Women in ancient Greece held equal status and power as men

June 2nd, 2008 - 1:49 pm ICT by admin  

London, June 2 (ANI): Through DNA analysis, researchers have discovered that women in ancient Greece were major power brokers in their own right and often played key roles in running affairs of state.

According to a report in The Observer, until now, it was thought they were treated little better than servants.

It was thought that in those days women were rated as little more than chattels in Ancient Greece, said Professor Terry Brown, of the faculty of life sciences at Manchester University, UK. Our work now suggests that notion is wrong, he added.

The discovery is part of an investigation by Manchester researchers into the founders of Mycenae, Europes first great city-state and capital of King Agamemnons domains.

Mycenae is one of the most important and evocative archaeological sites in Europe.

The citadel was first excavated in the 1870s by Heinrich Schliemann, who uncovered tombs containing crumbling bones draped with jewels and gold face masks.

Most recently, scientists have used a range of new techniques, including facial reconstruction work carried out by Manchester researchers John Prag and Richard Neave.

They recreated the faces of seven individuals whose skeletons had been excavated at the circle of graves inside the citadel.

The images provided scientists with a family picture album for the rulers of Europe’s first great city-state.

However, genetics experts have now taken this work a stage further by attempting to extract DNA from 22 of the 35 bodies found in the grave circle.

The genetic material isolated by the scientists is known as mitochondrial DNA, which humans inherit exclusively from their mothers.

However, of the 22 skeletons that were tested, only four produced enough DNA for full analysis. Nevertheless, findings from these provided a shock for the team from Manchester.

While two of the males had DNA that indicated they were unrelated, the genetic material extracted from the remaining pair, a man and a woman, revealed they were brother and sister.

They had been thought to have been man and wife.

To be precise, our DNA evidence suggests the pair were closely related, possibly siblings or possibly cousins. However, the facial reconstruction work of Prag and Neave also shows they were very similar in appearance which indicates they were brother and sister, said Brown.

According to Brown, the critical point was that the woman was thought to have been buried in a richly endowed grave because she was the wife of a powerful man.

That was in keeping with previous ideas about Ancient Greece - that women had little power and could only exert influence through their husbands.

But this discovery shows both the man and the woman were of equal status and had equal power, said Brown. Women in Ancient Greece held positions of power by right of birth, it now appears, he added. (ANI)

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