DNA proves high-ranking Viking warrior was a woman

Brittany A. Roston - Sep 12, 2017
DNA proves high-ranking Viking warrior was a woman

The Viking warrior buried in the grave bj581 was female, according to DNA testing, revealing an instance in which a woman obtained a high status among the Vikings. This is at odds with the traditional image of Vikings, though the notion itself isn’t new. The grave was excavated in the 19th century; the presence of weapons and shields in the grave, among other things, led many to assume the skeleton had belonged to a man despite its slender size.

Officials have long assumed the Viking found in this grave was male due to the pair of shields, horses, battle knife, axe, arrows, spear, and sword found in the grave. The presence of such items reveals a high status among the Vikings, and the assumption is that these artifacts indicate the presence of a warrior.

It isn’t known whether the woman buried in this grave was in fact a warrior — all we know for sure is that she had a notable status in the society — but the warrior assumption is given to male remains, and so the same assumption is being given to this deceased woman, as well. The revelation calls into question the default assumption that graves of this nature belonged to men.

This isn’t the only instance of what is being called an anomalous gravesite — that is, one that doesn’t quite fit the trend, such as the slender skeleton in bj581. Some researchers are questioning whether other Viking graves contain the remains of women who held military positions within the culture, something that sheds additional light on the way Viking society worked.

SOURCE: Science, The Guardian

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