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Females Played Bigger Role in Early Big-Game Hunting, According to Recent Discovery


Over the centuries, historians and researchers agreed that males were the more prominent hunters in early humans, whereas women tended to crops around the home. But discovery of the remains of a 9,000-year-old hunter in the Andes Mountains tells a completely different story.

This discovery overturns the long-held belief that men took up the role of warrior hunters for food. The lead author of the excavation and study, Randy Haas, published an article in Science Advances titled Female Hunters of the Early Americas. In this publication, Randy reveals that although hunter-gatherer societies had gender roles, they were more “equitable” than previously thought.  

In 2018, another excavation project at Wilamaya Patixa (modern-day Peru) found early burial ground sites containing a cache of hunting tools, projectiles, and carving tools for processing animal carcasses. Based on the researchers, the items found in the burial sites of a person were indicative of what they did in life.

After further examination, the researchers discovered that the buried remains belonged to a female. Among the 429 individuals uncovered, 27 of them were big-game hunters—15 of which were female, 11 of them male, and one unknown. This sample size helped the researchers draw a definitive conclusion that females played a bigger role in hunting than past historians believed.

Form the 9,000-year-old burial site, roughly 50% of the hunters’ remains were female. Over the years, female participation in hunting diminished, where more recent hunter-gathering societies allocated agricultural duties to their women.

This discovery answers the age-old question about gender role division in early humans, but it also raises several new ones. The team of archeologists now hopes to further understand how gender played a role in the division of labor, its consequences, and female hunters dwindled in numbers over time.