Petrified Opal Tree Trunk Situated In Arizona Its About 225 Million Years Old
What happened to the wood that made it that way in the beautiful petrified trees in the forests of Arizona? They believe that petrified wood is so old that in the prehistoric period, it emerged.
But do you know how petrified wood was made? This guide will show you how. What is petrified wood and how is it formed?
Fossil wood is considered to have grown when the material of the plant is buried by sediment. When the wood is buried deep in the muck, it is protected from decay caused by exposure to oxygen and organisms.
Because the wood is stored in deep water, the minerals in the groundwater flow through the sediment, replacing the original plant material such as silica, calcite, and pyrite.
Even very expensive minerals can infiltrate wood-like opal. The result is a fossil made from the original woody material, which often shows preserved details of tree bark, wood, and cellular structures.
This is probably the most popular petrified park in the world. The Petrified Forest National Park near Holbrook in northeastern Arizona has established millions of years ago. About 225 million years ago, this was simply a lowland with a tropical climate with a dense forest.
Rivers made by tropical rainstorms washed mud and other sediments. This was where you would find giant coniferous trees 9 feet in diameter and towering 200 feet that lived and died.
Fallen trees and broken branches from these trees were buried by rich river sediments. Meanwhile, volcanoes nearby erupted numerous times and the ash and silica from these eruptions buried the area.
Eruptions caused large dense clouds of ash that buried the area and this quick cover prevented anything from escaping, of course, nothing can also move in, even oxygen and insects. In time, the soluble ash was dissolved by groundwater through the sediments. The dissolved ash became the source of silica that replaced the plant debris.
This silication process creates petrified wood. Aside from silica, trace amounts of iron, manganese and other minerals also penetrated the wood and this gave petrified wood a variety of colors. This is how the lovely Chinle Formation was made.
So how was this area discovered? Millions of years after the Chinle Formation was created, the entire area was dug and the rocks found on top of the Chinle have eroded away.
What was discovered was wood here was much harder and resistant to weathering compared to the mudrocks and ash deposits in Chinle. Wood that was taken from the ground surface as nearby mudrocks and ash layers washed away.
The park covers 146 square miles. It’s dry and often windy, but the elevation of 5400 feet means that it’s not as hot as desert areas at lower altitudes, and it’s mostly covered in grass rather than cacti and other desert plants.
Of course, the big attraction here is the petrified trees, which grew here about 225 million years ago when this part of Arizona was at a much lower elevation near the shores of a large sea to the west.
As well as the trees, many fossilized animals such as clams, freshwater snails, giant amphibians, crocodile-like reptiles, and early dinosaurs have been found here.
The silica in the logs crystallized into quartz, but often iron oxide and other minerals were mixed in, producing extraordinarily beautiful kaleidoscopic patterns and colors.
The petrified trees are often so attractive that a whole industry grew up around hauling them out from where they lay and cutting them up to make decorative furniture, wall displays, bookends, and other items. Theft from the park has always been a problem, and it’s estimated that around 12 tons of fossilized wood are stolen each year.
Archaeologists Locate Earliest Known North American Settlement
The earliest known north American settlement has been located. Paisley Five Mile Point Caves in southern Oregon near the Fremont-Winema National Forest has officially been added to the list of the most important archaeological sites in the United States by the U.S. Park Services under the authority of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.
The caves have been a popular archaeological site since 1938, but with the advances in carbon dating and other tools, the site offers up new discoveries even today.
According to The Oregon Encyclopedia, archaeologist Dr. Luther Cressman, often referred to as the father of Oregon archaeology and anthropology, began the work at Paisley Caves in the late 1930s and continued until the 1960s.
He helped to establish the anthropology department at the University of Oregon and was the first director of what would become the Oregon State Museum of Anthropology.
Before Cressman’s groundbreaking work, scientists believed the earliest inhabitants of North America were the Clovis People whose distinguishing spearheads record their places of residence.
National Geographic states that it was first believed that the ancient inhabitants of North America migrated en masse from Asia about thirteen thousand years ago, but according to Michael Waters, director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M University, evidence of human occupation before the Clovis culture has been found at numerous sites.
In 2002, Dr. Dennis L. Jenkins, archaeologist and Field School Supervisor for the Oregon State Museum of Anthropology at the University of Oregon, and his students began to reassess the caves explored by Cressman, and, in 2008, reported that human DNA in coprolites (feces) dated between 14,000 and 15,000 years ago had been found leading them to believe humans had been in the Americas at least one thousand years before the Clovis people and that the first human population originated in northeast Asia rather than Africa.
