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

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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. Recent archaeological research has shown that this vision bears little relation to reality. J. M. Adovasio and Olga Soffer, two of the world's leading experts on perishable artifacts such as basketry, cordage, and weaving, present an exciting new look at prehistory. With science writer Jake Page, they argue that women ...
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Overview


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. Recent archaeological research has shown that this vision bears little relation to reality. J. M. Adovasio and Olga Soffer, two of the world's leading experts on perishable artifacts such as basketry, cordage, and weaving, present an exciting new look at prehistory. With science writer Jake Page, they argue that women invented all kinds of critical materials, including the clothing necessary for life in colder climates, the ropes used to make rafts that enabled long-distance travel by water, and nets used for communal hunting. Even more important, women played a central role in the development of language and social life—in short, in our becoming human. In this eye-opening book, a new story about women in prehistory emerges with provocative implications for our assumptions about gender today.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A fascinating book with a global perspective that is rare in contemporary discussions of prehistory. The Invisible Sex weaves the fundamental issues about women in remote prehistory into a broader analysis of human evolution. There are many issues about prehistoric men and women that we will never be able to answer, but this engaging and readable book gives us a useful baseline for further research. It will be much quoted and used.”—Brian Fagan, University of California Santa Barbara, emeritus

“They argue persuasively that the anthropologists and archaeologists of the past were invested in the conventional sex roles of their time. This often rendered them blind to the implications of some of their finds and uninterested in the crucial roles that women probably played in prehistoric communities.” —salon.com

“Helps flesh out a more plausible female role in prehistory than has been offered previously. In many ways, this book is a much-needed antidote to the past hundred years of popular and scientific writing on prehistoric human life, and avoids the cliched pitfall of veering too far into a hyper-feminist view.” —Nature

“The authors offer up some less ambiguous evidence that women’s roles in developing culture were at least commensurate with those of men in several important areas. Women, according other authors, had an important part to play in the agricultural revolution. Just as important, though perhaps less well appreciated, women in both ancient and modern cultures have been the ones involved most directly in producing textiles.” —Natural History

“Raquel Welch in a loincloth? The frightened, helpless mama in the dioramas of Natural History museums? The Invisible Sex blows all these myths out of the cave. Written by a renowned archaeologist, an anthropologist, and a science journalist, this book disproves many theories about prehistoric females and males. It argues that women probably hunted, invented agriculture, and created spoken language, and that the womanly arts of weaving nets and baskets and clothing were critical to survival and evolution.” —Bust
The Invisible Sex is science writing at its best. It has all the drama of a good mystery and grabs your attention in the same way. It is so fascinating, you don’t even realize how much you are learning. - Jean M. Auel
A fascinating book with a global perspective that is rare in contemporary discussions of prehistory. The Invisible Sex weaves the fundamental issues about women in remote prehistory into a broader analysis of human evolution. There are many issues about prehistoric men and women that we will never be able to answer, but this engaging and readable book gives us a useful baseline for further research. It will be much quoted and used. - Brian Fagan, University of California Santa Barbara, emeritus
I enjoyed The Invisible Sex a lot. It is well-written, lively, coherent, and says the right things. -Sarah M. Nelson, University of Denver, emerita
They argue persuasively that the anthropologists and archaeologists of the past were invested in the conventional sex roles of their time. This often rendered them blind to the implications of some of their finds and uninterested in the crucial roles that women probably played in prehistoric communities. - Salon.com
Helps flesh out a more plausible female role in prehistory than has been offered previously. In many ways, this book is a much-needed antidote to the past hundred years of popular and scientific writing on prehistoric human life, and avoids the cliched pitfall of veering too far into a hyper-feminist view.- Nature

—Jean M. Auel
“THE INVISIBLE SEX is science writing at its best. ...you don’t even realize how much you are learning.”
-Brian Fagan
“A fascinating book… engaging and readable. It will be much quoted and used.”
—Salon.com
“The biased guessing in a lot of old-school anthropology comes in for some pointed ridicule in THE INVISIBLE SEX.”
--Salon.com
“The biased guessing in a lot of old-school anthropology comes in for some pointed ridicule in THE INVISIBLE SEX.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781598743906
  • Publisher: Left Coast Press
  • Publication date: 2/15/2009
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

J. M. Adovasio, Ph.D., is the founder and director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute in Erie, Pennsylvania. He is the author of The First Americans (with Jake Page).

Olga Soffer, formerly a fashion industry insider, is a professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Jake Page was the founding editor of Doubleday's Natural History Press, as well as editorial director of Natural History magazine and science editor of Smithsonian magazine. He has written more than forty books on the natural sciences, zoological topics, and Native American affairs, as well as mystery fiction. He and his wife live in northern Colorado with six dogs and a steady supply of dog hair, available free.

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