Traces of Life in Prehistoric Artifacts – Obituary for Linda Rae Owen (* 31.01.1952, † 26.02.2021)

On February 26, 2021, the well-known prehistorian Linda Rae Owen (Fig 1) died after a severe corona illness at the age of 69; she lived in her third marriage to Dr. Artur Zimmermann in Feldkirchen-Westerham, Bavaria.
Miriam Noël Haidle1 and Susanne Münzel2

1 Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften
Forschungsstelle “The Role of Culture in Early Expansions of Humans” (ROCEEH)
Forschungsinstitut Senckenberg
Senckenberganlage 25
60325 Frankfurt/M

2 Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Institut für Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie
Rümelinstraße 23
72070 Tübingen

Linda Rae Owen
Abb. 1: Linda Rae Owen in Poland, 2008 (photo: private).
On February 26, 2021, the well-known prehistorian Linda Rae Owen (Fig 1) died after a severe corona illness at the age of 69; she lived in her third marriage to Dr. Artur Zimmermann in Feldkirchen-Westerham, Bavaria. Linda Rae Owen was born on January 31, 1952, in North Tonawanda, New York State, USA and grew up there until she graduated from high school in 1970. With a Regents Scholarship from New York State, she studied Anthropology at the State University of New York at Buffalo from 1970-1974. After completing her Bachelor of Arts, she moved to the University of Tübingen in 1974 and continued her studies in Prehistory, Ethnology, and English Linguistics up to the Magister Artium in 1982. From 1982-1985, Linda Owen’s dissertation was funded with a grant from the Volkswagenwerk Foundation as part of the ”Prehistory of Technology” project. In 1988, she received her doctorate in Prehistory at the University of Tübingen with the thesis “Blade and Microblade Technology.” Based on her studies of the microblades of Umingmak, a Pre-Dorset muskox hunting site on Banks Island, Canada, she compared technologies from the American Arctic with those from the southern German Upper Paleolithic. Research on the use of plants and plant materials in the Central European Upper Paleolithic and their significance for life at that time led her to her project “Gender and the Division of Labor in the European Upper Paleolithic,” which was funded by a habilitation grant from the German Research Foundation. With this she habilitated at the Faculty of Geosciences at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen in 2004.

Parallel to her master’s studies, Linda Owen worked from 1979 to 1982 as a teacher for English language, regional studies and literature at the German-American Institute in Tübingen. From 1982 on, she continued her great commitment to teaching as a lecturer at the Institut für Jägerische Archäologie (later the Department of Older Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology at the Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte und Archäologie des Mittelalters) at the University of Tübingen. In 1997, 2002 and 2004 she taught as a lecturer, in 2000 and 2010 as a visiting professor at the Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte at the University of Vienna. From 2009-2010 she was a substitute professor at the Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte at the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg. The courses and lectures on her focal subjects such as use-wear analysis and experimental archaeology, the early settlement of North America, gender studies and ethno-archaeology allowed the students to participate in the latest developments in new fields of research. At the University of Tübingen she was the inspiration and mentor for Prof. Dr. Alfred Pawlik in the field of micro-wear analysis and Prof. Dr. Martin Porr in the field of ethno-archaeology. From 1989 onwards, Linda Owen worked as a freelancer on the technological and use-wear analysis of stone artifacts for the Landesdenkmalamt Baden-Württemberg (State Monuments Office) and in an advisory capacity on exhibitions at the Neanderthal Museum Mettmann (”Frauen – Zeiten – Spuren” 1998), the Roemer und Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim and the Niederösterreichische Landesausstellung 2000. Based on her idea and under her project management, the exhibition “Steinzeitkinder – Kleine Jäger und Sammler (Stone Age Children – Little Hunters and Gatherers)” was created, which was shown in 2012 in the Erlangen City Museum. Between 1991 and 2000 she composed three prehistoric specialist dictionaries, which facilitated the access to German, English and French archaeological sources across language barriers.

