Influenced by stereotypes, scientists generally believe that primitive tribes had a gender division of labor between male hunters and female gatherers, but new findings by anthropologists correct previously biased perceptions.
In 2018, anthropologist Randy Haas' archaeological team found a human skeleton in Peru that was about 9,000 years old, with a sizable number of hunting tools on display.
Haas recalled, "Everyone was sitting around and saying, 'Wow! this is amazing. He must be a great hunter, a great warrior', 'maybe he's a chief!'. 」
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No one thought to question the sex of the skeleton. It wasn't until a week later that the researcher in charge of analyzing the skeletal structure arrived and dropped a stun grenade: the remains probably belonged to a woman.
Soon after, the shocked archaeological team used the latest detection methods to scrape off the enamel for protein analysis, and confirmed that this out-and-out hunter was indeed a woman.
The scientific community and the general public are misunderstood! It is not a matter of course that the male protagonist is outside and the female protagonist is inside
Perhaps influenced by stereotypes about the division of domestic duties, it is widely believed that in ancient times, hunter-gatherers had a distinct gender division – men went out to hunt large animals, while women were responsible for gathering fruit, raising children at home, and managing the affairs of the household.
Such a concept is deeply rooted in the minds of the general public, but also professional scientific researchers. Prior to the recent findings, it was widely believed that women were in charge of hunting, with the rare exception.
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And even if there were women hunting in these cultures, the hunting patterns should be very different from those of men, who are thought to hunt only small animals, such as reptiles or rabbits, rather than large mammals like men.
Anthropologist Robert Kelly has commented that past researchers have rarely made rigorous statistics on gender issues, and have mostly relied on brief summaries of archaeological reports and vague impressions gained from archaeological work in the field to infer the significance of the findings at the archaeological site.
To address this discrepancy, Cara Wall-Scheffler and her colleagues reviewed surveys from the 1800s to the present and found that 79 percent of societies in which women hunt and one third of all societies in which women hunt large animals are found.
According to their surveys, women had their own set of hunting tools and their most prized weapons, and tribes that valued hunting taught girls how to make hunting tools and trained their hunting skills, and women who were highly skilled and admired were often the most experienced and good hunters in the village.
All of this shows that the archaeological excavations of "female hunting" are not simply individual incidents of women accidentally killing animals when they are attacked by animals.
Why turn a blind eye to the obvious findings?
Anthropology has been developed for more than 200 years, so why haven't such obvious findings been discovered earlier? In addition to his own experience in archaeological sites, Haas cites a typical case from previous archaeological reports.
In this excavation record, the remains of a 11,000-year-old woman were found in the 1970s, with a pointed stone under her head. The archaeological report reads: "If the stone is related to a male, we would consider it a hunting weapon. But considering that it is around women, it would make more sense to understand it as a kitchen utensil. 」
This reasoning clearly implies the researcher's preconceived impression of gender roles. It is conceivable that if the archaeological community does not have other perspectives for a long time, scholars will start from the inherent gender temperament and ignore other potential possibilities when summarizing archaeological reports.
In fact, since the 1960s, the archaeological community has also tried to introduce a female perspective. They gathered evidence to try to prove that the diet of prehistoric societies came mostly from plant-based foods collected by women. In other words, women are the main providers of food in their homes.
By the 1980s, as more and more women were involved in archaeology and anthropology, more descriptions of prehistoric women's foraging behavior began to emerge.
However, there is clearly room for evolution in these efforts to promote diversity. For example, it took more than 40 years for women to participate in hunting to be revealed.
Implications of new archaeological discoveries: Is the modern gender division of labor "natural"?
The latest archaeological discoveries, following the idea that "collected plants are the main source of heat", have once again contributed to our reflection on the division of labor between men and women.
For a long time, it was believed that it was a woman's "vocation" and "nature" to be a mother, and that men should "go out to work hard" and "provide for their families". Now we understand that such gender boundaries or norms may not be so absolute.
Kimberly Hamlin, a longtime scholar of the cultural implications of evolution, is excited about the findings. She argues that previous misconceptions have contributed to several inequalities in society:
The first is the notion that men should be violent, ambitious and aggressive, which is often translated into a belief in masculinity and is often used as an excuse for violent, sexually violent.
Second, the notion that men are the main breadwinners of the family makes people feel that companies can arbitrarily deprive men of parental and paternity leave, and take away men's right to get along with their families.
In addition, the assumption that "motherhood" is the "nature" or "essence" of women weakens women's autonomy in reproductive matters. These findings provide side evidence that prehistoric women were self-sufficient and did not have to rely on their male partners.
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Liberate the "born" motherhood and abolish the toxic masculine culture
If we can no longer use the banner of "nature" and save people from the binary framework of masculine (masculine)/feminine (feminine), individuals can live more uninhibited.
New discoveries in the field of archaeology have contributed to a richer and more accurate understanding of the role of ancient women, and Professor Hamlin's comments reveal that without these expectations and requirements, people can be more sincere about their inner needs and desires, regardless of gender.
Women are not "born" to have children, and play the role of nurturing young children and taking care of household chores. This makes childbearing and starting a family a "choice", inspiring people to question and rethink the "nature" and "nature" of men and women, or the "natural state" of the division of labor.
On the other hand, men also have the right to temporarily withdraw from work and spend time with their families. This makes it more reasonable and legitimate for men to have family care leave and paternity leave, and liberates the restriction that men are the sole producers in the household and women are the reproducers of housework.
Finally, we can also understand why it is important to include researchers from diverse ethnic groups.
The increase in the number of female archaeologists in the 1980s added research on the role of women in primitive societies: minorities tend to notice factors that are important but less valued outside of mainstream doctrine and research orientation. Without them, we might never have been able to find out what ancient women lived like.