The youth was about 18 at death, 9,000 years ago, and was buried with an extensive collection of points and other stone tools suitable for taking down big prey. Together, hunter and tools lay buried at the site known as Wilamaya Patjxa in the southern Peruvian highlands, near the banks of Lake Titicaca, until a local archaeology collaborator, A, Pilco Quispe, found them in 2013.
Fast forward to 2018, and a team of archaeologists was busy excavating the site, uncovering five burials, around 20,000 artefacts, and the remains of another five people. Though the hunter’s bones were admittedly lighter than those of an average man, none of the excavators considered that this was anything but the burial of a revered male hunter, whose prowess was being marked through the grave goods.
It was only after fine-grained analysis of the proteins in his dental enamel, using a relatively new technique, that the archaeologists realised that he was in fact a she. Intrigued, team leader, Dr Randy Haas, investigated 429 other burials from the Americas from a similar date-range. While only 27 people found with big-game hunting implements had been sexed, of these 11 were female and 16 were
Image Matthew Verdolivo, UC Davis IET Academic Technology Services
Artist’s reconstruction of the ‘gender bending’ huntress from Wilamaya Patjxa, Peru. (Note her imagined pink outfit, and heart -shaped purse.)
The Past | April/May 2021