Hive by A. J. Betts – Book Review (Spoiler Free)

HIVE_Image2 Claire Catacouzinos

Synopsis

All I can tell you is what I remember, in the words that I have.

Hayley tends to her bees and follows the rules in the only world she has ever known.

Until she witnesses the impossible: a drip from the ceiling.

A drip? It doesn’t make sense.

Yet she hears it, catches it. Tastes it.

Curiosity is a hook.

What starts as a drip leads to a lie, a death, a boy, a beast, and too many awful questions.

A. J. Betts: Hive

 

Title: Hive

Authors: A. J. Betts 

Genre: young adult, dystopian

Release Date: June 2018

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia

Link to buy book here.

 

 

My Review

An artfully crafted dystopic and coming of age story about Hayley, a fifteen-year-old beekeeper with headpains and living in an underwater city, until she discovers the secrets about the city and her world. Hayley tends to the city’s garden and is their senior beekeeper. Other groups include: the netters, the enginers, the kitcheners and the seeders. The story unfolds with Hayley hearing and seeing a drip in the ceiling of an engineer room where she escapes for peace and quiet, while pretending to catch a rogue bee. This event is the catalyst of the story, and her political and social awakening of the world she lives in.

Betts has skilfully contrasted Hayley’s character to her best friend Celia, and their opposing views on the world. There is wonderful world-building in this story with the concepts of marriage, disease and plagues, hierarchy, politics, social paradigms, education, daily routines, and the dangers of imagination and curiosity explored. And like with all dystopian worlds Betts critiques on society’s aim for social cohesion, unity and harmony by instigating ostracism, and suppressing individuality and power.

She also uses intertextuality and plays with famous nursery rhymes and phrases to show the alterations made in the city’s world.

Can’t wait for the sequel!

My favourite quote from the book:

“Stirring blue wonders while the rest of the world slept. A starry, secret solitude.”
– Page 195

Rating

4.5 / 5 stars

Best wishes,
Claire

HIVE_Image Claire Catacouzinos

 

For more information:

Visit A. J. Betts’ website.

Check out more of my book reviews here.

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A Song Only I Can Hear by Barry Jonsberg – Book Review (Spoiler Free)

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Synopsis

Rob has a huge crush on the new girl at school. But Rob is painfully shy and suffers severe panic attacks. How is her heart to be won? Another wonderful and heart-warming comedy drama from the award-winning author of My Life as an Alphabet.

Good evening, Rob. Your first challenge follows.

These challenges have nothing to do with impressing Destry Camberwick. They are all to do with Rob Fitzgerald impressing Rob Fitzgerald. Bear that in mind at all times.

Challenge 1. You will enter the Milltown’s Got Talent competition. This gives you over a fortnight to polish your act and work out strategies to overcome panic attacks. I would wish you luck but the point of this challenge is that you don’t need it.

Introducing Rob Fitzgerald: thirteen years old and determined to impress the new girl at school, but it’s a difficult task for a super-shy kid who is prone to panic attacks that include vomiting, difficulty breathing and genuine terror that can last all day. An anonymous texter is sending Rob challenges and they might just help. Or not.

Beautifully moving and full of heart and humour, A Song Only I Can Hear is a delightful novel about dreaming big, being brave and marching to the beat of your own drum.

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Title: A Song Only I Can Hear

Authors: Barry Jonsberg 

 Genre: young adult, contemporary

 Release Date: July 2018

 Publisher: Allen and Unwin

 Link to buy book here.

 

My Review

A beautifully written and charming coming-of-age story about thirteen-year-old Rob Fitzgerald as he suffers from severe panic attacks, is painfully shy, and madly in love with a girl called Destry Camberwick. Even though it’s YA, there’s no swearing, except for the insert of the word ‘blankety’ when someone is meant to say ‘fuck’. But by doing this, the author has brought humour to the story, and developed Rob’s Pop with a funny character trait.

I love how Rob writes descriptive notes for each family member and his friends and enemies who he encounters throughout the story. But it’s also a great hint for the reader to ask, why is he doing this, and what is the function of this literary device?

Rob goes through so many obstacles until the end of the story there is an ultimate twist that I didn’t see coming at the Milltown’s Got Talent event!

