"Amazons were not Greek, they were Scythians."
Kyz Saikal, The Kalmyk warrior heroine of the Turkish Kyrgyz Manas epic.
image by Teodor Gercen, featured on a postage stamp, Kyrgyz Republic,1995
Amazons and Scythians
A millennium of detailed descriptions of Amazons presented as history began with Herodotus (5th c BC) and continued through the late antique authors Orosius and Jordanes (5th -6th c AD). Between the lifetimes of these men, many other Greek and Roman historians also chronicled the origins, rise and fall of the legendary Amazon “empire”. Each of these writers had Access to texts and unwritten traditions that no longer exist today. Their accounts commingle fact and fancy, legend and history, but all identify the women called Amazons as Scythians.
Herodotus, the inquisitive Greek historian from Halicarnassus (Caria, part of the Persian Empire at that time) preserved a treasury of information about the many tribes of Near and Far Scythia, based on personal observations, local histories and legends, and interviews. Admiration for resourceful, self-reliant Amazons is evident in Herodotus’s “historical” account of the origin of the Sarmatians. That story tells how a gang of Amazons from Pontus joined a band of young Scythian men from the northern Black Sea and relocated to from a new ethnolinguistic group, a realistic option in the nomadic context of flexibility alliances, and constant movement around the Black Sea and steppes.
About a century after Herodotus, in 380 BC the Athenian orator Isocrates named the three most dangerous enemies of Athens: the Thracians, “the Scythians led by the Amazons”, and the Persians. Isocrates was harking back to glorious victories when “Hellas was still insignificant”. He reminded his audience that the first Athenians had repelled an “invasian of the Scythians, led by the Amazons”. Isocrates was alludding to the mythic Battle for Athens, which the Athenians treated as a historical event. After their defeat, Isocrates recalls, the army of women did not return to Pontus bur went tol ive with their Scythian allies in the North.
The Greek historian Didodorus of Sicily (65-50 BC) also wrote about Amazons, associating them with Saka-Scythian women who were as brave and aggresive in battle as the men. He pointed to the historical example of Zarina, who led a Saka-Parthian coalition to victories against tribes who wanted to enslace them.
…Military historian Polaenus specifically stated that the Scythian warrior queen Tirgatao of the Maeotians (Sea of Asov) exchanged written diplomatic letters with the king of the Bosporus in the 5th century BC. Tirgatao was literate.
.. Chinese chronicles reported that the (Xiongnu-East Hun Turks) nomads sent messages by “making marks in a strange script on pieces of wood”. And chinese emperors were also recruiting warrior women for their own armies. [Mulan, a well known animated film of woman warrior is Xiongnu-Hun/Turk of nation.-SB]
… Archaeologists have found wrestling images on bronze plates in Xiongnu sites.
… Another adventure is set in Stri-Rajya (Women’s Land”) a distant place located somewhere in the nomadic Saka-Scythian-Xiongnu territories of InnerAsia along the Silk Route (including parts of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, the Taklamakan Desert, Tibet and the Kunlun Mountains). Two queen ruled the land devoid of men: any man who stayed with them more than a month was killed. Several legends tell how a famous yogi traveled to a country of women and fell under its queen’s spell, forgetting his spiritual vows. The yogi was allowed to stay several years and was finally rescued by his younger disciple. These women were seductresses, not warriors, however and this legend was about secual restraint, not armed heroines.
It is said that the boundless steppes give flight to tales of heroes and heroines because the conditions of life are so harsh and extreme. The landscape itself demands human spirit on an epic scale. Scythia, for the ancient Greeks, was an immense ocean of land whose vastness paradoxically expanded as their knowledge about the world to the East increased. The exhilarating, terrifying lives of warlike archers on horseback fascinated not only th Greeks and Romans, but also the Persians and Egyptians. And as we've seen, these westerners thrilled to tales of Amazons and foreign warrior queens from beyond the Black and Caspian seas, tales drawn from historical events, factual details, unwritten barbarian chronicles, hearsay, speculation, and the experiences of travelers and soldiers- and burnished by countless retellings.
Evidence for both historical and legendary Amanzon-like figures in the Caucasus and the Middle East was embedded in the Nart sagas [also a part of Karachay-Balkar Turkish tribe, with other nations-SB] and local oral tales about strong nomad women such as Tirgatao, Tomyris [Tomris-Turkish Quenn, still in use as female name. -SB], Sparethra, Zarina, Banu Chichak [Banu Çiçek - Turkish woman, still in use as female names. Khazar Turkish Khagan Bigar's daughter was also named "Çiçek" (known as Tzitzak) was married Constantine V, the East Roman Emperor. - SB] and Gordafarid transmitted by Greek and Persian writers. Meanwhile, of course, the men and women of the various nomad warrior societies of Central Asia were telling their own war stories, adventures, and romances about themselves and their neighbours-stories about, by, and for real Scythians and Amazons. It turns out that women warriors were familiar characters in Middle Eastern and Central and South Asian folklore, as polular as heroes, fleet horses and evil rulers.
Unfortunately unlike ancient Greek, egyptian and Indian literature, the oral myths, ancestral lore, and folk memories of the myriad and far-ranging ethnic groups of Central Asia were not recorded in writing until the mid-twentieth century. What survives of this living folklore has passed through thousands of years of turbulence, continuous migrations over vast and varied topographies, intermarriage, political oppression, and wars. In the written versions of the ancient ballads, epic verses, and tales of lands now divided into the nations of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, some events are set in medieval or later times. [all these states are Turkish States-SB] Yet, as scholars note, many of the ethnographic and traditional details retain archaic roots. The tales reverberate with the small, random portions of genuine nomad lore in many tongues that reached Greece through the writings and oral reports by the early Greek adventurer Aristeas, who traveled across what is now Kazakhstan, southern Siberia, and northwest China in the seventh century BC, and from Herodotus and others. The Greek texts contain surprisingly accurate details of steppe lifestyles and histories, unavoidably peppered with outsiders' misunderstandings and fantasy. What shines through is the barbarians's celebration of men and women as peers in love and war. Assimilated into Greek art and literature, this consistent faces of nomadic life helped to shape Western ideas about Amazons.
The horse-riding heroines in this seem familiar because they strongly resemble their sisters who were kidnapped, like Antiope, into Greek literature and art. But the Greek mythic mold produced a crucial difference. In the stories that Scythians and Amazons told themselves, warrior women could survive battles, and their conflicts with male warriors could end on a positive note instead of inevitable death for the "unnatural" manly woman at the hands of a Greek mythic hero. Significantly, the Greek historians who described real amazons did not hew to the mythic script, and so their accounts of barbarian women at war, such as Tirgatao and Zarian, are more realistic. The following pages give a sense of the kinds of Amazon tales that would have enthralled Saka-Scythian and related peoples and those who lived in close proximity to nomad territories thousands of years ago, from the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea to the Altai and Hindu Kush and the western frontier of China.
The young woman on her flying horse speeds away toward the line where infinite sky meets new grass. The young man on his nimble steed hutless after her. As the pair race, the boy manages to draw up alongside the girl for a brief moment. Now is hi chance! Leaning prelously far over the side of his galloping horse, the boy tries to steal a kiss at breakneck speed. He fails. As he scrambles upright on his mount, the girl wheels around and lashes the would-be suitor with her whip to show her scorn, to the great delight of the onlookers.
