Version classiqueVersion mobile

Ving-cinq ans après

Enrica Asquer
Anna Bellavitis
Isabelle Chabot

Culture matérielle

Material culture, gender and the life cycle in early medieval Europe

Irene Barbiera


The practice of grave good depositions in early medieval cemeteries has been interpreted with different approaches which were developed in different historical periods, often reflecting the cultural and social climate of the moment. Between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, early medieval funerary rituals were interpreted in an ethnic perspective: different artefacts, styles and decorative motives were linked to different tribes mentioned in the written sources. From the 1970’s a new approach was developed which considered artefacts as an expression of social status, thus different degrees of complexity in the disposition of graves were interpreted as a reflection of rank. Both these approaches however did not take into account the gender dimension of early medieval funerary rites, although it is a striking aspect of grave assemblages of this period. Gender archaeology developed only starting from the ‘90s. One of its most important contributions is to show that gender is fluid and so can be its representation through grave good display: not all graves contained the same amount and the same types of gender characterized artefacts. As a consequence of these considerations new approaches were developed from the end of the twentieth century. One of the more interesting aspects represented in early medieval cemeteries, is the relationship between gender symbols and the life-cycle. In my talk I will consider these aspects in greater detail.

Texte intégral

The rise of gender archaeology

  • 1 On processual archaeology see: Binford 1965 and Hodder 1992; on ethnic paradigms in archaeology see (...)
  • 2 Binford 1971 and Brown 1971.
  • 3 Knapp 1998.
  • 4 Engelstand 1991.
  • 5 Hodder 2001.
  • 6 Hodder – Hutson 2003, p. 235.

1When debates on gender were first raised and gender studies emerged during the seventies, archaeology was still focused on the positivist study of material culture which was seen as a passive reflection of social structures, both economic and environmental. This approach to material culture, called processual archaeology, which introduced a new social perspective on the study of archaeological remains and funerary contexts, had the merit of revising older paradigms that rigidly tied material culture to ethnic identity.1 However, despite the fact that the gender variable was introduced in the study of funerary remains, archaeology at this time was still curbed by a purely androcentric perspective.2 So, while noting the existence of male and female spheres, they were regarded as an obvious reflection of sex, without further study of the social processes that produced them.3 Furthermore, neither did post-processual archaeology, which developed in the early eighties, organically raise the gender issue.4 However, it did lay the theoretical premises that allowed for the development of gender archaeology from the second half of the eighties, within prehistory. This new archaeological approach stressed the fact that culture, norms and behaviours are processes with polysemous meanings. Material culture can be actively employed to shape and structure human relationships and do not merely reflect social realities.5 In this sense the meaning of things changes depending upon the context as well as the observer. This new approach, as Ian Hodder has stated, “involves the breaking down of established, taken-for-granted dichotomies, and opens up the study of relationships between norm and individual, process and structure, material and ideal, object and subject.”6 Stressing the ideological and multidimensional role of material culture in the contexts of both production and fruition lay the foundations for the development of gender archaeology.

  • 7 Díaz-Andreau – Stig Sørensen 1998.

2One of the reasons put forward to explain the delay in absorbing the feminist debate is that archaeology was a discipline practiced primarily by men at least until the end of the seventies and therefore was impermeable to debates on women’s issues considered significant by women scientists.7

  • 8 Conkey – Spector 1984.

3The first work that raised the issue of gender in archaeology and is therefore regarded as the manifesto of gender archaeology dates back to 1984. Its authors, Margaret Conkey and Janet Spector, underlined how prejudices and contemporary models had been projected onto the study of prehistoric societies. This androcentric attitude had led to the formulation of the paradigm “man-the-hunter” and “woman-the-picker”, which implied a rigid and schematic division of tasks, perpetuated in time and space, according to which it is men who, from prehistory to the present day, carry out the tasks of primary importance for the sustenance of the group, while women, as dedicated to the procreation and rearing of children, would be entitled to less relevant tasks from an economic and social point of view.8

  • 9 Díaz-Andreau 2005.

4In support of, and in response to, a preconceived pattern of male and female roles, artefacts were automatically assigned to the male and female spheres. For example, the presence of mortar pestles in female burials was justified by the grinding operation carried out by women, while the same item found in male burials was interpreted as a hammer, or was read as evidence of the production of pestles by some men.9 In short, the practice of interpreting male and female roles within predefined schematizations has led to interpretations not only of objects and tools, but also of contexts and processes, that were often contradictory.

  • 10 Díaz-Andreau 2005.

5Applying the lens of gender to archaeological remains is very fruitful in uncovering social structures and ideologies developed in different past contexts through the active employment of material culture. Starting from the theoretical assumptions advanced by post-processual archaeology, according to which material culture is constantly manipulated to represent different ideologies in various social contexts, different cultural expressions started to be investigated in order to understand what kind of gender systems they were related to. Scholars stared to figure out the extent to which material culture was imbued with gender constructions and at the same time how material culture itself was used to define, structure and represent that same gender constructs.10

  • 11 Geller 2009.

