The value of mothers to society

Responses to motherhood and child rearing practices in prehistoric Europe


Gustav Klimt, The Three Ages of Woman, 1905 (Rome, National Gallery of Modern Art, by permission of Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali)

Analysing the link between reproduction and women’s social status, this project explores social responses to pregnancy, birth and childrearing from the late Neolithic to the late Iron Age (c. 3000–15 BC) through case studies in central Europe. Motherhood and childrearing, often seen as natural, mundane and inevitable parts of women’s lives, are also cultural and historically contingent practices that build the foundations of societies. Exploring the value of mothers to society aids in understanding important long-term developments such as social stratification, increasing population density and the entrenching of gender roles during the three millennia under investigation.
Bringing together the latest developments in archaeological science, including palaeo-pathology, dental analysis, ancient DNA and isotope analyses, with innovative interpretative approaches, this project explores whetherall women were expected to become mothers, highlights alternative lifeways, evaluates risks and consequences of becoming a mother and reflects on the social value of reproductive success.

It is the first study that systematically predicts the probability of whether or not a woman has given birth using palaeo-pathological markers, explores the age at first motherhood and the number of children per woman, and contextualises the findings with an in-depth status analysis of women’s graves.
Graves of pregnant women, double burials of women and children, and infant burials provide further data. The study extends to childrearing (care, feeding, but also abuse, neglect and infanticide) and explores how children were treated after death for insights into their significance. Current political discourses about mothers in society and workforce frequently refer to ‘natural’ and ‘ancient’ childrearing practices. This project contributes significantly to our understanding of motherhood and counter naive narratives of childrearing in prehistory with science-based information.

Feeding vessels, from Vienna, Oberleis, Vösendorf and Statzendorf, c. 1200-600 BC (photos: K. Rebay-Salisbury)

Publikationen

Publikationen

  • K. Rebay-Salisbury, D. Pany-Kucera, M. Spannagl-Steiner, F. Kanz, P. Galeta, M. Teschler-Nicola, and R. B. Salisbury. 2018. Motherhood at early Bronze Age Unterhautzenthal, Lower Austria. Archaeologia Austriaca 102, 2018, 71–134.
  • K. Rebay-Salisbury, Personal relationships between co-buried individuals in the central European Early Bronze Age, in: G. Lillehammer and E. Murphy (eds), Across the Generations: The Old and the Young in Past Societies, Childhood in the Past Monograph Series 8, Stavanger 2018, 35–48.
  • K. Rebay-Salisbury, Vielversprechende Ansätze und kleine Irrwege: die Interpretationsgeschichte frühbronzezeitlicher Bestattungen am Beispiel Schleinbach," in: F. Pieler and P. Trebsche (eds), Beiträge zum Tag der Niederösterreichischen Landesarchäologie 2018, Asparn 2018, 45–56.
  • M. Fritzl, Die mehrfach belegten Gräber des urnenfelderzeitlichen Gräberfeldes von Inzersdorf ob der Traisen, Niederösterreich. Masterarbeit, University of Vienna 2017.
  • D. Pany-Kucera, K. Wiltschke-Schrotta, Die awarische Bevölkerung von Vösendorf /S1. Annalen des Naturhistorischen Museums Wien, Serie A 119, 2017, 5–31.
  • K. Rebay-Salisbury, Bodies, identities and social relations in Bronze and Iron Age Central Europe. Kumulative Habilitationsschrift zur Erlangung der Venia Docendi im Fach Urgeschichte und Historische Archäologie, University of Vienna 2017.
  • K. Rebay-Salisbury, Breast is best – and are there alternatives? Feeding babies and young children in prehistoric Europe. Mitteilungen der Anthropologischen Gesellschaft in Wien 147, 2017 13–29.
  • K. Rebay-Salisbury, Comments on Paul Treherne’s ‘The Warrior’s Beauty’. European Journal of Archaeology 20, 1, 2017, 5–9.
  • K. Rebay-Salisbury, Rediscovering the body: cremation and inhumation in early Iron Age Central Europe, in: J.I. Cerezo-Román, A. Wessman, and H. Williams (eds) Cremation and the Archaeology of Death. Oxford 2017, 52–71.
  • K. Rebay-Salisbury, Bronze Age beginnings: the conceptualisation of motherhood in prehistoric Europe, in: D. Cooper and C. Phelan (eds), Motherhood in Antiquity. New York 2017, 169–196.
  • K. Rebay-Salisbury, Big Mamas? Mutterschaft und sozialer Status im eisenzeitlichen Mitteleuropa, in: K. Winger and C. Keller (eds), Big Men or Women? Neue interdisziplinäre Ansätze der Frauenforschung für die Eisenzeit. Universitätsforschungen zur Prähistorischen Archäologie, Bonn 2017, 57–73.
  • K. Rebay-Salisbury, Review: Michal Ernée, Prag-Miškovice. Archäologische und naturwissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zu Grabbau, Bestattungssitten und Inventaren einer frühbronzezeitlichen Nekropole. European Journal of Archaeology 20, 3, 2017, 587–591.
  • C. A. Wilczak, V. Mariotti, D. Pany-Kucera, S. Villotte, and C. Y. Henderson, Training and interobserver reliability in qualitative scoring of skeletal samples. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 11, 2017, 69–79. doi: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.11.033