The 2,600-year-old remains of a young Scythian warrior are now known to be female. The young warrior appeared to be about 13 years old when she died. The findings shed new light on Scythian culture.
In the age of ancient gods, warriors and kings, the story of a tribe of warrior women was established in Greek mythology. Said to be the daughters of the gods, these fierce female fighters from Asia Minor have captured people’s imaginations for centuries and are still as pervasive in popular culture today as legendary Amazon warriors.
These female warriors were long believed to represent the pinnacle of mythical female figures from antiquity, but archaeological evidence has shown that other female warriors may have served as the tales’ inspiration. This is a true fact.
A discovery of two women believed to be nomadic Scythians from the fourth century BCE, dating to about 2,500 years ago, was made in late 2019. They were interred with components for their riding harnesses and weaponry, such as iron knives and 30 arrowheads, at the settlement of Devitsa in modern-day western Russia.
At that time, Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Archeology archaeologist Valerii Guliaev stated: “We can definitely say that these two women were horse warriors.
A woman between the ages of 40 and 50 who was dressed in a golden headpiece with floral ornaments was discovered with them in a burial mound together with two other women. The other, who was between 30 and 35 years old, was buried with two spears and posed as though he were on a horse.
“Our expedition has found about 11 young, armed women’s burials during the past ten years. All funeral ceremonies that were typically performed for men were performed for them, including the filling of separate barrows, according to Guliaev.
Now, another research team from Russia has mapped the genome of 2,600-year-old Scythian remains discovered in a wooden coffin with a bunch of weapons in 1988.
Archaeologist Varvara Busova from the Russian Academy of Sciences told ScienceAlert: “This child was initially considered male because they had features [often attributed to male]: an ax, a bow, arrow.
But the child’s DNA showed that the remains were indeed female. “That means we can say with some probability that [Scythian] girls have also participated in hunting or military campaigns,” Busova added.
In the modern Siberian republic of Tuva, the warrior girl was interred with an ax, a birch bow, and a sarcophagus with ten arrows made of wood, bone, or bronze. Her remains were partially mummified since the larch coffin was tightly shut off from the outside air.
This young Amazonian is under the age of 14, according to archaeologist Marina Kilunovskaya of the Institute of the History of Material Culture, Russian Academy of Sciences.
Girls typically dress in long fur coats, shirts, and skirts or pants. The scientists used scanning electron microscopy to find that the girl’s coat was a patchwork of Jerboa-related rodent skin. The burial complex was dated by carbon dating to be between the 7th and 5th centuries BC, or early Scythian times.
According to Busova, the team is currently working to restore and preserve the bones they uncovered as well as more precisely date the young warrior girl’s remains and look into the object’s composition in the metal burial. They also hope CT scans of the remains can give them clues as to how the young female warrior died.
The team writes in this paper that “inadvertently brings us back to the myth of the Amazons that survived to this day thanks to Herodotus (Herod. IV: 110-118)”.
The ancient Greek historian Herodotus claimed Amazons fought the Scythians, but it seems they could actually be the Scythian women who trained, hunted and fought alongside their male counterparts.
Historian Adrienne Mayor told National Geographic in 2014: “About a third of Scythian women were buried with the same weapons and wounded in war as men.
“They lived in small tribes, so it makes sense that everyone in the tribe is a stakeholder. They all have to contribute to defence and to war efforts and hunting.”
Unbelievable claims have been added to the mythology about the Amazons over the years, such that they killed their male offspring and chopped off their own breasts to improve their archery.
But owing to contemporary archaeological research and DNA engineering, we now have the chance to discover more about the actual female warriors who inspired the mythology.