by Catharine Nienaber & Nicole Vellidis

In a field that focuses on the ancient, bioarchaeologists must make a consistent effort to conduct studies that possess value beyond the scientific community. Bioarchaeologists possess the unique ability to gain insight into human behavior based on evidence left in ancient bone and utilize it to study modern society. Christopher M. Stojanowski emphasizes the importance of using the bioarchaeological studies in order to assist in societal advances. Stojanowski presented a list created by the Harvard Social Science Panel in 2010 that presents the ten “hard and important topics in social science” as determined by a Facebook poll. Among these societal issues were topics such as “world peace” and “bad collective decision making,” and “behavior change” (Stojanowski, 2015). Behavior change was ranked seventh out of ten by the Harvard Social Science Panel, indicating the importance of the topic within the spheres of bioarchaeology and social science. The following collection of essays will analyze the relation between behavioral shifts and gendered and domestic violence.

Violence, oppression, and imposed patriarchal values have a increased negative effect on women’s health, sense of self, and physical well-being.

Behavior change includes a wide arc of human characteristics. Violence, oppression, and imposed patriarchal societal structures and their variation throughout time are all elements that may be included under the umbrella of behavior change. While individuals of all social standings, sex, and age are affected by these harsh behavioral changes. Violence, oppression, and imposed patriarchal values have a increased negative effect on women’s health, sense of self, and physical well-being. Dr. Johan Galtung, who coined the term ‘structural violence,’ states that when the existing structure is threatened, those who benefit from it will gear towards maintaining the status quo. In a way, attempts to change a society can expose those who will do what it takes to keep perceived privileges (Galtung 1969:179). For this paper, the focus will be on how gender and domestic violence affect women in particular, though it is noted that men can be and are victims of gender and domestic violence. Furthermore, we want to note the distinction between sex and gender. Sex is referring to the biology and chromosomal makeup of an individual, whereas when we focus on gender in our research, we look at constructed roles on the basis on one’s sex that are patented by a society. The standards a culture has on a person’s gender, and how they affect that person, are what interests us.

The topics of gender and domestic violence are ones of continued relevance in today’s society. Domestic and gender violence are classified within the confines of this research as a perpetrator subjugating a victim to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Domestic violence is committed by an individual acting in the role of an intimate partner while gender violence is perpetrated further by standards and expectations held by those of the opposite gender. Although, the case studies utilized within these essays focus largely on an ancient context, these essays strive to analyze ancient evidence in order to connect gender and domestic violence to the larger societal issue of behavioral change. Gender and domestic violence can occur between intimate partners, within a group of individuals, or within the confines of war. Debra L. Martin writes that within the context of the Syrian War, gender and sexual violence are extremely common to the women and children that are bystanders of the violence (Martin, 2017). It is important to give a voice to otherwise silenced and disenfranchised people. Bioarchaeology provides a way for the dead to speak and their stories can be employed to learn, understand, and help spur societal change. It is a disservice to limit societal truths to narrow views.

It is important to give a voice to otherwise silenced and disenfranchised people.

The bioarchaeological approaches, as mentioned by Stojanowski, divide the respective field into three categories: social science, natural science, and the humanities. This paper is concurrently separated into one of the three sections that combine to form an overarching understanding of violence against women. The social science portion of the essay focuses on various cultures and how they are designed against women; more commonly known as structural violence. This approach also examines the complexity of unequal power dynamics and how it affects nearly all parts of life. The humanistic portion of the essay explores the catalysts involved in morphing a intimate partner into a perpetrator of domestic violence, on both an individual and broader level. Lastly, the biological portion of the essay explores the visible and physical evidence based sides of gender violence across history. The research conducted has been drawn from multiple papers and cited sources from varying cultures, peoples, and societies across time and space. Many of the sources are based within the confines of bioarchaeological research and analysis, with historic references and ethnographic accounts also supplementing the paper. Objectively, the combined works will color in and detail the nuances of the broad and complex problem that is gender violence.


Galtung, J. (1969). Violence, peace, and peace research. Journal of Peace Research, 6(3), 167-191.

Martin, D. L., & Tegtmeyer, C. (2017). The biology of women and children in times of war. New York, NY: Springer International Publishing.

Stojanowski, C. M. Duncan, W. N. (2015). Engaging bodies in the public imagination bioarcheology as social science, science, and humanities. American Journal of Human Biology, 27. 51-60.

Continue Reading

Evolving Oppression: How Societies Keep Women Down, by Catharine Nienaber

Behavior Change: Violence Against Women throughout History, by Nicole Vellidis

Conclusion, by Catharine Nienaber & Nicole Vellidis

Or, return to the Table of Contents.

Leave a Reply