Viking armies let women lead, DNA proves

  • 09/09/2017
How a Viking warrior woman may have looked.
How a Viking warrior woman may have looked. Photo credit: Getty

Women led historic Viking armies, genetic testing of a buried warrior has found.

DNA extracted from a skeleton found in a grave dating to the mid-10th century in Swedish Viking town Birka has proven the fallen warrior was a woman.

"This is the first formal and genetic confirmation of a female Viking warrior," said professor of biology Mattias Jakobsson at Uppsala University.

"Written sources mention female warriors occasionally, but this is the first time that we've really found convincing archaeological evidence for their existence," said Neil Price, professor of archaeology and ancient history.

An illustration of a Viking grave, based on an original photograph.
An illustration of the grave, based on an original photograph. Photo credit: Uppsala University

The 1.52m skeleton was buried with weapons, arrows, horses and a gaming set - suggesting she wasn't just tagging along for the ride.

"The gaming set indicates that she was an officer, someone who worked with tactics and strategy and could lead troops in battle," said lead study author Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson of Stockholm University.

"What we have studied was not a Valkyrie from the sagas but a real-life military leader, that happens to have been a woman."