The next contest begins. The haughty girl dashes off. The young man's horse chases hers in hot pursuit. The boy catches up, and as their horses run parallel, he attempts the audacious feat. The two riders' lips touch for an instant. Parting, the grinning boy and girl surge forward on their swift horses, each glowing with victory and perhaps even true love. The kiss of a jigit (daring, heroic rider) [Yiğit; etymology Tr., brave, honest, strong, daredevil, a "ALP" young men, still in use as male name -SB] is said to be irresistible.
The high-spirited race is called kesh kumay (Turkic, kyz kuu, "chase the girl") [Kız kuumay-Kız yakalama, Kazakhstan, Tr.-SB] and it has been played, with variations, at summer horse festivals since time immemorial by Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Azerbaijani, and other Turkic nomad groups. Men and some women also compete in robust wrestling matches on horseback, archery, horse racing, and trick riding-all equestrian games that show off the jigit [Yiğit, Tr.-SB] skills, strength, and endurance of both sexes. It is also a chance to display their magnificent steeds. After all, this is the heartland of the coveted Akhal Teke horses [Turkish horses, ancestors of English-Arab horses. Also the only one "animal genocide" made by the Russians.-SB] of the Ferghan Valley pastures.
Once part of ancient wedding rituals on the steppes, the origins of kesh kumay reflect an ardous selection process for companionable marriage between willing equals. In these courting games, the competition is real but cooperation is the key to success. It is difficult for a boy to "steal a kiss" at full gallop without the complicity of an equally agile and eager horsewoman.
The kesh kumay game evokes inevitable comparisons with the life-or-death footrace devised by the Greek Amazon of myth, Atalanta, to eliminate her suitors. Atalanta also won wrestling matches against male champions and bested men in hunting with spears and arrows (prologue). Give her a horse, and Atalanta would be a full-fledged Amazon....
Kyrk Kyz (Kırk Kız-Forty Girls/Maiden)
Medieval Turkish and 18th century conquests by Kalmyks (Kalmuklar) and others overlay the oldest layers, dating back to the sixth to fourth centuries BC, the heyday of the Saka-Scythian and related tribes whose kurgans are landmarks across the steppes. Historians note that the existence of female warriors led by a woman was possible in that time and place, and they wonder whether the tale explains the king of Khorezm's claim of Amazons on his border, reported in Arrian's history of Alexander's campaigns in this region in 326 BC.
Tomyris - Tomris, Coin from Kazakhstan
The plot of Forty Girl also reminds scholars of Persian stories about the Saka warrior queen Zarina and Herodotus's account of Queen Tomyris of the Massagetae-Saka who fought Cyrus of Persia. Tomyris is a national heroine claimed by peoples of western Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, which recently issued coins in her honor. [Tomyris is a popular name in these countries, and heroic ancestor of Turkish peoples+female name-SB]
In 1996 the Uzbek poet Halima Xudoyberdiyeva published The sayings of Tomyris. Kazakh archaelogists ofteh invoke Queen Tomyris when they describe the tombs of ancient Saka princesses buried with tall pointed hats, arrows and gold treasure. (Could Tomyris be the Golden Warrior Woman of Issyk?)
In Forty Girl, the rebellious Gulaim (Rose Moon-Gül Ayım), age fifteen, rejects marriage, much like Atalanta (wrestling heroine), Khutulun (born c.1260) [Uzbek Turkish women-SB] , Harman Dali, and many other Amazonian girls. She decides to be a warrior and gathers forty like-minded young horsewomen archers. Gulaim's father builds them a citadel on an island in the Aral Sea, where they live, train for war, raise crops, and ride out on raids together. This description matches ancient Greek historiacl accounts in which "going Amazon" is a lifestyle option, and the tales about Scythians and Amazons in which the young women prove their worth in battle and then are free to marry or remain warriors fighting in mixed groups or in all-women cadres.
In an Uzbek version of the epic, Gulaim trains an army of froty women warriors because all the men of their tribe have been killed in war. They serve as mercenaries in Timur's army, like Penthesilea's band of Amazons at Troy. If a girl falls in love and marries, she leaves the group and is replaced by another maiden. This alternative Uzbek version bears striking similarities to ancient Greek accounts of Amazon customs.
Alexander campaigned in Gulaim's homeland (the region of Khorezm and Sogdiana) and he married Roxane, daughter of a nomad chieftain of these parts. It was here that the king of Khorezm told him of Amazons. It is interesting to note that the Spanish envoy to Timur in 1403 reported that Amazons still lived in the same general region. Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo wrote that fifteen days' ride by camel east of Samarkand lay the "land inhabited by Amazons, nomadic women who travel once a year to the nearest settlements where they consort with men, each one taking to one who pleases her most, with whom they stay, eat, drink, after which they return to ...
Aijaruc - Aiyurug [Ay Yürek. Tr.;"Moon Heart", daugther of Kaidu-Kaydu-SB]
...The most famous "wrestling heroine" of Central Asia was the great-great-granddaughter of Cenghis Khan of the Mongols [the last sources says that he was from mothers side a Turkic!, he spoke Turkish and culture and army was based on Turkish system, and there was many Turkish soldiers in his army-SB]. Aijaruc (Turkish, "Bright Moon"), also known as Khutulun ("All-White") was born ca.1260 and grew up with fourteen brothers. Her Turkish name, given in various spellings by Marco Polo, may have been a translation of her real name: "Bright Moon" was a traditional Uzbek name [Uzbeks are Turkic Tribe, speaks Turkish-SB]. A tall, powerfully muscled young woman, Khutulun excelled in horse riding, archery, and combat on the steppes around the Tien Shan range.
Marco Polo described her style of warfare in terms of falconry; riding beside her father, Qaidu Khan, at the head of their army of forty thousand, she would suddenly "dash out at the enemy host, and seize some man as deftly as a hawk pounces on a bird, and carry him back to her father". Her parents were anxious to see her wed. But Khutulun declared she would marry only the man who could defeat her in wrestling. Many men tried and failed, paying then or even a hundred horses for the chance to grapple with her. Soon she owned a herd of more than then thousand. When she was about twenty, a worthy, strong prince came forward with one thousand fine horses. Khutulun promised her parents she would let him win. A crowd gathered. Their struggle continued for a long time in suspense. In the excitement, Khutulun forgot her promise, and with a terrific surge of energy she threw the suitor to the ground. Finally, some years later the undefeated Khutulun did chose a husband but without wrestling him first. She became the commander of the army after her father's death.
