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Sex, Gender, and Status: Human Images from the Classic Mimbres

Marit K. Munson
American Antiquity
Vol. 65, No. 1 (Jan., 2000), pp. 127-143
DOI: 10.2307/2694811
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2694811
Page Count: 17
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Sex, Gender, and Status: Human Images from the Classic Mimbres
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Abstract

Prehistoric imagery is a valuable source of information on relations between people of different social identities. Analysis of a large sample of human figures depicted on Classic period Mimbres ceramics illustrates facets of that society's gender system, including the traits individuals used to indicate their gender and the possible presence of third or fourth genders. The imagery indicates that hunting large game and participating in ceremonies were considered men's activities. Men also are portrayed in a wide range of activities and in active postures. This suggests that men had the potential for achieving high status through their activities. Images of women are more static and show fewer activities than men. Women are associated with activities that are low in prestige cross-culturally: child care and carrying burdens. At the same time, women are depicted more often with valuables, such as jewelry, and constitute the majority of people handling parrots, which were used in ritual. This, combined with other evidence, suggests that some women may have achieved relatively high status through their membership in certain families, their association with ritually important parrots, and their possession of esoteric knowledge.

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