chapter  8
Gender in the archaeology of world religion?
Pages 10

Whilst the archaeology of world religions and the role of gender in those religions are dauntingly vast and complex subjects, once one begins to consider the role of gender in the archaeology of world religions or the archaeology of religious gender, the field of study narrows somewhat. This is unsurprising. As this volume illustrates, the archaeological study of living religions has, until very recently, largely occurred outside the archaeological mainstream; furthermore, the explicit consideration of gender in archaeology is a relatively recent development, still evolving from its feminist origins (see Gilchrist 1999 for an introduction to the history and current state of gender archaeology). It is, therefore, not impossible, at present, to discuss such a potentially enormous subject area in this necessarily short commentary. This chapter, whilst intended primarily as a review of the current situation concerning gender in archaeological studies of the five world religions discussed in this volume, considers, in addition, the role that gender has played in archaeological approaches to religion. It suggests that the absence of gender in many studies is the result of an absence of people and their communities, that archaeological studies of religions have not always recognised the complex and disparate nature of historically specific religious communities, but have often been focussed upon other issues in which the identity of the worshipper (or heretic) was viewed as redundant-e.g. the attempt to identify sacred locations (Keller 1965), and the recording of detailed architectural developments (Buxton 1971, Higuchi and Barnes 1995). It further suggests that the role played by gender in discussions of prehistoric religion in European archaeology, and the rise of the Mother Goddess cult, is in part a reaction to the androcentric archaeological approach to historical religion.