What a discovery in a grave tells us about Swedish equality

female viking

Outside of Stockholm, there is an island called Björkö. On this island is a former Viking settlement called Birka. It is well worth a visit and is an active, on-going archeological site where new discoveries are constantly being made.  The area contains 3000 Viking graves, many containing high ranking warriors. Until recently, the presumption has been that these hold male remains but Swedish scientists have now revealed that the body of a warrior long presumed to be male is, in fact, female.

Scientists have assumed the skeleton to be male due to the status symbols buried along side it. However, after carrying out a DNA analysis, researchers from Stockholm University announced that the 10th Century skeleton is the first confirmed female high-ranking Viking warrior.

According to the researchers, this finding  “provides a new understanding of the Viking society, the social constructions and also norms in the Viking Age.”

“Our results – that the high-status grave on Birka was the burial of a high ranking female Viking warrior – suggest that women, indeed, were able to be full members of male dominated spheres.”

So it seems that gender equality in Sweden is not a new-found invention. It is something that stretches back, in its way, over many decades. Today, Sweden is amongst the top countries in the world to lead the Gender Equality Report. All cultural behaviour we see today stems from history and often from how we needed to survive as a society. Maybe today’s gender equality in Sweden started with the Vikings?

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