Friday, 21 October 2011

Female landscapes?

Are the interests of the female archaeologists different from the male ones and do female archaeological landscapes exist? Before and after gender archaeology the study of textiles has been popular among women archaeologists but it is unclear if the sex of a researcher affects the choice of sites or landscapes.

The Jewry Wall site in Leicester was excavated by Kathleen Kanyon, one of the famous female archaeologists of the recent times. Her activities coincided with the 1930s and the war time, which seem to have been the time periods for the women archaeologists to flourish. This was the time when Dorothy Garrod became a professor at Cambridge and the first female professor in Scandinavia, Ella Kivikoski, took her post at Helsinki. Garrod excavated at Mount Carmel in Palestine whereas Kivikoski carried out excavations at many archaeological sites in Finland and in the Karelia area. Garrod contributed to the study of the earlier periods of the Paleolithic whereas Kivikoski wrote the basic readers of the Finnish Iron Age. These topics were not very female but laying the foundations of different basic chronologies. They represented research that was widely respected.

Garrod worked with mainly female workforce recruited from the nearby villages and in this way created momentarily female archaeological spaces and landscapes. The interest in the qualities of the landscape, also female landscape, is more evident in the work of Ruth Whitehouse as part of the Tavoliere-Gargano Prehistory Project. She and her colleagues were inspired by the ideas of Christopher Tilley, often criticized for not showing due diligence to his data or research methods. Unlike him Ruth Whitehouse and her colleagues planned a systematic recording of different sensory experiences at prehistoric sites. She together with Sue Hamilton, her co-director of the project, and their team observed how voice can be heard and how sites are visible in this southern Italian landscape. This work, similarly to her ideas on the ritual caves, has been controversial but it truly embodies ‘alternative voices’.

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