Just Beyond the ‘Land of Women’: Examining Gender in Early and Late Medieval Ireland

Author(s): Jennifer Shaffer Foster

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Mind the Gap: Exploring Uncharted Territories in Medieval European Archaeology" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

In 1996, historian Lisa Bitel published "Land of Women: Sex and Gender in Early Ireland," a critical study of medieval gender, which remains influential over 20 years later. While more recent historical and literary research is available, there have been relatively few archaeological investigations of gender roles and constructs in the Irish Early (c. AD 400-1200) and Late (c. AD 1200-1600) Medieval Periods. Most discussions of medieval gender reference early Irish laws, which provide perspectives on social status and the roles of men and women in society. The laws suggest that women were largely engaged in traditional domestic activities and that their position in society was constructed in relation to their male family members; men are portrayed as lords, farmers, craftsmen, scholars, and clerics, all of whom had status in their own right and dominant gender roles. Archaeological knowledge of medieval Ireland has expanded dramatically in the past decade, enabling a much more nuanced understanding of gender than the laws alone can provide. This paper will address the complexities of interpreting Medieval Irish gender from archaeological remains vis-à-vis past expectations of the roles of men and women drawn from textual accounts.

Cite this Record

Just Beyond the ‘Land of Women’: Examining Gender in Early and Late Medieval Ireland. Jennifer Shaffer Foster. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 451291)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -13.711; min lat: 35.747 ; max long: 8.965; max lat: 59.086 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23250