An Holistic Approach to Roman Gender – Melanie Sherratt (Durham)

Discussions of gender in Roman archaeology often focus on identifying and defining the presence and roles of women rather than discussing the roles of the entire community.  This paper will discuss the explicit and implicit biases created by such approaches, arguing that not only do such approaches do a great disservice to our understanding of past cultures but also that such approaches have allowed gender studies to be inadvertently marginalised within current archaeological discourse.  By seeing identity as multifaceted, incorporating not only biological sex but also age, status and ethnicity, a greater understanding of gender roles and gendered identity can emerge in the archaeological record. This paper will focus on material from South East England and will discuss the transition from the late Iron Age through the early Roman period. By addressing changes in how gender is displayed in funerary contexts, it will be argued that concepts of what it was to be male shifted significantly during this period and can therefore contribute to the complex issues surrounding the study of this period. Therefore, rather than limiting inquiry on gender to specific minutia of provincial life or examples of the exotic, which can be dismissed from larger narratives of understanding, gender can and should be at the heart of discussions of Roman Britain.


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