5 Times 2020 Showed Women of the Ancient World Were Totally Awesome

Zenobia, a third-century queen od the Palmyrene Empire in Syria

Throughout history, women have been brave warriors, charismatic rulers, and shrewd strategists. Archeological discoveries in 2020 uncovered even more intriguing evidence from ancient times that prove women of that time were totally badass.

The Real-Life Mulan

The remains of the older warrior woman (left) and her husband, which were excavated from the Airagiin Gozgor archaeological site, in the Orkhon province of northern Mongolia.
It is believed that two women found in a grave in Mongolia dating back to the Xianbei period (147 to 552 A.D.) are the inspiration behind the famed “Ballad of Mulan,” which tells the story of a girl who took her father’s place to serve in the military. Since China didn’t have military conscription during that period, researchers believe it was these two Mongolian women who inspired the tale. The skeletal remains showed they were skilled horseback riders and archers who fought alongside men.

A Ruthless Mayan Queen & Her “White Road”

The white road built by mayan queen Lady K'awiil Ajaw
Recent analysis of the ancient “white road” connecting two ancient Mayan cities, Cobá and Yaxuná, in the Yucatán showed that the 1,000-year-old limestone passage might have been created by Lady K’awiil Ajaw, a powerful Mayan queen who sought to expand her regional power. Yaxuná was steadily growing and becoming a threat to the queen’s rule, so she decided to go forth into battle.

An Ancient Siberian Grave Sheds Light on Women Warriors

Some of metal grave goods found in the burial.
In a 2,500-year-old burial site in Siberia, archeologists found the body of a woman warrior together with her weapons stash including knives, bronze daggers, and an ax. The woman belonged to the ancient Tagar culture where being buried with long-range weapons was part of their burial customs.

Egyptian Women & Their Love Spells

A closeup of the papyrus showing the Egyptian jackal-headed god Anubis shooting Kephalas with an arrow.
In 2020, archeologists also uncovered a curious practice done by women in ancient Egypt – casting love spells on men. Up until that point, evidence showed that it was actually the men who would turn to spells to attract the woman they wanted. In a papyrus scroll, scientists found an “erotic binding spell” written about 1,800 years ago by a lovestruck woman named Taromeway. She wanted to enchant a man named Kephalas and drive him mad with lust for her. The spell called upon a ghost to hound him, and whether it worked is still a mystery.

Women Didn’t Just Collect Herbs and Plants

A depiction of a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer community
It has long been believed that in ancient hunter-gatherer societies, it was the men who acted as primary hunters while women collected fruits and herbs. A new discovery of a 9,000-year-old burial of a woman hunter began to challenge that belief. The grave in southern Peru contained a hunting toolkit near the skeleton, indicating that the person was a skilled hunter respected by society. Modern analysis of the bones showed that they belonged to a woman as opposed to a man, contrary to what was initially thought.