europe It is unlikely that just this kind of organization exists,” explains the author, in an interview with binding Last month.

One of the most eloquent examples in the book is that the female body is weak while the male is strong and powerful. My studies of Paleolithic Neanderthals [até 8.000 a.C.] The French language shows that women were as strong as men, so why couldn’t they also hunt and fight?

To this, Batu Matisse adds evidence from other societies where women play the role of warriors, as in the Scythians in Siberia and in peoples Vikings From Scandinavia.

Analysis of many prehistoric bones points to diseases associated with repetitive motions, such as javelin throwing, and the use of sharp objects (made of broken stone) to tear animal skin. However, in many ancient human skeletons, the sexes could not be distinguished—that is, until the advent of DNA extraction from bone. Thus it was discovered that the famous Viking warrior buried was, in fact, a woman.

“We only have a way of knowing the sex of the skeletons in about 40% of the specimens, so the interpretation of many specialists in the 19th and 20th centuries was based on the society itself, comparing the bones with those of men and women in bourgeois Europe. This idea, from a scientific point of view, It is worthless to me, as a scientist I cannot understand this explanation without proof,” he explains.

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Likewise, the production rock paintings And objects that can be considered cultural—cases, busts, artistic representations—have traditionally been attributed to men.

Patou Matisse also sees this ideological bias as influencing scientific interpretations of cave paintings, without any evidence. “I am not saying that men did not draw the Lascaux drawings, I am simply saying that there is no evidence that they were only men. There is no evidence to support this view other than the ideological bias of the researchers who have described them in the past.”

Turns out, the “erasing” of women in prehistoric times is similar to what happened in Other fields of study such as philosophy, humanities, and earth sciencesEven in art and music production.

“Not only did this happen to women, it was also similar to blacks. The science and knowledge that has been produced over the course of more than 200 years has had a unique and exclusive view of the white man. That is why I believe that many works and articles have been influenced by what is called ‘male gauze’.” [expressão usada para o olhar masculino nas obras e produções culturais]he declares.

Being areas largely dominated by men, the studies of archeology and anthropology, as well as paleontology (the study of fossils), have ended up influenced by this male gaze, according to paleontologist and professor at the Federal University of ABC, Fabiana Rodriguez Costa Nunes.

“In the field of vertebrate paleontology, 6 out of 10 researchers are men. This leads to a bias that is reflected in the most diverse fields of knowledge, and which ends up reproducing the same structure,” she says, based on data collected by a female collective at Region.

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“There has also been an interesting example in paleontology and evolutionary biology of gender divergence, whereby females are seen as supporting elements, as suggested in the concept of sexual selection by Charles Darwin. He attributed an almost absolute role to males in the competition between them and the selection of females, ignoring any role that could be attributed to them,” he said.

Although it is not new, the idea of ​​including diverse perspectives in the most diverse fields of science still has a long way to go. When asked about the reception of her book by her peers, Patou Matisse said it was generally well received, but some historians resist brushing off the idea of ​​a non-patriarchal or matrilineal pre-modern society. “This, to me, is pure ideology, not science,” he says.