DNA Tests Prove Female Viking Warriors Are More Than Just Legends

The drawing is a reconstruction of how the grave with the woman originally may have looked. Þórhallur Þráinsson

Stolpe assumed the remains were male because the body was buried with warrior equipment and horses, the fashion in which many powerful military leaders of the Viking age were buried. A set of gaming pieces found in the grave indicates the individual's "knowledge of tactics and strategy" and role as a high-ranking officer, the scientists said.

According to Hedenstierna-Jonson, the warrior had "most likely planned, led and taken part in battles". This grave has been the example of what a Viking warrior burial should look like for over a century. But when researchers discovered her remains in 1880s, the weaponry led them to assume this mighty she was a he.

According to Moen, Viking women who got to the high-ranking status reached by the Bj 581 warrior may have had an existing high social status, and learnt to navigate the system to further advance.

Since the discovery of the Lady of Cao, archaeologists have uncovered more Moche female mummies that suggest women in the civilisation enjoyed high political and religious standing.

Now, however, a DNA-analysis has been carried out, clearly confirming that the Viking warrior was indeed a woman.

Some time ago, archaeologists stumbled upon an important grave, which they thought it belonged to a reputable Viking warrior.

"It was probably quite unusual (for a woman to be a military leader)", the researchers continued, "but in this case, it probably had more to do with her role in society and the family she was from, and that carrying more importance than her gender".

Hedenstierna-Jonson said that since the first indications came through that the warrior was a woman, the researchers have been met with a fair share of skepticism, with critics questioning whether the bones analyzed are actually from that specific grave. Due to the number of warrior equipment that was found with the remains, it was just assumed -and never proven-that the remains belonged to a man.

Sagas (Nordic legends that have helped form the bedrock of our understandings of Viking culture) always spoke of women, but, given the tough and nomadic lives of the Vikings, there wasn't much in the way of evidence to prove that women were actively engaged in battle.

Hedenstierna-Jonson and her colleagues say it's possible that a second skeleton belonging to a male may be missing from the grave, and that the relics found in the grave belonged to this hypothetical person, but "the distribution of the grave goods within the grave, their spatial relation to the female individual and the total lack of any typically female attributed grave artefacts disputes this possibility".

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