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Did women fight as warriors during the Viking age -VikingSprit

By CollaboratorKeato May 04, 2019 0 comments

It has been an age long debate as to whether women fought as warriors during the age of Vikings. According to archaeological discoveries, the facts haven't been confirmed until recently. Recently, New DNA study and groundbreaking research has presented genetic evidence that women took the warrior profession during the age of Vikings.

A grave located somewhere in the Viking town of Birka in Sweden, called grave bj 581 which was first discovered in 1889 had all the criteria of what could be described as a professional warriors grave. Assumptions indicated that the warrior buried there was a man, and for many years this belief was held because the grave had and contained all the hallmark items of a high ranking official, it held a number of trademark weapons including a sword, armor piercing arrows, and two horses, and even equipment used for battle strategy and war tactics were discovered alongside the corpse.

Because of the belief held that the grave was that of a man, there was a disregard of the skeletal structure. After, however, there was a need for archaeological testing.  The result pointed to the fact that it was a woman. However, a much more credible way of testing and sex determination of the remains needed to be carried out, leading archaeologist to turn to genetic testing’s to determine for sure the sex of the warrior.

DNA from the remains were tested, and it was discovered to be a woman, analysis of the remains shows that the woman Viking warrior led a life of travel, which is confirmed to be a culture of the Viking warrior as at the mid 900's.

Are there historical records of women as Vikings?

Very few historical records mention women in the role of warriors in the Viking age. Records have shown that women fought in a battle in AD 971. It is also noted worthy that communities of shield maidens existed. Shield maidens who dressed as men. They were diligent to learning swordplay and other skills for war purposes.

A lot of the information that exists about female Viking warriors exist in literary works. Female warriors were known as Valkyries. They were an important part of the Viking culture. With the spread of the legends, along with the number of rights and power they had, it isn't out of place to say that women in Viking society did on occasion take up arms to fight, especially in an event when they were threatened, protecting families or their property.

Have there been other prior female discoveries?

In relation to the archaeological discoveries and the new DNA testing, this is the first time that actual evidence of a female warrior has popped up. Professional female warriors were not a common thing, at least not until more graves and evidence proving otherwise are unearthed that suggests prominent female warriors existed. The fact remains that women of the Viking age could make a choice to be warriors.

Different theories concerning this finding

A lot of speculation exists as to whether the archaeological findings really are authentic, and many questions have been raised as to the validity of the findings related to the grave where the female Viking warrior remains were found.

  1. There have been reports instigating that the remains might have been that of a slave girl or a wife of a Viking male warrior buried alongside him. But reports and comparison from other graves show that the graves only contained one person, the arrangement of goods and weapons point to the fact that only one person was buried there.


  1. Another theory claims that she could have been buried with all the weapons found and still not be a Viking warrior, the materials found in the grave and in other graves similar to the grave in question suggest some form of military connection and tactics, so ruling out the fact that the grave had military connection because of the found gender would be illogical.

It is noteworthy that warriors usually have a form of trauma indication in their bones, but the skeletal review of this bone showed no trauma, even a survey of the male skeletons showed very minute signs of trauma.

The significance of this particular grave is in its ability to attract a lot of importance in the world of Viking warrior age. No items of frail importance were found in the grave, but rather only items relating to warfare, which indicates that the person buried there had a lot of experience when it had to do with tactics and warfare. And findings proved that it was a woman, thereby indicating that a female Viking warrior was not a taboo and it really existed.

In consideration of all the stated facts, it has been noted that a lot of myth exist pointing to the fact that women actually fought in Viking battles. In Norse myth there is said to be a group of women with supernatural powers called the Valkyries, they act as guardians, and many died on the battlefield, and are depicted as wielding weapons. 

Who are shield maidens?

Shield-maidens are female warriors who take on male attitudes, dressing and the wielding of weapons. They do this because of the absence of a male In the family, or they are running away from their spouse.

The recent findings by the researchers at Stockholm University show that the was older than thirty years and was about five feet six inches tall. In the Viking clan, women enjoyed a relative degree of freedom and were allowed to be independent. Stories of female warriors show in Scandinavian poetry from the times of the Middle Ages. Similar stories of warriors have been told in our modern era too, but the existence of warrior women in Viking culture has always been challenged, which was a reason why the discovery of the grave was overlooked initially, as Viking warriors were largely assumed to be of the masculine gender, there was no room for second guessing as to which sex the skeleton belonged to, not until much closer examination of the skeletal structure indicated that it was a female grave.

Even though this isn't the first grave discovered to have female remains, the evidence suggests that the items found in it belonged to the female Viking warrior and not just a slave buried with her master. Making it clear that female warriors existed during the Viking age.

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