Silver tiara invites reconsideration of women’s power in the Bronze Age

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A silver tiara capped on the head of a woman buried more than 3,700 years ago in southern Spain invites archaeologists to reconsider the distribution of power in European societies in the Bronze Age.

About 3,700 years ago, a man and a woman were placed together in an ovoid-shaped ceramic pot, before being buried under the ground of a large complex perched on a hill. You will find them in the region of Murcia, Spain, at one of the archaeological sites associated with the El Argar culture from the early Bronze Age (2200 BC to 1500 BC). -VS.).

Inside this tomb, researchers have found many valuable items. We know that they were also buried under the floor of a large room equipped with long benches lining the walls and a podium standing in front of a fireplace. The space was large enough to hold about fifty people. According to the authors, this great hall was once a “political building”.

These clues suggest that these two people were in their time members of the Argaric upper class. And of the two, the woman was perhaps the more important.

An incredible silver tiara

According to the tests, this woman died around the age of twenty (probably from tuberculosis). We also know that she suffered from congenital anomalies (shortened spine and a little weak left thumb).

On and around her body were numerous silver objects, including a bracelet, spacers, a ring, as well as three silver plaques affixed to her oak wood hallmark (symbol of femininity).

But the most impressive object remains this tiara, also in silver, still wearing its head. “Imagine a headband with a disc going down to the end of its nose», Explains Cristina Rihuete Herrada, from the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Visible in the header photo, he appears tired from the weather, but in his time, his appearance was very different. “This object would have shone so bright that you could have seen your reflection inside this disc», Continues the researcher. Only six have been found in Argaric tombs.

For his part, the man is not left out. He died in his thirties and was also buried with his own adornments, including gold spreaders in his ears, a silver ring and a copper dagger. Finally, it should be noted that the couple had at least one child together. His remains are buried under a nearby building.

The interior of the tomb. The woman wearing the tiara is on the right. Credits: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

The woman in power?

We know that the Argaric culture was a state corporation, with a ruling bureaucracy, geopolitical borders, and urban centers. We also know that there were class distinctions.

That said, while most of these systems have long been considered patriarchal, this new burial is causing archaeologists to reconsider the question. Was this woman with the silver tiara in power? Did she share power with her companion?

Difficult to say at the moment. According to Dr Rihuete Herrada, these two people may have held a different power: women had political and decision-making power, while men controlled the army. It wouldn’t be a first.

Details of the study are published in the journal antiquity.

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