Great uses of intertextuality with Macbeth by Shakespeare and the compassionate use and empathetic quality of Wilfred Owens’ poem Dulce et Decorum Est.

I thought this was going to be an ordinary young adult novel about a thirteen year old at the start of high school eg boy likes girl, boy tries to get girl, boy realises girl doesn’t want him, but he learns about his true self-identity along the way. The story is focused on this story arc, but it offers so much more with the last five chapters. A must read for this year!

My favourite quote from the book:

“I had my earbuds in, my phone tucked into my jeans pocket. Sweat trickled down my forehead. But I felt good, walking to the beat of a song only I could hear.” – Page 276

Rating
4 / 5 stars

Best wishes,
Claire

Claire_Insta

 

For more information:

Visit Barry Jonsberg’s website.

Check out more of my book reviews here.

My Exclusive Writer Interview with Dr Stephanie Russo on MQ’s Literary Podcast ‘From the Lighthouse’

Claire_Catacouzinos

Hi Everyone,

Some more wonderful news to share!

I was interviewed by Dr Stephanie Russo on Macquarie University’s Literary Podcast ‘From the Lighthouse’ about my journey as a young writer, my publications, the impact of my Greek heritage, historical fiction, and helpful tips I can give to young aspiring writers managing a writing career. There’s also the casual mention of Harry Potter; Melina Marchetta; the Great Historical Epics of Hollywood; Ancient Greece; my first children’s book coming out soon by my publisher, Zoozil; working at MQ’s student publication magazine, Grapeshot; and my four major tips for any aspiring young writer.

You can check out my interview here.

You can download the ‘From the Lighthouse’ Show on your Podcast app on your phone.

For more info visit the English Department’s podcast website at: https://www.fromthelighthouse.org

I was initially contacted by Stephanie to speak to some MQ students about my writing career as part of the English Department’s PACE internship unit. I was very humbled that I was given the opportunity to share my writing journey and book publishing knowledge to MQ students. To then be asked to be interviewed on the English Department’s new Literary Podcast about my work and life as a young writer was amazing. Thank you, Stephanie!

I hope you all enjoy the interview!

Also just a heads up that I’ll be blogging over the next couple of months about my holiday in Italy and Greece from August 2017. So watch this space!

Best wishes,
Claire

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Sneak Peek of me at Herculaneum in Italy, August 2017

For more information about my writing check out:
My Publications
My History in Review Column from Grapeshot
My Creative Writing Blog Posts
My Ancient History Blog Posts

 

Drum Roll Please! Book Announcement!

Zoozil Announcement3

Hi Everyone,

I’m super thrilled and excited to announce that I’ll be publishing my first children’s book with US publisher, Zoozil!

For anyone who knows me, this is a dream come true!!! It’s been a long time for me trying to find a publisher who focuses on historical fiction for children, and I’ve hit the jackpot!

Zoozil’s books let’s young readers go back in history to direct the characters, explore new perspectives and even change the ending! Zoozil promotes history, and advocates for literacy skills in children and they can achieve this while getting lost in a story. As a Zoozil author, we pass over our control and give it back to our readers by offering them different pathways to choose from with our characters to go on different journeys. More information on their website: http://www.zoozil.com/

zoozil logoMy children’s book is obviously set in Ancient Greece! My favourite historical period to write about, and what I’m known for with my first ever publication, Helike. I’ve been writing historical short stories for a long time, and have four historical short stories published at Macquarie University’s English Department’s e-journal, The Quarry. You can check out my historical short stories here:

Helike https://clairecatacouzinos.wordpress.com/short-stories/short-story-helike/

Taras’ Parthenians https://clairecatacouzinos.wordpress.com/short-stories/short-story-taras-parthenians/

Golden Drachmas https://clairecatacouzinos.wordpress.com/short-stories/short-story-golden-drachmas/

Asklepios https://clairecatacouzinos.wordpress.com/short-stories/short-story-asklepios/

Book Announcement

There is more information to come soon about my Zoozil book. So please watch this space. I’m so thankful and humbled that I’ve been given the opportunity to help children find their favourite story and connect with reading.

A huge thank you to Joseph Heinzen (President & Founder of Zoozil) and Eric Raue (Zoozil Board Member) for giving me this opportunity.