An oral story cycle of Turkmenistan, also recited by Kazakhs, Uzbeks and Karakalpaks, tells the adventures of the bandit hero Koroglu [Köroğlu- Kör=Tr., blind ; Oğlu=Tr.,Son of "Son of blind, a very common epic among Turks-SB] based in the 17th century [much much older, Goroglu in Azerbaijan-SB] but drawing on earlier tales. Koroglu meets an invincible, bloodthirsty woman warrior named Harman Dali ("Crazy-Brave") [Harman= Tr.,means: The work of separating the grain from the spikes by beating over the grain bundles spreading on a flat surface. Dali=Deli, Tr. means crazy, it is nickname here, Harman is the daughter of Arslan Bey, Turkmenistan, a Turkish State and people - SB] a beguiling berseker, Harman Dali thrives on killing suitors who accept her by-now-familiar challenge: "I'll only marry the man who beats me at wrestling and I chop off the heads of the losers." Their wrestling bout is described in humorously lascivious detail, until Koroglu is so enflamed with desire that he gives up. But his life is spared and his singing wins him one night of love.
According to Ctesias, the Greek who served as the royal physician in Persia (5th c BC), the Saka-Scythian warrior queen Zarina was very well educated. In his fragmentary history of Persia, Ctesias told Zarina's reaction to a letter from a Medean warrior, evidence of her literacy. In a later collection of legends known as the Alexander Romance by Pseudo-Callisthenes, Alexander the Great exchanges a series of diplomatic communiques with some Amazon leaders during his eastern conquests. Both the Greek version (4th c AD) and the Armenian version (5th c AD) "quote" the correspondence in detail. These legends even portray the Amazons holding an Athenian-style democratic assembly to decide how to respond to Alexander's letters. It is striking that the Greek mythographers imagined that Amazon society would have mirrored the strong relationschip between Greek democracy and literacy. [How democratic? Womans were on the second place, had no democratic movements, could not even vote, elected, walk on streets alone!-SB]
Won wrestling matches against male shmapions and bested men in hunting with spears and arrows. And this is only one example in Greek mythology. But in Central Asia the epic tales and traditions of the nomads are more to tell; girls and women, such as Lady Hero/Gunda the Beautiful, Banu Chichak and Saikal, who challenge men to wrestling contests. That means also Amazons, lived among the Turkic tribes. [Atalanta comes from Arkadya or Boeotia, which was not Greek, but Pelasgian region. Turkish people were not influenced by Amazons, no, Amazons themselves were Turkish of origin, because of the Scythian-Saka Turks. - SB]
...Hero girl of the Manas tales is a Kalmyk aemetzaine named Kyz Saikal (Aemetzaine was a Kalmyk word for strong woman; the name Saikal could be related to Karaklapak Saukele, pointed headdress) - [Kyz/Kız=Tr.,Girl; Saikal-Sai was the name of Saka in Chinese chro. So, it means Saka Girl, and Saukele is still used in Kazakhstan today as bride costum-SB]
Saikal becomes the leader of her tribe because her husband, the chieftain, is a drunkard. Saikal fights in battles and horsewrestles with the best male champions - she nearly unhorses Manas. As they prepare for single combat, Manas is filled with anxiety. "What if she dies if I strike her with force! I would (rather) marry her!" He plunges his spear into her right shoulder, but Saikal throws it off and threatens him with her spear. In the poem, Manas express his fear of losing the very woman he would choose as his mate....
An impressive mausoleum in northwestern Kyrgyzstan near the Kazakh border is revered as the grave of Manas. Local legend claims that Kanikey, Manas' s widow, created a false inscription on the tomb to confuse her husband's enemies. As with the many impressive graves incorrectly assumed to belong to men, the mausoleum is actually that of a mystery woman. Her story has vanished except for the inscription (ca.1334) on the ornate facade, dedicating the mausoleum "to the most glorious of woman, Kenizek-Khatun" (Turkish Maiden-Queen) [Khatun-Katun=Tr., Queen, wife of Kagan-SB]
from the book: The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World
by Adrienne Mayor
Ukok Princess "Turkish Princess of Altai" with Deer Tattoo
Was buried in the 5th c BC, at the age 25, with 6 Horses.
The Greeks fascinating by an other custom of the nomads: Tattoo; The Greek themselves considered tattoo barbaric,
even worse then trousers. The Greeks thought that the tattoo was a punishment for criminals and slaves.
Adrienne Mayor at "Talks at Google" video
Transcription: Semra Bayraktar
Well, Amazons seem to be everywhere these days. First, there was "Xena, Warrior Princess", then the animated films "Mulan", "Brave" "The Hunger Games", Atalanta in the recent Hercules film, "The Shield Maidens and the Vikings", the powerful women in "Game of Thrones", and now Marvel Comics has actually introduced a female "Thor, war goddess", and "Wonder Woman" is actually poised to make a comeback. I hear that she's going to have our own movie in 2017 [Movie sector is not objective, we will see.. And creating a hero for the new generation and for themselves is not good, not a correct move also ! - SB]. And meanwhile, women of all ages, we've been talking about this earlier today, are taking up bows and arrows in unprecedented numbers, and horse women archers, calling themselves Amazons, are competing around the world. These are few of them (photo), you could actually take the lesseons from these women to learn to do this. Modern Amazons. At the same time, the news from the Middle East... [I cut it from 2:55 out because they are not amazons but terrorist! Below a note about that- SB] So today, we're surrouded by images of warrior women.
"Amazons were not Greek, they were Scythians."
And some 2.500 years ago, the Greeks also surrounded themselves with stories and images of Amazons. The Greeks described Amazons as the equals of men, independent, fearless, foreign horse women who gloried in hunting and warfare. And these are just some examples of some Amazon (photo) images from Greek art. These are vases from about 550 to 450 BC. And who were the ancient Amazons in Greek mythology? They were fierce warrior women of exotic lands, they weren't Greek. They were as courageous and as skilled in battle as the mightiest Greek heroes. Amazons paley a major role in the legendary Trojan War, and every great Greek champion from Heracles to Theseus, and Achilles, they all had to prove their courage by killing a formidable Amazon queen.
Greek historians never doubted that Amazons had really existed in the remote misty past. And many Greek reported that women living the lives of Amazons still dwelled in the lands around the Black Sea and beyond the Black Sea in the immense territory the Greeks called Scythia. Historians and archaelogists still use that word. It's a blanket term, and I'll be using it today. In classical antiquity, Amazons were on view everywhere you looked in Athens and other cities in Greece. They were featured in monumental public sculptures, in mosaics, and in frescoes on public buildings. Amazons wearing patterned trousers and boots, riding horses, shooting bows, hurling spears, swinging battle axes, and dying heroically in battle were wildly popular subjects in Greek vase paintings. More than 130 personal names of Amazons still survive from antiquity. They are on statue bases, they're labels on ancietn vases, and they are in many ancient texts. Every Greek man, woman and child knew exciting amazon tales by heart. And little Greek girls, we now know, even played with Amazon dolls (photo). These are just two from the collection in the Louvre. They have - some of them have movable arms and legs like Barbie dolls. They could be dressed in different costumes, and these were found in little girls's graves from classical Greece.
So were Amazons real? Or were bold warlike women nothing but fantasy figures invented by the Greeks? Were they simply the ancient ancestors of Wonder Woman and Katniss Everdeen? Do we have to say the exhilarating world of Amazons was just ana elaborate fiction brought to life by the Greek storytelling imagination?
Until now, that is waht modern historians had been assuming. But now, thanks to spectacular recent archaeological discoveries across what was once ancient Scythia, we have overwhelming proof that women fitting the descritpions of Amazons in Greek art and literature really did exist. So they were historical counterparts to the mythical Amazons.
