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Processual archaeology and gender politics. The loss of innocence


Providing a younger woman's perspective, and born out of the 2006 Cambridge Personal Histories event on 1960s archaeology, this paper struggles to reconcile the panel's characterization of a ‘democratization’ of the field with an apparent absence of women, despite their relative visibility in 1920s–1940s archaeology. Focusing on Cambridge, as the birthplace of processualism, the paper tackles the question ‘where were the women?’ in 1950s–1960s archaeology. A sociohistorical perspective considers the impact of traditional societal views regarding the social role of women; the active gendering of science education; the slow increase of university places for young women; and the ‘marriage bars’ of post-war Britain, crucially restricting women's access to the professions in the era of professionalization, leading to decades of positive discrimination in favour of men. Pointing to the science of male and female archaeologists in 1920s–1930s Cambridge, it challenges ideas of scientific archaeology as a peculiarly post-war (and male) endeavour. The paper concludes that processual archaeology did not seek to democratize the field for women archaeologists.

Corresponding author
*Rachel Pope, School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology, University of Liverpool, UK. Email:
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A. Wylie , 2002: Thinking from things. Essays in the philosophy of archaeology, London.

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Archaeological Dialogues
  • ISSN: 1380-2038
  • EISSN: 1478-2294
  • URL: /core/journals/archaeological-dialogues
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