Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Women in Paleoanthropology and Prehistoric Archaeology

I don't normally step outside of the boundaries I've set for myself on this blog, namely my writing journey and writing in general, subjects related to medieval England(particularly late Anglo-Saxon times and a little bit beyond), and anything related to Neandertals.  The reason for this is, I want to keep this blog focused on that which is related to my Great Medieval Science Fiction Masterpiece With Neandertals.  I once had another blog which was supposed  to focus on stereotypes and Neandertals, but became entirely unfocused, and I ended up not having time to do anything with it.  Ugh.  I deleted that blog, and started over. with this one.


But every so often, I stumble across something so compelling, at least to me,and so important, that although it's not strictly within my sphere, I feel I must write about it, or at least briefly comment. Such is the case with a recent Greg Laden blog, which is generally about women in the field of paleoanthropology  and more specifically about Barbara Isaac, the wife of the late Glynn Isaac, the Africanist prehistorian.   This kind of information is important to me, even if it doesn't directly affect the material I read, as ongoing background research for my writing(s).  Paleoanthropology and prehistoric archaeology have long been, and in some quarters still are, considered primarily "male" fields. I remember being told, in my student days, that I would not be allowed to go on a local field trip to hunt for arrowheads and other Native American artifacts, by a professor of some note, whose name I remember well after all these years, but which will not pass my cyberlips.  He apparently just couldn't "handle" the idea of a woman being there. And I was to naive at the time to complain about it to anyone who might have been able to do something.  But in fairness to myself, I was pretty young and tender at the time. 


Still, something of this ethos lingers in the image of scientists and fieldworkers, especially in fields like paleoanthropology and prehistoric archaeology,of these workers being primarily male. It is also fair to say that a lot has improved in recent years, and this is why it is important to acknowledge the often unsung contributions  of women like Barbara Isaac, as Greg Laden does so well in his blog.  She faithfully helped her husband Glynn in the field for many years, then, after he passed away, she continued to contribute to the field, in other ways, large and small.  Arranging  with various authorities, through contacts she had accumulated over the years, to put the Georgian site of Dmanisi on the archaeological map was one of her more important here.


So I urge any interested parties to read Greg Laden's blog and find out more than I can possibly say.  His blog is often very informative on a number of subjects, especially doing archaeology and anthropology in the field, and he is very supportive of his female colleagues.  I hope it broadens the understanding of paleoanthropology, and the fieldwork involved, among the interested.

Anne G


gregladen said...

Thanks for the link, Anne. You clearly "get" Barbara.

Anne Gilbert said...


Yes, I thought I pretty much did. I've actually observed that pattern, in various venues.
Anne G