Vikings may have gone out in search for wives because of shortage of womenSeptember 18th, 2008 - 4:00 pm ICT by ANI
Washington, September 18 (ANI): A new study has determined that the Viking warriors were driven to seek their fortunes to better their chances of finding wives, which suggests that there was a shortage of Scandinavian women due to female infanticides during the Viking Age.
According to a report in Discovery News, James Barrett, deputy director of Cambridge Universitys McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, has conducted the study.
Barrett said that it was the selective killing of female newborns that led to a shortage of Scandinavian women in the first place, resulting later in intense competition over eligible women.
Selective female infanticide was recorded as part of pagan Scandinavian practice in later medieval sources, such as the Icelandic sagas, he said.
Although its believed many cultures throughout world history have practiced female infanticide, Barrett admits that it is difficult to identify in the archaeological record, so the claim must remain a hypothesis.
To strengthen the argument, however, Barrett has reviewed and dismissed several other proposed causes for the Viking Age.
Improved seafaring technologies are often cited as the trigger, but he points out that an earlier migration from Scandinavia to Britain took place in the fifth and sixth centuries.
Thus, the development of the Viking ship cannot have been a cause of movements of this kind, he said. Ships capable of carrying warriors over long distances are a necessary pre-requisite for the Viking Age, but clearly they did not cause it, he added.
Barrett also dismisses other proposed causes of the Viking Age, such as climate change, overpopulation in Scandinavia, economic woes and more.
An intriguing archaeological clue is that much of the bounty plundered from Britain - particularly from monasteries - wound up later in the graves of Viking wives.
The items included precious metals, fine cloth, jewelry and other handicrafts.
Barretts analysis of Nordic historical records found that Scandinavian men often served as warriors, frequently forming military brotherhoods, until they were able to marry and establish their own households, which were key to prestige and power.
According to Barrett, honor and religious fatalism - the idea that the time and manner of death is predestined - also fueled the Vikings, helping explain why men were willing to risk death in violent battles and risky seafaring.
Despite the infanticide, Barrett believes that the Vikings highly valued women. Aside from lavishing bridal prospects with plundered goods, they held solemn burials at sea for women. (ANI)
Tags: archaeological record, archaeological research, climate change, discovery news, economic woes, eligible women, female infanticide, icelandic sagas, intense competition, james barrett, long distances, mcdonald institute, medieval sources, precious metals, scandinavian women, sixth centuries, universitys, viking age, viking ship, viking warriors