Previews for National Geographic’s upcoming documentary about female Vikings shows that historians may have been too quick to assume that the iconic Scandinavian pirates were run entirely by men.
Using cutting-edge facial recognition technology, British scientists recently discovered female remains at a Viking graveyard in Solør, Norway. This challenges long-held assumptions that Viking warriors left their women at home—women were also fearsome fighters in their own right.
When scientists first discovered the remains, they identified them as female but ruled out the possibility of it being a warrior grave upon discovering the Viking’s gender. However, the Viking was buried with arrows, a sword, a spear and an axe. After reconstructing her face, it was revealed she suffered a head injury consistent with a sword wound.
This is the first evidence of a Viking woman with a battle injury. Archaeologist Ella Al-Shamahi speculates that she, “could have been a military commander,” but the woman’s background has not been confirmed.
The remains of other female Viking warriors were discovered in the late 19th century, but archeologists assumed the Vikings must have been men because of the weaponry and other military paraphernalia they were buried with.
It wasn’t until Stockholm University osteologist Anna Kjellström took a DNA test revealing the remains had no Y chromosomes that Viking scholars would accept that there may have been female Viking warriors.
Viking Warrior Women airs on National Geographic on December 3 at 8pm.