These women were members of a network of diverse, but culturally related nomadic tribes of Eurasia and beyond. Each of those tribes now, of course, they all have teir own names, they have their own dialects, languages, and their own histories, but they became known to the Greeks as Scythians. And they-their cultures were centered around archery and riding horses. They were nomads.
As nomads, the Scythians left no written histories, so we have to rely on their neighbors, and their descendants, and on archaeology.
Long before modern archaeologists began excavating the graves of real warrior women, the Greek writers had already identified Amazons as Scythians. These warlike tribes have no cities, no fixed abodes, wrote one ancient Greek historian, they live free and unconquered, and they are so savage, that even the women take part in war, he wrote. Amazons, remarked others, were as courageous and as fearsome as their Scythian husbands.
The nomad women were first described in detail by Greeks in about 470 BC by the Greek historian Herodotus. He, and later authors, accurately described the Scythian lifestyle and preserved details of their burials in mounds called kurgans [look at notes -SB] on the steppes.
Amazon with trousers and quiver 470 BC
A Scythian kurgan excavated 2013, southern Urals. Typical skeleton from 5th c BC, in trousers & tunic decorated with golden plaques. Rich grave goods include last meal & tattooing equipment. They're very large, very complex burilas.
Among these Scythian nomads, girls learned to ride and handle bows and spears along with their borthers. They knew how to defend themselves. They knew how to hunt, and they knew how to fight just like the men. The lives of those tough nomadic girls and women were so very different from the lives of Greek women in antiquity. In Greece, women and girls were confined indoors to weave and mind children. And that difference in the two cultures made a deep impression on the Greeks.
Rumors and descriptions of these horse riding men and women, much feared for their deadly arrows and their expanding conquests across Eurasia, began to filter back to Greece, perhaps in the Bronze Age, and the Greeks first began to directly contact these people in the seventh century BC. And that's when the Greek cities began to establish trading colonies around the coast of the Black Sea. And it's easy to understand then, how genuine knowledge mixed with garbled details, intriguing travelers reports, curiosity imagination, and a lot of speculation to fill in the gaps, fired up the Greek imagination and lead to an outpouring of exciting stories and vivid pictures of Amazons.
We now know about these people because of archaeological excavations of more than 1.000 ancient Scythian graves from the Ukraine, southern Russia, the Caucasus region and Central Asia. Now before the advent of DNA testing, it used to be taken for granted that any time you find human remains buried with weapons, it was assumed they belong to a male warrior. And that was just taken for granted, that was routine. But scientific analysis is calling all of those assumptions into question, and there have been some spectacular reversals of previous discoveries announced as male warriors.
I'll just give a few examples.
In the 1960's, in ancient Thrace, that's now Bulgaria, Two grave mounds from the 4th century BC, that's the time when the Greeks were telling stories about Amazons, those mounds were discovered in the '60s. And each mound had many weapons, armor, they were filled with gold and silver artifacts, and richly equipped horses. A pair of human skeletons lay inside each of those mounds, and these remians were announced as too powerful male warriors who were buried with their wives. 50 years later, in 2010, DNA tests were finally carried out, and the results revealed that all four of the skeletons in those two mounds belonged to women. [read also A.Klyosov for DNA-SB]
Quiver and Greaves - 3rd c BC
Tomb of "Philip II of Macedon",Verginia (Ancient Aigai)-Macedonia
Who was the Scythian warrior woman buried with Philip II, Alexander's father?
And other stunning discovery of a warrior woman was reported just last month [November, 2014-SB]. I think it's in this month's [December,2014-SB] issue of archaeology magazine. Since the 1970s, when the magnificent tomb of Alexander the Great's father, Philip II, was excavated in Macedonia, archaeologists have wondered about the identity of the mysterious second person, another person's remains, buried in other golden casket next to Philip's. (photo: You see the two caskets here.) A pair of gilded bronze greaves- greaves, leg armor, shin guards, (photo:are shown on the right there.) And there was a fabulous golden quiver, (photo: you see the golden quiver on the lower left,) along with arrows,and parts of a bow.
Those weapons posed a puzzle to the archaeologists, because those weapons are not Greek weapons, they're not Macedonian weapons. Those are typical Scythian weapons, like those used by the Amazons in Greek art. And even more curious, if you take a look at those greaves (photo) the shin guards, they're mismatched. They're not the same size. Well, scientific analysis of those mystery bones was just taken out, taken a few weeks ago [November 2014-SB], and the analysis revealed surprising news.
The Scythian bow and the quiver, and those mismatched leg armor, they belonged to a woman. She was about 32 when she died in 336 BC. Her bones showed the rigors of constant horseback riding. One of her legs had broken and had healed crookedly, leaving her with a - probably with a limp - and the uneven greaves had obviously been custom-made for her. Now, who was this real life Amazon, buried in the royal Macedonian tomb with the King of Macedon?
Theories about her identity are being debated as we speak. We can go into that later if you have questions...
The golden diadem of the Scythian princess Meda (?), 3rd c BC
Tomb of "Philip II of Macedon",Verginia (Ancient Aigai)-Macedonia
Now that DNA anlysis is available, it's very expensive, but it is available now, we have more than 300 graves of battle scarred women buried with their weapons, and more being found every year. And archaeologists are now going back to previously discovered male warriors to see whether those might be women.
The biggest concentration of warrios women's burials are in Bulgari, Romania, Ukraine, southern Russia, the Caucasus, and Kazakhstan, the very places that were identified as prime Amazon territory by the ancient Greeks.
Bioarchaeology and DNA can reveal the sex, the health, the age at death with more than 90% accuracy now. The DNA result tell us that a substantial number, about 25 to nearly 40% of Scythian women were active warrior women buried with their weapons when they died. Many of those armed women had war injuries like the male warriors.
The typical grave goods of the women warriors in the heart of ancient Amazon territory included iron spears, massive armored belts, leather and gold quivers filled with bronze arrows, bronze swords, battle axes, shields, necklaces of beads and animals claws, gold earings, and sometimes even clothing of wool, leather, fur, silk, and hemp has been preserved.
The youngest girl warrior ever found here was about 10 years old when she died. She was buried in iron armor with two spearheads. Evidence that young children, boys and girls, were trained for battle. Also nearby, this was in the Ukraine nearby, another kurgan, or grave mound, held the remains of three young girls. They were aged 10 to 15, and their arsenal included heavy cavalry items, scaled armor, helmets, spears, shields, quivers full of arrows. And those girls also owned tools, gold necklaces, and bronze mirrors.
Three of the most ancient, the earliest Amazon graves, were found in the southern Caucasus region, a land strongly associated with Amazons in antiquity. The women's skeletons were buried by their companions about 3.000 years ago in 900 BC.
A Map of AMAZONVM in Caucasus- 16th c AD
One woman was about 30 when she died, she was interred in a sitting position with her bronze sword across her knees, and a dagger and a spear at her feet. The jawbone of her horse and her shield were nearby. The left side of her skull has a wound from a battle axe that had begun to heal before she died. The second woman in that kurgan had an arrowhead embedded in her skull and the third woman wore a necklace of lion or leopard claws.
