He or she? Prince in ancient tomb might actually be princess

It’s a case of mistaken identity nearly 3,000 years in the making.

Last month archaeologists in Tuscany, Italy discovered what they believed to be the 2,600-year-old skeleton of an Etruscan Prince in an unopened underground tomb. (Via Discovery News)

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Beyond that skeleton, the archaeologists also found a spear, partially burned remains of another skeleton, and some jewelry — that interesting mix was leading researchers to assume it was likely the remains of an Etruscan Warrior Prince and his bride. (Via International Business Times)

But after analysis of the bones, the archaeologists were in for a surprise — discovering the skeleton with the spear might not have been that of a prince at all, but rather, that of a 35 to 40-year-old Etruscan Princess — and the partially burned remains, that of a man. (Via Discover Magazine)

Despite the surprise gender of the skeletons though, not everyone is on board with the princess theory.

According to Science World Report, the lead researcher on the expedition "hypothesizes that the spear placed between the two bodies may have been a 'symbol of union.'" Meaning it still belonged to the man.

But others, including archaeologist and writer Judith Weingarten, reject that notion. She asserts the spear was buried next to her and not him.

“The newly-identified lady still doesn't get credited with her own lance. The thought doesn't even arise that it might be a symbol of her power and authority rather than the weapon of a warrior. … Why is it so difficult to understand that the ruling class of Etruscan society was made up of both men AND women?”

Part of that difficulty might come from the Etruscan culture itself.

According to a writer for LiveScience Etruscans weren't the best about writing things down: "Unlike their better-known counterparts, the ancient Greeks and the Romans, the Etruscans left no historical documents, so their graves provide a unique insight into their culture." (Via LiveScience)

And that might have led many to assume Etruscan culture was like the male-dominated cultures of the Greeks and Romans — an assumption rebuffed by some historic accounts.

The New York Times quotes 4th century B.C. historian Theopompos writing this of Etruscan women: "Etruscan women take particular care of their bodies and exercise often. It is not a disgrace for them to be seen naked. Further, they dine not with their own husbands, but with any men who happen to be present."

The Etruscans reportedly thrived in what is now Italy until around 400 B.C. when they were absorbed by the Roman Empire.

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