Just over a year ago (October 2019), I presented a public talk to the BBC History Magazine’s History Weekend at Chester on the topic of ‘Viking Warrior Women and the Public Archaeology of Death‘.

I presented the broader ethical issues in which mortuary archaeology operates in the contemporary world and suggested that the viral distribution of the AJPA article in 2017 is a case study that begs questions about how we best write about, visualise and both mediate with the media and the broader public concerning mortuary archaeological research.

Recently, BBC History Extra got in touch requesting permission to publish their recordingn of my talk. This is  in the context of the coronavirus pandemic and their inability to go forward with their 2020 programme of history weekends. I was happy to agree but was taken by surprise that it first aired this weekend gone. They’ve given it a tweaked title of: Viking warrior woman and the ethics of excavating the dead.


See my earlier posts about the 2017 American Journal of Physical Anthropology publication, the 2019 Antiquity follow-up, and the wider public reception and both academic and popular reactions to the story.

This story interacts in multiple regards with the ongoing television series Vikings and its portrayal of women’s martial roles, including Queen Lagertha.

And now, of course, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is out, where one can play as either a male or female lead character.

The conversation about the historical, legendary and mythological status of warrior-women in the Viking Age is clearly an ongoing and captivating dimension of our engagements with the early medieval past.

Incidentally, this led to some interesting discussions on Twitter, including about the significance of the sexes of the two horses sacrificed and interred at the foot of the grave, see this thread:

In my talk, I mentioned another story that captured the public’s imagination – a Lombardic inhumation grave with a knife seemingly attached as a prosthetic. his led to a discussion regarding the ‘warrior’ status still lazily attributed to tsome early medieval graves, see this thread:

There have been further developments with the Bj581 ‘warrior women’ story which I will return to in future posts. But for now, I hope you enjoy my talk from last year, even if I sound a bit shouty because I’m speaking to a large room, and you cannot see the slides!