For a long time (perhaps too long) prehistoric societies have been imagined as settings where, on the one hand, men used brute force to hunt animals and, on the other hand, the women were engaged in picking berries and take care of the offspring. But what is true in this image? According to more and more studies, these types of portraits are completely false. One of the most comprehensive studies carried out to date, in fact, found that in at least least 80% of prehistoric societies studied to date there is evidence of female hunters.
The work, published this Wednesday in the scientific journal ‘Nature’, has analyzed the archaeological data of a total 63 hunter-gatherer societies from all over the world: from the archaeological sites of the Americas to those of Africa, Asia, Australia and Oceania. The study of all these cases has made it possible to locate the presence of female hunters in at least 50 places different from the planet during all the periods analysed. This corroborates, once again, that hunting was not an exclusive patrimony of prehistoric men and that they, contrary to what was believed until now, have always contributed to an activity that was then essential for subsistence.
According to the experts who have led this work, everything indicates that women were very skilled hunters in prehistoric societies. The archaeological remains indicate that they were mainly dedicated to the capture of large preythat they «participated actively in teaching hunting practices» to the new generations and that, often, «used a greater variety of weapons and hunting strategies than men«.
«We have evidence that women have had subsistence hunting activities in the vast majority of cultures»
«We have evidence that women have had subsistence hunting activities in the vast majority of cultures,» says the analysis, led by the Universities of Seattle and the University of Washington. «This finding also adds further evidence against the idea that in collecting societies there were gender roles. The idea that men were only hunters and women only gatherers must be refuted”, adds the study.
The investigation has succeeded in ‘rescuing’ the history of women hunters in Punan (Malaysia), Wopkaimin (New Guinea), Hiwi (Venezuela), Matses (Peruvian Amazon), Tsimane (Bolivia), among others. One of the most outstanding stories, published just a few years ago in ‘Science Advances’, is that of a young woman who lived some 9,000 years ago in the Andean territory of Wilamaya Patjxa (Peru) and who, after a life dedicated to hunt, she was buried next to her arsenal of weapons.
So why, until now, had he imagined a past in which they were the only ones hunting and they only gathered berries? To answer this question, the experts ask to take a step back to understand how the past has been studied. «Prehistory books have been written from the present, so much of these interpretations that are biased by current prejudices,» he explained Marina Lozanoresearcher at the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution and the Rovira i Virgili University (IPHES-URV), in an interview with EL PERIÓDICO.
For decades, archaeological work has interpreted the objects found next to the bodies based on the sex of the individual. A very clear case is that of grave goods. a cutting stone tip buried next to a man was classified as a weapon. While a similar object found next to a woman was classified as a kitchen knife or an ornament. This phenomenon, studied in depth by the Catalan archaeologist Encarna Sanahuja Yll, suggests that perhaps women hunters and warriors have always been there, although until now they have not been seen.