Yet in his legend of the Amazons Herodotus describes fighting women and on numerous vases of the classical period one can find images of “Amazons”, women in armed Thracian or Scythian garments. Obviously there was already the conscious in antiquity, that the nomadic “barbarians” from the East lived a completely different lifestyle than their sedentary neighbors in the Greek cities, which included, among other things, the participation of women in military actions.
Both glass and stone objects and metal, and partly wood and bone fragments of weapons are preserved. Arrowheads were found very often, both made of bronze or iron, but always in the typical scythian-sarmatian three-winged form. In addition, findings of belt hook give proof of died away Goryte or quivers, which were probably made of leather. The number of arrowheads vary greatly, in some graves only very few were found, in others large quantities. In a few graves short swords or daggers were found, whith handles made of wood, metal or bone.
It’s unclear what the exact meaning was, to give only very few arrowheads into the grave, which were insufficient for actual use. Regarding with caution one can say, that the funeral culture of the ancient nomadic tribes represents a world outlook that considered the afterlife as a mirror of the real world. This means, that all important objects for everyday life were placed in the peoples grave after their death, which was connected to the idea that you would use them in your afterlife. This could have been only ritual offerings (such as a sacrificial piece of meat or miniature replicas of objects). In this context, one could associate the small number of arrowheads.
However the majority of the investigated weapons, has actually been used, as can be seen on traces of usage. Presumably these women were actually active as “warriors”, although one can not derive any matriarchal society, as is partly considered. The Greeks saw the “barbaric” Amazons as a strong contrast to their own “civilized” society by constructing a matriarchy for these figures.
Grave findings rather suggest the opposite – male burials were often better equipped than women’s graves of the same social class. Rather the phenomenon of fighting women in the nomadic lifestyle seems to be linked to the insertion of all available forces in case of war (which was a permanently Situation, if we may trust the sources) made it necessary.
It is interesting, however, that women with weapons in their graves, did not change their social sex (gender): next to the weapons there were always found offerings which were typical for the female sex (make-up, mirror, spindle whorls, …). So this is not about women who were buried as a “warrior” , but explicitly as a “female warrior”.
Ausst. kat. Amazonen. Geheimnisvolle Kriegerinnen, Historisches Museum der Pfalz 2010.
Davis-Kimball, Jeannine und Yablonski, Leonid T. (Hgg): Excavations at Pokrovka 1990-1992. Kurgans on the left bank of the Ilek, Berkeley 1995.