Archaeologies of Sexuality

Archaeologies of Sexuality

Archaeologies of Sexuality

Archaeologies of Sexuality


Status, age and gender have long been accepted aspects of archaeological enquiry, yet it is only recently that archaeologists have started seriously to consider the role of sex and sexuality in their studies. Archaeologies of Sexuality is a timely and pioneering work. It presents a strong, diverse body of scholarship which draws on locations as varied as medieval England, the ancient Maya kingdoms, New Kingdom Egypt, prehistoric Europe, and convict-era Australia, demonstrating the challenges and rewards of integrating the study of sex and sexuality within archaeology.This volume, with contributions by many leading archaeologists, will serve both as an essential introduction and a valuable reference tool for students and academics.


Barbara L. Voss and Robert A. Schmidt

This book is about anthropological archaeology and its emerging contributions to studies of sexuality. Our goal is to foreground sexuality as a subject of archaeological analysis by presenting a number of case studies which focus on the relationship between archaeological data and sexuality in the past. While sexuality has traditionally been absent in archaeological interpretations, the studies in this volume demonstrate that this need not be the case. Archaeological data can - and should - be applied to better understand human sexual expressions throughout history. Because human sexuality touches many, if not all, aspects of culture, archaeological interpretations which include sexuality will provide richer, more nuanced understandings of the past.

Why is a volume like this necessary? Unfortunately, most archaeologists have not addressed sexuality in their research, in large part because of a disciplinary perception that sexuality is outside the purview of archaeology. The challenges are straightforward. Can sexuality be studied historically, and if so, does sexuality leave any material traces? How can we use potsherds, soil stains, animal bones, collapsed walls, or other archaeological data to study sexual identities, sexual activities, and sexual relationships? Yet these challenges - defining cultural variables, and relating material evidence to social behavior - are always present in archaeology. In this sense, perhaps sexuality is no different than political organization, religion, gender, ethnicity, or social ranking - all topics which archaeologists have successfully investigated. What is needed is a recognition that existing theories and methods can also be used to connect material evidence with research questions about sexuality. The case studies in this volume demonstrate that archaeological studies of sexuality are indeed possible, and that such studies can greatly enhance our interpretations of the past.

In this introductory essay, we explore several themes which provide a context for the case studies which follow. First, we address issues of language. What does the term 'sexuality' mean? Next, we define issues which have hindered archaeological studies of sexuality, both in theory and in method. We suggest several guidelines for archaeological investigations of sexuality: some prescriptive and some cautionary. We present an interdisciplinary survey of sexuality studies in sexology, socio-cultural anthropology, physical anthropology, history, classics, and several material disciplines such as art history, material culture studies,

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