6At the same time scholars began to investigate in the ways in which gender identity intersected with other forms of identity, such as the age, rank, family and ethnicity in different contexts.11 In this frame, major focus was devoted to clothing, since it is deeply imbued with social and gender structures, allowing one to grasp the degree of differentiation between males and females and whether these differentiations involved all individuals of one sex or only certain subgroups defined by age, rank or kinship.

  • 12 Scott 1997.
  • 13 Gilchrist 1991; Conkey – Tringham 1995; Scott 1997; Díaz-Andreau 2005.

7Special focus began to be devoted to social practices in which material culture was actively used to make visible or invisible certain categories of men, women and children.12 And the degree of visibility and invisibility of these categories varied depending on the context, which could be determined by contingent factors or, conversely, by the choices and expectations of producers and users of material culture.13

  • 14 Lucy 1997.
  • 15 Díaz-Andreau 2005.

8The cases of gender incoherence (such as females dressed as males and vice versa) were no longer interpreted a priori as flawed archaeological data but rather as a possible form of conscious refusal to accept the dominant gender model, possibly as a voluntary reaction of some individuals that could be accepted or punished by the community. For example, the recurring discovery of weapons associated with female skeletons in Anglo-Saxon England, that in the past were considered the outcome of incorrect anthropological analyses, is now posited as the desire to commemorate some women with warrior attributes.14 In this same strain, the scenes painted on Attic vases depicting the myth of Clytemnestra, the one who failed in her attempt to assume a masculine role, have been interpreted as a warning against breaking the gender-defined aspects of the social order – “as a strategy for maintaining the dominion, material culture is also used to warn of the dangers of breaking with the established order”.15

9The context in which all these aspects can be better investigated are cemeteries. The study of funerary rituals from a gender perspective has uncovered the complexity of social identity construction processes, the ways identities intersect with each other and their variability, in different geographical and chronological contexts. Such reflections offer an interesting alternative to the debates about the interpretation of early medieval grave goods understood in ethnic and social terms.

Gender categories and life cycle

  • 16 Halsall 1996; Halsall 1995; Halsall 2010.

10In a major study that was published in 1996, Guy Halsall introduced an interesting gender dimension to the method of early medieval burial analysis.16 The first step of his study, devoted to the Merovingian cemetery excavated in the area of Metz in France, consisted in analysing the criteria of combination of different types of grave goods within the same graves. He assumed that the association of different objects in the graves was determined by the conscious choice of mourners, which he aimed to uncover.

  • 17 Barbiera 2005; Distelberger 2002; Distelberger 2004.
  • 18 Barbiera 2012.

11He noted that while some items were regularly associated together in the same graves, there were others that were never associated with each other. For example, in burials of Ennery, the sword was regularly deposited together with the spearhead, the knife, the belt buckle and the belt, but it was never accompanied with bracelets, earrings, necklace beads and other such elements. For each artefact type, he investigated the ways they were associated with each other and noticed that on the basis of their combination it was possible to divide the various grave good elements into three distinct groups. In particular, a first group (which we will call A) included several elements of the armament that were never deposited in association with the elements of another set (group B), composed of jewellery of different types (fig. 1). Then there was a third set (group C) comprising objects such as glass or ceramic vessels, knives, awls, coins, rings and combs, which could be combined with elements of the other two groups. This tripartite division of the ways artefacts were associated is not only documented in the area of Metz but in other European regions where the same study was conducted. For instance, in the 6th-century cemeteries of Western Hungary, in 6th–7th centuries in northern Italy and in Avar era cemeteries in Lower Austria, the same way of associating artefact types could be identified.17 What varies from cemetery to cemetery and from area to area is the inclusion or exclusion of certain elements. For example, the belt buckle can be with weapons in the cemetery of Ennery, while in Western Hungary it can be combined with pots. But the same rule generally functioned in compared places: weapons and jewels were never combined with each other.18

Fig. 1 – Association of artifact types in graves (after Barbiera, 2012).

Fig. 1 – Association of artifact types in graves (after Barbiera, 2012).

12In all the cemeteries investigated with this method, elements of type A, weapons and other items, were deposited with male skeletons, while group B, containing jewellery, was deposited with female skeletons. Conversely, group C could be indiscriminately buried both with male and female skeletons. The graves containing this group of objects are generally the most numerous in the examined cemeteries. These analyses made it possible to confirm that, indeed, assemblages with weapons symbolized masculinity, while assemblages containing jewellery were indicative of femininity. However a group of individuals were buried with group C assemblages, so why was it that some individuals were characterized by either masculine or feminine associations, while a larger proportion of individuals, to the contrary, were buried with non-gendered artefact types?

  • 19 See Halsall 2010 and Barbiera 2005. See also, Distelberger 2004, where it is shown that in Lower Au (...)

