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She Hunted the Mammoth

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If you’re a regular reader of We Hunted the Mammoth, you probably know the story behind the site’s ironic name — it came from a rant by a Men’s Rights activist type demanding that women show more gratitude toward men because of all the selfless things men have allegedly done for women in history.

“Men gave you this modern world now you take it for granted,” he declared, “we hunted the mammoth to feed you … .”

You hunted the mammoth, eh? Not so fast. Turns out as many as half of all prehistoric mammoth-hunters were, you guessed it, cave women. According to science. Or at least to National Geographic, in a piece posted today:

Randall Haas, an archaeologist at University of California, Davis, recalls the moment in 2018 when his team of researchers gathered around the excavated burial of an individual lain to rest in the Andes Mountains of Peru some 9,000 years ago. Along with the bones of what appeared to be a human adult was an impressive—and extensive—kit of stone tools an ancient hunter would need to take down big game, from engaging the hunt to preparing the hide.

“He must have been a really great hunter, a really important person in society”—Haas says that’s what he and his team were thinking at the time.

Oh, but there’s a little plot twist: turns out he was a she.

[F]urther analysis revealed a surprise: the remains found alongside the toolkit were from a biological female. What’s more, this ancient female hunter was likely not an anomaly, according to a study published today in Science Advances. The Haas team’s find was followed by a review of previously studied burials of similar age throughout the Americas— and it revealed that between 30 and 50 percent of big game hunters could have been biologically female.

(Or at least Assigned Female at Birth; as NatGeo notes,we don’t know their gender identities.)

As NatGeo goes on to explain:

This new study is the latest twist in a decades-long debate about gender roles among early hunter-gather societies. The common assumption was that prehistoric men hunted while women gathered and reared their young. But for decades, some scholars have argued that these “traditional” roles—documented by anthropologists studying hunter-gatherer groups across the globe since the 19th century—don’t necessarily stretch into our deep past.

While the new study provides a strong argument that the individual in Peru was a female who hunted, plenty of other evidence has long been lying in plain sight, says Pamela Geller, an archaeologist at the University of Miami who is not part of the study team.

“The data is there,” Geller says. “It’s just a matter of how the researchers interpret it.”

So I guess the anonymous ranter who inadvertently provided this blog with a name has some apologies to make now that we know women hunted the mammoth too.

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Big Titty Demon
Big Titty Demon
1 year ago

@Pie

The flip side would have been your friends and family either abandoning you or hitting you over the head with a rock when you became too old, ill or otherwise infirm to keep up with the band…

I remember an article in the BBC which I’m not having success finding, but will keep trying, in which the executioner of old women for an Amazon hunter-gatherer tribe was interviewed. His basic opinion of the practice of killing grannies too old to be useful anymore (with a rock, actually) was “all the women in the tribe fear me and it makes me feel good”. Old men were not killed this way, but told to go out into the jungle by themselves.

I don’t know that I feel this gender gap between certain death, dealt by a man, and being given a sporting chance to live, is exactly egalitarian.

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
1 year ago

@Ohlmann:

See also : greek heroes and Jesus depicted as typical caucasian. The difference between a roman emperor and a viking in popular culture is pretty much its clothing.

Or, for that matter,Santa Claus. (The original Saint Nicholas of Bari was born in what is now Turkey of a largely Greek family. It’s highly unlikely his skin was any lighter than the traditional Mediterranean ‘olive’, and many paintings portray him as fairly dark. Granted, he’s from the 4th century, so we don’t exactly have many first-hand accounts.)

@Lumipuna:

Apparently, in practice, everyone relies on the skills and good graces of everyone else, rather than just the skilled few. If some skill or knowledge is truly rare, it’s probably not even found in a society of 100 people. Manipulation or scamming is difficult when you’re limited to dealing with your extended family members who are also your lifelong close neighbors. And obviously there isn’t much surplus wealth to accumulate.

