For a long time, it was assumed that hunting in prehistoric societies was carried out primarily by men. Now, a new study is being added to a body of evidence that challenges this idea.
So, research reports the discovery of a woman’s body, buried with hunting tools, in America about 9,000 years ago.
The woman, discovered in the Andean mountain areas, was nicknamed Wilamaya Patjxa Individual 6, or “WPI6”. She was found with her feet in a semi-flexed position, with the collection of stone tools carefully placed next to her. These included projectile points – tools that were probably used to tilt light spears thrown with a spear thrower. The authors claim that such projectile points were used to hunt large animals.
WPI6 was between 17 and 19 years old at the time of his death. An analysis of substances known as “peptides” in her teeth – which are markers for biological sex – She showed up to be a woman. There were also large mammal bones in the burial area, demonstrating the significance of hunting in her society.
The study’s authors, published in Science Advances, also looked at evidence of other skeletons buried in the same period in America, specifically examining graves containing similar tools associated with big game hunting. They found that of the 27 skeletons for which sex could be determined, 41% were probably women.
The authors propose that this may mean that prehistoric large animal hunting was indeed carried out by both men and women in groups of hunter-gatherers at that time in America.
What do the hypotheses that deny this prehistoric evidence say?
This idea opposes a hypothesis dating back to the 1960s, known as “the model of the man-hunter”, Which is increasingly dismantled. This suggests that hunting, especially big game hunting, was undertaken primarily, if not exclusively, by male members of past hunter-gatherer societies.
The hypothesis is based on several different lines of evidence. Probably the most significant, he believes that recent and current hunter-gatherer societies are trying to understand how those in the distant past could have been organized.
The stereotypical view of hunter-gatherer groups is that they involve a division of labor by gender – men hunted and women were more likely to stay closer to home with young children.
Some of today’s hunter-gatherers still use it atlatls, and some people also enjoy using atlatls in competitive throwing events, regularly participating women and children. Archaeologists studying the data from these events suggests that these tools could have facilitated the hunting of both women and men, probably because they reduce the importance of body size and strength.
How evolution affects the present
The new study of these prehistoric issues further debates the hypothesis, adding to some previous archaeological discoveries. For example, at the 34,000-year-old Sunghir site in Russia, archaeologists discovered the burial of two young men – one of whom was probably a girl of about 9 to 11 years old. Both individuals had physical abnormalities and were buried with 16 spears of mammoth ivory.
In 2017, it was discovered that a famous funeral of a Viking warrior from Sweden, discovered in the early twentieth century and long assumed to be a man, it is biologically feminine. This finding has caused a significant and somewhat surprising amount of debate and indicates how our own modern ideas about gender roles can also affect interpretations of more recent history.
It has been argued that the distinction between “jobs for boys and jobs for girls” could have evolutionary advantages. For example, it can allow pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to stay close to home, keeping themselves and their children safe. But we are learning more and more that this model is far too simplistic.
Given that hunting is a cornerstone for the survival of many groups of mobile hunter-gatherers, community-wide participation also makes good evolutionary sense. The past, as some say, is a foreign realm, and the more evidence we have, the more variable human behavior seems to have been.