Archaeologists have discovered the grave of an injured woman who died during the Iron Age in Armenia. The remains belonged to a woman who seemed to live as a professional warrior and was buried as an individual of rank during the Urartu (Ararat) era in Armenia. Based on the wounds to her skeleton, she may have been the kind of Amazon warrior the ancient Greeks wrote about.
Recently published in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, a group of researchers led by Anahit Khudaverdyan detail their study of a skeleton from the Bover I necropolis in Lori Province. Based on the bones, the archaeologists concluded that the grave was for a woman in her 20s. Although the woman was initially assumed to have been high-status because of the jewellery, upon re-examination of her strong and injured bones, the researchers began to suspect that she was also a warrior.
The remains unearthed in Tomb N 17 belonged to a woman who seemed to live as a professional warrior and was buried as an individual of rank. During our work we identified a rich array of traumatic lesions, which shed light on her daily activities, occupation and warfare practice. We also analysed a trapped metal arrowhead in her femur. For this region projectile injury to bone, induced by an arrow wound, strongly suggests interpersonal aggression. The same individual also suffered blows to the pelvic bone, femur and tibia. This tomb is the second burial discovered in Armenia that provides evidence on female warriors.
Besides the injuries from war, the researchers also found that the muscle attachments in her upper body were strong, lending support for an interpretation that she was a trained archer used to drawing a bow across her chest.
Despite the gracile skeleton, the muscular attachments were strong, indicating considerable work activity. Both upper limbs were mechanically loaded (physical stress) (Figure 2). The pectoralis major and deltoid muscles Figure 3b had been used in flexing and adducting the hand (at the shoulder) and drawing the bow via the chest (medial rotation).
Her thigh bones were also well-developed with pronounced gluteal muscles, possibly “related to specific military activities, such as horse-riding,” the researchers suggest.
This is not the first time archaeologists find remains of woman warriors dating back to Urartu era. Other historical sources tell that in that kingdom women fought together with men. Khudaverdyan and colleagues muse that this kind of female warrior may have been the basis for the ancient Greek tale of the Amazons, the fierce women reported to live in the eastern part of the territory of Asia Minor, close to modern-day Armenia. “It seems probable that there were indeed female warriors amongst the tribes of the Caucasus,” they suggest, concluding that their “ongoing discoveries do suggest the subsistence of real women warriors whose lives matched the descriptions of Amazons in Greek myths.”