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Hunting a Glyptodon

Illustration of Hunters and Glyptodon by Heinrich Harder, 1920, via Wikimedia

A young woman buried with stone tools including spearheads 9000 years ago in what is now Peru probably hunted animals including deer. The finding may help overturn long-standing assumptions about gender roles in ancient hunter-gatherer communities in the Americas.

Within present-day hunter-gatherer communities across North and South America, women make up at least one-third of the hunting force, and possibly as much as half, says Randy Haas at the University of California, Davis.

However, although archaeological investigations over the past century have also found hunting tools in the graves of prehistoric women throughout the Americas, Haas says it took the unearthing of a young woman’s bones in the Andes mountains for scientists to set aside their unconscious biases about gender roles and recognise what they were seeing.

“There is sexist ideology in Western culture that may have slowed our ability to recognise females as hunters in the past,” says Haas, adding that he himself was “surprised, unfortunately” by his discovery.

“Even some of the most forward-thinking feminist scholars... see more