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Gender Roles - Female Warriors/Defenders

The screenshots showing a woman with a bow were quite inspiring and one of the reasons I became really interested in the game. Prehistoric books, games, movies and TV often heavily enforce the notion of hard and strict gender roles in ancient society: Men are warriors, hunters and artisans. Women mothers, gatherers and perform domestic functions. Luckily, this out-of-date notion isn’t really supported by the evidence. Examining inhumation (burials) at Neolithic sites has revealed that many aspects of life were not always gender-specific or that the gender specificity of roles varied by peoples and cultures.

(This looks like a great start!!!)

Examination of those inhumed at many sites, e.g. Çatalhöyük (Haddow, S. (2016). Çatalhöyük), have shown the presence of a rather egalitarian society (this is based off of the burial objects, position within the settlement, and a general analysis of the probably health of the individual, based off of their remains). While such examples are hardly conclusive of the entirety of the Neolithic, it brings up the question of gender roles within the game. It may be reasonable to assign all forms of task to all genders, rather than “man tasks” or “woman tasks.”

Beyond opening up most tasks to being non-gender specific, I would also consider the inclusion of woman in defense and even offensive roles. They have as much of a stake in the defense of their village as the men and a typical neolithic woman could likely handle a bow or club just fine, given a life exposed to such implements. The idea of a female warrior or hunter is not actually a new concept. Female warriors have existed throughout time and are documented in recorded history, though regrettably, little mention of them is often made. Many cultures have featured proud female warriors, such as the Scythians, Picts, Iranians, general Celtic Peoples, and a host of other groups. Sometimes these women were special people who rose above the general roles of women, and sometimes their respective cultures allowed for women to generally attain such posts.

In the early Neolithic period of Europe, dedicated warriors were probably not very common given the overall lack of significant fortified dwellings at the beginning of the period, though it is likely, some warriors did exist. The role of tribal defense was probably the job of hunters, mostly men. It is possible that some women may have attained the social rank of a hunter or even warrior in some individual cases. Though no body of evidence of this exists, the possibility may be inferred from the general existence of such practices within the descendants of the same Neolithic peoples, in later times.

Haddow, S. (2016). Çatalhöyük 2016 Archive Report. [ebook] Çatalhöyük Research Project, p.142. Available at: [Accessed 10 Jul. 2017].


I’m definitely no expert, but I’d be surprised if people in Neolithic times were actually assigned roles. I’d have thought it more likely that they’d have gravitated towards roles they were suited for. E.g. If a person was fast, agile, alert they’d be a more successful hunter so would adopt that role. If they were dexterous, short-sighted they’d probably not be suited to hunting so would tend towards making tools, implements,etc. Gender would play a part, but only in so far as how it influences physical development, ability, etc.

Just some thoughts.



Absolutely. We can’t rule out the possibility that some prehistoric societies had a strict gendered division of labour, but at the same time we have no data to say that it existed. I hope the game keeps it open.


@Sir_Vainglory @joeroe

Exactly! All too often the trope of gender rolls (without actually knowing what they might have been and who did or did not do them) becomes a common occurrence in media depictions of prehistoric times. This is why I was very pleased to see the woman with the bow in the screenshot.

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I think i’ve heard that the citizens in those villages are doing what ever labor they want to do, so my guess is every citizen in your camp/village/city will do all kinds of jobs ? Is that right ? Or is the script keeping female characters from certain types of labors ?


I have not heard for sure what they will do in the game, but I was worried about it given how common it is to find games with gender locked roles.

Note, they do make more sense if the game ever makes it to later societies where gender roles are better documented.

far from an expert but i think the best thing would be to look at tribal societies that are either around today or records of tribes from first contact, Australian aboriginals or native African or south/North american tribes for example, while this would not be a perfect match for how neolithic or paleolithic people would have been, as they left no written records, it would give an idea on how they could of acted and what their over all roles in society were especially when combined what we do known of the period from dig sits. now i do believe their were gender roles in the neolithic period, as all the tribal societies i mentioned have them so i think its safe to assume this, but how strict they were is debatable how ever.


I agree with Imperium, while gender roles might not have been as widespread and defined as we once thought, I hardly think Neolithic societies were as enlightened as some wish. I am no specialist in this area so I cannot comment on what is the current consensus of the scientific community regarding this, but I think these societies had to be as pragmatic as possible to survive.

If most of the men were faster and stronger than the majority of women, then these are probably the ones who were going to hunt and fight. Even in some more egalitarian and even matriarchal tribal societies that we have some knowledge about, the hunters and warriors were still men, even if the primary role of the tribe was held by a woman.

That’s not to say that a woman could not hunt or use a bow, just that they probably were not the ones going on raids and hunting parties.


It doesn’t matter who’s “faster or stronger”. When you go hunting you’re not going to fight an animal. Neolithic hunting would have consisted of shooting animals with (poisoned) bow and arrows or trapping them. In both cases tracking ability, guile and being a good shot would be far more important than physical strength.

We have to remember that modern societies can only give us hints about what past societies were like, they’re not exactly same. It’s very possible, for example, that contemporary hunter-gatherers or small-scale farmers are more patriarchal than prehistoric people would have been, because they have been in contact with patriarchal civilisations for so long. In any case, there are documented examples of women hunting in the ethnographic record:

There is also direct archaeological evidence, from Catalhoyuk, where gender divisions have been investigated extensively and they’ve not been able to find any differences in status, the type of work done, diet or time spent inside. The art from Catalhoyuk suggests that hunting was stereotypically associated with men, just as farming was stereotypically associated with women, but in practise the distinction seems to have been blurred.

