From The Washington Post:
|An 1889 drawing of the Viking warrior grave discovered in Birka, Sweden. For more than 120 years, it was assumed to be the skeleton of a man. (Hjalmar Stolpe)|
The warrior was, in fact, female. And not just any female, but a Viking warrior woman, a shieldmaiden, like the ancient Brienne of Tarth from “Game of Thrones."
The artifacts entombed with the 1,000-year-old bones and unearthed in 1889 in Birka, Sweden, included two shields, a sword, an ax, a spear, armor-piercing arrows and a battle knife — not to mention the remnants of two horses. Such weapons of war among grave goods, archaeologists long assumed, meant the Viking had been male.
Yet modern-day genetics testing on the DNA extracted from a tooth and an arm bone has confirmed otherwise. The skeleton, known as Bj 581, belonged to someone with two X chromosomes.
"We were blinded by the warrior equipment,” one of the researchers, Anders Gotherstrom, said in an email to The Washington Post this week. “The grave-goods shout 'warrior' at you, and nothing else.
|A modern drawing of the same Viking grave, this time depicting the female warrior. (Neil Price)|
The shieldmaiden, whose teeth identify her as being at least 30, also appeared to be of high status. Her grave chamber is on a prominent, elevated piece of ground between the town and a hilltop fort, and it also contained a full set of gaming pieces and a gaming board, typically used by military leaders to work out battle tactics and strategy.
Although some weapons have been found in other female Viking graves, none included only weapons — or so many of them. "This is exactly what you would expect from male warrior graves,” said Cat Jarman, a British archaeologist not associated with the discovery. “There's nothing that says it was a woman. … [The contents] were not exactly domestic."
But some experts warn against making additional assumptions beyond gender. The artifacts could have been heirlooms from a male relative, they say, or were symbolic. Or perhaps the grave once held a second individual who was male. Her skeleton shows no obvious trauma indicative of battle wounds, but archaeologists of Viking graves say there are often none found on male warrior skeletons. [Really? Warrior goddesses in this culture are well known, but "some experts" (all males, I presume) are 'saying' this doesn't mean this woman was a warrior? Guess they're uninformed as to the old saying "If it walks like a duck, and sounds like a duck, and acts like a duck, and looks like a duck, it's PROBABLY a DUCK!]
One of the major arguments against assuming the grave belonged to a woman is that “she could be someone who lived like a man,” Jarman said. “Someone buried her,” but what she was buried with might not have been of her choosing. “That's who she was in death, but it doesn't mean that's who she was in life." [WTF? Is this a joke? Hey, yeah, we're going to take these incredibly valuable tools and weapons and things along with TWO HORSES and bury them with this slave woman because hey, we feel like making a practical joke on some dumb dudes who may come along 1000 years from now and dig her up! Ha ha ha, roll on the ground laughing their butts off and then roll into the fire and burn their long blond braids off, stupid dickheads.]
The researchers who tested and analyzed the DNA agree. "Our results caution against sweeping interpretations based on archaeological contexts and preconceptions,” they write in their paper, but the findings are highly suggestive “that women, indeed, were able to be full members of male-dominated spheres."
More than 3,000 Viking graves have been discovered encircling Birka, in western Sweden, but only about 1,100 have been excavated. The location is one of the largest Viking burial grounds ever discovered, yet only three graves with artifacts suggesting warrior ideals have been associated with the female gender, the authors said. [This is not exactly evidence of NO OTHER WARRIOR WOMEN IN THESE BURIALS. Or were those planned practical jokes for future archeologists, too? Duh. This grave is, I assume, the fourth female warrior burial.]
Vikings who weren't engaged in battle usually were cremated, Gotherstrom said, and with burials of women there “would not have been much, or any, of the weaponry, but a stronger tendency for jewelry, broaches and everyday utensils."xxxx
I left off the finishing paragraphs, you can visit the link if you would like to read them. I do not believe they added anything of substance to the discovery, but the article was published in a general interest newspaper read primarily by political junkies who might lack the necessary background, information or interest in ancient and not-so-ancient cultures and women's roles in them.