Women Warriors

Natalie Haynes of The Guardian asks How many more warrior women are missing from the history books? The story notes that “[t]he recent discovery of female bones in a Viking warrior grave is yet another indication that we’ve only scratched the surface of female history.” Despite my personal experience learning that history was filled (almost exclusively) with men conquering the world, I’m not entirely surprised to learn that women were there throughout history, and they did amazing things:

There were plenty of warrior women in the ancient world, from the nomadic Scythian tribes to warrior queens such as Boudicca in Roman Britain, or Artemisia, who commanded ships during the Persian invasion of fifth-century BC Greece. Some of these women became fighters almost by default: Boudicca was provoked into warrior queen status by circumstance (the murder of her husband, king of the Iceni tribe, and rape of her daughters by the Romans). But the Scythian women liked to ride and fight alongside their menfolk: if a tribe is nomadic, everyone is a hunter and a warrior. Battle-scarred skeletons of multiple women have been found across the Eurasian steppes from Bulgaria to Mongolia.

In her excellent history of female warriors, The Amazons, Adrienne Mayor cites incredible numbers of armed women found in graves. It has only recently become possible to determine the sex of a long-dead warrior, thanks to advances in modern bio-archaeology. In some ancient cemeteries as many as 37% of the armed dead were women.

If you’re interested in reading more about the bones of this female Viking warrior through genomics, we direct you to the article A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics.