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Gendered Households and Ceramic Assemblage

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Gendered Households and Ceramic Assemblage Formation in the Mariana Islands, Western Pacific

By Jacy Miller, Darlene R. Moore, and James M. Bayman. University of Hawai`i at Manoa, President and Senior Archaeologist of Micronesian Archaeological Research Services, and Professor at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa.


The archaeological investigation of gendered labor is vital for interpreting households in the Mariana Islands because Spanish documentary accounts are largely silent regarding their spatial organization. Preliminary analyses of excavated materials from a household on the island of Guam revealed that it consisted of two adjacent buildings (latte) that were economically integrated and within which craft activities by women and men were spatially segregated. More detailed analyses of ceramic assemblages confirm that household labor was gendered in other respects. Women prepared and stored food in large ceramic vessels at the building where they also conducted craftwork, whereas men consumed food from smaller serving vessels at the adjacent building where they crafted. This household arrangement illustrates gender complementarity in a matrilineal society that also exhibited aspects of a gender hierarchy wherein women had significant power during the Late Latte and early Spanish Contact periods (ca. A.D. 1500-1700).