“The thing about tourism is that the reality of a place is quite | ifferent from the mythology of it. “Martin Parr
Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian, Ph.D.
Since the poet Homer of Iona (800 B.C. – 701 B.C.) of epic adventures of the Iliad and Odyssey, the intriguing stories of Amazon warriors have ignited the imagination of the ancient world. Their fascinating personalities and unorthodox lifestyles have been woven into many myths and legends in action-packed poems of the Iliad. The Greeks have popularized the mythology of a tribe of women who supposedly hated men and lived without them in their territory in the Sipone, the Pontus area of the Black Sea of the Anatolian peninsula, immediately northwest of the Armenian Highlands. For procreation, the Amazon women would spend the night with Gargangean tribe of only men and then return to their home in the morning. They would keep a female baby and either kill the male baby or return it to its father.
Geographers now call Ancient Near East
as Eurasia, which has served as a bridge between Europe and Asia, absorbing the
influence of both continents by blending distinct cultures of its own. Many
scholars now consider Armenia as the birthplace of civilization based on a
number of vital recent archeological evidence along the Euphrates River. While
today the majority of its people are Muslim and speak Turkish, not too long
ago, it was populated by the aborigine Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians.
Homer called Near East a “land of dreams,” for having a rich history that often blends fact with myth. In the vast east, amid the majestic mountain ranges of Armenia, reigns supreme the iconic Mount Ararat, the reputed resting place of Noah’s Ark after the Biblical Flood 4,358 years ago (in 2,348 B.C.). A few miles from Europe, on Anatolia’s western shores stood Troy, the site of the legendary Trojan War. And to the north of the peninsula, along the coast of the Black Sea, lay the fabled land of the Amazons, the mythical tribe of fierce female warriors, captivating the admiration of the ancient as well as the modern world.
The Amazon warriors fought in the
legendary Trojan War and their grand army invaded Athens. They fought against the
greatest Greek champions such as Hercules, Theseus, and Achilles. The news of
their impending attack used to send shock waves through empires. They inspired
fear into the mightiest of all kings. These were the beautiful, horse-riding,
bow- and-arrow wielding warriors to be respected by any worthy adversary.
Herodotus, Plato, and Strabo never
doubted their existence and their stories. Thousands and thousands articles and
books have been written about the Amazon warriors. Amazon-like warriors featured in the stories
of various countries such as Egypt, Persia, Middle East, Central Asia, China,
and very recently in Armenia. Of the prior discoveries of graves of supposedly
Amazon warriors, none had the trappings of a true Amazon warrior who had to
show serious wounds from having been engaged in battles. To cash in on the
popularity of this creature, Hollywood has made innumerable movies about them,
especially the latest one being the popular Wonder
Woman (Lynda Carter) TV shows and WW84 Wonder Woman Movie.
After a brief introduction to the
recent discovery of an Amazon warrior buried in Armenia, some of its important
implications of this Godsend gift will be discussed.
While fossils of female warriors have
been unearthed elsewhere in Eurasia, but none had convincing aspects for being
an Amazon warrior until in 2017 in Armenia they found the remains of a young
female warrior. interred with her weapons and jewelry. She had a number of
battle wounds such as in her knee from an arrow shot and was apparently axed to
death in combat.
well-known German researcher of Hittite History, named Friedrich Cornelius, has
suggested that the term Amazon is formed by the word Am – a popular word for
mother or woman (also in Hittite language) – in combination with the name of
the land Azzi (proto-Armenia) , so Amazon means Woman of the
Azzi (of Hayassa-Azzi kingdom).
In 2017, Dr. Anahit
Khudaverdyan, an accomplished archaeologist, and her colleagues of the National
Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia announced the breaking news that
they had discovered the grave of a 5ft 5in tall injured female warrior in her
20s who had died during the Iron Age. Based on the wounds to her skeleton, she
may have been the kind of Amazon warrior about which the ancient Greeks have
The skeleton of a 3000 year old woman
was found at the Bover I necropolis near the town of Shnogh (means “abundant
soil” in Armenian) in the Lori province (marz) in a flexed manner with
ceramic vessels and jewelry, dating 8th to 6th century B.C. On account of her
jewelry, she was at first thought to be a high-status member of society. Bover
used to be a place for animals to shelter in winter, close to world-renowned
Haghpat and Sanahin monasteries.
Later on, scars on this woman’s strong
and injured bones suggested that the remains of this ancient woman are those of
a legendary Amazon warrior. The type of woman who had captured the admiration
of the ancient Greeks was held in wonderment.
The sheer lionization of these fierce warriors continued all the way to
Upon inspection of her body, the
researchers concluded that she was a trained archer adapted to drawing a bow
across her chest. Moreover, her thigh bones were quite well developed with muscles,
perhaps due to special military training activities such as horse riding. An
iron arrowhead was found, lodged in her left knee that had healed long before
her death. In addition to this injury, the woman’s left hip and right thigh
bone showed chop marks and a stab wound in her left lower leg. She must have
been axed to death. All these wounds indicate that she must have suffered many
different kinds of cuts before her death in battle. The archaeologists think
they have finally found a real Amazon warrior.