13Different studies revealed an interesting relationship between the age of the deceased and the choice of grave goods. In particular, it was found that “female” assemblages (group B) were mostly placed in graves of women dying during their fertile period.19 As it emerged from figure 2, in the cemeteries of Western Hungary, “female” artefact types were mostly buried in graves of juvenile and adult individuals. Conversely, little girls and older women received only a low percentage of such artefact types.

Fig. 2 - Distribution of “female” artifact types according to age at death.

Fig. 2 - Distribution of “female” artifact types according to age at death.

14Therefore, women who died during childbearing age were preferably buried with a greater amount of “female” objects, such as jewellery, which beside being valuable and finely decorated, expressed and underlined the female character of the buried individuals, making them more visible in the context of the funeral and within the cemetery.

  • 20 Toubert 1996.

15The choice of designating young and fertile women is not unintentional. In fact, at this age females were given in marriage, were able to generate heirs and were involved in raising their children, and thus were “socially useful” in terms of procreation, perpetuation of kin generations and in establishing connections among different kin groups through their marriage. The marriage of a daughter aided in establishing new social ties, and especially in the case of very powerful families, contracting a marriage permitted the settlement or strengthening bonds of power and the acquisition of possessions in strategic areas. These strategies were particularly vital for the fate of early medieval aristocratic families, since, as pointed out by Pierre Toubert, the social and territorial instability and fluidity of positions which characterized the early medieval period meant that “the fortunes of the group depended less on those dignities in themselves than on the man who bore them”.20

  • 21 Wood 2004.

16Nobilitas was therefore linked to the close connection with powerful ancestors, which could in this period also be acquired through the female line. In fact, while Roman descent was more distinctly agnatic, passing mainly through the father, from late antiquity it became more markedly cognatic, becoming dependent on both parents.21 Thus, from this point on, goods and power could be transmitted not only by men but also by women.

  • 22 Venantius Fortunatus 1881, 4.28, traslated in George 1995.
  • 23 Venantius Fortunatus 1881, 4.26, traslated in George 1995.

17In this context, the depositing of particularly rich and composite assemblages in juvenile and adult female burials can be interpreted as reparation for the social rupture represented by the death of a young woman. If it was a daughter of marriageable age, her death could be a missed opportunity for her group of origin to establish new social links and to secure heirs. If she was already engaged, or a young bride, her commemoration might have signified compensation for the loss of large sums invested in the dowry – so reads a verse composed by Venantius Fortunatus for Eusebia at the end of the sixth century: “Already promised in marriage to sweet Eusebius, this young girl was fated to live scarce ten years. [...] Her father, who has lost daughter and son-in-law is bowed low; she had died and passed away, he survives and is finished.”22 Also the death of the 17-year-old Vilithuta, which occurred while giving birth to her first child who died with her, marked the end of the family lineage: “But the childbirth gave a sorrowful example to the parent; the family line failed at the point at which it is wont to move forward.”23

  • 24 Pactus Legis Salicae 1962, XXIV.3, 6: 07 and XLI.1.

18A high social value of women during marriageable and childbearing age is also confirmed by the Salic law dated to the beginning of the 6th century. It provides that the fine for the murder of a free woman who is no longer fertile is equal to that for the killing of a free man, that is, 8, 000 solidi. But if the victim has just given birth to a son, the figure is tripled, rising to 24, 000 solidi, and if the victim is pregnant, the fine to be paid is raised to 28, 000. Thus a pregnant woman and a young mother were considered to be worth three times more than other individuals in society.24

  • 25 Liutprandi leges, 12 and Liutprandi leges, 19.

19While artefacts associated with females were laid in order to symbolize the social role of brides, mothers and wives, masculine assemblages were deposited in burials according to a different logic: they were laid beside individuals who died in their adulthood and mature age, in a more advanced stage of the life cycle than women. This trend is clearly documented in both the cemeteries of Metz and in western Hungary. In both areas children and young individuals were mainly non-gendered, while men of the age 20 and older were buried with male artefact types, among them especially mature individuals received the richest grave goods. As it emerges from figure 3, in western Hungarian cemeteries most of “male” assemblages were deposited in graves of adults and older individuals, from 22 to over 60 years of age. None of the boys who died between 7 and 13 years of age was buried with male artefact types. It seems, then, that unlike femininity, which was acquired at puberty, masculinity was linked to the coming of age. Lombard law codes seem to confirm such different values of social age for males and females. In fact, they establish on the one hand that girls cannot get married before age 12, on the other that the legal age for boys to marry is 18.25

20The representation of gender in the context of cemeteries suggests that femininity was linked not only to the fulfilment of social roles of marriage and procreation, but also to their potential, because not only those who had already achieved these objectives were buried with female attributes, but also those who died young and lost the possibility to achieve them. Otherwise, masculinity was gained by reaching the appropriate age and social status. Moreover, in the western Hungarian sample masculinity was more strictly tide to age than femininity, as shown by the highest percentage of adult and mature individuals buried with masculine artefact types.

