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Gender Roles - Female Warriors/Defenders

I would point out that there are a significant number of Bronze Age finds for warrior women, so in any Bronze Age or later expansion, they will no longer be conjecture and would literally need to be a major component of Eurasian Society.

I’m reading about one such grave right now. The woman had an axe wound to the head which had been healing when she died, and the other woman buried near her had an arrow wound to the skull. This was in 1000 BCE.

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The Neolithic is between 2000 and 3000 years earlier than the nomadic warriors of Scythia, Sarmatia, Saka, Pontus and the other cultures of the Eurasian steppe.

When considering the roles of martial roles of women in the Neolithic, we must first ask: Does later history show warrior women of the world, thus setting a precedent for the possibility, or are warrior women merely contemporary or obscure?

Of course there are countless articles in peer reviewed journals and scientific books on this issue (I own a few of them), but now Smithsonian is producing a set of documentaries concerning the existence and extant of women in ancient warfare

VIDEO: The Significance Behind Ancient Scythian Tattoos via @SmithsonianChan

VIDEO: This Female Gladiator Captive Had to Fight for Her Life via @SmithsonianChan

As you can see by watching them, or reading the books and papers on the issue (many of which I have posted), to deny the presence of women in ancient combat, from the bronze age until present, is simply illogical and contrary to the evidence.

I keep hearing people say why they think the idea of warrior women is absurd, mostly based upon incredulity, but I keep amassing the facts. I just obtained a scholarly book containing hundreds of grave findings (it is an archaeological book of data for archaeologists), many of the graves being warrior women with battle wounds (new and healed) as well as their custom fit armor and weapons.
Iron Age Archaeology and Trauma from Aymyrlyg, South Siberia by Eileen M. Murphy

I also have an entire book chapter detailing egalitarianism of Eurasian nomads from 1000BCE to 500AD, by the same woman who provided much of the scientific data for the Smithsonian series. It has detailed accounts for many different first hand eye witnesses from different lands and cultures, as well as pages upon pages of notes and bibliography to back it up.

So the question becomes, why would the Neolithic be different?

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If we really want to go for realistic gender representation, then we should consider two simple rules:

  • Survival of the fittest
  • Might makes right

What I mean with that is, that the more primitive the culture is, the less it will care about what´s “right” and more about what´s efficient in the means of survival. If you are a nice stone age girl with a biceps the size of my head, I wouldn´t mind if you´d come along for a nice fight with the other tribe.

So how about giving stats requirements for the jobs of the community. E.g. accuracy for hunting or something like that. And then if I need 10 hunters, the AI gives me the 10 people with the highest ACC in the tribe.

The other thing is, that, if we really want to make it accurate, then we have to consider the biological realities of the two sexes. Men in general are stronger. To implement this I´d imagine randomized stats with a different starting point for the two sexes. Let´s say the strength of men are 50+/-25 and the women´s STR is 40+/-25. This way the general superiority of men in STR is represented, but does not exclude the women from STR dependent jobs. Lets say I have 10 men with a STR of 35, 36, 40, 46, 50, 58, 64, 66, 68, 73 (I used an online random number generator :slight_smile: ) and 10 women with 10 STR lower stats. If I need 10 people to chop wood (requires STR), that would mean 6 men and 4 women.

Obviously, we would have to consider a lot of other factors to (like one is sick, the other injured, the third is pregnant, etc.), but how about that as a general idea?


I agree with this. Though history is filled with warrior women, these societies also traines the women just as the men. To ignore biological differences would be plain inaccurate.

Not sure how their system of character stats will work, but you suggestion seems correct. Men definetly have more muscle than women, as you stated.

Each task should likely have a few ordered stats. For example, weaving requires dexterity.

Since we don’t actually know how labor was diversified, but we do know what stats would be more important for doing various tasks, this would allow for a realistic model.

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Its very much like it is working in the game right now.
Females also get pregnant, and that restrict some tasks for them in this situations. Overall, females can do all tasks, but roles appear by themselves because the nature of things.
Later we can introduce culture restrictions that will do their thing too.


Agreed. Just like the example of Cynisca of Sparta shows, when she won the Olympics in chariot racing in 396 BC. The Olympic games were male dominant as most of the disciplines favored physical strength. But in chariot racing, where skill was more important, she could win over her competitors by the virtue of being better than them.

About the diversification of labor. It was probably what worked best. The ultimate goal for every tribe was survival I think. So what served this best was implemented or the tribe died out.