So what we can say is that probably hunting was a task that men gravitated towards, and farming/gathering/plant work was a task that women gravitated towards, but that it can’t have been a strict division and there was nothing stopping people doing “untypical” tasks if they wanted to. It was probably pregnancy and childcare, more than anything else, that made women more likely to do camp-based work.

As for interpersonal violence and raiding, that’s a whole different kettle of fish. We know very little about violence in the Neolithic: how warfare and raiding happened, if it happened at all, is unknown. Speculating about whether men or women were involved would be going way beyond the available evidence.


Thank you for this very detailed and concise reply!
I am deep in a project right now so my initial explanation for the thread wasn’t quite as detailed. I’m glad you filled in the missing components with some backed up data. Thank you

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I’m pretty sure it was mentioned that the villager’s roll will be partly dependent on their parents. So in theory; even if there was a male hunter, it would be possible for him to have a daughter, and her to be bought up as a hunter.


Have you hunted or cleaned an animal afterwards, it’s not just shooting, And I don’t know about neolithic hunters, but when present day Kalahari hunters use poison arrows sometimes they have to run after the animal for several kilometers before the poison takes effect or the animal dies of exhaustion, and if they take too long to get there they risk losing it to other animals. And if you kill a deer or another big animal, after that you have to skin it an field dress it, both can be very tiring activities and after that you have to carry it back to your settlement. It might be that this didn’t stop some women to go along but you can’t say physical attributes have no importance.


Have you ever talked to a woman? Try telling them that they’re physically incapable of cleaning an animal or running several kilometres :wink:


I don’t remember saying anything about women being incapable of anything, so I would prefer that you didn’t resort to these cheap arguments, we are not talking abut women’s rights in present society and I am sorry that I thought an archaeologist would be able to have a discussion about it.

There are women can lift a grown man and toss him 2 meters away and there are men incapable of lifting a small sheep. But generally speaking that isn’t the case.

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You have said that you think “physical attributes” excluded (most) women from hunting – if that’s not implying they are incapable of it, I’m not sure how else to understand your argument.

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This thread is interesting, but please, we all know this is a sensitive subject.
So please lets stay calm :wink:

Let me introduce another tip, just for the experts around here.

Last day I read a report about a Neolithic burial of a woman, I don’t recall which one right now, sorry.
In the paper was a mention to the fact that has been found women were usually smaller than men in size, because they become pregnant earlier in life and that stopped the body growing process.
What do you know about this?
Is this really something generic for the time?


I don’t know if it was widespread, but this happens to a lot of mammals because they become sexually mature before they reach full body size and pregnancy usually either stops or more commonly significantly hinder growth due to a lot of nutrients being diverted to the fetus and later lactation.

I have more experience with farm animals (cattle and sheep) and if we do not keep males away from young females they usually reproduce long before they reach their normal adult size, if they are not too young and they have good food supply during pregnancy they are still able to grow somewhat but never reaching full potential.


My thoughts on this whole male femail thing…

Who cares what each do? Randomize the job/professions. Like age of empires 2 did, 1 come out male 1 female and they all do the same crap. You could assign 30 males to fish and 30 females to mine a gold mine, does it really matter?

People that look at stuff like that instead of just playing and enjoying the game are plain out crazy. Its not a big deal, people always want to stir stuff up that shouldn’t even matter…


@SilverX Quite a few commenters on this forum are enthusiasts or experts on Neolithic culture. The developers intention is to develop an accurate simulation of the entire life cycle of vegetation, animals, and humans, especially including family life, traits, learning, and perhaps even heredity and disease. When everything else is being designed for historical and scientific accuracy, it would be immersion breaking and disappointing to many of us if gender roles and other unique aspects of this seldom-explored era were glossed over.

Just imagine telling a Madden 2017 fan that player stats don’t matter when filing out their team roster.


There is also evidence to suggest that the role of women was very dependent on the individual culture of the time. Some societies (even Neolithic, Eneolithic and Bronze Age ones) where more egalitarian than others.

In part this depended on things like what kind of society we are looking at. Farmers will have a different approach to egalitarianism (Farms require a labour intensive life style, but the men usually stay near their families) than Semi-Nomadic Herders (Young men are less tied to their offspring and therefore more mobile, meaning they can be many days ride away, fewer women “in the work place” perhaps but having to be more self-sufficient and capable of defending themselves perhaps?). Imperiums point about taking a queue from contemporary anthropology is valid, but we do need to remember that tribal hunter gatherer societies are not the only only type of society that existed between 5,000 and 1,000 BC.

The other thing that is of course what the neighbors do. Joeroe alluded to this in terms of modern societies effect on Hunter Gatherers, but it is equally true in Ancient societies. Again I’m going to reference the Ukranian Steppe and the Yamnaya here (I think I’m 2/3 with that today, the joys of being in the middle of a subject everything ties back to it I guess), where there seems to be a consistent divide between the eastern parts of the culture and the western parts, in the west there seems to be a much stronger female presence. For example in the Western area it seems (from what we can reconstruct) that religion and ritual was much more female inclusive than in the Eastern area. This might be because of slightly different lifestyles like I indicated above, but also might be because of the influence of the neighboring Cucuteni-Tripolye culture on the western area created a more egalitarian steppe society.