And a shout out as well to Dr Jane Messer for being a wonderful mentor throughout my time at Macquarie University, to Dr Victoria Flanagan for getting me in contact with my publisher, and to my manuscript supervisor during my MA degree, Elizabeth Claire Alberts! You have all been an instrumental part in my writing career and success.

Lastly, a huge thank you to Mum and Dad for supporting me and my writing dream! I love you both!

Again, more information to come soon about my book! But in the meantime, I have a special holiday gift for you! @Zoozil has redefined the way kids get to explore the world by putting them in control of the story. This is a great opportunity for you to read a book from my publisher for 50% off!  #IChangedTheStory #ChangeTheStory #Zoozil

Best wishes,
ClaireZoozil 2017 Promotion

The Build-Up Season by Megan Jacobson – Book Review (Spoiler Free)

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Synopsis

From the author of CBCA-shortlisted Yellow comes a powerful exploration of family and identity set against the humid build-up to the wet season in Darwin.

He’s back.
The monster.
It’s the middle of the night and I’m awake, because even though I’m seventeen I still haven’t outgrown the childhood monster that haunts you in the dark. I haven’t outgrown it, because when I was a child, the monster was real.
He was my father.
But the thing is, the monster was the person I was closest to in the whole world, closer than I’ve been to anyone since.
That will tell you everything you need to know about me.
And still, I wouldn’t hesitate to kill the monster.
That will tell you even more about me.

Seventeen-year-old Iliad Piper is named after war and angry at the world. Growing up with a violent father and abused mother, she doesn’t know how to do relationships, family or friends. A love-hate friendship with Max turns into a prank war, and she nearly destroys her first true friendship with misfit Mia. Ily takes off her armour for nobody, until she meets Jared, someone who’s as complicated as she is.

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Title: The Build-Up Season

Authors: Megan Jacobson

Genre: young adult, contemporary

Release Date: July 31, 2017

Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia

Link to buy book here.

 

My Review

The Build Up Season was so raw and Ily was such a great character that Jacobson created. Some of the written sections on domestic violence was a bit scary, but definitely eye-opening for individuals to be aware of bad habits, signs, and people’s use of manipulative and belittling language in a hostile relationship.

But on the other hand, there were some beautifully written romantic scenes that every older girl will love while reading this book. But there was also darker and confronting scenes that needed to be written for Ily to understand her self-worth. I thought that each romantic scene written was crafted really well to get the big message across: that every girl should understand her self worth, and be introspectively aware of how she feels in a romantic relationship.

The ultimate question that you’ll keep asking yourself, will Ily end up with the hunky wannabe actor Jared, or the annoying and obnoxious trickster, Max?

Again, to me, self worth was such a huge theme in the novel. And my hat goes off to Jacobson!

I also loved how Jacobson used the setting and landscape as a character. We’re thrown into the harsh, and humid build-up of the wet season in Darwin. The environment complimented each scene Jacobson crafted, especially a feisty yet heartfelt moment on a boat while a crocodile crawls along a riverbank. Great imagery!

Furthermore, the Darwin atmosphere becomes a significant metaphor of Ily’s relationships with her friends and family. Each element of Darwin and the inner life of Ily crosses paths strategically by Jacobson, which help map the reality of Jacobson’s book.

Lastly, I’m a sucker for any books that have references to mythology and ancient history. And the fact that Ily’s real name is Iliad – let’s just say my heart swooped! Especially that her name is so inextricably connected to her relationship with her father, and her evolving identity.

One of my favourite quotes in the book:

“You named me Iliad after a book filled cover to cover with war, Mum! How can I be anything but hostile.” – Page 4

A fantastic work of fiction on such a hard topic to write about!

Rating
4 / 5 stars

Best wishes,
Claire

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For more information:

Visit Megan Jacobson’s website.

Check out more of my book reviews here.

Poetry Publication in the Greek-Australian Cultural League’s 2017 Antipodes Periodical – “Uncover Pyrrha”

Hi Everyone,

I’m super excited to announce that my poem “Uncover Pyrrha” was published in the Greek-Australian Cultural League’s 2017 Periodical Antipodes, Issue 63. Pages 189-190.

My poem is about the persona yearning to connect with their lost heritage and learn the unique and untold stories of hidden cities. It is a journey of uncertainty and anticipation as the persona moves closer and closer towards a Wonder.

