Gendered Violence in Small-Scale Societies in the Past

Document Type

Book Section

Publication Date


Publication Title

Gender Violence


New York University Press

Publisher Location

New York, NY


Rock art depicting decapitated heads (see Schaafsma 2007) or the actual act of cutting off the head painted o ceramic vessels (Brody 1983, 115) is hard to ignore. Such iconography is often used by archaeologists to identify the presence or absence of violence in small-scale societies of the past. Given issues of preservation, the relative scarcity of elaborately designed artwork, and the more mobile nature of small-scale societies, however, iconography is rarely available to identify violence in the past for most cultural groups. The presence of weapon-like tools (Blitz 1988; Taylor 2001) and structures that appear to be fortifications (Wilcox 1979) are also typically cited as an indication of the presence or threat of intergroup conflict. Howver, the cultural symbols and rhetoric around violence today in our own lives is indicative of how rapidly changing human behavior can be. While useful for framing the potential role for violence, vioent imagery, fortified habitation areas, and weapons do not tell the whole story.


Social and Cultural Anthropology



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