Could some Viking warriors have been trans men, book asks?

  • Books
  • Sunday, 23 Aug 2020

The re-evaluation of Viking archaeological findings through modern eyes has yielded notable gender switches in recent years. Photo: Handout

Vikings were known for brutality and chauvinism as they pillaged their way across Europe, but a new book has claimed that some of the Nordic warriors might have secretly been transgender men.

In The Children Of Ash & Elm: A History Of The Vikings, Neil Price, professor of archaeology and ancient history at Sweden’s Uppsala University, re-examined the case of a Viking warrior grave excavated in 1889.

Discovered in Birka – often referred to as Sweden’s first town – the 10th-century grave contained a skeleton buried with swords and spears that was presumed to be of a male Viking.

But DNA analysis confirmed in 2017 it was a female warrior.

“In a sense it does not really matter whether the person in the Birka grave was a female-bodied warrior woman or not, ” Price, part of the 2017 research team, wrote in the book being published later this month.

“This person may equally have been transgender, in our terms, or non-binary, or gender fluid.”

Dominic Janes, professor of modern history at Keele University in northern England, said there was a long history of women as war leaders in Europe over the centuries, citing England’s Queen Elizabeth I.

Janes also referred to 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner’s description of the warrior-like female Valkyries, part of Norse mythology, in his four-part opera The Ring Cycle.

“Bearing that in mind, you might not be too astonished that there were actually warrior women for real in the Viking period, ” Janes said.

The re-evaluation of archaeological findings through modern eyes has yielded notable gender switches in recent years.

Last September, Italian scientists revealed that a famous pair of ancient skeletons, known as the Lovers Of Modena after being found in Italy buried hand-in-hand, were actually two men.

In April last year, DNA tests showed that American Revolutionary War hero Casimir Pulaski was almost certainly intersex, ending rumours over whether the 18th-century Polish nobleman was born with both male and female sex characteristics. – Reuters

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