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Woman’s place during prehistory

Posté le 08 March 2019 par L'équipe Lascaux

Between myth and reality, woman’s role during prehistory.

« During the Upper Paleolithic, women remain unseen.

Nothing in the various works that the first modern Europeans left us can let us identify they belong to a gender more than another. Even the skeletons we found are most of time muted and refuse to tell us their gender.

We have even more informations about the Neanderthal women ! Thus, DNA analyses let us know that sometimes, Neanderthal women were leaving their former clan to join the one of their partner and the deterioration of their tooth also tell us a lot about the splitting of the tasks that existed amongst some groups, which was based on the gender.


But as for the Sapiens who replaced them : we know nothing. Or so few.


In the Paleolithic art, human beings are rarely represented. When it is the case, women appear more often than men. Still, they are always stereotypical, without head and limbs whereas sexual characteristics are exaggerated. No doubt that these representations, were linked to the idea of fertility but so far nothing help us to understand the other social occupations women had at these times.

At most, we can recall that some Sapiens feminine skeletons were buried with numerous objects interpreted by the scientist community as remains of ornaments and mourning rituals (for example in Saint Germain La Rivière or in Cavillon). Burials with mourning items were an unusual behaviour during the last Ice Age, reserved to a small number of individuals. Among them are some women, though, we imagine they had a privileged social status.

But we can hardly imagine that the social behaviours between gender remained the same all along the Upper Paleolithic across Europe. These various human groups, spread between the Atlantic and the Oural had their share of time to experiment various types of societies during their 30.000 years of history.

In desperation, we can only relay on hunter-gatherer’s ethnology. This is a risky venture as nothing proves that Cro-Magnon was a classic hunter-gatherer. Though we can only recall that among the hunter-gatherers, the women mainly leaved their former group to join their partner’s. Also, task division was commonly based on gender with women gathering and men hunting.

If, in some societies, women are also hunting, they are doing it in a different way. They prefer the hunting of small animals, captured thanks to traps and nets and killed with weapons that avoid the animal’s blood to flow."


Gwenn Rigal.


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