This article approaches gender as a means of understanding cultural identity in Italy before the Roman conquest. Most scholars have assumed based on written sources that the ancient inhabitants of Samnium, who are noted for their fierce resistance to Rome, shared a gender system in which men were primarily regarded as warriors and women as caretakers of the household. Archaeological support for this view has been sought in the contrast between burials containing weapons (assumed to belong to men) and those containing jewelry or personal ornaments (attributed to women). In line with recent studies that challenge such a view, I employ statistical methods to verify correlations between grave goods, sex, age, and social status. Results reveal that cultural attitudes toward gender among the Samnites were complex. In many cases, gender configurations were structured in such a way that both men and women performed similar social activities and may have participated as equals in commensal politics. These findings demonstrate the potential for quantitative archaeological analysis to enhance our knowledge of cultural identity and social organization in an area of the ancient world for which there is very little written evidence.
By Rafael Scopacasa
American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 118, No. 2 (April 2014), pp. 241–266
© 2014 Archaeological Institute of America