Gender equality in hunters of the early Americas


2020-11-05 17:18:24



Male supremacy is largely an effect of an oppressive social arrangement, namely civilization, which began with the invention of agriculture when humans began to form permanent settlements. But according to new study sexual division of labor with females as gatherers and males as hunters is a major empirical regularity of hunter-gatherer ethnography, suggesting an ancestral behavioral pattern. Equality between the sexes may have been a survival advantage and played an important role in shaping human society and evolution.

A woman buried 9,000 years ago with her hunting toolkit is shedding new light on gender roles.  Archaeologist Ashley Smallwood of the University of Louisville and his team at southern Peru called Wilamaya Patjxa, unearthed five human burial pits containing six individuals. One pit held a 17- to 19-year-old young woman who had been buried with a set of stone tools for big-game hunting. Her toolkit included four spearpoints that would have been attached to shafts and likely hurled at prey using hand-held spear throwers. Other stone implements, and a pigment chunk, buried with her were probably used to cut apart game, extract bone marrow or scrape hides and perform detailed hide work and hide tanning. Four large terrestrial mammal bone fragments were recovered from the burial fill, one of which is identifiable as a lumbar vertebra of a taruca (Hippocamelus antisensis) or Andean deer  Large-bodied mammal bone dominates the site assemblage,  camelid (Camelidae), deer, and  indeterminate large terrestrial mammal bone fragments and  bird element. 

Source: Haas et al. 2020/  Science Advances.. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abd0310.