While doing research for my second novel about a 2500 year old mummified and ornately tattooed Pazyryk “ice princess” and the archeological team that finds her at the borderlands straddling Mongolia, Russia, and China, I’ve come across some fascinating and timely reads.
Adrienne Mayor’s The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World is a foray into the ancient history of nomadic steppe cultures at the crossroads of Eurasia. Making new connections between the archeological record and writings of sources like Herodotus, Mayor sheds new light on “Amazons” – the fearless, tattooed Eurasian women on horseback who rode into battle from the east alongside their menfolk (and often without them) and challenged the social order and sensibilities of classical Greece, Rome, and China.
Set several centuries later, Jack Weatherford’s The Secret History of Mongol Queens bears witness to the role of Genghis Khan’s female descendants in saving a fractured nation and reestablshing humane cultural norms. Weatherford’s descriptions of these women and their leadership makes me wish I could vote for Queen Manduhai the Wise in 2020!
These are hopeful and inspiring reads in an increasingly uncertain world of shifting international allegiances and influence. The underlying message that the survival and flourishing of a people and culture is only guaranteed when their women hold equal sway, power, responsibilities, and rights as their men is a timeless lesson of history.