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Eurasian Warrior Women and Priestesses

Eurasian Warrior Women and Priestesses

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Published by Batchuka Bodonguud

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Published by: Batchuka Bodonguud on Dec 25, 2012
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Eurasian Warrior Women and Priestesses
Petroglyphic, Funerary, and Textual Evidence for Women of High Status
Jeannine Davis-KimballCenter for the Study of Eurasian Nomads2158 Palomar Ave.Ventura, CA, 93001 USA805 653-2607 jkimball@csen.org 
 One of the most popular legends displayed in Classical Greek art is the Twelve Labors of Hercules, the heroic half-mortal son of Zeus. The ninth adventure has Hercules ordered tocap
ture the Amazon queen Hippolyte‘s sacred girdle. In the battle that ensues— 
for the queendoes not easily surrender
she is slain and her Amazonian sisters are driven from theirhomeland. In other versions of the myth, Greek heroes, such as Theseus who always hassupernatural strength, attack and gain dominance over the formidable female warriors. Thus, theAmazons, perhaps our first (mythical) warrior women, were such fearsome enemies that nomortal man could achieve supremacy.One can well imagine that the Amazonian myths may have originated as travelers, who hadencountered warrior women along the numerous silk roads that traversed the steppes fromsouthern Europe to points eastward into China, sat around nightly camp fires spinning tales of far-off lands, of women who rode horseback, shot arrows, killed men, and with their supernaturalpowers, manipulated great nomadic chieftains.
Herodotus, the ―Father of History‖ who lived in Odessa ca. 450 BCE, recounts the genesis
of nomadic Sauromatian tribes: they were the descendants of the Amazons and Scythians. TheAmazons had shipwrecked on the shores of the North Black Sea and encountered the Scythians.A battle ensued and at the end of the day the Scythians examined bodies of some of the fallenonly to discover they were fighting women. Quite taken back, the Scythians sought advice from
their elders, who in turn counseled them not to fight but rather to marry the Amazons. This cameto pass. However, the Amazons promptly declared they could never live as the Scythian womendid nor could they live in proximity. Thus, the Scythian men collected their inheritances and the
―new tribe‖ migrated to the north and east.
 It is in the steppes to the northeast of Scythianterritory that multitudes of Sauromatian and the later dated Sarmatian kurgans (burial mounds)dotted the landscape.In the sixth century BCE, a warrior queen ruled the Massagetae, a Saka tribe who occupied asizeable territory in Central Asia. Herodotus recounts an historical battle between Cyrus theGreat, the first Achaemenid Persian king, and the Massagetae Queen Tomyris and her warriors.It seems that Cyrus decided to annex the Massagetae territory beyond the Araxes River.Although she had warned Cyrus not to cross the river, he did not take Tomyris seriously. Withthe intent of tricking her warriors, Cyrus had a feast and skins of wine laid out for the youngnomadic royalty. Some, inclu
ding Tomyris‘ son fell for the bait and thinking her warriors were
now useless in battle, Cyrus crossed the Araxes. To his surprise Tomyris attack the Persians. The
 battle was so fiercely fought that ―There perished the greater part of the Persian army, an
d there
fell Cyrus himself ...‖ The queen was so furious that Cyrus had breached her lands and that her son, in shame, had committed suicide, she ―filled a skin with human blood, and sought for Cyrus‘ body among the Persian dead; when she found it, she put
his head into the skin and spoke
these words of insult to the dead man: ‗Though I live and conquer thee, thou has undone me . . . but even as I threatened, so will I do, and give thee thy fill of blood.‘
 As the early nomadic societies of the first millennium BCE were without written languages,textual sources such as that of Herotodus and other Greek historians as well as the chroniclers of the Achaemenid Persian Empire have provided valuable information. It was assumed for years,
however, that Herodotus‘ tales of the nomads were completely unreliable. Archaeological
excavations, however, have lent credence to many of the nomadic way of life and burial customshe recorded about the nomads. It is unfortunate that patriarchal societies, from ancient times topresent, have recorded information that tended to gloss over the roles women played in history
and that as a result only a paucity of information, e.g., actual names and specific deeds wererarely recorded.As to examining snippets of history that reveal the roles of women in ancient times, thispaper focuses first on a quite remarkable scene, a petroglyphic tableau dating to the Bronze Age.As Bronze Age sedentary societies give way to those who practiced nomadism throughout theEurasian steppes, we examine selected archaeological excavations and the artifacts thataccompanied the deceased. These burials range geographically from southern Siberia to southernKazakstan, and from the southern Ural steppes to those of northern Afghanistan. All havecommonalities. Mortuary offerings are rich in complex iconography that expressed universalrituals and rites of passage for all Early Iron Age nomads. Iconographically and stylistically theyreveal cultural influence that came from all points
north, south, east, and west
and that theintermingling of various cultural traits created the dynamism that survived on the Eurasiansteppes for more than 2500 years. This is particularly apparent in the artifacts of women of high-status: the warrior women, priestesses, and warrior priestesses.It is suggested that through time women achieved much of their dominance as a result of healing powers. To become healers would have occurred as a natural progression from the era of hunting and gathering. They learned the properties of each plant: it use as a foodstuff, itsmedicinal powers that allowed them to heal. They also found that hallucinogenic properties of certain plants provided the means for them to make special journeys into the Otherworld;
 adiscover that was perhaps instrumental in the development of Siberian shamanism.
 With theevolution into the nomadic period and the subsequent migrations from forest-steppes to steppeenvironment, the women found yet new medicinal plants, allowing them to further theirknowledge and augment their skills. It was probably at this time that the evolution fromshamanism in the forest-steppes to warrior-priestess in the steppes took place.Physical and forensic anthropologists have studied the skeletal remains from variousEurasian populations and found that, probably because of higher population density, skeletalremains of sedentary people, and nomads of large confederacies show more signs of trauma and

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