Viking Grave, Birka, Sweden

Viking Grave, Birka, Sweden

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Yes, That Viking Warrior Buried with Weapons Really Was a Woman

The ancient warrior was given a prestigious Viking burial, complete with deadly Viking weapons, a bag of gaming pieces (possibly to represent military command) and two horses, one bridled for riding. This mighty warrior — long thought to be be a man — made headlines in 2017 when researchers in Sweden announced that the individual was, in fact, a woman.

The intense scrutiny that followed caught the researchers by surprise.

The barrage of questions from the public and other scientists was unrelenting: Were the researchers sure they had analyzed the right bones? Was there more than one body in the burial, of which one was surely a man? And if the warrior's sex was indeed female, is it possible they were a transgender man? [See Images of the Viking Woman Warrior's Burial]

Now, in a new study published online yesterday (Feb. 19) in the journal Antiquity, the researchers of the original study have reaffirmed their conclusion that this mighty individual was a woman. The new study addresses all the questions people raised, and more.

Female Viking warrior's remarkable grave sheds new light on ancient society

An incredible grave containing the skeleton of a Viking warrior, long thought to be male, has been confirmed as female, researchers say.

An incredible grave containing the skeleton of a Viking warrior, long thought to be male, has been confirmed as female, researchers say.

The 10th-century grave, known as Bj. 581, was first discovered on the Swedish island of Bjorko in the late 19th century. Stunning artifacts found in the grave indicated that it belonged to a high-status Viking warrior, who, for over a century, was assumed to be male.

In 2017, however, experts published the results of a DNA analysis that revealed the skeleton was female. The amazing discovery garnered a great deal of attention and sparked plenty of debate.

In a study published this week in the journal Antiquity, the researchers responded to critics of the original study, explaining that they analyzed the correct skeleton and that there was only one set of human remains in the grave. “The simple and secure conclusion is that we have the right individual, who was buried alone, and that this person has been proven to be biologically female,” they explained.

The array of weapons discovered in grave Bj.581. (photographs courtesy of Christer Åhlin, Swedish History Museum/Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

The experts also reiterated the woman’s warrior status. “In our opinion, Bj.581 was the grave of a woman who lived as a professional warrior and was buried in a martial environment as an individual of rank,” they wrote. “To those who do take issue, however, we suggest that it is not supportable to react only now, when the individual has been shown to be female, without explaining why neither the warrior interpretations nor any supposed source-critical factors were a problem when the person in Bj.581 was believed to be male.”

The warrior woman was buried in elaborate clothing and her grave contained a stunning array of weapons, including a sword, an ax, 25 armor-piercing arrows, a fighting knife, two lances and two spears. She was also buried with two horses, underlining her high status in Viking society.

Intriguingly, a bag of gaming pieces was also placed in the warrior’s lap and a gaming board was propped up beside her skeleton.

Artist's impression of the occupant of grave Bj.581 as a high-status female warrior. (Drawing by Tancredi Valeri/Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

Set against this backdrop, the team behind the study noted other Viking women likely bore arms.

“We would be very surprised if she was alone in the Viking world other women may have taken up arms in the same seasonal or opportunistic context as many male Viking raiders,” they wrote. “A few may have risen to positions of command—indeed, the quality of the individual’s clothing, and the presence of the gaming set, implies that she may have been one of them.”

Gaming sets are typically associated with Viking military leaders, according to the researchers, who noted they are often found in larger boat graves.

Drawing of grave Bj. 581. (Drawing by Þórhallur Þráinsson/Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

Despite the incredible glimpse into Viking society that the grave offers, many aspects of the woman’s life will remain unknown. “Can we be sure that the person in Bj.581 was a woman, in a gendered sense? No, we cannot. She may have taken on a man’s social role, while retaining a feminine identity,” explained the study’s authors.

The grave is one of many fascinating archaeological finds from the time of the Vikings. Last year, for example, a Viking “Thor’s hammer” was discovered in Iceland and archaeologists in Norway used ground-penetrating radar technology to reveal an extremely rare Viking longship.

Also in 2018, an 8-year-old girl discovered a 1,500-year-old sword in a Swedish lake and an incredible trove of silver treasure linked to the era of a famous Viking king was discovered on an island in the Baltic Sea. Hundreds of 1,000-year-old silver coins, rings, pearls, and bracelets were found on the German island of Ruegen.

