In the Colombischlössle Museum in Freiburg; a little castle from the middle of the 19th century, which is being used as an archaelogical museum today, the archaelogist professor Brigitte Röder had the privelige to direct an exhibition about gender research in archaeology, with the title:
Ich Mann. Du Frau. Feste rolle seit Urzeiten?
G E S C L E C H T E R R O L L E N
Forscher entzaubern die Steinzeit-Klischees
Von Anette Selg
G E N D E R R O L E S
R E S E A R C H E R E N C H A N T I N G T H E S T O N E A G E C L I C H É S
EXCERPTS TRANSLATED FROM Anette Selg´s interview with the archeologist Brigitte Röder
The man went out hunting and the woman was staying at home in the cave taking care of the children. That´s the way it was during the stone age - or not. Female researchers make some remarks of doubt on that issue, and tamper thereby with an age-old cliché about gender.
Some years ago the directors of the Colombischlössle museum in Freiburg; Helena Pastor and Doktor Grimmer-Dehn organised an exhibition about gender roles during the stone age, together with the archaelogist Brigitte Röder, representing the professional specialist on the topic.
-What is important for us is to carriage the role of transmission between science and the public. And it is important for us to present what is done in science in a way that it might be processed by the community", says Helena Pastor.
-In the summer of 2015 was until now the most successful but also most expensive ( or complex or elaborate?) exhibition beended:
-The name of the exhibition has been ”Ich Mann. Du Frau. Feste Rolle sent Urzeiten?” ( My transl; "I Man You Woman. Fixated gender roles in the stone age?") With a question - mark in the end that has been specially important to us. And the response has been overwhelming; over 15000 people has been visiting the exhibition, which shows what a great demand there is.
The scientific questioning behind the exhibition originates from archaelogist gender research, a young discipline in the German academics, carrying out research about the sexes´ cohabitation in primeval times.
-I had the idea since quite a time, as you over and over again may read statements in media about things being as they always has been since primordial times, and my thought was by then that its time for archaeology to take position. But that was just a vague idea and I was aware of not being busy in doing archaeological gender research myself and therefore might not tackle the subject on my own.
-Thereafter, at about seven years ago, I somehow got in contact with Frau Röder and I asked her if she would be interested in such a focus and she was at once afired with enthusiasm for the idea, and said it would be interesting project….
The man out on the hunt and the woman at the herd, taking care of the cildren; how to understand the way of life our ancesators were living?
Was the heterosexual pair relation really the norm?
The nuclear family with a man and a woman; does thart kind of relationship really has its origin in the Stone Age?
Brigitte Röder reports of her notion that people make visions about social life being intact in primordial times; that there was something like a real genderparadise. From our own perspective today, with its great turbulence regarding the gender aspects you never know what is to come. And then the ”Ur-history” appear as the point of stability and calm, where the world is imagined to still be ruled by some kind of order.
Brigitte Röder is professor in pre- and antique history at the university of Basel. One of her scientific specialities is prehistoric gender research, in which the ambition is to investigate the primordial relationship between men and women, from social orders, gender roles , structures of power, the realation between men and women. In archaeology this questions hasn't been focused at all until the last 30 years.
C R I T I Q U E o f t h e G E N D E R P E R S P E C T I V E
i n C O N T E M P O R A R Y A R C H A E O L O G Y
Instead of arguing against the theory of matriarchy, exemplarily developed in every detail by the highly qualified Heide Göttner-Abendroth who is a philosopher of science and former teacher in the topic at the university of München, Röder sets out already as a young an unexperienced student in a blind and clueless manner to pursue some kind of very unprofessional and beffudled meta - methodological questioning about the possibilities of making unbiased interpretations of the archaeological findings, ending up in her denying every possibility of achieving significant conclusions at all, in her own discipline of archaeology. (See Christa Mulacks report » ) The way she carry out this project out on 450 pages in her work ”Göttinnendämmerung” together with two other student colleges Julian Kummel and Birgitta Kuhn, is in detail thoroughly scutinized by Christa Mulack in her article in Die Diskriminierung det Matriarchatsforschung; Eine moderne Hexenjagd
Quite obviously this bold young challenger has, without seeming to realise it herself, got stuck in a positivist reductionist misinterpretation of how serious scientific research is carried out in a professional way; from a very narrow-minded perspective of scientism, which is completely incompatible with the qualitative hermeneutic approach that´s designed for humanities and social sciencies, of which also gender research makes up a part.
