Women and Weapons in the Viking World: Amazons of the North [Hardback]

Leszek Gardeła(Author)

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ISBN: 9781636240688 | Published by: Casemate | Year of Publication: 2021 | 216p, H11 x W8.5, b&w and color images
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Women and Weapons in the Viking World

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Sets out to investigate the idea of ‘the armed woman’ in the Viking Age through a comprehensive and cross-cultural approach and weaves a nuanced picture of women’s lives in the Viking world.

The Viking Age (c. 750–1050 AD) is conventionally seen as a tumultuous time when hordes of fierce warriors from Scandinavia wreaked havoc across the European continent and when Norse merchants traveled to distant corners of the world in pursuit of slaves, silver, and exotic commodities. Until relatively recently, archaeologists and textual scholars had the tendency to weave a largely male-dominated image of this pivotal period in world history, dismissing or substantially downplaying women’s roles in Norse society. Today, however, there is ample evidence to suggest that many of the most spectacular achievements of Viking Age Scandinavians – for instance in craftsmanship, exploration, cross-cultural trade, warfare and other spheres of life – would not have been possible without the active involvement of women. Extant textual sources as well as the perpetually expanding corpus of archaeological evidence thus demonstrate unequivocally that both within the walls of the household and in the wider public arena women’s voices were heard, respected and followed.

This pioneering and lavishly illustrated monograph provides an in-depth exploration of women’s associations with the martial sphere of life in the Viking Age. The multifarious motivations and circumstances that led women to engage in armed conflict or other activities whereby weapons served as potent symbols of prestige and empowerment are illuminated and interpreted through an interdisciplinary approach to medieval literature and archaeological evidence from Scandinavia and the wider Viking world. Additional cross-cultural excursions into the lives and legends of female warriors in other past and present cultural milieus – from the Asiatic steppes to the savannas of Africa and European battlefields – lead to a nuanced understanding of the idea of the armed woman and its embodiments in Norse literature, myth and archaeological reality.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

CHAPTER 1: Introduction: the Methodological and Theoretical Framework
Entering the Viking world...of the dead
Funerary diversity
Cremation graves
Inhumation graves
Lost identities and elusive grave goods
Warriors and warrior ideals
Sex and gender in the Viking Age
Amazons of the North: the scope of the book

CHAPTER 2: Historiography Researching women in the Viking Age
Warrior women in Old Norse studies and Viking archaeology

CHAPTER 3: Women and Weapons in Textual Sources
Armed women in Gesta Danorum
Armed women in Old Norse Literature
Women and weapons in the Íslendingasögur
Freydís Eiríksdóttir
Þórdís Súrsdóttir
Auðr and Þuriðr
Þórhildr Vaðlækkja
Not only axes and swords: understanding women’s weapons
Women and weapons in the fornaldarsögur
Hervör Bjarmarsdóttir
Þornbjörg
Other armed women in the fornaldarsögur
Armed women in Old Norse mythology
Valkyrjur, disir, fylgjurSkaði
Þorgerðr Hölgabruðr
Female Giantesses as grinders of war and bearers of arms
Armed women of the Viking Age in non-Scandinavian medieval sources
Æthelflæd of Mercia
Women and war in the account of John Skylitzes
Women with weapons in Medieval literature: more than literary embellishments

CHAPTER 4: Women and Weapons in Viking Archaeology: The Burial Evidence
Female graves with weapons
Swedish female graves with weapons
Grave Bj 581, Birka, UpplandKlinta, Öland
Mound A24 at Lake Dalstorp, Vāstergötland
Nennesmo, Finnveden
Norwegian female graves with weapons
Nordre Kjølen, Åsnes, Solør, Hedmark
The Kaupang graves, Vestfold
Oseberg, Vestfold
Frafjord, Gjesdal, Rogaland
Sanddal, Alhus s., Jølster p., Sogn og Fjordane
Terum, Aurland, Sogn og Fjordane
Aunvoll, Nord-Trøndelag
Mårem, Telemark
Løve, Vestfold
Other possibly female graves with weapons in Viking Age Norway
Danish female graves with weapons
Gerdrup, Sjælland
Grave BB, Bogøvej, Langeland
Grave A505, Trekroner-Grydehøj, Sjælland

CHAPTER 5: Interpreting the Arsenal of Armed Women
Women and axes in the Viking Age
Axes in the Viking Age
Axes in Viking Age funerary contexts
Miniature axes
Interpreting axes in Viking Age female graves
Women and axes in textual sources and folklore
Women and axes in the Viking Age. Conclusions
Women and swords in the Viking Age
Swords in the Viking Age
Swords in Viking Age funerary contexts
Women and weaving swords
Women and swords in iconography
Miniature swordsInterpreting swords in Viking Age female graves
Women and swords in Old Norse sources
Women and swords in the Viking Age. Conclusions
Women and spears in the Viking Age
Spears in the Viking Age
Spears in Viking Age funerary contexts
Women and spears in iconography
Miniature spearsInterpreting spears in Viking Age female graves
Women and spears in Old Norse sources
Women and spears in the Viking Age. Conclusions
Women and shields in the Viking Age
Shields in the Viking Age
Shields in Viking Age funerary contexts
Women and shields in iconography
Miniature shields
Interpreting shields in Viking Age female graves
Women and shields in Old Norse sources
Women and shields in the Viking Age. Conclusions
Women, bows and arrows in the Viking Age
Bows and arrows in the Viking AgeBows and arrows in Viking Age funerary contexts
Interpreting bows and arrows in Viking Age female graves
Women, bows and arrows in Old Norse sources
Women, bows and arrows in the Viking Age. Conclusions
Women, riding equipment and horses in the Viking Age
Riding equipment in the Viking Age
Riding equipment and horses in Viking Age funerary contexts
Interpreting riding equipment and horses in Viking Age female graves
Women and horses in Old Norse sources
Women, horses and riding equipment in the Viking Age. Conclusions

CHAPTER 6: Women and Weapons in Viking Age Iconography
The so-called ‘valkyrie brooches’: distribution and materiality
(Re)interpreting the so-called ‘valkyrie brooches’
Freyja and a warrior woman?
Sigurðr and Brynhildr/Sigrdrifa?
Other iconographic representations of armed females in Viking Age Scandinavia

CHAPTER 7: Women with Weapons: A Cross-Cultural Phenomenon
Warrior women in prehistoric times
Female cross-dressers in Early Modern Europe
The Amazons of Dahomey
Women in the First and Second World Wars
Emerging patterns and conclusions

CHAPTER 8: Amazons of the North? Women and Weapons in the Viking World
Women and weapons in Viking archaeology
Women and weapons in medieval texts
The way of the warrior: past and present

Bibliography

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