Male-hunter, female-gatherer paradigm is false

New research shows the stereotype of men as ‘hunters’ and women as ‘gatherers’ in foraging societies is largely incorrect.

Women were, and remain, hunters in at least 79% of foraging societies, according to new analysis published in PLOS ONE.

Archaeological evidence has already established women hunted – and even went to war – across human history and prehistory, with one of the most prominent discoveries including a 9,000 year old burial of an adult female interred alongside big-game hunting tools in Peru.

Researchers from Seattle Pacific University in the US show that women have continued to participate in hunting in foraging societies, even until recent times.

Abigail Anderson and colleagues analysed data from the past 100 years of 63 foraging societies around the world, including societies in North America (19), South America (6), Africa (12), Australia (15), Asia (5), and the Oceanic region (6).

Data reviewed included explicit reports of what, when and how hunting occurred in each group.

They found women in those societies hunted in the majority of cases, regardless of their status as mothers. Fifty of the 63 societies analysed had documentation on women hunting.

The paper says women were actively involved in teaching hunting practices and often employed a greater variety of weapon choice and hunting strategies than men.

These findings suggest that, in many foraging societies, women are skilled hunters and play an instrumental role in the practice, adding to the evidence opposing long-held perceptions about gender roles in foraging societies.

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