Women and Weapons in the Viking World (Hardback)
Amazons of the North
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.