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For fans of the “Vikings” series on the History Channel, the idea of shield-maidens, strong woman warriors are welcomed and unsurprising. However, in the real world, the mainstream has been reluctant to acknowledge that women fought alongside men. Now, scientists say that not only were Viking warrior women real, but they also have revealed the face of one such warrior.
On the Vikings show, there is no more popular character than Lagertha, the Viking shield-maiden, and Earl from what is now Norway. Her skills in battle attracted her husband, Ragnar Lothbrok, legendary Viking king.
The portrayal by Katheryn Winnick was called the “most exciting feminist character on TV” by Entertainment Weekly.
“A lot of women on the show want to be like Lagertha. A lot of women in the world want to be like Lagertha,” said Vikings executive producer, Micahel Hirst.
Lagertha’s story is told in the 13th-century CE Gesta Danorum by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus, but it is the only historical source where she is mentioned. Her story could be inspired by the legendary Norse goddess Thorgerd, from Hálogaland, Norway, a sort of local deity.
A temple was dedicated to Thorgerd in Gudbrandsdal, Norway, in the 10th century CE.
Saxo describes Lagertha as:
“…a skilled amazon, who, though a maiden, had the courage of a man, and fought in front among the bravest with her hair loose over her shoulders. All marvelled at her matchless deeds, for her locks flying down her back betrayed that she was a woman. (IX).”
Now fans of Lagertha and the shield-maidens take note: A new documentary from National Geographic is about to confirm that the shield-maiden’s story was much more than a myth.
The documentary, “Viking Warrior Women” is set to air on December 3, 2019. The show will follow archaeologist Ella Al-Shamahi, a specialist in ancient human remains.
It’s time… my @NatGeoChannel show is on Viking Warrior Women… and we accidentally came across what *might* possibly be the first example of a battle injury in a female Viking warrior! It airs in the US 3rd Nov at 8pm (this Sunday) and UK 3rd Dec 8pm. pic.twitter.com/hCAsmvygGU
— Ella Al-Shamahi (@LittleMsFossil) October 30, 2019
Along with British scientists, Al-Shamahi has brought the face of a Viking warrior woman to life with cutting-edge facial reconstruction technology. Her skeleton was found in Solør, Norway in a Viking graveyard, and is now preserved at Oslo’s Museum of Cultural History.
“I’m so excited because this is a face that hasn’t been seen in 1,000 years… She’s suddenly become really real,” said Al-Shamahi.
The specialist says it may be “the first evidence ever found of a Viking woman with a battle injury.”
According to the Guardian:
“The remains had already been identified as female, but her burial site had not been considered a warrior grave “simply because the occupant was a woman,” according to archaeologist Ella Al-Shamahi.
“As they worked on reconstructing her face for a 21st-century audience, scientists found that not only was the woman buried amid an impressive collection of deadly weaponry, including arrows, a sword, a spear, and an axe, she also had suffered a head injury consistent with a sword wound. Her head, resting in her grave on a shield, was found to have a dent in it serious enough to have damaged the bone.”
The researchers say the facial reconstruction is likely quite accurate to real life.
“The resulting reconstruction is never 100 percent accurate, but is enough to generate recognition from someone who knew them well in real life,” said Dr. Caroline Erolin.
Al-Shamahi notes that female warriors could fire arrows from horseback, making them “an equal match for men” in battle. So, despite the reluctance from mainstream academics and other researchers, we now have very good evidence suggesting the Viking shield-maidens were real heroes who were revered in their day.
See more via YouTube below:
The new documentary may also discuss the Birka Warrior, a skeleton found over a century ago surrounded by weapons. She was presumed to be a man, but DNA tests in 2017 showed she was a woman. Not only that, but she was buried with a sword, axe, spear, arrows, a knife, two shields, and two horses. Also, a gaming set used to strategize battles indicated she might have been a high-ranking officer.
See more about the Birka Warrior in the video below:
Featured image: Screenshots via YouTube