Mitchell Carroll.

Woman: in all ages and in all countries online

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end was hollowed. For their food, the cave-dwellers,
though they possessed no domesticated animals, had
a wide choice of large and small game, birds, fish, rep-
tiles, and grubs; to these they added edible roots and
berries.

This almost indispensable domestic handicraft was not,
however, the limit of their achievement in designing. We
have seen that woman's thought and some of her activi-
ties were applied to the production of merely decorative
objects. She had already acquired an appreciative taste
for the auxiliary attractions of personal adornment. The
art of designing certainly found a place in the occupations
of these cave-dwellers, and the most familiar animated
objects would be their necessary choice. Hence, we may
readily conceive that, in the moments of respite from the
chase, the rude artist of this age would make of the cave
passages a canvas for his work and thereon delineate the
animals whose importance to his existence rendered them
the most interesting objects. Nor, for this reason, would
his subject fail of appreciative criticism and of educational
value.



14 WOMAN

It is impossible to state the nature or the extent of the
social organization among these people, but that there
must have been something of the sort there can be no
doubt. It seems equally plausible that there could have
been no recognition of law in the lives of these passionate
savages, excepting as the will of some more than ordinarily
forceful warrior was for the time so recognized. An
association of this kind admitted of the sloughing of the
groups whenever a difference of inclination or of interest
suggested such a course. Promiscuity undoubtedly re-
mained the characteristic form of the relation of the
sexes, the conditions of life admitting of no more enduring
relations.

The culture of the peoples of the river-drift and of the
caves signified little in British civilization, as these shadowy
tribes passed completely out of view. For a period of time
that could be expressed only in the term of vague geological
computation, the country remained devoid of inhabitants.
Meantime, changes were wrought in Britain's physical
features. The land became insular, although the subsid-
ence that gave rise to the English Channel was not yet
complete. In an indirect way, the earliest peoples may be
said to have passed on the elements of their culture; for,
while there was a lapse in the continuity of social develop-
ment, the Neolithic races that are next met with in Britain
became the inheritors of the culture of the ruder hunter
stages of society represented by the river-drift and cave
peoples.

The social grade of the Neolithic races was a great
advance over that of the peoples last considered. Instead
of bands of nomadic wanderers, we find a pastoral people
whose migrations were doubtless periodical and made only
in search of new pastures. Hunting did not form an im-
portant part of their lives, for their food was supplied by



THE WOMEN OF PREHISTORIC BRITAIN 1 5

the flesh of domesticated animals and the cereals that they
raised for their own needs and, in the winter season, for
those of their stock.

Although caves continued to be used to some extent for
dwellings, they were not characteristic of the civilization
of the times. Man had become a home builder. The
evolution from the cave dwellings is seen in the style of
houses that were first constructed. They consisted of
pits dug to a depth of seven to ten feet, and about seven
feet wide at the base. These pits were roofed over with
a sort of thatch, filled in with imperfectly burnt clay.
They were built singly and in groups, and were sometimes
connected by a system of underground passages. Access
was had to these dwellings by a slanting, shaftlike en-
trance. A pit village was usually stockaded to protect it
against the assaults of foes. Outside it were the arable
lands and the common pasture lands for the sheep and
goats; enclosing these, the forest stretched out in all
directions.

Looking down from one of the surrounding hilltops upon
such a village, it would have presented to the eye of the
observer the appearance of a number of round hillocks but
little higher than the ground level. Thin lines of smoke,
slowly ascending, would mark the places where the com-
mon meals were in course of preparation. As the traveller
descended the hillside, his approach would be challenged
by gaunt, savage sheep dogs, from whose attacks he
would need to defend himself. As he passed out into the
clearing, he would be confronted by the men, some of them
tilling the soil, others acting as shepherds or swineherds.
Perhaps a field of golden wheat would lend its beauty to
the scene. Approaching the dwellings, the women would
be seen at their several employments; some busy cutting
up the meat and swinging it over the fires to roast, or