Plan of grave Bj. 581 by Harald Olsson (Arbman [1943]/Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

In 2017, an incredibly well-preserved Viking sword was found by a reindeer hunter on a remote mountain in Southern Norway. In 2016, archaeologists in Trondheim, Norway, unearthed the church where Viking King Olaf Haraldsson was first enshrined as a saint.

Gaming pieces from the warrior's grave. (Photograph by Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson/Antiquity Publications Ltd.)

Separately in 2016, a tiny Viking crucifix was found in Denmark.

Fox News' Bradford Betz and The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

A glimpse into history

Want to see Birka for yourself? You don’t need to trek all the way to Sweden! Christer Sundberg, World Heritage Traveler , put together a wonderful video sharing the story and legacy of this small, but influential, Scandinavian island. Check it out below!

(If you are unable to view the video below, click here to view it directly on YouTube.)

The grave of a high-status warrior?

Of the more than 1100 excavated burials on Birka, only 75 contain one or more offensive weapons (Thålin-Bergman Reference Thålin-Bergman and Arwidsson 1986: 5). Bj.581 is one of only two burials from the entire island with a full complement of weapons, and has been grouped among the 20 richest graves on the site (Thålin-Bergman Reference Thålin-Bergman and Arwidsson 1986: 5 Ringstedt Reference Ringstedt 1997: 94). From the very beginning, the Bj.581 burial was interpreted as that of a high-status warrior. Weapons were present in unusual profusion and variety, suggesting the equipment of a professional—probably a mounted archer able to deploy a remarkable repertoire of fighting techniques (Figure 4). This in itself implies both skill and considerable expense: war-gear of excellent quality, intended for someone of high social standing. Conversely, there were no finds of a more domestic character, such as tools or agricultural implements.

Figure 4. The weapons from chamber grave Bj.581: a sword, axe, fighting knife, two lances, two shields and 25 armour-piercing arrows (photographs courtesy of Christer Åhlin, Swedish History Museum).

The gaming pieces add an extra dimension (Figure 5). As individual objects, they are not uncommon in Viking Age burials, but rare as full sets with iron-bound boards (for a discussion of the Birka examples, see Selling Reference Selling 1940). They particularly occur in relation to military leaders for example, being present in most of the larger boat graves (Whittaker Reference Whittaker 2006 Hall Reference Hall 2016), where they are employed symbolically, such as boards laid out with pieces in play (e.g. in Valsgärde boat burial 7, Arwidsson Reference Arwidsson 1977: pl. 45 and Ultuna, Ljungkvist Reference Ljungkvist 2006: 214). The presence of a full gaming set and board in Bj.581, and their deliberate placement in direct proximity to the body, suggests a potential command role, in addition to the high status implied by the quality of the military equipment.

Figure 5. A selection of the gaming pieces from chamber grave Bj.581 (photograph by Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson).

The individual's clothing has also been analysed, with Birka's leading textile specialist arguing—based on a broad range of comparative data—that the person in Bj.581 was a cavalry commander under the immediate authority of a royal war-leader (Hägg Reference Hägg, Brandt, Müller-Wille and Radtke 2002: 204). The tasselled cap in particular is unusual. It was possibly manufactured in Kiev and, according to Ingmar Jansson ( Reference Jansson, Roesdahl and Wilson 1992: 261), was of a type made for “the leading members of society” (Figure 6).

Figure 6. The silver terminal and tassels from the cap in chamber grave Bj.581 (photograph courtesy of Christer Åhlin, Swedish History Museum).

As synthetic works on the Vikings began to appear after Birka's publication, from the 1960s onwards, Bj.581 not only continued to be consistently interpreted as a high-status warrior, but was even upheld as an archetype, a kind of ‘ultimate Viking’ of the tenth century (e.g. Almgren Reference Almgren 1967: 44–45 Jones Reference Jones 1968: 170–71 Gräslund Reference Gräslund 1980: 41 Lofterud Reference Lofterud 1981: 16–17 Thunmark-Nylén Reference Thunmark-Nylén 1981: 136–37 Ambrosiani & Eriksson Reference Ambrosiani and Eriksson 1991: 42 Ambrosiani Reference Ambrosiani 1992: 17 Gräslund & Müller-Wille Reference Gräslund, Müller-Wille, Roesdahl and Wilson 1992: 187 Magnus Reference Magnus 2000: 19 Hall Reference Hall 2007: 224 Herget Reference Herget and Koch 2008: 76–77 Magnus & Gustin Reference Magnus and Gustin 2009: 67 Roesdahl Reference Roesdahl 2016: 162–63). As far as we are aware, this warrior interpretation has never been challenged. It should also be emphasised that the material culture of an elite warrior class on Birka has been the subject of extensive study in its own right, with clear overtones of eastern influence from the Rus cultural sphere (e.g. Olausson Reference Olausson 2001 Hedenstierna-Jonson Reference Hedenstierna-Jonson 2006 Hedenstierna-Jonson & Holmquist Olausson Reference Hedenstierna-Jonson and Olausson 2006 Holmquist Olausson & Olausson Reference Holmquist Olausson and Olausson 2009) this provides an additional context for the Bj.581 burial.

