More evidence of ancient female warriors has come to light at a burial site in Russia. Over the past few years, archaeologists have turned up evidence that some women long ago were anything but domestic caretakers, doing little but tending to home and hearth. Some fought alongside men, and a recent find in Russia has added evidence to that entirely new approach. This discovery proves yet again that some women fought and perished in battle, right alongside their male counterparts.
A team led by Valerii Guliaev published findings recently in a scholarly journal for the Akson Russian Scientific Communications Association, about a burial site containing four women, part of a decade-long excavation project near the village of Devitsa. The women varied in age, from as young as 12 or 13 years old to 45 or 50. The site, say the experts, is about 2,500 years old.
The women were part of a nomadic tribe known as the Scythians, and in total there are 19 burial sites being explored. These women were warriors, the team says, and far from being an anomaly they were almost commonplace in Scythian culture. In a statement accompanying the findings, Guliaev said, “The Amazons are (a) common Scythian phenomenon. Separate burrows were filled for them, and all burial rites which were done for men were done for them.”
Approximately one-third of Scythian women whose remains have been excavated have been found with weapons by their side, and some even have battle scars on their bones. Although the sites of two young women had been plundered before archaeologists arrived, two other sites had not been disturbed.
An older woman’s remains were found with an unusual, forked arrowhead and a dagger made of iron. The other undisturbed female’s grave contained two spears, a glass bead bracelet and a bronze mirror. The findings noted that this warrior woman was buried in the “position of a horseman,” as though she wanted to be on horseback forever.
Adrienne Mayor is an expert on Amazon warrior women, and has published books on the subject, including one entitled “The Amazons.” She explained to National Geographic, in an interview in 2014, “If you think about it, a woman on horseback, with a bow, trained since childhood, can be just as fast and just as deadly as a boy or man.” It took skill, not size, to defeat the enemy back then, she said, and women were just as equipped to do it as men, if given the proper tools and training.
In addition to the remains of the female warriors, archaeologists uncovered an engraved, golden headdress, known as a Calathos. It was found sitting on top of a woman’s head, and is the first of its kind found in this region of Russia. It is particularly prized by scholars because it’s in such pristine condition, and was found precisely where it was buried all those centuries ago.
Guliaev explained to news website Smithsonianmag that, “Of course earlier, similar headdresses were found in known, rich barrows of Scythia,” but they were passed around by individuals who discovered them, and the sites at which they were found had not been properly excavated. “Here we can be certain that the find has been well preserved,” Guliaev noted.
This site offers yet more evidence that women in some ancient cultures did not sit idly by, stoking the home fires and cooking meals, while their men went off to battle. Some were female warriors who climbed on horseback too, wielding their bows and arrows, taking aim, and dispatching enemies where they stood. And for their efforts they were given a hero’s burial, with all the weapons they’d used in combat laid close to them for their journey into the afterlife.