Linda Owen’s research in various areas was trendsetting. She was one of the pioneers of usewear analysis in Europe. Her studies of blade and micro-blade technology both in the Upper Paleolithic in southern Germany and in the American Arctic were supplemented by archaeological experiments. Together with Günther Unrath, she founded the Tübingen Laboratory for Archaeotechnology in the early 1980s, which made the Tübingen Institute for Prehistory one of the centers for use-wear research in Europe. Numerous new and for this discipline important research initiatives were undertaken for the reconstruction of the function of stone tools and the related activities. Outstanding here was the conception and organization of the first multianalyst blind test in micro-wear analysis. Between 1983 and 1985 this large-scale blind test program involved some of the most important international researchers in the field of use-wear analysis. The results presented in 1985 at the conference “Technical Aspects of Microwear Studies on Stone Tools” organized by Linda Owen and Günther Unrath at the University of Tübingen were groundbreaking at that time. They helped establish internationally this method, which until then had often been viewed critically, as a serious and successful way of analysis in prehistoric research.

In addition, Linda Owen was very interested in the prehistoric use and meaning of organic materials, which she studied using a variety of ethnographic sources. Combined with functional analyses, this offered her a way to research gender roles in prehistory on the basis of material culture. On ethnoarchaeological approaches, she organized together with Martin Porr in 1997 in Tübingen the international conference “Ethno-Analogy and the reconstruction of prehistoric artefact use and production” and the subsequent microwear workshop with Alfred Pawlik. Aspects of age and gender were taken up in the conference “Von der Geburt bis zum Tode. Individuelle und gesellschaftliche Dimensionen von Alter und Geschlecht in der Urgeschichte” (“From birth to death. Individual and social dimensions of age and gender in prehistory”), organized by Linda Owen together with Ruth Struwe and Martin Porr in 2004 at the Humboldt University in Berlin. A critical examination of prehistoric gender roles was important to her, as these are not only widespread in archaeological specialist literature, but are also included in museums, popular science books and children’s literature. Since generalizations of prehistoric gender roles in the humanities, social and natural sciences serve as the basis for interpretations of today’s gender roles, their reconstruction and foundations must be questioned again and again.

With Linda Owen, a prehistorian has died who, in addition to developing new research methods, always kept an eye on the social relevance of her work. We will miss her as a critical observer and inspiring conversation partner.

Selected bibliography

Brandt, H., Owen, L. R. und Röder, B. 1998: Geschlechterforschung in der Archäologie. In: B. Auffermann und G.-C. Weniger (Hrsg.), Frauen – Zeiten – Spuren. Mettmann: Neanderthal Museum, 15–42.

Hahn, J., und Owen, L. R. 1985: Blade Technology in the Aurignacian and Gravettian of Geissenklösterle Cave, Southwest Germany. World Archaeology 17, 61–75.

Haidle, M. N. und Owen, L. R. 1998: Ur- und Frühgeschichtlerinnen nach der Promotion: eine schützenswerte Spezies? Ethnographisch-Archäologische Zeitschrift 39, 563–594.

Neugebauer-Maresch, C. und Owen, L. R. (Hrsg.) 2010: New Aspects of the Central and Eastern European Upper Palaeolithic – Methods, Chronology, Technology and Subsistence. Mitteilungen der Prähistorischen Kommission 72. Wien: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Owen, L. R. 1982: An Analysis of Experimental Breaks on Flint Blades and Flakes. In: Studia Praehistorica Belgica 2: Tailler ! pour quoi faire : Préhistoire et technologie lithique. II. Recent progress in microwear studies. Tervuren: Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika, 77–87.

Owen, L. R. 1984: The Microblades of Umingmak. Archäologische Forschungen auf Banks Island 1970-1975, Teil I. Urgeschichtliche Materialhefte 5.1. Tübingen: Archaeologica Venatoria.

Owen, L. R. 1987: Hafting Microblades: Examples from the Dorset Culture of the North American Arctic. In: D. Stordeur (Hrsg.), La Main et l’Outil. Manches et emmanchements préhistoriques. Table Ronde C.N.R.S. tenue à Lyon du 26 au 29 novembre 1984. Lyon : Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée Jean Pouilloux, 147–150.

