In 1997 archaeologists revisited an 1100-year-old transgender Viking burial ground and predictably as machismo dictates, they remained in denial of this warrior’s gender expression. These esteemed scientists buried the lead saying that they did not want to apply a “modern” [transgender] term and preferred to see the person as a woman.
A transgender person, a gender non-conforming or non-binary person is someone who lives their life authentically in their gender, not necessarily the role commonly associated with their sex at birth.
In 1878, the original archaeologists excavating the Viking town of Birka, Sweden, uncovered a singular ornate 10th-century burial tomb believed to hold the remains of a great warrior, tells the National Geographic.
The site was filled with a trove of weapons, including a sword, spear, shield, and two horses, as well as a game board likely used to map out military strategies. Further emphasizing its noteworthiness, out of 1,100 Birka tombs identified on the settlement, it was just one of two that contained a full set of weaponry.
In 2017, archaeologists found that the bones of a Viking buried in Birka with masculine grave goods were female; some suggested the burial could be a trans man, but the original archaeologists said they did not want to apply a “modern” term and preferred to see the person as a woman.
Pink News: The remains of a Viking may have been ‘a trans man’, according to a leading academic.
Much of the justification for the proposed warrior’s misidentification as biologically male stems from past archaeologists’ frequent assignment of sex on the basis of a grave’s contents rather than scientific bone analysis, as Science Alert’s Carly Cassella argues. It’s worth noting, the authors point out in the new study, that at the time of the grave’s discovery, “male biological sex was not only conflated with a man’s gendered identity, but also that warriorhood was presumed to be an exclusively masculine pursuit.”
Excerpt from Hedenstierna-Jonson, Charlotte; Kjellström, Anna; Zachrisson, Torun; Krzewińska, Maja et al A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics
The identification of a female Viking warrior provides a unique insight into the Viking
society, social constructions, and exceptions to the norm in the Viking time-period.
The results call for caution against generalizations regarding social orders in past societies.
Time will prove us right or wrong, but we think it probable that more Viking Age female warriors will be found in the archaeological record—either as new discoveries or as reinterpretations of old finds, perhaps using genomics, as we have done. Given the enormous numbers of buried individuals from this period that have been sexed only indirectly using associated artifacts, it is even possible that female warriors will eventually appear in some quantity. Currently, the figure of the woman with weapons seems to be an exception, but this does not mean that she can be deconstructed out of existence—especially on the basis of Pavlovian skepticism. She adjusts and nuances our interpretations, and challenges our stereotypes. She adds still further dimensions to our understanding of the Viking Age as a time of critical cultural transformation and social encounter.
© Antiquity Publications Ltd, 2019