The skeleton that was found in a tomb outside of Seville, Spain, in 2008 certainly belonged to a prominent person because it was interred with items including an elephant tusk, a flint knife adorned with amber, a crystal dagger, an ostrich eggshell, and an ivory comb.
An expert first classified the 5,000-year-old skeleton as belonging to a “probable young male” who passed away between the ages of 17 and 25 based on examination of the pelvic bone.
The bones were given the nickname “Ivory Man” by a group of European archaeologists, who then started studying the “spectacular” discovery. In 2021, as part of a larger investigation into the find, the researchers confirmed the skeleton’s sex using a new molecular approach, and they received quite a shock. The “Ivory Man” was actually a woman, as it turned out.
“I was surprised by this. Thus, this truly compelled us to reassess everything about this site, according to research author and University of Seville prehistory professor Leonardo Garca Sanjuán.
The information they discovered about the lady and the civilization she belonged to provides a fresh perspective on the past and is likely to prompt many people to reevaluate their prehistoric beliefs.
It used to happen frequently for an archaeologist to discover (remains) and declare, “OK, this person has a sword and a shield. Because it presumes that historically gender roles were as we understand them now, it is obviously gravely incorrect to conclude that he is a guy, according to Garca Sanjuán.
This method, in our opinion, will usher in a whole new era in the study of prehistoric cultures’ social structures.
The more recent method to identify the sex of old bones, first used in 2017, involves examining tooth enamel, which contains a type of protein with a sex-specific peptide called amelogenin that can be identified in a lab.
According to the study, examination of a molar and an incisor from the bone revealed the presence of the AMELX gene, which is found on the X chromosome and generates amelogenin, indicating that the remains were female rather than male.
The method has also been employed in other studies to refute the myth of “man the hunter,” which has influenced much research on early humans. By examining the pelvis, archaeologists can typically determine a skeleton’s gender. Women’s pelvises typically have bigger openings than men’s do.
The issue is that hip bones are tiny relative to other parts, like skulls, which causes them to become brittle over time and be easily broken. Because of this, determining biological sex by looking at a pelvic entrance is prone to error, as was the case with the “Ivory Lady.”