Cavewoman jeweller rewrites gender history

A skeleton uncovered north of Vienna is forcing archaeologists to take a fresh look at prehistoric gender roles after it appeared to be that of a female fine metal worker – a profession that was previously thought to have been carried out exclusively by men.

The Museum of Ancient History in Lower Austria says the grave originates from the Bronze Age around 2,000 years before the birth of Christ, and that the bones belonged to a woman who would have been aged between 45 and 60.

The museum says tools used to make metal ornaments were also found in the grave at Geitzendorf Northwest of Vienna, leading to the conclusion that it was that of a female fine metal worker who had been given the items to take with her into the afterlife.

The items included an anvil, hammers and flint chisels as well as some small items of dress jewellery that may well have been made by the woman herself.

In a statement Wednesday, museum expert Ernst Lauermann who led the examination of the grave said that although the pelvic bones were missing, examination of the skull and lower jaw bone that were found 145 cm under the surface showed the skeleton was a woman.

He added: “It was normal in those days for a person to be buried with the items that were part of their daily working lives.”

He said the tools found would have most likely been used in the making of jewellery.

The grave was one of 15 found at the same site and currently being investigated by the museum staff.