High Ranking Birka Shield-maiden
The Birka female Viking warrior was a woman buried in the 10th century in Birka, Sweden and discovered in the 1870s. The grave was assumed to be a battle hardened man for 128 years until DNA analysis proved she was actually a high-ranking professional warrior. Shield-maidens are female warriors that take on male roles including wielding weapons and are depicted in many period figures, tapestries and brooches as well as mentioned by the famous Danish historian of the time, Saxo Grammaticus.
The grave chamber was made of wood and approximately 3.45m long and 1.75m wide. The body was in a sitting position and found earing garments of silk and silver. The grave contained a sword, an axe, a spear, armor-piercing arrows, a battle knife, two shields, two horses, one mare and one stallion. The grave also contained a game set with a board and pieces. This is considered evidence of her strategic thinking and indicating she was an officer who could lead troops into battle.
The Birka settlement is located on the lake island Björkö in eastern-central Sweden. The first permanent settlement dates back to the Germanic Iron Age 400-800 AD. Birka originates around 750 AD in a strategic area the size of 12 hectares built on an ancient defensive earthwork. The population of Birka was between 500 and 1000 people and is considered Sweden's oldest town. Three large burial grounds have been found with 2000 graves of which 1100 have been excavated.
Birka is one of the earliest urban settlements in Scandinavia and was a key Baltic link through Ladoga and Novgorod to the Byzantine Empire and the Abbasid Califate. As a trading center, Birka offered furs (bear, fox, marten, otter, beaver), reindeer antler, walrus teeth, iron goods and craft products in exchange for goods from Europe and western Asia (such as Rhineland pottery, Chinese silk and Byzantine embroidery). Birka was abandoned in the later 10th century when Sigtuna became the main trading center of the region.
- Sample ID: brk581
- Year: 950 AD
- Sex: Female
- Location: 59.3304,17.5419