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Feminine Knowledge and Skill Reconsidered: Women and Flaked Stone Tools



ABSTRACT  Archaeologists continue to describe Stone Age women as home bound and their lithic technologies as unskilled, expedient, and of low quality. However, today a group of Konso women make, use, and discard flaked stone tools to process hides, offering us an alternative to the man-the-toolmaker model and redefining Western “naturalized” gender roles. These Konso women are skilled knappers who develop their expertise through long-term practice and apprenticeship. Their lithic technology demonstrates that an individual's level of skill and age are visible in stone assemblages. Most importantly, they illustrate that women procure high-quality stone from long distances, produce formal tools with skill, and use their tools efficiently. I suggest in this article that archaeologists should consider women the producers of Paleolithic stone scrapers, engaged in bipolar technology, and as such perhaps responsible for some of the earliest-known lithic technologies.