Viking Commander Remains Found in Sweden Are of a Woman

(Photo: History)Katheryn Winnick as Lagertha in "Vikings."

It turns out that there were female Viking warriors too and some were even in command.

A new study has confirmed that the remains of the Viking warrior found buried in Birka in Sweden belonged to a woman and not to a man as what was initially believed.

The remains were discovered in the late 1800s along with two horses and weapons by Swedish archaeologist Hjalmar Stolpe. Because of the "manly" equipment that it was found with, it was assumed that it was a man.

It was Stockholm University osteologist Anna Kjellström who first had the suspicion a few years ago that this is not the case since the cheek and hip bones were feminine.

It turns out that she was right. Her fellow researcher and archaeologist Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson of Uppsala University has confirmed to The Local that the Viking warrior is in fact a woman over the age 30 and was five-feet six-inches in height.

More importantly, she revealed that the Viking warrior was like a real-life Xena the Warrior Princess who planned, took charge and even fought in battles:

Aside from the complete warrior equipment buried along with her — a sword, an ax, a spear, armor-piercing arrows, a battle knife, shields, and two horses — 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.

Hedenstierna-Jonson said that the woman had to have participated in actual battles where she gained her warrior experience seeing that she held such a high military position.

Phys.org notes that this discovery serves as the first genetic evidence that women were Viking warriors as well. However, there are some skeptics questioning the research with some suspecting that the cheekbones tested were not even from the grave that the remains were dug up from.

However, in their findings published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, the researchers stated that in this context, the biological sex is being "taken for granted" due to the fact that research traditions and contemporary preconceptions "reinforced ... the image of the male warrior in a patriarchal society."

Though some Viking women buried with weapons are known, a female warrior of this importance has never been determined and Viking scholars have been reluctant to acknowledge the agency of women with weapons.

Despite the confirmation, the researchers do not expect the discovery to change the minds of historians about the Vikings society being patriarchal:

It was probably quite unusual (for a woman to be a military leader), but in this case, it probably had more to do with her role in society and the family she was from, and that carrying more importance than her gender.