Men were the hunters and women were the gatherers; a universally assumed concept about Stone Age societies. Despite this hypothesis, excavations in Perú and the Americas have proved this was untrue.
In 2018, at the Wilamaya Patjxa site high in the Andes, six burials from 9000 years ago were found. Two of the six were hunters. In the 400 square feet of this site near Mulla Fasiri in southern Perú, they found 20,000 artifacts dating from the Early Holocene period.
One of the two hunters was buried with projectile points. The other with extensive hunting equipment; spear points, a stone knife, stone animal processing tools and large game animal bones. See tools in the photo above. The team started off saying this second guy must have been a mighty hunter.
They now joke about how their first response was to assume the skeleton was male. However, after testing the teeth enamel, they determined she was female. The hunter was a woman 17 to 19 years of age. The hunter with projectile points alone was male. Newspapers around the world have published the finding about the huntress with great fanfare. This is not the first Holocene era woman found buried with big game hunting tools, however.
One of the head researchers of the team, Richard Haas, examined data from 429 burials in the Americas from 14,000 to 8,000 years ago. Twenty-seven individuals were found with hunting implements for big game; eleven were women and sixteen were men. The use of spear throwers made hunting easily accessible to women or men.
The researcher cautions that gender determination is only certain for the Peruvian site, because of the new technology the group used to analyze the dental proteins of the enamel, to determine if they were male or female. From current evidence, it seems that females may have been 30 to 50% of the big game hunters nine millennia ago. Unlike present hunter/gatherer societies, it seems that thousands of years ago, tasks were not determined by gender.
Archeologists are learning that present social structure is not a good predictor of past labor division. In the Americas, there is an ancient burial of two baby girls with spear points. Who’s to say they wouldn’t have grown up using them as toys?
Another example of false identity at the beginning of a dig is the great Viking warrior king on the Swedish island of Bjorko who was found to be actually a warrior queen. It seems implements of warfare or big game hunting does not prove the person buried is male or female. This does not signify women hunters or warriors were androgynous necessarily, it means there were cultural constructs that accepted more roles for females.
Which archeological site do you find most interesting?
Gracias for investigating Fake Flamenco! ¡Olé! –Rebecca
Thank you to A. Pilco Quispe who found the Peruvian site and the archeology team who performed this ground-breaking research. Their article is: “Female Hunters of the Early Americas.” Randall Haas, James Watson, Tammy Buonasera, John Southon, Jennifer C. Chen, Sarah Noe, Kevin Smith, Carlos Viviano Llave, Jelmer Eerkens, Glendon Parker, et al. Science Advances 04 Nov 2020: Vol. 6, no. 45. https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/45/eabd0310