The landscape setting of the grave itself also reinforces a warrior interpretation—being situated outside the gate of the Birka hillfort and adjacent to two other burials containing numerous weapons. This entire area has also long been regarded as having been set aside as a burial ground for the rich (Figure 7 Arbman Reference Arbman 1939: 75 for the weapon burials, Bj.495 and Bj.496, see Thålin-Bergman Reference Thålin-Bergman and Arwidsson 1986). In 1998, the nearby discovery of the so-called ‘garrison’ building, a 20m-long hall containing a unique assemblage of weaponry, further strengthened this spatial link (Kitzler Reference Kitzler 2000 Holmquist Olausson & Åhlfeldt Reference Holmquist Olausson and Åhlfeldt 2002). This structure had been burned during an attack, preserving pieces of shields that seem to have been hanging on the walls, together with fragments of at least nine spears, three swords, two axes, two fighting knives, more than 50 arrows and dozens of rare pieces of both chainmail and lamellar armour. In addition, some 300 knives had been incorporated into the floors and walls of the structure, while the terrace on which it was raised contained a dedicatory deposit of lanceheads in essence, the structure was a hall built of blades, founded on spears. The hillfort contained no known structures, perhaps functioning as a place of refuge. The hall has therefore been interpreted as part of the garrison, housing the fort's defenders in the course of their regular duties (Holmquist Olausson & Åhlfeldt Reference Holmquist Olausson and Åhlfeldt 2002).

Figure 7. Bj.581 shown in relation to the Birka hillfort and the ‘garrison’ hall (figure by Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson incorporating material courtesy of Lena Holmquist, overlain on the 1888–1889 base survey by J.J. Nordstrand, Antiquarian Topographical Archives, Stockholm).

The assumption that the buried individual in Bj.581 must have been a man began during the excavation itself—as Stolpe clearly states in his field notes this interpretation has persisted ever since, as reproduced in the works cited above. In addition to the presence of weaponry, normatively taken to indicate a male, this sex attribution was based on the absence of jewellery, weaving equipment and other objects conventionally associated with women. It is important to remember that when Bj.581 was recorded, male biological sex was not only conflated with a man's gendered identity, but also that warriorhood was presumed to be an exclusively masculine pursuit the same interpretation would undoubtedly have been made had no human bone survived at all.

The immediate environs of Bj.581 have received far less attention. The two other weapon graves, Bj.495 and Bj.496, for example, have been noted above both were chambered inhumations, one of which included a horse burial. The closest grave of all, Bj.608, appears to be that of a child, buried without any associated objects (Arbman Reference Arbman 1943: 201 Gräslund Reference Gräslund 1980: 11). Immediately to the east is Bj.585 (Arbman Reference Arbman 1943: 191–92), which would traditionally be interpreted as a high-status woman's burial, due to the presence of a jewellery set. A recent isotopic study has shown that this person probably originated in Denmark (Price et al. Reference Price, Arcini, Gustin, Drenzel and Kalmring 2018: 36). We do not know the relationship, if any, between these four adults and the child, but there is clearly scope for further study.

Given this weight of interpretation and assumption, accumulating over many decades, the results of our new analysis of Bj.581 prompted interesting questions. The data and analyses for determination of the sex of the buried individual are presented in our 2017 article, and in the OSM for both that paper and the present one. The OSM also details—and counters—the objections that were immediately raised, as to whether we had analysed the correct skeleton, and whether there had been a second body in the grave. The simple and secure conclusion is that we have the right individual, who was buried alone, and that this person has been proven to be biologically female.

Grave Bj 581: the Viking Warrior that was a woman

Abstract: In September 2017, the American Journal of Physical Anthropology (AJPA) published a paper under the title ‘A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics’ (Hedenstierna-Jonson et al 2017). It presented the results of an extensive DNA analysis, following earlier osteological studies, showing that the body in a richly appointed Viking-Age burial from the town of Birka in Sweden was not biologically male as had always been assumed, but female. This was significant because the grave, which was excavated in 1878, had long been held up as the archetypal high-status warrior burial of the late Viking Age – an identity that had intriguing implications if applied to a woman.