Owen, L. R. 1987: Mikro-Gebrauchsspuren-Analysen an einigen ausgewählten Steinartefakten von Felsställe bei Ehingen-Mühlen, Alb-Donau-Kreis. In: C.-J. Kind, Das Felsställe. Eine jungpaläolithisch-frühmesolithische Abri-Station bei Ehingen-Mühlen, Alb-Donau-Kreis. Die Grabungen 1975 bis 1980. Stuttgart: Konrad Theiss Verlag, 264–266.

Owen, L. R. 1988: Blade and Microblade Technology. Selected Assemblages from the North American Arctic and the Upper Paleolithic of South-Western Germany. British Archaeological Reports International Series 441. Oxford.

Owen, L. R. 1989 : Klingen- und Mikroklingentechnologie im Jungpaläolithikum Südwestdeutschlands. Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt 19, 103–115.

Owen, L. R. 1991: Neue Tendenzen in der Gebrauchsspurenanalyse von Steinartefakten. Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt 21, 335–342.

Owen, L. R. 1991: Prähistorisches Fachwörterbuch zur Ur- und Frühgeschichte. Deutsch/Englisch; Englisch/Deutsch. Tübingen: Verlag Archaeologica Venatoria.

Owen, L. R. 1992: Der Gebrauch von organischen Materialien bei den Indianern und Inuit und seine Bedeutung für die Urgeschichte. Ethnographisch-Archäologische-Zeitschrift 33, 25–34.

Owen, L. R. 1993: Materials Worked by Hunter and Gatherer Groups of Northern North America. Implications for Use-Wear-Analysis. In: P. C. Anderson, S. Beyries, M. Otte und H. Plisson (Hrsg.), Traces et fonction. Les gestes retrouvés. ERAUL 50. Liège: Université de Liège, 3–12.

Owen, L. R. 1995: Der Topos der Sammlerin bei den Inuit. In: H. Brand, J. E. Fries und E.-M. Mertens (Hrsg.), Frauen – Forschung – Archäologie. Münster: Agenda, 8–20.

Owen, L. R. 1995: Menschen in der Steinzeit – Neue Perspektiven von Wissenschaftlerinnen. In: P. Pilz, C. Oedekoven und G. Zinssmeister (Hrsg.), Forschende Frauen. Frauen verändern die Naturwissenschaften. Mössingen:Talheimer, 82–101.

Owen, L. R. 1996: Geschlechterrollen und die Rekonstruktion von Werkzeuggebrauch im europäischen Jungpaläolithikum. In: I. Campen, J. Hahn und M. Uerpmann (Hrsg.), Spuren der Jagd – Die Jagd nach Spuren. Festschrift für Prof. Hansjürgen Müller-Beck. Tübingen: MoVince Verlag, 25–33.

Owen, L. R. 1996: Der Gebrauch von Pflanzen im Jungpaläolithikum Mitteleuropas. Ethnographisch-ArchäologischeZeitschrift 37, 119–146.

Owen, L. R. 1996: Dictionary of Prehistoric Archaeology. English/German; Deutsch/Englisch. Tübingen: Mo Vince Verlag.

Owen, L. R. 1997: Geschlechterrollen und die Interpretation von Grabbeigaben. Nadeln, Pfrieme, Spitzen. Ethnographisch-Archäologische-Zeitschrift 38, 495–504.

Owen, L. R. 1997: Wessen Realität? Geschlechterrollen und Arbeitsteilung im Jungpaläolithikum Europas. In: S. M. Karlisch, S. Kästner, E.-M. Mertens (Hrsg.), Vom Knochenmann zur Menschenfrau. Feministische Theorie und archäologische Praxis. Frauen – Forschung – Archäologie 3. Münster: Agenda, 88–99.

