Warrior Burial Is Scythian Amazon Girl No Older Than 13
By Anna Liesowska / The Siberian Times
The 'stunning' discovery appears further confirmation of ancient Greek claims about female fighters known as Amazons among the Scythians of central Asia.
In 1988 Dr Marina Kilunovskaya and Dr Vladimir Semyonov came across the partially mummified young warrior’s grave Saryg-Bulun in Siberia’s modern-day Tuva republic during an emergency excavation.
The archaeologists found the adolescent warrior’s remains so well preserved that a ‘wart’ was visible on the face, and yet at the time there were no indications that this was a female.
This Scythian child was buried with a complete set of weapons: an axe, a one-meter bow made of birch and a quiver with ten arrows some 70 centimeters in length. (Image: Vladimir Semyonov)
‘It was so stunning when we just opened the lid and I saw the face there, with that wart, looking so impressive,’ said Dr. Kilunovskaya.
There was a rough seam on the skin in the abdomen area, implying an attempt at artificial mummification - but no traces were found of trepanation, which was usual among such burials.
The age was estimated at 12 to 13 years. At the time, all the clues suggested this was a male.
The adolescent Amazon had a choice of arrows - two were wooden, one had a bone tip, and the arrowheads of the rest were bronze. (Image: A.Yu. Makeeva)
The adolescent Amazon had a choice of arrows - two were wooden, one had a bone tip, and the arrowheads of the rest were bronze.
There were no beads, or mirrors, or other indications that this was the grave of a girl, and three decades ago the ancient remains were classified as a young male warrior.
Yet modern scientific advancements mean more detailed genetic tests are now available.
Amazon girl even had her battle axe. Picture: A.Yu. Makeeva
'We were recently offered the chance to undertake tests to determine the sex, age, and genetic affiliation of the buried warrior,’ said Dr Kilunovskaya. ‘We agreed with pleasure and got such a stunning result.’
The revealing palaeogenetic analysis was undertaken at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology at the Laboratory of Historical Genetics, Radiocarbon Analysis, and Applied Physics by Dr Kharis Mustafin, Dr Irina Alborova and postgraduate Alina Matsvai.
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There were no beads, or mirrors, or other indications that this was the grave of a girl. (Image: Vladimir Semyonov)
‘The burial of the child with weapons introduces a new touch to the social structure of early nomadic society,’ said Dr Kilunovskaya, from the St Petersburg Institute of Material History Culture.
‘This discrepancy in the norms of the funeral rite received an unexpected explanation: firstly, the young man turned out to be a girl, and this young ‘Amazon’ had not yet reached the age of 14 years.
‘The results of genome-wide sequencing, which showed that it was a girl buried in the wooden coffin, were unexpected. This opens up a new aspect in the study of the social history of Scythian society and involuntarily returns us to the myth of the Amazons that survived thanks to Herodotus.’
Scythian Amazon had a quiver, made of leather and horse skin, attached to the belt. (Images: A.Yu. Makeeva, V.S. Busova)
The girl warrior was buried in a below-the-knee double-breasted fur coat with long straight sleeves made from a rodent, a member of the jerboa family. It was sewn in a patchwork. She wore a shirt under the coat, but it has not survived, and light brown and beige trousers or perhaps a skirt.
She journeyed to the afterlife in a leather cap - the shape of which was carefully restored by prominent leather and fabric restorer Natalya Sinitsyna.
A spiral decoration spanned the entire surface with red pigment, unevenly descending to one of the edges of the cap.
She journeyed to the afterlife in a leather cap - the shape of which was thoroughly restored by prominent leather and fabric restorer Natalya Sinitsyna. Image: Vladimir Semyonov, V.S. Busova
The Amazon warrior is from the 7th to early 6th century BC, with the current best assessment that she died around 2,600 years ago.
The depth of her coffin, which was hollowed from a single piece of wood, was little over half a meter under the ground, oriented to the southwest.