The grave immediately caught the attention of Viking scholars. The contents were spectacular, and the grave stood out even compared to other chamber burials in Birka in its explicitly martial character. It was interpreted as the burial of a high-status warrior and consequently sexed as male. The emphasis was on the warrior, the sex an assumption based on that interpretation. It was not until an osteological research project focusing on health issues in the earliest Scandianvian towns, recognized the remarkable combination of objects and biological sex was recognized. A new study was launched, including DNA and strontium isotope analyses (the ATLAS project). The questions concerned various aspects of who this person was during life, and a possible confirmation of the osteological sex assessment was only one part of the study. Others concerned the heritage of this evidently important individual, and her geographical movement. DNA proved the body to be biologically female, with a genetic background in the Viking World at large. It also showed that she was not local to the region in which Birka is located, but rather from southern Scandinavia. Strontium isotopes strengthened this picture, also showing that she had lived an itinerant life during her childhood and youth. Through osteology, we know that she was in her thirties when she died, a tall woman (1m 70cm), without visible trauma to the bones. Archaeology, in turn, shows a high-status individual dressed in a manner to suggest close connections to the eastern part of the Viking World, with parallels in present day Ukraine. An interesting picture is starting to emerge when all the pieces of data are combined. But is the standing interpretation of the grave as that of a high-status warrior still valid?

Top Image: Sketch of archaeological grave found and labelled “Bj 581” by Hjalmar Stolpe in Birka, Sweden, published 1889

Researchers Reaffirm Remains in Viking Warrior Tomb Belonged to a Woman

In 1878, archaeologists excavating the Viking town of Birka, Sweden, uncovered a singular ornate 10th-century burial tomb believed to hold the remains of a great warrior.

Related Content

The site was filled with a trove of weapons, including a sword, spear, shield and two horses, as well as a game board likely used to map out military strategies. Further emphasizing its noteworthiness, out of 1,100 Birka tombs identified on the settlement, it was just one of two that contained a full set of weaponry.

If the final resting place wasn’t enough to convince you of the deceased's unique societal status, consider this: As’s Becky Little reports, researchers have definitively concluded the soldier in question was not, as was long assumed, a man.

Guided by comprehensive genomic sequencing, archaeologists first revealed the unexpected findings of the woman warrior in a 2017 study published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. But as Live Science’s Laura Geggel explains, naysayers immediately unleashed a storm of criticism, alternately questioning whether the researchers had analyzed the correct set of bones, overlooked the presence of a male warrior sharing the grave, or failed to consider if the grave actually belonged to a transgender man.

Now, the authors of the original paper have released a follow-up study, newly published in Antiquity, reaffirming their original conclusions and delving deeper into the secrets of the grave. The latest batch of research addresses many of the concerns raised by critics at the same time, Little notes, the paper acknowledges the difficulty of assessing gender roles and identity in such a long-ago culture.

According to the study, the grave offers ample evidence of its resident’s high-status in the military. The weapons left in the tomb—specifically, a sword, axe, fighting knife, lances, shields and 25 armor-piercing arrows—are present in an “unusual profusion and variety,” pointing toward the deceased’s likely career as an experienced mounted archer. Domestic tools one might more closely associate with Viking women are, on the other hand, absent from the grave.

Adding to these clues are the inclusion of a full gaming set, complete with three antler dice and 28 playing pieces, and the assumed warrior’s attire. As the authors write, complete game sets are often found in relation to Viking military leaders, while the textiles and tasseled cap worn by the individual are suggestive of cavalry commanders “under the immediate authority of a royal war-leader.”

Finally, as Geggel observes for Live Science, the location of the tomb at the westernmost reaches of Birka suggests it was visible from both the sea and the town. Marked by a large stone boulder, the site would have been known to all as the grave of a likely high-ranking member of the community.

When the tomb was first uncovered, archaeologists assumed its occupant was a male warrior (Public domain)

Much of the justification for the proposed warrior’s misidentification as biologically male stems from past archaeologists’ frequent assignment of sex on the basis of a grave’s contents rather than scientific bone analysis, as Science Alert’s Carly Cassella argues. It’s worth noting, the authors point out in the new study, that at the time of the grave’s discovery, “male biological sex was not only conflated with a man’s gendered identity, but also that warriorhood was presumed to be an exclusively masculine pursuit.”

