Violent pillaging by Vikings was a family-oriented activity, study suggests

Vikings are thought of as groups cruel, ruthless male barbarians that conquered by rape and pillage. A new study, however, suggests that women went along on the journeys. The Viking expansion may even be said to have been a family affair.

The Viking explorers covered vast distances and established colonies in Iceland and along the regions of Northwestern Europe. They even made it to North America, and their expeditions were long assumed to consist entirely of men who left their women and children behind. However, DNA evidence paints a bit of a different picture.

Researchers at the University of Oslo, Norway, analyzed maternal DNA from teeth and bone from skeletons dating back to between 796 AD and 1066 AD thought to be of ancient Norse and Icelandic origins. These DNA samples were compared to samples collected from modern-day residents of the North Atlantic islands of Orkney and Shetland, as well as others near Scandinavia.

The analyses reveal that women played a greater role in colonization than originally thought.

“It overthrows this 19th century idea that the Vikings were just raiders and pillagers,” said report coauthor Erika Hagelberg.

The results go further in suggesting that roughly half of the typical expedition team consisted of women. However, this coed conquering did not last long, as the violent colonization became more of a way of life, families were put into danger.

The report was published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

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