An ancient tomb found in the Etruscan Necropolis of Tarquinia has people crying gender bias. The recently found 2,600-year-old tomb featured the grave of two individuals, one of which seemed to be a prince buried with a spear. The other grave seemed to feature the remains of the prince’s partner, which had been half burnt. However, as it turns out, the person buried with the spear was actually a plucky lass who may have even been an Etruscan warrior princess.
The University of Turin’s Alessandro Mandolesi initially discovered the ancient tomb, finding the body of what was believed to be a prince lying with a spear beside the skeleton. According to Live Science, while the spear may have suggested the body of a male, some other clues hinted that the skeleton was actually female. These clues include several pieces of jewelry, as well as a bronze-plated box that could have belonged to a female. Initially, the jewelry was assumed to belong to the partially burnt skeleton, aka "the wife." However, bone analysis revealed that the skeleton with the spear was actually that of a 35 or 40-year-old woman buried next to her half-burned male partner.
When we think of ancient societies, we often think of societies where women were kept more to the background as the men did business and made political maneuvers. However, Etruscan society was different than ancient Rome and Greece in that women lived, worked, and played freely, often having children with multiple men who would later never know their fathers. More importantly, they also had political power and had a say in more than how to run a household.
The findings have sparked a debate on gender bias in the archaeological community. Judith Weingarten talked a little more about this gender bias in her blog related to the find called “How a Prince Became A Princess,” which explains more about the behaviors of Etruscan women and why it would not be unusual for the woman to be buried with the spear while the jewelry was scattered closer to the husband.
"Until very recently, and sadly still in some countries, sex determination is based on grave goods. And that, in turn, is based almost entirely on our preconceptions. A clear illustration is jewelry: We associate jewelry with women, but that is nonsense in much of the ancient world. Guys liked bling, too."
While it’s amusing to hear someone in academia discuss bling, even with the wrong early observations of the team, the tomb is a rare find. The last one featuring items from the Etruscan upper class was found roughly thirty years ago and collapsed before it was fully studied. Who knows what other mysteries the tomb might yield?