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. As well as being a rare example of a single occupancy burial, the grave contained a large number of valuable goods, suggesting that this individual — originally thought to be a young male aged between 17 and 25 years. — held a high status within society.
Marta Cintas‑Peña and colleagues have now revealed that the high status individual was not a man, but a woman.
Known now as ‘The Ivory Lady’ she was buried in a tomb filled with the largest collection of rare and valuable items in the region, including ivory tusks, high-quality flint, ostrich eggshell, amber, and a rock crystal dagger.
The work to identify the gender of the individual’s remains was through analysis of a molar and an incisor. The presence of the AMELX gene was found — which produces amelogenin and is located on the X chromosome — indicating that the individual was female rather than male.
The findings challenge established interpretations about the political role of women when societies were becoming more complex and question traditionally held views of the past – dominated up till now with ‘rulers’ or ‘leaders’ being male.
Click on this link to access Amelogenin peptide analyses reveal female leadership in Copper Age Iberia (c. 2900–2650 BC), published in Scientific Reports