When one thinks of gender roles during the age of the Vikings, we tend to think of men going hunting and to war, while the women stayed behind managing the home and kitchen, balancing a child on their hips. However, what we know to be true might not actually be derived from facts, thanks to recent archaeological developments.
Housekeeping tools were found equally among female and male graves
Marianne Moen got her Ph.D. on Viking Age gender roles at the University of Oslo and her research found that both upper-class men and upper-class women were buried with the same things, namely cooking gear. Moen analyzed the content of 18 Viking graves in Vestfold, a county on the southwest side of Oslo Fjord and discovered that the graves were also equipped with other items like horses, plates, and cups. Archaeologists have always believed that men went off to war or were business merchants and women on the other hand always stayed at home, however, tools associated with housekeeping were found equally among female and male graves. One such example is the key, which was always thought off as a symbol of housekeeping. Also, Moen stated that cookware was found in 10 male graves and 8 female graves. Therefore, it is time we change how we perceive the Vikings and it might be that hospitality was extremely vital to their culture and both men and women were responsible for it.
People were buried with items that were strongly connected to their life on earth
However, not everyone agrees with Moen because when men went away from home, they cooked their own food, but did they cook at home? Archaeologist Frans-Arne Stylegar said, "It is difficult to translate the persona who is idealized in burial customs into actual historical reality. It’s almost a philosophical question." Stylegar said that if men were buried with cooking items for the afterlife, it did not mean that they cooked at home, however, Moen believes that there is a big difference between life and death in terms of gender roles. She thinks that people were buried with items that were strongly connected to their life on earth and this would also translate in the afterlife. In addition to this, 40 percent of the male graves contained jewelry like beads and brooches, and what appears to be toiletries like tweezers and razors. Moen said, "I encounter quite a bit of skepticism. There are quite a few researchers who are very set in their opinion on gender when it comes to work-related roles. In general, in Viking Age studies, artifacts found in graves are interpreted as being connected to the person buried in the grave. This shouldn’t change for cases where artifacts don’t meet modern expectations of what a man or woman would have in their grave."
Image credit: Ancient Origins