Amazon Graves Found in Kazakhstan
By Alexey Schetnikov
ALMATY, Apr 27, 2001 -- (Times of Central Asia)
Amazons - strong warlike women - were
mentioned by many ancient historians,
including Herodotus, who traveled through Asia. The Scythians were tribes
that inhabited the vast areas around the Caspian Sea and modern Kazakhstan.
The most populous and strongest were the Scythian tribes that lived in
Northern Kazakhstan. Herodotus wrote about Scythian nomads and Scythian
farmers who lived in the northern Caucasus -it was a well-developed
civilization for that time. Herodotus also wrote about the Scythian men who
married warlike women from Amazon tribes. In his opinion, this explains the
Scythian customs according to which a young woman may not marry until she
kills an enemy.
The Amazons were very cruel to tribes
they conquered, particularly to
captive men, whom they killed with great cruelty. According to Herodotus,
Amazons cut their right breast off and then burned the wound with hot iron
in order to prevent them from hunting and drawing a bow in battle.
However, despite evidence from Herodotus
and other trustworthy historians,
many scholars believe that the tale of the Amazons is just a beautiful myth.
But the recent excavations conducted by Russian and American archaeologists
have shed new light on this amazing legend. Kazakh archaeologists assisted
greatly the Russian-American expedition because Kazakh scholars were greatly
interested in finding evidence to prove that the Kazakhs are direct
descendants from the Scythians, and Salmats, who later replaced them. After
a thorough examination all finds will be displayed at the Astana Historical
Museum in Kazakhstan.
The excavations were conducted at an
area that can be called the Gate of
Peoples. Here, between the Caspian Sea and the Stone Belt mountains, many
ancient tribes moved from the east to the west, driven by an unknown force.
In the 6th-4th centuries BC an area of the Tobol River in Western Siberia
and the entire range of northern Kazakhstan was inhabited by Salmats, a
warlike nomadic tribe. In the 3rd century BC they ousted the Scythians from
the area around the Black Sea and the Caucasus. Here they found a common
language with the Amazons and married them.
The expedition found 40 women's graves,
seven of which contained items not
typical of the gentler sex - armors, weapons, and horse harness. All these
things - bronze arrowheads, daggers, and swords - were of normal size and
showed signs that they had been used frequently for military purposes. This
rules out the suggestion that all these articles were just symbolic and used
for only ritual purposes.
The only difference was that the handles
of the swords and daggers found in
the women's graves were shorter than those found in the men's graves.
Probably these weapons were made especially for women, with their
comparatively small hands. One can also suggest that these were hunting
weapons. However, the Amazons' graves contained many sheep, horse, and
camel skins and bones but no bones of wild animals. This proves that these
tribes were not hunters but nomadic cattle-breeders.
Another fact, proving the Amazon theory
is that military tattoos on the
remnants of the skin of both the men and women. According to many ancient
sources, including Herodotus, a warrior made a special tattoo after killing
each enemy soldier. Such tattoo emblems varied from totem animals (like the
heads of a wolf or bear) to the skull crossed with bones.
The archaeologists also found 68 bronze
articles, including spearheads,
axes, daggers with beautifully decorated handles, and decorations shaped as
armors. But the most interesting finding was that these articles originated
from four regions - the Caucasus, Volga basin, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia.
So this ancient treasure testifies to direct contacts between the Caucasus,
Central Asia, and other Eurasian regions.
Chemical analysis of these finds revealed
a wide diversity of different
kinds of bronze. So, daggers and axes were cast from the arsenic bronze and
some arrow-heads and armors - from tin-arsenic bronze. These kinds of
bronze originated from different and very distant areas of the Caucasus,
Ural, and Kazakhstan.
On this territory archaeologists have
already found weapons in Scythian
women's graves in the 1950s, but these were just occasional finds that could
not make up the full picture. Today, after the discovery of such a large
Amazon grave, the international archaeological community will probably be
convinced that women played a role in ancient nomadic tribes.
"If we find in a grave weapons beside
a men's skeleton, we are sure that he
was a warrior. So a similar conclusion is logical when we deal with women's
remnants," agreed an outstanding American archaeologist, Philip Cowell. The
results of the Russian-American expedition have been recognized by the Royal
Geographic Society, which was a co-sponsor of the excavations. It has been
also decided to finance further excavations in this region.
(C) 2001 Times of Central Asia
WARRIOR WOMEN OF THE
BY JEANNINE DAVIS-KIMBALL
he warrior women
known to ancient Greek authors as Amazons were long thought to be
creatures of myth. Now 50 ancient burial mounds near the town of Pokrovka, Russia, near
the Kazakhstan border, have yielded skeletons of women buried with weapons, suggesting the
Greek tales may have had some basis in fact. Nomads known as the Sauromatians buried their
dead here beginning ca. 600 B.C.; according to Herodotus the Sauromatians were descendants of
the Amazons and the Scythians, who lived north of the Sea of Azov. After ca. 400 B.C. the
Pokrovka mounds were reused by the Sarmatians, another nomadic tribe possibly related to the
Sauromatians. In general, females were buried with a wider variety and larger quantity of artifacts
than males, and seven female graves contained iron swords or daggers, bronze arrowheads, and
whetstones to sharpen the weapons. Some scholars have argued that weapons found in female
burials served a purely ritual purpose, but the bones tell a different story. The bowed leg bones of
one 13- or 14-year-old girl attest a life on horseback, and a bent arrowhead found in the body
cavity of another woman suggested that she had been killed in battle. The Pokrovka women
cannot have been the Amazons of Greek myth--who were said to have lived far to the west--but
they may have been one of many similar nomadic tribes who occupied the Eurasian steppes in the
Early Iron Age.
