Anthropologists are looking at how prehistoric tasks were divided, perhaps indicating the moment when we became truly human.
Faye Flam in the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Could it be that Neanderthal females achieved an equality that is rare even by today’s standards?
Some anthropologists make a case that our extinct female cousins hunted alongside the males during an epoch when our own ancestral women were gathering plants and doing other (essential) work. They argue that the appearance of gender roles was critical to humans’ eventual domination of the globe – and that the importance of the women of the Pleistocene period has been vastly understated.
These assertions, controversial to be sure, play into growing scientific interest in prehistoric sex roles: How did our male and female ancestors divvy up the tasks of getting food, clothing and shelter, and how did those roles shape the evolving species? Did primitive peoples form relationships, the males playing father to sons and daughters, or did we act more like our chimpanzee and gorilla cousins – promiscuous, violent, with males fighting over the females?