Female Vikings Were Just as Prevalent During Invasions as the Men
By Alicia Lutes on September 3, 2014
There’s a long-held belief that women are in need of saving; that fighting, warfare, plundering and the like are men’s duties, not suitable for the so-called fairer sex. Yeah, well, nobody tell that to the vikings who invaded eastern England in 900 A.D. They’d be likely to lob your head off, and the one doing the lobbing would very likely be — gasp! — a woman. Historians have just uncovered that way, way more female vikings were around than previously thought.
And no, these female vikings weren’t just tending to fires and caring for babies: they had swords and shields of their own to fight with. We know because they were often buried with them, like badasses. In fact, it was that sort of sexist burial presumption — that only men were fighters and therefore likely buried with sword and shield — that, up until this point, left many to presume that the oft-considered brutal folk were a mainly man-fronted affair. And, well, look at what happens when you assume! Eh?
Shane McLeod of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Western Australia published the revelation in the journal Early Medieval Europe. The Study examined exhumed Norse-specific burial sites and sequenced DNA of its buried folk and found a damn near 50/50 split of men and women. Anywhere “between a third to roughly equal” split, the study concluded.
“An increase in the number of finds of Norse-style jewellery in the last two decades has led some scholars to suggest a larger number of female settlers [joined the men],” the study explained. “Indeed, it has been noted that there are more Norse female dress items than those worn by men.” Which no doubt seems strange when taken into consideration alongside the previously held beliefs. Why would there be so much lady stuff around if A) women didn’t arrive until after the men did the plundering, and B) they weren’t also getting involved outside of typical “lady duties?”
McLeod’s report studied 14 burial sites in particular, making sure to test only those burials that could be undoubtedly confirmed as Norse, and Viking in particular. And thanks to modern genetic testing, he and his team were able to determine that six of the 14 burials sites were for women, seven were for men, and one was indeterminable. Which is to say: a far bigger percentage than previously suspected.
At one particular mass burial site — Repton Woods — the old conception of solely male Vikings was debunked: “Despite the remains of three swords being recovered from the site, all three burials that could be sexed osteologically were thought to be female, including one with a sword and shield,” says the study.
“These results, six female Norse migrants and seven male, should caution against assuming that the great majority of Norse migrants were male, despite the other forms of evidence suggesting the contrary.”
Are you surprised to see such equality amongst the legendary raging rovers? Let us know in the comments.
IMAGE: History Channel