Archaeologists have conducted a biomechanical study of several skeletons previously found in burials at the Mayan capital Mayapan in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Analysis showed that two of the skeletons belonged to women, one of whom was an elite warrior.
The study is published as a preprint on the bioRxiv website and iflScience talks briefly about it. Previous studies have shown that one of the three skeletons found in Mayapán belonged to a man, one to an elite woman, and another to a common woman.
In the new study, the scientists analyzed the biomechanical properties of the bodies of the buried and the damage identified during the previous examination. For example, a flint arrowhead was found embedded in the shoulder blade of an “elite Mayan woman.” Until now it has been assumed that she could have been attacked and injured, for example, during the siege of the city.
However, a new analysis showed that she was not only physically stronger than the average woman. She had an overdeveloped shoulder girdle, with one shoulder much more powerful than the other. This and other findings led scientists to conclude that the woman in question was a skilled archer with abilities to match those of male warriors.
By the way, the study of the skeleton of a man showed that he, too, came from the upper stratum of society. And he too was killed: an obsidian arrowhead was found in his chest. Also, unlike the commoner, both members of the elite were buried face down.
By the way, the scientists conducted simulations to test the “bearing capacity of the humerus of the three skeletons.” They used models to recreate the tension created by archery and the javelin throw. The results showed that the bones of the male forearm were more suitable for archery than those of an ordinary woman, but they turned out to be the same as those of an elite woman.
This led researchers to the idea that representatives of the Mayan elite could be warriors on a par with men, that is, the Maya had their own “Amazons” who took part in hostilities. However, the women of the common people were not allowed to practice martial arts; it seems that this was the privilege of the elite. We add that the skeletons studied belong to the late classic period of the Maya, which lasted from 1200 to 1450 AD. This era was marked by many bloody wars that, in the context of more frequent droughts, were battles for resources.