Fig. 3 – Distribution of “male” artifact types in according to age at death.

Fig. 3 – Distribution of “male” artifact types in according to age at death.
  • 26 Le Jan 2000.
  • 27 Gasparri 2002.

21Burials with weapons suggest that masculinity, characterized by warrior elements, was acquired at a precise moment in the life cycle. Not only those who had fought were buried with weapons, but more generally those who were theoretically able to carry them, according to their social status and their role among their kin and by extension within the community. Régine Le Jan has pointed out that the values and behavioural patterns of the aristocratic class in early medieval France were essentially martial: the noble youth warriors received an education and entered adult age when they received their equipment.26 At the same time weapons were also a symbol of social order. The ritual of donation of weaponry elements, more often the single sword, had the function of establishing a link of dependency between the lord and his followers, or a mutual link of fidelity between two peers. Therefore, in a militarized society like the early medieval one, weapons were a means of ostentation and self-representation par excellence of the male members of the aristocratic class.27

22In Gothic Italy in the 6th century, Theodoric is presented in the panegyric of Ennodius as the perfect ruler: numbering among Ennodius’ merits is compulsory military exercise for young boys in periods of peace:

  • 28 Ennodius 2002, XIX 83.

With what words should we celebrate the fact that while you guarantee that our peace is not disturbed, you take control of the Gothic strength and under your eyes, in the prosperity of peace, you make the indomitable youth to be prepared to war? [...] The whole city is stomped in combat simulation.28

  • 29 Ennodius 2002, XIX 84.
  • 30 Halsall 2004.
  • 31 Barbiera 2013.
  • 32 Whitby 2006.

23Military exercises represented for young boys the reaching of manhood, measured by the aptitude to bear weapons: “The muscles are strengthened with the launch of javelins and those boys, while playing, carry on the same activities of the brave soldiers: they accomplish by way of a spectacle an exercise that later will prove its value.”29 Therefore, the model of early medieval virility was that of the warrior, and it differed greatly from that of Roman times, impregnated as it was with civic values of moderation and rationality that were reached through public office.30 A young Roman aristocrat was prepared for political activity and the stages of success in society were marked by the cursus honorum. Also military activity was among the politician’s task but its social relevance changed depending on the moment and the context in the long history of the Roman Empire. As I have shown elsewhere, data from the cemeteries seems to indicate that a warrior model for masculinity become particularly important starting from the 3rd century AD, and much more so in the following centuries.31 From this moment, in fact, emperors became progressively more involved in the army and military campaigns took on a major role in the defence of the Roman world, as Whitby put it: “the military nature of the Emperor’s position was now revealed much more starkly”.32 This represented a first step towards the transformation of the social role of the elites and was reflected by a new model of masculinity, which assumed a more distinct military character.

24These studies have therefore shown two distinct poles: the masculine and the feminine which followed different rationales and were related to different roles during the life cycle. However, if some individuals were clearly defined within this binary gender construction, not all individuals fitted into this schema. Figure 4 shows the percentage of individuals buried with non gendered artefact types, these were mainly sub-adults, but among them also male and female individuals are to be found. The fact that there is no total correlation between the sex of the individual and gender symbols, raises an important matter: how were those individuals without specific gender attributes perceived? What was the meaning of their gender invisibility? How was their sex interpreted and more generally what was the meaning of sex difference within the societies we are considering?

Fig. 4 – Percentage of individuals buried with ungendered artefact types.

Fig. 4 – Percentage of individuals buried with ungendered artefact types.

Negotiating sex and gender identities

  • 33 Butler 1990.
  • 34 Voss 2008.
  • 35 Laqueur 1990; Spanier 1991; Gilchrist 1999.
  • 36 Butler 1990, p. 112.
  • 37 Baker 1997.
  • 38 Butler 1990, p. 129.
  • 39 Butler 1990, p. 139.

25Since the nineties, several scholars within the social sciences have raised the matter that sex as much as gender is culturally constructed. In this perspective, the work of Judith Butler has been particularly influential in moving beyond the binary categorization of male and female bodies.33 It has been stressed that the idea of a binary biological sex is a modern construct of Western culture which originated in a binary construction of gender.34 Therefore, biological sex is not the objective starting point by which gender is culturally constructed; on the contrary, the definition of biological sex is generated by that same gender construct that legitimates it:35 “the category of sex is itself a gendered category, fully politically invested, naturalized but not natural.”36 So, if sex and gender are not strictly bound and sex does not limit gender, there must be ways of culturally interpreting sex that are not necessarily binary. Both sex and gender are flexible and plural variables;37 they are an interpretation of the body that pre-exist the acquisition of its sexed significance.38 The body is therefore “not a being but a variable boundary, a surface whose permeability is politically regulated” within a hierarchical gender system.39

