Exoticism and eroticism

Beautiful female bodies in battle or ruthless warriors causing trouble for Greek heroes? Or, as the Greek name suggests, brutal women who cut off their breasts to be able to shoot better with a bow? The word Amazons alone fires the imagination and leads to a wide variety of images in the mind.

A compilation of such ideas about the mythical women people presents the Historical Museum of the Palatinate from Sunday in Speyer – and shows the oldest warrior tomb in the world.

On 2.000 square meters visitors can approach the Amazons from archaeological, cultural-historical and literary side. First of all, it is about what was originally meant by "Amazon", that is, Greek sagas. Presented is what could have been the world's first pageant: an artist's competition to create the most beautiful wounded Amazon in Ephesus. The statues have not been preserved, but visitors can choose their favorites on the screen.

Warrior graves and grave goods
The highlight of the show will be never-before-seen female warrior graves and grave goods from the Siberian steppes and Ukraine. The oldest known warrior lived almost 3 years ago.000 years in the Caucasus. Her tomb was discovered in 1927, with a bronze sword and spearhead as supplements. A healed slash wound can be seen on her skull, suggesting researchers that she was an active fighter who lived to be about 40 years old. Also the armor of a girl on the territory of today's Ukraine from the fourth century before Christ will be shown. Museum director Alexander Koch ames that many more "Amazon graves" will be discovered in the future, as DNA analyses make it possible to assign the correct gender to skeletons with supposedly "male" grave inserts.

Cliches about Amazons are unmasked at two places of the show: On the one hand already the representations on antique vases, in writings of Herodotus and Diodorus and in the post-antique time prove imaginative stereotypes: a life without men, yearly meetings with the opposite sex for the purpose of procreation and the amputation of the right breast for higher accuracy in archery. Accompanying oil paintings from the 18th cent. nnd 19. An accompanying lecture deals with the Amazons in the modern popular culture, including sculptures from the eighteenth century and by Franz von Stuck, among others. "Between male fantasies and emancipation" is the title of the show.

And it is about how Europeans transferred their exotic and erotic ideas to Africa and South America. End of the 19th century. In the middle of the 19th century, for example, female soldiers from the West African kingdom of Dahomey had to perform typical war dances from their homeland at "folk shows" in zoos.

What remains of the myth?
Since almost every warrior nation is called Amazons, a lecture in the accompanying program also deals with women in South America. One theory is that the Amazon was so named by the Spanish because they were attacked by bow-shooting women on an expedition. Women fighting during the French and Baden Revolutions are also a theme, as is the comic book character "Wonder Woman".

And what remains of the myth? Museum director Koch is critical of historians who claim to have discovered Amazon graves. "An Amazon people never existed," only fighting women in male roles. encounters with them, the Greeks would have explained themselves with the Amazon legend. As the show shows, Herodotus' tale from the fifth century B.C. fits in with this. According to this Amazons mixed with the people of the Scythians. With a people north of the Black Sea, the area of the sites of the warrior graves. Myth and reality have thus intermingled over the centuries.

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