Press Release for Monday, June 3, 2019
Ancestral Puebloan Pottery-Making: It Wasn’t Just Women’s Work
Media Contact: Amanda Ennis, PR Specialist
Department of Public Relations
Puebloan Pottery-Making: It Wasn’t Just Women’s Work
Study of Fingerprint Impressions Reveal Pottery
Produced by Both Sexes
New research from Dr. John Kantner, a
University of North Florida professor specializing in anthropological
archaeology, suggests that pottery making wasn’t a primarily female activity in
ancient Puebloan society, as had long been assumed based on historical evidence
that women produced pottery for each household.
Kanter, also associate vice president of
research at UNF, is the principal investigator and lead author of this study, published
today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United
States of America, a peer-reviewed multidisciplinary scientific journal and the
official journal of the National Academy of Sciences. View the article.
His research team and co-authors are comprised
of Michele Pierson and Shaza Wester, former UNF undergraduates, and David
McKinney, formerly a graduate student at Georgia State University.
"An understanding of the division of labor in
different societies, and especially how it evolved in the human species, is
fundamental to most analyses of social, political and economic systems,” said Kantner,
a Southside Jacksonville resident.
The findings, he notes, reconstruct
the division of labor between men and women in an ancient society and indicate
that labor wasn’t strictly divided upon gender lines, despite the conventional
wisdom that men and women engaged in separate domestic tasks.
Instead, the researchers found that the
proportion of males and females involved in pottery-making was seemingly
unconstrained by considerations of gender, with, in some households, more males
making pottery while in others, equal numbers of both sexes were involved.
Kantner’s team used an
innovative method for identifying the sex of potters through the analysis of
fingerprint impressions. They recorded fingerprints on pottery from around the
10th to 11th century CE, measuring the width of
fingerprint ridges—the patterns on the tip of each finger—to distinguish
between male and female prints.
Analysis of over 980 ceramic shards from a
1,000-year-old Ancestral Puebloan community in modern-day New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon
revealed representation of both male and female prints.
The timeframe of the pottery production was
marked by the development of Chaco Canyon as a highly influential political and
religious center. This development coincided with a shift toward gender equity
in pottery-making, the authors write, suggesting that high demand for pottery
in Chaco Canyon may have spurred more people of both genders to produce
“The results challenge previous assumptions
about gendered divisions of labor in ancient societies and suggest a complex
approach to gender roles throughout time,” noted Kantner.
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