New research on teeth shows that some work related to weaving was carried out only by women during the Bronze Age (1900-1600 BC) in southern Spain

New research on teeth shows that some work related to weaving was carried out only by women during the Bronze Age (1900-1600 BC) in southern Spain. Researchers analyzed fossil teeth from 106 individuals in Granada, southern Spain, belonging to the ancient Argaric culture 4,000 years ago.

They found that female workers used their incisors and canines to perform work that involved biting fibers and ropes.

Distinctive tooth wear features, including nicks, scales, and grooves in tooth enamel, result from the action of the plant fibers used to create fabrics and baskets.


Scientists say the teeth of individuals (pictured) from the Argaric culture, who lived in southern Spain 4,000 years ago, show that certain jobs were reserved for women, such as weaving fabric and craft yarn

While the achievements of earlier Argaric cultures have been documented, the connection between these activities and the gender of the weavers has not been established to date.

Study author Dr. Marina Lozano at the Catalan Institute of Paleohuman and Social Evolution (IPHES) in Tarragona, Spain, said: ‘One of the most important conclusions of this new study is that expertise Dual labor existed in the late Bronze Age.’

“The study also showed that a small group of workers devoted themselves to manual activities related to weaving fabrics and yarns, moreover, these activities were carried out exclusively by women.”

The Argaric culture (named after the site El Argar near the town of Antas) developed in the southeastern region of the Iberian Peninsula (in what is now Spain and Portugal) during the Early Bronze Age around 2,200 – 1,550 BC.


Dental analyzes of Castellón Alto individuals of the El Argar culture (Southeastern Iberia), dated to the Bronze Age, are highlighted in red. The El Argar culture was a complex society, with social differentiation based on gender, age, and specialization in the production of crafts made from ceramics, stone, fibers, and metals.

It was a complex society, with social differentiation based on gender, age and specialization in the production of crafts from ceramics, fibers and metals.

The first settlers quickly learned how to forge weapons from bronze, giving them an advantage over neighboring tribes. In this study, the teeth of 106 Argaric individuals from the site of Castellón Alto, Granada, Spain, were analyzed – 46 of which were male and 39 female.

The remaining remains are either children or adults, we cannot determine the gender because the bones are too crushed,” said Dr. Lozano.


Image (a) shows the geographical location of the Castellón Alto area; b. Hill – where the site is located; c. The map shows burials excavated at the site and images of remains analyzed to show the use of worn teeth not caused by chewing food.

The team used scanning electron microscopy to determine that tooth wear was not caused by grinding food at the Bronze Age site – in other words, tooth wear was not caused by chewing food.

Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) uses a focused beam of high-energy electrons to produce a variety of signals on the surface of a solid specimen. This technique reveals distinctive tooth wear characteristics, including notches, scales, occlusal and interdental grooves in tooth enamel, suggestive of plant and animal fibers.

Occlusal grooves (grooves at the top of teeth) and interdental grooves (grooves between teeth) – respectively originate from pulling and pulling flexible materials on tooth surfaces, as an extra hand in the weaving process.

In the case of occlusal grooves, the materials are held between the upper and lower teeth, whereas the materials are pulled around the necks of the teeth, close to the gums, in the case of interdental grooves.


Dental surgery


Occlusal surface: chewing surface interproximal grooves: between teeth

Grooves on the teeth of some women show evidence of working with ropes and fibers (arrows indicate tooth wear not caused by chewing food)

The researchers also discovered a small number of Argaric women who specialized in fiber processing from a young age, as tooth wear characteristics become more obvious with age.

Dr. Lozano also said: ‘The fact that this evidence is recorded in remains of different ages, with severe wear, more evident as age increases, allows the inference that this specialization began started in their youth and the women continued to perform these tasks throughout their lives,’.

According to archaeological studies, it is uncertain exactly when the sexual division of labor began, although it may have been a relatively recent phenomenon.

The findings shed light on the complex lifestyle and social organization of the El Argar culture, and provide a deeper understanding of how teeth were used as tools during the Bronze Age.

This research was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science . According to Mailonline news October 3, 2020.

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