Amazons: The Reality Behind the Myth of Warrior Women

Many Greek legends tell of warrior women known as the Amazons. The daughters of Ares, the god of war, they were famed for their horse riding and fighting skills. Now, new evidence suggests that they weren’t a myth after all.

Within a Bronze Age necropolis in Azerbaijan, there are a number of women buried with bronze daggers, arrowheads, and maces. Some of the skeletons show that the women had used the bows and arrows, a skill the Amazons were renowned for. Scientists think that they could be remains of Amazons from 4,000 years ago.

“It shows that there’s truth behind the myths and legends of ancient Greece,” historian Bettany Hughes told the Observer.

Bettany Hughes at an archaeological site in Azerbaijan. Photo: SandStone Global Productions


Bones reveal battle expertise

The women’s fingers show deformities consistent with many years of arrow use. Hughes has said the changes in their finger joints could not have come from hunting alone. The skeletons also show changes to the females’ pelvises, perhaps from a lifetime in a saddle. In both cases, their bone structures have been “shaped by their lifestyle.”

This new find adds to a growing body of evidence that warrior women existed. In 2019, archaeologists uncovered four female warriors in Russia. All had been buried with arrowheads and spears.

Two years earlier, the remains of a woman who had died in battle turned up in Armenia. There have also been women in Kazakhstan buried with daggers. All these date to a similar time.

“Slowly, you’re getting these brilliant bits of evidence that are coming out of the earth,” Hughes commented.

Mosaic depicting an Amazon in battle. Image: Arkeonews


Hughes will detail the findings in a new documentary called Silk Roads and the Caucasus. In it, she explores ancient cultures and trade routes across Asia and Europe. Locals in the Greater Caucasus tell her of the stories passed down through generations.

Men were away with the herds

“All our grandmothers fought,” they told her. “The men were all away with the herds. The women used to cover their faces to fight, so that [their enemies] didn’t know whether they were women or men.”

That is exactly what the ancient sources said the Amazons did.

Across Eurasia, there is mounting evidence of women in battle. They might not be the daughters of Ares, but their bones show they trained for years. And they were such great warriors that they were buried with their weapons. It signified their power and position both on and off the battlefield.

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.