Daughters of Freya, Sons of Odin: Gendered Lives during the Viking Age


Utilizing skeletal remains from the Viking Age in Denmark, this dissertation seeks to uncover how gender influenced lived experiences and identity formation during this period. Historically, biases regarding the inherent abilities of individuals of either gender have heavily influenced analysis in this area. Bioarchaeology offers a unique perspective on this query as skeletons reflect an individual’s life experiences and are a relatively unbiased source of information about the past. As identity is performed through the manipulation of the human body, analyzing the evidence of those experiences can provide a window into the past. Through an analysis of Viking Age burials from across Denmark, I explore how gender impacted identity formation and lived experience at the time. I utilize a bioarchaeological approach to discuss how individuals were impacted by gendered expectations at the time. Through assessing activity patterns, trauma prevalence rates, and the general health of individuals in the sample, patterns of behavior that may shed light on lived experiences that impacted identity formation during the Viking Age may be established. By combining that analysis with a discussion of the funerary treatment of the deceased the interplay between the deceased’s lived experiences and the social status ascribed to them by the community who buried them can be assessed.

The results show that the relationship between ascribed social status and lived experiences is complex and cannot be solely attributed to the influence of gender on individual or social identity. The combination of skeletal and archaeological data help to provide a more nuanced understanding of how gender historically impacted lived experience and identity formation than either analysis could provide on its own.

Full Text

Slotten, C. (2020). Daughters of Freya, Sons of Odin: Gendered Lives during the Viking Age (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). American University, Washington DC.