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

Washington Post: 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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1 reply

  1. That would be easy to explain. The Norse Vikings were notorious pirates and raiders that ranged far and wide. They were also pagans. No doubt the ring came into her possession by way of booty. They plundered Christian churches and monasteries in England, Ireland and France and carried off all manner of treasure from them, too. They also were slave traders that sold European captives, often to Muslims from North Africa.

    I find it interesting that the descendents of those then barbarous peoples are now some of the most civilized people on Earth…

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