The scientific studies of skeletons are yielding some very striking results and details. Some women's legs were bowed from a lifetime on horseback. These were nomads, who traveled great distances by horse. They suffered arthritis, they had broken bones, probably from constant riding and falls. Some women's hand bones actually reveal evidence of repeated heavy use of a bow. Typical battle wounds of women buried with weapons include ribs slashed by swords, arrowheads embedded in bones, and skulls punctured by pointed battle axes.
Pointed battle axes are typical weapons of Amazons in Greek vase paintings. By careful analysis of the bones, bioarcheologists can often determine the direction of an opponent's attack. They can tell whether the blows occured while someone was fighting face to face, on foot on the ground, or on horseback, whether they were in motion when the blow was delivered, and whether or not they tried to deflect the blow. Most combat injuries of the women and the men are on the left side, indicating that their adversries were right handed.
All of this archaeological evidence points to a level of gender equality unheard of among the ancient Greeks. So it's no wonder they were fascinated and horrified by the barbarians at the steppes. Their myths, we can see them as a kind of exciting what if story, pitting these daunting strong women against the Greek's mightiest heroes.
Achilles killing Penthesilea with leopard skin, Amphora,540-530 BC,British Museum
Here's Achilles fighting and killing Penthesilea on the battlefield at Troy. And on the right is Heracles killing Hippolyta. He looks a little nervous there in that picture. These images were incredibly popular in antiquity, second only to pictures of Heracles.
Hercules (Erkle) and Hippolyte, 510-500 BC,J.Paul Getty Museum
Unlike the restricted lives of Greek girls and women that I explained before, being an Amazon was an option for women on the steppes. Why? Because of a series of unique extremely successful Scythian technologies and practices, innovations perfectly suited to their time and place. The Scythian way of life, with opportunities for women unheard of in ancient cultures, other ancient cultures, ensure that mounted nomad culture flourished and dominated on the steppes sweeping over a Millennium from Eurasia to China from about 700 BC to 500 AD.
In Scythia, young girls were raised to ride horses and shoot bows and arrows, just like their little brothers. And that made perfect sense in a nomadic culture. Think about it. Small groups or bands, isolated on the harsh dangerous steppes, they're always on the move, they're always facing attack from hostile enemies and other tribes. Everyone, male and female, was a stakeholder. Young and old, male and female, they're all expected to contribute, all expected to take part in defense and raids and hunting.
Scythian way of life might be of special interest to google, and maybe some of you will discern some parallels between their world and your world. The Scythians forged an extraordinary combination of sophisticated technologies and unconventional tactisc. They were based on agility, flexibility, speed, innovation, shared capacity, shared knowledge, equality, individual merit also cooperation, teamwork, within an extensive network of loosely related groups of rivals as well as potential allies.
On the steppes, tribes waxed and waned in size and power. Groups were free to split off from the main unit and establish new alliances on their own. Small bands of survivors or rebels might be absorbed into larger tribes or ally with another tribe. The stakes on the steppes were extremely high. Some tribes were decimated, some vanished forever, we have no trace them. Alliances alternated with hostilities, former adversaries, however, sometimes united to pursue larger goals of conquest, control over territory, resources, trade. Tribes often coalesced to meet and defeat powerful invading enemies.
The Scythians united, for example, in the sixth century BC to defeat the huge Persian army that was led by Darius the first, and the Persian King Cyrus the Great, actually lost his life fighting the Scythinas beyond the Caspian Sea. And they were led by the warrior queen, Tomyris. Two centuries later, even Alexander the Great's army failed to subdue the Scythians and the step nomads of inner Asia. The eastern Scythians held the upper hand over China for several centuries.
Queen Thalestris of the Amazons, brought 500 women warriors,
to Alexander the Great- SB
I think some step nomads innovations might have had enough magnitude to qualify as moonshots. The first great leap forward was the domestication of the horse. The Scythians, or their ancestors- the ancestors of the Scythians- were the first people to ride horses. First they domesticated it, then they learned to ride them. Horses provided food, drink, clothing, agility in battle, speed, and endurance over vast distances. And riding horses required the invention of trousers. Essential tailored action wear that zoomed to success 3.000 years ago. Think about it, the first tailored clothing.
It's interesting that the ancient Greeks actually credited the Amazons with both of those nomad discoveries. They said that Amazons were the first ride horses and the first to wear trousers.
Another awesome new technology struck terror into the hearts of their enemies. The nomads of the steppes perfected the small but powerful re-curve Scythian bow. Scythian archers were feared for their terrific aim, and their ability to shoot arrows at incredible speeds. And then they even went on to concoct sophisticated and nasty arrow poisons by mixing viper venom with pathogens so that you didn't even have to have good aim, just a scratch would kill the enemy.
A Turkish Warrior with Parthian shot,
Bronze plaque, 7th-8th c AD, Khakassia (Khakass people, an other Turkish tribe)
Only the descendants continued the Culture! SB
The Parhian shot, the feet of twisting backwards to shoot arrows as one gallops away, was another notorious Scythian skill. And they also used a floating anchor, which is an innovation -or not an innovation- but is known nowadays and used by people like modern Amazon of instinctive archery. You don't have a fixed anchor point, you actually use instinctive aim. So you have, it sounds like an oxymoron, but they have a floating anchor. And we see that in the vase paintings of Amazons.
By now it might be obvious that the crucial change with exponential advantages for the Scythians was the combination of the horse and the bow. The horse combined archery, that was the great equalizer for women on the steppes. Mounted archery was the catalyst for women's full participation in hunting and warfare and all those other activities. Astride a horse with a bow and arrows, a woman could be just as fast and just as deadly as man. So, among the Scythians, women could achieve the same skill sets as the men, and become outstanding riders, hunters, and warriors, and rise to leadership positions.
According to the ancient Greek historians, Scythian women typically formed ad hoc bands. And these bands could either be all women, or men and women, and they formed these bands for adventure, for hunting, and war campaigns. We have the names of historical Scythian women who rose to leadership roles, and devised strategies, and commanded armies. I just mentioned Tomyris was one of them.
As the ancient Greeks reported, and as archaeology seems to confirm young women and girls served as the active duty warriors and raiders, while older women with children could choose to continue that marshal lifestyle or not, depending on what they wished in the circumstances. But in emergencies, because everyone had been trained to same, everyone was capable of riding out to meet the enemy. So whether by choice or compelled by circumstances, ordinary women of Scythia could be hunters and warriors. In other words, these foreign women could behave just like ancient Greek men, glorying in physical strength and freedom, roaming at will outside, choosing your own sexual partners, chasing game, and killing enemies.
So archaeology as I mentioned, is shedding new light on the ancient Greek narratives and the artistic representations of Amazons, showing ho some details in ancient Greek literature and art that were once dismissed as fantasy or just overlooked altogether, now turn out to be accurate representations of step nomad's customs and their life. And the step nomads were the historical counterparts of the mythic Amazons. We're now learning how much the Greeks actually knew, how much they got right, maybe sometimes they were guessing, but they knew a lot about real warrior women of Scythia, and Scythian technologies and practices. And I think I have time for a few examples.
