Recently archaeologists and historians have discovered Viking burial sites containing both female bones and weapons. What does this mean? The obvious answer is that women were also Viking warriors. This is what many news headlines have proclaimed. But not so fast! There is a lot to consider here. Were they themselves warriors or the wives or consorts of warriors? Sometimes priestesses were buried with swords. in any case, most women in these sites were buried with apron brooches, not weapons. But if a minority of Viking warriors were women, why have historians been so slow to pick up on it. For decades bone experts claimed that they were finding female bones with weapons and historians insisted that the bone experts were wrong because there was no way women would have weapons. Finally historians are becoming more trusting of the bone experts. Do you think that assumptions about gender roles are primarily to blame or this or is there some other reason? Or, why are historians and newspaper editors now so quick to proclaim the existence of female Viking warriors? Are our own cultural preoccupations being read into evidence? What’s your take? How can a historian or archeologist avoid reading his own cultural expectations and desires into evidence?
See Stubby the Rocket, “Better Identification of Viking Corpses Reveals: Half of the Warriors Were Female,” Tor.com, posted September 2, 2014, accessed September 9, 2014, http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/09/female-viking-warriors-proof-swords; and Andrew W., September 2, 2014 at 08:47pm EDT, comment on Stubby the Rocket, “Better Identification of Viking Corpses Reveals: Half of the Warriors Were Female,” Tor.com, posted September 2, 2014, accessed September 9, 2014, http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/09/female-viking-warriors-proof-swords.