Discovery in Spain Could Change View on Ancient Gender Roles

Discovery in Spain Which Dates Back to the Bronze or Iron Age Could Change View on Ancient Gender Roles.

Nov 26, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Discovery in Spain
Students recording the area where the Cañaveral de León 3 stela was found. Photo: Durham University


Discovery in Spain could give us a different insight into ancient gender roles. Overall, archaeologists uncovered a freshly carved stela in the 3000-year-old Las Capellanas burial site. Some believe significant figures received tributes on late ancient stelae found in Iberia. This unique stela shows a human form holding two swords, a necklace, and a headpiece.


Around 150 stelae at Iberia

Discovery in Spain
Via Arkeonews.


Along with a detailed face, hands, and feet, the figurine also features male genitalia. Typically, a stela is a memorial stone slab or pillar, either carved or engraved. The stelae’s surface frequently bears decoration, text, or both. First of all, this is the second stela discovered in setting and the third ornamented stela discovered at this location.


The initial stela discovered last year represents the warrior stelae. As of this now, Iberia as a whole holds about 150. This discovery has a worth because, despite more than 120 years of study, we know little about the late ancient stelae’s usage settings in Iberia. Notably, the discovery validates what the second stela discovered at the location hinted to. This is that the main function of ornamented stelae from the late prehistoric era was as memorials in funerary locations.


Discovery in Spain
Students digging a funerary cist at the Las Capellanías complex. Photo: Durham University


The information this find provides regarding earlier gender interpretations of the individuals shown on stelae makes it particularly noteworthy. It demonstrates that earlier meanings are closer to our contemporary binary views of gender than they are to those of societies from prehistory.

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Discovery in Spain Changes View on Gender Roles


Durham University.
Durham University. Via Wikipedia


This new stela from Cañaveral de León includes features like a necklace or a headdress. These typically reside on stelae classified as headdress (or diadematid) stelae. This was a female look. Also, there is so-called warrior stelae (such as swords), interpreted as male. Out of 31, four stelae were found with female sexual traits and headdress features. There were also four with male genitals and ‘warrior’ related paraphernalia, out of 147.


It combines traits of ‘headdress’ and ‘warrior’ types, showing that the social roles depicted by these standardized iconographies were more fluid than previously thought. Furthermore, as the new stela also includes male genitalia, it demonstrates that these social roles were not restricted to a specific gender, but could be associated with different genders.


A Spanish cinco peseta coin naming Franco as the Caudillo of Spain, via VortexMag


This fieldwork project is being carried out within the Maritime Encounters project, funded by the Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (RJ). This project is led for Iberia by Dr Marta Díaz-Guardamino, also with funding from the Department of Archaeology at Durham University,.





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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.