In a groundbreaking discovery, scientists have finally determined the gender of a 2,000-year-old burial site on the Isles of Scilly, revealing the existence of a female warrior during the Iron Age. The find not only solves a long-standing mystery, but also raises intriguing questions about the role of women in warfare during this period in Britain.
The burial chamber, discovered at Bryher Island in 1999, has been a subject of interest to archaeologists for decades. The presence of a sword in a copper alloy scabbard and a shield initially led researchers to assume that the burial belonged to a man. However, the discovery of a brooch and a bronze mirror, which are usually associated with women, brought an unexpected twist. This unique burial stands out in the Iron Age history of Western Europe because it contains both a mirror and a sword.
To determine the sex of the remains, scientists turned to DNA analysis. However, traditional methods were ineffective because of the decay of the bones. Only small fragments of bones and teeth with a total weight of about 150 grams remained. However, recent advances in scientific methods, particularly at the University of California, Davis, have offered a solution to the problem. By examining tooth enamel, scientists have been able to isolate traces of proteins that can be used to determine a person’s sex.
Dr. Glendon Parker of UC Davis explained, “Tooth enamel contains a protein associated with the X- or Y-chromosome, which means it can be used to determine gender. Our analysis involved extracting traces of the protein from tiny pieces of preserved tooth enamel. This allowed us to determine with 96% probability that the person was female.”
This groundbreaking discovery sheds new light on the role of female warriors in Iron Age Britain. It challenges preconceived notions of gender roles in ancient societies and suggests that women were actively involved in warfare. The presence of weapons and a mirror in the tomb suggests that the female warrior was not only skilled in battle, but also had ritual and strategic significance.
Military actions in the Iron Age were mainly reduced to surprise attacks on enemy settlements. Mirrors like the one found in the grave could be used for signaling, communication, and coordinating an attack. They also had ritual functions, serving as a tool for communicating with the supernatural world and ensuring the success of raids or the purification of warriors upon their return.
This discovery has far-reaching implications for our understanding of ancient societies and the role women played in them. It challenges the traditional view of women as passive participants in history by emphasizing their active participation in warfare and strategic decision-making.
According to Dr. Parker, “This discovery opens up entirely new possibilities for our understanding of ancient societies. It forces us to reconsider the role women played in warfare and challenges the stereotypes that have shaped our perception of history.”