About 3,700 years ago a man and a woman were buried together in the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula. Her grave was an egg-shaped vessel under the floor of a large hall in a sprawling hill complex called La Almoloya in what is now Murcia, Spain. It is one of many archaeological sites associated with the El Argar culture of the Early Bronze Age and an area roughly the size of Belgium from 2200 BC. Until 1500 BC Controlled
Judging by the 29 high-quality objects in the tomb, which were described in Antiquity magazine on Thursday, the couple appears to have been members of the Argarian upper class. And the woman was perhaps the more important of the two. She raised questions to archaeologists about who wielded power among the Argarics and added further evidence to a debate about the role of women in prehistoric Europe.
She died in her 20s possibly contracted tuberculosis and laid on his back with legs bent on the man. In life, she had a number of congenital abnormalities such as a shortened, fused spine and a stunted left thumb.
On and around them were lofty silver emblems of wealth and power. Her hair was fastened with silver spirals, and her silver earlobes – one larger than the other – were tied with silver spirals. A silver bracelet was near her elbow and a silver ring was still on her finger. Silver embellished the diamond-shaped ceramic pot near her, and triple silver plates embellished her oak tree – a symbol of femininity.
Her most fantastic silver artifact is a flawlessly crafted tiara – a headband-like crown – that still rested on her head. Only six were discovered in Argarian graves.
She would have shimmered in life. “Imagine the diadem with a disc that reaches the tip of the nose,” said Cristina Rihuete Herrada, one Archaeologist and professor of prehistory at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and one of the discoverers of burial. “It seems. You could actually see yourself on the CD. It would be a very, very impressive thing to frame this woman’s eyes. And someone’s ability to be reflected – their face on another face – would have been shocking. “
Her sound would have been dramatic too: “Think about the sound – that clink, clink, because it’s silver versus silver in those very large earlobes,” said Dr. Rihuete Herrada. “That would be a remarkable person.”
The man, who was in his thirties when he died, had been buried with his own intricacies, including flared gold plugs in his ears. The silver ring that had once been on his finger had fallen off and was near his lower back. At his side was a copper dagger with four silver rivets.
Like their contemporaries – such as the Minoans of Crete, the Wessex of Great Britain, and the Unetice of Central Europe – the Argarics had the characteristics of a state society with a ruling bureaucracy, geopolitical boundaries, complex settlement systems, and urban centers with monumental structures. They had division of labor and class differences that persisted after death based on the great inequality of grave goods discovered at archaeological sites.
And while most of these systems have long been considered deeply patriarchal, the double burials at La Almoloya and other Argarian tombs have made archaeologists rethink life in ancient Iberia. Was she the one in power? Was it a symbol of power but not self-sustaining? Did they share power or use it in different areas?
They were buried under the floor of a great hall, where long benches lined the walls, and a dais stood in front of a stove that was meant for warmth and light and did not boil. The room was big enough for about 50 people. “Hundreds of El Argar buildings have been excavated and this one is unique. It is clearly a building specializing in politics, ”said Dr. Rihuete Herrada.
The couple had at least one child together – a child discovered buried under a nearby building was a genetic match with both.
In the El Argar culture, girls were given grave goods at an earlier age than boys, indicating that they were considered women before boys were considered men. Tiaras are exclusive to women, and there is a greater variety of valuable goods in their graves. Some elite male warriors were buried with swords.
Regarding the power structure the two occupied, Dr. Rihuete Herrada suggested that they may have had potency in various areas. The swords could indicate that the enforcement of government decisions is in the hands of men. Maybe women were political rulers, but not alone, ”she said.
She suggests that the Argarics may have been similar to the matrilineal Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois), with women having political power and decision-making authority – including on issues of leadership, war, and justice – but men having control over the military.
These fascinating ideas fit into a series of new research from various archaeological studies in Europe that re-examines female power during the Bronze Age.
“The fact that most of the funerary objects, including those made of silver, were associated with the woman clearly indicates a person who was considered very important,” said Karin Frei, research professor of archaeometry at the National Museum of Denmark. “It makes sense to ask the question whether a class-based state society can be ruled by women.”
Dr. Frei is the director of Tales of Bronze Age People, which uses methods such as biogeochemical and biomolecular analysis to study the remains of elite and ordinary burials in Denmark. “In some parts of the Bronze Age in Europe, women may have played a much larger role in political and / or long-distance networks than previously thought,” she said.
Joanna Bruck, an expert on the Bronze Age of Britain and Ireland and director of the School of Archeology at University College Dublin, says the assumption that elite women of the period were “traded brides” when objects were exchanged on networks of male power. is ripe for another examination.
The funeral in La Almoloya “provides such clear evidence that women have had particular political power in the past,” said Dr. Bruck. “I think we need to be open to the possibility of them wielding power and agency. Of course, power is a very complex thing. You can have power in some contexts but not in others. We shouldn’t think that power is something you have or you don’t have. “