Women hunters dominated in prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies

Archaeological study shatters myths, with research showing 79 percent of women hunting in prehistoric societies, as opposed to gathering.
Shubhangi Dua
Majority women were hunters as opposed to gatherers in forging societies
Majority women were hunters as opposed to gatherers in forging societies

gorodenkoff / iStock 

New findings are challenging traditional gender norms in society through a new study proving that women played an instrumental role in foraging societies.

Women hunters may have dominated as hunters in prehistoric societies across the world. The study confirms that women were skilled hunters and not just gatherers, going against long-held perceptions about gender roles in primitive hunting communities. 

The research led by Abigail Anderson of Seattle Pacific University challenges the common belief that men primarily hunted and women primarily gathered historically. 

On the contrary, women in these societies have been found to be buried alongside big game hunting tools, evidence shows.

Researchers say that mounting archaeological evidence from across human history and prehistory is challenging this paradigm where men traditionally hunted animals and women traditionally gathered plant products for food. 

Archaeological findings

“Evidence from around the world shows that women participate in subsistence hunting in the majority of cultures,” researchers add.

The team of scientists analyzed 100 years' worth of data about past archaeological findings on foraging societies from around the world including communities in North and South America, Africa, Australia, Asia, and the Oceanic region. 

The data determined that 79 percent of women were hunters in prehistoric societies irrespective of their motherhood. 

According to the study, more than 70 percent of female hunting appears to be intentional as opposed to opportunistic killing of animals encountered during other tasks. 

“Intentional hunting by women appears to target game of all sizes, most often large game”, it found.

Challenging gender norms

Additionally, new evidence uncovers that women not only actively participated in hunting practices but also took up the role of hunting instructors and passed down such skillful applications.

The women also exhibited a diverse range of weapons. They employed their unique armaments to strategize foraging expeditions as opposed to men with limited weaponry in their collection according to the study.

Some researchers have challenged the traditional belief in the past. The University of Calgary says, ““Man the Hunter” is a narrative of human origins developed by early 20th-century anthropologists armed with their imaginations and a handful of fossils.” 

These scientists viewed hunting to be undertaken by men exclusively as they believed them to be the prime driver of human evolution.

Modern-day Archaeologists are now calling for a reevaluation of such evidence. Furthermore, they are cautioning against misinterpreting the biased notion of men as hunters and women as gatherers. 

The team is encouraging researchers to embrace a comprehensive approach in their investigations and urging them to adopt a nuanced understanding of gender roles in primeval societies. 

“Stereotypes have influenced previous archaeological studies, with, for instance, some researchers reluctant to interpret objects buried with women as hunting tools,” they said.