The Invisible Sex: Uncovering the True Roles of Women in Prehistory
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The Invisible Sex: Uncovering the True Roles of Women in Prehistory

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  113 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Shaped by cartoons and museum dioramas, our vision of Paleolithic times tends to feature fur-clad male hunters fearlessly attacking mammoths while timid women hover fearfully behind a boulder. In fact, recent research has shown that this vision bears little relation to reality.

The field of archaeology has changed dramatically in the past two decades, as women have challeng...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published February 6th 2007 by Smithsonian (first published 2007)
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Alex Telander
THE INVISIBLE SEX: UNCOVERING THE TRUE ROLES OF WOMEN IN PREHISTORY BY J. M. ADOVASIO, OLGA SOFFER, AND JAKE PAGE: While the cover of The Invisible Sex indicates an interesting history book with its parchment design and implied cave painting of a woman, many may be deterred by the title and subtitle, thinking this a book championing the role of women only, pointing out chapter by chapter where all the men got it wrong in history. This would be an error on the reader’s part. The Invisible Sex is...more
Michele bookloverforever
It was always assumed that men were the hunter-gatherers. why? because the first archeology books were written by men who could not imagine women doing anything more than cooking, cleaning house/tents and bearing and taking care of children. In actuality of course, they did far more. an interesting book. Why do we all assume it was a man who invented the wheel or discovered fire making?
I have always been fascinated by human evolution and the mysteries of the prehistoric era. I think this field of study that pieces together rare clues and proposes possible narratives appeals to my imagination. The vast bulk of the human story is unrecorded, and, as the authors of The Invisible Sex point out, the prehistory pieced together by paleoanthropologists has overlooked the important role that females played in the evolution of humanity and the technological and social development of our...more
I was really interested in the subject of the book (the role of women in pre-history), but it is written in such a feminazi tone that it makes for an annoying read. It's written by anthropologists (and maybe one archeologist) so it has lots of really neat facts, but I wish the tone was less aggressive.
I love the premise of this book, which is to challenge the immutable image of prehistoric man striding confidently after dangerous prey while prehistoric woman timidly cowers behind him. This image appears in countless illustrations, movies, and dioramas--but is there any basis for it at all?

The authors only have what they have to work with, so I will spare you the read and give you the short answer: no, there is no basis for this idea. There is also no basis for NOT this idea. We know pretty m...more
Jane Night
This book was a little too in depth for casual reading. I like non fiction and I found the subject matter to be very interesting but I had trouble getting into the book. There was just too much information that didn’t seem important.

Basically, the whole point of the book was to say that nothing can be said for certain about gender roles in prehistory because of a lack of clear evidence.

Remains of prehistoric bodies are often not able to be positively identified as male or female.

Weapons and too...more
Full of fun facts and written in a very accessible way, but the story isn't told convincingly. Full of words like "apparently," "seemingly," "presumably," and "evidently" to help *prove* that women have gotten a bad (or no) wrap in our understanding of prehistory. Some sentences just flat out kill the argument: "Apparently women created agriculture, but we'll probably never know for sure." I was frustrated with the stories that were intended to connect but then, after the fact, were more like ra...more
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
This was somewhat speculative, as most paleoarchaeology is. But it was an interesting read. The authors discussed various misconceptions about humanity's ancestors, and what the archaeological record says about the role of women during humanity's early history. There was a discussion of how childbirth has changed as different members of the Homo genus appeared that I thought was interesting. Pagan types reading this might be interested in doing a Google search for Hedu'Anna; she was the chief pr...more
Each newly discovered artifact seems to raise many more questions in the world of archaeology. This book points out how the way those questions are being asked are significantly different than 10, 20, or 30 years ago.

It is quite curious how scientists, artists and museum curators have shaped gender roles through their own stereotypes placed on the silent artifacts. I could hardly look at a museum diorama in the same way.

Stories of the prehistoric male hunt, initiations and cave drawings -- leav...more
I really enjoyed this book. The narrative was talkative instead of straight lecturing, and it emphasizes repeatedly the fact that most of the "truths" we hold about our past are based on recent conceptions of gender roles and society. It questions the image we've painted of our cave painter ancestors and provides a lot of very interesting research on the few remains of our past. It also makes me question why such black and white pictures of prehistory life are still being taught in schools. It's...more
Sep 26, 2008 Beli_grrl rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history, archeology, and anthropology enthusiasts
This is fascinating. I expected it to be dry and academic, but it's actually a very readable, even witty, prose. There are lots of interesting updates on what is going on in contemporary archeology, with the role of the woman in prehistory as the central, but not the only, consideration. In rethinking women's roles', mens' roles are also expanded. I think a better title would have been Gender in Prehistory. Obviously someone at the publisher felt a title mentioning women specifically would sell...more
While it recapitulates many of the most recent discoveries in archeology over the last decade, the book falls into a trap of its own devising: it descends into the very bias it decries in a wildly speculative manner. It isn't a complete waste of time and it is food for thought and more thorough further examination, but it will ultimately bore most serious thinkers and serious students of anthropology.
Julia T.
These anthropologists and a former editor of Natural History point to a larger role for women of prehistory than usually attributed. The invention of language, the beginning of agriculture, and the development of boat-building, cooking, and weaving are several key contributions credited to prehistoric women.
I was afraid this was going to be a Gimbutas-like version of prehistory, but it is actually a really even-handed review of what we know about prehistoric people, with a particular focus on trying to suss out things about females and women (they make a distinction between biological sex and cultural gender).
Readable, fast-paced, and a valuable corrective to male (and female) focused views of human evolution. The sections on "deep time" are less interesting than parts illustrating recognizable humans, but perhaps this reader is simply too human-focused.
This felt more like a book about the development of the human race, rather than a book specifically focusing on women. Not a bad read, but not quite what the title led me to expect.
Bruna Ferreira
Livro legal, com coisas que eu não sabia, como um estudo sobre a pélvis da mulher como foi fundamental para a evolução do homem para o macaco. Fiquei bem impressionada.
Very interesting and easy to read! This was a gift from Kelley written by her archaeology professor and expert in the field. I really enjoyed it!
Ambica Rajagopal
Great read. Rethinks prehistory and tires to answer the questions " where were the women for all those years
??". Eye-opening.
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Sep 16, 2014
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