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Evidence for gender from single burials

Burial-places are the most common terrain upon which the archaeologist meets the sexed bodies of the past: other media include disasters such as volcanic eruptions, shipwrecks, the sack of cities, etc., but these seem to be absent in the archaeological record in Egypt.

The clearest data for studying ancient gender would be that from cemeteries with single burials, with one body per grave or shaft, as distinct from cemeteries where the same grave or shaft houses multiple burials. Why?

single burial multiple burials

Within a tomb with multiple burials, it is often difficult to separate items according to individual burials, and the timespan may cover several generations. By contrast, the practice of single burial preserves more clearly the socially approved construction of identity for each individual body at burial rites.

For recent discussion of groups of Egyptian examples with emphasis on individual experience of the gendered body, see the study by Meskell 1999.


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