As the Greeks learned more and more about Scythians, they revised their portrayals of Amazons, adding realistic details written accounts and art. In the 5th century BC, for example, Herodotus, I've already mentioned the Greek historian, reported that the Scythians enjoyed the intoxicating smoke form burning hemp. As I mentioned earlier, personal hemp smoking hits like this one are among the grave goods of Scythian men and women buried in kurgans.
Amazon clothing and weapons are some of the most striking changes for accuracy in Greek art. The earliest images of Amazons appeared on vase paintings about 2.500 years ago. And those earliest most ancient scenes show the women dressed and armed, or in the custom of heroic nudity, as it's called, they were dressed like Greek hoplite warriors. They're wearing Greek helmets, armor, round shields, and they're fighting on foot with swords. The Greeks just portrayed them as counterparts of their own heroes.
But soon, as they got more and more information about the Scythinas, the Greeks artists began showing the foreign Amazons with Scythian style clothing and weapons, and they show them on horseback. And we can even see two types of horses on the vase paintings. Some Amazons ride tall, mean horses. Akhal Teke is the name now for those horses, they were bred for speed in the desert. And they also rode small sturdy steppe ponies. Both of those types of horses correspond to the two types of horses that are found in Scythian graves. Some of them are actually mummified by the permafrost and dry conditions, as in these examples (photos).
Scythian riders rode bareback. They didn't have stirrups.[Stirrups were invented by the Turks in the 6th c AD - SB] They had light, or no reins at all. They guided their horses with their thights, knees, and feet, and voice commands. And many Greek vases and sculptures depict Amazons writing barefooted with heel and ankle guards against chafing. (Photo) Detailed vase painting shows an Amazon tying on ankle guards or spurs.
Amazons with spear and bow, in typical Scythian clothes
Greek artists began to equip the Amazons with real Scythian weapons, just like those found in Scythian burials. Amazons were now shown as archers, and they were outfitted with distinctive Scythian style re-curve bows and decorated quivers with flaps that hung up on belts at their waist instead of at the back of their shoulders.
And here's (photo) another very interesting realistic Scythian cultural detail of Scythian style archery. It's overlooked by the art historians. When I showed vase paintings of Amazon archers to some archery experts, they immediately noted that the women are using the nomad style thumb draw, and also instinctive archery with no fixed anchor. The thumb draw is sometimes called the Mongolian draw. They were using those techniques with their small bows instead of the Mediterranean release used by the Greek archers, using their bows in vase paintings.
And as we've already seen, Greek artists illustrated Amazons twisting around on their horses to shoot arrows backwards in the notorious Parthian shot. That re-curve bow used by Scythian archers was an equalizer, as I mentioned, for women. And the bow's curves store a lot of extra force under compression because of those curves. And that makes it very difficult, impossible to string, unless you know the trick. Instead of brute physical strength, one has to learn the special technique. To attach the string, you have to brace the bow onto your knee while you're sitting or kneeling, and there are images on ancient coins, (as you can see above on the left and on vases) showing Amazons and Scythians. But especially interesting that they show Amazons stringing their bows using this special Scythians technique. It can also be done standing if you brace one foot against a rock or a helmet as shown on this vase from the Smithsonian on the right.
Some Greek images of Amazon archers have been misunderstood by scholars until now. For example, there's a vase painting here (photo) that show an Amazon archer between two riders, one of them identified as a Scythian, the other one is Greek. The archer is bending very far backwards, seemingly aiming randolmly at the sky. The ancient vase specialists and art historians have interpreted this scene as quote; a dying Amazon collapsing in battle. But in fact, the archers stance is an accurate portrayal of flight archery, shooting an arrow a very long distance. The Greek and the Scythian on the horses appear to be observers of a flight archery contest. And flight archery contests were described by ancient Greek historians, and we even have some of the record distances recorded on an ancient inscription on the Black Sea. The Scythians were famous for their accuracy and their long distance shooting.
Amazons were shown on Greek vases holding more than one arrow while drawing their bows. That sometimes puzzled art scholars, they thought it might be a mistake by a careless vase painter. But instead of a mistake, those images depict the proper technique for speed shooting arrows. It allows an archer to shoot in quick succession without having to constantly reach for arrows from the quiver at ther waist.
Scythian archers were also famous for their speed shooting, and they could probably estimate -estimates today are- that they could probably release an arrow every one to three seconds. They would be daunting enemies. Besides bows arrows, Amazons were often shown with swords, battle axes, and a pair of spears, the typical weapons that are found in Scythian burials of men and women as in these examples (photo) from vase paintings and one mosaic there. And this is a rather famous vase painting, they're using all of the weapons at hand.(photo)
A unique and beatiful vase painting in the Metropolitan Museum in New York shows an Amazon taking aim with a sling. Her two spears you can notice, are stuck in the ground on the left. According to slinging experts that I've talked to, her stance is quite accurate. Piles of sling pebbles have been found among the weapons buried with Scythian women in their kurgans.
Several ancient Greek writers describe step warrior women skills with the lasso, and they told how they use them to rope their enemies in battle, and then finish them off with battle axes. So I was pretty delighted when I came across this rare vase painting of an Amazon on horseback twirling a lariat, just like Wonder Woman's golden lasso. That Amazon there is charging toward a Greek warrior, you can't see him, but he is cowering underneath his shield, decorated with a snake there, in the upper right.
Amazon with Lasso, 480-450 BC, The University of Mississippi Museum
This action scene decorated a Greek woman's jewelery or cosmetics box. A lot of women's objects contained images of Amazons. This Amazon is wearing a patterned tunic and leggings, as you can see, that kind of sensible practical action wear invented by the nomads, whose lives centered on horses. And the wild patterns, and textures of the leggings and sleeves worn by Amazons in Greek vase paintings match the textiles in garments that have been recovered from Scythian graves.
Amazons in the vase painting are shown in long sleeved shirts and trousers decorated wtih geometric designs, and sometimes even griffins, lions, and deer, as in the upper right. (photo) They wear high leather boots, if they're not barefooted, and soft pointed caps with ear flaps and spotted leopard skins. And all of those items are found in the burials of Scythians.
These are some artist reconstructions of warrior women's garments from clothing that was found in Scythian kurgans.
The Greeks were fascinated and appalled by Amazons trousers. That was something no Greek man or woman would ever be caught dead in. Greeks wore simple rectangles of cloth held in place with pins, like most people around the Mediterranean. Trousers, as I mentioned, were tailored. They were stitched together from fitted pieces. And who invented trousers? According to the Greeks, it was the Amazons. And in fact, trousers were, as I mentioned, invented by the men and women who first began riding horses.
Oldest known trousers 1500 BC, Tarim Basin
These are some pictures of clothing that has been found in Scythian graves. And you can see the patterns, decorations, look very similar to what is portrayed on Amazons in Greek vase paintings.
