09 February 2014

What I'm Reading

After years on languishing on the shelf, Warrior Women has made its way to the forefront. Roughly 150 pages in, I, honestly, am pissed at myself for not reading this fascinating book earlier. Dr. Jeannine Davis-Kimball "discovered [her] calling only after three marriages, six children, and a varied resume" including jobs as a nurse, administrator, teacher, and cattle rancher. After receiving her doctoral degree in Art History and Archaeology, Davis-Kimball founded the American Eurasian Research Institute, went on digs, translated works of Russian scholars, wrote article after article, and in general rocked out her new career.

Davis-Kimball herself fascinates me because of all this; however, I must say that her work is just as interesting as her history. Working primarily in the deserts of Western China, uncovering the secrets of the kurgans (burial mounds) of the steppes, Davis-Kimball noticed a discrepancy between common thought regarding the role of women in these historically violent, nomadic tribes and the reality of what these burial sites were suggesting. So began a focused work on uncovering the truth of these historical women of power, whether through stereotypical female roles, through warrior or priestess status, or through political power.

A work of narrative non-fiction, Warrior Women is both highly informative and entertaining. Davis-Kimball, so far anyway, tells a good story, interweaving the narrative of her time digging in Kazakhstan and her time observing a modern nomadic tribe with images of burial sites and informative asides which offer insight into nomadic life. While she points out early that archaeology bears very little resemblance to Indiana Jones, I have to admit that a whiff of the Indiana Joneseque romance and mystery cannot be entirely removed (for me) from archaeology and anthropology. It is just so fascinating. While unearthing bones and objects from the ground is painstaking, anal retentive, detail oriented work which would drive me crazy (although the thrill of discovery seems euphoric), pontificating about the lives revealed sounds mentally challenging and imaginatively satisfying.

The book moves out of the Eurasian steppes and becomes a bit more global. I have to admit that I was not originally looking forward to this. I loved learning about Eurasian nomadic life, something I knew absolutely nothing about prior to reading.While I thought the move would be drastic, the transition from nomads in the steppes to the more western Amazons was seamless, and instead of shifting perspectives it seems like the information regarding "other" women will be mixed with more information on Eurasia.

The book is full of surprising and interesting facts. For example, at one burial site 3% of the men were buried with few possessions but they did have a child buried with them, and yet none of the women had been buried with a child. What is up with that? The best part - Davis-Kimball doesn't know the answer to that either.

At this same site, 15% of the women were buried with weapons and armor, 7% were buried with objects marking them as a priestess, and 3% were buried with both warrior and priestess objects. This suggests that 25% of the women buried here were outside the "normal" role of women. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Or.. (and this totally had my brain working overtime):

"inconvenient women aren't the only ones who get conveniently overlooked by [those] in charge...Chinese tradition has always maintained that the nation had developed its glorious civilization in relative isolation, free from outside influences" however many burial sites in China reveal Caucasoids were around for many centuries before the arrival of the Han Chinese. "The Beijing governmnet hasn't exactly welcomed their discoveries [and] with few exceptions, the mummies were reburied or dispatched to obscure regional museums."

So all this makes my internal college-aged conspiracy theorist pop out and wonder how much is being hidden from the public because it counters the dominant ideology. Crap, did aliens actually land at Area 51? Are those black helicopters performing government sanctioned experiments on an unsuspecting populace? And, as is evidenced by the book, are women actually not "better off" now than they every have been? Were there true egalitarian societies? Oh god, is capitalism not the natural state of being?

Anyway, I'm off to read more!


  1. Books like this make my brain do cartwheels!!! And drive my husband crazy, because I usually won't shut up about it while I'm reading. I have to say that I'm just as fascinated by the woman writing the book as her findings. Talk about someone who found herself!

    1. I keep relating all these interesting facts to Brian. He's taking it like a trooper, but you can just tell he's rolling his eyes on the inside.

  2. YES! (good to see you out and about on the interwebs...)


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