Illustration by Evald Hansen based on the original plan of the grave by excavator Hjalmar Stolpe,
published in 1889 [Credit: Uppsala University]
War was not an activity exclusive to males in the Viking world. A new study conducted by researchers at Stockholm and Uppsala Universities shows that women could be found in the higher ranks at the battlefield.
Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, who led the study, explains: "What we have studied was not a Valkyrie from the sagas but a real life military leader, that happens to be a woman".
The study was conducted on one of the most iconic graves from the Viking Age. It holds the remains of a warrior surrounded by weapons, including a sword, armour-piercing arrows, and two horses. There were also a full set of gaming pieces and a gaming board. "The gaming set indicates that she was an officer", says Charlotte, "someone who worked with tactics and strategy and could lead troops in battle". The warrior was buried in the Viking town of Birka during the mid-10th century. Isotope analyses confirm an itinerant life style, well in tune with the martial society that dominated 8th to 10th century northern Europe.