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Historical Archaeology

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 132–155 | Cite as

Engendering Visible and invisible ceramic artifacts, especially dairy vessels

  • Anne Yentsch
Article

Abstract

This paper moves between two fields—modern artifact analysis (with its practitioners) and 18th-century culture—to show the veils in place that make certain sectors of the population less visible in present-day artifact interpretation. The article assumes that artifacts were not and are not passive entities, but items useful in a variety of ways: as practical tools and as fluid symbolic indicators of masculine and feminine activity. How do artifacts shift from male to female or female to male roles in a home? What happens when they are enmeshed in a folk-oriented mode of production such as family-based dairying? Essentially, when traditionally feminine products such as butter or cheese could be reliably made as household surpluses, women sold them. As the market for dairy products grew, their production was appropriated and reallocated to male arenas—first within and by male household members and later within a factory-based system. This raises the question of whether the movement of dairy production from a female folk world to a male folk world to capitalism can be perceived through artifact analysis. If not, why not? Is it because the events that took place are hidden by the past, or is it that they are masked in the present by modern analytical concerns? A deconstruction of artifact analysis is presented as a guide to this conundrum.

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© Society for Historical Archaeology 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne Yentsch
    • 1
  1. 1.500 Brown Pelican DriveDaytona BeachUSA

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