Androcentrism in Archeology
In the grave a warrior
with generous grave goods,
shields, an axe, a spear, a sword,
a bow with weighty arrows,
a stallion, a mare,
some game pieces
a strategist then.
identifies the bones
Was she then a lover,
a wife, a sister, cousin, aunt?
Was she laid there in jest,
as a punishment, as an example?
Was she in receipt of inherited wealth?
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
after intensive DNA Analysis
‘The results call for caution against generalizations
regarding social orders in past societies,’
lead researcher, Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson
In my heart and mind today
Let her have been a sturdy woman,
scarred, broken-nosed, gap-toothed,
breasts bound for comfort in a fight,
no blonde plaits, no horned helmet,
a great belcher and farter,
a screamer in sex, childbirth and battle,
with thighs to grip a horse rather than a man.
Let the warrior describe the woman.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2021. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor for 2021 was Hugh McMillan.
From the land of Viking Hoards comes Vivien Jones’ quiet but very clever poem about identity and stereotyping. She addresses the issue with understated subtlety and the effect is all the more powerful and affirming as a result. A wonderful rooted and descriptive last verse is capped by a brilliant end line. Vivien often works with historical themes that have a very modern resonance, and often from a feminist point of view. Search out this woman’s work, she should be a national treasure.
Birka, Sweden – between the 1870s and now
I wrote this poem as an attempt to look afresh at changing interpretations of evidence from a Viking warrior grave in Birka, Sweden, first discovered in the 1870s, since re-examined with more penetrating technolgy and minus the gender assumptions of the time. I wanted the warrior to be more than an historical cipher, a person who fitted into an accepted matrix for a person of her age and gender at a given time in history, I also wanted to commend those advances in interpretation that bring old bones into fresh light, and those intrepid explorers who rip up orthodoxies and replace them with complex new visions. Most of all, I loved the detail that made her human – along with the usual warrior’s weaponry and horses laid beside her she wore silk with silver thread decorations and there was a chess-like strategy game buried with her. I wrote this description on International Woman’s Day 2022 for which she seems a woman worthy of note.