Hunting Women of hunter-gatherer societies

Cthulhu.Science

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Analysis of data from dozens of foraging societies around the world shows that women hunt in at least 79% of these societies, opposing the widespread belief that men exclusively hunt and women exclusively gather. Abigail Anderson of Seattle Pacific University, US, and colleagues presented these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on June 28, 2023.

A common belief holds that, among foraging populations, men have typically hunted animals while women gathered plant products for food. However, mounting archaeological evidence from across human history and prehistory is challenging this paradigm; for instance, women in many societies have been found buried alongside big-game hunting tools.

 
What seems amazing is that anyone ever bought into the idea that there were exclusive gender roles in any subsistence level society. Why wouldn't women - especially childless women - hunt in times when the tribe was subsisting largely on meat? Why wouldn't a man physically incapable of hunting not gather?


Most myth shattering seems to come back to realizing that nothing human is so simple that you can apply a rule to it.
 
What seems amazing is that anyone ever bought into the idea that there were exclusive gender roles in any subsistence level society. Why wouldn't women - especially childless women - hunt in times when the tribe was subsisting largely on meat? Why wouldn't a man physically incapable of hunting not gather?


Most myth shattering seems to come back to realizing that nothing human is so simple that you can apply a rule to it.
Or, perhaps, individuals took on roles that they were suited for and had an inclination for.

Besides, the smaller the group, the less specialization there would be. I'd imagine that when the fish were running everyone was fishing that had any capacity for it leaving only the very, very youngest and very oldest to mind the camp. And when the deer were around -- same thing. And the rest of the time, everyone was gathering and weaving and doing all the things that make a society function.
 
Or, perhaps, individuals took on roles that they were suited for and had an inclination for.

Besides, the smaller the group, the less specialization there would be. I'd imagine that when the fish were running everyone was fishing that had any capacity for it leaving only the very, very youngest and very oldest to mind the camp. And when the deer were around -- same thing. And the rest of the time, everyone was gathering and weaving and doing all the things that make a society function.


The idea propagated that women are inferior to men is, and always was, only used when it was practicable and convenient to do so. During the Black Death women took on roles that would have been totally forbidden to them at other times. The same happened in WWI and WWII.

At a time when humans were scarce and meat was hard to come by, I doubt that there was any difference made between the physiology of the individual.
 
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Many will recall all the press in 2016 about

Aisholpan Nurgaiv​

the eagle huntress of Mongolia. She was famous because Israeli photographer Asher Svidensky published photos that went viral, and Otto Bell decided to make a film.
80097521.jpg


 
She ought to be featured in a Virginia Slims advert.
 
What seems amazing is that anyone ever bought into the idea that there were exclusive gender roles in any subsistence level society. Why wouldn't women - especially childless women - hunt in times when the tribe was subsisting largely on meat? Why wouldn't a man physically incapable of hunting not gather?


Most myth shattering seems to come back to realizing that nothing human is so simple that you can apply a rule to it.
It seems a reasonable assumption to me. Generally speaking men are stronger and faster than women (perhaps more so in prehistoric times?) both of which are invaluable traits for hunting. Of course, that does not exclude the possibility that women hunted but it's reasonable to assume that hunting was male dominated.

Should be an interesting read - nice that it's on Plos One.

On a related note, on my recent trip to Sweden I learned that there is now significant evidence of female "Viking" warriors and chiefs. This has met with some opposition but the general consensus is that it was not just the men.
 
It seems a reasonable assumption to me. Generally speaking men are stronger and faster than women (perhaps more so in prehistoric times?) both of which are invaluable traits for hunting. Of course, that does not exclude the possibility that women hunted but it's reasonable to assume that hunting was male dominated.

Should be an interesting read - nice that it's on Plos One.

On a related note, on my recent trip to Sweden I learned that there is now significant evidence of female "Viking" warriors and chiefs. This has met with some opposition but the general consensus is that it was not just the men.
Generalities are different than exclusivity.
 
It seems a reasonable assumption to me. Generally speaking men are stronger and faster than women (perhaps more so in prehistoric times?) both of which are invaluable traits for hunting. Of course, that does not exclude the possibility that women hunted but it's reasonable to assume that hunting was male dominated.

Should be an interesting read - nice that it's on Plos One.

On a related note, on my recent trip to Sweden I learned that there is now significant evidence of female "Viking" warriors and chiefs. This has met with some opposition but the general consensus is that it was not just the men.

I'm not sure that strength and speed are necessarily the most important attributes of a hunter. A steady nerve, a keen eye and sense of smell and quick reactions would probably be more useful. Also the ability to skin and butcher their prey.

