The woman, found in a lavish grave in Asnes, Norway, had originally been on display in a public museum, the injuries to her skull going unnoticed for years. It wasn’t until Ella Al-Shamahi, an expert in ancient human remains, visited the museum while filming an upcoming National Geographic documentary, registered that something was not quite right.
She told Express.co.uk: “The skull was actually on display in a public museum in Norway and I turned up to look at it, accidentally making a really big discovery.
“I couldn’t really believe it – I kept having to ask myself ‘How has this happened?’.”
The skull had an elongated indentation right down the centre of its forehead, seeming to have resulted from some sort of fatal blow.
Researchers took the skull and confirmed, with a forensic expert, that the mark could be compared to that of a slicing impact, such as contact from a weapon or sword.
Arrows found in the grave were taken to a ballistics lab – used in criminal investigations – and tested for their velocity potential and other things.
This enabled researchers to test the effectiveness of the weapons, discovering that the arrows could easily perforate chain mail and so could easily have pierced a skull.
Advanced computer tomography scans then digitalised the facial bones and made a reconstruction of the woman’s profile, allowing researchers for the first time to see what the warrior may have looked like.
The find is the first of its kind and has stunned experts, including Professor Neil Price, a Viking specialist who acted as a consultant on the project.
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Despite the mounting evidence to suggest women actively fought on the front line, many still reject the idea that women Viking warriors existed.
Ms Al-Shamahi said: “People have already got in touch with me to say ‘this is impossible and insane’ and that there’s no such thing – it makes me think how much more evidence people need.
“I’m definitely not saying that 50 per cent of Viking warriors were women, what I am saying though, is that if a male skeleton was found with the amount of injuries and weapons and in such a prominent location, no one would ever question that he was a warrior.
“There are still people that say not only is she not a female Viking warrior, but that it was a male in the grave before and he just disappeared – people can clearly see that it is a warrior grave, but they can’t accept that there was a female in there and refer to her as the slave-girl.
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“This is actually being said in academic circles.”
The finding is one of a string of discoveries that has changed the face of Viking history.
The famous “Birka Warrior” – an elite professional warrior from the 10th century – dug up in 1889 and was initially thought to be the remains of a “battle hardened man”.
But, in 2017, DNA analysis revealed the remains to be those of a woman, a shift in archaeology that Ms Al-Shamahi said is “revolutionary”.
She said that since the DNA analysis of the Birka warrior was published, evidence has emerged from other finds in Scandinavia to support the view that Viking women indeed fought in battle.
Yet, even though the woman found at the grave in Norway was buried in a prominent hillside position with a remarkable set of weapons, it has always been assumed that she was not a warrior.
The advanced technology, that is only getting better, will, Ms Al-Shamahi claims, make revelations like this only more common.
She said: “Things like CT scanning allow you to know so much about the bones.
“For example, if someone is a righty or a lefty, you know you can tell so many things about seeing where the pressure is and how they use their body.
“That’s the kind of stuff you just wouldn’t have had fifty years ago in the field.”
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