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[flagged] Let’s Debate Female Viking Warriors Yet Again (norseandviking.blogspot.com)
98 points by aaron695 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 28 comments



Actually can we not debate it, and stop couching our barely-disguised political motivations in pedantry?


I think it's quite plausible and very interesting to debate.

With that said, there is clearly interest at a political level, as stated by the author of this article. There's tons of research in the world which has been funded by political interests, however, and it's still valuable once you discount biases as this author has done.


I think as long as people are going to make stuff up and misinterpret 'evidence' intentionally as political propaganda, we probably need to continue debating it.


> stop couching our barely-disguised political motivations in pedantry?

While I'm also a little dubious as to this article's relevance to HN, nothing in the linked article strikes me as "pedantry".


What parts don't? The entire article is one technical digression after another, aimed solely to discredit the paper and its authors, without engaging on the one result that makes it notable.

That's, like, the textbook definition of "pedantry".


The linked article raises four concerns:

1. It's not clear whether the skeleton goes with the grave -- The excavation was in the 19th century and there are various methodological concerns.

2. It's not clear that the graveyard was for "warriors" -- The number of bodies with serious injuries is low.

3. It's not clear that the grave was for someone of "high rank", particularly in as much as "high rank" modifies "warrior".

4. The paper gives short shrift to the work of language/text specialists. Notable in light of (2) and (3) above.

How much each of these things is a problem is going to depend on deep factual information, but they are not indicative of "excessive concern with minor details and rules".


I think there is a misunderstanding here that is causing people to talk past each other (and I think the Professor had the same misunderstanding).

There seems to be the idea that paper is making the claims that the person in the grave was a) female and b) a warrior.

However, they are actually only making claim A, that the person was female. The claim that the person was a warrior was made earlier by the archaeological team.

So, if you think the paper is making both claims, then the professors criticisms seem valid, as they are unconvincing in establishing this was a warrior. However, if you know that they're only making one claim, the attacks on the window-dressing of this being a viking warrior appear totally pedantic (as it ignores the main claim entirely).


You are right, the authors of the paper only claim that their results demonstrate a); they are, however, assuming b) based on previous studies.

What the Professor is arguing, as I understand it, is that those previous studies do not necessarily warrant the assumption of b), and thus the paper's title "A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics" is misleading -- there has been a confirmation of "female", but not of "warrior". Something like "Skeleton, that some evidence points to being that of a warrior, was confirmed to be female"; but that's not as pithy or sensationalist.

Those not reading the paper sufficiently carefully (or at all -- only limiting themselves to the title and the abstract) will end up drawing conclusions unjustified by the paper. Which, given the political implications, may be undesirable.

[edit: grammar]


In that case, surely the professor should be commenting on the original assessment, not any paper that accepts the published literature? I still reckon it's a misunderstanding.

I don't know what the "political implications" means. I think I've missed something. Did Trump tweet about it or something? I don't know why this would have any political implications at all.


> In that case, surely the professor should be commenting on the original assessment, not any paper that accepts the published literature?

She does. Most of the criticism in the blog post is directed towards the findings in the previous studies. The professor explicitly disqualifies herself from discussing the findings of the current study, as they are outside her area of expertise. The criticism of this paper is that it fails to distinguish sufficiently clearly its a priori assumptions from the conclusions drawn from the present findings.

> I don't know what the "political implications" means. I think I've missed something. Did Trump tweet about it or something? I don't know why this would have any political implications at all.

I meant gender politics, rather than the US national politics.


If someone claims that a certain class of problem that no one particularly cares about is in P, and then I prove that said problem is NP-complete, jumping up and writing a paper titled "P = NP" would be vastly premature. The previous claim that the problem is in P is now doing way more work, and thus needs to be reexamined.

A title of "A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics" goes way too far if the individual question is not, in fact, a warrior.


