Women occupied leadership positions in Iberian Copper Age society. So says a reconstruction of a tomb from the period by researchers at the University of Seville in Spain, reported in a peptide analysis published in Scientific Reports. The highest-ranking person in ancient Copper Age society on the Iberian Peninsula was not a man, as previously thought, but a woman.

The individual, now renamed the ‘Ivory Lady,’ was buried in a tomb containing the largest collection of rare and valuable objects in the region, including ivory tusks, high-quality flint, ostrich egg shells, amber and a rock crystal dagger. These discoveries reveal the important position women may have held in this ancient society.

In 2008 another discovery dating back to the Copper Age.

In 2008 an individual was discovered in a tomb in Valencia, Spain, dating to the Copper Age between 3,200 and 2,200 years ago. In addition to being a rare example of an individual burial, the tomb contained a large number of valuable goods, suggesting that this individual-originally considered a young male between the ages of 17 and 25-occupied a high-ranking position within society.

Peptide analysis showed that she was a female

Marta Cintas-Peña and her colleagues at the University of Seville used analysis of amelogen peptides, a protein that forms in dental enamel in a sexually dimorphic manner, to verify the presence of this protein in the sample’s teeth. Analysis of one molar and one incisor revealed the presence of the AMELX gene, which produces amelogen and is located on the X chromosome, indicating that the individual was a woman rather than a man. According to the authors, this means that the highest-ranking person in Iberian Copper Age society was a woman.

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