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Life Arts    H4'ed 9/17/14

Inked Amazons: Passionate Warrior Women Who Loved Cannabis, Battle-axes, Booty & Bling

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In the fifth century B.C., the Greek historian Herodotus traveled to Scythian territory. An adventurous spirit, he nosed about, later writing lengthy passages on these fascinating nomads. For centuries, his remarks about the Scythians, especially their weird methods of cleansing and their enthusiastic use of cannabis sativa, were scoffed at by historians and researchers. That is, until archaeologists doing field work ran across unmistakable, pungent-smelling objects in the Pazyryk kurgan graves they were excavating.

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Herodotus had described the intoxication ritual as taking place inside a lean-to made of wooden stakes wrapped in felt or woolen cloth, where a fire burned in a brazier filled with stones. In his words, "The Scythians take the seeds of this cannabis, creep beneath the wood covering the stakes, and throw the seeds onto the blazing-hot stones within. When the seeds hit the stones, they produce smoke and give off a vapor such as no steam bath in Hellas could surpass. The Scythians howl, awed and elated by the vapor."

Did warrior women whoop it up and enjoy such rituals too? Indeed they did; pot paraphernalia in the form of (used) hemp-burning kits were discovered in all of the graves, male and female, in the Altai region.

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In several of my Uppity Women books, I wrote briefly about Teuta, the Illyrian queen whose in-your-face piracy in the Mediterranean basin gave the Romans fits during the third century B.C. In her thorough coverage of historical warrior women in the Amazon tradition, author Mayor does a magnificent job of expanding on the queen's story, showing what a major player Queen Teuta must have been.

As Mayor notes, "Her raiders terrorized the Adriatic, looting, taking captives, and attacking cities at will. By 230 B.C. they were venturing into the Ionian Sea and the Mediterranean, further disrupting Roman and Greek sea trade."

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In 2012, Teuta's talents as a piratical CEO were confirmed by archaeologists, when a Polish team found the biggest third century B.C. gold coin hoard ever unearthed: 4,656 coins. Plus other valuables, including a gold signet ring whose carved gem of crimson agate carried a portrait of Artemis, the goddess associated with the Amazons and worshipped by the Illyrians as well.

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Vicki Leon, author of over 35 nonfiction books on women's history, ancient history, and travel, along with pictorial books for younger readers on wildlife and earth's fragile habitats, lives on the California coast but often returns to her favorite (more...)
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