The stereotypical assumption has been that the prehistoric roles of hunter-gatherer societies were split into women as gatherers and men as hunters. That theory is looking less likely after recent discoveries.
A new study from the University of California has discovered what looks like the remains of a 9,000 year old female hunter in the Andean highlands of South America. The woman was laid to rest with stone projectile points and animal processing tools, objects that were used for hunting big game. The Wilamaya Patjxa site, where she was found, is located in Peru beside 26 other graves, including one of a male hunter buried with similar supplies.
Cases of female warriors and hunters are not unheard of in archaeology. After the discovery, the team of researchers completed an analysis of archaeological literature from North and South America and found several other cases in which women were buried with similar tools. In total, they found 27 unambiguous examples of people buried with their hunting gear, of which 16 were male and 11 were female.
Contrary to mainstream thinking, jobs for ancient men and women appear to have varied based on ability and age, rather than gender alone. The new research, published in Science Advances, is throwing preconceived notions about prehistoric gender roles into doubt, showing that hunting was a more gender-neutral activity than is typically assumed. As the authors point out, it’s a classic case of sexism in the sciences.
Meanwhile, in Europe, research sites have revealed that some Viking warriors were women. But, as yet, there is no similar evidence of female warriors to emerge in Africa.