The earlist pair of trousers were found preserved in Scythian graves from nearly 3.000 years ago [not mentioned that one of the photo belonged to the oldest Turkish pant!-SB] . I think I mentioned that trousers were not just sensible and practical, they were necessary for life on horseback. And they were equalizers. I think I have time for one more example of an ancient artifact that demonstrates how Greek artists incorporated realistic features of Scythian culture and life in illustrations of Amazons. This beautiful golden ring was made in about 425 BC, classical Greece. You can see it on display in the Museum of Fine Arts here in Boston.
The full significance of the scene has alluded understanding until now. At the Boston Museum, the museum text says it shows on amazon on a horse with her dog, hunting a deer. The Amazon is wearing a belted tunic, as you can see, her hair and the cape or cloak are blowing back to indicate speed and actions. She has the reins choked up tight to control the spirited horse as she is about to spear the deer with her javelin. And the deer on this tiny ring is so exquisitely detailed that we could even determine the species. It's a spotted fallow buck with - they have broad palmate antlers. Her hunting dog is a type of sighthound still used in Central Asia today. And it's attacking from the rear, you can see that the deer's left hind leg is broken. And what about the large bird? What- why is that included in the scene? The scholars just ignored that detail. But I was looking at photographs of traditional hunters on horseback in Kazakhstan and Mongolia, when I suddenly realized the significance of that bird on the ring in the Museum of Fine Arts.
This is Makpal Abdrazakova of Kazakhstan, and she's an eagle hunter. Falconry, training raptors to hunt has very ancient roots among the step nomads. I learned about a discovery in Central Asia of a fully clothed mummy of a horse woman in the Tarim Basin area, she lived when this ring what I showed you was being made in Greece. And she was buried with the huge leather mitt on one hand, just like the one on this modern female falconer's arm. [Hunting with eagle is a Turkish culture, wich we see in every Turkish tribe art - SB]
I also learned that the bird perched on the arm is a golden eagle, and that is the favorite bird of prey to train for traditional hunting on the steppes by the nomads. They hunt rabbits, deer, foxes, and even wolves wtih golden eagles. These are more young women who are hunters or apprentices learning the traditional skill again. So that bird hovering above the deer's head is not just a random decoration as assumed by the scholars. It's an eagle with a hooked beak, spread wings and tail, it's about to attack the deer. So this stunning golden ring illustrates an Amazon eagle hunter on horseback accompanied by a sighthound. All four, the Amazon, the dog, the horse, and the eagle are focused on the prize.
By training these three animals, the nomads made the harsh, unforgiving steppes, into a land rich with accessible game. The scene on the ring is compelling evidence that the classical Greeks had heard about, or maybe even observed, horse women of Eastern lands who trained eagles to hunt.
Amazon figures may have served many symbolic functions for the Greeks, but archaeology now proves that warrior women were not merely figments of the Greek imagination, and the many examples of naturalistic details and ethnographic features in ancient artworks provide very strong evidence that the Greek images and ideas of Amazons were certainly influenced by real nomadic horse people. The Greeks interwove threads of fact with imaginative storytelling to create a panoramic world of Amazons. It seems fair to say that Amazons as a dream and as a reality have always existed.
Sometimes they're hidden or suppressed, but at other times, the Amazons among us come blazing into popular culture and history. And there are strong signs that a powerful Amazon spirit may be awakening today, and as the ancient Scythians would tell us, that just makes good sense.
So you explained how popular the Scythians and Amazons were with the Greeks. Did the Greeks attempt to adapt any of the horse riding or the trousers or the roles of women in their fighting?
Q1: Ok, But did they notice that it was successful, or they said, that's just not for us?
A.Mayor: The Greeks had such a strong aversion to covering the arms and legs. They thought that was just an outrageous and barbaris style of dressing. And they often mocked the Persians for - the Persians actually did adopt the Scythian way of dressing because they became horse people. They copied the Parthians and the other Scythian tribes. And the Greeks mocked the Persians for wearing these effeminate styles. Leg coverings and sleeves. A manly man wore a miniskirt. And it's interesting that Xenophon wrote a manual on horsemanship for the Greeks. And he does not, in the 5th c BC - he's a horse rider - he does not recommended Greek men were trousers to ride horses. But he does say make sure that you arrange your cloak under you so that you do not, especially when you're getting onto the horse, so that ou do not present a shocking spectacle as you mount your horse. So even a horsemanship manual could not bring itself to recommend trousers.
Differences in culture : Persians didn't wear trousers, or fury clothes. - SB
Did you come across any evidence in your research that the Scythian tribes were either matriarchal, or matrilineal, or was it simply equal opportunity, and it is the feamle leaders that we've heard about?
A.Mayor: The Scythians didin't leave any history, so we have to go by what their neighbors said and the archaeology, and then also look at - you can do comparative ethnography by looking at people who are following a Scythian style of ife on the steppes in modern times, you can compare. So we don't have any evidence of matriarchal societies across the steppes. What we have is evidence of equal opportunity, as you said. In that kind of lifestyle women could give counsel in making decisions, and of course, they rose to leadership positions because we have actually documented by the neighbors that there were women leading armies against Persians, against Egyptians, against Chinese. So we know that they did have equal opportunity in leadership. We don't have any evidence for matriarchy.
The Greek girls have dolls of Amazons, the Greek women have icons of Amazons. Is there any correlation between - I mean - the way the Greeks treated women was terrible, but it wasn't uniformly terrible - so is there any correlation between how women were treated in different city-states in different periods with the popularity of the artifacts among the girls?
A.Mayor: The popularity of the Amazon images on women's perfume bottles, on their jewelry boxes, on some of their items for sewing and weaving, I think that really points to a mystery about Greek life that we don't really - we can't explain. I mean Amazons were also a popular, very popular, image on crockery that we know was in shape that was given to newlyweds. Why would you give newlyweds pictures of Amazons? There's something going on there that we don't know. It's really very interesting.
Q3: I mean, I know a lot of feminists like to say, Ok Wonder Woman is going to be a great icon for girls to empower them, and I'm just wondering, did that happen?
A.Mayor: According to most scholars, classicists have argued and maintained that all of these images of Amazons were like domestic propaganda to discourage girls from taking up archery, horseback riding and asking for equality. But the fact that the images are so popular among girls and women, and it shows them in such a powerful way, I don't think that argument has any traction anymore.
[At that time, Hellens do not want women to have power. - SB]
Has anybody examined the bodies of the people whose tombs you talked about, and seeing if there's asymmetrical development on the long bones of the upper body? Because I think we would expect with archers to find one side more developed than the other, and it would be a way of determining who got these graves goods because of their occupation, and who got it because of their social statues or their life cycle.
A.Mayor: For one thing, the modern mounted archers that I've spoken to, the ones who are using the instictive archery technique and especially the Parthian shot, they shoot both sides, they can shoot with both arms. They can just switch. So we know that these nomads on the steppes were practicing archery since they were kids, little kids. So I don't think we would see that. But I did mention,that they have found differences in hand bones of the women that have - one hand might show heavy use of a bow - consistent with heavy use of a bow. So I think that's the kind of evidence you're looking for.
The name Amazon comes from a-mazos, which is this myth that Amazon women would remove the breast so they could shoot arrows better. Is there any evidence of that?
A.Mayor: No. But that idea sticks like glue. It's just like super glue.
