Of Queens And Amazons

Watching my nieces play hockey, whether it’s the youngest guarding the net, or the oldest defending the line from their opponents, they don’t fit what previous centuries would have deemed a proper activity for a young girl of tender years.

By Euphronios - User:Bibi Saint-Pol, own work, 2007-02-10, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2770049

A helmeted Amazon with her sword and a shield bearing the Gorgon head image, Tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix,
510–500 BCE – By EuphroniosUser:Bibi Saint-Pol, Public Domain

However, thousands of miles and years away, far removed from our busy, urban, “civilized” world, lie the remains of ancient female warriors. It’s thought that perhaps at least 20% of the graves found were of women warriors.

Now in the early days of archaeology those  often doing the excavating where male. So, regardless of evidence to the contrary, the assumption was generally made that any weaponry found in female graves was merely symbolic.

Today, science has shown otherwise.

Over the last four years, American and Russian archeologists have examined 44 mounds, or kurgans, near the town of Pokrovka in Kazakhstan at the Russian border, where ancient nomad cultures buried their dead. From the grave goods and other evidence, the burials appeared to be associated first with the Sauromatians and then the early Sarmatians, Indo-European-speaking herders who lived on the steppes in the sixth to fourth centuries B.C. and fourth to second centuries B.C., respectively. But the most striking discovery at Pokrovka has been the skeletons of women buried with swords and daggers. One young woman, bow-legged from riding horseback, wore around her neck an amulet in the form of a leather pouch containing a bronze arrowhead. At her right side was an iron dagger; at her left, a quiver holding more than 40 arrows tipped with bronze.
[ NYTIMES.com ]

Identity And The Historical Woman

Note the wording, “striking discovery”. Do you think if these graves had been found in the early days of archaeology, these warriors would have been stripped of their identity? Probably. Their grave goods would have been denied them, as not befitting the preconceived notions of the time. Women can’t be warriors, after all. Right?

There are whole swaths of history that have been wiped from the record due to the prejudices of not merely archaeologists, but by the documenters of history.

To be fair, if those early archaeologists stopped to consider anything, it would have been the value of the grave goods, rather than what their presence meant.

I believe our view of history has been censured.

Lost in the mists is a whole aspect of humanities past that we are only now beginning to understand, or even acknowledge.

This robbing of the feminine role in history is not unique to the archaeologists in the modern era. Cleopatra is a good example of the treatment of women of strength in more ancient history.

In surviving Roman writings she is merely a seductress, a seducer of men, a conniver and certainly not a TRUE leader. However, in writings that survive from Arab regions, the story is a bit different.

Medieval Arabic texts suggest that Egyptian queen Cleopatra VII was a brilliant early mathematician, chemist and philosopher who wrote science books and met weekly with a team of scientific experts, according to a forthcoming book.
[ news.discovery.com ]

It stands to reason. Why else would every child know her name?

By PHGCOM - photographed at the British Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6249568

By PHGCOM – photographed at the British Museum, Public Domain.

Coinage from the time of Cleopatra’s reign shows a woman with prominent features, but certainly no beauty. So to pull this whole seductress thing off, she would have had to have had some other assets at her disposal then merely beauty.

Was it just Helen’s beauty that launched a thousand ships? Or, was it men who launched a thousand ships? But there are other stories of Helen than just the one told by Homer.

If we look back stripped of our preconceived notions of identity, and in the true scientific way, we find sometimes the history we were given as children has massive gaping holes.

We remove the historical fact that women played a role in the founding, defending and making, and breaking of nations, peoples, and ideologies, but what else do we lose?

The evidence now tells us that it wasn’t that women RULED men, it’s that men and women ruled and lived as equals.

Unfortunately, the western mind has been so enamored by the Greeks and Romans, that much has been ignored, and lost to time. Artifacts present, sherds in the ground, or in documents that have survived from other nations they conquered are all that remain to tell the tales. The victors, after all, don’t merely write history, but rather become the dominant voice of history.

In the past, for whatever reason, the history of humanity was told from the male perspective, and only from the male perspective. What changes took place, when it took place, and why, is not as significant as what removing the historical identity of women throughout history does to women of today.

If we strip Cleopatra of her intelligence, we strip away a whole portion of history with it. We strip away a full understanding of the times. And what do we remove with it? What are we blind to by letting stereotypes get in the way of what we find before us?

In archaeology one trowels off the dirt, carefully revealing what is hidden underneath. Our pre-conceived notions have no place.

Thankfully science today is able to give back the identities of these warrior women who once rode across the Steppes. Called “Amazon” by the Greeks, maybe one of those warriors fought in battles alongside Paris at Troy?

Maybe she carried home tales of the day that she watched the Trojans destroyed?

Perhaps these kinds of discoveries can once and for all demonstrate to young girls that they can be anything, and do anything.

There are no restrictions but those we place ourselves.

Discover Challenges | Identity
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