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

Leszek Gardeła (Author)

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ISBN: 9781789256659 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2021 | Language: English 200p, H280 x W216 (mm) 21 colour and 58 b/w illustrations




Women and Weapons in the Viking World

Details

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 travelled 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 beautifully 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

List of figures
List of tables
Acknowledgements
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
2. Historiography
Researching women in the Viking Age
Warrior women in Old Norse studies and Viking archaeology
3. Women and weapons in medieval 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 Eiríksdóttir
Other armed women in the fornaldarsögur
Armed women in Old Norse mythology
Valkyrjur, disir, fylgjur
Skaði
Þorgerðr Hölgabrúðr
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
4. Women and weapons in Viking archaeology: the burial evidence
Female graves with weapons
Swedish female graves with weapons
Norwegian female graves with weapons
Danish female graves with weapons
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 swords
Interpreting 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 spears
Interpreting 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 Age
Bows 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
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/Sigrdrífa
Other iconographic representations of armed females in Viking Age Scandinavia and England
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
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
Appendix
References

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