Archaeological Finds Pertaining to the Amazons II
What was the secret, the special genius, of Catal Huyuk, and did it have any connection with the Amazons?  Was it the beginning of the thread that would wind itself through the millennia and end up weaving the haunting image of the women warrior?


There were no disputes between unfriendly
nations as the harbour was believed to be under the protection of the goddess, Ephesia, and had been internationally recognized as a sacred area since 3000 BC. According to local legends the Amazons took refuge here in flight from Herakles.

In 7th century BC the temple of Artemis, goddess of hunting, was invaded by wild Cimmerian warriors, but they did little more than threaten the locals, perhaps because they feared Ephesia.

The magnificent temple of which Christian writers speak as that
of "the great Goddess whom all Asia and the world worshippeth" replaced the earlier and more famous shrine which burned to the ground on the night of Alexander's birth.  Two hundred and twenty years had been spent in the process of building the first temple, and when this was destroyed the Ephesians at once began the construction of another even more costly.  The older  Artemisium is said to have possessed among its treasures four statues of Amazons executed by four of the most distinguished sculptors of the fifth century, Phidias, Polyclitus, Cresilas, and Phradom.  The tradition is only on of many which indicate very close connection between the Amazons and this sanctuary.
The Ephesians themselves looked upon their Artemisium as one of the most sacred spots in the whole world.

The Amazons are noticed in legend as founders of the shrine.Justin (2.4) states the tradition that the city itself was founded by the Amazons.  We must, indeed, believe that the Amazons stood in intimate relation to the cult of Ephesian Artemis.

                                                   Mary Florence Bennett

Mysteries of Çatalhöyük ©1998, 1999 Science Museum of Minnesota
Go to the links page to visit this website.

February 25, 1997

          Ancient Graves of Warrior Women Offer
          Hints of Amazons


               he ancient Greeks could certainly tell a good yarn. Cultivating a
               kernel of fact, or less, they could bring forth a feast of a story to
          nourish imaginations down through the ages. One such tale was about a
          society of fierce warrior women -- the Amazons.

          In the account by the historian Herodotus in the fifth century B.C.,
          Greek soldiers on a campaign in the Black Sea region found themselves
          in combat against an army of women. Although the Greeks won, their
          foe made a lasting impression. Here were women who did not confine
          themselves, as Greek women did, to cooking and weaving and other
          domestic roles. They lived to fight and were required to kill an enemy
          before marrying. They even cut off their right breasts, the better to shoot
          with bows and arrows.

          Or so the story went. Herodotus conceded that, in all honesty, he had
          never seen an Amazon; his tale was based on hearsay. But
          archeologists excavating graves in the Eurasian steppes are now finding
          evidence that there may be something to the Amazon legend after all.

          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.,

          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.

          "These women were warriors of some sort," said Dr. Jeannine
          Davis-Kimball, a leader of the excavations. "They were not necessarily
          fighting battles all the time, like a Genghis Khan, but protecting their
          herds and grazing territory when they had to. If they had been fighting all
          the time, more of the skeletons would show signs of violent deaths."

          In that case, the Sauromation-Sarmation women probably did not quite
          fit the larger-than-life Amazon image of women who seemed to prefer
          making war to making love. Also, the women at Pokrovka lived more
          than 1,000 miles east of the Amazons the Greeks supposedly
          encountered. So Dr. Davis-Kimball is not jumping to any conclusions
          that these women were indeed the Amazons of legend, only suggesting
          that they could be contemporaries of the Amazons or that their lives,
          and those of similar nomadic women who could ride and wield a sword
          or dagger in combat, may have inspired the legend.

          In the earlier Sauromatian graves, the skeletons revealed one suggestive
          Amazonian attribute. The men and women, at an average of 5 feet 10
          inches and 5 feet 6 inches, respectively, were taller and more robust
          than normal people at that time.

          Of more importance, the new discoveries are forcing anthropologists
          and historians to reconsider the status and role of women in the
          Eurasian nomad societies of the first millennium B.C. The research, she
          said, showed that women seemed to have more wealth, power and
          status in these cultures than anyone had thought. And certain women,
          perhaps the elite of the tribe, appeared to be trained from an early age
          to be warriors on horseback.

          Dr. Davis-Kimball, an archeologist at the Center for the Study of
          Eurasian Nomads in Berkeley, Calif., described the Pokrovka research
          in an article in the current issue of Archaeology magazine and in a more
          scholarly report to be published soon in The Journal of Indo-European
          Studies. She and other specialists in Central Asian archeology discussed
          the interpretations in interviews last week.

          In her analysis, Dr. Davis-Kimball said burials at Pokrovka and other
          sites seemed to reveal three categories for women of the culture.
          Graves with luxury goods, including beads, colored glass and gilted
          earrings, suggested that the "most frequently found status among
          females," she said, "is that of femininity and the hearth." The women in a
          few graves might have been priestesses; they were buried with stone
          altars, bronze mirrors used in healing and other cultic materials. Finally,
          there were the warrior women.

          Dr. Nicola DiCosmo, a historian of Central Asia at Harvard University,
          said that other archeological findings in the steppes from Russia to
          Mongolia seemed to indicate that Dr. Davis-Kimball "is on to
          something." The findings, he said, showed that "women in early nomadic
          societies could have had a higher profile in their cultures than women in
          sedentary societies at the same time."

          Dr. Elizabeth J.W. Barber, an archeologist at Occidental College in Los
          Angeles, noted that the research represented a significant change in the
          most rudimentary level of archeological interpretations. Until recently,
          she said, "most people assumed that if a grave had weapons, the
          skeleton was a man -- now they can't be so sure."

          Some Russian archeologists who had made similar discoveries at other
          sites have argued that the weapons found with female burials had
          nothing to do with a person's life but were placed there for protection in
          the afterlife. But Dr. Davis-Kimball points to the bowed leg bones and
          amulets seeming to denote prowess in the hunt and battle to dispute
          such an explanation.

          "Probably, we've been carried away with the macho image of the
          nomad," said Dr. Claudia Chang, an anthropologist at Sweet Briar
          College in Virginia, who conducts excavations in Kazakhstan. She
          noted accumulating research indicating that women in these ancient
          cultures sometimes "had an active role in warfare and in the political

          But she cautioned against "ascribing more to the women of these
          cultures than actually existed."

          In the article in Archaeology magazine, Dr. Davis-Kimball said the
          excavations showed that the nomad women seemed "to have controlled
          much of the wealth, performed rituals for their families and clan, rode
          horseback and possibly hunted saiga, a steppe antelope, and other
          small game." In times of crisis, she wrote, the women "took to their
          saddles, bows and arrows ready, to defend their animals, pastures and

          And, perhaps, to astonish Greek soldiers and inspire enduring yarns.

The wealth of material in Russia and the Ukraine, is only the tip of the iceberg.  Its implications have not yet begun to seep into our collective consciousness.  When they do, the first part of the Amazon message will have been delivered to our age.


 Home // Links // Archaeology Pertaining to the Amazons //