Saturday, November 2, 2013

Slaves as Burial Gifts in Viking Age Norway? By Elise Naumann et al.

Slaves as burial gifts in Viking Age Norway? Evidence from stable isotope and ancient DNA analyses. By Elise Naumann, Maja Krzewińska, Anders Götherström, and Gunilla Eriksson. Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 41, No. 1 (January 2014). Also here.


Ten Viking Age individuals from the northern Norwegian site at Flakstad were analysed for δ13C, δ15N and ancient mitochondrial DNA fragments. The material derives from both single and multiple burials with individuals treated in different ways. The genetic analyses show that the individuals buried together were unlikely to be maternally related, and stable isotope analyses suggest different strata of society. It is, therefore, suggested that slaves may have been offered as grave gifts at Flakstad. A comparison with the remaining population from single graves shows that the presumed slaves had a diet similar to that of the common population, whereas the high status individuals in multiple graves had a diet different from both slaves and the common population. The results provide an insight into the subsistence of different social groups in a Viking Age society, exposing unexpected patterns of living conditions and food distribution.

Vikings Beheaded, Buried Slaves as “Grave Gifts,” New Study Suggests. By Meredith Bennett-Smith. The Huffington Post, November 1, 2013.

Viking Graves Yield Grisly Find: Sacrificed Slaves. By Tia Ghose. LiveScience, October 30, 2013.

Odd tale of headless Norse men: Slaves buried with masters. By Traci Watson. USA Today, September 24, 2013.

This Viking man, in his 20s, was buried with a headless woman,
who was in her 20s or 30s. Elise Naumann.