26Thus, archaeologists have tried to identify, on the one hand, the ways in which gender was culturally constructed. In the specific case of early medieval cemeteries discussed above, it has been discovered that some funerary assemblages of grave goods tend towards a polar construction of male and female, related respectively to adulthood and fertility. However, among these two defined poles there is also a mass of artefacts which do not carry clear gender connotations (group C). So, the gender system defined by grave goods seems not to be sharply bipolar, but tripolar, multi-polar or, better yet, a continuum. On the other hand, an attempt also has been made to understand how sexed bodies were perceived historically. Archaeological bodies, namely bones, carry some traces of hormones and genitalia which can be read as masculine or feminine: How were these perceived and signified by the people who buried them? As it turns out from the examples above, some of them were represented as feminine or masculine – but not all. How can one interpret this “grey area” of ungendered bodies?

  • 40 Galen 1968, 14.6.
  • 41 Nemesius 2008.
  • 42 Cadden 1993; Murray 2008.

27Some consideration of the ways that bodies were perceived in antiquity can shed light on the matter. As a point of fact, ancient sexuality did not define sex by emphasis on the genitals, but rather stressed the fluids of which a body was then thought to be constituted. These were moist, cold, dry and hot; females were characterized by cold and moist, males by hot and dry fluids. In this view genitals were not a determinant of sex, but rather a consequence of it, since it was believed that their form and function was conditioned by the combination of the humours contained in the body. In male bodies, thanks to the heat, genitals are perfect and extroverted. On the contrary, female genitals mirror male ones and are projected inward due to the cold nature of women. As Galen writes in the second half of the 2nd century: “you could not find a single male part left over that had not simply changed its position; for the parts that are inside in women are outside in man.”40 Thus female genitals, being an inverted form of those of the male, were considered to be imperfect and less determinant in procreation. This same idea was reclaimed by Nemesius at the end of the 4th century: “Women have all the same parts as man, but inside and not outside.”41 However, not all ancient and medieval authors agreed with Galen and Nemesius that female genitals were such mirrors, but they still agreed that female organs were more imperfect, and debates continued about their function and role in procreation.42

28Not only female genitals, but female bodies and faculties were seen as inferior:

  • 43 Galen 1968, 14.6

the female is less perfect than the male for one principal reason – because she is colder; for if among animals, the warm one is the more active, a colder animal would be less perfect than a warmer. […] Now just as mankind is the most perfect of all animals, so within mankind the man is more perfect than the woman, and the reason for this perfection is his excess of heat, for heat is nature’s primary instrument.43

  • 44 Isidorus Hispalensis 1957, Libri XX, XI.ii.22, cit.
  • 45 Aristotle 2015, IV.1.

29However, the degree of cold and heat in male and female bodies could vary according to diet and lifestyle; for instance, uncontrolled sexual activity meant, for males, loss of heat and thus of virility. In this way sex was perceived as fluid and different degree of maleness and womanliness could be reached. The female “virago is so called because she acts like a man (vir + agere), that is she engages in the activities of man and is full of male vigor.”44 On the contrary, castrated males, eunuchs, are seen as womanly men since: “the mutilation of just one part of them results in such a great alteration of their old semblance, and in close approximation to the appearance of the female.”45 The amputation of testicles was believed to compromise the right quantity of hot in males. In fact, writes Galen,

Testicles are even more important than the heart, since, beside the heat and strength they give to animals, they are responsible for the continuance of the species, for they impart to the whole body a power similar to the sensory and motor power which the brain communicates to the nerves, and to the pulsatory power that the heart communicates to the arteries, and this power causes the male’s vigour and virility.

  • 46 Philo Alexandrinus 1987, I.8.

30Sex was thus perceived as a continuum between two poles, the male and the female. “Progress – writes Philo in the first century AD – is indeed nothing else than the giving up of the female gender by changing into the male, since the female gender is material, passive, corporeal, and sense-perceptible, while the male is active, rational, incorporeal, and more akin to mind and thought”.46

  • 47 Ringrose 1994.
  • 48 Oribasius 1964, Incert 20.
  • 49 Rousselle 1988.
  • 50 Brown 1988; Murray 2008, p. 41
  • 51 Laqueur 1990.

31In this view, ancient sexuality was represented “in terms of ascending ladders reaching toward perfection”,47 in which females, characterized by wet and cold bodies, are at the bottom, together with children, who are “completely wet”.48 The aim of their education is to control and lower the level of humidity;49 in case of boys, they will become warmer and dryer than girls, getting upper in the ladder than females. At the top stood adult males, characterized by dry and hot bodies, as expressed by their ability to procreate, to behave in a rational way and to perform their power over the members of their household (females and slaves). Christian writers incorporated the ancient philosophical and medical ideas about sex and gender into the Christian world view, “the qualitative difference between female cold and male heat layered into Christian creation story”50 and persisted until the end of the Middle Ages at least.51

  • 52 Gilchrist 1997.

