New DNA Analysis Reveals Ancient Scythian Warrior Was a 13-Year-Old Girl
Ancient remains of a suspected “Amazon warrior” have been identified as a girl no older than 13 years old. The 2,600-year-old teenager is also said to have a visible wart and a range of war-like grave goods.
The remains of the warrior — who had a wart on her face — were found at Saryg-Bulun, in the Tuva republic, in 1988 and assumed to have belonged to a young man.
However, genetic analysis revealed that the partially-mummified corpse — which was wrapped in a fur coat — was nothing of the sort.
According to experts, the ‘stunning’ revelation brings to mind ancient accounts of the skilled and ruthless young female warriors of the Scythian civilisation.
These nomadic people — famed for their mastery of mounted warfare — arose in southern Siberia and lived between around 900–200 BC.
The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates — who lived from around 460–370 BC — wrote of the Scythians that ‘their women — so long as they are virgins — ride, shoot [arrows], throw the javelin while mounted, and fight with their enemies.’
‘They do not lay aside their virginity until they have killed three of their enemies, and they do not marry before they have performed the traditional sacred rites.’
The remains of the partially mummified warrior — believed to be aged 12 or 13 — were found in the mountainous Tuva republic in southern Siberia in 1988, at which time experts classified the remains of being that of young man.
It is only recently that the mummy underwent palaeogenetic analysis at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology — and this identification was overturned.
‘It was so stunning when we just opened the lid and I saw the face there, with that wart, looking so impressive,’ said archaeologist Marina Kilunovskaya of the St Petersburg Institute of Material History Culture.
The young warrior — dressed in a leather cap and a below-the-knee, double-breasted, patchwork coat made from the fur of a rodent known as a jerboa — was first discovered in 1988 by Dr Kilunovskaya and her colleague Vladimir Semyonov.
At that time there had been no doubt that the remains were that of a young male, she explained.
The prepubescent warrior was buried with a complete set of weapons — including an axe with a long wooden handle, a one-metre bow made of birch and a quiver with ten arrows, each some 27.5 inches (70 centimetres) in length.
According to the Siberian Times, the young fighter had ‘a choice of arrows — two were wooden, one had a bone tip and the arrowheads of the rest were bronze.’
The grave bore no indications — such as the presence of beads or mirrors — that it might have belonged to a young woman, with the archaeologists now admitting that they were wrong-footed by their gender stereotyping.
‘We were recently offered the chance to undertake tests to determine the sex, age and genetic affiliation of the buried warrior,’ Dr Kilunovskaya told the Siberian Times.
‘We agreed with pleasure and got such a stunning result.’
‘The burial of the child, with weapons, introduces a new touch to the social structure of early nomadic society,’ said Dr Kilunovskaya. ‘This discrepancy in the norms of the funeral rite received an unexpected explanation.’
‘Firstly, the young man turned out to be a girl — and this young “Amazon” had not yet reached the age of 14 years.’