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Prehistoric Women Were Likely Better Hunters Than Men, Study Finds

New research suggests that prehistoric women were not only hunters but also biologically better suited for the task.
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Prehistoric women were not only hunters but were probably better at it than men, according to a new study.

The study found that not only did prehistoric women engage in the practice of hunting, but their female anatomy and biology would have made them intrinsically better suited for it.

Women have long been seen as child-rearers and gatherers while men went out to hunt.

Assistant Professor Cara Ocobock said: “This was what everyone was used to seeing. This was the assumption that we’ve all just had in our minds and that was carried through in our museums of natural history.

Prehistoric women were not only hunters but were probably better at it than men, according to a new study. PHOTO BY MIKHAIL NILOV/PEXELS 

“Rather than viewing it as a way of erasing or rewriting history, our studies are trying to correct the history that erased women from it.”

The findings, by researchers at the University of Notre Dame, show that the female body is better suited for endurance activity, which would have been critical in early hunting as they would have had to run the animals down into exhaustion before going in for the kill.

The main reasons for this biological advantage are hormones — in this case, estrogen and adiponectin, which are typically present in higher quantities in female bodies than in male.

These two hormones play a critical role in enabling the female body to modulate glucose and fat, a function that is key in athletic performance.

irector of the Human Energetics Laboratory. (University of Notre Dame via SWNS)

Eestrogen in particular helps by encouraging the body to use its stored fat for energy before using up its carbohydrate stores and protecting the body’s cells from damage during heat exposure.

Ocobock said: “Since fat contains more calories than carbs do, it’s a longer, slower burn, which means that the same sustained energy can keep you going longer and can delay fatigue.

Prehistoric women were not only hunters but were probably better at it than men, according to a new study. PHOTO BY MIKHAIL NILOV/PEXELS 

“Estrogen is really the unsung hero of life, in my mind. It is so important for cardiovascular and metabolic health, brain development and injury recovery.”

They also discovered that the structure of the female body would have been an advantage in hunting.

She added: “With the typically wider hip structure of the female, they are able to rotate their hips, lengthening their steps.

“The longer steps you can take, the ‘cheaper’ they are metabolically, and the farther you can get, faster.

“When you look at human physiology this way, you can think of women as the marathon runners versus men as the powerlifters.”

The study went on to examine fossils for archaeological evidence of women as hunters.

These findings indicate prehistoric women not only shared in the resulting injuries of the dangerous business of close-contact hunting but that it was an activity held in high esteem and valued by them.

According to fossil records, both males and females have the same resulting hunting injuries and equal rates of wear and tear.

Evidence was also found of early female hunters in the Holocene period in Peru where females were buried with hunting weapons.

Ocobock said: “You don’t often get buried with something unless it was important to you or was something that you used frequently in your life.

“Furthermore, we have no reason to believe that prehistoric women abandoned their hunting while pregnant, breastfeeding or carrying children, nor do we see in the deep past any indication that a strict sexual division of labor existed.

“Hunting belonged to everyone, not just to males. There weren’t enough people living in groups to be specialized in different tasks. Everyone had to be a generalist to survive.”

The two studies, simultaneously published in the journal American Anthropologist, are of extreme importance to both authors who hope their findings will help change the narrative surrounding modern-day women.

Ocobock concluded “This revelation is especially important in the current political moment of our society where sex and gender are in a spotlight. And I want people to be able to change these ideas of female physical inferiority that have been around for so long.

“We have to change the biases we bring to the table, or at least to give pause before we assign those biases. And in a broader sense, you cannot outrightly assume somebody’s abilities based on whatever sex or gender you have assigned by looking at them.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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