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Amazon Graves Found in what is today known as Kazakhstan


News Category: Prehistory

 Friday, 27 April 2001


ALMATY -- Amazons - strong warlike women (of Iranian stock) - were mentioned by many ancient historians, including Herodotus, who traveled through Asia.

The Scythians of Iranian Stock, were tribes that inhabited the vast areas around the Caspian Sea and modern Kazakhstan. The most populous and strongest were the Scythian tribes that lived in Northern Kazakhstan. Herodotus wrote about Scythian nomads and Scythian farmers who lived in the northern Caucasus - it was a well-developed civilization for that time.

Herodotus also wrote about the Scythian men who married warlike women from Amazon tribes. In his opinion, this explains the Scythian custom according to which a young woman may not marry until she kills an enemy. The Amazons were very cruel to tribes they conquered, particularly to captive men, whom they killed with great cruelty. According to Herodotus, Amazons cut their right breast off and then burned the wound with hot iron in order to prevent them from hunting and drawing a bow in battle.

However, despite evidence from Herodotus and other trustworthy historians, many scholars believe that the tale of the Amazons is just a beautiful myth. But the recent excavations conducted by Russian and American archaeologists have shed new light on this amazing legend. Kazakh archaeologists assisted greatly the Russian-American expedition because Kazakh scholars were greatly interested in finding evidence to prove that the Kazakhs are direct descendants from the Scythians, and Salmats, who later replaced them. After a thorough examination all finds will be displayed at the Astana Historical Museum in Kazakhstan.

The excavations were conducted at an area that can be called the Gate of Peoples. Here, between the Caspian Sea and the Stone Belt mountains, many ancient tribes moved from the east to the west, driven by an unknown force. In the 6th-4th centuries BC an area of the Tobol River in Western Siberia and the entire range of northern Kazakhstan was inhabited by Salmats, a warlike nomadic tribe. In the 3rd century BC they ousted the Scythians from the area around the Black Sea and the Caucasus. Here they found a common language with the Amazons and married them.

The expedition found 40 women's graves, seven of which contained items not typical of the gentler sex - armors, weapons, and horse harness. All these things - bronze arrowheads, daggers, and swords - were of normal size and showed signs that they had been used frequently for military purposes. This rules out the suggestion that all these articles were just symbolic and used for only ritual purposes.

The only difference was that the handles of the swords and daggers found in the women's graves were shorter than those found in the men's graves. Probably these weapons were made especially for women, with their comparatively small hands. One can also suggest that these were hunting weapons. However, the Amazons' graves contained many sheep, horse, and camel skins and bones but no bones of wild animals. This proves that these tribes were not hunters but nomadic cattle-breeders.

Another fact, proving the Amazon theory is that military tattoos on the remnants of the skin of both the men and women. According to many ancient sources, including Herodotus, a warrior made a special tattoo after killing each enemy soldier. Such tattoo emblems varied from totem animals (like the heads of a wolf or bear) to the skull crossed with bones.

The archaeologists also found 68 bronze articles, including spearheads, axes, daggers with beautifully decorated handles, and decorations shaped as armors. But the most interesting finding was that these articles originated from four regions - the Caucasus, Volga basin, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia. So this ancient treasure testifies to direct contacts between the Caucasus, Central Asia, and other Eurasian regions.

Chemical analysis of these finds revealed a wide diversity of different kinds of bronze. So, daggers and axes were cast from the arsenic bronze and some arrow-heads and armors - from tin-arsenic bronze. These kinds of bronze originated from different and very distant areas of the Caucasus, Ural, and Kazakhstan.

On this territory archaeologists have already found weapons in Scythian women's graves in the 1950s, but these were just occasional finds that could not make up the full picture. Today, after the discovery of such a large Amazon grave, the international archaeological community will probably be convinced that women played a role in ancient nomadic tribes.

"If we find in a grave weapons beside a men's skeleton, we are sure that he was a warrior. So a similar conclusion is logical when we deal with women's remnants," agreed an outstanding American archaeologist, Philip Cowell. The results of the Russian-American expedition have been recognized by the Royal Geographic Society, which was a co-sponsor of the excavations. It has been also decided to finance further excavations in this region.


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