The typical Natural History Museum diorama showing a male carrying a spear is largely based on the imagination of male archaeologists, not science.
"I think it's perfectly obvious that the whole man-is-the-hunter idea, while not necessarily totally wrong, was formed from a completely male perspective," said Sarah M. Nelson, a professor of archaeology at the University of Denver."Some women archaeologists finally just got up and said, 'Wait a second, you're full of ...'" said Nelson.
Perspectives didn't really start to change until the 1960s, when a few female archaeologists began to argue that existing science was based upon faulty premises.
I'll confess that I always just assumed there was a substantial basis for the "man is hunter, woman is gatherer" dichotomy. The article is well worth a read.
Specifically, they asserted that tool use doesn't necessarily reveal the identity of the tool user. [James M.] Adovasio offered the Clacton tool as a case in point: It is a 300,000-year-old fragment of wood found in 1911 near the town of Clacton-on-the-Sea in England. The standard interpretation is that the tool is a spear point fashioned by a Paleolithic male. Adovasio says this assertion goes too far, given the limited evidence. The Clacton tool, he suggests, might be a fragment of a digging stick once used to unearth edible roots. Or perhaps it was both a spear and a digging tool, used at different times for different purposes by both males and females.More to the point, Adovasio and colleagues write, "whatever the Clacton tool was (and it probably was a spear point), who is to say that females 300,000 years ago did not make spears and use them to help feed themselves and their offspring?"
• "Neanderthal Women Joined Men in the Hunt" New York Times, 5 December 2006.
Tags: archaeology, women in science, Neanderthals