'Warrior Women' unearthed in Cambodia

15 November 2007 (Yahoo News) – An excavation at Phum Snay reveals 35 skeletons, five of which are women who were buried with swords and possibly helmets. Evidence of woman warriors? This find is certainly unusual indeed, but it’s probably too early to get excited about the prospect of some amazonian society. It’ll be interesting to see if the skeletal remains reveal any telltale signs of battle-related injuries, particularly of cuts to the bone around the arm areas. The story doesn’t give any approximate date for the burials, but it looks like a pre-Angkorian find.

Yahoo News, 15 Nov 2007

Women warriors may have battled in ancient Cambodia

Archaeologists have found female skeletons buried with metal swords in Cambodian ruins, indicating there may have been a civilisation with female warriors, the mission head said Thursday.

The team dug up 35 human skeletons at five locations in Phum Snay in northwestern Cambodia in research earlier this year, said Japanese researcher Yoshinori Yasuda, who led the team.


“Five of them were perfect skeletons and we have confirmed all of them were those of females,” Yasuda told AFP. The skeletons were believed to date back to the first to fifth century AD.

The five were found buried together with steel or bronze swords, and helmet-shaped objects, said Yasuda, who is from the government-backed International Research Center for Japanese Studies.

“It is very rare that swords are found with women. This suggests it was a realm where female warriors were playing an active role,” he said.

“Women traditionally played the central role in the rice-farming and fishing societies,” he said. “It’s originally a European concept that women are weak and therefore should be protected.”

“The five skeletons were well preserved because they had been buried in important spots at the tombs,” he said.

It was the first time that large-scale research was conducted on the Phum Snay relics, which were found in 1999.

It is believed there was a civilisation inhabited with several thousand rice-farming people between the first to fifth century.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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