24. Warrior Women: An Archaeologist’s Search for History’s Hidden Heroines, Jeannine Davis-Kimball with Mona Behan (2003)
Newsflash: women are awesome. Ancient women were awesome deluxe.
The discovery of a warrior-priestess decked out in gold, resting in a kurgan (burial mound) on the Eurasian steppes kicks off this book. What role did these women play in their tribes? Why did they get such decorated burials? Demolishing the theory that if a body is found with weapons or mystical objects it was automatically assumed to be male, this book explores what these warrior women were up to in ancient times. From China to parts of Greece (While the structure of democracy bloomed in Athens, the women were second-class citizens, as opposed to the fierce daughters of Sparta) to Ireland, women and a full or partial matriarchy were really important. Time and male historians, both secular and religious, have obscured most of these heroines into weaklings or cautionary tales about how an independent woman is a ruined woman.
Davis-Kimball also is really respectful of the role “hearth women” played as opposed to the warrior-priestesses. (Which are not mutually exclusive, by the way) Hearth women were the Demeters, the nurturers, and they were very important in their communities, especially when the men were off fighting wars.
Was life better for women during the way-back-when times? Who can say—what this book does speak about is that women held high positions spiritually, and the power of fertility and reproduction were integral to the beliefs of ancient peoples.