New DNA Evidence Strongly Suggests There Were Female Viking Warriors
Photo: AP (from a 2012 Vikings Festival in Spain, but you
get the picture)
A study published last week in the
American Journal of Physical Anthropology reports that
a DNA analysis of bones interred in a grave assumed to belong
to a Viking warrior found that the human remains, first
excavated in the 19th century, were those of a woman. The
research strongly suggests that the woman was a not only a
warrior, but a high-ranking, wealthy one, as she was buried in
a grave filled with arrowheads, swords, and a couple of
Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, the archeologist at Uppsala
University who led the research on that Viking grave told The Guardian
on Tuesday, “Before we knew it was a woman, it was interpreted
as a warrior grave. Nothing in the archeology has changed—only
the gender. I do believe she was a warrior.”
As National Geographic notes, there are scattered
throughout Viking mythology several hints at the existence of
female warriors. The 13th-century Saga of Volsungs, for
instance, discusses “shield-maidens” who fought alongside men,
and a 10th-century text tells the story of Inghen Ruaidh, the
“Red Girl,” who commanded a Viking fleet that sailed to
Becky Gowland, a lecturer on archeology at Durham University,
told The Guardian that presuming the a degraded body’s
gender is an error archeologists make all too often: “Because
it was buried with weapons, [people assumed] it must be a man.
I think that’s a mistake the archeologists make quite often.
When we do that, we’re just reproducing the past.” If true,
this suggests there could be more hard scientific evidence of
female Viking warriors that has been overlooked and undermined
by modern-day sexism.
And, speaking of modern-day sexism, it may not be highly
evolved, but it sure is thriving.