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:
- why this story has appeal and significance;
- media images;
- popular reception;
- academic responses;
- 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:
- Fact-based by one of many roles and interpretations
- I would imagine that there always were some….
- certainly no reason not to believe in warrior women
- That is the question! Probably fact, not necessarily lots of them
- Fact, exaggerated by fiction!
- 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:
- Both. Depending how the evidence is interpreted. A social need by contemporary society
- Fact & fiction
- Bit of each
- There weren’t just possibly…
- Too narrow an identity concept
Others seemed uncertain:
- No real evidence, but I choose to believe there would be some facts within the sagas;
- Really depends on the interpretation of the data
- I wish I knew
- Still a question!
- Still to be worked on/argued about
- Seems open to debate
- We still don’t know for sure…
- Depends on interpretation of the details
Only one was adamant that warrior-women were 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.