The poem explores the concept about the magic of place and the emotional pull it has on different types of generations in Australia. It personifies the earth, the sea, and time and their input in the erosion of a place, but also the question about sustainability. Fundamentally, it is a poem about discovery and hope.

Antipodes2017

This poem was written in late 2013 as part of my unit “Poetry Seminar” during my Master’s degree. It was workshopped in 2013 and then in 2014 until finally, this year, I was able to finalise the meaning in the poem that I was trying to achieve. A huge thank you to all my fellow MA students from Macquarie University who gave me vital feedback.

I’m hugely grateful for the Greek-Australian Cultural League’s ongoing support and the fact that they provide a platform and environment to write about the Greek Diaspora, especially for emerging generations in Australia.

If you would like to purchase the Periodical Antipodes, you can become a member online on the Greek-Australian Cultural League’s website here, where you will receive a free copy of the bi-lingual periodical.

The Truths and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr – Book Review (Spoiler Free)

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Synopsis

This second novel from Emily Barr is a race-against time thriller and a true coming-of-age story. It explores the highs and lows of first love, all set under a blazing Rio sun.

Ella Black seems to live the life most other seventeen-year-olds would kill for . . .

Until one day, telling her nothing, her parents whisk her off to Rio de Janeiro. Determined to find out why, Ella takes her chance and searches through their things.

And realises her life has been a lie.

Her mother and father aren’t hers at all. Unable to comprehend the truth, Ella runs away, to the one place they’ll never think to look – the favelas.

But there she learns a terrible secret – the truth about her real parents and their past. And the truth about a mother, desperate for a daughter taken from her seventeen years ago . . .

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

 

Title: The Truths and Lies of Ella Black

Authors: Emily Barr

Genre: young adult, contemporary

Release Date: January 2nd, 2018

Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia
Link to buy book here.

 

My Review

Amazing! Another wonderful story from Emily Barr!

After reading the first couple of chapters I was hooked! And after reading the whole book, Ella Black’s conflicted physical and emotional journey through Rio will stay with me forever. Dealing with overprotective parents, having a fake boyfriend, and hiding her psychopathic dark side, doppelganger Bella, Ella is a struggling young adult trying to come to terms with her true identity before she turns eighteen.

But the best part, why did her parents whisk her off to Rio, and what dark, calculated secret are they hiding? As soon as Ella learns the whole truth about her life in a foreign land, she’s instigated to make a change, for the better and for the worse, all by herself, smashing her way through life!

One of my favourite international YA books of the year!

Rating
4.5 / 5 stars

Best wishes,
Claire

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For more information:

Visit Emily Barr’s website.

Check out more of my book reviews here.

 

 

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada – Book Review (Spoiler Free)

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Synopsis

A breathtaking debut about one girl’s quest for answers in a genetically and technologically advanced future.

When a lone soldier, Cole, arrives with news of Lachlan Agatta’s death, all hope seems lost for Catarina. Her father was the world’s leading geneticist, and humanity’s best hope of beating a devastating virus. Then, hidden beneath Cole’s genehacked enhancements she finds a message of hope: Lachlan created a vaccine.

Only she can find and decrypt it, if she can unravel the clues he left for her. The closer she gets, the more she finds herself at risk from Cartaxus, a shadowy organization with a stranglehold on the world’s genetic tech. But it’s too late to turn back.

There are three billion lives at stake, two people who can save them, and one final secret that Cat must unlock. A secret that will change everything.

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Title: This Mortal Coil

Authors: Emily Suvada

Genre: dystopian, apocalypse, young adult

Release Date: October 30th, 2017

Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia
Link to buy book here.

 

 

My Review

Wow. Wow. Wow. Since the first page and first chapter I was hooked! What a fantastic tornado of characters, relationships, deception, secrets and the ultimate revelation at the end that brings this beautifully crafted book to such a climatic end.

It’s not just the DNA, scientific language and dystopian world but the beautiful and heart wrenching love story in the midst of an apocalypse.

This is the ultimate story of a crazy mad scientist like Dr Frankenstein, childhood lovers and futuristic technology mixed with a dystopian world tortured by a bloody plague on humanity.

I loved it! One of my favourite international YA books of the year!

