These days, we often say that people with outdated stereotypes of male and female roles are still living in the “Stone Age.” But a new study has revealed that late Stone Age and early Bronze Age men and women were actually the opposite of the now-archaic stereotype where men are always the breadwinners, while women stay home and care for the family.
According to the Telegraph, a team of German archaeologists studied the remains of 84 men and women buried in what is now known as Germany’s Lech valley. The people were buried between 2500 and 1650 B.C., a period that covers the final years of the Stone Age and the early years of the Bronze Age.
After running stable isotope and DNA analyses on the remains, the researchers were able to come up with a theory on the male and female roles of the time. Apparently, European women from that era had ventured away from their home villages to spread technology and culture and start new families, while men mostly stayed in their place of birth, or at least within the region of their birth.
“Based on analysis of strontium isotope ratios in molars, which allows us to draw conclusions about the origin of people, we were able to ascertain that the majority of women did not originate from the region,” said researcher Corina Knipper, as quoted by the Daily Mail.
This trend of “patrilocal” behavior and women moving from one region to another wasn’t just a temporary thing that took place over a few hundreds of years. The researchers believe that the trend might have continued during the transition period between the Neolithic era and the early Bronze Age.
The new study offers an interesting look at the male and female roles of our ancestors, one that veers from the traditional idea that men did the fighting and hunting, while women and children stayed at home, according to study lead author Philipp Stockhammer of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat in Munich. He observed that a good two-thirds of the women whose remains were analyzed had ended up traveling, while “almost none” of the men had done the same.
As cultural trends and ideas were fervently exchanged in the Bronze Age, with new technologies being developed in turn, the researchers believe that female mobility was a key driver behind these exchanges. And even with women migrating from one region to another to spread culture and technology, the researchers noted that these females were not treated as “foreigners,” as they were buried in a similar way to women from the native population.
Looking at the study and its revelation on male and female roles in the Stone Age and early Bronze Age, Stockhammer said that the findings allow people to see how early human mobility had such an “immense extent” thousands of years ago. He referred to the trend toward female migration as an “institutionalized” form of individual mobility, a trait that has been described in the past as a key part of Central European life up to the third and early second millennium B.C.
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