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2,500-year-old ‘Wonder Woman’ found on Greek vase

The painting is drawn on a white-ground pyxis, a cylindrical box with a lid that was used by women to keep either cosmetics or jewelry. The image itself is of an Amazon warrior on horseback, in battle against a Greek warrior.

Furthering the intrigue, the Amazon, much like DC Comics Wonder Woman, is preparing to throw her lasso over the Greek warrior, who is crouching down behind his shield. It is definitely a battle scene.

National Book Award finalist, Adrienne Mayor, a research scholar at Stanford University’s departments of classics and history of science, told Discovery News the significance of the vase: “It is the only ancient artistic image of an Amazon using a lariat in battle.”

This pyxis is made of clay and depicting a hand was transferred to the National Museum in Warsaw fro...

This pyxis is made of clay and depicting a hand was transferred to the National Museum in Warsaw from Gołuchów Castle in 1941. It was dated to the 4th century BC.
nonymous (Athens)

Mayor discovered the vase while doing research for her 2014 book, “The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World.” Mayor says the image was created between 480 and 450 B.C. in Athens.

“The vase would have held a Greek woman’s intimate make-up or jewelry. The images on the box suggest that women enjoyed scenes of Amazons getting the best of male Greek warriors,” Mayor said.

According to Mayor, the picture on the vase is both erotic and subversive, yet it tells us that the painter and the audience were familiar with descriptions of horse-riding Scythian warrior women using lariats in battle. Many ancient Greek and Roman historians have given us descriptions of Amazon warrior women in battle, using their lariats.

Amazonomachia (fight between Greeks and Amazons)  relief of a sarcophagus (ca. 180 AC)  found in Sal...

Amazonomachia (fight between Greeks and Amazons), relief of a sarcophagus (ca. 180 AC), found in Salonica 1836 (see Louvre: Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Roman Art).
Anonymous (Greece)

Amazons in ancient times – Myth or fact?
Our old friend, the Greek historian Herodotus wrote about the women warriors, calling them Androktones (“killers of men”). He also said that in the Scythian language they were called Oiorpata, which he asserted had this meaning. But there were a lot of myths, inspired by the women’s fierceness in battle

Some myths claimed the women had their left breast removed or burned off, all so that they were better able to handle the bow. Other stories recounted the Amazons taking men as slaves in their female kingdom, using the men as breeding stock, and killing any males born of their sexual encounters. But these are myths and have mostly been disproved by historians and archeologists.

Prof. Adrienne Mayor of Stanford visited Google s Cambridge  MA office to discuss her book   The Ama...

Prof. Adrienne Mayor of Stanford visited Google’s Cambridge, MA office to discuss her book, “The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World”. It is the first comprehensive account of warrior women in myth and history across the ancient world, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Great Wall of China.
Talks at Google

Herodotus had a more realistic understanding of the Amazons, though. In the Herodotus Histories 4.110.1-117.1, the historian gives an account of how the Amazons and Scythian tribes came to intermarry, forming an unheard of type of marriage where equality of the sexes was the primary objective, even in battle.

Herodotus reported the Sarmatians were descendants of Amazons and Scythians. He wrote, “No girl shall wed till she has killed a man in battle.” And if Herodotus is to be believed, the Sarmatians fought with the Scythians against Darius the Great in the 5th century BCE.

These nomadic tribes migrated from central Asia to southern Russia, centering over the present day Crimean peninsula, in the 8th and 7th centuries BC. The tribes were artistic, violent, and masterful horsemen and women. Most of their mounts were the Przewalski’s horse, a native of the Eurasian Steppes, averaging only 13 hands at the shoulder.

Amazon warrior women were the 2 500-year-old predecessors of today s Wonder Woman.

Amazon warrior women were the 2,500-year-old predecessors of today’s Wonder Woman.
Paul Dini and Alex Ross / DC Comics

Amazonian warriors did exist in Ancient times
When we are faced with myth and the writings of ancient historians, we sometimes wonder which version is real, knowing full well that history is often colored by the writer himself. But Mayor argues that “even if it is not literally true in all its particulars, it is still broadly true.”

The facts say there really were Amazon women warriors. Almost 37 percent of graves in burial mounds, or kurgans, found in Eurasian archeological digs contain the bones and weapons of warrior women who fought alongside men. “Arrows, used for hunting and battle, are the most common weapons buried with women, but swords, daggers, spears, armor, shields, and sling stones are also found,” says Mayor.

Soviet Sniper Roza Shanina  holding a 1891/30 Mosin–Nagant with the 3.5x PU scope. 1944. She is cr...

Soviet Sniper Roza Shanina, holding a 1891/30 Mosin–Nagant with the 3.5x PU scope. 1944. She is credited with 54 confirmed hits during WWII.

Archaeology Magazine had an article in 1997 entitled Warrior Women of Eurasia, written by Jeannine Davis-Kimball. In it the author described 50 ancient kurgans found near the town of Pokrovka, Russia, near the Kazakhstan border. Many of the graves of females had more artifacts than some of the men, including one burial mound that contained the skeletons of six horses, all with their saddles and reins, as well as some wearing a stag headdress, obviously a favored steed.

Today, women warriors are everywhere, but they are not Amazons. They are everyday women, soldiers, rangers, police officers and more. They often carry a weapon to work and return home to take care of a family. Like the ancient Amazon women, they do have a connection, at least in one way. They fight alongside men, in war and in keeping the peace.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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