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All s pointed to the discovery of a high-status hunter. Then, bioarchaeologist Jim Watson of the University of Arizona noted that the bones were slender and light. Her existence led them to reexamine reports of other ancient burials in the Americas, and they found 10 additional women buried with projectile points who may also have been hunters. Some researchers challenged the notion, and ancient female warriors have been found recently, but archaeological evidence of women hunting has been scant.
Woman the hunter: ancient andean remains challenge old ideas of who speared big game
For a long time, it was assumed that hunting in prehistoric societies was primarily carried out by men. Now a new study adds to a body of evidence challenging this idea.
The research reports the discovery of a female body, buried alongside hunting tools, in the Americas some 9, years ago. She was found with her legs in a semi-flexed position, with the collection of stone tools placed carefully next to them. These included projectile points — tools that were likely used to tip lightweight spears thrown with an atlatl also called a spear thrower.
The authors argue that such projectile points were used for hunting large animals. WPI6 was between 17 and 19 years old at time of death. There were also large mammal bones in the burial fill, demonstrating the ificance of hunting in her society.
The authors of the study, published in Science Advances, also reviewed evidence of other skeletons buried around the same period in the Americas, looking specifically at graves containing similar tools associated with big-game hunting.
The authors propose that this may mean that big-game hunting was indeed carried out by both men and women in hunter-gatherer groups at that time in the Americas. It suggests that hunting, and especially big game hunting, was primarily, if not exclusively, undertaken by male members of past hunter-gatherer societies. The hypothesis is based on a few different lines of evidence.
Probably most ificantly, it considers recent and present-day hunter-gatherer societies to try to understand how those in the deeper past may have been organised. The stereotypical view of hunter-gatherer groups is that they involve a gendered division of labour, with men hunting and women being more likely to stay nearer home with young children, or fish and forage, though even then there is some variation. For example, among Agta foragers in the Philippines women are primary hunters rather than assistants.
Some present day hunter-gatherers still use atlatls today, and some people also enjoy using atlatls in competitive throwing events, with women and children regularly taking part. Archaeologists studying data from these events suggest that atlatls may well have been equalisers — facilitating hunting by both women and men, possibly because they reduce the importance of body size and strength. The new study further debunks the hypothesis, adding to a few archaeological findings.
For example, at the 34,year-old site of Sunghir in Russia, archaeologists discovered the burial of two youngsters — one of whom was likely a girl of around nine to 11 years old.
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Both individuals had physical abnormalities, and were buried with 16 mammoth ivory spears — an incredible offering of what were probably valuable hunting tools. Ina famous burial of a Viking warrior from Sweden, discovered early in the 20th century and long assumed to be male, was discovered to be biologically female.
This finding caused a ificant and somewhat surprising amount of debate, and points to how our own modern ideas of gender roles can affect interpretations of more recent history too. For example, it can allow pregnant and lactating mothers to stay near to a home base, keeping themselves and youngsters protected from harm.
But we are increasingly learning that this model is far too simplistic. With hunting being a keystone to survival for many highly mobile hunter-gatherer groups, community-wide participation also makes good evolutionary sense. The past, as some say, is a foreign country, and the more evidence we have, the more variable human behaviour looks to have been. Plymouth Contemporary — Plymouth, Devon. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom.
Artist impression of a prehistoric woman hunting. Annemieke MilksUCL. Excavations at Wilamaya Patjxa.
Randall Haas The authors of the study, published in Science Advances, also reviewed evidence of other skeletons buried around the same period in the Americas, looking specifically at graves containing similar tools associated with big-game hunting. Women Archaeology Hunting hunter gatherer Pleistocene era.