32It is thus possible to comprehend the different ways of gendering dead bodies in this frame. Even though we do not know to what extent such medical beliefs were grasped by common people, still we can think that the ideas of a fluid nature of sex and gender were commonly shared. This might be reflected in the different degrees of gendered individuals found in cemeteries, showing that the social categories of children, brides, mothers, household heads and so on were not single unified groups.52 Bodies were not objectified; individual agency and choice intervened to mediate gender and social identities.

33In conclusion, the gender approach to funerary remains offers new and fruitful insights on the construction of femininity and masculinity and how it changed after the end of the Roman world. It helps in understanding how gender roles were negotiated within society and how they were represented in the context of cemeteries. It also contributes to the debates about the relationship between gender constructs and sexed bodies in past society. Funerary remains of the early middle ages show that hegemonic masculinity and femininity were related to the life cycle, reproduction and kin groups’ self-representation. However such categories were not rigidly defined and did not encompass rigidly defined sexual bodies. The fluidity of gender and sex dimensions meant that their definition was a matter of negotiation which intersected different social dimensions and the subjective choice of individuals.



Aristotle 2015 = Aristotle, Generation of animals, ed. A. Platt, London, 2015.

Arnold 2006 = B. Arnold, ‘Arierdämmerung’: Race and archaeology in nazi Germany, in World archaeology, 38-1, 2006, p. 8-31.

Baker 1997 = M. Baker, Invisibility as a symptom of gender categories in archaeology, in J. Moore, E. Scott (eds.), Invisible people and processes, Leicester, 1997, p. 183-191.

Barbiera 2013 = I. Barbiera, Remembering the warriors: weapon burials and tombstones between antiquity and the early Middle Ages in northern italy, in W. Pohl e G. Heydemann (eds.), Post-Roman transitions: christian and barbarian identities in the early medieval West, Turnhout, 2013 (Cultural encounters in late antiquity and the Middle Ages, 14), p. 407-435.

Barbiera 2005 = I. Barbiera, Changing lands in changing memories. Migration and identity during the lombard invasions, Florence, 2005.

Barbiera 2012 = I. Barbiera, Memorie sepolte. Tombe e identità nell’alto medioevo (secoli V-VIII), Rome, 2012.

Binford 1965 = L. Binford, archaeological systematics and the study of culture process, in American Antiquity, 31, 2, 1965, p. 203-210.

Binford 1971 = L. Binford, Mortuary practices: their study and their potential, in Approaches to the social dimensions of mortuary practices, in Memoirs of the society for American anthropology, 25, 1971, p. 6-29.

Brown 1988 = P. Brown, The body and society. Man, women and sexual renunciation in early Christianity, New York, 1988.

Brown 1971 = J. Brown, The dimensions of status in the burials at Spiro, in Approaches to the social dimensions of mortuary practices, in Memoirs of the society for American anthropology, 25, 1971, p. 92-112.

Butler 1990 = J. Butler, Gender trouble. Feminism and the subversion of identity, London-New York, 1990.

Cadden 1993 = J. Cadden, Meaning of sex difference in the Middle Ages, Cambridge, 1993.

Conkey – Spector 1984 = M. W. Conkey, J. D. Spector, Archaeology and the study of gender, in M. B. Schiffer (ed.), Advances in archaeological method and theory, vol. 7, New York-London, 1984, p. 1-38.

Conkey – Tringham 1995 = M. W. Conkey, R. E. Tringham, Archaeology and the goddess: exploring the contours of feminist archaeology, in D. C. Stanton, A. J. Stewart (ed.), Feminisms in the academy, Ann Arbor, 1995, p. 199-247.

Díaz-Andreau 2005 = M. Díaz-Andreau, Gender identity, in M. Diaz-Andreu, S. Lucy, S. Babić, D.E. Edwars (eds.), The archaeology of identity, New York, 2005, p. 13-42.

Díaz-Andreau – Stig Sørensen 1998 = M. Díaz-Andreau e M.L. Stig Sørensen (eds.) Excavating women. A history of women in european archaeology, London-New York, 1998.

Distelberger 2004 = A. Distelberger, Österreichs Awarinnen. Frauen aus Gräber des 7. Und 8. Jahrhunderts, St. Pölen, 2004 (Archäologische Forschungen in Niederösterreich, 3).

Distelberger 2002 = A. Distelberger, Awarinnen. Frauen aus Gräbern des 7.-8. Jh. n. Chr. in Österreich, in Ethnographisch-archäologische Zeitschrift, 43, 2002, p. 47-59.

Engelstand 1991 = E. Engelstand, Images of power and contradiction: feminist theory and post-processual archaeology, in Antiquity, 65, 1991, p. 502-514.

Ennodius 2002 = Ennodius Magnus Felix, Panegyricus dictus clementissimo regi Theoderico, ed. S. rota, Rome, 2002.

