DNA Reveals Viking Remains Are of Female Warrior Commander

The bones were first excavated in the 1880s. Inside the grave they also found two horses, a slew of weapons- including a sword and armour-piercing arrows- and a full gaming set

The bones were first excavated in the 1880s. Inside the grave they also found two horses, a slew of weapons- including a sword and armour-piercing arrows- and a full gaming set

To get the complete picture provided by this grave, which has served as an example of Viking warrior burials for more than a century, archaeologists, archaeogeneticists, and geneticists collaborated in this landmark study.

Because of this - and because no such high-ranking female Viking has been discovered before - most researchers assumed the body was male.

The skeleton was first discovered in the 1880s in the Swedish town of Birka. The area now contains more than 3,000 Viking graves. 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. The individual carried two X chromosomes and no Y chromosome, demonstrating that the women warriors in Viking poetry and art were no myth.

Furthermore, the researchers write in their journal article that.

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Romanticized depiction of a Viking woman, 1905, by Andreas Bloch. Although some of the skeletal morphology suggested that the warrior was female, the warrior's sex was originally presumed male until cutting-edge DNA testing technology provided a quick new means to solidify our scientific understanding of human history, and turn ancient Viking sagas into natural history.

Isotope analyses also confirmed the woman lived a travelling life style which would make her well in tune with the martial society that dominated 8th to 10th century Northern Europe.

Now, however, a DNA-analysis has been carried out, clearly confirming that the Viking warrior was indeed a woman.

The belief that the woman found in Birka, Sweden was a warrior is largely based on the grave goods that were found alongside her body.

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Although the discovery is significant, it most likely will not change historians' views that the Viking society primarily comprised male warriors.

"The gaming set indicates that she was an officer, someone who worked with tactics and strategy and could lead troops in battle", said Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, form Stockholm University, who led the study.

What the grave may have looked like.

"It was probably quite unusual [for a woman to be a military leader], but in this case, it probably had more to do with her role in society and the family she was from, that carrying more importance than her gender", Hedenstierna-Jonson said.

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