You can watch the video about this subject in here: [Viking Warrior Women]
As I’ve told you before, there are historical facts and then historical facts proven by sciences. There was always this idea of Viking women fighting alongside men; fearsome female warriors in poetry and in the sagas. For instance, we have the famous Freydís Eiríksdóttir, the daughter of Erik the Red. She appears in the Sagas of the Greenlanders as a fearsome warrior, with masculine physical features, and a lot of people died due to her schemes, and she even fought the North-American natives. But there were no certainties that she even existed. We have always heard about warrior women in the ancient Scandinavian societies, especially during the Viking Age, but the truth is, there were no palpable evidences that they were real, that the women in these societies were warriors or could be warriors, it’s like when you have an idea, you spread it so much that all of a sudden everyone is talking about it as if it were true and becomes a fact. But fortunately nowadays, and this is a recent discovery, there are physical evidences that viking warrior women really existed, all thanks to archaeology, physical anthropology and genetics. So now we can say with certainty that women in ancient Scandinavian societies could be warriors.
Women were very active within ancient Scandinavian societies. For instance, unlike Iceland where men were more active in activities related to witchcraft, especially Galdr, in mainland Scandinavia, Seidr – witchcraft, rune-magic, divination and so on – was the province of women. Women also took care of the household and the farmstead when men were away raiding, they could even get divorced, and if their husband was killed they could take their sit in the Thing (the assembly of the community), having a very active role in politics. But when there were kids to take care of, their mothers were in charge of teaching them the arts of war. Mothers would teach their kids how to use the bow and arrow, the shield, sword, axe and spear – so women knew the Scandinavian medieval martial arts. With this knowledge in fighting and using weapons, why not try their luck like men? I’m sure taking care of the farmstead was a dull business, being at the assembly probably quite boring, so why not explore the world, discover new places, meet new people and kill them and rob them of their properties?
Archaeological evidences of warrior graves are numerous, especially during the Viking Age period of Northern Europe. And in the Viking town of Birka, in nowadays Sweden, was the key centre of trading between the 8th and 10th centuries. There is a great number of graves distributed over large burial grounds encircling the town area. Of course, graves not only for warriors but other town’s folk, but there is a specific area just for the garrison of this town, and in this area were found the deceased warriors. The graves in this area contained all manner of objects linked to the activities of warriors. The grave goods included swords, axes, spears, armour-piercing arrows, battle knifes, shields, well . . . the complete equipment of professional warriors. Some graves even had horses, and horses already indicate high-ranking officers. One of these high-ranking officers was a woman, scientists came to the conclusion after osteological and genetic tests.
Now the question is, do weapons found in graves necessarily determine a warrior? There is a variety of archaeological findings of viking-women buried with weapons and they weren’t
necessarily warriors. But this one not only had all the equipment a warrior needs, also had horses. Two horses, as I’ve said. Horses weren’t easy to come by, and it was extremely expensive to own one horse, let alone two. Horses were also chosen to be the sacrificed animals when it came to funerary rituals for someone of great importance, extreme importance really. But that depends on the context. In this context, these two horses show us that they were worthy of an individual with responsibilities concerning strategy and battle tactics. Of course there is the Oseberg ship case, where two women were buried with a great number of horses, but on that context we are in the presence of something completely different and unique, which I would love to talk about on another video someday.
And now you ask, what about signs of trauma in the skeleton which indicate that the individual was a warrior? Well I must say that the skeletal remains of this female warrior did not exhibit signs of trauma. But weapon-related wounds are not that common, actually, during the Viking Age, traces of violent trauma are more common in mass burials, so it’s more likely to find graves for a single warrior with little or no traces of trauma, and not every weapon hits the bones and leaves a mark, we have to take in mind that there is a lot of flesh and muscle to slice and people can die from it.
Well, this goes beyond my professional knowledge, as an archaeologist I know a bit of theoretical physical anthropology and a tiny bit of genetics, but that work is left to the scientists who really know about this stuff, and they say this skeleton belonged to a woman and we can be certain it did. Now, is this the only female warrior of the ancient Scandinavian society? Of course not. Till now the idea was that men were the warriors and no one really went to the trouble of properly study the osteological remains to see the gender. This woman was not only a warrior, but a highranking officer, so if women could have such a high statues in the military field, certainly they could be warriors. In conclusion, female Viking warriors were part of a society that dominated from the 8th to the 10th century of northern Europe and now with certainty we can say that women were full members of this society, being very active in every field.