Why Amazonian Women Were
Amazing Archers Why Amazonian Women Were Amazing Archers

This summer’s “Wonder Woman” film has already raked in more than $780 million globally. The movie has generated a fan following, inspired women of all ages to try archery, and ignited controversy about whether Amazon warriors once existed.

So, did they?

Greek mythology describes an aggressive tribe of brutal, beautiful female warriors who listed war as life’s main concern. They trained, they killed and they conquered with swords, knives, daggers, and bows and arrows.

Some people have since theorized that right-handed Amazon women cut off their left breast to better shoot their bows and arrows. These women also allegedly killed male offspring to foster an all-female society, and kept men only as slaves or for breeding, which leads some to suggest they were lesbians.

What should we make of all that?

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Amazons waging war are depicted on this 4th-century Greek vase. Photo Credit: Getty Images

A previous Archery360.com article, “Wonder Woman: Did Amazon Women Really Exist?” cites two sources that offer archaeological evidence of tangible Amazon warriors.

First, a Smithsonian article by Amanda Foreman discussed bodies examined in unearthed graves: “One young female, bowlegged from constant riding, lay with an iron dagger on her left side and a quiver containing 40 bronze-tipped arrows on her right. The skeleton of another female still had a bent arrowhead embedded in the cavity.” These bodies were discovered in Russia in the early 1990s.

Second, in a CNN article, reporter Sheena McKenzie interviewed Stanford historian and author Adrienne Mayor, who wrote, “The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World.” Mayor said, “Excavations of Eurasian graves have uncovered battle-scarred female skeletons dressed in tunics and trousers, and buried with quivers full of arrows, battle-axes, spears, and horse gear.”

The physical evidence in both discoveries is intriguing and promising. National Geographic and PBS also published information that strengthens the possibility of Amazon warriors. For instance, Simon Worrall wrote the article, “Amazon Warriors Did Indeed Fight and Die Like Men.” He also spoke with Mayor to dispel myths and gain insights about the wild and violent world of ancient warrior women.

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An 1882 print shows an Amazon, perhaps Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons, about to spear a panther. Photo Credit: Ivy Close Images – Alamy

The National Geographic article reported that bodies found in Eurasian graves were called Scythians by the Greeks. These were women who fought, hunted, rode horses, shot bows and arrows, and acted as equals to men. They were nomadic people with horse-centered lifestyles, and traveled from the Black Sea to Mongolia.

Mayor believes these female warriors lived among men and did not remove the breast opposite their shooting hand. Therefore, it’s unlikely they killed baby boys. She said graves from this society held men and women. Archaeologists first thought all graves in that region containing weapons were male warriors. But DNA testing proved about one-third of Scythian women were buried with weapons. Further, the female skeletons had war-related injuries just the like the men, providing proof these women fit the description of ancient Amazons.

Mayor also said the idea of lesbian-lovers arose in modern times, and nobody in the past offered such suggestions. She said: “The strong bond of sisterhood was a famous trait in classical art and literature about Amazons. But it was modern people who interpreted that as a sexual preference for women.”

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According to National Geographic, archaeologists identified remains found in Eurasia as a people known by the Greeks as “Scythians.” The women are believed to have fought, hunted, rode horses and used bows and arrows, just like the men. Photo Credit: Erich Lessing via The New Yorker

PBS published a short article describing the background of Amazon Warrior Women, based on an episode about the subject. The piece describes all the myths of warrior women found in Homer’s “Iliad,” and explains the history and facts associated with female warriors, citing the same evidence Mayor provided. The New Yorker also wrote about the legends and histories here.

Based on these reports, it seems we have enough evidence, believers and stories to coin fierce Amazonian women as the real deal. Therefore, the “Wonder Woman” story might be a plot twist in our search for truth. We’re also impressed with this summer’s depiction of “Wonder Woman,” which gives her getup a more utilitarian purpose. Her outfit is clearly built for battle, featuring a breast plate, an indestructible shield, and custom-fitted guards that protect her shins and forearms.

Look at “The Evolution of Wonder Woman – Then and Now” on the Marie Claire website. You can also read about the current Wonder Woman outfit, and the London leather designers behind the superhero’s metallic-leather armor, in The New York Times article, “The Wonder Woman Effect.”

Fascinating stuff, huh? If you’re interested in test-shooting archery and bowhunting gear, visit an archery shop for expert advice, shooting tips, equipment insights and more! Then, channel your inner Amazon warrior – or Wonder Woman – and shoot some bull’s-eyes!

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