The team tested soil, gravel, and sand separately as well as obsidian and bone tool fragments, sage cordage and grass threads, cut animal bones, wooden pegs, and debris left over from fire pits along with Pleistocene animal bones.
The desiccated human feces were considered the most important finds and were sent to Dr. Eske Willerslev, Director of the University of Copenhagen’s Center of Excellence GeoGenetics.
He determined that the samples contained human mitochondrial DNA that was the same as the peoples already known to have first migrated from Asia to the Americas and multiple radiocarbon dates that calibrated to over fourteen thousand years ago, predating the earliest Clovis sites by over a thousand years.
Of course, there were some who questioned the validity of the discoveries because of previous work done by Cressman and others noting that the deposits were not found in situ (their original place) and may have been cross-contaminated.
Additional work completed in 2009 revealed a serrated bone tool that also pre-dated the Clovis population and the study of the coprolites was reaffirmed.
Kayakers find 8,000-year-old human skull in Minnesota
The skull belonged to a Native American man who likely lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
When a pair of kayakers spotted a skull fragment near the Minnesota River in 2021, local authorities thought they might have a new clue to a missing-persons case. But a forensic examination revealed something much more surprising: The bone was 8,000 years old.
The kayakers had discovered not the remains of a modern murder victim, but a clue to Native American life in the Archaic period, which spanned approximately 8,000 to 1,000 years ago. The examination of the skull revealed that it belonged to a man who lived between 5,500 B.C. and 6,000 B.C.
“To say we were taken back is an understatement,” Renville County Sheriff Scott Hable told the Washington Post(opens in new tab). “None of us were prepared for that.”
The sheriff’s office originally posted a photograph of the skull fragment on social media, but took down the picture after objections from the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council.
The group objected both to the fact that the council and state archaeologist were not first made aware of the discovery, as required by state law, and that the remains were displayed online, MPR News reportedwill not reproduce the photograph here. The remains will be turned over to Upper Sioux Community tribal officials, according to MPR News.
The kayakers discovered the skull in September 2021 near the city of Sacred Heart in southwestern Minnesota. According to the New York Times, the spot where the bone was discovered would normally have been underwater, but a severe drought had lowered the river level.
The forensic examination included a chemical analysis of the amount and type of carbon found in the skull. The decay of an isotope, or variation, of carbon called carbon-14 revealed the age of the skull.
The balance of other isotopes revealed the diet of the individual. This analysis showed that the man it belonged to ate a diet of fish, maize, pearl millet or sorghum.
Little is known about the time period during which the man lived in this region, Kathleen Blue, a professor and department chair of anthropology at Minnesota State University, told the New York Times, but he probably foraged locally, living off a diet of plants, deer, turtles, fish and mussels.
There is evidence of blunt force trauma on the skull fragment, but the injury would not have killed the man, Blue said. The bone shows signs of regrowth and healing, indicating that the man survived whatever caused the damage.
Few human remains from this period have been found in the upper Midwest. In the 1930s, road construction unearthed the skull and partial skeleton of a Native American teenage girl, now known as Minnesota Woman(opens in new tab), who is also thought to be 8,000 to 10,000 years old.
The girl was found with an antler dagger and a conch shell believed to have come from the Gulf of Mexico, indicating an early network of trade among Native American peoples.
Legends Surrounding Devils Tower – America’s First National Monument
This is the first proclaimed United States National Monument and is wrapped in stories, legends, and mysteries.
A monolithic igneous or volcanic tower is located in the Black Hills on the so-called Devils ‘ tower, near Hulett, Sundance in the Crook County, on the Belle Fourche River, north-east of Wyoming.
The mountain stands at 1,558 m above sea level and rises dramatically 386 m above the surrounding terrain. The mysterious natural wonder emerges as the first proclaimed National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt, established on September 1906.
The breathtaking landscape surrounding the Devil’s Tower consists mainly of sedimentary rocks. The oldest rocks visible at the National Monument were located in a shallow sea during the Middle or Late Triassic period, 225 to 195 million years ago.
The first known ascent to the Devil’s Tower was made in 1893 by William Rogers and Willard Ripley.
They found a narrow vertical crack that opened in the wall from the ground to the top. They used wooden planks to build a staircase. The staircase could be used until 1927, and even today you can see remains of it.
