For the first time, you can stare face to face with a 1,000-year-old Viking female warrior, complete with some appropriately badass battle scars.
Her appearance is based on a skeleton that was unearthed over a century ago in Solør, Norway, which now lives in Oslo’s Museum of Cultural History. As part of the recent documentary Viking Warrior Woman on the National Geographic channel, researchers reconstructed the face using a technique that builds up layers of muscle based on the shape of the skull and other anatomical features.
The skeleton dates to around 1000 CE, neatly nestled in the era defined as the Viking Age that spanned from around 800 CE to 1066 CE. This was a time in Scandinavian history when Norsemen of northern Europe expanded their influence across huge swathes of the continent and beyond through trade and, of course, a fair amount of violence.
While much of this person’s life remains a mystery, there were a few clear clues that the female skeleton once belonged to a warrior. Firstly, her tomb was littered with multiple weapons, including a sword, spear, battle-ax, and arrows. Secondly, her forehead is graced with a deep slash, an injury presumably acquired through some kind of violence. However, it’s unclear whether this was a decisive battlefield blow that ultimately killed her as the wound showed signs of healing.
Either way, the skull represents “the first evidence ever found of a Viking woman with a battle injury,” archaeologist Ella Al-Shamahi, who presented the new documentary for National Geographic, told The Observer.
“I’m so excited because this is a face that hasn’t been seen in 1,000 years,” she added. “She’s suddenly become really real.”
The figure of the Viking female warrior has long aroused controversy. Although female warriors appear in legendary sagas from the time, many researchers have previously assumed they were merely mythological figures from folklore tales. However, an increasing amount of hard archaeological evidence is challenging that view.
In 1878, archaeologists cracked open a burial chamber on the Swedish island of Björkö and found the skeleton of a clearly high-ranking Viking warrior, laid to rest with all their weapons, grand clothes, and two horses. Then, in 2017 scientists used ancient DNA analysis to conclude the individual was, in fact, biologically female. These findings were disputed by some, but the results were later confirmed by another study earlier this year.
Viking Warrior Woman was first aired on Tuesday 3rd December at 8pm on the National Geographic channel.