Throughout history, women have been fighters, strategists and charismatic leaders, performing feats of strength, cunning and bravery. And in 2020, archaeologists uncovered intriguing evidence from the past showing that women didn’t hesitate to kick butt and take names. From hoisting a spear to hurling a vengeful spell, here are six times that women from antiquity showed us that they were not to be trifled with.
Inspiration for ‘Mulan’
Two women — one about 50 years old and the other about 20 — who were buried in Mongolia during the Xianbei period (A.D. 147 to 552) possibly inspired the famed “Ballad of Mulan,” about a girl who served in the military in her father’s place. Though the Ballad of Mulan was first transcribed by Chinese writers, tales of her brave deeds may have originated in what is now Mongolia; she is described in the ballad as serving the “khan,” a term reserved for Mongolian leaders, and China did not have military conscription at the time, the researchers said. The Mongolian women’s skeletal remains revealed that they were expert archers and horseback riders, and they likely fought alongside men.
Big game hunter
A 9,000-year-old burial of a female hunter sparked an investigation upending the long-held notion that men were the primary hunters in ancient hunter-gather societies, while women were relegated to collecting herbs and plants. When researchers excavated the grave in the Andes Mountains in southern Peru, they found a hunting “toolkit” near the skeleton containing multiple projectile weapons, hinting that the person was a skilled hunter and respected as such by their community. Though the remains were initially thought to belong to a man, further analysis of the bones and teeth revealed that the hunter was female.
“These findings sort of underscore the idea that the gender roles that we take for granted in society today — or that many take for granted — may not be as natural as some may have thought,” said lead author Randy Haas, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of California, Davis.
A paved 1,000-year-old limestone road connecting two ancient Mayan cities may have been built by a ruthless queen named Lady K’awiil Ajaw, so that she could expand her regional power. She ruled in Cobá in what is now Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, and archaeologists recently reported that the Mayan queen constructed the road…