For over 130 years, researchers assumed a Viking warrior and military leader whose remains were found in Sweden was a man. Now, new DNA testing has shown that this ancient high-ranking military officer was actually a woman.
“This image of the male warrior in a patriarchal society was reinforced by research traditions and contemporary preconceptions. Hence, the biological sex of the individual was taken for granted,” researchers wrote in findings published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
The remains were discovered in the 1880s but tested for DNA only recently. The body was found with a sword, an ax, a spear, armor-piercing arrows, a bottle knife, two shields, and two horses. All those components suggest that the body belonged to a professional warrior. Gaming pieces included among the paraphernalia implied that the warrior was a high-ranking officer.
“Aside from the complete warrior equipment buried along with her… she had a board game in her lap, or more of a war-planning game used to try out battle tactics and strategies, which indicates she was a powerful military leader. She’s most likely planned, led and taken part in battles,” Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, an archaeologist at Sweden’s Uppsala University, told the Swedish publication The Local.
The lesson: Don’t make assumptions when you excavate the body of a Viking.