Since the beginning of history, women’s roles in society have varied greatly. In Paleolithic times, women and men worked together to find food. Women worked close to the campsites they inhabited to find berries, nuts and grains, while men worked to hunt animals, due the fact that women also played roles in raising and bearing children. Scientists believed that because both men and women were contributing to their groups’ survival, they were considered socially equal and worked together in order to make governing decisions. As Neolithic villages began to lead to permanent settlements, religious shrines were erected. In Çatal Hüyük, religious shrines began to house figures of gods and goddess. The goddess statuettes with large chests and behinds are believed to represent the fertility of both ‘Mother Earth’ and human mothers. Mesopotamians believed in a similar deity called “Ninhursaga” or the “Mother Goddess” who was goddess of soil, mountains, vegetation and the “mother of all children”. She was believed to have manifested her power by giving birth to kings and granting the royal insignia upon them as kings were considered to be godly. While not much is said about Mesopotamian queens, Queen Puabi ruled around 2550 BC. When she died, her burial was lavish and she buried with fine personal items, such as a headdress, instruments, and servants. While agricultural systems began to change around 8000 to 5000 B.C.E., so did the roles of genders. Men became responsible for working in the fields and herding animals far from the home while women remained at home caring for children, weaving cloth, grinding grain, and doing other household tasks. Due to their time spent outside the home, men played a dominant role in society and thus rose a patriarchy, a society dominated by men. In Hammurabi’s Mesopotamian kingdom around 1792 B.C.E, Hammurabi’s code set a series of laws around marriage and family life in which women had limited rights. Marriages were arranged by parents and the parents of women were responsible to pay a dowry to her husband. Women’s places were considered to be in the home, raising children and taking care of the home. If she neglected the home or could not bear children, she could be divorced. However, women were guaranteed their dowry back if they divorced without probable cause. Otherwise, fathers and husbands ruled over their wives and children, expecting obedience.
Hodgson, Dawn. Molleson, Theya. “The Human Remains from Woolley’s Excavations at Ur”. Iraq, 2003.
Duiker, William J. Cengage Advantage Books: World History. 8th ed. Cengage Learning, 2016. https://cengagebrain.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781305537828/
Smith, Stuart. “Queen Puabi’s Tomb at Ur”. http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/faculty/stsmith/classes/anth3/queenur.html
Picture of seated women from: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seated_Woman_of_Çatalhöyük
Picture of wall from:
Picture of Hammurabi’s Code: