Female leadership in Copper Age Iberia (c. 2900–2650 BC)


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"... for decades, archaeologists have struggled with the sex estimation of poorly preserved human remains. Here we present an exceptional case study that shows how ground‐breaking new scientific methods may address this problem. Through the analysis of sexually dimorphic amelogenin peptides in tooth enamel, we establish that the most socially prominent person of the Iberian Copper Age (c. 3200–2200 BC) was not male, as previously thought, but female. The analysis of this woman, discovered in 2008 at Valencina, Spain, reveals that she was a leading social figure at a time where no male attained a remotely comparable social position."
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Very interesting. A lot of imported objects from Africa like ostrich eggs and elephant tusks. Evidence of a really stratified and interconnected society. Around the same time amber from Sicily also reached the Iberian Peninsula.
The region of these archaeological findings have been described as "one of the most important mining districts" of Antiquity and it already produced ores in the copper age with which it could have purchased these luxury goods.

The ivory and ostrich eggs certainly came from North Africa, but Sicilian amber is just as likely to have come that way. Although this may have other explanations, in the region of these archaeological finds there is a very high concentration of North African mtDNA U6 compared to the rest of Iberia (and certainly Europe),

Riotinto-Nerva mining basin: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riotinto-Nerva_mining_basin

Meta-Analysis of Mitochondrial DNA Variation in the Iberian Peninsula: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4956223/
Valencina (Seville, SW Spain) (Fig. 1) is a Copper Age ‘mega-site’ spreading over c. 450 hectares, much larger than other coeval sites. Recent research has revealed the extent of Valencina’s monumentalism with its sophisticated megalithic chambers and massive ditches as well as its associated high-end material culture, including finely crafted sumptuary artefacts produced from exotic raw materials such as ivory, rock crystal, amber, flint, and ostrich eggshell...

This burial is remarkable for several reasons. The individual buried in it was first identified as a probable young male between 17 and 25 years of age at the time of death based on standard anthropological analysis. Strontium isotopes showed this individual to be of local origin, while at the same time, strikingly high levels of mercury in the bones revealed intense ante-mortem exposure to cinnabar. This person was accompanied by a lavish set of prestige goods that included a large ceramic plate (in which chemical traces of wine and cannabis were found—Personal communication by Nicolas Garnier and Elisabeth Dodinet), a small copper awl and multiple flint and ivory objects (Fig. 2: lower level and Fig. 3). Remarkably, amongst the latter was a full tusk, weighing 1.8 kg, of an African elephant, which is unparalleled in western Europe...

... and further grave goods were then deployed, including several large ceramic plates and many more ivory objects. Among the latter, a beautiful dagger with a blade made of rock crystal and an ivory handle decorated with 90 perforated discoid beads made of mother of pearl stands out.

In the autumn of 2021, in the scope of broader cooperation on sex and gender systems in European later prehistory, peptide analysis showed that the chromosomal sex of the individual in Structure 10.049 was female, revealing ‘The ‘Ivory Man’ to be ‘The Ivory Lady” (Fig. 5)...

The evidence from Valencina makes a significant contribution to the wider research on gender differences and the role of women in early political organisations... Considering the empirical findings presented in this paper, themes such as matriarchal political systems and the role of female leaders in early political organisations deserve further discussion.
The most significant revelation is the female gender of the buried individual, but there are other surprising facts.

In "The Mega-Site of Valencina de la Concepción (Seville, Spain): Debating Settlement Form, Monumentality and Aggregation in Southern Iberian Copper Age Societies" J World Prehist (2017) 30:239–257

The Ivory Lady lived in the Valencine site (450 ha) ca. 2900 BC, coinciding with construction of the (smaller) Stonehenge site (17 ha).

Scandinavian enclosures such as Sarup on Funen, of the late fourth millennium BC, also furnish evidence of practices with possible parallels at the Iberian sites.



... some of the most refined objects found in these two tombs were made of exotic materials that may have shared a possible mystical or magical character because of their association with distant lands or because of their intrinsic properties (for instance, ivory, rock crystal, amber)...

Importance of navigation, demonstrated by connectivity to Sicilia, North Africa and probably with the British Isles and Scandinavia.

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