1 6 WOMAN

boiling it in pots with herbs and roots to make a savory
stew, others mixing dough and spreading it upon flat
stones over hot embers to bake. Sitting about on the
rocks or squatting upon skins spread upon the ground,
other women would be found busily making pottery,
modelling the clay with their hands, and scratching upon
it lines, circles, and pyramids in various combinations, or
fashioning designs by pressing reindeer sinews into the
substance. Still others would be discovered busily spinning
and weaving flax and wool into fabrics for the clothing that
marked one of the advances of the Neolithic people. In
the distance would be heard the dull strokes of the stone
axes with which, in the depth of the wood, the men felled
the tall timber.

For the industries presented in this picture of a Neo-
lithic village, there were suitable implements. For all
domestic purposes, the art of pottery making had solved
the question of satisfactory vessels. These were gener-
ally in two colors, either brown or black. The potter's
wheel had not yet been invented, so that the vessels lacked
the grace and uniformity of later work of the sort. Wheat
was ground by means of a mortar and pestle. Knives for
various uses, saws, and scrapers were all made of highly
polished and very keen-edged flint flakes. The great
superiority of their stone implements over those of earlier
races has given a name to the people, but the culture of
the Polished Stone Age reveals, as its most salient fact,
not this, but rather the domestication of animals and the
tilling of the soil. It is significant to note that these most
characteristic features of the Polished Stone Age denote
the advance of society in the arts of peaceful living. War
was prevalent enough, but human development had dis-
covered another line of advancement, and, by reason of
the increased incentives to peaceful living, war was not



THE WOMEN OF PREHISTORIC BRITAIN 17

usually undertaken simply for the pleasure of fighting.
Protection of flocks and herds, of cleared fields and settled
homes, became the chief occasion of the wars waged by
the Neolithic people.

In such a society as we have described, there is a
community of interest that tends to give stability to the
ties of relationship. The fairly settled state of life was
undoubtedly accompanied by a social organization of some
sort that could properly deal with the matters of individual
rights. The family had become evolved from the horde;
promiscuity had doubtless given place to polygamy, or,
under the .exceptional conditions of a greater number of
men than of women, to polyandry. Neither of these
forms of marriage carried with it the idea of fixity and of
family responsibility.

A feature of the Neolithic age was its commerce. By a
system of intertribal traffic, the simple commodities of the
widely dispersed peoples of Europe became distributed
among the various tribes. By this means, many articles
not of domestic manufacture were added to the comfort of
the people of Britain. Thus, the women were enabled to
adorn themselves with jade beads that must have come
from the region of the Mediterranean Sea, and even with
gold ornaments from as distant points. These instances,
however, were exceptional, and are to be accounted for
in the same manner that we account for the most unlikely
things in the possession of the tribes of Central Africa — by
gradual hand-to-hand passage.

There was probably an absence of religious ideas among
the predecessors of the Polished Stone races; but among the
remains of the latter are ample proofs of the prevalence
among them of such notions. Caves that once had served
them as residences were later used for places of burial,
the bodies being piled up with earth until the cavities were



1 8 WOMAN

completely filled. Accompanying human remains have been
found urns, supposedly for burning incense, personal orna-
ments, implements, and weapons, placed there for the use
of the dead. If the people possessed religious conceptions
that led them to believe in an after life, there is no room
for doubt that religion had a place in the economy of their
living. The women of this time, then, could look forward
to something better than abandonment to starvation after
they became enfeebled by age or sickness, and they may
not have lacked religious associations in their everyday
life to give to it deeper meaning and interest.

From the foregoing sketch of her life, it is very clear
that the condition of Neolithic woman, the range of her
ideas, and the elements of her comfort, were much in ad-
vance of those of the woman of the Paleolithic period.
The contributions to her existence were indeed elements
of civilization, and formed the basis for all that the life of
the sex has come to be. In the realm of institutions, the
home was beginning to have a place and a meaning in
the life of the people. Religion, also, had come to widen the
horizon of life. Very crude, but real, elements of social
progress were all these.