Thus it would be obvious to anyone with common sense and / or knowledge about basics in philosophy of science and methodology, that regardless of how much the supposed abhorrently "dogmatic" matriarchalist´s may have dismissed her kind of supposed ”open” scientific approach or not, it is primarily she herself who is doing that, which becomes quite clear in the interview made by Annete Selg last year.
Because in this nobody with the intellectual honour kept intact, might deny the fact that, the only thing she has to deliver, after another 20 years of scholarship whereof c:a 15 as a professor leading a multidisciplinary crew of researchers on gender archaeology, is, question marks.
This, she argues, is the result of the inevitable condition that any interpretation is as good as the other. Thus, she argues you cannot even draw any conclusions about an investigated social structure being matriarchal or patriarchal at all.
That´s the first of the two only statements she has to deliver, from her view of gender research in this quite extensive interview. And just to be sure of no-one missing her message she repeats it all over again and again.
The second one consists of her ardent endeavour to pursuade us all to cease our supposed "fixation" to theses gender question in primordial times, as we, according to her, are in no need of knowledge about that in order to organise our modern lives, and therefore must stop taking any notice of all the popular publications of quasi-scientific speculations about male and female gender characteristics since times immemorial - evenso repeating this over and over again, not less than about some ten times or more. As well as the psychological reasoning about why we are urged by such a great need to project backwards the things we experience in our everyday lives today.
About these things there are no question marks in the archaeologist professors scientific carriage, though, but more of the selfassurance as a psychologist.
According to the director of the Colombischlössle museum in Freiburg Helena Pastor the hunger after knowledge about these original kind of gender roles since primordial times is immense is insatiable, which among others became obvious from the great number of people visiting the exhibition, not less than 15000 during one year. But in spite of this hunger for knowledge among common people, the task for the professionals seems more to have been to somewaht prevent them from having any ideas at all of how people lived their lives in primordial times, than to teach them anythingh about that.
You really cannot help pitying the enlightened visitors for being so ecstatically grateful, just for having been offered some tiny little scraps of nourishment to satisfy their hunger after knowledge, made up by some pathetic question marks.
In the 80s, when Röder wrote her book; Göttinendämmerung she complains over the the many great losses she experienced in her education as an archaelogist; summarised by Christa Mulack in her article in "Die Diskriminierung der Matriarchatsforschung". And although this past complaints of the deeply felt need of improvements in this sense, it doesn´t seem to have resulted in any such made by herself as a professor and no bettert does it look even now about 30 years later; in exeption fort one thing only though; she pursues a little mini theory, that the bourgeois society from the 17th and 18th centuries having citat.
The professor in archaelogy Brigitte Röder, who, athough her own archaelogist practice never was about more than gathering data to cathalogise ( which she herself admits and regrets although without realising its implications of her lack of legitimicy to assess her collegues highly qualified resesarch in humanitets and social science), nowadays has the ambition to develop a complete new kind of gender research at her institution of archaeology in Basel, in her own ”genderneutral” and more ”complex” way than what has been prevailing hitherto in which it has been considered of a certain degree of importance if patriarchy or matriarchy has been in charge. But this is the new "genderneutral" way of pursuing research about these questions, pretending their never existed either any matriarchies or patriarchies, as these questions obviously are far too hot and infected to ask.
In this long interview published 1916, about the exhibition ”Ich Mann. Du Frau. Feste Rollen seit Urzeiten” (My transl. ”I man, you woman, genderspecific roles since the Prehistory”) she once again; exactly like always before, (also in her book of 450 pages with the derogatory title ”Göttinendämmerung” in which her attempt is to prove that the new paradigm of modern matriarchal research developed by Heide Göttner Abendroth et al is ”unscientifical” but ends up with her not having delivered ONE single counterevidence ), only has got one single answer to the questions about the highly exposed topic about gender in the stoneage; namely that:
- we haven´t got a clue about that
- any interpretation thereof is as good as the other
Nevertheless who cares as that is of none interest for us as modern human beings, who might improve equality between men and women without first projecting our dreams of an egalitarian world backwards onto our prehistory.