Owen, L. R. 1998: Frauen in der Altsteinzeit: Mütter, Sammlerinnen, Jägerinnen, Fischerinnen, Köchinnen, Herstellerinnen, Künstlerinnen, Heilerinnen. In: B. Auffermann und G.-C. Weniger (Hrsg.), Frauen – Zeiten – Spuren. Mettmann: Neanderthal Museum, 161–182.

Owen, L. R. 1999: Questioning Stereo-Typical Notions of Prehistoric Tool Function. Ethno-Analogy, Experimentation and Functional Analysis. In: L. R. Owen und M. Porr (Hrsg.), Ethno-Analogy and the Reconstruction of Prehistoric Tool Use and Production. Tübingen: Mo Vince Verlag, 17–30.

Owen, L. R. 2000: Dictionnaire d’archéologie préhistorique – Dictionary of Prehistoric Archaeology (Français/Anglais, English/French). Tübingen: Mo Vince Verlag.

Owen, L. R. 2001: Die unsichtbare prähistorische Frau. Geschlechter- und Frauenforschung zum Jungpaläolithikum. Mitteilungen der Anthropologischen Gesellschaft in Wien 130/131, 2000/2001, 59–75.

Owen, L. R. 2002: Lithic Functional Analysis as a Means of Studying Gender and Material Culture in Prehistory. In: M. Donald und L. Hurcombe (Hrsg.), Gender and Material Culture in Archaeological Perspective. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 185–208.

Owen, L. R. 2002: Reeds, Tents and Straw Baskets? Plant Resources During the Magdalenian of Southwestern Germany. In S. I. R. Mason und J. G. Hather (Hrsg.), Hunter-Gatherer Archaeobotany: Perspectives from the Northern Temperate Zone. London: Institute of Archaeology, University College, 156–173.

Owen, L. R. 2005: Distorting the Past. Gender and the Division of Labor in the European Palaeolithic. Tübingen: Kerns Verlag.

Owen, L. R. 2010: Fishing in the Upper Paleolithic of Southwest Germany an Important Subsistence Activity? In: C. Neugebauer-Maresch und L. R. Owen (Hrsg.), New aspects of the Central and Eastern European Upper Palaeolithic – Methods, Chronology, Technology and Subsistence. Mitteilungen der Prähistorischen Kommission 72. Wien: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 187–197.

Owen, L. R. 2016: Archäologie. In: S. Horlacher, B. Jansen und W. Schwanebeck (Hrsg.), Männlichkeit. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch. Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 73–81.

Owen, L. R. und Gaudey, J. 1994: Gender, Crafts, and the Reconstruction of Tool Use. Helinium 34, 186–200.

Owen, L. R. und Owen, G. E. Jr. 2008: From Archaeological Finds to Prehistoric Life. Ethnographisch-Archäologische Zeitschrift 49, 13–24.

Owen, L. R. und Porr, M. (Hrsg.) 1999: Ethno-Analogy and the Reconstruction of Prehistoric Artefact Use and Production. Tübingen: Mo Vince Verlag.

Owen, L. R., Porr, M. und Struwe, R. 2004: Einleitung (in das Thema: Von der Geburt bis zum Tode. Individuelle und gesellschaftliche Dimensionen von Alter und Geschlecht in der Urgeschichte). Ethnographisch-Archäologische Zeitschrift 45(2-3), 147–152.

Owen, L. R. und Unrath, G. (Hrsg.) 1986: Technical Aspects of Microwear Studies on Stone Tools. Early Man News 9/10/11, Part I and II. Tübingen: Verlag Archaeologica Venatoria.

Owen, L. R. und Unrath, G. 1989: Microtraces d’usure dues à la préhension. L’Anthropologie (Paris) 93/3, 673–688.

Owen, L. R., Unrath, G. und Vaughan, P. 1983: Register of Microwear Analysts and their Research. Early Man News 7/8, 1982/83, 30–60.

Unrath, G., Owen, L. R., van Gijn, A., Moss, E. H. und Plisson, H. 1984: An Evaluation of Use-Wear Studies: A Multianalyst Approach in Technical Aspects of Microwear Studies on Stone Tools. Early Man News 9/10/11, 11.