Updated: Dec 4, 2019
A recent facial reconstruction of a 1,000-year-old skull lends credence to the existence of the legendary Viking Shield Maidens who, according to legend, fought alongside their male counterparts in battle.
Recently, scientists at Oslo’s Museum of Cultural History re-created the visage of a Viking woman from around the 900 AD, whose skull was found in a graveyard in Norway in 1900.
Found buried with a hoard of weapons, including arrows, a sword, spear, and axe, up until now, the woman had not been considered a warrior, due to the fact that she was female.
But once the skull was examined further, scientists found a deep wound in her forehead, consistent with a sword wound received in battle. Moreover, she was buried with her head laying on top of a shield and a bridled horse at her feet. (The Vikings believed that if a warrior was buried with their weapons, they would have access to them in the afterlife).
Although it's not clear whether she died of the sword wound, the woman is one of a few Viking-era women found with battle gear in their grave, which lends greater support of the claim that the folkloric Shield Maidens were real and not just a myth.
According to the Scandinavian Sagas, the Shield Maidens were women who trained and fought alongside their male counterparts. Or, as some scholars assert, the Shield Maidens could have been archers who fired arrows from horseback, thereby participating in battle but not grappling in hand-to-hand combat.
The woman’s face was reconstructed by specialists in ancient human remains and was followed by National Geographic documentarians. The reconstruction was aired on December 3, 2019, as part of their Viking Warrior Women series.
To see the Shield Maiden’s skull and the weapons she was buried with, visit the New Viking Exhibit at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, Norway.
For a brief overview on the role women played in Viking culture, check out this video.