A team of archaeologists recently discovered the remains of a huntress in the Andes. Our Hunt-Fish editor finds solidarity, clarity, and fellowship with this 9,000-year-old woman outdoors.
Dear Hunter, I am writing to you for two reasons.
First of all, I would like to honor your long life as part of the ancient tradition in which I immersed myself. Second, I find it important to examine this hunting community that we both belong to.
A life unearthed, a pattern revealed
The tools found next to the slayer; Photo credit: Randall Haas & University of California-Davis
We humans today discovered your remains at an altitude of 13,000 feet in the Peruvian Andes. By “we” I mean specifically archaeologists.
As a UC Davis archaeologist, Randall Haas and his team removed debris and debris from Her old burial place in Wilamaya PatjxaThe researchers noticed what a great boss and important man you must have been, assuming your gender was male.
More than 20 projectile points and blades have been neatly buried next to your slender bones. It was reminiscent of the burials of great hunters found before you.
However, a bioarchaeologist named Jim Watson noted that you may be female because he saw the nature of your skeletal remains. Indeed, you were – a 17 to 19 year old woman to be precise.
In fact, the researchers had no intention of investigating any ancient gender equality in hunting. But when they were presented with the remains of your young life, they were loved.
For this reason, 107 other Early Holocene and Pleistocene burial sites were subsequently sexually treated. All in all, 27 hunters were found in these tombs16 of them were men and 11 – like you and me – were women.
Woman and hunter
An Eastern Montana Landscape at Dusk; Photo: Nicole Qualtieri
I to know of your existence while I was also hunting. Me, a modern woman, clad in neutral solids and camouflage, with a blaze orange .308 rifle – with tags in my pocket and hope in my heart. I hunted a landscape where mammoths, giant sloths, short-faced bears, and an American savannah of animals unfamiliar to me would have roamed in your lifetime.
I was looking for a living relic from the same period in the late Pleistocene and early Holocene as you were hunting vicuña and deer in Peru. Here this creature is called a fork horn. It is the last of its Linnish family, the Antilocapridae; The closest relatives today are the giraffes and okapi of the African continent.
Pronghorn is both swift and avian, and is most common in a herd that tends towards matriarchal hierarchies. When a small threat is perceived, they turn their collective legs against the prairie floor like nothing you’ve seen before.
Surely your hunting prowess would be impressive with your ancient tools in any context, but I’m sure you would have mastered the art of hunting such a creature through both necessity and unique focus of survival.
For me, the hunt is an exploration of a simpler connection that goes beyond the many advances in our modern world. It’s a reckoning to get even a small understanding of this very ancient soil beneath my feet and its connections to the animal world that still roams the spaces we could hold onto – for now.
Sisterhood and brotherhood together
In that way we are different, you and me. Fortunately, my survival does not depend on my hunting skills. But as I read about you, I felt empowered by your existence in the sage-covered plains of eastern Montana. And to the same extent through the respect with which your subsistence community wanted to honor you.
I also communicated with both of them Sisters and brothers on the hunt. Together we exchanged knowledge, stories, adventures and meals related to fire. We shared tents, vehicles and the moments of blood, muscle and physical strain that the success of this endeavor brings with it.
When I shot my fork jack last Friday at noon – a shot that quickly stole his breath and life – I was alone, save for the nearly 100 fork jacks that surrounded me. I had walked hundreds of meters and crawled to get into the distance.
The herd grazed my direction on a whim of either kind: good for me, bad for this lonely buck. The wind never gave me away; I stayed as quiet as stone.
They hiked within 40 meters after slowly advancing more than 100 – I was sure they would break me – but the opportunity to shoot finally came. And thanks to modern technology, I was immediately able to share this success with my hunting family, brothers and sisters in the pursuit.
Change perspectives, shift gender-specific differences
Because of you, researchers change their minds about who might have been big game hunters in the societies of your day. You started throwing that away Hypothesis “Man the Hunter” and make way for someone who is more communal and human.
Current figures from the study that turned your tomb upside down suggest that perhaps 30-50% of hunters in the early Holocene and late Pleistocene were women. Of course it is up for debate. It’s hard to get rid of old ways of thinking without big data. And even then, data certainly doesn’t seem to matter to some.
But I don’t find these numbers too surprising. Today the number of women who hunt in the United States is slowly increasing and is now approaching the old lower threshold of 30%.
Today women hunt alongside their fathers and mothers, their husbands, their daughters and sons, their friends, partners and occasionally – as you may and as I often do – alone.
A hunter’s legacy to lean on
The author grabs her fork horn.
You were young when your lifeless body was respectfully adorned with the hunting instruments of your time. Yet your legacy lives on almost 9,000 years later.
I thought of you as I skinned and dismantled this relic of your time as I piled meat in my fridges and drove at a speed much faster than a forked horn towards my house in a small town.
Even when I hunt alone, I hunt as part of a community that seems to be more opposed to sex than dependent on it. So many from all walks of life have imparted knowledge, shared skills, pointed out better ways, trained me with hard-won lessons, and shared stories of exuberance and success that kept me moving forward.
But you were the reminder that this act I am part of is as old in its femininity as it is in its masculinity. It’s as human and gender neutral as anything can be. No barriers are broken. There were no real obstacles all along.
You were a hunter and so am I. When my eyes rest on the skull of the pronghorn that I hold now, I will think of you and honor you for this simple treasure trove of understanding.
Thank you very much for this gift that you have received so many years after your too short existence on this planet.