The myth of the Viking woman warrior

In 2017, a team of Swedish archaeologists announced an exciting discovery: They had, for the first time, identified the remains of a Viking woman warrior. A DNA analysis of a Viking Age skeleton previously thought to be male had turned out to be female. The skeleton in question was originally discovered in 1878 in a grave known as Bj. 581 at the Swedish Viking Age trading town of Birka. Lacking the scientific knowledge available today to determine the biological sex of human remains, the 19th-century archaeologists looked at the objects buried with the skeleton — weapons like swords and spears, shields, and even the remains of several horses — and declared the human remains to have belonged to a male warrior. The modern DNA result proved this theory wrong.

The tale of the Viking woman warrior from Birka continues to capture our imaginations. She has even been called a “real-life Viking version” of Game of Thrones’ iconic female knight, Brienne of Tarth. But what hasn’t attracted as much attention is the ongoing controversy among scholars about the validity of these recent conclusions. According to the critics, the claim that the woman in Bj. 581 had been a warrior is based on some wobbly assumptions. That we so desperately want to believe in the Viking woman warrior, despite evidence to the contrary, says a lot about the ongoing women’s movement, and betrays our rigid ideals of how we want female strength to be displayed.

During the Viking Age (c. 800–1050), men and women from what is today Norway, Sweden, and Denmark set sail to new lands and spread out across a vast area reaching from the North Atlantic to the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean. In popular culture, Vikings are mainly known for their fighting abilities, but being …read more

Source:: The Week – Lifestyle


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