The existence of Viking shield maidens although regularly mentioned in the sagas is still a matter of modern scholarly debate.

In the 12th Century Saxo Grammticus in his history of the Dane makes reference to warrior women. Apparently, the Varangians may have had women fighting in their ranks, as one Byzantine account of a Bulgarian battle in 971 mentions the discovery of female corpses amongst the slain Varangians but there has been a lack of definitive evidence proving the existence of Viking warrior women, scholarly arguments over whether they really existed focus on the lack of archaeological evidence. With some scholars believing that Viking warrior women are a myth based on the fictional Valkyrie figures. However, research conducted in 2011 which involved an osteological examination of 14 skeletons to determine the gender of Viking migrants into England has raised the issue of Viking warrior women again.

The research which only examined a very small sample of 14 graves in England, of which 7 were identified as male, 6 as female and one juvenile that couldn’t be identified. Of these graves it is only two that are of interest to the debate about warrior women: one a double burial, a female with the juvenile of undetermined sex buried with sword hilt grip, shield clamps, knife, and the other a woman was buried with axe, seaxes, and sword pieces.

Both of these could be used to suggest the existence of warrior women however, drawing wider implications from a small data-set is of course dangerous. What this research very clearly does do is indicate that more data needs to be gathered and the prevalent assumption that has determined that every Viking skeleton discovered with warrior grave goods was assumed to be male needs to be re-considered. This of course is the result of archaeologists making assumptions about gender roles in the past which might not be accurate and more rigorous osteological examinations of skeletons previously identified as male might shed new light on this question in the future.