1,000-year-old grave could be that of Viking warrior woman

Women known as ‘Shieldmaidens’, were chosen to fight as warriors. Pictured: A Shield-Maiden called Hervor dying after the Battle of the Goths and Huns, by Peter Nicolai Arbo. Public domain

A Polish researcher has identified what appears to be the grave of a Slavic warrior woman in Denmark.

The grave itself, which is over a thousand years old, was found years ago by archaeologists on the site of a Viking cemetery on the island of Langeland, but received relatively little attention.

Viking expert Dr Leszek Gardeła says the grave contains clues about where its occupant may have come from.Mira Fricke/ Nauka w Polsce

Dr Leszek Gardeła, a researcher at the University of Bonn in Germany, decided to investigate. 

‘’During the search in archives and museums, I came across the grave of a woman buried with weapons in a medieval cemetery on the Danish island of Langeland,” he said.

Dr Gardeła added that it is the only grave in the cemetery to contain weaponry.Dr Leszek Gardeła

According to him, the grave contains clues about where its occupant may have come from.

“Until now, no one paid attention to the fact that the axe in the grave comes from the areas of the southern Baltic, perhaps from the area of today's Poland,” he explained, highlighting that it is the only grave in the cemetery to contain weaponry.

The grave which is over a thousand years old was found on the site of a Viking cemetery on the island of Langeland, highlighted in red.Los688

To Gardeła, this suggests that the woman may have come from what is now Poland and could have been a Slav.

His hypothesis is supported by the form of the burial, which consisted in a chamber grave with an additional coffin.

His hypothesis is supported by the form of the burial, which consisted in a chamber grave with an additional coffin, as was the case of this 10th century grave in Birka, Sweden.Public domain

An Arab coin from the 10th Century that was found in the grave indicates that it is over a thousand years old. 

“The presence of Slavic warriors in Denmark was more significant than previously thought – this image emerges from new research,” Gardeła said in Science in Poland (Nauka w Polce), adding that Slavic and Scandinavian elements clashed on the island during the Middle Ages.

An Artist’s illustration of the grave from Bogøvej on the island of Langeland in Denmark, where a woman with an ax from the South Baltic area was buried. Dr Gardeła believes she may have come from what is now Poland and could have been a Slav.Mirosław Kuźma/ Nauka w Polsce

Gardeła, who has a PhD in Archeology from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, describes his main research interests as early medieval mortuary behaviour in Scandinavia and Central Europe.

They also include symbolism and magic in Viking and Slavic societies.

Dr Gardeła is an expert on women’s graves dating from the 9th and 10th Century in Denmark, Norway and Sweden that contain weaponry.Dr Leszek Gardeła/Twitter

His interest in the grave in Langeland is part of his wider research into women’s graves from the 9th and 10th Century in Denmark, Norway and Sweden that contain weaponry.

His latest book, published in Polish this year, is entitled “Magic, Women and Death in the Viking Age”.