The Devil’s Tower and the Pleiades
According to the legends of the native American tribes of the Kiowa and Sioux Lakhota, in the distant past, young girls went out to play and were seen by giant bears, who began to chase them.
In an effort to escape the bears, the girls climbed on top of a rock, got on their knees and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them.
Upon hearing their prayers, the Great Spirit made the rock grow from the Earth towards heaven so that the bears could not reach the girls.
The bears, in their attempt to climb the rock, which had become too steep to climb, left deep claw marks on the sides.
When the girls reached heaven, they became the constellation of the Pleiades. However, there are other stories and legends about the mysterious rock formation.
A Sioux legend tells that two Sioux boys wandered off far away from their village when another mighty bear, with claws the site of tipi poles started chasing them, wanting to eat them for breakfast.
As the bear approached the boys, and as he was just about the grab them, they prayed to Wakan Tanka— “the sacred” or “the divine,” the Great Spirit—to save them from the bear.
They climbed a rock while the bear was desperately trying to climb on the rock as well and grab the two boys. However, the bear didn’t manage to climb the rock and left huge marks on its side. Mato—as the bear was called—eventually gave up and came to rest in a place now known as Bear Butte.
Wanblee, an eagle, rescued the boys and helped them get off the massive rock, returning them to their village.
In modern times, the Devil’s tower was used in the 1977 movie ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind.’
Strangely, just as in many other places in the vicinity, tourists and locals have reported strange lights in the sky just above the enigmatic rock formation.
Some even claim that these lights even come to rest on the summit of the massive rock.
The Mystery Of The Saddle Ridge Hoard, The Biggest Buried Treasure Find In U.S. History
One morning in of 2022, much like any other morning, a couple in California were walking their dog along their property. But on this particular walk, one of them noticed something strange on the side of the trail. The woman, Mary, had spotted an old tin can poking out of the ground.
Intrigued, Mary and her husband John carefully worked the tin out of the dirt. As they did, they uncovered something that would change their life forever: 1,411 gold coins.
The coins were obviously old, minted somewhere between 1847 and 1894, but they were in good condition. Incredibly, as the couple found out shortly afterward, they were worth about 10 million dollars.
It was the largest discovery of lost treasure in U.S. history. Yet no one could figure out how it got there.
The Saddle Ridge Hoard, as the treasure came to be known, was probably buried on the property sometime in the late 19th century. Most of the coins are $20 gold pieces minted in San Francisco after 1854, during the gold rush.
However, there also some earlier coins minted in Georgia, which raises the question of how they found their way to California.
Unlike most coins, many of the Saddle Ridge coins are in pristine condition, which suggests that they never even entered common circulation. That excellent condition is part of why the coins are so valuable.
Taken at face value, the coins are worth about $28,000, which was a huge amount of money when the coins were buried.
But due to the rarity and condition of the coins, they’re now worth millions on the open market.
But why would someone bury a fortune in coins on their property and never come back to claim them? There are a few possibilities.
Some have suggested that the coins came from a 1901 bank heist in San Francisco when an employee walked out with around $30,000 in gold coins. Given the timing and the value of the coins stolen, it would make sense.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Government has stepped in to rule this theory out. According to the Treasury, the coins found in the hoard don’t match those you’d expect to see from that particular bank robbery.
They might be the life savings of a miner who came to the area to strike it rich during the Gold Rush. But this theory isn’t the most plausible, given that by the time the coins were buried, the Gold Rush was more or less over.
The most likely explanation might be that the coins were put there by a wealthy, probably slightly unhinged, person who lived on the property and simply didn’t trust banks to keep their money safe.
So instead, they buried their money somewhere on their property and died before they could tell anyone where it was.
It might be hard for any amateur sleuths out there to find out the answer, since both the location of the coins and the identity of the people who found them are being kept secret.
It’s possible that one day soon, someone will be able to figure out how the coins ended up being buried. But for now, the secret of the largest buried treasure find in America will remain a mystery.
A 500,000 YEAR OLD SPARK PLUG: OUT-OF-PLACE ARTIFACTS (OOPART)
The Coso ‘Spark plug’ is one of the most interesting and anomalous artifacts ever discovered.
Its story begins one February morning in 1961, when the owners of a gem shop were out looking for new exhibits in the Coso Mountains of Eastern California.
Little did they know that, among the geodes they collected was a controversial relic that would challenge what we knew about our planet’s past.
