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More Than Thor: Half of Viking Warriors Were Female

Sep 03, 2014 02:33 PM EDT
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Thor apparently isn't the only Viking warrior who's allowed to be a woman. A close examination of Norse remains has revealed that a good half of the invading party that tore through Eastern England in the 800's and 900 AD was female.

This comes as timely news after Marvel Comic recently announced the start of a new Thor series that will depict the Norse thunder god as a woman.

Now, a study recently published in the journal Early Medieval Europe details how burial sites in the late Viking kingdom of the Denelaw in Eastern England - founded around 900 AD - included shieldmaidens buried with their weapons and armor.

Fourteen burials from the era were assessed in all, with isotopic readings revealing the birthplace of the deceased. The remains were then closely examined to determine gender, despite "manly" grave-goods like massive swords that had led earlier researchers to assume all the buried were male.

Strikingly, nearly half the buried were identified as female, with one of the fourteen remaining indeterminable. (Scroll to read on...)

"These results, six female Norse migrants and seven male, should caution against assuming that the great majority of Norse migrants were male, despite the other forms of evidence suggesting the contrary," the authors of the study wrote. "This result of almost a fifty-fifty ratio of Norse female migrants to Norse males is particularly significant when some of the problems with osteological sexing of skeletons are taken into account."

It had long been thought that Norse females had accompanied the invaders who eventually founded Denelaw, but it was assumed that the women were heavily outnumbered by the men and stayed back at the camp or eventual settlements while the men went to war.

It's now revealed that Norse culture, full of mythology with shieldmaidens, fierce goddesses, and winged valkyries, may have not judged a warrior by their sex.

Study author Shane McLeod of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Western Australia added that this could also indicate that Vikings arrived in England less-so as bloodthirsty ravagers, and more as colonists looking to get hitched... who just happened to really like their swords.

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