18 March 2015

Why was a 9th century Viking woman buried with a ring that says ‘for Allah’ on it?


Excerpt:
In the modern-era, Scandinavian countries have become known for their sometimes awkward embrace of migrants from the Arab and Muslim world. But the history behind that relationship goes back far further than you might expect.

Consider the case of a ring discovered in a Viking grave in Birka, a historic trading center in what is now Sweden. The woman in the grave died in the 9th century and was discovered around a thousand years later by the famous Swedish archaeologist Hjalmar Stolpe, who spent years excavating the grave sites around Birka.

The ring is unique. Made of silver alloy, it contained a stone with an inscription written in the Kufic Arabic script widely used between the 8th and 10th centuries. "For/to Allah," the inscription read. It was the only known Viking Age ring with an Arabic inscription to be found in the entire of Scandinavia. Exactly how the woman got the ring wasn't clear – she was found wearing typical Scandinavian dress, so presumably the ring arrived through trade.

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