I'm sorry but your analogy obscures your point rather than illuminating it. Are you saying that the person being female casts doubt on the initial analysis of the person as a warrior? If you are, is this assessment based on knowledge of Viking society or is it just your cultural assumption?

If that's not what you're saying, could you please just say what you mean rather than suggesting it?


> Are you saying that the person being female casts doubt on the initial analysis of the person as a warrior?

No -- Her being a female makes her classification as a warrior interesting (i.e. worthy of publication in American Journal of Physical Anthropology).

Let's say someone went through and did genetic analysis on e.g. 10,000 Viking bodies each of which was considered to belong to a warrior with 95% likelihood. Finding that one of those bodies was female would not justify a conclusion of "A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics".

The above, however, are just some random thoughts in answer to your question; it is not "what I'm saying". I'm merely defending the author of the linked post against claims that she is being pedantic: Taking issue with an article titled "A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics" is not pedantic if the individual was not a warrior. Note that I take absolutely no position on whether she's right about there being legitimate doubt as to whether or not the individual was a warrior, I merely note that while the objection may be foolish, but it is absolutely not pedantic.


> without engaging on the one result that makes it notable.

But that's her point. She, the author, doesn't have an issue with the DNA evidence that the body is female.

What she has an issue with is the paper stepping beyond its bounds of expertise (in her view) and claiming the body is of a high ranking warrior. In making that claim it makes use of context that, as a professor of Viking studies, happens to be within her professional purview.

TBH as a criticism of an academic paper by an academic, it being technically pedantic strikes me as a positive thing. Also, it's quite nice that she explicitly excludes herself from commentary on the DNA evidence due to lack of expertise. Not something you see a lot of.


> the author doesn't have an issue with the DNA evidence that the body is female.

The DNA evidence that the body whose bones were examined is female. Apparently, it's not entirely beyond dispute what bones were found in which grave.


""Pedantry: excessive concern with minor details and rules."

The article could do without the (almost) personal attacks, but it (also) discredits the results and the logic in the paper that leads to the results. I don't think the details it focuses on (most importantly that the skeletons may have been mixed up and that we don't know what burial items mean) to do the discrediting are minor, nor do I think the concern with it is excessive.


Excessive attention to detail in our day to day lives may be pedentary but if you're a professor of Viking studies writing a public article I don't think it's the right word for it


It's splitting hairs on an atomic level.


Who cares if they wanna debate it. It's something that happened a thousand years ago. If it were flipped, I'm sure people would be up to debating it. In either case what we find out about people a thousand years ago is neat, but does not affect the dead.

If this were about dinosaurs, I'm pretty sure we'd all be okay with reexamining the interpretations, so why care here?

If we learn something great. At least DNA is still considered useful in determining gender, which in some areas of academia seems up for debate.


I meant more, "can we not debate it here," as in on HN. These discussions always end up going nowhere immediately.


The referenced article says the grave contained a 'full set of gaming pieces'. What are 'gaming pieces'?


As I understand it, the speculation is that they are pieces from Hnefatafl which is a chess precursor.


So we have an individual, showing no biological evidence of strenuous physical exertion, buried with a set of Viking arms and a set of game pieces.

Occam's razor would suggest that we're looking at the grave of a high status Dungeon Master.


neat!




I don't understand why this article is on HN nor how it fits into the HN mod guidelines.


The guidelines say "anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity".

As a reader (not the submitter), I found at least two interesting ideas in the article:

(1) the fact that the correspondence between bones and graves is less than fully documented. An interesting factoid about past archeological practice.

(2) the argument that burial accessories don't necessarily prove life occupation: Could it be that some "warrior graves" (of either sex/gender) were really "warrior cosplay graves"; that in a society where warriors have high status, other high status individuals could also be buried with the accoutrements of warriors? Will future archeologists digging up US graves conclude that there were millions and millions of people playing for the New York Yankees, because of all the baseball caps they'll find?

So I'd argue this article qualifies.




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