For example hunting. While this was a very dangerous job, I see no reason why women woulnd´t be able to do it. But. Because it is a very dangerous job, it has a high mortality rate compared to other jobs. Men have a low value in respect of procreation. Women have a high one. You need a few men but a lot of women for a tribe to survive if we only take into account population replenishment. So if women would do it in high numbers, the impact of their loss on the numbers replenishing ability of the tribe would be grave compared to the loss of the same amount of men. So it would be reasonable to presume, that those tribe who shifted the more dangerous jobs to the more expendable sex, had a higher chance of survival on the long run.

But there are a bunch of jobs which need to be done in day by day. So if a man goes to hunt someone needs to gather. Hence, men went hunting and women gathered. At least that´s how I think the diversification started.


Cultural restrictions.

The society of Athens or Japan comes to my mind. Women had almost no say in anything, were in some cases extremely sheltered. But. This also meant, that a big part of the population didn´t take part in production, research, etc. So what I´m trying to say is. There are some cultural characters, which are actually less effective or even harmful to the whole community but practiced nevertheless. Are there any plans to implement something like that? Especially if it is out of the players control. So like, you are playing, minding your own business, and suddenly your tribe has this bright idea, that women shouldn´t work. And now you sit there with half of the population inactive, but you still have to feed them. Like an unexpected handicap.


Not to sound like a biased idiot, who only talks about women. Here are some other examples:

  • food sacrifice when you have a drought and food is already short
  • mandatory coming of age rituals with a high chance of death. After you´ve invested so much into raising the younger generations
  • harmful fashion practices like using poisonous material as make up
  • harmful healthcare beliefs like only take a bath every 6 months, because any more frequent is unhealthy (medieval Europe for example)

And so on. All of which have an average negative effect on the population. But also some other which may have a positive one. Like a doctor extensively cleaning his/her hands and body before treating a patient, because of ancient tradition or something like that.


True! Many cultures are well known to restrict women (and sometomes men) from tasks. This will be important in later stages.

I have LOTS of information about iron/bronze age steppes cultures and their treatment of women, when that time period occurs.

It sounds to me like your game mechanics make perfect sense!


Agreed. Just like the example of Cynisca of Sparta shows, when she won the Olympics in chariot racing in 396 BC. The Olympic games were male dominant as most of the disciplines favored physical strength. But in chariot racing, where skill was more important, she could win over her competitors by the virtue of being better than them.

There is a lot more going on under the hood. Take these facts in a row

Sparta, like the other major city states was in a constant battle of one-upmanship. The politics of the time could be vety subtle and urbane, Sparta was no exception to this.
Sparta unusually (maybe uniquely) of the city states practiced empowerment of women. Spartan women ran most of civic society with exception of the military, foreign policy and the highest levels of government. Spartan women were taught to be tough, not only to be strong mothers to the next generation of Spartiates but also to be overseers of the Helots and spartan business.
This also meant that Spartan men could dedicate their lives to what mattered to them, becoming as hard as nails ubermenchen, collective homosexuals and elite weaponmasters.
Because Spartan women were free and they knew it they didn’t for the most part waste their privilege. Non Spartan women did not go chariot racing, swimming, riding or wrestling, between bouts of motherhood, Spartan women did and revelled in it. Left Helot women to do the sewing and the cooking.

Now women outside of Sparta were treated very much in the shut-up-and-get-back-in-the-kitchen manner of extreme patriarchy. So imagine the furore when a Spartan woman beats the finest men from other city states in an Olympic event.
One could try banning women from competing, but that would involve saying no to Sparta, and all they would need to is repeat loudly and often that she was only banned bacause the men of other, lesser, city states knew they could not match the skill of a Spartan born girl.

So they would have to let her compete, mainly on the ethos that Olympic glory came with a laurel, not a medal, as proof that sporting glory was fleeting not eternal. Try to beat her, and if not let time mostly forget her and pay to train an Athenian man better for next time.


Keep in mind that at the same time that the “shut-up-and-get-back-in-the-kitchen” society is occurring in Greece, a much more egalitarian society exists to the east and northeast.

Herosotus Writes extensively about his travels through the lands of the Scythians and makes detailed observations about their customs, spending a significant amount of time speaking of their egalitarian lifestyle. To him, this seems almost shocking by comparison to his own culture. There are many other first-hand accounts of this, as well as the archaeological evidence which backs this up quite extensively (I have a big stack of documents and books filled with this data LOL)

“Issedonians are reputed to be observers of justice: and it
is to be remarked that their women have equal authority
with the men.”

