Prehistoric women’s manual labor exceeded that of athletes through the first 5500 years of farming in Central Europe
Macintosh et al.
Science advances, 2017
Prehistoric female tibial rigidity at all time periods was highly variable, but differed little from living sedentary women on average, and was significantly lower than that of living runners and football players. However, humeral rigidity exceeded that of living athletes for the first ~5500 years of farming, with loading intensity biased heavily toward the upper limb. Interlimb strength proportions among Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age women were most similar to those of living semi-elite rowers. These results suggest that, in contrast to men, rigorous manual labor was a more important component of prehistoric women’s behavior than was terrestrial mobility through thousands of years of European agriculture, at levels far exceeding those of modern women.
Gradual decline in mobility with the adoption of foodproduction in Europe
Ruff et al.
Together these results strongly implicate declining mobility asthe specific behavioral factor underlying these changes. Mobilitylevels first declined at the onset of food production, but the tran-sition to a more sedentary lifestyle was gradual, extendingthrough later agricultural intensification. This finding only par-tially supports models that tie increased sedentism to a relativelyabrupt Neolithic Demographic Transition in Europe. The lack ofsubsequent change in relative bone strength indicates that in-creasing mechanization and urbanization had only relatively smalleffects on skeletal robusticity, suggesting that moderate changesin activity level are not sufficient stimuli for bone depositionor resorption.