Málstofa: Leszek Gardela. Amazons of the North? 23.09.2016

Málstofa: Leszek Gardela
Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum
23. september kl. 15.30
Árnagarði við Suðurgötu, stofu 311


Dr. Leszek Gardeła, lektor við fornleifastofnun (Institute of Archaeology) Háskólans í Rzeszów í Póllandi, verður gestafyrirlesari í fyrstu málstofu vetrarins. Í fyrirlestrinum fjallar hann um nýlegar rannsóknir á vopnaburði kvenna á Norðurlöndum á 8.–11. öld. Leszek nefnir erindi sitt: Skjaldmeyjar Norðursins? Heimildir um vopnaðar konur í fornleifum víkingaaldar og fornnorrænum bókmenntum. Erindið verður flutt á ensku.


Útdráttur höfundar:

Amazons of the North?

Armed Females in Viking Archaeology and Old Norse Literature

An image of a terrifying horde of bearded warriors disembarking their long-ships to explore, pillage and burn is the one that usually springs to mind when an average person thinks about the Vikings. Even the term ‘the Viking Age’ has the immediate implication that the period between the eighth and eleventh centuries AD belonged to men. However, both textual and archaeological sources show unequivocally that Norse women had very important roles to play in the social arena and that they could engage in a broad range of activities both inside and outside the household. The main question that will be posed in the present paper is – did they also take active part in military expeditions and use weapons in regular combat?

The idea that some women in past societies engaged in warlike activities is suggested by various written and archaeological sources, especially those pertaining to nomadic cultures around the Black Sea region. But also the Danish chronicler Saxo Grammaticus included a remarkable passage about Scandinavian women who preferred “conflicts instead of kisses, tasted blood not lips”, and “sought the clash of arms rather than the arm’s embrace”. Intriguing examples of females using weapons for various purposes are also well known from Old Norse literature but their descriptions have been usually regarded as products vivid imagination of medieval writers and as having no reflection in reality.

Over the last decade new interdisciplinary studies that combine textual scholarship, archaeology and history of religions have led scholars to rethink their previous assumptions. This paper will summarise these ongoing debates and offer new pieces to the puzzle of whether, and in what sense, such “warrior women” may have existed in the Viking Age.

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