But we are talking about a vast period of time, from individual family units, to small gatherings of families, to communities. In an ideal world you have a wide range of people to choose from as your best hunters, but in many cases they would probably have to use what bodies they had available. Only the young, injured, pregnant and the elderly (useful for defence) would be excluded.

Regarding Viking warriors: expeditions could be gone for months at a time, so it would be unsurprising if able-bodied women did not accompany their menfolk, even if only for non-combat purposes. No one could afford to be carried, so it's likely that raids against villages and monasteries etc would involve everyone.

Surprise and terror were a major factor in Viking successes, and if you were a villager facing a couple of dozen heavily armoured warriors, their sex would be the least of your concerns; so yes I'm sure that a reasonable proportion would have been young women.
 
I'm not sure that strength and speed are necessarily the most important attributes of a hunter. A steady nerve, a keen eye and sense of smell and quick reactions would probably be more useful. Also the ability to skin and butcher their prey.
Indeed.
 
I'm not sure that strength and speed are necessarily the most important attributes of a hunter. A steady nerve, a keen eye and sense of smell and quick reactions would probably be more useful. Also the ability to skin and butcher their prey.

Modern hunters, as is well known, do not require strength or speed. Or any particularly heightened physical traits of any type. Patience. A little planning. A guide that understands the habits and migratory patterns of the prey. Maybe some beer.

There have been a lot of hunting techniques used by stone age hunting. None of them involved going one on one against a bear with a spear - except in cartoons.
 
There were no hospitals and no doctors. If you got hurt, broke a bone or even scratched it could be fatal. . I would imagine that most hunting would involve catching creatures that would run away when confronted, or had no ability to fight back would be the order of the day. Or perhaps laying traps to snare an animal or trap it in a pit. But as you say, going one-on-one with a wild animal just for your lunch would be pretty unlikely.
 
In many kinds of stone age hunting, the hunters wore out their prey by running them down. Humans are the greatest long distance runners of any animal. So I could see a male advantage for that kind of hunting.
 
Nothing about prehistoric hunting screams - limited to the few. Even in the "men hunt, women gather" mythology it was always all the men, or most.

But for all of us that can still remember being in places where random groups of people assembled - school for example - the gender divide in physical attributes (both strength and cunning) was not as strong as mythologists like to claim. If you went to the 30th percentile - Top 70% in general physical abilities, you might get a 50-50 split by gender or slightly more in either direction depending on the random group you selected. -- Or to put it the other way -- The bottom 30% of any group with regards to physical attributes was pretty evenly divided by gender. And when you are feeding a tribe 30% might be the limit of who doesn't participate when its time to get what you need.
 
In many kinds of stone age hunting, the hunters wore out their prey by running them down. Humans are the greatest long distance runners of any animal. So I could see a male advantage for that kind of hunting.
Lets look at the Boston Marathon for data. of the 14,429 men that ran in 2019, 30 beat the fastest woman. That is 0.2%. And there were only 10,801 women competing. And if you are talking about competitors of European descent... it doesn't look good for Europe's survival, if that is the standard...

The 19th century argument that women cannot run long distances has been proven false in every marathon that allowed women to compete. The societies that ran down their prey did so at a reasonable jog with several members of the tribe participating. The tribe would only be successful if a fair number of their members could keep that pace and participate in the hunt, and there is no reason to believe that the group of people in the tribe that could maintain the appropriate pace didn't include women.
 
Lets look at the Boston Marathon for data. of the 14,429 men that ran in 2019, 30 beat the fastest woman. That is 0.2%. And there were only 10,801 women competing. And if you are talking about competitors of European descent... it doesn't look good for Europe's survival, if that is the standard...

The 19th century argument that women cannot run long distances has been proven false in every marathon that allowed women to compete. The societies that ran down their prey did so at a reasonable jog with several members of the tribe participating. The tribe would only be successful if a fair number of their members could keep that pace and participate in the hunt, and there is no reason to believe that the group of people in the tribe that could maintain the appropriate pace didn't include women.
I'm not sure what you're arguing. I already opined that stone age roles weren't rigidly held.

But that doesn't mean that certain behaviors - that we still see in present day stone age groups - aren't predominantly gendered due to various adaptational advantages.
 
I'm not sure what you're arguing. I already opined that stone age roles weren't rigidly held.

But that doesn't mean that certain behaviors - that we still see in present day stone age groups - aren't predominantly gendered due to various adaptational advantages.
Are we arguing?

From the first post, I am simply showing that women were/are not precluded from living full and active lives in stone age society.
 

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