The next day, they started cutting into the rocks, hoping they contained valuable crystals inside. Instead, they discovered that one of the geodes contained what appeared to be a mechanical device resembling a spark plug.
The device itself consisted of a porcelain cylinder circled by rings of copper. X-ray-analysis showed a magnetic rod and a metal spring were housed inside the cylinder. The rock also contained a soft, white substance that was never identified.
But the most puzzling aspect of this find was the age of the geode, which was determined by analyzing the stratum in which it was found as well as the presence of a concretion of marine animal fossils on its surface. Geologists determined it could be as old as 500,000 years.
All evidence seemed to suggest the Coso artifact and the white substance covering it had spent a long time submerged under seawater.
But what civilization had been advanced enough to engineer and then lose it? Was it even an earthly civilization? Turning to mainstream science for answers would be in vain.
Adepts of creationism have cited this oopart (out of place artifact) as evidence for the existence of an advanced pre-flood civilization while atheists have always dismissed it as a hoax.
Unfortunately, this disputed relic was not subjected to rigorous testing and there’s little chance it will ever become the central point of unbiased scientific analysis. It simply vanished in 1969 and hasn’t turned up ever since.
The Coso artifact and other equally-intriguing ooparts will silently fuel conspiracy theories from the obscure comfort as a centerpiece in someone’s private collection.
‘Dinosaur Mummy’ Emerges From The Oil Sands Of Alberta
The animal probably died as it lived — defying predators with its heavy armor and size — and after 110 million years, its face remains frozen in a ferocious reptilian glare.
How the animal, a land-dwelling, plant-eating nodosaur, died is not known, but somehow its body ended up at the bottom of an ancient sea. Minerals kept the remains remarkably intact, gradually turning the body into a fossil. And when it was unearthed in 2022, scientists quickly realized that it was the best-preserved specimen of its kind.
“It’s basically a dinosaur mummy — it really is exceptional,” said Don Brinkman, director of preservation and research at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta.
The dinosaur, with fossilized skin and gut contents intact, came from the Millennium Mine six years ago in the oil sands of northern Alberta, once a seabed.
That sea was full of life, teeming with giant reptiles that grew as long as 60 feet, while its shores were traversed by massive dinosaurs for millions of years. The area has been coughing up fossils since the beginning of recorded time.
“The shovel operator at the mine saw a block with a funny pattern and got in touch with a geologist,” Dr. Brinkman said. “We went up and collected it.” The fossil, photographed for the June issue of National Geographic, went on display on .
Alberta law designates all fossils the property of the province, not of the owners of the land where they are found. Most are discovered after being exposed by erosion, but mining has also proved a boon to paleontologists.
Dr. Brinkman said the museum was careful not to inhibit industrial activity when retrieving fossils so that excavators weren’t afraid to call when they found something.
“These are specimens that would never be recovered otherwise,” Dr. Brinkman said. “We get two or three significant specimens each year.”
16,700-Year-Old Tools Found in Texas Change Known History
Archaeologists in Texas thought they’d made an important discovery in the 1990s, when they unearthed a trove of stone tools dating back 13,000 years, revealing traces of the oldest widespread culture on the continent.
But then, years later, they made an even more powerful find in the same place — another layer of artifacts that were older still.
About a half-hour north of Austin and a meter deep in water-logged silty clay, researchers have uncovered evidence of human occupation dating back as much as 16,700 years, including fragments of human teeth and more than 90 stone tools.
In addition to being some of the oldest yet found in the American West, the artifacts are rare traces of a culture that predated the culture known as Clovis, whose distinctively shaped stone tools found across North America have consistently been dated to about 13,000 years ago.
Indeed, an entire generation of anthropologists was taught that Clovis represented the continent’s first inhabitants.
But, along with a handful of other pre-Clovis finds, the Texas tools add to the mounting evidence that humans arrived on the continent longer ago than was once thought, said Dr. D. Clark Wernecke, director of the Gault School of Archaeological Research.
“The most important takeaway is that people were in the New World much earlier than we used to believe,” Wernecke said.
“We were all taught [North America was first populated] 13,500 years ago, and it appears that people arrived 15,000 to 20,000 years ago.” [See what may be the oldest known artifact in the West: “Stone Tool Unearthed in Oregon ‘Hints’ at Oldest Human Occupation in Western U.S.”