The German scholar Gera Kessler picks professionally out the weaknesses in Brigitte Röders reasoning in the litterature that served as handbook to the exhibition:
"Finally, an easily accessible summary of gender-critical research approaches in archeology is available. It was published as an accompanying book to the small exhibition of the Archaeological Museum in Freiburg / Breisgau, from 16 October 2014 to 17 May 2015. different interpretative possibilities of a single find connection represented by several different installations. The fact that such an exhibition is necessary and unique is a reflection of the shortcomings in the gender-critical interpretation of archaeological discoveries and associated hypotheses.
The Accompanying Book is a collection of contributions by various authors and offers a wealth of reflections that are capable of dissolving images of fixed scrolling phrases in prehistory. The contributions are individual discussions from the enormous period of the entire prehistoric history, the representation of which depends in particular on interpretations, among others, as written documents are not available. In their different approaches (see the article by Sigrid Schmitz, "The Brain of Hunters and Collectors -Evolutionary Myths for the Present Time") and the different time horizons of the contributions, they makes up reflections of research in archeology and its related sciences, which collects an enormous number of puzzle particles and only occasionally can bring the different parts into a cognition.
Each one of these contributions is readable and knowledgeable when one is not only interested in prehistoric times, but also aware of that the statements about "people" is based on our patriarchal view, more or less omitting women out of it.
In the booklet accompanying the exhibition, the use of the image of the "ice age hunters and collectors" will be discussed. Some contributions complain above all of the uncritical takeover in life-counseling advice, films, magazines or everyday interrelations; e.g. Brigitte Röder in her comprehensive essay "The Hunter and the Collector - With the Stone Age explain the (gender) world" or Dominique Grisard: "Rosarot und Himmelblau - The color of sweet berries and the sky in magnificent hunting weather or why girls love Rosa". The treatises cited there, however, rarely concern themselves with prehistory, but use these in the sense of a derived, but not a viable authority for the underpinning of their own theses and theories. The fact that this is still being discussed here is probably due to the fact that the accompanying booklet (mainly) is aimed at laymen.
It is a good thing if, in other contributions, the cause for the sprawling takeover of such memorable pictures is settled where it is of decisive importance: in the decade, one-sided representation in the literary literature. Jutta Leskovar writes in her essay "Pictures on Pots - Images in Heads: On the Stereotypical Identification of Women and Men on Scenic Representations of the Hallstatttzeit" (quotation p. 100): "The problematic of many current interpretations in the literature is now straight in that they are not methodically hedged. Rather, they represent projections of stereotypical, ever-like conceptions of the past, including men and women, their roles and gender relations, "and in the article by Sibylle Kästner" When the collector chases and the hunter collects - reigns gender roles " It is also very popular with recourse to stereotypes, women's collectors and man hunters. "Archeology and ethnology have played a key role in preserving the alleged universality the fixation on men, the male bias of many scholars, leads to the fact that what women actually do is not perceived ... " (emphasis added). The fact that exhibitions in the museums and learning materials in the school books have followed these longlasting concepts of the respective researchers, can then no longer surprise. This aspect is discussed in detail together with recent developments in schoolbooks in the article by Miriam Sénécheau, p. 70: "Natural division of labor between man and woman? Rolling Models in Schoolbooks ". And Monika Federer, in her article "Who Was in Second Chamber VI? Fact and hypothesis in the life-picture," as each of the possible representations of a common grave of a man and a woman determines the interpretation of their social position in such a way that they can be historically false.
Fortunately, there are some contributions in which other contexts and possible activities of women are discussed, e.g. with Peter Jud: "Jewelery or Weapons - Women and Men in the Sacrificial Cultures of the Iron Age", which makes a comparison with the later cultures in Greece and Rome for the evaluation of religious activities of women in the unlettered Iron Age of Central Europe. Very detailed, recent interpretations of the fundamentals show the manifold possibilities of the classification of clearly feminine portraits with Helmut Schlichtherle: "Feminine symbolism on house walls and ceramic vessels: traces of women-centric cults in the Neolithic?" New research methods from related sciences and related questions, presented e.g. with Kurt W. Alt / Brigitte Röder: "The Incorporated Everyday Life: Mortal Remains as an Approach to Prehistoric Gender and Childhood History" provide new insights into the life of women and children; e.g. at Doris Pany-Kucera / Hans Reschreiter "In the mountain instead of the stove? References to women's and children's work in the salt mines of Hallstatt more than 2500 years ago ”.