The succeeding age — the Bronze — has been credited
with working as great a revolution in life and giving it
as great an impetus as did the invention of gunpowder m
the Middle Ages. It is certainly a fact that the invention
of this beautiful alloy was looked upon by the ancients
who lived close to its age as of incalculable importance in
its influence upon civilization — a judgment that is confirmed
by anyone who studies its abundant remains. iVlanufac-
tures and commerce were important interests of the times:
smelting furnaces and the smith's shop turned out beau-
tiful specimens of wares of all sorts — shields, spears, arrow
tips, cups of graceful pattern, vessels for all purposes,



THE WOMEN OF PREHISTORIC BRITAIN I9

ornaments, and the trimmings for the large boats made
necessary by a wide commerce, were all manufactured be-
yond the needs of domestic consumption. The stimulated
inventiveness of the people added many new articles of
comfort to their lives.

The development of bronze was not original with the
people of Britain, but was introduced through an invasion
of bronze-using people. For this reason, the change made
in the life of the people was radical, instead of being, as on
the continent, a gradual process. The struggle that ensued
between the bronze users and the stone users was a
contest between an advanced civilization and one of a
lower order; and its issue was predetermined. The new-
comers became the controlling element in the country.
The tendency of the new order of things was toward in-
dividualism. Personal ownership brought with it social
grades, so that it is impossible to make statements with
regard to the bronze people that apply equally to all
the race.

But we are concerned with the conditions of the times
only as the setting in which we are to study the life of
woman. In the Bronze Age, there was introduced into
her life nothing to be compared to the contributions made
thereto in the preceding age. While her horizon was
greatly broadened, and while she benefited by the im-
provements in living, — better facilities, comforts, and
even luxuries, — yet the advance was along established
lines. We may surely believe that closer intercourse
with outside peoples brought a corresponding quickening
of thought and an appreciation of the merits of grades of
life higher than her own. There was no marked change
in the style of dwellings of the people of the Bronze Age
from those of the Neolithic period; but their furnishings
were better, and, instead of the skins of wild animals,



20 WOMAN

those of domestic animals and, perhaps, woven and brightly
dyed fabrics now served for couches, and were hung about
the walls as a protection against dampness. The utensils
of the home were varied and ornamental, the conven-
tional patterns having given place to other, though still
simple, designs. In the homes of the wealthy, knives and
spoons and the finer grades of vessels were of bronze.

The dress of the women had now become something
more than mere protection for the body. The skins of
animals might still suffice for the clothing of the poor, but
the rich man's attire consisted of well-bleached linens,
and, doubtless, woollen fabrics as well. The garments
made of these materials were probably dyed in rich colors,
as the principles of dyeing were well understood. We can
picture, then, a woman of the higher grade, dressed in a
tunic, with a mantle of contrasting color, her hair done up
in an elaborate coiffure and set off by a cap of goat or
sheep skin. Projecting from under this would appear
bronze hairpins, perhaps twenty inches in length, of orna-
mental design; indeed, her coiffure was such an elaborate
affair that it is quite likely that she slept with it in a head
rest, similar to those which we know were used by the
lake-dwellers of Switzerland and are still used in Japan.
Pendent from her neck hung strings of beads and orna-
ments made of bone, polished stone, bronze, and even
glass and gold. Her arms were weighted with bracelets,
and her legs were adorned with anklets.

Spinning, weaving, the milking of the goats, the making
of curd and cheese, the modelling of pottery, the prepara-
tion of the meals, assisting with the outdoor work, and the
care of her children, made up the round of woman's life in
those days. But there was another element that had
come to be a serious one in her existence, and that was
religion. Although the form of the prevailing religious



THE WOMEN OF PREHISTORIC BRITAIN 21

belief is lost, yet we have evidence that it was elaborate
enough to call for special places for its observance. In-
deed, none of the remains of the Bronze Age are more
instructive, or present food for more fruitful speculation as
to the manner of life or the scope of mentality during that
era, than the curious tumuli that show how closely asso-
ciated in the common consciousness were religion and
death; for these mounds were probably places both of
worship and burial. These ideas still remain in such close
connection that the vicinity of a church, and indeed the
edifice itself, seems especially appropriate for the inter-
ment of the dead or for the depositing of crematory urns.
Such religion as existed must have had its reflex influence
upon woman's life and have entered into its duties; it may
be that, as with the later Druids, she assisted in the public
offices of worship.



