Early Hunter-Gatherer Females Hunted Big-Game Animals

by johnsmith

Archaeological excavations at the site of Wilamaya Patjxa in the high Peruvian Andes have revealed a 9,000-year-old female burial associated with a big-game hunting toolkit.

Early hunter-gatherer females were big-game hunters. Image credit: Matthew Verdolivo / UC Davis / IET Academic Technology Services.

Early hunter-gatherer females were big-game hunters. Image credit: Matthew Verdolivo / UC Davis / IET Academic Technology Services.

“An archaeological discovery and analysis of early burial practices overturns the long-held ‘man-the-hunter’ hypothesis,” said lead author Dr. Randy Haas, a researcher in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California Davis and the Collasuyo Archaeological Research Institute.

“We believe that these findings are particularly timely in light of contemporary conversations surrounding gendered labor practices and inequality.”

“Labor practices among recent hunter-gatherer societies are highly gendered, which might lead some to believe that sexist inequalities in things like pay or rank are somehow natural.”

“But it’s now clear that sexual division of labor was fundamentally different — likely more equitable — in our species’ deep hunter-gatherer past.”

In 2018, during archaeological excavations at a high-altitude site called Wilamaya Patjxa in Peru, Dr. Haas and colleagues found a 9,000-year-old burial that contained a hunting toolkit with projectile points and animal-processing tools and determined that the hunter was likely a 17- to 19-year-old female.

The discovery led the team to ask whether she was part of a broader pattern of female hunters or merely a one-off.

Looking at published records of late Pleistocene and early Holocene burials throughout North and South America, the researchers identified 429 individuals from 107 sites.

Of those, 27 individuals were associated with big-game hunting tools — 11 were female and 15 were male.

“The sample was sufficient to warrant the conclusion that female participation in early big-game hunting was likely nontrivial,” the scientists said.

“Moreover, the analysis identified the Wilamaya Patjxa female hunter as the earliest hunter burial in the Americas.”

Statistical analysis shows that somewhere between 30 to 50% of hunters in these populations were female.

“This level of participation stands in stark contrast to recent hunter-gatherers, and even farming and capitalist societies, where hunting is a decidedly male activity with low levels of female participation, certainly under 30%,” Dr. Haas said.

The discovery is described in a paper in the journal Science Advances.


Randall Haas et al. 2020. Female hunters of the early Americas. Science Advances 6 (45): eabd0310; doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abd0310

Source link: https://www.sci.news/archaeology/early-hunter-gatherer-females-big-game-animals-09029.html

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