As necessary, the publication of such and other specialized articles as in this "accompanying book to the exhibition" is also noticeable, that we are deprived of something here, to which no space is given in the dispute. Sometimes, when reading these contributions, one has the impression that no gender-specific descriptions are permissible at all, since almost every interpretation is not archaeologically secured (one is waiting for further excavations - which can not be achieved by security.)
In the unfortunate title "Ich Mann. You woman. "Here, too, it is evident that it is apparently difficult to think of women as acting subjects of history: they are already mentioned in the heading with a subordination which must provoke their resistance, even if they are accustomed to it. By the question mark behind "fixed roles since time immemorial?"
The discomfort is not lifted since only roles are addressed there. A reversal you man - I woman would be the I-related statement and self-reliance of women, the thought of patriarchy would be maintained in antitheses. This would still not open up the necessary discussion about the social forms which are unaffected by rule and the possibilities for interpretation. The fact that it is not possible to conceive of such polarizations here is shown by way of example. In the contribution of Helmut Schlichtherle, who believes he has to reject other interpretations: "The plausible assumption that in the fourth millennium BC, society-centric, woman-centered cults .... does not necessarily mean that the social, political and religious power, as postulated for matriarchy, must have been exclusively in the hands of women." From which antiquated sources is the "knowledge" about what researchers have found with other methodological approaches on cultures for which the abbreviation "matriarchate" is chosen?
Stefanie Kölbl is doing the same in her contribution "Alles nur Frauen? (P. 96): "It is possible that in the two sexes there was no opposition but a unity. This could be an important reference to the perception and cultural significance of the biological sex as well as to the relationship between man and woman in the younger Paleolithic ". "It is very difficult, however, to fully understand the men's and women's representations of the Paleolithic age without approaching the backpack of the modern gender discussion." Our 'backpack' is only a small part of that (the question of how many?) with ideas which propagate the exercise of power (not just women) as a cultural-supporting and cultural-bearing factor.
'Science' is no longer the 'unbiased' view that supposedly throws objective experts at an object, in order to present it to others as a fact. The humanities have provided methods and procedures that allow the subjective investigations and conclusions to be taken as a necessary factor by the researchers, who are influenced by their own world experience. This approach could also lead to arguable hypotheses and results in archeology, especially when it comes to possible interpretations of archaeologically discovered details. The scientists in this volume seem to belong to a concept of science (which also has and has its undoubted merits), in which their own position is not to be reflected and should be involved in questioning, investigation and interpretation. The lack of a discussion about the researchers' own attitude and vision, including their position as a man or woman in today's scientific society, could be the reason why some of the suggested interpretative possibilities are arbitrary and speculative.
Research approaches, which involve awareness of the subjectivity of one 's own projection backwards into the path of knowledge as well as the question of gender in prehistory, are therefore not present in this booklet. As they are not discussed, there is also the suspicion that it is important for some authors to say nothing about women in prehistory, which can not be accepted by the relevant dimensions of their subject, with all scientific respectability.
A pleasing exception is Sibylle Kästner, who gave her
(P. 192): "To date, the narrative has been one-sidedly directed towards men and characterized by the notion that gender roles are ahistoric and static. In the meantime, enough data is available, with the help of which the narrative can not only be rewritten, but must be rewritten - that must be changed so that, in addition to women and children, older people are also visible as actors. ”
My interest in the question of gender in the prehistory is, in any case, the fact that the respective preconceptions and starting points for research take each other seriously, that they, instead of defaming one another, meet to enter into a dialogue. The stimuli coming from the other side could provide (further) valuable impulses and insights for our own side, gender history and all our prehistory.
Gera Kessler Cologne, May 2015
It becomes increasingly evident that Charlene Spretnak is completely right in her critic of the carriage pursued by the contemporay scholars in the established academies of archaeology:
Quoting Charlene Spretnak from her article:
“Although Lewis Binford made a plea in 1962 that the New Archaeology should not neglect culture and belief systems, and although post-processualists talk about the importance of culture and symbols, all three of the approaches in practice tend to avoid serious attention to religion or any sacral dimension of culture. A colleague at UCLA recalled that Gimbutas was “the one person who was, even then , revolutionizing the study of East European archaeology. . . [bringing together] archaeology, linguistics, philology, and the study of non- material cultural antiquities.”