Episode 1

Equality and the Amazon Myth

Professor Ian Hodder, Stamford University

Ian Hodder at Catalhoyuk

Ian Hodder at Catalhoyuk

“Catalhoyuk is evidence that you could have a society in which, whether you’re a man or a woman, it didn’t matter very much in terms of the sort of social role you can play, and that seems very different from our society.”

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Professor Leonid Yablonsky, Moscow Institute of Archaeology:

“In Scythian society women played extremely varied roles. In addition to being responsible for the home, they and not the men were craftspeople. They made crockery, treated skins, were engaged in sewing and spinning. On top of that women were responsible for all the spiritual life in this society and for performing acts of worship.  Unlike men, who were apparently only engaged in war and robbery.  Thus women’ s social functions were much higher than men’s, although military leaders were only men.”


“Sometimes we unearth weaponry with female skeletons. These can be quivers with arrows, or an iron spear. In addition we sometimes find harnessing with them, which suggests that as regards women’ s participation in this society, war and horsemanship played a certain part in it.”

"Later, when they learned how to determine gender based on skeleton bones, it turned out that this was not the case and anthropologists - physical anthropologists - showed us that we had very often been wrong."

“There have been incidents in archaeology, also including those in my practice, when items found with a body were seemingly female but the skeleton was male. And the other way round - when the items found with the body were seemingly male (as in weaponry) but the skeleton was female. Therefore now we cannot trust the evidence based on the items found with the body. We have to both study the items found with the body and determine the gender based on the bones.  Then we get the real picture."

"From our archaeological as well as ethnographical, ethnological evidence the woman’s role in society was not confined to her biological functions, giving birth to and raising children, work done around the house, performing acts of worship and the functions of a priestess but on some occasions, when necessary, women could also participate in combat, in military action.”