Rating
5 / 5 stars

Best wishes,
Claire

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For more information:

Visit Emily Suvada’s website.

Check out more of my book reviews here.

 

 

WONDER WOMAN: THE AMAZING AMAZONS – HISTORY & MYTH

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Hi Everyone,

I loved the buzz Wonder Woman received from the launch of the 2017 Film, which is finally out now on DVD, and now Leigh Bardugo’s new book in the DC Icon Series, Wonder Woman: Warbringer. So I thought I would write a blog post on the inspiration behind Princess Diana’s Amazonian World, but also shed some light on the ‘mythical’ and ‘real’ Amazons in ancient history.

Wonder Woman book3

While at Macquarie University I studied the unit in my Ancient History major, Women and Gender in the Ancient World. I absolutely loved the course, but the one guest lecture we had from Dr Ian Plant on the History and Myth of the Ancient Amazons was a stand out. So here’s a few points on the ‘mythical’ and ‘real’ Amazons that I wanted to share.

Best wishes,
Claire

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History and Myth of the Ancient Amazons

Who they were – Ancient Greek literature

The Ancient Greeks constantly referenced the Amazons in their work.

The Amazons live near the Thermodon.  They are daughters of Ares and Harmonia, the nymph and Naiad.  The most famous are Hippolyte, Antiope, whom Theseus abducted, Anaia, Andromache, Glauke, Otrere, and Penthesileia, her daughter.  In the time of Mygdon, son of Akmon, and Otreus, son of Dymas, they plundered the neighbouring districts, riding on their fire-breathing horses, and later overran Phrygia for booty.  They were so called because they lacked one breast—for they cauterized it to prevent it from getting in the way when they used their bows, or because they did not eat bread [maza], but tortoises, lizards and snakes.  Some say that they are the same as the Sarmatian women.  [Antianeirai] means equal to or hostile to men.

Scholia on Iliad  (from 3rd C. BC on)

They were also called ‘Sauropatides’ (lizard crushers) because they trampled on lizards and ate them, or Sarmatians because they lived in Sarmatian Skythia. There is also a city Amazonia in Messapia. 

Steph. Byz. Ethnika, s.v. Amazones

 Blok, J.H.  The Early Amazons  (Leiden, 1995)IX

Then in the 5th century BCE the details changed with the Amazons:

  • They were without men
  • Aeschylus Suppliant Women play – showed them armed with a bow, which closely resembled meat eating Amazons. Meat eating meant they were barbaric. (Nice aye?)
  • Aeschylus Prometheus Bound play – they were now viewed as man-hating Amazons
  • They lived in Thrace in the north, then moved to Amazoneion – another name for Kyme, where they lived. Hekataios records the name in book IX of his work on the Aiolid.
  • They are still seen as Thracians even though they moved.
  • However, there was a real society of people who lived in this area called The Sauromataes – Scythians, who were nomadic people.
  • There are different places that have claimed to be the Amazon’s homeland.

Amazons Homelands

Amazonian Lifestyle Invented

  • Hallanikos of Lesbos and Diodorus stated that the Amazons cauterized their chest with an iron to prevent their breasts from growing. (Clearly DC comics didn’t replicate this!).

[…]they are called Amazons because they cut off their right breast to prevent it from getting in the way when they use their bows.  This is untrue, because that would have been fatal to them.  Hellanikos and Diodorus [II.45.3] says that they cauterized the spot with an iron object before it [the breast] began to grow, to prevent it from growing.

Hellanicus of Lesbos (c. 480-400 BC) cited by Plutarch in Theseus 27

  • The Amazons had children because apparently men stalked them.
  • Men liked them because they were different (like the Spartan women who were seen as ‘thigh flashers’ – love it!).
  • The Amazon women didn’t want to live with men because they were not nomadic for women’s work and they wanted to hunt.
  • They grew to be big and strong because of the climate of the region. It was suitable for them to grow and develop their physical physiques.
  • To ensure that Amazonian women were always on top they would crush the limbs of men. (Yikes!)
  • Apparently they didn’t lay aside their virginity until they killed 3 of their enemies. (An initiation rite within other tribes throughout history).
  • The Greek geographer and historian, Strabo, wrote his work Geography where he tried to make the Amazonian mythology realistic by saying that they fought with a bow, Scythian axe and light shield. And that the Amazons lived on the other side of a mountain next to the Gargarians (an all-male tribe). And apparently, every 2 months in a year, they would ‘get’ together. The Amazons would keep the female offspring and the Gargarians kept the male offspring. (Sound like a utopia to you?)
  • The Roman historican,Quintus Curtius Rufus, wrote the Histories of Alexander the Great and said that Alexander the Great met the Queen of the Amazons. She apparently spent 13 days with him. (To beget children, who knows?)