The body had been attired in boots, trousers, and a leather tunic (caftan) decorated with some 2,400 arrow-shaped gold plaques. Plaques of horses with twisted torsos decorated scabbards that held an iron dagger and a sword. Ceramic, silver, and bronze vessels, a bronze mirror, and flat wooden dishes and beaters for koumiss (fermented mare's milk)were also found in the tomb.
One girl 13 or 14 years old was buried with 40 bronze arrowheads in a quiver at her left side and an iron dagger at her right, along with amulets (objects worn for protection) including a bronze arrowhead in a leather pouch around her neck and a great boar's tusk -- probably once suspended from her belt and at her feet.
June 2, 1997
Burial sites may prove Greek
Amazon warriors of myths
By Kathy Sawyer / Washington Post
Sawyer, in Were Amazons More than Myths?, an article from
the July 31, 1997 Salt Lake Tribune, suggests "the notion of such
women... [who] replenished their numbers by mating with men from other tribes, keeping the daughters and killing male infants ... sprang from ... an imaginative impulse in the male-dominated Greek
society ...." But Germanic tribes had women warriors and Mongol families accompanied the armies of Genghis Khan, so the presence of women warriors was well attested even before Dr. Jeannine Davis-Kimball "spent five years excavating more than 150 burial mounds of 5th century B.C. nomads near
PlanetOut News Staff
Friday, April 7, 2000 / 09:17 PM
SUMMARY: A 2,000-year-old grave found on one of the Scilly Islands is the only one containing both a sword and a mirror - who was buried there?
"This is a phenomenally exciting find of international importance. That a find of internationalimportance. That a
sword and a mirror should be found together raises important questions about sex and gender in the Iron Age," Cornwall Archaeology Unit project manager
Jeannette Ratcliffe told reporters about a 2,000-year-old gravesite discovered on Bryher Island, one of the Scilly Islands off the southeast coast of Britain. According to English Heritage, it had previously been assumed that swords were associated with male burials and mirrors with
female burials -- never before have both been found in a single Iron Age grave in northwest Europe. Actually only some forty swords and mirrors have been discovered in that region from that period so far. DNA testing is being
carried out on the remains to identify the sex of the deceased, but of course that will not reveal gender presentation or sexual orientation.
Half-joking, Ratcliffe said, "Perhaps this is the Amazonian warrior of Scilly -- either a gay warrior or an Amazonian one." The scholars do believe that the deceased was probably a person of importance, since most burials of
the era contain only a brooch fastening a burial garment or perhaps some pottery or beads.
The grave was discovered entirely by accident. In March 1999, Paul Jenkins was spraying his potato crop when one wheel of his tractor got stuck. When he removed a stone to free the wheel, he saw there was a larger hole, which
at first he thought might be an old well. Using a flashlight, he discovered it was an igloo-shaped "cist" about three feet in diameter and ten inches high, and spotted the 34-inch long iron sword in its bronze scabbard. He immediately contacted the British Museum for advice, and the experts went to work.
Scholars estimate the grave dates from 125 - 250 BC although the sword could date from the fifth century BC. Sarnia Butcher, formerly of English Heritage, told the BBC of the patterned sword, "No other metalwork like this
and of this date has been found in the islands."
The fragmentary remains indicate that the body was positioned lying on its right side in a crouch with the sword at its knees, and the mirror was discovered by the face. The mirror, believed to be the oldest yet found in
Britain, is about five-by-six inches, with a handle attached to a highly polished bronze oval plate. Ratcliffe said that Iron Age mirrors probably had a spiritual function, reflecting the soul of the deceased. A brooch was
also found in the grave, and x-rays of the hardened dirt attached to the mirror indicate what may be a spiral ring.
The archaeologists hope eventually to perform a complete excavation of the site, which has been declared a Scheduled Ancient Monument. With funding from English Heritage, British Museum staff are researching the objects at
the Centre for Archaeology at Fort Cumberland, Portsmouth. Eventually the finds will go on display at the Isles of Scilly museum in St. Mary's.
A harbour founded 5000 years ago in an unknown loop of the Kucuk Menderes River... And the temple of
Artemis Ephesia, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the city under her protection... Excavations have
been carried out over 125 years in Ephesus, a city which continues to attract visitors from every corner of the
world even after thousands of years.
Home // Archaeology II // AncientAmazons //