Complex Intersection of Social Relations and the Material World

  • Deborah Rotman
Part of the Contributions To Global Historical Archaeology book series (CGHA)


A separation of public and private spheres, at least in idealized forms, was an important aspect of domesticity. Elements of separation were extant in a variety of gender ideals, however, during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. Each of these ideologies placed at least some emphasis on defining and creating distinct tasks, roles, and arenas of interaction for men and women. Therefore, evaluating gender separation – both the presence and absence as well as degree – was critical to interpreting the archaeological assemblages in Deerfield as an expression of gendered social relations as well as changes throughout the history of the village.

Ceramics were a particularly useful material class for assessing gender separation. Yentsch (1991) developed a model that examined the color coding of vessels – earth-toned and white-toned – as well as their symbolic associations with male and female activities and, by extension, a separation of male and female roles. Wall (1994) investigated changes to decorative motifs on ceramic tea and table wares as well are their roles in increased ritualization of family meals and gender roles within the family. Leone (1999), Leone et al. (1987), and Shackel (1993) were also interested in changes to ceramic tea and table wares, particularly the ways in which these transformations corresponded to the emergence of the ideology of modern discipline. Although they did not specifically address gender ideologies in their analyses, the rituals of tea drinking and dining were intimately connected to gender roles and social reproduction.

As these models illustrate, analyses of a single material class can elucidate multiple dimensions of past lived experience. Ceramic artifacts from six occupations in the village were analyzed using these models in order to understand the material expressions of gender within the village. Each turn of the kaleidoscope revealed nuanced details of gendered lives in Deerfield.


Gender Ideology Family Meal Ceramic Vessel Ball Family Ceramic Assemblage 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah Rotman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

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