Galen 1968 = Galen, De usus partium, trans. M.T. May, On the usefulness of the parts of the body, Ithaca (NY), 1968.

Gasparri 2002 = S. Gasparri, The aristocracy, in C. La Rocca (ed.), Italy in the early Middle Ages, Oxford, 2002, p. 59-84.

Geller 2009 = P. L. Geller, Identity and difference: complicating gender in archaeology, in Annual review of anthropology, 17, 2009, p. 65-81.

George 1995 = J. George, Venatius Fortunatus: personal and political poems, Liverpool, 1995.

Gilchrist 1997 = R. Gilchrist, Ambivalent bodies: gender and medieval archaeology, in J. Moore, E. Scott (ed.), Invisible people and Processes, Leicester 1997, p. 88-112.

Gilchrist 1991 = R. Gilchrist, Women’s archaeology? Political feminism, gender theory and historical revision, in Antiquity, 65, 1991, p. 495-501.

Gilchrist 1999 = R. Gilchrist, Gender and archaeology. Contesting the past, London-New York, 1999.

Halsall 1995 = G. Halsall, Settlement and social organization. The Merovingian region of Metz, Cambridge, 1995.

Halsall 1996 = G. Halsall, Female status and power in early Merovingian central Austrasia: the burial evidence, in Early medieval Europe, 5, 1996, p. 1-24.

Halsall 2010 = G. Halsall, Female status and power in early Merovingian central Austrasia: the burial evidence, in Cemeteries and society in Merovingian Gaul: selected studies in history and archaeology 1992-2009 by Guy Halsall, Leiden 2010, p. 289-314.

Halsall 2004 = G. Halsall, Gender and the end of empire, in Journal of medieval and early modern studies, 34, 2004, 1, p. 17-39.

Hodder – Hutson 2003 = I. Hodder and S. Hutson, Reading the past: current approaches to Interpretation in archaeology, Cambridge, 2003.

Hodder 1992 = I. Hodder, Theory and practice in archaeology, London-New York, 1992.

Hodder 2001 = I. Hodder (ed.) Archaeological theory today, Oxford-Malden, 2001.

Isidorus Hispalensis 1957 = Isidori Hispalensis Episcopi Etymologiarum sive originum ed. W.M. Lindsay, Oxford, 1957.

Jones 1997 = S. Jones, The archaeology of ethnicity. Constructing identities in the past and present, London-New York, 1997.

Knapp 1998 = B. Knapp (1998), Boys will be boys. Masculinist approaches to gender archaeology, in Reader in archaeological theory, post processual and cognitive approaches, London-New York, 1998, p. 241-249.

Laqueur 1990 = T. Laqueur, Making sex. Body and gender from the Greeks to Freud, Cambridge, 1990.

Le Jan 2000 = R. Le Jan, Frankish giving of arms and rituals of power: continuity and change in the carolingian period, in F. Theuws, J. Nelson (ed.) Rituals of power, Leiden, 2000, p. 281-310.

Liutprandi Leges = Liutprandi Leges in C. Azzara, S. Gasparri (ed.), Le leggi dei Longobardi, Rome, 2001.

Lucy 1997 = S. Lucy, House-wives, warriors and slaves? Sex and gender in anglo-saxon Burials, in J. Moore and E. Scott (ed.), Invisible people and processes, London-New York, 1997, p. 150-168.

Murray 2008 = J. Murray, One flesh, two sexes, three genders?, in L. M. Bitel, F. Lifshitz (eds.), Gender and Christianity in medieval Europe. New perspectives, Philadelphia, 2008, p. 34-51.

Nemesius 2008 = Nemesius, On the nature of man, translated by R.W. Sharples and P.J. van der Eijk, Liverpool, 2008.

Oribasius 1964 = Oribasii Collectionum medicarum reliquiae, ed. H. Raeder, Amsterdam, 1964.

Pactus Legis Salicae 1962 = Pactus Legis Salicae, ed. K. A. Eckhardt, Hannover, 1962.

Philo Alexandrinus 1987 = Philo Alexandrinus, Quaestiones et solutiones in Exodum, translated by R. Marcus, Philo supplement II, Questions and answers on Exodus, Cambridge (MA), 1987.

Ringrose 1994 = K. M. Ringrose, Living in the shadows: eunuchs and gender in Byzantium, in G. Herdt (ed.), Third sex, third gender. Beyond sexual dimorphism in culture and history, New York, 1994, p. 85-109.

Rousselle 1988 = A. Rousselle, Porneia: on desire and the body in Late Antiquity, Oxford, 1988.

Scott 1997 = E. Scott, Introduction: on the incompleteness of archaeological narratives, in J. Moore, E. Scott (ed.), Invisible people and processes, Leicester, 1997, p. 1-14.

Spanier 1991 = B.B. Spanier, “Lessons” from “nature: gender ideology and sexual ambiguity in biology, in J. Epstein, K. Straub (ed.), Body guards. The cultural politics of gender ambiguity, New York-London, 1991, p. 329-350.

