Researchers have confirmed that the human remains in a prominent Viking warrior grave in Sweden belonged to a woman and not a man.
The remains entombed in a grave in the Viking-age town of Birka was unearthed in the 1880's but the gender of the individual was determined only this time and through DNA testing.
Long Assumed To Be Male
The individual was long assumed to be male. However, in 2016, researchers re-examined the skeleton and found evidence suggesting that the person was most likely a woman.
Historical records from early Middle Ages have mentioned about women fighting in battles with men, an idea depicted by artistic works as well. For the most part though, these ideas have been considered as mythological and not based in reality.
"Written sources mention female warriors occasionally, but this is the first time that we've really found convincing archaeological evidence for their existence," said Uppsala University's Department of Archaeology and Ancient History professor Neil Price.
First Proof That Female Viking Warriors Existed
Experts said that this is the first time they have found proof that female Viking warriors did exist.
The researchers decided to confirm their hypothesis by investigating the nuclear DNA of the remains. They tested the tooth root and the upper arm bone of the individuals and the samples revealed it has two X chromosomes and no Y chromosomes, a clear evidence of the person's biological sex.
"The genomic results revealed the lack of a Y-chromosome and thus a female biological sex, and the mtDNA analyses support a single-individual origin of sampled elements," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
"The genetic affinity is close to present-day North Europeans, and within Sweden to the southern and south-central region."
Likely A High-Ranking Officer
A full set of gaming pieces found with the remains also implied that the woman warrior had knowledge of tactics and strategy, and confirmed that she had a role as a high-ranking officer.
The grave suggests that the woman was not just a warrior. She also appears to be high-ranking. Archeologists found with her remains an ax, a sword, a spear, a bottle knife, armor-piercing arrows, two shields, and the remains of two horses, which are all considered to be the complete equipment of a professional warrior.
The remains suggest that war was not an exclusive activity to Viking men. Women were also in the higher ranks at the battlefield.