In 1889, a Viking warrior grave was discovered in Birka, Sweden. Assessing the large collection of weapons in the grave, the discoverers assumed the skeleton was a male. There was no historical indication that a woman would have such possessions, especially not in her grave which were used as a way to honor the kind of life the person lived.
However, new genetic evidence suggests the skeleton is female. Recently, a group of ten researchers reevaluated the remains and published results that are the first to present genetic proof that there may have been female Viking warriors.
Out of the 3,000+ Viking graves that had been discovered, only about 1,100 have been excavated, and out of those that have been excavated, only 3 graves suggest the existence of female Viking warriors. So, although they may have been few and far between, their existence is still very possible.
A 1889 drawing of the Viking warrior grave discovered in Birka, Sweden. (Hjalmar Stolpe)
Other experts suggest different explanations, “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” (Denver Post).
The skeleton shows no indications of battle wounds, yet male Viking warriors’ skeletons have been discovered in the past without battle wounds as well. The team of researchers who published the results also caution against assumptions that the items in the grave belonged to the female during life, “Our results caution against sweeping interpretations based on archaeological contexts and preconceptions.” However, considering the indisputable genetic evidence, the researchers write, “[The findings are highly suggestive] that women, indeed, were able to be full members of male-dominated spheres” (Denver Post).
Female Viking warriors have long been a popular topic in literature and mythology, leading to the creation of many famous fictional characters such as Wonder Woman and Xena, but proof of real-life female warriors would be a step towards reevaluating the gender roles that were assumed to be in line with Viking culture. In short, women of the past may have been way more badass than anyone thought.