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DNA proves women were Viking warriors too

Yara Greyjoy isn’t the only bad woman warrior sailing the seas.

A Swedish grave from the 10th century A.D. that contained the remains of a powerful Viking warrior, horses and weapons was believed to belong to a man upon its discovery in the 1880s – but now DNA evidence has revealed that the sea soldier was, in fact, a woman.

Historical records and artwork from the Middle Ages do mention that women fought alongside men, so this discovery is not entirely shocking, according to Forbes. But until now, there has been no scientific proof to back up these stories. Based on this discovery, thousands of Vikings in tombs around Europe can and should now be tested to see if more women were assumed male because of their warriors’ graves.

In Birka, Sweden, where this particular Viking was discovered, over 3,000 other graves were also found but only about a third of them have been excavated so far. The discovery is featured in the new edition of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology and was especially interesting to the team, from Uppsala University and Stockholm University, that unearthed it because “the grave goods included a sword, an axe, a spear, armor-piercing arrows, a battle knife, two shields, and two horses (one mare and one stallion); thus, the complete equipment of a professional warrior,” the researchers noted.

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“Though some Viking women buried with weapons are known,” the researchers said, “a female warrior of this importance has never been determined.”

(Lorado/Getty Images)

It also included games indicative of “knowledge of tactics and strategy, stressing the buried individual’s role as a high-ranking officer.”

But, in 2016, researchers reexamined the Viking’s skeleton and saw indicators that lead them to believe the warrior was female. The team then tested the remains’ nuclear DNA from a tooth and upper arm bone fragment. The samples were both positive for two X chromosomes and no Y chromosomes, making the warrior distinctly female.

“Though some Viking women buried with weapons are known,” the researchers said, “a female warrior of this importance has never been determined, and Viking scholars have been reluctant to acknowledge the agency of women with weapons.”

A Swedish grave from the 10th century AD that contained the remains of a powerful Viking warrior, horses and weapons was believed to belong to a man upon its discovery in the 1880s but now, DNA evidence has revealed that the sea soldier was, in fact, a woman.

A Swedish grave from the 10th century AD that contained the remains of a powerful Viking warrior, horses and weapons was believed to belong to a man upon its discovery in the 1880s but now, DNA evidence has revealed that the sea soldier was, in fact, a woman.

(American Journal of Physical Anthropolgy Via Creative Commons)

The scientists also noted the seemingly chauvinistic thought processes of their colleagues and other archeologists before them who assumed that a woman couldn’t possibly be buried with her own weapons. Graves that may have possibly housed the remains of female warriors will now have to be reexamined.

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“Similar associations of women buried with weapons have been dismissed, arguing that the armaments could have been heirlooms, carriers of symbolic meaning, or grave goods reflecting the status and role of the family rather than the individual,” they wrote. “Male individuals in burials with similar material record are not questioned in the same way.”

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sweden

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