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Archaeology and the Battle of the Sexes

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Relationships between men and women are as old as humanity itself and it is easy to assume that they have not changed much in all that time. But is this really the case?

Through a series of case studies crossing two thousand years of Mediterranean history, we will seek to answer that question.

We will discuss how gender studies can help us better to understand material culture and will address the influence of gender studies in European prehistory, the Mediterranean, Mesoamerica, Classical Greece and Italy and Medieval Europe.

We will address issues such as the construction of gender, notions of identity, agency, childhood and old age, the body and social complexity.

We will approach the course themes using a variety of material evidence such as art and iconography, burials, houses, pottery and textile production, as well as literary evidence.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered through nine in-person sessions.

These sessions will consist of a lecture followed by class discussion and group work on specific topics relating to the module.

The discussion and group work will enable students to think critically and contribute to the debates and topics presented during the lectures.

The discussion-led sessions and the lectures will be supplemented by resources available to students via Learning Central.


  • Introduction to Gender in Archaeology
  • Men, Women and Children in Prehistory. 1: The Palaeolithic
  • Men, Women and Children in Prehistory. 2: The Prehistoric Mediterranean
  • What can we learn about gender from studying burials?
  • Classical Greece and Italy: Gender, Body and Sexuality through Art
  • The Archaeology of Childhood
  • Gender and Society
  • The Household
  • Conclusions

Coursework and assessment

You will be expected to complete two pieces of assessed work:

  • a short critical review
  • a 1000-word essay.

Advice and support will be provided for both assignments and you will receive detailed feedback relating to strengths and areas for improvement on both pieces of work.

Reading suggestions

  • Conkey, M.W. & J. Spector. 1984. Archaeology and the Study of Gender. Archaeological Method and Theory 7: 1-38, reprinted in Hayes-Gilpin, K. and D.S. Whitley (eds) 1998. Reader in Gender Archaeology. London: Routledge
  • Diaz-Andreu, M. et al. (eds). 2005. Archaeology of Identity: Approaches to Gender, Age, Status, Ethnicity and Religion. London: Routledge (read the chapter on gender)
  • Gero, J.M. and M.W. Conkey (eds.). 1991. Engendering Archaeology: Women and Prehistory. Oxford: Blackwell
  • Gilchrist, R. 1999. Gender and Archaeology: Contesting the Past. London: Routledge.
  • Klein, L.F. 2004. Women and Men in World Cultures. Boston MA: McGraw-Hill
  • Moore, H.L. 1988. Feminism and Anthropology. Cambridge: Polity Press
  • Ortner, S. 1996. Making Gender: The Politics and Erotics of Culture. Boston MA: Beacon Press
  • Price, J. and M. Shildrick (eds). 1999. Feminist Theory and the Body: A Reader. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
  • Sorensen, M L. 2000. Gender Archaeology. Cambridge: Polity Press

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.