Amelogenin peptide analyses reveal female leadership in Copper Age Iberia (c. 2900–2650 BC)

Marta Cintas-Peña, Miriam Luciañez-Triviño, Raquel Montero Artús, Andrea Bileck, Patricia Bortel, Fabian Kanz, Katharina Rebay-Salisbury, Leonardo García Sanjuán

Given the absence of written records, the main source of information available to analyze gender inequalities in early complex societies is the human body itself. And yet, 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. Only other women buried a short time after in the Montelirio tholos, part of the same burial area, appear to have enjoyed a similarly high social position. Our results invite to reconsider established interpretations about the political role of women at the onset of early social complexity, and question traditionally held views of the past. Furthermore, this study anticipates the changes that newly developed scientific methods may bring to prehistoric archaeology and the study of human social evolution.

Institut für Analytische Chemie, Joint Metabolome Facility, Institut für Urgeschichte und Historische Archäologie
Externe Organisation(en)
Universidad de Sevilla, Medizinische Universität Wien
Scientific Reports
ÖFOS 2012
601021 Urgeschichte, 104002 Analytische Chemie, 301302 Lipidforschung
ASJC Scopus Sachgebiete
Sustainable Development Goals
SDG 5 – Geschlechtergleichheit
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