Warrior Buried 900 Years Ago May Have Been Non-Binary

A warrior who was buried 900 years ago may have been non-binary
Credit: Veronika Paschenko via University of Turku

A warrior who was buried 900 years ago may have been non-binary.

The remains of a warrior armed with a sword were discovered in southern Finland around 50 years ago.

Archaeologists recently took a second look at it and it looks like an interesting development has been made.

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The remains of the warrior were believed to be a woman due to its traditional clothing and jewellery from the time.

But it was also noted that the warrior was buried alongside two swords which are often associated with masculinity in many pre-modern European cultures.

However, researchers uncovered that only one sword actually belonged to the original burial setting.

The other weapon – known as the famous sword of Suontaka – was likely buried at the site at a later date.

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Some researchers have speculated that this might be due to a double burial of both a woman and a man.

But after having another look at it, archaeologists discovered that the warrior appeared to have had an extra X chromosome (XXY).

A team from the University of Turku, the University of Helsinki, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology carried out research on the ancient DNA analysis of the remains.

They noted that the DNA was significantly damaged, but the findings suggest the buried individual might have been born with the sex-chromosomal aneuploidy XXY, known as Klinefelter syndrome.

Klinefelter syndrome is a genetic condition where males are born with an extra X chromosome.

The symptoms are often subtle – with some people going through life without realising they have this condition.

The famous sword of Suontaka
This sword was added to the burial site at a later date. Credit: The Finnish Heritage Agency

The primary characteristics are infertility and small testicles, but other symptoms include increased height, broad hips, reduced muscle mass, reduced body hair and the development of breasts.

Some people with Klinefelter syndrome may also experience difficulty socialising with other people and struggle with expressing thoughts.

In a press release from the University of Turku, Elina Salmela – from the University of Helsinki – says: “According to current data, it is likely that the individual found in Suontaka had the chromosomes XXY, although the DNA results are based on a very small set of data.”

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While it is difficult to know how this warrior was viewed among other individuals, their burial is proof that they were a well-respected person.

Ulla Moilanen, study author and Doctoral Candidate of Archaeology from the University of Turku. explains: “If the characteristics of the Klinefelter syndrome have been evident on the person, they might not have been considered strictly a female or a male in the Early Middle Ages community.

“The abundant collection of objects buried in the grave is a proof that the person was not only accepted but also valued and respected.

“However, biology does not directly dictate a person’s self-identity.”

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