By Valerie Dawn Hampton
The Hilltop Review, Vol.5:2 (2012)
Introduction: The gender roles of important women in the Viking controlled Isle of Man has never been studied before. This is an exceptional case as women were not normally so influential in the Middle Ages, especially in Viking controlled regions. By examining memorial stones, burial goods, and their excavated skeletal remains, certain facts about Viking women’s life in Medieval Manx society can be discerned. The visual remains of the Viking period in Mann, covering the ninth to thirteenth centuries, emphasizes the influence of women, confirming their importance in the kingdom’s language, society, and religion.
The Isle of Man is situated in the Irish Sea at the geographical center of the British Isles. The native Manx were Gaelic speaking Celts, connected with Ireland, Dal Riata, and Wales. In the late ninth century Vikings raided and began to settle on the island. Archaeological remains substantiate the assimilation of the native Manx with Viking settlers.
Graves laid our according to the pagan ritual of the first Viking settlers included a rich variety of grave goods. These burials were probably of the first generation Vikings raised in Norway and practiced their burial rites. At Ballateare, on the northwest side of the island, is an isolated burial mound by Jurby. Excavation revealed a warrior’s skeleton with a broken sword inlaid with silver, bronze and copper wire of Norwgian origin. The sword and a shield were purposely broken and rendered useless, which is a Viking practice. The top of the grave mound was sprinkled with the remains of a sacrificial canine. The layer below revealed a female skeleton whose skull was slashed and whose body was found in an unnatural position, indicating that she was also a sacrificial victim.