Photos: Viking Warrior Is Actually a Woman

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Photos: Viking Warrior Is Actually a Woman

By Laura Geggel February 20, 2019

Warrior woman


(Image credit: Drawing by Tancredi Valeri; Copyright Antiquity Publications Ltd.)
In 2017, a group of researchers in Sweden did a genetic analysis on the bones of a warrior Viking, long assumed to be male. However, the results showed that the individual had XX chromosomes, revealing that the deceased was, in fact, a woman.
There were so many questions about this discovery, that the researchers just published a new study that delved deeper into the finding. Here is an illustration of what the female warrior may have looked like. The clothing details are based, in part, on material found within the burial chamber, the researchers said.

Birka settlement map

(Image credit: Figure prepared by Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson; Copyright Antiquity Publications Ltd.)
The burial, known as Bj.581, was found in Birka, a Viking settlement that flourished from about A.D. 750 to 950 in what is now central Sweden.

Burial sketch

(Image credit: Drawn by Harald Olsson, redrawn from Hjalmar Stolpe’s field records; Copyright Antiquity Publications Ltd.)
The burial was originally found by archaeologist Hjalmar Stolpe in 1878. Here is a drawing based on a sketch by Stolpe. Notice the body (center) surrounded by weapons and a bag of game pieces. The bodies of two horses, one mare and one stallion, are on the left of the image.

Viking burial


(Image credit: Drawing by Þórhallur Þráinsson; Copyright Antiquity Publications Ltd.)
Here’s how the burial might have looked just before it was closed in Viking times.
A warrior’s weapons

(Image credit: Photographs courtesy of Christer Åhlin/Swedish History Museum; Copyright Antiquity Publications Ltd.)
The deceased was buried with a number of weapons. Those shown here include a sword, ax, fighting knife, two lances, two shields and 25 armor-piercing arrows.
This warrior had game

(Image credit: Photograph by Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson; Copyright Antiquity Publications Ltd.)
The woman had a bag on her lap. This bag contained three antler dice, a polyhedral weight. two spheroid weights and 28 gaming pieces, the researchers wrote in the study, published online yesterday (Feb. 19) in the journal Antiquity. Above are a few of the gaming pieces.
It’s possible that these gaming pieces indicate the warrior was a military commander, but this idea is still speculative.
Her silk cap

(Image credit: Photograph courtesy of Christer Åhlin/Swedish History Museum; Copyright Antiquity Publications Ltd.)
The ancient woman wore a silver-trimmed cap of samite silk, that had an “unusual granulated silver tassel, from which hung four plum-shaped, granulated silver balls,” the researchers wrote in the study.
Viking cemeteries

(Image credit: Figure by Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson incorporating material courtesy of Lena Holmquist, overlain on the 1888–1889 base survey by J.J. Nordstrand/Antiquarian Topographical Archives, Stockholm; Copyright Antiquity Publications Ltd.)
This map shows a number of excavated burials in Birka, including Bj.581 (circled in red). In fact, Bj.581 was located near other richly decorated graves and was a stone’s throw from the so-called garrison hall (the other red marked area), a 65-foot-long (20 meters) hall that contained a unique assemblage of weaponry. The fact that Bj.581 was buried near this hall denotes warrior status, but there are more questions about the status this unique individual had.

Battle-Scarred Viking Shield-Maiden Gets Facial Reconstruction for First Time

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Battle-Scarred Viking Shield-Maiden Gets Facial Reconstruction for First Time

By Brandon Specktor – Senior Writer November 08, 2019
First unearthed in 1900, this 1,000-year-old Viking shield-maiden was apparently cut down in her prime.

This facial reconstruction of a Viking woman's skull shows a deep head wound, possibly sustained during battle.

This facial reconstruction of a Viking woman’s skull shows a deep head wound, possibly sustained during battle.
(Image: © National Geographic)

When the sword came down upon her head, the blade cut her to the bone. Scientists studying the Viking woman’s fractured skull 1,000 years later still aren’t sure whether the blow actually killed her — however, the trove of weapons buried with her make it clear that she died a warrior nonetheless.
That Viking, who lived and died around the year 900, was first excavated from a farm in Solør, Norway, in 1900. Her head rested on a shield, a bridled horse skeleton lay curled at her feet, and her body was boxed in by a sword, spear, battle-ax and arrows. When a quick analysis revealed the skeleton to be female, it was immediately interpreted as the first physical example of a shield-maiden — a mythical female warrior only referenced in medieval texts before then.

Now, for the first time, researchers at the University of Dundee in Scotland have used facial reconstruction technology to re-create that maiden’s appearance — including the wound that may have ended her career.

