DNA rewrites history with proof that women were Viking warriors

DNA rewrites history with proof that women were Viking warriors

The body was found -buried along arms and horses-and excavated by Swedish archaeologist Hjalmar Stolpe in the Viking Town of Birka, Sweden. Not only that, but, it turns out, the best-preserved remains of a Viking warrior yet found - surrounded by war regalia including weapons, armor-piercing arrows, and even horses - was a woman.

A recent study, published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology on September 8, confirmed Kjellström's findings with a DNA test.

In a paper published to the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, a team of researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden revealed it examined a famous and unusual Viking grave from the middle of the 10th century. Now, the warrior's DNA proves her sex, suggesting a surprising degree of gender balance in the Vikings' violent social order.

According to Hedenstierna-Jonson, the warrior had "most likely planned, led and taken part in battles". Due to the number of warrior equipment that was found with the remains, it was just assumed -and never proven-that the remains belonged to a man.

For well over a century, anthropologists and historians took it for granted that the skeleton belonged to a man, as graves like these have only previously been associated with male warriors-this despite the fact that stories had emerged during the Middle Ages about fierce Viking women fighting alongside men. This grave has been the example of what a Viking warrior burial should look like for over a century.

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Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson of Uppsala University said Monday the tests show "it is definitely a woman".

But Anna Kjellstrom, an osteologist at Stockholm University, started re-examining the bones in 2016 and noticed distinctive feminine qualities, such as thinner cheekbones and other "typically feminine" bone structures like the hips.

"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", the researchers write in the study, noting that remains from male individuals with such elaborate burials are often not questioned. Back then, the role of military leader could easily belong to a woman, and there is plenty of archaeological evidence in support of this claim.

There was still sufficient genetic data in them to show that it had a sole X chromosome origin, as it lacked the Y chromosome. "What we have studied was not a Valkyrie from the sagas but a real life military leader, that happens to have been a woman", she said.