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Roles of Hunter-Gatherer Women Reevaluated

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Mongolia SkeletonsRENO, NEVADA—Sexual division of labor may not have been strictly enforced in hunter-gatherer societies, according to a Science News report. Forensic anthropologist Marin Pilloud of the University of Nevada and her colleagues analyzed information collected from the skeletons of 128 hunter-gatherer women and 289 men who lived in 19 different Native American groups in what is now central California between 5,000 and 200 years ago, and found that the bones of both men and women show damage inflicted by arrows and other sharp objects in the same manner. In a separate study, Christine Lee and Yahaira Gonzalez of California State University, Los Angeles, examined the remains of nine people who had been buried in a high-status tomb in Mongolia between the second and fifth centuries A.D., a time of political turbulence and frequent conflicts known as the Xianbei period. The researchers found that the bones of two of the three women and all of the men buried in the tomb show wear and tear of frequent horseback riding and falls from horseback, repeated shooting arrows from bows, and multiple arrowhead injuries. “The traditional view of ‘man the hunter and woman the gatherer’ is likely flawed and overly simplistic,” Pilloud concluded. For more on hunter-gatherers in what is now California, go to "Letter from California: The Ancient Ecology of Fire."

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