A woman buried with spear-points and other hunting tools roughly 9,000 years ago in Peru’s Andes Mountains has shown the oldest known female big-game hunter in the Americas.
The discovery led researchers to conclude that nearly as many females as males hunted large animals in ancient America.
During excavations at the high-altitude site Wilamaya Patjxa in Peru in 2018, archaeologists found five burial pits with six individuals.
Because many people are buried with the objects they used in life, the researchers concluded that the two were hunters.
Modern and recent hunter-gatherer societies emphasize males hunting. But in mobile groups that inhabited the Americas thousands of years ago, up to half of big-game hunters were women.
Until now, many researchers have regarded stones sharpened to a point and other typical hunting items placed in ancient women’s graves as cutting or scraping tools.
Given the limited dataset, the researchers estimate that, on average, females accounted for between 30 percent and 50 percent of ancient American big-game hunters.
The researchers now wish to understand how sexual division of labour in different times and places changed among hunter-gatherer populations in the Americas.
Big-game hunting is the hunting of large game animals for meat, commercially valuable by-products (such as horns, furs, tusks, bones, body fat/oil, or special organs and contents), trophy/taxidermy, or simply just for recreation.
The term is often associated with the hunting of Africa's "Big Five" game (lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros), and with tigers and rhinoceroses on the Indian subcontinent.
Various big-game hunting methods have been developed over centuries. The main methods in use today are stalking, ambush (hunting from blinds), driving, trapping or a combination thereof.
Portable weapons used for big-game hunting include firearms, bow and arrow, spears, atlatls, and other longer-range weapons, as well as close-range, handheld weapons like hammers, axes, knives, and other bladed weapons.