As Michael Greshko explained for National Geographic in 2017, Viking mythology has long touted the existence of female warriors. But it took a team led by Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, an archaeologist at Sweden’s Uppsala University, to fully dispute the idea that such individuals were limited to fiction. After extracting the roughly 1,000-year-old warrior’s mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, the researchers found no traces of Y chromosomes indicative of male biological sex. In a further negation of critics’ comments, they also concluded that the mitochondrial DNA from all bones tested matched—and therefore belonged to one XX individual.

According to’s Little, one of the main questions raised by critics of the 2017 study was whether the warrior was a transgender man. The authors address this in the new paper, writing, “[Transgender] is a modern politicized, intellectual and Western term, and as such, is problematic … to apply to people of the more remote past.” That being said, the researchers are quick to note it’s impossible to discount any of the “many other possibilities across a wide gender spectrum, some perhaps unknown to us, but familiar to the people of the time.”

Live Science’s Geggel writes that alternative explanations for the singular burial include the theory that the weapons buried alongside the woman were not reflective of her role in life, or perhaps represented a symbolic proxy identity. Still, the study's authors conclude, the most “obvious and logical conclusion” is that the individual in question was a woman who lived as a professional warrior and was buried in accordance with this rank.

Speaking to Little, Hedenstierna-Johnson offers a final overarching counter-argument to the controversy: “Since [the site] was excavated in the 1870s, it has constantly been interpreted as a warrior grave because it looks like a warrior grave and it’s placed by the garrison and by the hillfort,” she says. “Nobody’s ever contested it until the skeleton proved to be female, and then it was not a valid interpretation anymore.”

On the shores of Lake Ladoga is a settlement that is a key and little-known part of Viking and Russian history. In the 8th century AD, the Slavic site of Staraia Ladoga became the Norse settlement of Aldeigjuborg, as Swedish Vikings took advantage of the settlement&rsquos natural harbor to make it a base for trading and raiding. Ladoga was one of the earliest Viking settlements in Russia and a stepping stone towards the foundation of Russia as a nation.

The Heimskringla and other Norse sources tell how the local, warring Slavic tribes, impressed by the organization and fighting skills of Scandinavian invaders, invited the Vikings to rule over them. A Swedish Viking named Rurik obliged, making Staraia Ladoga his initial base before he and his successors moved onto Novgorod, just south of St. Petersburg and Kiev.

Archaeology on the site shows a sudden appearance of Scandinavian artifacts in Ladoga. Tools, amulets of Odin, and other finds, as well as distinct Scandinavian style Kurgan burials, usually found in Sweden and Denmark, were found dating to the 7th and 8th centuries.

As time progressed, the distinction between these Scandinavian and the local Slavic burials blurred, showing a merging between the two groups. But it was the Vikings who gave their name to the emerging nation. For the Swedish Vikings were known to the Slavs as the Rus-from the Finnish word for Swedes- Ruotsi &ndash that in itself derives from the Swedish word Roor &ndash the term for a crew of oarsmen.

What Stereotypes About Viking Masculinity Get Wrong

P art of the Viking image today is a caricature of masculinity&mdashthe long-haired warrior still incorporated into the logos or advertising for products appealing to a supposed ideal of manly behavior. But Viking-age Scandinavian reality embraced so much more, including a true fluidity of gender. Patriarchy was a norm of Viking society, but one that was subverted at every turn, often in ways that&mdashfascinatingly&mdashwere built into its structures.

The Vikings were certainly familiar with what would today be called queer identities. Gender boundaries were rigidly policed, at times with moral overtones, and the social pressures laid upon men and women were very real. At the same time, however, these borders were permeable with a degree of social sanction. There is a clear tension here, a contradiction that can be productive for anyone trying to understand the Viking mind.

These themes and connections can be pursued in the study of graves. Archaeologists determine the sex of the buried dead through analysis of their bones (which is reliable, though not certain) or DNA (which uses a chromosomal definition that is generally uncontroversial). However, in many cases the deceased were cremated, or preservation conditions in the soil are unfavorable to the survival of bone in any state. In these cases, for centuries, archaeologists have resorted to determining the sex of the dead through association with supposedly gendered objects&mdashweapons in a grave are held to suggest a man, jewellery sets denote a woman, and so on.

