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When digging up buried remains for individuals, it’s not uncommon for archaeologists to incorrectly label the ancient individual as a male or female.
For example, a research team recently determined that the skeleton of a high-ranking individual buried in southwestern Spain between 3,200 and 2,200 years ago was female, Live Science reported.
Scientists first discovered the “Ivory Merchant” – also known as “Ivory Man” – in 2008 and initially suggested it was a male because of its pelvis.
But in a new study, a new group of scientists explained that the pelvic region was not well preserved and so used a different method to examine the skeleton.
They analyzed the skeleton’s teeth and found evidence of the AMELX gene, which is located on the X chromosome, one of the two sex chromosomes found in humans – and concluded the skeleton was actually that of a female.
While the findings don’t reveal her identity, the team believes that she was the “highest-ranked person” in this particular society during the Copper Age.
The grave of the “Ivory Lady” was filled with a number of valuables, such as ivory tusks, an ostrich shell, and a rock-crystal dagger. This distinguished her from other individuals in terms of wealth and social status, according to study co-author Leonardo García Sanjuán.
“She was a leader … and her status wasn’t inherited, meaning that she was a leader based on her personal achievements, skills, and personality,” he added.
The researchers explained that other burials in southern Spain, particularly of infants interred without grave goods, further show that during the Copper Age birthright was not the ultimate determinant of social status.