I stumbled across something earlier this week and immediately thought, ooh! I can use this for research! My second thought was something else, though. The article on social media had trumpeted that a grave was excavated containing ‘Three Amazon Warrior Women’ to paraphrase the headline. There was a grave. In Russia. And it had been partly robbed. There was, I commented, nothing Amazonian whatsoever about the site. Warriors? Maybe. The problem is that there’s a definite bias to reporting of such finds, because feminism. Which robs the real power of the legacy these women have left in their death rites. It’s not that they may have fought alongside the men. It’s certainly not that they were fighting the patriarchy. We don’t know enough about their culture to make those assumptions. Women of their time and place may not have known a patriarchy existed, or cared if it did. Transposing modern mores and concerns onto the bones and artifacts simply serves to obscure and confuse the real data we can pull from the traces of the past.
As a storyteller, though, the graves of our ancestors are rich with inspiration. This one lends itself well to the art of speculation. Women buried in a low mound on the Scythian steppes. Members of the people who have sometimes been called the Horse Lords. One of the women was buried in a pose mimicking horseback riding, and she was buried with a mirror, and two spears. Another, older woman, was buried with an ornate gold headdress. The last two women laid into this grave are more obscure, having been scattered by the grave robbers of antiquity who spoiled their rest in search of what they might use for gain. They, too, have stories, but we may never know them because their graves were undoubtedly shallower, ephemeral, and obscure. This one, however, which is comparable to other ‘royal’ burials, still remains to tell us stories and set our minds to wandering. Four women, ranging in age from early teens to possibly grandmotherly. One a princess by virtue of her crown, another a warrior by her weapons. A horse lay in the entrance to their last dwelling constructed from oak timbers and clay. It was probably an impressive thing to see in their time. (read the whole dig report here. I used google translate, as it is in Russian)
I discovered as I scrolled down on that site they have a map with pins in it, and if you click on one of those markers, it will transport you to another archaeological site. I was delighted to discover there are some in Siberia, which is very useful to me as I have been working on a novel in that setting. The translations are a little rough, but not unreadable, and the photos require no interpretation to bring a place to life in my mind. Technology goes far beyond photos these days, and can illuminate where there is no light.
And I have to go. My father-in-law is in a bad way. Sorry to run off, but I’ll leave you with two more tidbits for story-building.
What if Columbus was right?
and Does your chewing gum lose it’s flavor if you leave it in mud for nearly 6000 years?
Header image: headdress on skull of woman in Barrow 9