Stoodley 2000 = N. Stoodley, From the cradle to the grave: age organization and the early anglo-saxon burial rite, in World archaeology, 31-3, 2000, p. 456-472.

Toubert 1996 = P. Toubert, The carolingian moment (eight-tenth century), in A. Burguière, C. Klapisch-Zuber, M. Segalen, F. Zonabend (ed.), A history of the family, Cambridge, 1996, p. 379-406-

Venantius Fortunatus 1881 = Venantius Fortunatus, Opera poetica, ed. F. Leo, Berlin, 1881-

Voss 2008 = B.L. Voss, Sexuality studies in archaeology, in Annual review of anthropology, 37, 2008, p. 317-336.

Whitby 2006 = M. Whitby, Emperors and armies, AD 235-395, in S. Swain, M. Edwards (eds.), Approaching late Antiquity: the transformation from early to late Empire, Oxford, 2006, p. 156-186.

Wood 2004 = I. Wood, Genealogy defined by women: the case of the Pippinids, in L. Brubaker, J.M.H. Smith (eds.), Gender in the early medieval world. East and West, 300-900, Cambridge, 2004, p. 234-256.


1 On processual archaeology see: Binford 1965 and Hodder 1992; on ethnic paradigms in archaeology see: Jones 1997 and Arnold 2006.

2 Binford 1971 and Brown 1971.

3 Knapp 1998.

4 Engelstand 1991.

5 Hodder 2001.

6 Hodder – Hutson 2003, p. 235.

7 Díaz-Andreau – Stig Sørensen 1998.

8 Conkey – Spector 1984.

9 Díaz-Andreau 2005.

10 Díaz-Andreau 2005.

11 Geller 2009.

12 Scott 1997.

13 Gilchrist 1991; Conkey – Tringham 1995; Scott 1997; Díaz-Andreau 2005.

14 Lucy 1997.

15 Díaz-Andreau 2005.

16 Halsall 1996; Halsall 1995; Halsall 2010.

17 Barbiera 2005; Distelberger 2002; Distelberger 2004.

18 Barbiera 2012.

19 See Halsall 2010 and Barbiera 2005. See also, Distelberger 2004, where it is shown that in Lower Austria and Burgenland (7th and 8th centuries), the assemblages deposited in female burials were divided into three groups, defined on the basis of the number of metal objects, mostly jewellery. It emerged that group 1, containing the highest number of metal elements, was laid in the great majority beside women who died during adolescence and early adulthood. The second group was instead reserved for older and senescent women, and the third group, the one that contained the least number of female valuables, was indiscriminately laid in burials of dying women from adolescence to senescence. Similarly, in a study dedicated to funerary rituals in Anglo-Saxon England, it has emerged that the largest number of grave goods was deposited in the graves of women from 20 to 40 years of age; see Stoodley 2000.

20 Toubert 1996.

21 Wood 2004.

22 Venantius Fortunatus 1881, 4.28, traslated in George 1995.

23 Venantius Fortunatus 1881, 4.26, traslated in George 1995.

24 Pactus Legis Salicae 1962, XXIV.3, 6: 07 and XLI.1.

25 Liutprandi leges, 12 and Liutprandi leges, 19.

26 Le Jan 2000.

27 Gasparri 2002.

28 Ennodius 2002, XIX 83.

29 Ennodius 2002, XIX 84.

30 Halsall 2004.

31 Barbiera 2013.

32 Whitby 2006.

33 Butler 1990.

34 Voss 2008.

35 Laqueur 1990; Spanier 1991; Gilchrist 1999.

36 Butler 1990, p. 112.

37 Baker 1997.

38 Butler 1990, p. 129.

39 Butler 1990, p. 139.

40 Galen 1968, 14.6.

41 Nemesius 2008.

42 Cadden 1993; Murray 2008.

43 Galen 1968, 14.6

44 Isidorus Hispalensis 1957, Libri XX, XI.ii.22, cit.

45 Aristotle 2015, IV.1.

46 Philo Alexandrinus 1987, I.8.

47 Ringrose 1994.

48 Oribasius 1964, Incert 20.

49 Rousselle 1988.

50 Brown 1988; Murray 2008, p. 41

51 Laqueur 1990.

52 Gilchrist 1997.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1 – Association of artifact types in graves (after Barbiera, 2012).
Fichier image/jpeg, 42k
Titre Fig. 2 - Distribution of “female” artifact types according to age at death.
Fichier image/jpeg, 19k
Titre Fig. 3 – Distribution of “male” artifact types in according to age at death.
Fichier image/jpeg, 20k
Titre Fig. 4 – Percentage of individuals buried with ungendered artefact types.
Fichier image/jpeg, 10k


Università degli Studi di Padova

© Publications de l’École française de Rome, 2019

Licence OpenEdition Books

Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search