Daniel Bates, Daily Mail (London), July 21, 2011
Forget Hagar the horrible–it was more like Helga the terrible.
Viking women accompanied their male partners to Britain in far greater numbers than had been previously thought, a study has shown.
Almost half of all bodies in burial grounds researchers examined were those of women–with some carrying swords and shields.
The numbers show that not only were the Vikings accomplished fighters but also the marrying kind who made sure their men had company.
The Norsemen invaded Britain in 900AD and in a series of raids hacked monks to death and stormed a priory in Lindisfarne.
But examination of 14 burial mounds found that it was not just the menfolk who came over.
Of the 14 studied, six were women and seven were men, with one not set indistinguishable.
The researchers came to their conclusion by examining objects found in the graves and looking at isotopes from their bones to identify where they were born.
The bones were also examined for signs of which gender they belonged to–previous studies had just assumed that because the body had a knife near it it was a man.
One burial site at Repton Woods near Derby, for example, was identified as female even though the remains of three swords were recovered.
‘These results, six female Norse migrants and seven male, should caution against assuming that the great majority of Norse migrants were male, despite the other forms of evidence suggesting the contrary,’ the report says.
‘This result of almost a fifty-fifty ratio of Norse female migrants to Norse males is particularly significant when some of the problems with sexing of skeletons are taken into account.’
The study was written by Shane McLeod of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Western Australia.
He said: ‘An increase in the number of finds of Norse-style jewellery in the last two decades has led some scholars to suggest a larger number of female settlers.
‘Indeed, it has been noted that there are more Norse female dress items than those worn by men’.
Previous studies have also confounded our expectations that the Vikings were bloodthirsty warmongers.
A paper published in 2009 claimed the Norsemen were ‘model immigrants’
who lived side-by-side in relative harmony with the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic locals.
After the initial–inevitably violent–conquest, Vikings became an integral part of social and political life in Britain and Ireland between the 9th and 13th centuries.
Earlier this year, researchers also revealed that a cold snap in Greenland may have driven out the Viking settlers from the island.
Scientists reconstructed temperatures by examining lake sediment cores in west Greenland dating back 5,600 years.
Their findings indicated that earlier, pre-historic settlers also had to contend with vicious swings in climate on icy Greenland.