Based on a grave and the artifacts found in it, archaeologists believe that women may have been powerful leaders in the south-eastern part of Spain during the Bronze Age. According to the Research Group in Mediterranean Social Archaeoecology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), females may have held very important leadership roles of the El Argar society around 4,000 years ago.
A tomb that has been called Grave 38 was found in the La Almoloya site which is located in Murcia, Spain. There were two people in the grave – a man between 35 and 40 years of age, along with a woman who was between 25 and 30 years old. They died at approximately the same time and their daughter was buried close by.
In addition to the human remains, there were approximately 30 artifacts recovered with the majority of them being made of silver. These objects included several pieces of jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, and earlobe plugs). But the most intriguing item found was a silver diadem (a crown or headband worn by those in power). Pictures of some of the artifacts (including the diadem) and the grave can be seen here.
The diadem was compared to others that were discovered in different tombs belonging to the El Argar society and they were all very similar as well as valuable. The researchers explained this further, “In the Argaric society, women of the dominant classes were buried with diadems, while the men were buried with a sword and dagger,” adding, “As swords represent the most effective instrument for reinforcing political decisions, El Argar dominant men might have played an executive role, even though the ideological legitimation as well as, perhaps, the government, had lain in some women's hands.”
Another interesting fact was that the grave was found underneath what would have been a governing hall of an important structure or palace. This indicates that the man and woman buried underneath it were of very important social status.
In an interview with CNN, Cristina Rihuete, who is a professor of prehistory at UAB and a co-author of the study, said, “The role of women in the past was much more important than we have dared to imagine,” adding, “This says a lot about the process of silencing that women have suffered since.”
She went on to note that not much is known about the ancient El Argar society, but her work during the last two decades has shed some light on the civilization like the fact that they ruled the area between 2200 and 1550 BCE. Future excavations are being planned at the site in order to hopefully find out more information about the ancient society.
The research was published in the journal Antiquity where it can be read in full.