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Year 8 Vikings: Women & Family

A guide to support the Year 8 History Viking assignment

viking woman | looks even better with a black background ;-)… | Hans  Splinter | Flickr

Source: Flickr

When you think about Vikings, your mind probably jumps to the image of a bearded Viking warrior. But did you know that women and the family also played a large part in Viking society and culture? Read through the following resources to learn more about women and the family structure in the viking age.

Women (The Viking Network, 2004, August 14)

This article describes the role that women played in Viking society, and the tasks they were expected to do in the household.

Viking women (BBC, 2011, March 29)

The Vikings weren't just raiders, but farmers, traders and settlers - and they took their families with them when they moved from Scandinavia. Judith Jesch examines the role women played in the Viking world.

Viking women (History Extra Podcast, 2020, April 3)

In this podcast, Johanna Katrin Fridriksdottir explores what everyday life was like for women in Norse society, the opportunities available to them and the challenges they faced.

What was life like for Viking women? (Skjalden, 2018, March 5)

Did the women go on Viking raids and fight together with the men? Where all the women shield maidens? Did the women have equal rights in the Viking age? This article describes the role of women in Viking society, their rights compared to men, and some famous Viking women from history.

Pets in the Viking world (Skjalden, 2018, May 10)

Most of the domestic animals in the Viking age lived inside their houses and were not seen as either pets or farm animals, all the animals had their uses, and were part of the household for a reason. This article lists the animals that Vikings would have kept and their importance to the Viking household.

Viking childhood: was there time for fun? (Skjalden, 2018, April 15)

Have you ever wondered how it was to be a child in the Viking age and what kind of a Childhood would you have had if you lived in the Viking age? This article describes what we know of a Viking childhood. 

Decorated key

This cast copper-alloy key handle is decorated with Scandinavian-influenced designs reminiscent of the Urnes style of Viking art. Keys were not only practical items but also symbols of status. Women often carried the keys to the family’s chests of valuables. They also are often buried with keys, representing their authority in the household. 


A cylindrical copper-alloy needle with a circular eye punched into a flattened section. Needles were a common textile tool and could be made from bone, metal or wood. They are generally considered to indicate the presence of female craftspeople, reinforcing the view that the Viking camp at Torksey was inhabited by women and children as well as the warriors of the Great Heathen Army.

Birka female Viking warrior grave


In 1878, archaeologists excavating the Viking town of Birka, Sweden, uncovered a singular ornate 10th-century burial tomb believed to hold the remains of a great warrior. The site was filled with a trove of weapons, including a sword, spear, shield and two horses, as well as a game board likely used to map out military strategies. Further emphasizing its noteworthiness, out of 1,100 Birka tombs identified on the settlement, it was just one of two that contained a full set of weaponry. Genomic sequencing of the remains in 2017 revealed that the skeleton belonged to a woman.