Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Viking Age Triggered by Shortage of Wives?
During the Viking Age from the late eighth to the mid-eleventh centuries, Scandinavians tore across Europe attacking, robbing and terrorizing locals. According to a new study, the young warriors were driven to seek their fortunes to better their chances of finding wives.

The odd twist to the story, said researcher James Barrett, is that it was the selective killing of female newborns that led to a shortage of Scandinavian women in the first place, resulting later in intense competition over eligible women.

"Selective female infanticide was recorded as part of pagan Scandinavian practice in later medieval sources, such as the Icelandic sagas," Barrett, who is deputy director of Cambridge University's McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, told Discovery News.

Haven't read the paper, but it sounds interesting. My first thought is to be wary of the female infanticide idea. . .you'd need pretty detailed demographic data for that. But this part later on is intriguing:
"Barrett points to the wish of disadvantaged young men to acquire resources necessary to set up a family as crucial," he added. "This is the 'marriage imperative,' which I think Barrett succeeds in substantiating within the limitations of the evidence."

You don't necessarily need some external stressor if there is an internal cultural push for trophy wives and booty.