Half the remains of slain Vikings in England are female

In Warriors and women: the sex ratio of Norse migrants to eastern England up to 900 AD, published in 2011 in Early Medieval Europe 19/3, Medievalists from the University of Western Australia survey the remains of fallen Vikings found in eastern England that had been assumed to be male, partly because some were buried with sword and shield.

An anatomical examination of these remains found that, of the remains with an identifiable gender, half were female, including at least one of the "warrior" skeletons buried with sword and shield.

"These results, six female Norse migrants and seven male, should caution against assuming that the great majority of Norse migrants were male, despite the other forms of evidence suggesting the contrary. This result of almost a fifty-fifty ratio of Norse female migrants to Norse males is particularly significant when some of the problems with osteological sexing of skeletons are taken into account," says the study.

Invasion of the Viking women unearthed [Dan Vergano/USA Today]

(via Pipedream Dragon)

(Image: Illustration from A Parody on Iolanthe by D. Dalziel illustrated by H. W. McVickar, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Notable Replies

  1. The top half or bottom half?

  2. Kind of old news, but yeah, the identification of remains were being made based on grave goods - box brooches at the shoulders indicating females and weapons indicating males. This is despite the sagas treating the existence of warrior women as commonplace... so what we've got here is archeological confirmation (by, you know, looking at the actual bones) of historical fact.

  3. Yeah, reading this I was a little bit taken aback when it said remains had been assumed to be male because of the presence of weapons. It's like they'd never heard of Vikings.

  4. Do you even see what you did there?

  5. aatkin says:

    I mentioned this on Twitter, but I'm commenting here in the hopes that it's seen.

    "...of the remains with an identifiable gender,..." BoingBoing, you mean /sex/ here. This is mega important. Especially given the subject.

    Everyone, repeat after me: sex ≠ gender.

    While there are a few issues with this study, I have yet see a media story that accurately represents the research and the author's conclusions based their results. It's all been sensational headline waffle.

    Full disclaimer: I'm an osteoarchaeologist.

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