Selections from The Persian Wars (book IV) by Herodotus. From “The Greek Historians,” edited by Francis R. B. Godolphin. Copyright 1942 and renewed 1970 by Random House, Inc. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. p.133 Accessed online at

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I tend to lean towards accepting rather than rejecting Herodotus as a historical source.

However you are open to comments that Herodotus’s claims of observation of gender equality in distant lands may be as accurate as his reports of winged snakes and gold digging ants. To a Hellenic reader from around the time it is difficult to tell which is more outlandish.


Many of his claims have been backed up by subsequent archaeology. While his discussions of mythology might be a bit suspect, his depiction of steppe culture lifestyle matches what archaeologists have found pretty dead on. I would be suspicious of secondhand stories that he tells about particular people, but not so much about the culture. Of course most of the knowledge that we have these people comes from archaeology.

Until just recently, bodies were categorized as male or female based upon their grave goods. In just the last 10 years alone, forensic archaeology has massively advanced. Science is now learning that a large percentage of the warrior graves found were of women, not men. While I can recommend many good books on the topic, Smithsonian TV will be airing a documentary on the various women warriors of ancient society and discussing the egalitarian nature of those societies.

One of the annoying problems I keep bumping into our that the archaeology books of 10 and 15 years ago have not kept up with modern advances.

For example, and archaeology book discussing steppe kurgan mounds from the early 2000s will speak of male warrior graves and women wives and servants. In 2004, Eileen M. Murphy’s Group, using modern archaeological forensics, catalogued a significant number of female graves of warriors. This research and several other important research projects have completely changed our view of this time and place, though they will not be reflected and a large percentage of the books that you would read on the topic and college.

This is the reason you constantly will find people who will argue the topic using these age-old miss beliefs. To a degree, it’s hard to blame them as a large percentage of the standard academic material still does not reflect these advancements though reading the most up-to-date research does.

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A most interesting discussion! Thank you Lotus for your tireless devotion (and forbearance with some of the more “neolithic” members (runs for cover)) to it. :slight_smile: From the perspective of a male gamer the apparent (back of the napkin maths of course) demographics of this thread are fascinating.

I’ve not been following AC’s development all that much but if 1/10th of the material in this discussion gets into the game I’ll be a happy gamer indeed. Frankly, it seems to me that the nomadic elements of the game will be some of the most interesting. I do hope it comes off.



If you are intersted in seeing a documentary on women of war in ancient history, the first episode is tonight!!!

This epiaode discusses the very steppe cultures I have referenced so often.

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@Uncasual or your bronze/Iron age expansions, you really should check out the documentary about real women warriors.

We now know that as many as 1/3 of the graves in the steppe of Eurasia (much of the continent) were women.

I’d be whiling to pay for the entire season for you on Amazon. It’s in English.

Let me know if you have interest.

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I want to start by saying I’m not going to refute Your previous posts, only add my own thoughts. I don’t believe there were no female warriors, I only believe it is illogical to believe there were any significant amount of them.

archaeologists found that the Minoan civilization of Crete has a famous king who was known in Greek stories(king Minos) and that the civilization was highly advanced for Bronze Age Europe. We know of course for the same archaeology that the Minoan civilization was destroyed and its power transferred to mainland Greek kings and states. Only, recently archaeology discovered that it wasn’t only destroyed, it was rebuilt and continued to be a powerful trade and military power in the Mediterranean for much longer than was previously believed. The point I am getting at is, you cannot assume that because a female has wounds and is buried in armor, that she was a “warrior”. You can’t assume the same for men either. I would argue that most Viking men whose burial mounds we can see, whom were buried in full armor, were probably not great warriors; strategists at best. Armor, for warlike societies such as the Sythians and Norse could easily have been ceremonial upon any noble male or females death, as well as it could have been their personal battle regalia. A decent example of how misleading archaeology can be is the grave of Frankish king Clovis I. He was a Frankish warrior king, a barbarian from the coast of Belgium, yet he was burried in a roman grave yard, with a roman name, wearing full roman armor with all the honors of a roman general. The only thing that told us he wasn’t just some roman general was a ring or something that had his name on it or some other such identifier(I’m going off memory here). My point is that in archeology you can’t logocally assume that because someone is burried with something that it was their profession or even a hobby. You could just s easily assume that a woman burried in full armor with a bow and a sword hated fighting and war but her family insisted on her burial with such things because she would need them to increase her odds against some afterlife entity. Another great example of misleading archaeology is the graves of the defenders on the island of götland from the battle of Visby. In the 3-4 mass graves found you find perfectly preserved chain mail, breastplates, helms, swords and axes. The epitome of a warrior grave. However, we know from reports that these men were actually mostly farmers who doned the weapons of their Viking ancestors to attempt to defend their land from the Danes. So, although they fought in a battle and wore armor, they were not warriors in any way. Which, fighting in a battle is significantly removed from “being a warrior” in my opinion. It seems illogical as well to assume that, globally, society was entirely different two thousand years ago than it was a thousand years ago and today. Additionally, if there were societies with female warrior castes, like those described on occasion by Herodotus and Tacitus, they were nowhere to be found by the dawn of the middles ages(400s AD), so they must not have been very sustainable societies and we can assume they were short lived or isolated and later assimilated by more patriarchal tribes.

