The hidden history of the work of prehistoric women is revealed



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  Humerus

Legend of the image

3D model created with a scan of a bone of the upper arm (humerus) of a prehistoric farmer woman

One study suggests that grinding grain for hours a day gave prehistoric women stronger arms than today's elite t-shirts.

The discovery points to a & # 39; & # 39; hidden history & # 39; & # 39; of strenuous manual labor done by women for millennia, says University of Cambridge researchers.

The physical demands of prehistoric women may have been underestimated in the past, the study shows.

In fact, the work of women was a crucial driver of the first agricultural economies.

"This is the first study to compare prehistoric female bones with those of living women," said lead researcher Dr. Alison Macintosh.

"By interpreting the bones of women in a specific feminine context we can begin to see how intensive, variable and laborious their behaviors were, alluding to a hidden history of women's work for thousands of years."

Elite athletes

Researchers used a CT scanner to badyze the bones of the arm (humerus) and leg (tibia) of modern women: from runners, rowers and footballers to those with more sedentary lifestyles.

The rowers belonged to the Women's Boat Club in Cambridge, and won the Boat Race last year. These elite modern athletes recorded more than 100 km a week on the river.

The athletes' bone strengths were compared to those of women from the early Neolithic agricultural eras to the agricultural communities of the Middle Ages.

Image copyright
Alastair Fyfe

Image caption

The study suggests that Neolithic women had stronger arms than elite rowers

The Neolithic women badyzed in the study (who lived around 7,000 years ago) had similar strength in the leg bones of the living women, but the bones of their arms were 11-16% stronger for their size than the rowers. The arms of women of the Bronze Age were even stronger.

Scientists think that prehistoric women may have used stones to grind grains like spelled and wheat into flour, which would have loaded the bones of women's arms similarly to the back. Previous movement of the oar.

In the days leading up to the invention of the plow, agriculture involved planting, tilling and harvesting all crops by hand, and women probably carried out many of these tasks.

"Women also probably went to fetch food and water for domestic livestock, process milk and meat and convert skins and wool into textiles," said Dr. Macintosh.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, suggests that women's work was key to the growth of agriculture.

Dr. Jay Stock, lead author of the study and head of the ADaPt Project, added: "Our findings suggest that, for thousands of years, the rigorous manual labor of women was a crucial driver of early agricultural economies. 19659005] "Research demonstrates what we can learn about the human past through a better understanding of human variation today."

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