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Vikings' Slaves

New Study Shows Viking Graves contained Sacrificed Slaves


A new study which will be published in the new issues of the Journal of Archaeological Science has revealed that a set of Viking graves uncovered in Norway in the early 1980s contained the remains of sacrificed slaves.

The remains of ten ancient people were found in Flakstad, Norway, buried in multiple graves, with some of the graves holding two or three bodies and four of the bodies had been decapitated.  The graves had been partly damaged by modern farming and only contained a few artefacts such as an amber bead, some animal bones and a few knives.  The circumstances surrounding the strange discovery were not known until now when a group of researchers decided to analyse the remains.

The researchers started with the hypothesis that the individuals buried in the double and triple burials may have cover from different societal classes and could have been offered as grave gifts in these burials. In order to test this theory, they analysed the skeleton’s DNA, along with the ratio of carbon and nitrogen isotopes in their bones.

The results from the DNA analysis showed that the bodies buried together were not related to each other, at least on the maternal side, and the isotopes analysis revealed that the beheaded individuals had had a very different diet from the people with whom they were buried – they ate more fish protein, whereas the others ate land-based protein sources, such as meat and dairy products. This confirms the theory that the people buried together came from very different classes of society. 

Elise Naumann, study co-author and an archaeologist at the University of Oslo in Norway, said that the results indicate that the beheaded individuals were slaves who were sacrificed as gifts to be offered on behalf of their masters.

The Vikings have a reputation as fierce, sea-faring raiders who raided and conquered large territories beginning in the eight century AD, capturing slaves along the way.  Slaves were used for hard labour on farms and large agricultural properties, while women were used as domestic claves or as sex slaves, bearing children who would grow up in servitude of their Master.

By April Holloway

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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