An elaborate Viking Age grave in Sweden holds the remains of a decorated female warrior from the 10th century, providing the first archaeological evidence that women held high-status positions in Viking culture.
The remarkable find was revealed in a study by researchers at Stockholm and Uppsala Universities and published in the American Journal of Anthropology. Their DNA analysis of the skeleton confirmed that the individual was a woman older than 30 years old, who stood somewhere around 5 feet 6 inches tall.
Several weapons were buried alongside the body, including a sword, armor-piercing arrows, a battle knife, an axe, a spear and two shields, indicating that the skeleton was likely that of a warrior. Accompanying the wide array of weapons were two horses and a full set of game pieces and a gaming board. The gaming pieces suggest that the person buried was a high-ranking combatant who was knowledgeable of strategies and tactics.
Legends of ferocious female warriors appear in Scandinavian lore and poetry from the Middle Ages. Stories of similar warriors have been told in the modern era too, for example Lagertha on the HISTORY series Vikings, but the existence of warrior women in Viking culture has consistently been challenged in official histories, with women often relegated to non-combatant roles.
For the first time, the study notes, it can be said that women "were able to be full members of male dominated spheres," during the Viking Age.