Here’s a headline that just sounds awesome: Better Identification of Viking Corpses Reveals: Half of the Warriors Were Female.
A lot of people have sent us this link these past two days. It raised my “Really?” flag, so I got the original source paper, “Warriors and women: the sex ratio of Norse migrants to eastern England up to 900 ad" by Shane McLeod, published in the journal Early Medieval Europe in 2011. Then I read it all the way through. And, unfortunately (meaning I really hate to ruin everyone’s fun here): That’s not what it says at all.
it’s not entirely raining on the parade about the warrior women.
i’m assuming that the cited article is building upon the much older study (like… decade old) that was originally debunking the jewellery=female grave, sword=male grave (McLeod’s article is hardly the first to conclude this, it’s just confirming it with the osteological sexing)
What the paper actually did was compare six burials sexed through grave goods with 14 sexed osteologically. It does draw the conclusion that grave-goods sexing has yielded a too-limited view of the sexes of Norse migrants, but it’s not so much about debunking older work. The older (grave-goods-sexed) evidence is different evidence from the newer (osteologically sexed) evidence.
And, I want to make it absolutely, 100% clear that neither I nor the source material are saying there were no women Viking warriors. However, there is also no “recent study” proving that 50% of Viking warriors were women, as the link spreading virally right now claims.
((it is really important to keep in mind that if you read ancient archaeology/anthropology articles with the whole modern “~Scientific Evidence~”/”confirmed proof only” perspective, you’re gonna get to approximately ZERO conclusions because ancient anthropology is built entirely upon assumptive conclusions, and all the derivatives and possibilities, since you are working from 0.0000000001% of what you are studying.
that’s why archaeology/anthropology studies are written the way they are - vaguely and without what non-archaeologists consider “true confirmation”.
which is why you have people reading these studies and going, “AHA!!! LOOK AT THE PROOF!!!” and then other people reading the same studies going “WHAT?! THAT’S NOT PROOF AT ALL!”. the truth is that archaeology and archaeological anthropology are forced to draw conclusions from evidence that isn’t always considered “proof” - and before you start scoffing at how insufficient that sounds, consider that everything that you already “know” and assume as fact about our ancient roots is based on this same method of study.))
(((tl;dr. what i’m saying is that fact checking is very important, but you also need to remember that fact checking works VERY differently depending on the field you are fact checking in. you can’t fact check an article about ancient history with the same mindset/method as fact checking the chemical makeup of a cereal box label.)))
This is all very true. However, in this case, what we are fact-checking is not archaeological or scientific work. It is a blog post that definitely draws conclusions from a paper that are unrelated to what the paper is about. I would wager that this misinterpretation has come from reading other blog posts about the original paper rather than reading the paper itself.
(This is probably because the paper itself is behind a paywall, which is why I got it from a public library database. Public libraries are awesome, everyone.)