Last September there was a fascinating article published called Female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics. In 5 previous blog posts I’ve outlined reflections on the article and the associated media frenzy:

  1. why this story has appeal and significance;
  2. media images;
  3. popular reception;
  4. academic responses;
  5. my thoughts on the article.

I’ve just presented a public lecture on the topic at the Grosvenor Museum, Chester: part of my Department’s Lunchtime Lecture Series.

I called my talk: ‘Women, Death and Power in the Viking Age’ and I will report on its contents separately. One of my key points is that we should continue to engage the public in discussing this fascinating topic given its importance as a theme, but also because it sheds light on a host of other interpretative questions regarding the Viking age. So I thought this talk might be a useful way to present the evidence and research of others, and some of my perspectives, and then see what the audience thought. I set them with a questionnaire and asked the c. 66 people a series of questions to complete after the talk was completed.

I got 29 replies (we didn’t anticipate so many attending and distributed only c. 45 forms). Based on my talk, I asked the question:

‘Were Viking warrior-women fact or fiction’?

The following responses preferred to see them as fact, or based on fact:

  1. Fact
  2. Fact
  3. Fact
  4. Fact
  5. Fact
  6. Fact
  7. Fact-based by one of many roles and interpretations
  8. I would imagine that there always were some….
  9. certainly no reason not to believe in warrior women
  10. That is the question! Probably fact, not necessarily lots of them
  11. Fact, exaggerated by fiction!
  12. I’d like to believe it’s a fact

Others saw the issue as more nuanced, either that ‘warrior-women’ were a weaving of fact and fiction, or they were simply hedging their bets:

  1. Both!
  2. Both. Depending how the evidence is interpreted. A social need by contemporary society
  3. Fact & fiction
  4. Bit of each
  5. There weren’t just possibly…
  6. Too narrow an identity concept

Others seemed uncertain:

  1. No real evidence, but I choose to believe there would be some facts within the sagas;
  2. Really depends on the interpretation of the data
  3. I wish I knew
  4. Still a question!
  5. Still to be worked on/argued about
  6. Seems open to debate
  7. Debatable
  8. We still don’t know for sure…
  9. Depends on interpretation of the details
  10. ?

Only one was adamant that warrior-women were fiction:

  1. Fiction

So there we have it! My audience got a sceptical presentation but were convinced that the archaeological evidence had something to tell us about women and martial roles, with 18/29 seeing warrior-women as fact or partly based on fact.