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DNA Proves Viking Warrior a Woman

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September 10, 2017

DNA analysis has confirmed the existence of a 10th-Century female Viking warrior. The find is significant, scientists say, because of the warrior's gender and of the things found buried with her.

Most warrior cultures down through the years have been male-dominated. The Vikings were particularly so. When archaeologists originally unearthed the body, in Birka, Sweden, in 1880s, they naturally assumed that, because of the warrior accompaniments also found with the body, the warrior was a male. 

Recent research out of Stockholm University, however, led scientists to conduct DNA testing on the bones, and the result specified that the warrior was female. In particular, a closer look at the bone structure revealed traits more commonly found in women.

Also found in the grave were a full complement of warrior equipment, including an ax, a sword, a spear, armor-piercing arrows, a knife, two shields, and the remains of two horses. One thing that particularly intrigued researchers was the discovery of what appears to be a strategy and tactics board game, complete with game pieces.

All of that convinced researchers that the warrior would have planned and led battles and that, as such, would have had a high rank or a position of prominence within a Viking fighting force.

The body has no signs of battle wounds that would have been fatal, which would in keeping with Viking tradition, historians said, in that warriors killed on the field of battle would have been buried on that field, not elsewhere.

Also significant was the fact that this woman was buried not within anyone else. Archaeologists have found graves of Viking women before. Many were buried along with their husbands or companions. Some graves contained weapons. This one, however, is the first to be discovered having so many signs that point to the presence of a warrior.

Birka is a city on the Swedish island of Björkö, a onetime Viking trading center. Archaeologists have found more than 3,000 Viking graves on the island.

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