Once this Viking warrior was revealed to be a woman some began

first_img C. Hedenstierna-Jonson et al., American Journal of Physical Anthropology (8 September 2017) © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. By Michael PriceSep. 14, 2017 , 2:13 PM Once this Viking warrior was revealed to be a woman, some began to question her battle bona fides Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Email This 1889 sketch of a female Viking’s gravesite shows the weapons, armor, and horses she was buried with.center_img Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Last week, archaeologists reported that a Viking buried with a sword, ax, spear, and two shields—first discovered in the 1880s and long thought to be a man—was, in fact, a woman, making her the first known high-ranking female Viking warrior. Yet some Viking scholars have expressed doubt about whether the woman was actually a Valkyrie-like, battle-hardened fighter, or whether she had just been buried with a warrior’s accoutrement.Science spoke with the team’s lead author, archaeologist Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson of Uppsala University in Sweden, about what archaeologists can infer about the Viking woman in question, and the double standards that crop up when female remains defy historical stereotypes. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Q: Is it sexist to question whether this woman was actually a warrior in life, rather than someone just buried like one?A: Well, that’s the key question: How do we interpret a grave? That’s something we always face in archaeology. What does a grave represent? Asking whether the person buried ever fought in battle is a relevant question, but this has been known as a warrior grave since the 1880s and nobody has questioned it before. Nobody has made that comment before they knew the bones were from a woman. The archaeology has not changed. The only thing that has changed is our knowledge that it’s a woman and not a man.Q: What are other possible interpretations?A: There are no female objects within the grave. She’s not wearing a dress, which would have been typical for a buried female. They made a lot of effort in portraying her in this way. So one interpretation is that she did have this role while she was living, but another interpretation would be that she symbolizes a role she didn’t have, which would also be interesting and unique. In other words, she may not have been a warrior, but she was held in similar esteem and so was given a warrior’s burial.Q: Was she considered a leader?A: The predominant way of burying people during the Viking Age was cremation. But in these Viking towns, when they did bury people, they tended to bury them in coffins, or they could just be put in the ground. This woman was buried in what was called a chamber grave, which is more elaborate, filled with meaningful items from the person’s life. The people buried in them are generally thought to be cosmopolitans. The way she was buried points to her belonging to a high level of society.Q: How would a Viking woman end up as a warrior?A: Viking Age society was not an equal society. It was very hierarchical and it was probably patriarchal, as well. With that said, it was also complex, just like modern society is complex, and there are always exceptions—exceptional people or exceptional situations where people go outside the norm. In the Viking world, the sphere of the warrior was the ideal. Entering that sphere as an active warrior would normally have been closed to women. But in circumstances where, let’s say, you were from a high-status family and you had the personal attributes and strength and character suitable to the role, there could be exceptions to the norm.Q: Can more testing reveal whether she ever fought in battle?A: We could actively look for those kinds of things, but realize the skeleton is 1000 years old, it’s brittle, it’s incomplete, and you have to be careful when you handle it. But also, to my mind, there’s no study that actually states, “These are the types of skeletal signals that indicate a warrior.”What are we then looking for? You could look for sharp-force trauma, but interestingly, there are not that many graves showing sharp-force trauma in the Viking Age, despite the fact that we know it was quite a violent time. You could look for how muscle use alters the skeleton, like how a smith uses one arm more than the other, but you don’t see that in all cases. And more than that, there’s not a good standard for what a warrior’s skeleton should look like. So it’s a very interesting question and there should be more studies on it, but we just don’t have good diagnostic criteria for what makes a warrior.last_img read more