Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2001


Published in Great Plains Research 11:2 (Fall 2001). Copyright © 2001 Center for Great Plains Studies.


It is well known that the role and contribution of women to prehistory has long been ignored or undervalued. Because women represent approximately one half of humanity, have done so in the past, and make a contribution by sheer numbers alone, this book is a necessary attempt to remedy the shortcomings in the writing of American prehistory as it pertains to women and gender. The authors state in its preface that their book is "an introduction to the study of women in the American past."

The first chapter lays out the method for the study of women and gender in archeology, the authors stressing the diversity of women's roles and values in non-western societies, a theme often repeated. The next three chapters look at women from the first Americans (Paleoindians), through the Archaic, to women in food-producing societies and their contribution to the evolution of food production. The next five chapters evaluate women's participation in various social institutions: households, production and specialization, religion, power, war and conquest. These chapters rely heavily on women in state societies, but provide a glimpse of women's participation in a temporal cross-section of societies. Although this organization works, it creates repetition, the same societies and specific women being used as examples in several chapters (such as the two Denzante women discussed in chapters on both power and war).