The location in Texas where the new finds were made, known as the Gault site, was first identified in the 1920s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that archaeologists discovered the first tools, like tapered-oval spear heads, that were clear signs of the ancient Clovis culture.
It was those finds that Wernecke and his colleagues went to investigate further, when they began working at the Gault site in 2022.
“At the time, we were interested in Clovis, and we had no idea of anything earlier there,” he said.
After several years of digging test pits and making chance finds, the team ended up focusing on two of the most striking parts of the site.
The first part, known as Area 12, revealed an unusual “pavement” constructed out of cobbles buried deep beneath the surface.
“[It’s] a roughly two-by-three-meter rectangular gravel pad about 10 centimeters thick of rounded river gravels in a narrow range of sizes, with artifacts of at least Clovis age on and around it,” Wernecke said.
“The indications from the surrounding data are that it had a structure on it.”
The presence of Clovis-era stone tools suggested that the paved floor dated to about 13,000 years ago.
The team kept digging, and about 1 meter below the pavement and the Clovis tools, they found nine more flakes of shaped stone, along with a scattering of animal bones.
Assuming that material found below the Clovis pavement must be older than Clovis, the researchers were intrigued. But there was not much to go on.
“In Area 12, you have the pavement, lithics and bone, and not much else,” Wernecke said.
Among a pile of limestone rocks, the team discovered the enamel caps of four adjacent teeth from a young adult female.
No human bones were found, and enamel can’t be radiocarbon dated, Wernecke noted, so details about the woman — like how and when she lived and died — remain a mystery for now.
However, within this same, deep, older-than-Clovis layer of sediment, the researchers unearthed yet another compelling find — more than 90 stone tools, fashioned in a style that clearly wasn’t Clovis.
Clovis projectile points can be identified by their long parallel-sided shape — a form known as lanceolate — as well as by their thin bases, and notches where a shaft could be hafted onto the stone. [See a clear-crystal Clovis point recently found in Mexico.But many of the newly found, deeper artifacts didn’t fit that description.
“The morphology is completely different,” Wernecke said. “They are not lanceolate points with basal thinning.
“Three of them are very small stemmed points, and the fourth is a somewhat thick sort of lanceolate point.
In addition to the 90 tools, the artifacts include more than 160,000 stone flakes left over from the tool-making process. And they, too, are different from the flakes found with Clovis tools, Wernecke said.
“The flaking patterns are also completely different,” he said.
“These were not made using Clovis technology.”
But the fact that these artifacts were different from, and deeper than, the Clovis points didn’t necessarily prove that they were older.
To establish their age, Wernecke and his colleagues submitted 18 of the artifacts to a lab for optically stimulated luminescence dating — a process that analyzes tiny grains in the soils to reveal when they were last exposed to sunlight, thereby giving a sense of how long they’ve been buried.The results showed that the artifacts were between 13,200 to 16,700 years old.
At their most ancient, that’s some 3,000 years older than the earliest known signs of Clovis culture anywhere in North America.
“We compared these [dates] with relative dating of artifacts and radiocarbon dates wherever possible,” Wernecke added. “All seem to agree well.”
The discovery of all of these older-than-Clovis artifacts raises tantalizing questions about what that earlier culture was like, and how it compared to the Clovis culture.According to Wernecke, the pre-Clovis tools suggest that their makers were likely direct predecessors of the Clovis.
Many aspects of their technology — like how they made biface blades — were similar but not identical, he said.
“Blade technology does not seem to have changed a lot — a little bit in technique, but both cultures were making similar blades,” he said.
“Likewise, many of the tools are the same basic tools — easily recognizable to either technological culture but made in a different fashion. A different set of technological tools and instructions were used to arrive at similar tool types.”
This continuity in technology might indicate a similar continuity of culture, Wernecke added, a gradual transition from one culture to the next.
“You would logically expect some similarity,” he said. “If people adopted a new technology, some of the old would hang around.
“If [the tools] were completely different, you would expect to find another culture in between [the Clovis and older-than-Clovis layers], or evidence for total replacement of the population.”
Much more work remains to be done at the Gault site, Wernecke said.But the discoveries made there so far have enormous implications for our understanding of the history of human migration and the peopling of the Americas, Wernecke said. [Learn why human feces found in Oregon has experts arguing: “Ancient Feces From Oregon Cave Aren’t Human, Study Says, Adding to Debate on First Americans“]
“In 1590, [Spanish missionary and naturalist] Jose de Acosta wrote that the people in the New World were primitive humans who must have walked here, and we have built on that premise ever since,” he said.
