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Warrior burial is found to be Scythian Amazon girl.   Source: Vladimir Semyonov, M.O. Mashezerskaya

Warrior Burial Is Scythian Amazon Girl No Older Than 13

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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)

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. (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

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.

There were no beads, or mirrors, or other indications that this was the grave of a girl. (Image: Vladimir Semyonov)

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

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)

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.

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