A grave containing the remains of a 9,000-year-old skilled human hunter has been found in the Peruvian Andes – which what they thought was a man was actually a women.
After the remains were indeed proven to be female, it caused the team, a mixture of anthropologists and archaeologists from the Universities of California and Arizona, to reexamine other reports of burials hypothesized as belonging to male hunters and found that an additional 10 had been incorrectly recorded as male.
Beginning with an influential 1966 Chicago symposium, researchers believed that “man the hunter” was separated in his paleolithic duties from women, who spent their time gathering.
Archaeological evidence of female hunters has been scant, and anthropological examinations of hunter-gatherer groups today, like the Hadza of Tanzania or the San in Namibia, show that indeed men hunt big game and women gather plant-based food.
The team hadn’t set out to study the gender dynamics of hunting in the prehistorical Andean world, but nevertheless the corresponding report on their discoveries included a meta-analysis of studies done on Andean gravesites and determined that of those buried with hunting tools, 10 were female while 16 were male, suggesting that hunting was “gender-neutral”.
“Women have always been able to hunt and have in fact hunted,” archaeologist Bonnie Pitblado of the University of Oklahoma, Norman, told Science Magazine reporting on the discovery in the Andes. “These women were living high up in the Andes, at 13,000 feet full time; if you can do that, surely you can bring down a deer.”