A vicuna roams at the foothill of the Chimborazo volcano, Ecuador’s central Andes; the species was probably the prey of ancient female hunters according to a new study
WASHINGTON – A new study says a woman’s place might never have been at home to begin with.
Scientists said Wednesday they had discovered the 9,000-year-old remains of a young woman in the Peruvian Andes alongside a well-stocked big game hunting toolkit.
Based on a further analysis of 27 individuals at burial sites with similar tools, a team led by Randall Haas at the University of California, Davis concluded that between 30 to 50 percent of hunters in the Americas during this period may have been women.
The paper, published in the journal Science Advances, contradicts the prevalent notion that in hunter-gatherer societies, the hunters were mainly men and the gatherers were mainly women.
“I think it tells us that for at least some portion of human prehistory, that assumption was inaccurate,” Haas told AFP.
He added that the results “highlight the disparities in labor practice today, in terms of things like gender pay gaps, titles, and rank. The results really underscore that there may be nothing ‘natural’ about those disparities.”
The skeletal remains of six people including two hunters were discovered in 2018 by Haas and members of the local Mulla Fasiri community at Wilamaya Patjxa, an important archaeological site in highland Peru.
Analyses of the hunters’ bone structure as well as biological molecules called peptides in their tooth enamel allowed scientists to identify one as a 17- to 19-year-old female, and the second as a 25- to 30-year-old male.
Excavating the teen’s burial site was particularly “interesting and exciting” for the team, said Haas.
As they dug, they uncovered an array of hunting and animal processing tools that provided strong evidence for her hunter status.
These included stone projectile points for felling large animals, a knife and flakes of rock for removing internal organs, and tools for scraping and tanning hides.
The artifacts were likely placed together in a perishable container like a leather bag.
According to the paper, the teen, dubbed “WMP6” by the scientists, would have used a weapon called an “atlatl,” a spear throwing lever that allowed our ancient ancestors to throw spears much further.
Her main prey at the time would have been species like the vicuna, a wild ancestor of the alpaca, and Andean deer.
– Not an anomaly –
To find out whether the female hunter was an outlier, or one of many from her time, the researchers conducted a review of 429 individuals buried across 107 sites in the Americas from around 17,000 to 4,000 years ago.
Of those, they found 27 individuals whose sex had reliably been determined and who were buried alongside big game hunting tools — finding that 16 were male and 11 were female.
“The sample is sufficient to warrant the conclusion that female participation in early big-game hunting was likely nontrivial,” the team wrote, using a statistical model to estimate between 30-50 percent of hunters in these societies were women.
The new study adds to a body of literature that supports “the contention that modern gender constructs often do not reflect past ones,” the team wrote.
This includes the 2017 confirmation of a female Viking warrior through a genetic study.
Certain questions remain — such as why many modern hunter-gatherer societies do show sex-bias in hunting activities.
Theories include they could have been influenced by outsiders.
Or, perhaps the atlatl tool used by WMP6 and her contemporaries had a less steep learning curve than the technologies that succeeded it, making it possible to achieve proficiency in childhood before girls reached sexual maturity and had to devote their time to childcare and rearing.
By contrast, mastering the bow and arrow requires ongoing practice well into the teenage years.
Haas said he hoped his paper might spark further research to find out whether there were female hunters at the time in other parts of the world.
Dramatic video from Puerto Rico captures the moment when a 816-tonne platform came crashing down on the Arecibo Observatory, shattering one of the world’s largest telescopes and striking a crushing blow to the global scientific community.
The catastrophic collapse happened on Dec. 1, less than two weeks after the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) warned that such a disaster was imminent. The NSF had already shuttered operations at the facility after a suspension cable snapped and slashed a hole in the dish last month.
The telescope was the largest of its kind when it opened in 1963, and it has contributed to all manner of astronomical discoveries over the years, from asteroids to planets to mysterious radio signals in space. It also won a place in pop culture as the set for such films as Contact and GoldenEye, the first James Bond movie starring Pierce Brosnan.
