Viking shieldmaidens – some say the warrior women did not exist

 
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Well, a recent archaeological discovery seems to suggest they were very real and did exist.

According to research in the University of western Australia, many skeletons that had previously been identified as male just because they had been buried with weapons, were in fact women.
After examining the bones in detail the researchers found that approximately half the warriors were female and given a full Viking burial as warriors along with their weapons.

The study says, “There is some archaeological evidence for early Norse female settlement, most obviously oval brooches, but this evidence is minimal.

The more difficult to date evidence of place names, personal names, and DNA samples derived from the modern population suggests that Norse women did migrate to England at some stage, but probably in far fewer numbers than Norse men”

Shane McLeod of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Western Australia noted that recently, burials of female Norse immigrants have started to turn up in Eastern England.

“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.

Indeed, it has been noted that there are more Norse female dress items than those worn by men,” says the study.

The presence of female warriors at such numbers also has researchers wondering just how accurate the stereotypes of raping and pillaging actually are:

Women may have accompanied male Vikings in those early invasions of England, in much greater numbers than scholars earlier supposed, (Researcher) McLeod concludes. Rather than the ravaging rovers of legend, the Vikings arrived as marriage-minded colonists.

The torforgeblog writes:

There are many Viking “female weapons burials,” as archaeologists call them. Let us give you just a few examples. At the Gerdrup site in Denmark the woman was buried with a spear at her feet. This is a really interesting site for another reason: The woman’s grave contains three large boulders, two that rest directly on top of her body, which was an ancient method of keeping souls in graves—but that’s a discussion for another article. In Sweden, three graves of women (at Nennesmo and Klinta) contained arrowheads.

The most common weapon included in female weapons burials are axes, like those in the burials at the BB site from Bogovej in Langeland (Denmark), and the cemetery at Marem (Norway). The Kaupang female weapons burials also contained axeheads, as well as spears, and in two instances the burial contained a shield boss.

The most famous sheildmaiden was Lagertha. Which according to legend, was a shieldmaiden from what is now Norway. She was the onetime wife of the famous Viking Ragnar Lothbrok. Her story was recorded by the chronicler Saxo in the 12th century.

Sheildmaiden Hervor dying after the Battle of the Goths and Huns. A painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo.
Sheildmaiden Hervor dying after the Battle of the Goths and Huns. A painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo.

 

You can read about Viking cats in this article from us: Strange shipmates: Vikings had cats on board their ships as they set sail to conquer the world

Although the evidence supporting the role of shieldmaidens in history is often disputed, there’s no doubt that women like Lagertha existed, who strived to find a balance between being a fierce warrior, a fair ruler, a respected partner and a loving mother. It’s no wonder she’s become such an inspiration for modern women writes thenewartemis

And for fans of the Viking series -The second half of Vikings: Season 4 premieres November 30th at 9/8c on History and IGN’s got your first look at six new character-focused promos for the upcoming mayhem and madness.