Robert E. Howard wrote his entire corpus of Conan stories in the early to mid 1930s. The character became a household word with the Marvel series Conan the Barbarian in the 1970s and the John Milius film of the same name in 1982. Meditating on this impacted my archaeological studies and research in the Eurasian steppes and Caucasus. While I was a graduate student I became interested in how the character changed with American culture over those decades, and gave a paper about it at an academic conference. I realized that no matter how closely the historical and archaeological facts are followed, our current interests color research topics and how those facts are cherry picked in scholarly work on historical groups like the Cimmerians, Scythians, and Picts that inspired Howard and other fantasy authors. It was effective to discuss this with my classes using fiction. Despite efforts to drag comics out of the gutters where they belong, there is something naughty about teaching them at the university level and students loved being able to blur the line between normal academic topics and the entertainment that drove them to want to take my courses. And I made no bones about my view that in the final analysis, neither is more or less important than the other.
The following is part two of a set of videos on the Scythians that I showed to my “Peoples and Cultures of the Silk Road” classes at Idaho State University. It takes plan views of Scythian kurgans from archaeological texts and describes what they show, and discusses archaeological finds in terms of ancient Greek sources. It also covers the iconic kurgan of the Golden Warrior that I visited in Kazakhstan in 2013.
The video is brief and narrates images in a Ken Burns style. It now has 83k views, please watch it, share it with your friends, and help get me to 100k views! I’m working on a new video on a related subject that I’ll write about when it’s finished.