^i}t Momeii of Eiicient iSritam



11

THE WOMEN OF ANCIENT BRITAIN

For our survey of the women of the different and, to a
considerable degree, distinct peoples of Britain, prior to
their being brought under the influence of Roman culture,
it will be convenient to take our stand at the beginning of
the period of real history, which for Britain may be conven-
iently placed at the first century before Christ. A survey
of woman at that time would, in the nature of the case,
partake somewhat of the character of a composite picture.
Still, it would include all important particulars, even though
these might not, in all cases, be accurately assigned in
point of time, or even precisely as to race. So gradual
were the changes that were wrought in woman's exist-
ence during the revolution that followed the introduction
of iron into the arts of Britain's life, that it will not be
difificult to speak with approximate accuracy.

The data for our picture of the status and occupations of
the women at the time under consideration will need to be
drawn from archseological remains of different dates and of
widely different races, as well as from the confused and
often conflicting or even incredible accounts of early voy-
agers, to which may be added the vague allusions of
legendary lore.

In considering the details of the life of woman during
the period under consideration, the most salient fact is not

25



26 WOMAN

the influx and partial merging of different peoples resulting
from the intercourse that had been opened up between
the Britons and the nations of the continent; nor is it the
impulse to civilization brought about by the use of iron
in the manufacture of a multitude of articles of general
convenience. Such influences and agencies were potent
in society, working the transformation that found its
expression, among other ways, in the lifting of woman
to the plane of civilization that was introduced by the
Romans; but, undoubtedly, the greatest contributing factor
to the life of the age, and so the most important one in
fixing the status of woman, was the trade relations that
were developed with Britain by the peoples of the South
and the remote East: the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the
Etruscans, the Greeks, and, later, the Romans. To the
Phoenicians, that nation of traders, must be given the credit
of the introduction into Britain of the higher products of
many of those peoples whose civilizations were of an ad-
vanced type. It was the fleets of this enterprising people
that brought into Britain quantities of finely wrought im-
plements of various sorts: useful articles that greatly
increased the comfort of life, as well as those of ornament
and of dress. Among such imports were the jade beads
and ornaments which the British women held in especial
esteem; beads of glass, delicately marked and colored;
ornaments of gold, sometimes inlaid with enamel in pleas-
ing designs and colors; fine fabrics of different sorts; rings,
brooches, necklaces, armlets, leg bands, and wares of
many kinds. Such things not only added to the comfort
and the sense of luxury of the women, but, as object les-
sons of art and elegance, they were in the highest degree
educative. They stimulated woman's imagination and
piqued her interest in regard to the women of those far
distant lands, with whom such articles were in ordinary



THE WOMEN OF ANCIENT BRITAIN 2/

use. We hear of travellers' tales, carried back by the
early voyagers to Britain, which, by their incredible color-
ing, awakened the wonder of the Greeks; but probably as
much amazement and interest were aroused among the
Britons by the marvellous tales, told by the Phoenicians
and other traders, concerning the nations among which
were manufactured the articles brought by them to barter
for the metals, furs, woods, and other products of Britain.
In this way, a distorted knowledge of the outside world
and of the accomplishments of highly civilized peoples
came to be widely diffused among the more advanced of
the rude inhabitants of Britain. The arrival of a ship in
7ort was an event of absorbing interest; soon the women
.of the coast settlements would be seen busily traversing
ihe narrow, winding paths by which the houses of a vil-
lage were connected, to gossip with their neighbors about
the latest bit of wonderful narrative picked up from the
oddly garbed foreign sailors concerning the mighty nations
of the remote parts of the earth, or to display some pur-
chase — a piece of cloth of fine web or of bright colors, a
chased fibula, a string of beads, or articles of like nature.
It would be difficult to exaggerate the effect upon the
mentality and the life interest of the simple-minded yet
keenly inquiring British women of the commerce which,
at first occasional, gradually became regular and expand-
ing, and by which Britain was brought out of its insular
separateness into the broad current of the world's progress.
The population of Britain was large — as the Romans
found when they came into the country. The people
were collected into villages and towns which were ruled by
chieftains who were frequently at war with one another.
During such strife their women were hidden in caves or
pits covered with brush; this was a necessary protective
measure, for the loss of its women was the severest blow