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The observatory’s telescope consisted of a 816-tonne reflector dish platform suspended 137 metres above a massive, bowl-like dish, which measured 305 metres across.
Suspension cables holding up the platform snapped on Dec. 1, dropping the heavy platform on the dish with a tremendous crash.
0:43 Aerial footage shows damage caused by Arecibo radio telescope collapse
Aerial footage shows damage caused by Arecibo radio telescope collapse
Video captured by the Arecibo control tower shows one of the three major cables snapping, causing the platform to swing down on the remaining cables before snapping them, too.
The footage shows the reflector dish platform falling apart in mid-air, while dragging down several support towers behind it.
Drone footage captured from one of the support towers shows the moment when the first cable snapped. The cable snapped at the tower, then the whole structure came crashing down, pulling other towers with it and cracking the bowl of the telescope. Large clouds of dust rose from the bowl after the catastrophe.
PUERTO RICO, USA – The Arecibo Observatory collapsed on December 1, 2020.
The telescope was the biggest of it’s kind in the world until China built a bigger one in 2016.
Its 305-meter main dish was on the ground while the suspended platform weighing in at 150 tons carried antennas and other equipment suspended over it.
One of the main cables supporting the platform broke in August and then the rest let go Tuesday.
During its lifespan, it made numerous discoveries and was used as a radar to ping near-earth asteroids. It would document size, spin, orbit, and rotation. Without this telescope, there is not another one in the world with the precision capability to do so.
There have been calls on social media to rebuild however no plans for the future of the telescope have been completed.
The U.S. space agency NASA awarded contracts to four companies on Thursday to collect lunar samples for US$1 to $15,000, rock-bottom prices that are intended to set a precedent for future exploitation of space resources by the private sector.
“I think it’s kind of amazing that we can buy lunar regolith from four companies for a total of $25,001,” said Phil McAlister, director of NASA’s Commercial Spaceflight Division.
The contracts are with Lunar Outpost of Golden, Colorado for $1; ispace Japan of Tokyo for $5,000; ispace Europe of Luxembourg for $5,000; and Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California for $15,000.
The companies plan to carry out the collection during already scheduled unmanned missions to the Moon in 2022 and 2023.
The firms are to collect a small amount of lunar soil known as regolith from the Moon and to provide imagery to NASA of the collection and the collected material.
Ownership of the lunar soil will then be transferred to NASA and it will become the “sole property of NASA for the agency’s use under the Artemis program.”
Under the Artemis program, NASA plans to land a man and a woman on the Moon by 2024 and lay the groundwork for sustainable exploration and an eventual mission to Mars.
“The precedent is a very important part of what we’re doing today,” said Mike Gold, NASA’s acting associate administrator for international and interagency relations.
“We think it’s very important to establish the precedent that the private sector entities can extract, can take these resources but NASA can purchase and utilize them to fuel not only NASA’s activities, but a whole new dynamic era of public and private development and exploration on the Moon,” Gold said.
“We must learn to generate our own water, air and even fuel,” he said. “Living off the land will enable ambitious exploration activities that will result in awe inspiring science and unprecedented discoveries.”
Any lessons learned on the Moon would be crucial to an eventual mission to Mars.
“Human mission to Mars will be even more demanding and challenging than our lunar operations, which is why it’s so critical to learn from our experiences on the Moon and apply those lessons to Mars,” Gold said.
“We want to demonstrate explicitly that you can extract, you can utilize resources, and that we will be conducting those activities in full compliance with the Outer Space Treaty,” he said. “That’s the precedent that’s important. It’s important for America to lead, not just in technology, but in policy.”
The United States is seeking to establish a precedent because there is currently no international consensus on property rights in space and China and Russia have not reached an understanding with the United States on the subject.
The 1967 Outer Space Treaty is vague but it deems outer space to be “not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”
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