Aside from Herodotus, Greek physician Hippocrates - who lived from approximately 460 BC to 370 BC - noted female warriors among the Sarmatians, a Scythian group famed for their mastery of mounted warfare.
Meter-long bowl was made of single piece of birch, and a choice of arrows. (Image: A.Yu. Makeeva)
'Their women, so long as they are virgins, ride, shoot, throw the javelin while mounted, and fight with their enemies,' he wrote.
'They do not lay aside their virginity until they have killed three of their enemies, and they do not marry before they have performed the traditional sacred rites.
'A woman who takes to herself a husband no longer rides, unless she is compelled to do so by a general expedition.
Top image: Warrior burial is found to be Scythian Amazon girl. Source: Vladimir Semyonov, M.O. Mashezerskaya
The article ‘ Ancient girl Amazon warrior no older than 13 is confirmed by modern scientific techniques ’ originally appeared on The Siberian Times and has been republished with permission.
It never ceases to amaze me how the writings of the ‘Father of History’ or Herodotus, are consistently being verified from archaeological discoveries, especially his comments concerning the famous ‘Scythian’ warriors of the steppe-country, from Ukraine to Siberia in ancient ‘kurgans’ or burial mounds. His accounts of ‘Amazons’ or ‘warrior-women,’ are simply another confirmation of his skill as an historian and folklorist in antiquity.
Jeannine Davis-Kimball in her definitive work, ‘WARRIOR WOMEN: An Archaeologist’s Search for History’s Hidden Heroines” (NY: Warner Books, 2002), illustrates with bona-fide discoveries, along with the pertinent literature, women-warriors of the ‘Scytho-Saka’ tribes living in Central Asia, to as far West as Irish Warrior Queens.
Classical Folkorist, Adrienne Mayor as well, in her volume, ‘THE AMAZONS: Lives & Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World’ (NJ: Princeton University Press., 2014), also gives numerous examples of the ‘traditional Greek Amazons,’ to martial females of the Xiongnu who terrorized ancient China. (See also, Xavier Jordana, et al., “The Warriors of the Steppes: osteological evidence of warfare and violence from Pazyryk tumuli in the Mongolian Altai,” JOURNAL OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL SCIENCE, XXX (2009): 1-9; Marco Milella et al., “Troubles in Tuva:Patterns of perimortem trauma in a nomadic community from Southern Siberia (second to fourth c. CE),” AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY (16 September 2020):
In 2019, the burials of two women dating to the 4th century BC, were also found in the western Russian village of Devitsa, containing “parts of a horse-riding harness and weapons,” which included among the funerary goods, “iron knives and 30 arrowheads.” The two were found within a burial mound that also contained the remains of two other ‘horse warrior women,’ one with a golden headdress and the other buried alongside with “two spears and positioned like she was riding a horse.” (see, “New DNA Analysis Reveals Ancient Scythian Warrior Was a 13-Year-Old GIrl” at sciencealert.com (24/June/2020).
Naturally, the traditional ‘battle-maidens’ or VALKYRIES of Nordic mythology fit into the above category as well. One pertinent example were the remains unearthed in 1900, of a ‘Viking shield-maiden,’ excavated on a farm in Solor, Norway. “Her head rested on a shield, a bridled horse skeleton lay curled at her feet,and her body was boxed in by a sword, spear, battle-ax and arrows.” Her skull also bore the deep sword wound (from which she survived) across her forehead. (See, Brandon Specktor, “Battle-Scarred Viking Shield-Maiden Gets Facial Reconstruction for First Time,” www.livescience.com/Viking-shield-maiden—facial-reconstru... November 9th, 2019).
The T.V., show, ‘Secrets of the Dead,’ also illustrates ‘BJ-581,’ or the ‘Viking Queen Warrior’ found on ‘Burka (Birka) Island’ or ‘Birch Island’ in Sweden, a famous Viking-Age trading center & burial ground dating to the AD 750 to ca. AD 975.