Published: Tue, September 12, 2017
Medical | By Garry George

DNA Test Reveals Powerful Viking Warrior Was Actually A Woman

DNA Test Reveals Powerful Viking Warrior Was Actually A Woman

Now, over 130 years later, DNA tests have shown that this high-ranking Viking warrior was actually a woman.

The testing identified some of the remains in the iconic mid-10th century Swedish Viking Age grave in Birka as female. Stockholm University's Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, who led the study, said: "The gaming set indicates that she was an officer, someone who worked with tactics and strategy and could lead troops in battle". The findings were published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, and according to, this is now the first genetic evidence there were indeed female viking warriors. That urban center was home to hundreds of people and it was a popular burial site, with more than 3,000 known graves surrounding the town, about a third of which have been excavated.

"In the Viking age, you had women involved in trade and high-status positions but they are usually brushed aside and talked about as wives and mothers, connected and dependent on men". "The grave goods include a sword, an axe, a spear, armour-piercing arrows, a battle knife, two shields, and two horses, one mare and one stallion; thus, the complete equipment of a professional warrior".

"The female warrior was mobile, a pattern that is implied in the historical sources, especially when it comes to the extended households of the elite", the researchers wrote, describing the warrior as being part of a society that dominated 8th to 10th century northern Europe where women were able to be full members of male-dominated spheres.

Much of the history of women warriors has been passed as legend or myth-mere stories of s0-called "shieldmaidens", or women who fought alongside the men.

The remains were long assumed to be male, because of the armor found with them.

That led the researchers to turn to genetics tests, to retrieve a molecular sex identification based on X and Y chromosomes.

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. Because of its burial setting, archaeologists had simply long assumed that the skeleton found in this grave was from a man, but Anna Kjellström noticed that the skeleton seemed to have more physical characteristics of a female rather than a male skeleton.

The researchers presented the finding as "the first genetic proof that women were Viking warriors". "It was probably quite unusual, 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".

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