Were Valkyries Real? Viking 'Assembly Line' Rethinks Artefact Production in Medieval Scandinavia

Were Valkyries Real? Viking 'Assembly Line' Rethinks Artefact Production in Medieval Scandinavia

A jewellery workshop at the trading outpost of Ribe on Denmark’s western coast dating back to the early ninth century, the dawn of the Viking Age, has cast a new light on how precious figurines were made and what role they played.

All over the Viking realm, which at its peak stretched from the Scandinavian heartland in the north to Sicily in the South, Russia in the East and even the New World in the West, mysterious figurines of long-haired women with crested helmets and long dresses, armed with swords and shields, have been found.

While it has long been believed that they represented Valkyries, mythical warrior women tasked with transporting slain warriors to the Hall of Gods, Valhalla, to eternally feast with the Supreme God Odin himself, a new study based on the findings in Ribe has challenged that.

In a paper published in the journal Medieval Archaeology by a crew led by Pieterjan Deckers, an archaeologist at the Free University of Brussels, the figurines are assumed to represent actual women who played a central role in Viking festivals or ceremonies. Furthermore, they propose the armed female figurines are part of a larger set of ritual objects, suggesting that gender roles in Viking-era Scandinavia may have been more complex than previously thought.

“It’s not showing us combat – you couldn’t go into battle in a dress with a long train”, Aarhus University archaologist Søren Michael Sindbæk, a co-author of the study, told National Georgraphic. “Female warriors were a thing, but that’s not what they’re showing us in these amulets”.

Fellow Aarhus University archaeologist Sarah Croix mused that the amulets display “ambiguity”, a space where traditional gender roles melted away.

Taken as a set, the pendants and figurines manufactured at Ribe largely coincide with the so-called Oseberg Tapestry, one of the oldest visual representations from the Viking Age featuring an intricate ritual procession. According to Sindbæk, this ceremony may have had special meaning for people in Viking Age Scandinavia.

“Women were really prominent in these rituals”, Sindbaek said.

Over 7,000 fragments have been found in the Ribe workshop. Apparently, the figurines were carved and pressed into clay molds, where later melted bronze was poured. Some of the fragments were recreated using 3D scanning and reconstruction.

“Using a single model, you could make hundreds of copies”, Sindbæk said.

The Viking Age (793-1066) was a period of prolific conquests by Norsemen known as Vikings who established settlements in Iceland, Ireland, the British Isles, and Greenland, reaching as far as North America, which they called Vinland.

Sputnik / Kirill Kallinikov

Sputnik News

South Africa Today – World News – Europe