A Viking Warrior Woman


For more than a century, historians assumed one of the most spectacular Viking graves ever discovered belonged to a man. Turns out they were wrong. (The Local.se)

What other ancient woman tricked archaeologists?

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

NGS Picture Id:2493844
CLICK TO ENLARGE! The Viking influence stretched across much of the Northern Hemisphere. Can you find Birka on this map? It’s on the central eastern coast of Sweden. Map by Fernando G. Baptista, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas


  • Vikings were farmers, traders, and artisans in addition to being legendary explorers and warriors. How do archaeologists know the Viking in Bj 581 was a warrior and not a farmer or trader?
    • The geographic position of the grave and the grave goods indicate the grave belonged to a high-status military leader.
      • According to the new research, the grave is “[p]rominently placed on an elevated terrace between the town and a hillfort, the grave was in direct contact with Birka’s garrison.”
      • The grave goods include a sword, an axe, a spear, armour-piercing arrows, a battle knife, two shields, and two horses, one mare and one stallion; thus, the complete equipment of a professional warrior. Furthermore, a full set of gaming pieces indicates knowledge of tactics and strategy, stressing the buried individual’s role as a high-ranking officer.”
      • Researchers remind us, however, that geography and weapons do not make a warrior and “interpretation of grave goods is not straight forward.”





Aside from the complete warrior equipment buried along with her—a sword, an axe, a spear, armour-piercing arrows, a battle knife, shields, and two horses—she had a board game in her lap, or more of a war-planning game used to try out battle tactics and strategies, which indicates she was a powerful military leader. She’s most likely planned, led and taken part in battles,” says Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, an archeologist at Uppsala University.
Illustration by Evald Hansen based on Hjalmar Stolpe’s excavations at Birka in the 19th century



The Local: Viking warrior found in Sweden was a woman, researchers confirm

Nat Geo: What You Don’t Know about the Vikings

UNESCO World Heritage: Birka and Hovgården

Nat Geo: The Modern Life of a Bronze-Age Woman

(extra credit! this is a great read!) American Journal of Physical Anthropology: A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics

4 thoughts on “A Viking Warrior Woman

Leave a Reply