Scythia was an area in Eurasia inhabited in ancient times by people probably speaking Indo-Iranian languages, known as the Scythians. The location and extent of Scythia varied over time, from the Altai region where Mongolia, China, Russia, and Kazakhstan come together to the lower Danube river area and Bulgaria. The Saka were Asian Scythians and were known as Sai to the Chinese. The Scythians first appear in Assyrian annals as Ishkuzai, who are reported as pouring in from the north some time around 700 BC, settling in Ascania and modern Azerbaijan as far as to the southeast of Lake Urmia. The most significant Scythian tribes mentioned in mainly Greek sources resided in the steppe between the Dnieper and Don rivers.
The Scythians formed a network of nomadic tribes of horse-riding conquerors. They invaded many areas in the steppes of Eurasia, including areas in present-day Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and southern Russia. Scythian elite were buried in kurgans, high barrows heaped over chamber-tombs of larch-wood – a wood that may have had special significance as a tree of life-renewal, since it is a deciduous conifer that stands out starkly in winter against other evergreens, but returns to life every spring. Burials at Pazyryk in the Altai Mountains have included some spectacularly-preserved Scythians of the Pazyryk culture – including the Ice Maiden of the 5th century BC.
Scythian warrior-women may have inspired tales of the Amazons in Greek myth. A Pazyryk burial found in the 1990s seems to confirm at least part of the legend. It contained the skeletons of a man and a woman, each with weapons, arrowheads, and an axe. The woman was dressed exactly like a man. This shows that certain women, probably young and unmarried, could be warriors, literally Amazons. It didn’t offend the principles of nomadic society, according to one of the archaeologists.
To date, no certain explanation exists to account for the origin of the Scythians, nor details of how they migrated to the Caucasus or Ukraine; but the majority of scholars conjecture that they migrated westward from near Bactria between 800 BC and 600 BC. Old records actually say that the land where the Scythians originated was called Gerrhos. They would prepare their dead and travel with them long distances to bring them for burial in Gerrhos.