The notion of a bucolic past where our ancestors toiled contentedly in the fields may need to be revised after a new study showed just how hard prehistoric women worked.
Researchers at Cambridge University looked at bones belonging to European women who lived during the Neolithic around 7,000 years ago.
They found they had upper arms that were far stronger than even than the female Cambridge University rowing squad today.
Experts believe such physical prowess was probably obtained through tilling the soil and spending hours a day grinding grain to make flour.
“This is the first study to actually compare prehistoric female bones to those of living women,” said Dr Alison Macintosh, lead author of the study published today in the journal Science Advances.
Peasant agricultural life is one of unremitting toil. Doesn’t everyone know that?
And it is too – Malthus. Sure, there are periods when there’s a new technology, or new land, to exploit. But it pretty rapidly fills up as more children survive and then all are back to permanent labour in order to feed the kiddies. The stable situation is when the population equals the carrying capacity of the land at that technological stage. Which is also when everyone’s got to work, permanently.
There’s also an easy way to test this. Get out there to sub-Saharan Africa where the women are tilling the land. Then go measure their upper body strength.
We’ve already done the test of men of course. Those cuirasses the Household Cavalry wear. Century or two old they are and modern men rattle around inside them, need padding to stop them slipping all over the place. As opposed to the vast chest measurements of the Victorian farm boys – built up by bailing hay etc – that they were made for.