Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hunting women and gathering men

The struggle for some sort of comfortable social equation has long been existent between men and women. A man and a woman could belong to the same race, culture, social group and maybe even family yet there seems such strong differences between us. The way we think, feel express and most importantly I think how we treat each other.   While googling for women in archaeology I came across these two pics

What is interesting is that both the woman archaeologist( yes the woman on the right is supposed to be an archaeologist!) and the prehistoric woman are both dressed similarly!!! Is it irony, co incidence or male perception?? or just my probably biased view point?? Could be all of the above but none the less the male perception of women in any given society has always coloured a societies perception of  women!! So if some part of  a society sees women as scantily clothed objects of their  sexual fantasy then the depiction of both a prehistoric woman and a modern day archaeologist would be much the same I suppose. Though realistically speaking I do not think either looked/look remotely like the above pictures.

 Which brings me to the much spoken about "man the hunter and woman the gatherer" debate : D I am proud to be a women and I believe that separate ladies queues are not any reflection on emancipation of women, but I am no feminist....How much ever men may spread the rumor that they were (and are!?) the ones who were  doing the hunting and therefore of greater importance to the survival of that society, gathering was no easy task I'm sure :D. Though view points differ drastically with respect to the two theories, "male-centered scenario did not go unchallenged. Ignoring females or relegating them to a definitely inferior role in human behavioral evolution drew sharp criticism from several quarters." (http://dml.cmnh.org/1995Aug/msg00025.html)

 Which is definitely a good think, considering some of the previously thought scenarios seem ridiculous (eg. So, while the males were out hunting, developing all their skills, learning to cooperate, inventing language, inventing art, creating tools and weapons, the poor dependent females were sitting back at the home base having one child after another and waiting for the males to bring home the bacon. While this reconstruction is certainly ingenious, it gives one the decided impression that only half the species--the male half--did any evolving. In addition to containing a number of logical gaps, the argument becomes somewhat doubtful in the light of modern knowledge of genetics and primate behavior

 If you are wondering what these two theories are all about, here is a short summary. "The "man the hunter" model stresses that primitive males hunted for meat and provided food and protection for their mates and children who stayed at the home base. The competing hypothesis suggests that major food of early human beings consisted of plants, obtained by women with the use of tools and shared with their offspring. The contrast focuses on how female behavior is conceptualized: as mobile and active or as sedentary and passive. Responses to both theories, however, depend on which anthropological evidence is used, how it is interpreted, what animal models are used, and which behaviors form the starting point. "What Happened to Woman the Gatherer?,Zihlman, Adrienne L.  Sadly I could only find an abstract of this article, it sounds very interesting and I would have loved to have been able to read the rest. 

 And then I came across an excavation where remains of warrior women were found, “women known to ancient Greek authors as Amazons were long thought to be creatures of myth. Now 50 ancient burial mounds near the town of Pokrovka, Russia, near the Kazakhstan border, have yielded skeletons of women buried with weapons, suggesting the Greek tales may have had some basis in fact. Nomads known as the Sauromatians buried their dead here beginning ca. 600 B.C.; according to Herodotus the Sauromatians were descendants of the Amazons and the Scythians, who lived north of the Sea of Azov.” Warrior Women of Eurasia Volume 50 Number 1, January/February 1997, by Jeannine Davis-Kimball


 Bronze arrowheads (1), iron sword (2), fossilized Gryphaea shells (3), and unworked stone in shape ofGryphaea shell (4) were found in a young female warrior's burial. (Jeannine Davis-Kimball)http://www.archaeology.org/9701/abstracts/thumbnails/sarmatians

 How cool is that!!!? I would  rather believe is the existence of Amazon women than the disregard with which prehistoric women are  sometimes depicted!! Any kind of generalization however always seems to be a mistake and I think it’s the same in this case. Just as there are men who may not fit the general concept of a “prehistoric man” (prehistoric man in this case with all their baggage of apeishness ;)), I am sure there are women in every culture, period, generation, century (you get the drift) who were and still are making hand axes and hunting. This is in no way a reflection on the superiority of hunting, in fact how can hunting be considered any sign of greatness!!?? It is a means to an end..survival!! And each person man or woman I am sure has his or her own method of surviving whether is is hunting or gathering….



Friday, January 30, 2009

clive my hero?

This week I had the opportunity to work on a project at the Clive building at the secretariat ie Fort St George. The work in itself is pain staking but my god that building makes it so worth the while, every time I get a couple of minutes off I wander around. It is like a maze, and each room has some curious feature or the other. A courtyard which is overlooked by a verandah, huge windows which open in strange ways, floors with glass cubes embedded in them that allow light in, rickety small stairs, huge big stairs and so much more. However the rooms are also in the process of being conserved and renovated, so many of them have no roof, some no floor and some are used for purposes they surely were not intended for (like the toilets! ugh!!!)

One day me and a couple of the boys who work there as research scholars finished the days work and were walking back to the office and we saw a huge hall with a wooden floor, huge pillars (very huggable :) And as I was thinking aloud, I asked them what they thought it had been used for. Promptly in all grave ernestness one guy said Clives bedroom of course! We stood there considering the room for a few minutes and then the other boy said why would he have needed such a big room, to sleep!! I thought it was funny but definitely it seemed nothing like a bedroom, but who knows what these strange colonial rulers thought of as a suitable bed room really!!

So the next day I met one of officials at the fort museum and I asked him about "Clive's bedroom", he said it was a ball room!! ahhh now that makes sense, I had imagined it as somewhere where parties could happen…… And then I asked him if there were any books on the Clive building, what the rooms were used for, how the people livedetc. He said that there was too little information available on the building to write a book, we only know it was Clive’s house for a few years from a letter that claims he hadn't paid his rent :P some things don't change I guess. He also said Clive’s son lived there as well and it originally belonged to an Armenian merchant. Now what was an Armenian merchant doing amongst the British and the French I thought? Yes I am ignorant about the colonial history of India, all I know is that we got our independence form the British after much struggle…

While talking about the building he also told me that Clive was considered a hero by the British, I said but he isn’t a hero to us is he??? And he said, no he can be your hero if you want, he is a part of history after all..... So true isn’t that? What does it matter if he was one of the colonialists subjugating us??? I looked up on Wikipedia (cannot live without it I think) and it was all mixed. There is no hero or villain; it is history, a man who was not born with a silver spoon, who landed in a small village in India (madras) at the age of 18, who at 25 grew famous for his military exploits even though untrained! And who made it through life and supported not only himself but his siblings and a certain Major Lawrence, the commanding officer who had encouraged his military genius.

I wish I could actually take you through the Clive building, through its many strange and lovely rooms, and that you could imagine with me all the good, bad, sad and happy memories those rooms hold, which we will never know: D you may think I sound all stupidly romantic about an old building. But just imagine all the people who worked there, the cooks, the sweepers, the maids, the women and men in the house. Maybe some of them had a horrible life, maybe many of them hated the building and yet I want to just go back in time one day no maybe just an hour. How I would love to see how much of what I have imagined is a reality… fanciful huh?? :D I guess it’s not Clive who makes history so beautiful for me but all those people who were nobodies in the larger scheme of things but yet each had their own lives, memories and emotions!!

By popular demand have added this Picture, not a great one,but it does show some of the brilliant windows (http://gibberandsqueak.blogspot.com/)