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Archaeological Demography as a Tool for the Study of Women and Gender in the Past

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 August 2018

Jennifer C. French*
UCL Institute of Archaeology, 31–34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY, UK Email:


In the last 20 years, demography has re-emerged as a key research area within archaeology. This research has refined archaeological demographic methods and examined the relationships between demographic, cultural and environmental change. Here, I discuss how the results of the growing corpus of archaeological demographic studies can contribute to gender archaeology, aiding the incorporation of women into narratives of the past. By considering the important role of women in the demographic regimes of small-scale societies, I explain how archaeological demography can provide insights into the behaviour and lives of women, without relying on the often problematic identification of gendered artefacts, activities and/or places. Archaeological demography as a tool for gender archaeology also permits a move away from the female empiricism of simply adding women into archaeological narratives, to provide an alternative framework for the analysis of gender roles and practices. I demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of this approach using an example from the Upper Palaeolithic of southwestern France.

Research Article
Copyright © McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research 2018 

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