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Eric Myers




Location: Sacramento, CA
Joined: 23 Aug 2003

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PostPosted: Thu 14 Dec, 2006 9:19 am    Post subject: PBS Secrets of the Dead: Amazon Warrior Women         Reply with quote

Hi All,

Last night I watched the PBS program "Secrets of the Dead: Amazon Warrior Women", which traces the ancient stories of the Amazons, through grave sites in southern Russia, to living people in western Mongolia. It was pretty interesting stuff, and fairly compelling as well, but I only watch a couple hours of TV per year, and have no sense of the quality of information of this series. Has anyone else seen this program (I think it's a couple years old), or have any thoughts on the information presented therein?

The Amazons have always intrigued me, in particular for how various people have envisioned them in their fantasies and stories over the past 2500 years. It was interesting to see something more realistic presented, based on science and actual research.

Eric Myers
Sacramento Sword School
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Richard Fay




Location: Upstate New York
Joined: 29 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Thu 14 Dec, 2006 3:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all!

Eric,

I watched the program about the Amazons when it was first on a few years back. I found it interesting, but the one researcher seemed to have a "one-track" mind and interpreted everything as indicating Amazons. Still, the information seemed to match the bits and pieces of research I've seen regarding the Amazons. I don't have enough knowledge about the subject to say whether or not it was completely accurate, but the quality of the "Secrets of the Dead" shows seems to be a bit above the usual average for a television program. They did seem to have some interesting archaeological finds!

Stay safe!

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Eric Meulemans
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Location: Southern Wisconsin
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PostPosted: Fri 15 Dec, 2006 6:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I haven't seen the program, but reading its summary it sounds fairly solid. Jeannine Davis-Kimball is the author of Warrior Women, which I'd recommend reading if you have a continued interest in the topic.

The discovery of "warrior" graves of women is of course not new, but this interpetation of their contents is. Our view of the past is so very influenced by our view of the present that grave goods and other finds are invariably assigned meanings or uses not in keeping with their actual function or purpose. For a relevant and lighthearted look at this phenomenon I can suggest David Macaulay's Motel of the Mysteries.

Gravesites which have been excavated in Western China and Mongolia, particularly at Xinjiang and the Altai, have yielded red-headed caucasians, women warriors, and evidence of burial practice and ritual previously relegated to myth, as well as upset various "established" timelines for East/West interaction and exchange of culture and technology. Not only has this challenged previously held notions about the past, but in turn, state ideology. It is unfortunate that some, including the Chinese government, have been known to go so far as to destroy mummies and gravegoods which counter traditionally accepted "fact".
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Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

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PostPosted: Fri 15 Dec, 2006 7:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric Meulemans wrote:

The discovery of "warrior" graves of women is of course not new, but this interpetation of their contents is. Our view of the past is so very influenced by our view of the present that grave goods and other finds are invariably assigned meanings or uses not in keeping with their actual function or purpose. For a relevant and lighthearted look at this phenomenon I can suggest David Macaulay's Motel of the Mysteries.


Agreed. Actually female warrior graves have been found in many places. One of the key issues brought to light by the so-called "Amazon" Scythian / Saromatian female warrior graves is in the way graves had been traditionally identified. Often complete skeletons are not available so sexing based on certain key bones (hips etc) is not always, or even usually possible, and DNA testing is very expensive.

So up until very recently, archeologists identified the sex of a skeleton by the grave goods, i.e. if it has a spearhead, a bow, a dagger, or blacksmiths tools, it's a male, automatically. if it has a spindle-whorl or a mirror, it's a female. In many cases every other factor would be ignored in determining sex other than the presence of one of these key items.

This worked fine for them until they started finding graves with weapons AND mirrors.

Then for a while there were all these wacky theories about "Transvestite Warriors" ... until finally they did some DNA and / or osteo-analysis testing on some of the most contraversial skeletons, which turned out to actually be female. More testing reveealed a BUNCH of them were female (I think like 10% of the warriors in some kurgan sites IIRC)

A last-ditch atttempt was mouinted to discount the idea of females as actual warriors, suggesting that high status women were buried with ceremonial weapons. But they found arrowheads still embedded in the ribs and spines of some of these females, healed cuts on the bones, and well used, notched up and repeatedly honed weapons which were sized for female hands.

In short it became irrefutable.

The really important thing to think about here is how this method became such a self-fullfilling prophecy: we find no female warriors because if we find warrior kit, we automatically say they are not female. This has reflections on many other eras and areas, such as Viking graves and possibly some Celtic graves.

J

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