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I recommend watching the video series below. I have many of the actual books from the archaeologists with the data which backs this up if you would like some more scientific info, if you like. Women have very much contributed to warfare, especially the steppe cultures. Let me know if you want book information for the more academic papers/books on the subject.

Epic Warrior Women - Season 1 Amazon Instant Video ~ Smithsonian Channel


Also true! =)

That’s why we have Archaeological Osteology, which allows us to determine if wounds were inflicted running away, fighting or otherwise. I have a book which details over a hundred such inhumations and it explains how the status of the bodies were identified.

In the 21st century, we are no longer limited to the silly methods of old, where bodies were called man/woman based on grave goods and similar.

That is why we have modern techniques, developed in the last 5-10 years. A good example of this, and of what you mentioned, can be seen in the Siberian Ice Maiden. She was incorrectly identified as a man, based upon her grave goods. She was in fact, a warrior.

Well, to be fare, many societies (such as those Herodotus and Tacitus also belonged to) had also been destroyed or changed by the middle ages, so I am not sure that works as a logical argument. The Romans were quite sustainable for a long time… but they started after those Scythian societies and ended before the middle ages, as well.

The problem is that using this antecedent would allow us to conclude that the Romans were short lived and assimilated by more patriarchal tribes, and we know that is not correct. =/

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I would be more than happy to watch the series. Ill check it out this weekend. I have concerns about the recent state of archaeology and anthropology though. I’m highly skeptical of most recent finds that have anything to do with “redefining” gender. The field of Anthropology is notoriously full of Neo-liberal women, which is fine, however mixing those politics with all these recent discoveries of exactly what they set out for seems a little too reminiscent of Piltdown man, if you catch my drift.The female viking warrior’s discoverers were mostly women and were later found to have sort of jumped, broadly, to the assumption that this woman was a warrior.

As far as wounds; the argument could be made that wether or not the wounds were in defense or in flight are irrelevant, especially with nordic women who would have been taught to be stronger willed. They could just have easily died in attempt to fight off an attacker on the farm as they could have on a battlefield. Likewise the methods of old in several ways screwed us over. Although a lot of the greatest discoveries were made in the late 19th and early 20th century, they just threw all the bones wherever, so opening these sorts of cold cases becomes “at the viewers discretion” if you will. That in particular can become problematic with what I discussed previously. I’d also like to point out that I am only a truth seeker, I don’t honestly care if women were warriors in mass, I just know a bias when I see one and when to be skeptical.

What I meant when I said that their societies, if they existed, were inferior, I didn’t mean to specific peoples, only to the patriarchal method which has obviously been dominant for some time. They were obviously slain by stronger tribes lead by males. One tribe I am aware of Tacitus speaking of was located in or around modern Denmark and they definitely weren’t there at the time of the Saxons departure from the same lands. Comparing a one off tribe of female warriors with no written or oral traditions to be found, to the Roman Empire and Greek states is a little bit silly. However, Rome did fall after a couple hundred years of Queen Mother’s and child rulers and were subsequently waylaid by the various highly patriarchal tribes. Not far off.


It’s correctly identifying the sex, not the gender (these are two different things).

Neoliberal is an actual term, and I think you do a massive disservice to women in archaeology by broadly painting them in that brush. Women finally getting the attention and recognition they deserve isn’t neoliberalism, it’s humanity finally doing the right thing. Our species is 50% women.

This argument, when reversed, is why men misidentified inhumations for years. =/

Wow… just… wow… I do not agree that being more masculine is more advantageous.
I don’t think we are going to agree if you start with that mindset. So, I doubt this is a conversation which I will continue with. =/ I find myself less and less willing to engage with that sort of mindset these days.