Accordingly, here are some of
the salient implications of this important find for Armenia and for those who are
interested to know and appreciate the existence of the Amazon warriors of
The implication of the find of the
Amazon warrior grave in Armenia is crucial since it is in the territory the
Greeks have known them to live. Every country has had female warriors, every
country has had tomboys, and every country has had a program to train their
females against the marauding nomadic people of mostly Turkic and Mongolian origin
exploding from the Central Asia steppes. Constant vigil for marauders for plunder
was more frequent and widespread in those days.
These females should not be confused with the Amazon warriors. The
Greeks for generations have written about them as living in the Black Sea area
in the close vicinity of Greater Armenian Kingdom. Therefore, the Amazon
warriors may have also inhabited the Armenian Highlands.
Another implication of the find in
Armenia is that the Armenian archeologists claim to have found a necropolis, not a single grave as other
countries did, were cemetery, especially an ancient historical burying ground.
While any graveyard can be loosely called necropolis, but the word is best used
to describe a very large burying ground made up of tombs or the ancient grave
site of a famous or powerful historical figure just like the pyramid at Giza
(in Egypt) is located in a necropolis of pharos. In Latin, necropolis literally
means “a city of the dead,” from the Greek burial site Nekropolis. Armenia has found a necropolis rather than a
grave of one or two female warriors of the past. As excavations proceed, it is
expected to find more skeletons of Amazon warriors in the designated necropolis
of Amazon warriors.
Myth or fact, the implication is that the
Amazon warriors have captivated the imagination of many ancient writers, notably
of Homer who included them in the legendary Trojan wars. Since the time of
Homer, stories told of fierce warriors dwelling beyond the Mediterranean world,
striking fear in the mighty empires of antiquity. Amazon warriors may very well
been an abstraction, its absolute power, combat capability, and independence of
men, have had a definite appeal to the ego of the feminists. As a result, there
are many people who would like to see a certainty as to where these brave and
capable soldiers lived and died.
As for Armenia, the implication is
very simple. The find is a real Godsend gift to this tiny country that can
benefit immensely from visitors to the necropolis of Amazon warriors. Imagine a
promotional statement like: Visit Bover I in Armenia to see the real Amazon
warriors’ necropolis. This presents a real window of opportunity to offer
tourists sites in Armenia other than beautiful ancient churches and
monasteries; enchanting landscape; great food and drinks; and unforgettable
hospitality of warm, welcoming people ready to accommodate their guests.
The Amazon warrior is one of the major
unsolved mysteries of the world. There is unbridled curiosity about Amazon
warriors whether they existed and, in fact, were brave and capable soldiers.
Women as well as men would like to see these mysteries unraveled once for all.
Therefore, there would be an abundance of people waiting to visit Armenia if
the site is properly promoted to the archeological tourist. Armenia is also
home to the oldest winery, the oldest leather shoes, the oldest stone tools,
etc. in the world. A travel package deal
will be very attractive.
following three strategies should enable an archeological site to be successful
in attracting visitors and will put Shnogh town on the world map as a
destination to see a real Amazon warrior: Make the site come alive, make the
site relevant, and make it an exciting experience through narrative.
the Site Come Alive. Archaeological sites suffer from being filled with collapsed
columns, broken statues, and scattered skeletons. It would be hard for visitors
to interact with the “dead”. Therefore, we need to challenge them
with interactivity to inject some enthusiasm in them before they become bored.
We need to find ways to add beauty, to appeal to the senses, to create
aesthetic pleasures, and to make pleasant memories.
would agree, ideas have changed the world; let some ideas change Armenia as
well for the better. First off, let us place the picture of an Amazon warrior
in action on a horse-back as though in combat at the airport in Yerevan (the
capital city of Armenia) to generate excitement and anticipation of visiting
the site. At the archeological site (Bover I), have a young girl on a horse
back in an Amazon warrior costume, carrying the same kind of weapons, wearing
the replicas of jewelry, and attired scantly in leather slit skirts would add
ambience to the site. Additionally, put a platform for the visitors to mount
the horse to sit behind the Amazon girl for a photo op. Naturally, sugar daddy
Diaspora could finance a canopy over part of the necropolis as a shelter for
the find and the tourists.
girl could be dressed up as Wonder Woman
as a volunteer docent. Other ideas include rubber arrows for the kids
to use at a target; an Amazon life-size warrior photo stand-in (also called a
face-in-the hole board, photo cutout board or comic foreground) is a large
board with an Amazon warrior archer image printed on it and that has one or
more holes cut out where people can stick their face through the board for
humorous effect and photo ops; and, finally, distribute free Amazon warrior
bands and bandanas for all to wear and take home with them as small souvenirs.
