High Ranking Viking Warrior a Woman!

This article shows, that a high ranking warrior buried very roughly around 900 AC in Birka's grave Bj 581 actually was a woman.

Show this to your troupe, if you ever wish to play a female Viking warrior.



That is very cool! Thank you for pointing it out.

Or simply a member of the ruling class/even chieftan... buried with full complements, if it is even the correct skeleton(doubts arose since the dig was 1880 and they werent to... careful back then).
While norse society for certain was more equal regarding rights, marriage, positions of power... there are no(parma up!) written instances of women going raiding/viking except for sagas and then used as a trope.
Could it have happened to? I'd think certainly wager for the possibility althou not anything common. (...Half of Viking warriors were women! story from a few years back comes to mind; the researchers actually said 'Half of the norse settlers were women') and as far as defend ones home I think we got some siege or whatnot mentioning how the victors were in dismay finding women in armor and such; speaking for that they were not strangers to arms if need be.

You are dealing with an article of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology - so a little more than just forum blather is needed to do so.

Bj 581 was identified as warrior grave, not just as ruling class grave, by its grave goods. Criticizing 19th century excavators and their methods - here Stolpe, H. (1889). Ett och annat på Björkö. Ny Illustrerad Tidning, 25, 4–16 with the following drawing from the site:

  • also requires significantly more substance.

Nobody seriously attempts to reconstruct the life of the woman in question here - but she was buried with the grave goods of a high-ranking officer and warrior.


Someone alot more knowledgable than me has actually written in on the subject in a more precise manner, compiling the various doubts raised in circles over here;and adding things I in my ignorance never would've tought about O_O
norseandviking.blogspot.se/2017/ ... t.html?m=1

Clearly, now Mythic Europe has female warriors. Myths don't have to be true or accurate, not ours, nor those of 1220.

I hope, that Judith Jesch gets her announced article completed, reviewed and published soon, so the discussion on the AJPA-article can really start. Perhaps the - now very interesting - bones from tomb Bj 581 get some further attention also: they might still provide some more information.

At this time I see only the usual, necessary discussion between physical anthropologists evaluating bones and archaeologists evaluating sites in detail on one side, and historians studying past cultures and their traces in general on the other.


Actually, from a "scientific" point of view, I found the link provided by VimWabbit quite convincing about the need to be ... somewhat cautious about accepting the article linked by One Shot. Then again, I think that the main issue here (which might reflect Tjenner comment) is that what we really care is not 1220 Europe as it was, but as the myths have it. And there is substantial cultural evidence that medieval norsemen "believed" in the existence of "women warriors" even if they had never seen one (just as they believed, say, in the existence of shapeshifters).

To elaborate: Taking the superstitions of the time as inspiration is a fine way to go about things. But mythic Europe needn't be just about historical myths, but rather the myths we as players locate in that time. If I believe that naming conventions leading to names such as Kriemhild and Brunhild, in which Hild is Old High German for battle, or even Hildegard (battle defender), implies the common existence or belief in the existence of warrior women or even just plain fitting to the mythical setting, then so be it. Personally, I find including descendant warrior women from Amazons or Valkyries fun characters to have in a campaign.

Well those archeologists speak about "male supremacy" too much for me ; they seem to WANT there were female Viking warriors, but they fail to PROVE it.

I don't bother to detail it but I'm not convinced. There is no medieval source asserting it (even in saga, although you consider self-defense a professionnal war activity). And boardgames were practiced by any free Viking at that time, it was not reserved for "military high ranking officers".

Thanks to gods we have Walkyries in Mythic Europe. (Remember that Brunhild WAS a Walkyrie indeed).

Proving it isn't their point. The authors of the AJPA-article are scientists, and just took the bones from a grave, which because of its conspicuous grave goods was referred to as a high ranking warrior's grave, and showed that these were a woman's. As typical scientists, they did ruffle more hairs than necessary of historians. Period.

And lo - all the plausible and implausible doubts about this grave suddenly come up. The most egregious is, whether these bones really belong into that single person chambered tomb documented in 1889. If not, corrupted archiving threatens to compromise further analysis not only of this grave.
I certainly will wait for a year or so now, and then see what the academic discussion will turn up about the assessment of grave Bj 581, the Björkö site in general, and the validity of its archiving in particular.


