This panel revisits the classical controversy of whether matriarchy ever did or ever could have existed. Are there now grounds for reevaluation?
In late 19th century anthropology, the prevailing view was of a matriarchal origin of human society, with matrilocal residence, matrilineal descent and significant female authority in the political sphere. The professional discipline of social anthropology emerging in the twentieth century was largely founded on the repudiation of this evolutionary schema. Second-wave feminist anthropologists took another look, concluding that matriarchy was no more than a myth. In the forty years since, new developments in evolutionary anthropology, rock art research, archaeology, populations genetics and detailed ethnographic and mythological analysis provide new tools for a more even-handed reassessment.