The results, which you can see above and in the new National Geographic documentary “Viking Warrior Women,” show a woman of about 18 or 19 years old with a strong jaw, swollen eye and a forehead that’s seen better days. According to the team’s analysis of the warrior’s skull, the maiden suffered a serious head injury consistent with a sword strike — however, the wound showed signs of healing and may not have been her ultimate cause of death.
Whether the wound was fatal or not, the new reconstruction suggests that this skeleton may be “the first evidence ever found of a Viking woman with a battle injury,” archaeologist Ella Al-Shamahi, who hosts the new documentary, told The Guardian.
That’s exciting news, especially for researchers trying to overturn the centuries-old assumption that Viking warriors were exclusively men. This stereotype took its own blow in 2017, when a Viking skeleton presumed for the past 70 years to be a man (because it had been buried with a trove of weapons) was proven to be a woman following a DNA analysis.
Like the shield-maiden of Solør, this woman was buried with an array of weapons and horses, plus a set of chess-like gaming pieces that suggested a tactical aptitude commensurate with a high-ranking military official, the researchers who made the discovery wrote in a study. Not only is it likely that she was a warrior, but she may also have been a general.
“Our results caution against sweeping interpretations based on … preconceptions,” the researchers wrote in their 2017 paper. “Our results … suggest that [Viking] women, indeed, were able to be full members of male dominated spheres.”
If you’d like to pay homage to the shield-maiden of Solør, you can find her dented skull and well-worn weapons on display at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, Norway, until Nov. 22.
“Viking Warrior Woman” first aired on Nov. 3 on the National Geographic channel.

In Photos: Hidden Maya Civilization

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In Photos: Hidden Maya Civilization

By Stephanie Pappas February 01, 2018

Hidden Civilization

Maya civilization
(Image credit: Wild Blue Media/National Geographic)
Maya pyramids peek from the jungle in this aerial image from northern Guatemala. Scientists studying the ancient Maya culture have just completed a 810 square mile (2,100 square kilometer) survey of 10 sites in northern Guatemala using LiDAR, a technology that uses laser pulses to map topography, stripping away obscuring vegetation. [Read more about the Maya surveys]
What Lies Beneath

Maya civilization
(Image credit: Wild Blue Media/National Geographic)
The same site appears in much greater detail in a LiDAR image. Roads and foundations become apparent. In the new LiDAR survey, researchers discovered 60,000 structures that had never been mapped before, some in very well-researched Maya sites. Others were spread far and wide through the jungle.

Featureless Forest

Maya civilization
(Image credit: Wild Blue Media/National Geographic)
The dense Guatemalan jungle hides evidence of ancient Maya settlements. Archaeologists say it’s easy to walk within a few dozen feet of a structure and never even know it’s there. Wide-ranging LiDAR surveys can map in a few hours what would have taken archaeologists decades.

“LiDAR is going to be to our understanding of settlement patterns of ancient societies what radiocarbon dating has been to our understanding of their chronologies, which is to say, revolutionary,” said Maya archaeologist David Freidel of Washington University in St. Louis.
Hidden Worlds

Maya civilization
(Image credit: Wild Blue Media/National Geographic)
That featureless forest in the previous image hides all sorts of ancient Maya secrets. This image shows a LiDAR scan of the same spot shown in the previous photograph. Architectural features hidden beneath dirt and plants suddenly become visible.

The new LiDAR survey provides a literal treasure map to lead researchers to new sites to excavate. Friedel and his team plan to spend the next three years investigating new features from the LiDAR survey in their study site, El Peru-Waka’ in northwestern Peten.


Maya civilization
(Image credit: Wild Blue Media/National Geographic)
The jungle photograph and the LiDAR scan are superimposed in this image, showing how Maya structures can be hidden in plain site in the dense vegetation. Archaeologists first used LiDAR to survey Maya areas in Belize in 2009. It’s been “spectacularly successful,” said University of Colorado, Boulder, anthropologist Payson Sheets. “As of right now,” Sheets told Live Science, “only a teeny-tiny fraction of one percent of the Maya area has been covered in LiDAR, so the future is very bright.”
Living in the Landscape.

Maya civilization

(Image credit: Wild Blue Media/National Geographic)
Maya structures are scattered across the jungle in this LiDAR image taken over northern Guatemala. The findings of the survey suggest that the population was far denser in the Maya lowlands than previously believed, according to survey archaeologist Tom Garrison. That’s a fascinating finding, said Maya expert Lisa Lucero of the University of Illinois, who was not involved in the project; today, slash-and-burn agriculture supports far fewer people, with far greater destruction. The ancient Maya were somehow managing the forests to support larger numbers of people, she said, and doing so in a more sustainable way.
Guatemala from Above

Maya civilization

(Image credit: Wild Blue Media/National Geographic)
Scientist Albert Lin (left), Tom Garrison (middle) and Francisco Estrada-Belli (right) examine the topography of northern Guatemala as seen by the naked eye. A new documentary, Lost Treasures of the Maya Snake Kings, will premier on Tuesday, Feb. 6 9/8c on the National Geographic channel to highlight some of the LiDAR discoveries.

A Lost World, Revealed

Maya civilization
(Image credit: Wild Blue Media/National Geographic)
Albert Lin, Tom Garrison and Francisco Estrada-Belli look at the same scence through LiDAR, a view that reveals detailed topography and a whole host of structures swallowed by the Guatemalan jungle. Using LiDAR, Garrison and his colleagues discovered new fortifications near their study size of El Zotz in Guatemala. They hope to excavate the 30-foot (9 meter) wall in the coming field seasons.