Men and women of the Viking Age experienced equality

A group of Viking warriors
Photo by Nejron Photo from Shutterstock

Can we talk about gender equality a millennium ago? Yes, thanks to the Viking Age, when women were as highly appreciated as their male counterparts.

How can we be sure about it? Well, scientists at the University of Tubingen studied the teeth and skeletons of Scandinavian remains to compare the health of men and women using data from Europe’s Global History of Health Project.

They discovered that the enamel in teeth and the femur lengths were approximately equal in males and females. This means that men and women had similar access to food and other resources.

Researchers go even further and they bring on another interesting theory. According to them, Vikings’ gender equality in Scandinavian Age is the main reason for Northern countries’ prosperity.

Women in the Viking Age Scandinavia could divorce

Viking woman wearing traditional clothes
Photo by Selenit from Shutterstock

In a male-dominated world, Viking women were respected and enjoyed a high level of freedom. They could own property, divorce and reclaim their rights if their marriages ended.

Also, despite families negotiated to arrange marriages, Scandinavian girls were never forced to marry someone they didn’t like. Nowadays, it may sound weird, but back then girls from other countries couldn’t decide their future husband.

Although men did the hunting, fighting, trading, and farming, women played an active role in society as well, managing their households and husbands. When their husbands died, wives would become the “rulers” of the house.

We can learn more about Viking society from the burials found by archaeologists. While men were buried with their weapons and tools, women were buried with household items, needlework, jewelry, and key rings.

The Oseberg Queen-One of the grandest Scandinavian burials

Some Viking women had a high status that turned them into legends. The best example is the Oseberg Queen. After her husband and son died, she organized a ship voyage to Iceland, where she became the most important settler of the colony.

But the Oseberg queen kept her importance even after death. She has one of the grandest burials ever discovered in Scandinavia from that period. Her tomb is a majestically decorated ship where we can find many precious grave goods.

Norse women were warriors

Viking woman wearing traditional clothes near a ship
Photo by Nejron Photo from Shutterstock

Most of what we know about Scandinavian warriors in the Viking Age comes from their literature. In Norse mythology, we often read about female warriors known as “Valkyries”. These characters are not a product of imagination, they were inspired by brave females who did anything to protect their families and lands.

But did you ever wonder how a Viking woman looked-like? According to Jörg Baten, a German economic historian, “they were strong, healthy and tall.” Although Viking women had the perfect constitution for war, they fought next to their men only in special cases.

When those women were involved in a battle, they were invincible. Just think about the famous Lagertha, who fought alongside her husband Viking Ragnar Lothbrok is a war against the Swedes. Saxo, a Danish historian from the 12th century, described Lagertha as “a skilled Amazon, who, though a maiden, had the courage of a man and fought in front among the bravest with her hair loose over her shoulders. All marveled at her matchless deeds, for her locks flying down her back, betrayed that she was a woman.”

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