Prehistoric Females Were Strong As Hell - D-brief
Compared to hunting and gathering, farming can seem like pretty easy work. But the skeletons of Central European women who lived during agriculture’s earliest days would like to tell you otherwise.
An analysis of prehistoric women’s upper arm bones shows they took on formidable tasks of manual labor, likely during the course of tilling, harvesting and otherwise managing farm fields.
And the hard work left them pretty beasty — it was enough to make them stronger even than modern female competitive athletes today, researchers say.
Bad to the Bone
Cambridge archaeologist Alison Macintosh led a team of scientists who published a study Wednesday in Science Advances comparing the bone structure of modern female athletes to female farmers in the Neolithic period and Bronze and Iron Ages.
Not only is this the first study to compare the bones of ancient women to those of women today, but the research is also notable for not using male skeletons as a comparison point.
Previous bioarchaeological studies of prehistoric behavior compared the skeletons of women directly to the skeletons of men. Because men’s bones bulk up more noticeably in response to strain, these studies made it appear as though women weren’t doing a lot of the heavy lifting — both literally and figuratively.
The researchers say these unequal male-to-female skeletal comparisons have resulted in an underestimation of the physical tasks women took on in ancient times. It’s also obscured some of the differences in how men and women worked.