We Just Found Out That a Bunch of Viking Warriors Were Women
I love when academics discover science and history secrets and as a result we have to rewrite ALL the textbooks. Like, remember when we all found out that dinosaurs actually had feathers? We were really selling those dinos short calling them giant lizards, when they were actually GIANT BIRD LIZARDS AND SOME OF THEM COULD FLY! Or remember when science told us that Pluto is actually NOT a planet? That was the day my childhood ended and I was, like, twenty.
Science is now back to dispel yet another long-standing belief, that all Viking warriors were dudes. As it turns out, it’s possible that HALF of those Norse seafaring warriors who basically terrorized Western Europe from their earliest recorded raids in the 790s up until the Norman conquest of England in 1066, were actually WOMEN.
So here’s how this discovery was, you know, discovered. Researchers at the University of Western Australia decided to switch up how they studied and identified Viking remains. Prior to this, if researchers saw a corpse buried with swords and shields the response was, “Yup, got to be a dude, check out the weaponry, there’s no way Vikings would bury their women folk with swords and whatever, because that would mean girls could be warriors like 1200 years before women could even cast VOTES in the Western world, ridiculousness upon more ridiculousness, shield, sword, dude, check, check, check.”
What these Australian researchers did was actually study the osteological signs of sex within the bones themselves, and discovered WHOA almost half these people being buried with weapons are actually women. (Though as the Mary Sue points out, this is only based on a small sampling.)
So it looks like women were warriors. The question is, did women really make up a full half of the battle force? That we can’t say for sure (unless Doctor Who picks me up in his TARDIS and takes me back to the year 900. Blue Police Box, I’m waiting for you. . .). It’s unclear whether every woman buried with a weapon was a warrior, being buried with a weapon wasn’t just a symbol of who you were in life, it was also considered a ritual object associated with magic and power, and a woman could have been buried with a weapon because in life she herself was associated with magic (as a priestess or healer) and/or power (being related to a ruling family or owning land). Also, just because a woman was buried with a brooch or a dress or whatever doesn’t necessarily mean she wasn’t ALSO a warrior in life.
Basically, there are still a lot of questions and that means there are a lot of answers we just don’t have. That said, it looks like women definitely wielded shields and rocked swords back in the Viking days and even if the Scandinavians were straight-up destroying Europe, they were at least destroying with a nod to gender equality, which is really all one can ask from a bunch of warriors who have all been dead for over a thousand years.