Archaeologists Keep Digging in the Wrong Place for Amazons
#1
   
There are times when I roll my eyes at the lack of critical thinking in the archaeology field. If they find a flat surface in an old hut they assume it must have been a ritualistic platform or an altar. If they find animals carved on walls they assume they must be representations of spirits or gods.

One of the most stunning oversights in modern archaeology is the history of Greek Amazon legends. Now, I'm not saying that Homer's poems are proof that an Amazon nation really existed around the end of the Greek Bronze Age. But articles like this recent story - where archaeologists are claiming that the Greek legends are based on Scythian women - perpetuate the New Amazon Myth.

LINK: Did the Amazon female warriors from Greek mythology really exist?

Although the article mentions Homer he is quickly left behind. Homer's descriptions of Troy and some events in the Trojan War have been proven incredibly accurate by archaeology. So why have archaeologists convinced themselves Homer must have been talking about Scythian women instead of the women warriors from northern Turkey he described?

The earliest finds of warrior woman graves in the Crimea were identified with the Sauromatae, a group of tribes who succeeded the Scythians. Herodotus says the Sauromatae were descended from Scythians who married Amazons. The Amazons were captured in a war with the Greeks but as they were being transported across the Black Sea they seized the ships and managed to land on the northern shores.

Herodotus' geography and descriptions of the Sauromatae are consistent with what archaeology has confirmed.

Now archaeologists have found graves with Scythian women warriors - but they haven't looked at the alleged place of origin for Amazon legends, a city now known as Samsun, Turkey. I wrote about this city in a 2013 blog post about the Vanyar and Noldor. Another blogger wrote about his visit to Samsun in 2014. The city identifies strongly with the Amazon legend, although that proves nothing.

Samsun sits just west of the Terme river, which local legends claim was originally named Thermodon. Samsun claims to be the modern-day descendant of Themyscira.

The geography of modern Samsun matches the geography described by the Greek writers.

And yet archaeologists refused to concede they haven't investigated Samsun.

The only way to fully investigate the ancient Greek stories of Amazons is to look where the Greeks said they lived. If no evidence of such ancient cultures can be found, then the Scythian Theory is strengthened. But for now it represents one of the worst cases of confirmation bias in modern archaeological literature.

Now, the problem here could be a mix of lack of scientific investigation by western archaeologists and ignorance in the western media. Turkish archaeologists acknowledge the Samsun claims but they also concede they haven't done adequate field work to investigate the claims.

Discussion of these claims has been left to travelers' guides and local museum curators. The only western books I can find that mention the theory were written by Lyn Webster Wilde, a broadcaster and (apparently) New Age theorist who reports having discussed the claims with a museum curator in Samsun. But I haven't read her books, which seem to wander all over the map. At best she only point to the lack of investigation of the Samsun legends.

After years of reading about the archaeology of Scythia (in both academic papers and the media) I'm fascinated by what we've learned about their culture (validating much of what the ancient writers attributed to the Scythians). But I'm also disappointed that so many archaeologists appear to be so poorly educated in Greek mythology and literature that they don't even mention the Anatolian origins for the Amazon legends - or may only casually dismiss the idea of such an origin as "falsified" without so much as a footnote pointing to any archaeological texts detailing efforts to look at Bronze Age cultures in the area.

I'm not promising anyone would find anything. All I'm saying is that you can't claim a theory or legend is "falsified" if there has been little to no investigation into its claims. Nor can you say, "Well, we found evidence of warrior women in the Ukraine and Crimea so that must mean the Greeks were off by hundreds of miles with their geography." That is completely absurd.

The Greeks had plenty of myths but they also took great care to differentiate between what they considered to be verified, confirmable history and stories they couldn't confirm (what we call Greek myths).

It's a shame few western writers seem to be aware of the Turkish claims or to care to mention them when writing about Scythian archaeology.
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