The gender division of labour during the Proto-Elamite period

Yousefi Zoshk, Rouhollah, Saeed Baghizadeh & Donya Etemadifar. 2019. The gender division of labour during the proto-Elamite period in late 4th millennium BCE Iran. A case study from Tepe Sofalin in Iranian Central Plateau. In Julia Katharina Koch & Wiebke Kirleis (eds.), Gender Transformations in Prehistoric and Archaic Societies, 423-434. Leiden: Sidestone Press.

This article examines craft specialisation and the gender division of labour in pastoral nomad societies on the Iranian Central Plateau in the late 4th millennium BCE, a time when specialisation reaches its highest level of complexity. In proto-Elamite communities, women’s involvement in non-domestic production increased as social complexity progressed. Although archaeologists have largely moved beyond these typologies, the remnants of these modes of thought that the role of women were underestimated are still pervasive in much of the literature on the gender division of labour. This article argues that in proto-Elamite societies, specialised production occurred within the household, using specialised workers, and that this involved the participation of men, women, and children. Using Iranian archaeology of the 4th millennium BCE, during which complex societies emerged, as a reference point, this article constructs the argument that the specialised workers divided within their gender may have been the centre of production before pre-state political systems, within a pastoral nomadism subsistence system. Such household production and payment of workers by means of rations does not necessarily connote a lower level of socio-political or economic development. In this article, we explore the history of research on proto-Elamite economic systems, in particular, archaeological research on late 4th millennium BCE Iran. We then use these concepts to examine the role of gender in specialised household production based on proto-Elamite written texts, which mainly deal with workers and rations.