Beyond the obvious problems of conflating sex and gender, and also effectively sexing metal, these readings risk simply piling one set of assumptions on another in what forensic decision-makers call a &ldquobias snowball&rdquo of cumulatively questionable interpretations.

So, while the majority of these sex/gender/artifact correlations probably do reflect Viking-age reality, not all burials conform to such patterns, and an openness to the exceptions&mdashwhich we know were there&mdashis vital. Without this, one can never hope to do archaeological justice to the gender spectrum discernible in the medieval texts or compare this with Viking-age empirical reality. More excitingly, the archaeology can turn up evidence for identities and genders that did not make it to the written sources.

The starting point comes in graves with viable bone survival. In such cases, archaeologists occasionally find people buried with objects and clothing that would usually be associated with the opposite sex. These include male skeletons wearing what appear to be dresses of the kind more conventionally buried with women, or with the oval brooches that hold the apron together at the breast, and similar combinations. For burials with female bodies, an equivalent is the presence of weapons in numbers sufficient to plausibly suggest a warrior identity for the dead. At Vivallen in Swedish Härjedalen, there was even a male-bodied person buried according to Sámi rituals, in a Sámi settlement, but wearing conventional Sámi man&rsquos equipment over a Nordic woman&rsquos linen dress, complete with jewellery to match&mdasha crossing of both gender and cultural norms.

The most prominent example to date combines almost all of Viking gender in a single burial, raising more questions than it answers. In a 10th-century chamber grave designated Bj.581 from an urban cemetery at Birka in Sweden, an expensively dressed corpse was buried seated and surrounded by a full weapon set (which is rare), with two riding horses. This truly spectacular burial was excavated in 1878 and has been held up ever since as a type example of a high-status warrior from the mid-900s, a kind of &ldquoultimate Viking&rdquo of the time. Bj.581 was published as such in generations of standard works. As part of this interpretative package, the deceased was always assumed to have been a man, because warriors were &ldquoobviously&rdquo male (conflating sex and gender in the familiar way). In 2011, however, an osteological study suggested the buried person was actually female, and this was confirmed by genomic analysis in 2017&mdashthe deceased carried XX chromosomes. The ensuing debate on the apparent &ldquofemale warrior&rdquo of Birka went viral and now convulses Viking studies, in an at-times vituperative discussion that has little to do with women and war but more concerns underlying fault lines of gendered assumption in the discipline and beyond.

In a sense it does not really matter whether the person in the Birka grave was a female-bodied warrior woman or not (though as one of the lead authors in the research team, I firmly believe she was all those things). This person may equally have been transgender, in our terms, or non-binary, or gender fluid. There are other possibilities, too, but the point is that they must all be recognized as possible Viking-Age identities while&mdashcrucially&mdashnot assuming this must be the case. Not least, in the interpretation of Bj.581, scholars should be careful not to deny the basic agency of women, and their potential to choose one way of life over others this person does not have to be necessarily different. Furthermore, all these intersections of activity and identity were in themselves deeply gendered&mdashfrom &ldquowarriorhood&rdquo to everything else.

Importantly, none of this needed to be fixed and permanent. In the later prose texts, difficult sources though they are, one encounters individuals who change names when they embark upon a new path in life&mdashwhen certain women become warriors, for example. But only sometimes&mdashthere are no universals here, and as ever the medieval sources are problematic, late, ambiguous and uncertain.

While some of their norms can appear rigid, the Scandinavians somehow applied them in ways that also allowed them to be questioned, undermined and contradicted. In many ways and for many years, Viking scholars have been naive and simplistic about their acknowledgement and recognition of gender variation in the later Iron Age. Perhaps Viking-Age people chose and renegotiated their identities every day, much as many of us do. Their ideas about gender went far beyond the binaries of biological sex, as scholars are now beginning to understand. Sadly, we are also only now becoming aware of the privilege that allowed us to overlook this for so long.

Viking enthusiasts Looking Forward to Future Official Conclusion

Unfortunately, there has been no firm conclusion about Bj 581 though it is the golden example put forward to strengthen the historical existence of Viking shieldmaiden. According to Dick Harrison, a historian in Lund University, over the past 40 years, the Viking excavations have driven the archaeologists to rethink about the Viking Age seriously. Remains of women pointed out that they were the priestesses and leaders, too. And because the missions of the archaeologists is to discover the truth in the past, they think it is about time to rewrite the real history.

Watch the video: Discover a Viking Graveyard. Viking Warrior Women. National Geographic UK