Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Viking warrior woman

Scientists Reconstruct The Mutilated Face Of A 1,000-Year-Old Female Viking Warrior

A skeleton found in a Viking graveyard in Solør, Norway has been identified as female for years, but experts weren’t sure if the woman was really a warrior when she was alive. Now, cutting-edge facial reconstruction appears to confirm her status as a fighter.

According to The Guardian, archaeologist Ella Al-Shamahi explained that this latter part was in dispute “simply because the occupant was a woman” — despite her burial site being filled with an arsenal of weaponry that included arrows, a sword, a shield, a spear, and an axe.

This does seem somewhat odd to me. What can a facial injury tell you that burial with an arsenal can’t? It seems to me like the number of nonfighter women murdered with swords and spears must be quite a lot higher, to put it mildly than the number of warrior women killed in battle. Nothing in the article suggests why a specific wound indicates death in battle rather than slaughter of a noncombatant. Personally, I think the arsenal is a lot more suggestive than the wound.

However, it’s always something to see the face of someone out of history.

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6 Comments Viking warrior woman

  1. Elaine T.

    i wondered the same thing. A healed facial injury could be from anything from farming accident to wife beating – nothing says warrior. Now if her bones showed other injuries, as if from fighting – like battlefield skeletons – that’s something else again. Or even if they showed the same type of development that male warriors’ do. I’m thinking of how archers and swordsmen’s bodies (even tennis players) show the marks of practice and what the person does with their body.

  2. Rachel

    Elaine, yes! I should have thought of that! Anthropologists are always saying things like, “Of course you can tell this woman spent a great deal of time grinding grain because of the wear on her toes” or whatever. You’d definitely think the body would show very definite signs of characteristic muscle development if a person trained as a warrior versus spending her life doing other activities.

  3. Kathryn McConaughy

    I agree with your questions about this press release. I feel like maybe the current archaeologists on the project were looking for an excuse to confirm that she was a woman by saying “we have new evidence!” rather than just contradicting what the former chief archaeologist had to say about it. Regarding the bone wear issue, I’m wondering if they lost the skeleton other than the skull… in older archaeological projects, scholars often took only the bones they found interesting rather than entire skeletons.

  4. Rachel

    Kathryn, that’s a good suggestion. If only the skull was preserved (!), then it would probably be impossible to figure out much about this woman’s life.

  5. Elaine T

    I did some more poking: The grave was originally excavated in the 1880s and taken as a standard ‘type’ for Viking warrior leader graves. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ajpa.23308 They had more than the skull.: “The skeleton was represented by bone elements from all body regions” and “Additionally, the long bones are thin, slender and gracile which provide further indirect support for the assessment. No pathological or traumatic injuries were observed.”

    Which latter phrase give me cause to doubt the analysis again. Even sports leave trauma behind. And, since those arguing she’s an actual warrior haven’t said anything about the bones showing typical stress for any kind of weapons training, I’m still skeptical.

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