“But it was not possible to walk here until much later, with 3-mile-high glaciers in the way.
“If people got here 15,000 to 20,000 years ago, they had to have come along the coast in boats.” [See what DNA has revealed about Clovis culture: “Genome of America’s Only Clovis Skeleton Reveals Origins of Native Americans“]
Moreover, he added, the diversity of artifacts uncovered at the Gault site also shows that the continent’s earliest peoples were not a static or monolithic group.
“We are beginning to understand that the first peoples in the new world were just like us,” Wernecke said, “intelligent, inventive, creative — and they found ways to adapt to a rapidly changing world.”
Skeletal damage hints some hunter-gatherer women fought in battles
Women’s reputation as nurturing homebodies who left warfare to men in long-ago societies is under attack. Skeletal evidence from hunter-gatherers in what’s now California and from herders in Mongolia suggests that women warriors once existed in those populations.
Two research teams had planned to present these findings April 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. That meeting was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The results have been provided to Science News by the scientists.
Sexual divisions of labor characterized ancient societies, but were not as rigidly enforced as has often been assumed, the new studies suggest. “The traditional view [in anthropology] of ‘man the hunter and woman the gatherer’ is likely flawed and overly simplistic,” says forensic anthropologist Marin Pilloud of the University of Nevada, Reno.
Consider hunter-gatherers who lived in central California as early as around 5,000 years ago as well as more recent Native Americans groups in that region, such as Coast Miwok and Yana. Some archaeological evidence as well as historical accounts and 20th century anthropologists’ descriptions generally portray men in those groups as hunters, fishers and fighters in tribal feuds and conflicts with outside armies. Women are presented as focused on gathering and preparing plant foods, weaving and child care.
But skeletons of 128 of those hunter-gatherer women display damage from arrows and sharp objects such as knives comparable to skeletal injuries of 289 presumed male warriors, Pilloud and her colleagues found. Whether those women fought alongside men or carried out other dangerous battle duties, such as sneaking up on enemies to cut their bow strings, can’t be determined from their bones.
Individuals in this sample came from 19 Native American groups in central California, and had lived in any of five time periods between around 5,000 and 200 years ago.
Evidence analyzed by Pilloud’s team was part of a database of excavated skeletal remains from more than 18,000 central California hunter-gatherers assembled by study coauthor Al Schwitalla of Millennia Archaeological Consulting in Sacramento.
A study directed by Schwitalla determined that 10.7 percent of males in the database had suffered injuries from sharp objects and projectile points, versus 4.5 percent of females. The new study finds similar patterns of those injuries on the skeletons of men and women.
In wars between Native American tribes in California, women were often killed in surprise raids and other attacks, which may partly explain female injuries reported in the new study, says biological anthropologist Patricia Lambert of Utah State University in Logan.
Some women may have fought in battles, either to defend their children or village or as warriors, suggests Lambert, who was not part of Pilloud’s team. But further evidence of female fighters, such as Native American women in California buried with weapons and other battle artifacts, is needed, she says.
A second skeletal analysis suggests that nomadic herders in ancient Mongolia, bordering northern China, trained some women to be warriors during a time of political turbulence and frequent conflicts known as the Xianbei period, says anthropologist Christine Lee of California State University, Los Angeles. The Xianbei period ran from 147 to 552.
In a study of nine individuals buried in a high-status Mongolian tomb from the Xianbei period, conducted by Lee and Cal State colleague Yahaira Gonzalez, two of three women and all six men displayed signs of having ridden horses in combat.
That conclusion rests on three lines of evidence: bone alterations caused by frequent horse riding and damage from falls off horses; upper-body signatures of having regularly used bows to shoot arrows, including alterations of spots where shoulder and chest muscles attach to bone; and arrowhead injuries to the face and head. Because the tomb was previously looted, any war-related objects that may have been interred with the bodies are gone.
In western Asia, archaeologists have uncovered potential graves of women warriors that include weapons and war gear.
By around 900, written documents refer to Mongolian women who fought in wars, held political power and had diplomatic credentials, Lee says. Freedom for Mongolian women to pursue a variety of activities goes back at least to the Xianbei period, she suspects.
Lee now plans to look for skeletal evidence of female warriors in more Mongolian tombs dating to as early as around 2,200 years ago.
“Badass women may go back a long way in northern Asian nomadic groups,” she says.