A New Discovery: Women Held Rank in America's "First City"

Let's take it back a few centuries to 1,000 and 1,200 AD where North America's so-called "first city" once thrived. At that time, the now burial mound of Cahokia in Missouri was thought to be a civilization solely run by men. Some recent archeological findings, however, prove this to be untrue.

The graves that were first discovered in 1967 by archeologist Melvin Fowler were recently re-examined and some of the warrior-like bodies covered in beads, blankets, and other heirlooms normally acquired by high status men were actually high status women. According to NYTLive, this has forced scholars and researches to rethink their previous assumptions that high class rank is reserved for a "male dominated hierarchy."

"Really, the division here is not gender — it's class," Illinois State Archaeological Survey Director, Thomas Emerson, said.

This re-examination of gender throughout history only continues to seep through the cracks of even the world's most renowned past societies. Read on to learn about more ancient civilizations where women played significant roles.

Kaifeng: The Old Capital of the Song Dynasty in Ancient China
The Wangjia Alley mosque, perhaps the oldest surviving women's mosque in Kaifeng, has had female prayer leaders and imams for the last 1,000 years. According to BBC, this was a prominent part of ancient Chinese tradition — even though it wasn't allowed in other parts of the Muslim world.

Anyone buried at Stonehenge, according to Archeologists interviewed by Discovery News, is among the ancient society’s elite class — whether they be religious and political leaders, members of wealthy families, or talented individuals. So when cremated remains of 14 women were found at the site recently, much like the situation in Missouri, historians are re-investigating the roles of women during the late Neolithic period. The women were buried between 3100 BCE and 2140 BCE, and were discovered having worn hairpins.

Ancient Egypt
According to archives from Cornell University, Egyptian women were on par with Egyptian men. Historians theorize that they exercised the same legal and economic rights, and that the disparities between people's legal rights were based on differences in social class and not on gender, much like what was concluded at the Cahokia burial site.

"Sultanate of Women" in the Ottoman Empire
It might not be ancient, but the "Sultanate of Women" period during the Ottoman Empire (17th century) when several elite women, like the Valide (mother) Sultan, held prominent power over affairs of state, and over the ruling male Sultan of the time. (PBS)

NEXT: Ancient Egyptian Women Shared the Same Legal Rights As Men »

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