28 WOMAN

a people could suffer. This division of the tribes into
little warring factions was the cause of the country falling
readily a prey to the Romans.

When we consider that the writers of the time had in
view different elements of the population, it is less difficult
to harmonize their conflicting statements. While there
are contrary statements made as to the agriculture of the
Romans, it seems to be a satisfactory reconciliation of
these statements to regard the less progressive northern
tribes as purely pastoral and the inhabitants of the other
parts of the island as agriculturalists as well as herdsmen.
After the Romans became established, wheat came to be
one of the chief articles of export. The producers har-
vested this grain by cutting off the heads and storing
them in pits under the ground. These pits were protected
against frost. Each day the farmers took out the wheat
longest stored, and ground it into meal. The process of
removing the grain from the cob was, according to what
we know of it, similar to the method still in use down to
the seventeenth century in some parts of Britain. This
consisted of twirling in the fire several heads of wheat,
which the woman performing the operation held in her left
hand, while with a stick held in her right hand she beat
off the loosened grain at the very instant that the chaff
was consumed. The grain was then usually ground in a
hand mill, although there is reason to believe that water
mills also were used to some extent. The meal was then
mixed, and baked over the fire in little loaves, or flat cakes.
The whole process occupied but a couple of hours.

The houses of the people, to which the women were
confined the greater part of the winter, were mean little
structures. They were circular in shape, and were made
of wattles or wood, and sometimes of stone. These
wigwam-like structures were roofed with straw, and had



THE WOMEN OF ANCIENT BRITAIN 29

as their sole external decoration the trophies of the chase
and the battlefield, A chief's house was triumphantly
adorned with the skulls of his enemies, nailed up against
the eaves of the porch, among the horns and bones of
beasts. Sometimes the heads of foes slain in battle were
embalmed, and furnished gruesome ornamentation for the
interior of the house. But notwithstanding these testi-
monials of a savage nature, there were evidences of com-
fort that had in them the indication of an approach to
civilization. The houses were connected by narrow, tort-
uous paths, and were usually surrounded by a stockade
as a protection against assault.

The dress of the women differed according to the wealth
and the civilization of the various sections of the popula-
tion. The tribes of the east and southeast, who were
principally Celts, were the more civilized, while the Cale-
donians of the north — the Picts, or painted men, as they
were commonly called — were far less advanced. The
women of the Celts were of great personal attractiveness.
They possessed a wealth of magnificent hair, were fair-
complexioned and of splendid physique. To these graces
of person they added fierce tempers; we are told that
when the husband of one of them engaged in an alterca-
tion with a stranger, his wife would join strenuously
in the controversy, and with her powerful "snow-white"
arms, and her feet as well, deliver blows "with the
force of a catapult." These vigorous British women were
vain of their appearance and gay in their dress. Their
costume consisted of a sleeved blouse, which was ordi-
narily confined at the waist; this garment partly covered
trousers, worn long and clasped at the ankles. A plaid of
bright colors was fastened at the shoulders with a brooch.
They wore nothing on their heads, but displayed their
hair fastened in a graceful knot at the neck.



30 WOMAN

They wove thin stuffs for summer wear, and felted
heavy druggets for winter; the latter were said to be pre-
pared with vinegar, and "were so tough that they would



Online LibraryMitchell CarrollWoman: in all ages and in all countries → online text (page 2 of 30)