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Warrior Women: An Archaeologist's Search for…

Warrior Women: An Archaeologist's Search for History's Hidden Heroines

by Jeannine Davis-Kimball, Mona Behan

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I enjoyed Warrior Women, but it was also frustrating in some ways - she only talks about areas that she's had personal experience with, such as the Chinese mummies, which didn't really fit with the "Hidden Heroine" topic. The title also lead me to believe that the book was mainly about, well, warrior women. In reality, they only made up one chapter, maybe two if you count the chapter on the Amazons, whom have no evidence of actually existing but were probably made up based on stories of foreign women to keep Greek women in line.

The book also only covers Eurasia. In the second to last page, she mentions that an ancient North African kingdom trained women as bodyguards. Why not more information?

I think part of the brevity is the lack of information on general. Really, all we know about the ancient warrior women in the steppes was that they existed. Their nomadic tribes didn't have any written language, so all the evidence comes from burial goods. Plus, the presence of women buried with weapons was ignored for many years by the archaeological establishment.

Still, the book did contain some fascinating tidbits and was easy to read. I would recommend it as an introduction to the topic. It gave me other avenues to explore in my reading. ( )
  pwaites | May 27, 2014 |
This book is awesome sauce. Jeannine Davis-Kimball's interestingly written and amazingly information Warrior Women: An Archaeologist's Search for History's Hidden Heroines was just what I needed to get me out of my all YAL SFF, all the time rut.

Davis-Kimball came to archaeology late in life - or at least later than the norm as she had already had a "life" prior - but man did she attack her new career with awesome dedication. The woman impressed me almost as much as the book, and that's saying something as I found the book very impressive.

Davis-Kimball's focus on powerful women in history is the result of her work with Eurasian burial grounds. During her digs in the steppes, she, quite literally, unearthed evidence of egalitarian societies, of women warriors and priestesses, of powerful (to use today's vernacular) housewives and mothers. And she uncovered for me - what was probably not surprising to her - that patriarchal societies (including the modern one) actively work to suppress evidence suggesting that women were anything more than subordinate to men. Ever. Even today, our powerful women throughout history are presented as out of the ordinary, as uncharacteristic and commendable examples of womanhood, as ones who rose above their allotted space. Turns out that space may have been allotted much later in our history than previously imagined; then again, we seem to operate under the assumption that women were (are) inferior from the very beginnings of time, so maybe that's not saying much.

While primarily interested in the role of women in Eurasian nomadic societies, her discoveries with these cultures led her to Western cultures also as archaeological evidence quite clearly suggests the two societies were in contact - even blended living spaces. Caucasoid mummies have been found in China, and religious and cultural iconography and even clothing styles appear in both Eurasian and Western digs. Yeah, stuff like this geeks me out. The idea of two cultures so removed from each other geographically meeting and sharing is just freaking awesome. It's not like travel was easy-peasy back then, and it takes some serious balls to wander into the unknown with very little and no real way back.

I could regale you with tale after tale, with fact after fact; the book is brimming with interesting tidbits that are both entertaining and insightful. I even started marking pages so I could add in this or that fact to the review. But I marked so many pages that I realized the best thing I could do would be to urge you to read this on your own.

The writing here is accessible, academic, and narrative; Davis-Kimball's voice is relatable, and I enjoyed listening to her (figuratively speaking). And there are sidebars and footnotes - which I love. Unreasonably so to be honest. I have a thing for sidebars and footnotes, and the ones in this book are certainly worthy of my love.

My only issue with the book concerned the structure. There is very little regard to chronology, and at times, 'what came first' actually is an issue. Placing the discoveries in context is important for a comprehensive view, and very little of that occurs here. It's almost as if I am being given chunks of information which I have to piece together myself to see the big picture. For someone very unfamiliar with the topic, this is not exactly easy, and I would have preferred a bit more in the way of organization.

Overall though, I so thoroughly enjoyed reading Warrior Women that I'm 80% sure I am going to break my new rule regarding donating books I've already read. Yep, I may have to keep this one on my shelves. Bad me. ( )
  EclecticEccentric | Feb 23, 2014 |
Interesting topic and I definitely gained knowledge from reading it. But don't believe the promotional material. Its a fairly dry and direct account of a series of archeological digs. Very much like any number of other monographs written by any number of other archeologists it just happens that this one is about burials of some high status women which include weapons. It still reads like a dig report. Pretty interesting report, and like I say I enjoyed it once I got past expecting to see anything even vaguely resembling what the blurb lead me to expect. ( )
  bunwat | Mar 30, 2013 |
Women, Prehistoric > Russia (Federation) >/Pokrovka Region (Orenburgskaëiìa oblast§)/Women, Prehistoric > Eurasia/Women > History > To 500/Women heroes > Russia (Federation) > Pokrovka/Region (Orenburgskaëiìa oblast§) > History/Women heroes > Eurasia > History/Human remains (Archaeology) > Russia/(Federation) > Pokrovka Region (Orenburgskaëiìa o/Human remains (Archaeology) > Eurasia/Pokrovka Region (Orenburgskaëiìa oblast§, Russia)/> Antiquities/Eurasia > Antiquities
  Budzul | May 31, 2008 |
An interesting look at ancient warrior-priestesses through an archaeologist's eyes. Davis-Kimball connects Mongol, Caucasian and Celtic societies through their art and symbolic treatment of the female form, showing that, even in supposedly rigorously patriarchal societies, that there was still a major role for strong females. An enjoyable read, peppered with historical vignettes and photos from ancient sites. ( )
1 vote Meggo | Sep 17, 2006 |
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Jeannine Davis-Kimballprimary authorall editionscalculated
Behan, Monamain authorall editionsconfirmed
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"I read [history] a little as a duty,

but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me.

The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page;

the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all..."

--Catherine Morland, in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (1817)
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In his Risala, the tenth-century Islamic historian Ibn Fadlan reported that the Viking women he encountered in his travels on the Volga "wore neck rings [status-symbol torques] of gold and silver" and that "each women wears on either breast a box of iron, silver, copper, or gold; the value of the box indicates the wealth of her husband." The richest, he noted, were festooned with much-prized colored beads or large oval brooches from which dangled knives, keys, and combs.

Strength and physical fitness were prized equally in women, and even Ibn Fadlan, who deplored many of the customs of these people he termed "coarse infidels," had to admit that he had "never seen such perfect physical specimens, tall as date palms, blonde and ruddy."
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0446679836, Paperback)

Was Herodotus's account of the Amazons fact or fiction? Archaeologist Jeannine Davis-Kimball, in Warrior Women, an account of her digs at burial sites of Eurasian nomads, finds it an embellishment of the former. But, she posits, women's place in that world was generally more exalted than previously thought.

Nearly one-quarter of the women buried in some late Iron Age sites were either warriors or priestesses. Even the remainder, "hearth women," were important players in the tribes' surprisingly egalitarian societies. Further, southern Kazakhstan's famous "gold man" was in fact, a "gold woman." Davis-Kimball also finds solid evidence of "high status" women in graves as far east as China and as far west as Ireland.

Warrior Women is, thankfully, free of lazy sensationalism. But it is frustratingly organized, with little regard to either chronology or geography. Further, Davis-Kimball never places her finds in any sort of context, be it popular or scholarly. --H. O'Billovitch

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:47 -0400)

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Weaves science, mythology and mystical cultures into a bold new historical tapestry of female warriors.

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