The Superhero Issue

Scientists are uncovering the graves of real-life women warriors

New techniques are revealing female fighters once erased from history.

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As the legend goes, Diana Prince, A.K.A Wonder Woman, is an Amazon.

Wikimedia Commons

Amazons, as described by 4th century BCE Greek historians like Herodotus, are mythical female warriors that tangled with Achilles, fought in the Trojan War, and ruled themselves.

Wikimedia Commons/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Amazon women leaving Troy, depicted in 1620 by Claude Deruet.

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Achilles fighting the Amazon Queen Penthesilea.

For decades, scientists and historians thought that the Amazons were just a story

Scientists now believe the Amazons described by the Greeks were actually Scythian warrior women — nomads who ranged from The Black Sea to China between 200 and 900 BCE.

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New finds and techniques are rewriting the historical record.

They reveal how long female warriors have existed in real life.

The Real Ancient Amazons

Erica Anderson/Giphy

Marina Kilunovskaya

In 1988 scientists in Russia unearthed a Scythian skeleton.

The body was entombed in a wooden sarcophagus and surrounded by weapons, including a quiver filled with arrows.

Marina Kilunovskaya

At the time, they assumed the body belonged to a 13 year old boy.

In June 2020, genetic analysis of the remains proved the body belonged to a girl.

Erica Anderson/Giphy

The fact that she was surrounded by weapons "perhaps brings us back to the myth of the Amazons," the authors wrote.

Wikimedia Commons/Jacques MOSSOT

Scientists have continued to discover the graves of warriors

And genetic evidence helps strengthen the case that these graves belong to women.

The Don Expedition

In 2019, the Don Expedition, headed by scientists at the Russian Academy of Sciences uncovered the graves of four female warriors.

Above: two of the Scythian warrior women unearthed in Russia.

A Scythian woman buried wearing a headdress, uncovered as part of the Don Expedition.

The Don Expedition

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"And at least 300 of them have been shown by DNA studies to be those of warrior women..."

-Adrienne Mayor

Erica Anderson/Giphy

These finds have sent ripple effects outside of science...

Patricia Gonsalves

Patricia Gonsalves is a professional archer who runs Lykopis archery school. She tells Inverse the discovery of real female warriors affects how she coaches.

Patricia Gonsalves

Patricia Gonsalves

She trained the archers for CW universe shows, including Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, and Riverdale.

Patricia Gonsalves

"When I teach young women in shows like Arrow, I bring up these characters. I talk to these young women and say ‘you’re going to own this.’"

Gonsalves working a scene for Season 8 of Arrow.

She also runs courses on women, weapons, and history centered around real-life, ancient female warriors.

"We’re opening up to the idea that there are female warriors, and I like to think that this is just a normal occurrence.”

-Patricia Gonsalves

Erica Anderson/Giphy

Read more about how new finds are rewriting history here.

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