Fachbereich Geschichtswissenschaft

Women on the Move

Migration and female mobility during the Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.

Although mobility and migration have been constant since Prehistory, there is a period where research has traditionally considered that an intense and constant phase of long-distance population movements took place, the so-called period of ‘barbarian migrations’ (Volkerwanderungszeit), between the 4th and 6th centuries (the acute phase of ‘barbarian tides’). This migratory movement has usually been approached from a ‘male perspective’, from the male military and/or warrior elites. A mass population movement led by the warlords! Funerary worlds, the burials of these warrior elites, have been the common thread to explain/justify this ‘male perspective’. In these burials women were, and are, very present and that is precisely our goal: to focus the wide angle of our camera on women, on their presence, function and relevance both in migratory movements between the 4th and 6th centuries, as well as expanding the chronological arc until the Early Middle Ages. The analysis of individual female mobility has been habitually diluted within the framework of this great ‘mixed container’ of ‘male warriors elites’. Analysing the mobility and female mobility, will allow us, that is our approach, to detect and analyse the role of women in the societies of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Currently, bioarchaeological studies in for this period provides a unique quantity and quality of information (genetic affiliations, family relationships, geographical origin, type of diet and state of health) that allows us to get closer to the female social status both in the places of origin and those where they have been buried. These women were able to arrive in the context of collective population movement (‘Barbarian Migrations’), but we will also analyse whether an individual mobility related to strategies of political-economic-commercial alliances took place through marriage, between foreign and local female elites and non-elites. Reading in a ‘female key’, we could say, and also a temporally diachronic reading and spatially synchronous, as a way of obtaining a more dynamic, global and perhaps less compartmentalized vision of migration and female mobility in the Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. 

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