Silently moving in the wilderness’s Mount AndesAncient hunter-gatherers stalked a herd of vicuña. Hunters stoned easily, hit some of the beasts and made the rest scatter. Vicuñas, the wild ancestor of alpacas, fell and skilled hunters – both female and male – went to test their victories.
This somewhat hypothetical explanation contradicts the accepted history of such hunter-gatherers: ancient men hunted large animals, while women gathered herbs and plants. However, a recently discovered 9,000-year-old female hunter’s grave and analyzes of other hunter burials suggest that early hunter-gatherer women in ancient America also hunted. Shoot big animals no less than men, according to a study published in November. 4 in the magazine Scientific advance.
“These findings underline the idea that the gender role we take for granted in today̵7;s society – or many take it for granted – may not be as natural as some might think”, Lead author Randy Haas, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of California, Davis.
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In 2013, Haas was doing another excavation in the Andes when a local resident from the nearby Mulla Fasiri community of southern Peru reported that there were hundreds of ancient stone tools scattered nearby. Five years later, after securing funding and collaborating with the locals, Haas and his team began to excavate the site, which is called the Wilamaya Patjxa.
In 2018, researchers discovered six human burial sites in Wilamaya Patjxa (they later discovered in 2019). Two of the six burial grounds also contain hunting tools, but one of them is particularly interesting.
During the sixth burial, dating back about 9,000 years, “we began to discover this truly rich block of artifacts” that included a hunting toolkit with bullet points and fragments, Haas told Live Science. The burial is believed to have been that of a hunter-gatherer, based on examination of tooth development, who died between the ages of 17 and 19. As the excavation continued, “people began to speculate.” Well, he must be a good hunter, someone really important in the community, ”said Haas.
Prejudice coloring history
James Watson, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona and a co-author of the study, was the first to suggest that this is not a man at all. Watson examined the hunter-gatherer bones and said that since they were smaller than others found in the area, the skeleton could be that of a female. Indeed, a detailed analysis of the protein in the teeth of the young forager confirmed that she was a female.
But then Haas and his team began to wonder: Is this a single female hunter or is she part of a larger behavior pattern of ancient Americans? To find this out, they looked through the documents to find reports of other hunter-gatherer burials from the end. Pleistocene (ending about 11,700 years ago) and early Holocene (started around 12,000 to 11,500 years ago.)
The team identified 429 skeletons from 107 ancient graves throughout the Americas; 27 of the individuals — 11 females (including newly discovered females) and 15 males — were buried with large hunting tools. Further statistical analysis revealed that between 30% and 50% of hunters in these populations were female. “What we saw was that burying the female and the male were both linked to large hunting tools,” Haas said.
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Marin Pilloud, an associate professor at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno, was not involved in the study. “If similar artifacts involved a male skeleton, there would be no question that the person was a hunter.”
Many cultures have not – and still don’t – have the binary gender that dominates our modern Western culture, Pilloud told Live Science. “When we step back from our own gender biases, can we explore data in potentially more culturally accurate nuanced ways.”
It is not clear whether women foragers in other parts of the world participate in hunting regularly, but it is possible to detect similar findings elsewhere, she said. It will be interesting to see how this woman’s diet compares to other women on the site or similar websites to determine if she eats the same food as another male or with another woman. she added.
“This research will help convince people that women are involved in big game hunts,” said Kathleen Sterling, associate professor of anthropology at Binghamton University in New York.
In fact, the methods used for hunting and the size of social groups at the time, “means we should assume this from the start, since most children are older and adults both need to be driven over cliffs or traps, or to fire bullets into the flock that moves in the same direction, “Sterling told Live Science.
Age is probably more important than gender when it comes to hunters in these societies, but “our gender norms are so strong that not everyone is convinced,” she said.
However, if an individual is buried with hunting tools, it does not necessarily mean that the person is a hunter, it just means that their society thinks burying the objects with they are fit, Sterling said. But when hunting tools were found in men’s burial grounds, they were often thought to be hunters. So “we should make the same assumption about hunting tools buried with women unless we have a good reason to say otherwise,” she added.
Originally published on Live Science.