Studying the past has always been more than a hobby for some people, especially for archaeologists, paleontologists, and other historical researchers. Yet the study of ancient relatives, close to homo sapiens, garner importance for historians.
In that sense, the ancient species closest to homo sapiens are neanderthals. By studying them, researchers learn how they lived before we replaced them. The discovery of a neanderthal multi-purpose tool points to their ability to innovate. Still, they were probably unable to keep up with the changes, dying out 10,000 years before research says the first homo sapiens arrived. Now researchers are stating that despite believed gender roles, neanderthal women actually hunted alongside their male counterpart.
According to an article by Ancient Origins, the gender roles of neanderthals were similar to those of homo sapiens. Men prepared the cutting tools and weapons, while women saw to leather garments and clothing. Because of this distinction, it was believed that gender roles were specified across the board pertaining to the neanderthals. However, new studies show that when it came to big game hunting, both genders participated.
Almudena Estalrrich, a researcher for the Spanish National Museum of Natural Sciences, confirmed such a belief with the following statement.
“We believe that the specialization of labor by sex of the individuals was probably limited to a few tasks, as it is possible that both men and women participated equally in the hunting of big animals.”
Antonio Rosas, another researcher for the aforementioned museum, complimented Estalrrich’s statement, stating past discoveries have revealed neanderthals were more advanced than what researchers originally believed, as reported by Phys Organization.
“The study of Neanderthals has provided numerous discoveries in recent years. We have moved from thinking of them as little evolved beings, to know that they took care of the sick persons, buried their deceased, ate seafood, and even had different physical features than expected: there were redhead individuals, and with light skin and eyes. So far, we thought that the sexual division of labor was typical of sapiens societies, but apparently that’s not true.”
Apparently, the only way researchers were able to determine said gender roles among neanderthals was through a 1999 study of incisors and canines of nineteen neanderthal people. Found in sites in El Sidron and Asturias in Spain, Spy in Belgium, and L’Hortus in France, researchers studied how both genders used their mouth as a “second hand” by the groove patterns imprinted on their teeth.
Women had the same groove pattern, and they differed from men. Men’s grooves were longer than women’s ergo the assumption was made that tasks between them differed. However, the belief is only assumed in comparison to modern hunter-gatherer societies in which women prepare furs and other garments while men retouch edges of stone tools.
In conclusion, researchers are starting believe that gender roles among neanderthals were limited, yet the concreteness of said belief is quite lacking. Once again, the researchers are only hypothesizing due to what they’ve learned from past discoveries.