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Views from the Ancient World about the Ancient Amazons

Some notes juxtaposing the Mythical Amazons & Traditional Ancient Greek Women

Amazons

Ancient Greek Women

Race of martial women Greek women not martial
Race of women alone Greek women live with men
Men subordinate Women = subordinate
Women in men’s roles Women in women’s roles
Women care for children Women crush the limbs of boys
Don’t live by agriculture = civilization  Agriculture = bread civilization
Eat meat, lizards, tortoises = wild, matriarchy Eat bread = tamed, patriarchy
Live outdoors, not indoors Indoor lifestyle

Development of Amazons Over Time

In the beginning in Greek literature the Amazons started as equal to men then, they became warriors and fought heroes (and were defeated by heroes as well).

Then they developed a homeland on the edge of the Greek world and made a way of life for themselves. They could have represented the foreign enemy (for example Athens’ enemy was Persia), and then they became Scythian.

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Interpretation of the Amazon Myth

  1. Historical Evidence:
    Were they Scythians?
    An early iron age site in southern Ukraine provides archaeological evidence at Pokrovka. Perhaps they were the Sauromatians.
  2. Structural Evidence in Literature:
    Definition of the Self by creation of the Other.
  3. Combining Greek History and Myth:
    The ancient Greeks invented the Amazons as creatures of mythical imagination. Then the ancient Greeks met the ‘Sauromations’ and their mythical Amazons took on the characteristics of these nomadic women.

Iconography and Amazonomachy

  • The Greeks invented the Amazons so they wore Greek clothing and used Greek weapons.
  • They then developed the Amazons to wearing non Greek costumes (patterns, pants, different helmets and weapons) to show that they were Scythians, Eastern, Northern,  Phrygian, and Thracian.
  • They then feminised their warrior costume.

Amazons in Greek and Persian costume2Amazons in Greek and Persian costume

Amazonian Archaeology / Sauromatians Archaeology

  • The evolution of the Amazons is reflected in the Sauromatians culture, who were nomadic people.
  • There are multiple burial mounds in Kurgan that imitates the Amazonian lifestyle. For example, women were buried with weapons and armour, and were also buried with their husbands and children.
  • 20% of Sauromatian and ancient Sarmatian tombs have women buried with weapons (usually arrows, but occasionally with swords and spears).
  • There is evidence in these tombs showing contact with the Ancient Greeks:
    • Greek pottery – amphora 
    • Bracelet – Greek beads
  • The burial graves date from the 5th to 4th century BCE which dates well with the homeland of Herodotus’ Amazons and Scythian immigrants.
  • Dr Jeannine Davis Kimble’s research in Pokrovka in Russia identifies 3 classes of women from excavating and researching burials in this area.
    1. Feminine and Domestic = 28 burials
      • Feminine and domestic goods such as spindle, whorls, mirrors, stone and glass beads.
    2. Priestess = 5 burials
      • Cult goods such as clay and stone altars, bone spoons, bronze mirrors, and seashells.
    3. Warrior = 7 burials
      • Weapons include iron swords, daggers, bronze arrow-heads, whetstones, and a quiver.
      • 1 skeleton had an arrow found in her.

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For more information about the real Amazing Amazons check out:

Interview with Dr. Jeannine Davis-Kimball

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/amazon-warrior-women-interview-dr-jeannine-davis-kimball/1473/

Amazon Warrior Women: Background

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/amazon-warrior-women-background/1466/

Interactive: Amazon Warrior Forensic Facial Reconstruction

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/interactive-from-the-archive-amazon-warrior-forensic-facial-reconstruction/1094/

Reference

Plant, Dr Ian. (August 2011). “Amazons: Myth and History.” Lecture given at Macquarie University, NSW.