Pre-order now! Available April 18, 2023
The Bones of Birka
Unraveling the mystery
of a female Viking warrior
When archaeologist Dr. Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson discovers that the bones contained in the most significant Viking warrior grave ever opened are in fact female, she and her team upend centuries of historically accepted conclusions and ignite a furious debate around the reality of female Viking warriors and the role of gender in both ancient and modern times.
In The Bones of Birka, author C. M. Surrisi introduces young readers to the events that led up to this discovery and the impact it has had on scientists’ and historians’ views of gender roles in ancient societies and today. This is the inside account of the Birka warrior grave Bj 581 archaeological endeavor, including all of the dreams, setbacks, frustrations, excitement, politics, and personalities that went into this history-changing discovery.
The finding has raised crucial questions about research bias, academic dialogue, and gender identity.
“A history of Vikings, archaeology, and the assumptions we make, shown through the story of an unexpected discovery. In 1871, Swedish entomologist Hjalmar Stolpe traveled to the small Baltic Sea island of Björkö seeking fossilized insects trapped in amber. Instead he found the remains of abandoned Viking town Birka. Intrigued, he became a passionate advocate for a new type of archaeology that integrated natural sciences. One of his most significant finds was grave Bj 581, containing skeletons of a human and two horses, weapons, and the remains of splendid clothes, among other things. Stolpe was sure he’d found an important Viking warrior—naturally, he assumed, a man. In 2009, an examination by Swedish archaeology professor Anna Kjellström, whose specialty is osteology, indicated that the bones were likely female. DNA analysis later revealed that the Bj 581 warrior had XX chromosomes. Mystery writer Surrisi covers this compelling story—including how the archaeological world reacted to the news and what gender (including transgender identity) and sex might have meant in the Viking world—in minute detail along with touching upon the history of the Vikings, how we’ve learned about them, and how our understanding has changed over time. Occasionally her prose lacks clarity and the narrative feels adrift; however, her scope and the thoroughness with which she tells the story give readers a very good feel for how scientific research works and how bias impacts investigation. A worthwhile account of a provocative find. ” (Kirkus Reviews)
“… riveting historical detail paired with commentary surrounding preconceived notions and their effect on analysis makes for a thought-provoking telling. (Publishers Weekly)
“… An eye-opening and informative look at changing history” (Booklist)
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