It would be a great idea to bring the
warrior’s skeleton to life by recreating the possible physical appearance of
the girl based on her bones and imputed muscles. For the missing parts, CT
(computerized tomography) can help create a virtual 3D image and then a plastic
cast is made of her life-size body. With a promotional slogan and tagline like
“See the real Amazing Amazon warrior in all her glory of strength and
beauty.” Millions and millions of people would like to see “a
real” Amazon woman.
Make the Site Relevant. In the 21st century,
modern culture of the world predominantly views time as linear. What is passed
is passed, but we want to attract more visitors to an ancient site, then we
want to make the past relevant. Values such as courage, competition,
intelligence, beauty, honesty, etc. have not changed throughout history. They
just need to be re-interpreted to become relevant again.
to the concept of relevancy for an archaeological site or complex is the notion
of what mattered in the past with what is popular at the present. Women have
always been strong, look at Wonder Woman,
the “descendant” of the Amazon warriors. Throughout history, perhaps
woman have always wanted to be treated equally, tacitly, if not vociferously.
This wish has not been the product of the 19th or the 20th century alone. As in
the past, modern women are still fighting for recognition.
Amazon warriors symbolize the quest for acceptance, respect, and equality.
These women warriors have inspired the strong and capable Amazon warrior myths.
In recent years, new archaeological finds such as in Armenia substantiate the
fact they existed. Although they were not a matriarchal society, the ancient
people of Armenia lived within a social order that was more accepting and
accommodating the female members than our current society does. History has it that in the Armenian society of
the past, many wives have taken arms to fight along their husbands in battle
against the enemy. Then as now, the quest of the Amazon warriors are as
relevant to today’s society as it was to ancient people.
it a Narrative. Visitors to
archeological sites are usually confronted with dates, facts, and statistics of
the finds. Very few people would remember them and find them interesting.
Therefore, storytelling is the best approach to introducing the finds. To make the site more attractive, we should
capitalize on the power of storytelling which is the most memorable method of
communication known to humankind.
we analyze the language used by museums, we notice that they systematically
focus on the explanation, almost entirely ignoring the experience. Research
shows that people remember information when it is woven into narratives
“up to 22 times more than facts alone”. A story is nothing but facts
“wrapped into emotions”. The Armenian archeologist Dr. Anahit Khudaverdyan tells the story
of the Amazon warrior how she got wounded and killed rather than just resorting
to explanation of dates, facts, and statistics.
That is why we remember stories far more efficiently than facts alone.
It behooves all Armenians to make the Armenian Amazon warrior find an exciting
experience through narrative so people would remember and want to see her one
of these days when COVID-19 virus bids
goodbye to the world.
As women of the world feel to be
misrepresented, misjudged, and even maligned in the areas of human power and
capabilities, they are hungry for equality with men. When it comes to gender,
they have been rated as second class citizens. Compared to men, women have been
the prohibitive underdogs. Perhaps Homer wanted to elevate the image of the
female underdog. As a result, he must have created the strong, brave and
capable Amazon warriors. Homer or whoever wrote the epic poems of the Iliad,
must have been a person of high moral standards for he or she had represented
women as brave, capable, beautiful, and endowed with big hearts of a warrior.
Sophocles (in Electra) said: “Remember: women may not be too weak to
strike a blow.”
Ironically, if Homer would come to
visit us today, he would be appalled to see how the vast majority women of the
world are being treated –as inferior to men. The world still holds the same
attitudes toward women that they belong in the kitchen, serve in the bedroom, and
take care of children. Forty percent (40%) of the world women are not supposed
to show their faces in public. Is this a progress or regress from the days of
the Glory that was Greece?! You be the judge of it.
In sum, Armenia has produced evidence
of the women warriors that must have inspired the Amazon warrior myths. The
archaeological find of a young woman representing a true Amazon warrior is a
Godsend gift to Shenogh town in Armenia for the iron-age gift that won’t stop
giving. What is more, these warriors have universal appeal around the world for
they are apolitical and non-religious figures whose stories have entertained us
for many, many years. Additionally, they are not exactly inconspicuous flowers
on long stems, so to speak. Ancient Greek mythologists and sculptures have
represented the Amazon females as being tall, strong, and quite head turners
into the bargain. Men as well as women like to see beautiful women. They are a
thing of admiration and beauty on the sexy side of the equation. There is a
pent up demand to see a real one.
As you know, the travel and tourism
industry is the lifeblood of many economies around the world. In the 21st century,
tourism has become the biggest industry in the world. Shnogh town will become
an archeological paradise destination with researchers finding thousands of
treasures to put this humble town on the list of tour agents –for tourists
will beat a path to see the Amazon warriors. From Yerevan, it is only 69 miles
(111 Km) north of the capital city. Perhaps, we should even change the name of
Shnogh to Amazon City or nickname it as such. UNESCO treasures of Haghpat and
Sanahin monasteries in the beautiful wooded area of Lori province (marz), and
the Godsend gift of Amazon warriors in the nearby town of Shnogh will put Armenia
on the world map for archeological tourism.