Wednesday, July 26, 2023

From distinctive to plain and blurred: Gender expression in Early Iron Age burials from Latium Vetus

Ilona Venderbos

FROM DISTINCTIVE TO PLAIN AND BLURRED GENDER EXPRESSION IN EARLY IRON AGE BURIALS FROM LATIUM VETUS Archaeologists, working on Iron Age Etruria and Campania, have recently pointed out the importance of gender in processes of social stratification during the first centuries of the first Millenium BC. They show that, in the funerary context, gender could be ideologically constructed in order to emphasise social distinctions and status. With regard to Latium, however, no research has yet been carried out on this subject. Such research is important in order to provide additional information on the earliest phases of social stratification in the proto-urban centres in Latium. The aim of this thesis is therefore to show that gender expression in elite burials from Latium Vetus started to transform and blur from the beginning of the Early Iron Age. In order to reach this aim, the following hypothesis was developed: the blurring of gender boundaries in Latial burials was rooted in the phases preceding the Orientalising period, and can be connected to an emergent proto-urban elite. To test this hypothesis, a diachronic approach with a focus on change is adopted. In addition, recent insights from gender and funerary archaeology are adopted for interpretative purposes. The central source material consists of tombs. LP I (i.e., Final Bronze Age 3) serves as a starting point. A reconstruction of the evidence for gender in Latial burials from this period, shows that elites used two gender-specific stereotypes to explicitly play up gender in the funerary record. A third type cut across gender boundaries and also occurred independently. The gender-specific stereotypes constituted individuals buried with a symbolic representation of an outfit reflecting gendered ideals, lifestyle and activities. The third, gender-neutral type was used by others, who mainly emphasised their position and relations within society, and downplayed other aspects including gender. The first transformations in gender occurred in the beginning of LP IIA (Early Iron Age 1). In the first place, the gendered stereotypes known from LP I gradually disappeared, to be replaced by plain gender representations. Secondly, predominantly female gender identities were carefully constructed for a limited number of children with a special position in society, perhaps first-borns. Finally, both gender and age boundaries started to become blurred in LP IIB. This blurring of gender and boundaries continued in LPIII (Early Iron Age 2), as is visible in a series of ambiguous elite burials and wealthy child burials. In LP I burials, emphasis was placed on personal roles and identity. The gender-specific stereotypes neatly fit in this emphasis on the individual. Both the limited access to formal burials and the focus on the person indicate that, in this phase, society was not fully stratified yet. Instead, communities must have been led by individual leaders. This changed in LP II. The first steps in this process probably occurred as early as LP IIA1, but the pace of social stratification seems to have accelerated in LP IIB. The blurring of gender boundaries probably took place in the context of the definition of group identities. Because of the downplay of individual identities, gender expression became plain. An egalitarian ideology may have been a second motive for this plainness. Finally, the construction of gender identities for children can be related to hereditary status and the preservation of the bloodline. The continued blurring of gender and age boundaries in LPIII can be related to aristocratic funerary symbolism. That is, previously gender-specific objects were transformed into aristocratic symbols. The fading of age differences can similarly be related to the aristocratic custom of stressing family identity and hereditary status.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Burgers, GLM, Supervisor
  • Crielaard, Jan Paul, Co-supervisor
Award date1 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022

Access to Document


No comments:

Post a Comment