Q5: Is that a modern idea, or did that trace all the way back to the Greeks?
A.Mayor: It's such an interesting idea, wrong idea, that I devoted an entire chapter to Amazon breasts. So quickly, the name has absolutely nothing to do with breast. It's not a Greek word. The Greeks borrowed the word Amazonis, and no one knows where it came from. Most linguists believe that it might be an ancient İranian word that derives from Hamazon, which simply means warrior. So that makes a lot of sense. But the Greek had an obsession with making non Greek words in their language into Greek words for patriotic reasons. So there was an etymologist in the 5th century BC- he was actually an historian dabbling in etymology. And he said, well let's figure out what - this must be a Greek word, and so it sounds a little bit like a*mazos. Which in Greek, would sound a little bit like without, a, mazos, breast. But he was immediately challenged by other historians of his day, who said, that's ridiculous of course not. There is not one ancient representation of an Amazon with only one breast. If you looked at the pictures that I have showed, it is physiologically ridiculous. And yet the idea just won't go away. It's the one thing everyone knows about Amazons.
[ Heodotus wrote that they called Amazons as Oerpata, which is Turkish, Scythians spoke Turkish. Oerpata is Erpata = Er-Man, Pata=Killer . Hamazon is not a correct explanation !- SB]
This is fascinating, the combination of the archaeological evidence, and the documentary evidence, the imagery and so on. So you've mastered art History and archaeology, Greek sources. But I'm going to ask you if you've also looked at Hittite and Persian and so on sources. If they say anything, or if there's evidence that they need to be re-read in the light of what you've found.
I haven't looked at Hittite sources, but there is a chapter on Persian stories about Amazons in my book. The Persians did tell stories about step nomad women, and we have them. They're preserved for us because of the Greeks who went to Persia and preserved and recorded the stories told by the Persians. There was a Greek doctor named Ctesias [a Carian not Greek, Ctesias of Cnidus/Knidos-Datça, 3rd c BC.- SB], who served as a physician for the Persian King. He wrote a book about Persian stories about step nomads. We have the names of many step nomad warrior Queens who fought Persians, and we have their stories. So yes, other cultures bordering Scythia who encountered step nomads definitely had stories about warrior women, Amazon like women. There was a papyrus found recently, and then even more recently has been finally translated, and it's in tatters, but you've got enough of the story to see that the title is The Egyptians and the Amazons. And it's about an Egyptian prince who goes out to fight an Amazon queen and her warriors. So many, many other ancient cultures told stories about warrior women.
At what point do the Amazons start vanishing from the historical record? Because I know the bow eventually turns up in Mongolia and is used by the Mongol horde to devastating effect against the Chinese and much of Europe at that point. And the Mongol women also shot, but at what point do the Amazons disappear from the record?
It's interesting that as you read the ancient Greek and then the Latin, Roman sources, they tell an exciting story about historical warrior Queens who are from Scythia, and then they say, and then with her death, the Amazons disappeared. And then the next writer that you read says, but there wree pockets of them, there were vestiges, and they keep reappearing. So I don't think there's any end point.As you say, the Mongols- there's a book called The Secret History of the Mongol Queens that is about Genghis Khan's granddaughters saving his empire. The story, my last chapter is on China. And we have Chinese chronicles about warrior women from those step tribes. What's really interesting is all of these other groups from antiquity who tell about Amazon like women have a radically different script for the stories. They want them as loves, as allies, whereas the Greeks kill them all. All of the Greek mythic script dooms them to death, whereas all these other cultures say no, we want them on our side. So I don't think there's any historical endpoint unless you get to the Arab conquest and then İslamic era. But even then there are stories in the Middle Ages, about women who go to war, and it goes all the way up through the Middle Ages. And now it's back.
Transcription and notes: Semra Bayraktar
* Amazon name is given by the Greeks, Amazons and Scythians called as "Oerpata"; Turkish etymology - Erpata = Man Killer.
* Why do you say always Greek? Greeks were not named as Greek in ancient, they had their tribe names, such as Hellens!..And why not "ancient historians" but instead "ancient Greek historians", using especially with their ethnic name?.. Naming Greek has nothing to do with the Greeks of today! Herodotus was not Greek, he was an İonian.! İonians are not Greek!. And not all artists were Greek!..
* Only the Turkish people and Mongolians drinks mare's milk "Kymyz = Kımız", and we do know that the Mongolians were not in the Mediterranean Basin in the BC times. Scythians are descendants of the Turkish people. Scythians are not Persians or İndo-İranians/Europeans, because they didn't and don't drink mare's milk!
* Kurgan is Turkish of etymology, and kurgans with horse burials are Turkish origin.
* The Turks domesticated the horse, ancestors and descendants of the Scythians. Akhal Teke is a Turkish horse, motherland Turkmenistan. You use everywhere the word "Greek", use here the word "Turkish" !...No, "Greek" is more important than "Turk"... One ethnic comes forward, the other one never mentioned it.. this I call, a discrimination!
* Trousers are Turkish invent, the oldest trouser is from 1500 BC, has a Turkish mark (symbols) on which is still in use among Turkish people on rugs and carpets.
* Parthian are the ancestors of Turkmenistan people. Parthians are also a Scythian tribe, called as "Exiled Scythians" or "Daşoğuz".
* Nomads can not make such beautiful artifacts, calling them as nomads is not accured. They are migrated people, they lived with their animal herd, and needs food, winter/summer places to live.
* 900 BC is the time of the Cimmerians in Georgia, but Scythian and Cimmerian artifacts are the same, because they come from the same family stock.
* Mirrors and claws belongs to shamans, so maybe they were female-shaman-warriors.
* Women was not equil with the men among Greeks... And democrasy was not born in Athens!..
* Barbarian word was given to the people who do not speak Greek, and not for the savages!
* Hercules was not Greek of origin! So, it can not be "the Greek's mightiest heroe".
* Tomyris was a Saka-Turkish queen, still a female name among Turkish tribes.
* If Amazons were not Greek, why are the Greeks calling the Amazons as their heritage to the world?...
* Dr.Kimball have worked in Kazakhstan on Amazons DNA, the results shows that the Kazakh Turkish girl is descendant of Amazons. But also Dr.Kimball don't use the word "Turk" !.. Which is discrimination... Don't be afraid to use the word "Turk", we don't bite ;)
* And yes, in Hittite sources Amazons are written, lived in the area Cappadocia, North and West Anatolia, Puduhepa, a Hurrian (non indo-european/iranian) Queen, wife of Hattuşili II of Hittite Empire in the 13th c BC, can be considered as an Amazon: Source; Prof.Dr.Ahmet Ünal "Hititler Devrinde Anadolu"- 2013. To some resources, Amazons lived also in Libia and North Africa: Source; Diodorus Siculus.
One more thing about Adrienne Mayor's conference at "talks at google" (from 2:55), I do not approve what she shared at the beginning about "peshmerga amazons photos" ! Peshmerga are terrorist, like pkk-pyd!...İt looks like this: "...and history is written not by scholars, but by partisan-hypocritical-politicians who impersonating scholar!.." Are you one of them? İf so, shame on you for that! But, for the rest, a good book and conference ... Regards, SB.