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The trouble with questioning the claim/intepretation and not getting thrown in with the cespool of 'Boohoo women they weak and could never fight a real man, also their farts smell of roses!' for taking a more cautious stance, not instantly agreeing like with the '50% warrior vikings were women!!!' spectale a few years ago is somewhat troublesome at some places of discussion :frowning:

All this is ofc as stated not applicable to mythic europe and the telling of good stories, if someone wants to play something and it dosent go wall to face in making it belivable while having a medieval tapestry backdrop then history be darned if it means less fun :slight_smile:

To begin with, as others have pointed out myths alone mean people should be able to play female viking warriors, and indeed the rules have flaws for characters that are females taking on male roles in medieval Europe.

In addition there is an established history of 'warrior women' - though this is still usually exceptional in the instances I can think of. To be clear though, the position I am taking is not 'women can't be warriors', Joan of Arc, a multitude of Pirates and other examples that aren't immediately at the forefront of my mind exist. The problem I, and I think other people have with this, is that these scientists (or at least some of those reading this paper) are extrapolating, despite several muted warnings against this in their own paper, wide and expansive alterations in how viking society in general should be viewed.

The title of the article is "A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics" - I'd say they are claiming it proves this

The observable evidence contradicts previous observed evidence - this is an exception to everything else previously observed and needs to be carefully examined before we start drawing conclusions.

If, in an experiment, you get a wildly different result than previously seen, you investigate why that is - you do not immediately start re-writing the laws of physics. The same is true here - this is an interesting and important find, and if further investigation by anthropologists finds evidence that supports their conclusions then wonderful. It will, undoubtedly, cause future work to be looked at in more detail regarding this until a consensus is again reached. BUT, rewriting our understanding of an entire social structure, which the authors seem to want to do, based on one grave is silly.

This is Schliemann finding the death-mask at Mycenae and proclaiming "I have looked upon the face of Agamemnon" and that he has now basically proven the Homeric Poems relate true, historical events.

As One shot says, the best thing to do is to wait for further papers on this, and for more work to be done before drawing further conclusions

It's just not the point of their article. As you put it:

Also scientists are sometimes full of themselves and willing to discard some elementary caution about the meaning of their discoveries - especially if they can refer to another discipline for it, as in the fourth paragraph of their introduction. But obviously not even a Roman tombstone with a full cursus honorum really proves the way-of-life of the person buried underneath it.

Other scientists reading their article, as well as their referees for AJPA, can well identify its meat.


Conversely, part of that previously observed evidence was akin to "It's a warrrior's grave, so it's a man's grave" :wink:

Not saying "50% of vikings were female", rather "There were maybe more female warriors than we thought, and we should re-examine what we previously assumed to be the truth"

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Wasn't there some notorious case of a fairly-successful touring/tournament knight -- who lived off of their winnings -- who turned out to be a woman? Or am I mis-remembering?

Also -- MUCH older than ArM-canonical, but well-attested -- is Boudica.

And even older (but playing large within the OoH's cultural myths) are the Amazons... Proving beyond all debate the viability of women warriors in ArM!

That have been the common assumption in Europe/USA for the last few centuries yes. At least in part almost certainly due to 18th, 19th and 20th century having the lowest ratio of women to men in "fighting organisations"/armies etc..

And while 50% is just a ploy to ridicule it, findings in the last several years in regards to viking RAIDERS buried in England have started pointing the physical evidence VERY heavily towards "significant part of the total" at the very least.
A criminal forensic specialist by chance noting that a "male warrior" was blatantly female based on skeleton was what started the revision. Because of the above assumption, noone had actually tried to seriously figure out physical gender on those before.
Initial screening of some gravesites showed female ratios anywhere from zero to almost 50%, IIRC the overall was somewhere in the 25-30% area.

Yes, and if you read about her, you will find that historical sources find very little surprise in that she is a female warrior or warleader. In fact it is repeatedly implied that it was common among the Kelts.

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The discussion is going on.

Here is a summary from the NYT: nytimes.com/2017/09/14/worl ... s-dna.html

Judith Jesch has now excluded a peer-reviewed rebuttal herself (academia.edu/34564381/FEMALE_VIKING_REVISED ) is already available. That draft concludes:



Because that is basically a canned response that CAN be argued for almost anything, and in this case has already been dismissed as invalid.
Judith's reply is basically equivalent of a 3-year old shouting "nonononononono" and covering her ears to not hear anyone else.
If that's the best she has, she's already lost the argument at least twice over. It's weird to even bring it up at all.

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The supporting information on Bj 581 by the team around C. Hedenstierna-Jonson is now out: academia.edu/35022852/SUPPO ... y_genomics