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Were we always a non-binary species?

Today I read an article from CNN entitled: 5,000-year-old ‘Ivory Lady’ upends what’s know about sex and gender in prehistoric societies. I found it really fascinating. Here is what I learned:

In 2008 a 5,000 year-old skeleton was discovered in a tomb near Seville, Spain. It was clearly someone important. Why? Because this someone was buried with an elephant’s tusk, an ivory comb, a crystal dagger, an ostrich eggshell and a flint dagger inlaid with amber. Based on analysis of the pelvis bone, a specialist identified this ‘someone’ as a probable young male who died around 17 to 25 years old. A team of archaeologists dubbed the remains “Ivory Man” and began researching what they called a “spectacular” find.

Turns out this specialist was wrong. Recently, using a new molecular method to confirm the skeleton’s sex, researchers were shocked to find that the “Ivory Man” was a woman. The team was forced to rethink everything about the tomb site. What they learned will force many of us to reconsider our views about prehistory.

You see, turns out, whenever a skeleton is found with a sword and a shield, they decide it was a man. Why? Because, they have been assuming that in the past that gender roles were the way we conceive them today. Considering that in the beginning, the field of archeology was filled with only men, it is no shock to us women, that men would also assume any role of importance or power would have belonged to a man. And, it would have benefited men to believe that we have always been a binary species.

In the case of the “Ivory Lady”, it is believed that she held a high rank and was revered by the society in which she lived for at least eight generations after her death. This suggests that women occupied positions of leadership in the Iberian Copper Age society. That was 5000 years ago!

That said, there is more to considered than the fact that we have been lead to believe that men have mostly held power and influence over the millenniums. What about gender roles? As one expert commented on the “Ivory Lady”: “while we know her biological sex is that of a women, we do not know what gender she identified as. Perhaps thousands of years ago there was not a binary gender system at all”.

Considering that more and more young people are choosing to be non-binary these days, perhaps they are just returning to something we have always been. Were we always a non-binary species? If so, young people are so right that gender roles are as they say, “ a bunch of bulls**t.”

So with the possibility that we always been a non-binary species, the “Ivory Lady” isn’t a ‘she’, but a ‘they’and it would just be better to call them the “Ivory Person”.

Thank you ‘Ivory Person’ for reminding those of us who identity as female, to keep fighting for our rights, because all these ‘roles’ of who can be in places of power and decision making, have just been made up by a group of men hundreds or thousands of years ago!

Cathy Geraci.


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