Dunbar’s Number which is the purported largest stable size of a social group (based on how many mental connections to people you can hold at once) is usually given as 100-150 for humans. How much that actually applies to humans is rather up for debate, but the basic principle of ‘if there are only 100 people in the area then everybody can properly know and recognize everybody else’ seems valid enough.

And yes, in small towns like that ostracizing and bullying definitely happens, and if anything it can be even worse than in larger communities precisely because there is nowhere else to go without giving up your entire social life.

@pie:

Charisma and the ability to manipulate are not exactly heritable attributes

If anything, I’d suspect the correlation on ‘ability to manipulate’ leans slightly the other way: somebody who’s grown up and lived their entire young life at the mercy of a manipulative gaslighting asshole is unlikely to have the self-confidence needed to be any good at such manipulation themselves. But I could easily be wrong.

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

@Jenora Feuer

And yes, in small towns like that ostracizing and bullying definitely happens, and if anything it can be even worse than in larger communities precisely because there is nowhere else to go without giving up your entire social life.

I think this might also be why small towns/communities tend to be conservative: people there are used to the same people all the time, so people that are different are surprising to them and might be distrusted. And being a marginalized group in a small town can be awful because you’ve likely got no community of your demographic and are surrounded by people who don’t like you.

Alan Robertshaw
1 year ago

Throughout history, things like ostracisation and banishment have been common punishments in small inter-dependant communities. A classic example perhaps is outlawry. Basically, if you don’t abide by the rules of the community, you no longer benefit from protection under those rules.

And there are of course a number of religious groups where there are similar punishments; effectively making you a non-person if you transgress.

But this can happen in any group that seeks a strong homogenous identity, from the playground to the Roman Empire.

Lukas Xavier
Lukas Xavier
1 year ago

It’s like, white man is the default human for most conceptual purposes – for example when discussing prehistoric humans at the dawn of time.

Indeed, it’s interesting why it’s hunting the mammoth, and not the buffalo or the antelope.

otrame
otrame
1 year ago

They worked out in the 60s and 70s that the gathering was roughly 80 percent of the diet. At least in desert and near-desert landscapes. Hunting big game does not provide anything like a steady diet. Digging up roots, collecting berries and snails, setting dead traps, throwing sticks at rabbits (that’s what boomerangs are–rabbit sticks) provided most of the food and could be done by a pregnant woman carrying a two year old.

That’s not to say that hunting wasn’t important. When you’ve lived on tough old roots and some snails for weeks, a big old steak much have seemed like heaven.

Another Laura
Another Laura
1 year ago

I always love a chance to share one of my favorite books – The Descent of Women by Elaine Morgan. Written in the 1970s, it’s a very entertaining read that surveys everything that was known about early human evolution, but flips the script by pointing out that evolution is all about making sure babies survive, and that all the “Man the Mighty Hunter” garbage manages to ignore that basic fact. Though she doesn’t identify it by name, it was one of the first times I recall anyone calling out implicit bias, and how it affects scientific inquiry.

Luzbelitx
1 year ago

the development of agriculture was a total game-changer

.

Indeed; and not necessarily for the better.

In fact, some authors place the origins of patriarchy around those times.

Catalpa
Catalpa
1 year ago

The flip side would have been your friends and family either abandoning you or hitting you over the head with a rock when you became too old, ill or otherwise infirm to keep up with the band…

There’s actually a fair amount of ancient graves of disabled people that indicate that the ill and infirm were cared for by their group. Prehistoric people weren’t automatically the ableist eugenicists that some people imagine.
https://www.livescience.com/61743-rich-paleolithic-burials.html

Cyborgette
Cyborgette
1 year ago

@Big Titty Demon, belatedly: thank you for mentioning that… My gods, that’s horrifying. And enraging.

*heavy sigh*

The more I see of the world, the more I feel like radical feminists were right, and misogyny is the ur-oppression.

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