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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Scientists Revisit Woman Warrior’s Remains

Thursday, February 21, 2019

UPPSALA, SWEDEN—Live Science reports that a new study conducted by Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson of Uppsala University and her colleagues reaffirms the conclusion that the remains of the person discovered in what is thought to be a Viking grave in east-central Sweden was a woman carrying XX chromosomes, rather than male XY chromosomes. The wood-lined tomb was discovered in the late nineteenth century at Birka, a medieval hill fort settlement, next to other graves containing weapons. The body was dressed in clothing typical of the Eurasian steppe, and was assumed to have belonged to a man because the artifacts in the tomb are usually associated with males. These include gaming pieces, the remains of a mare and a stallion, and weapons including a sheathed sword, an ax, a fighting knife, two spears, two shields, a quiver of armor-piercing arrows, and a small iron knife. The researchers reviewed the notes and diagrams made in the nineteenth century, during the original excavation, to be sure that the warrior’s carefully labeled bones had not been mixed with bones from another burial, and tested DNA from an arm bone and a tooth, concluding they were female and came from the same person. She is thought to have died between the ages of 30 and 40. For more on Viking warriors, go to “The Viking Great Army.”

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