The discovery of Kufic Arabic script on a ring recovered from a 9th century Swedish grave in Birka, a historic Viking-age site in Sweden, may confirm highlights on the direct contact between the Vikings and Islamic countries.
The ring was found by famed Swedish archaeologist Hjalmar Stolpe during the 1872-1895 excavations of grave fields in the Viking era trading center of Birka, about 15.5 miles west of Stockholm, Sweden. It was cataloged and sent to the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm.
The ring is made of silver alloy, with a pink-violet cut glass stone.
The ring was discovered in a woman coffin, the skeleton was completely decomposed. Archaeologists found jewelry, brooches, the remains of some clothing, and the ring.
Now, biophysicist Sebastian Wärmländer of Stockholm University and his colleagues used a scanning electron microscope to investigate the origins of the ring. And they confirmed the uniqueness of the ring.
The first thing the researchers discovered was that the stone was made of cut glass, rather than amethyst, as previously thought. Because cut glass was unknown in Scandinavia, it was highly prized. Studying the inscription on the stone, the researchers interpreted the inscription as ‘il-la-lah,’ meaning “For/To Allah.”
The ring was made of a high-grade silver alloy (94.5 percent) and still had the post-casting marks. Thus, the ring had rarely been worn and more likely passed from the silversmith to the woman.
“The Viking Sagas and Chronicles tell us of Viking expeditions to the Black and Caspian Seas, and beyond, but we don’t know what fact is and what fiction in these stories is. Perhaps the woman herself was from the Islamic world, or perhaps a Swedish Viking got the ring, by trade or robbery while visiting the Islamic Caliphate.” Notes of Wärmländer.
With these early accounts of Vikings expeditions, it resembles that they had interactions with the Islamic world.
They were well known for their lengthy voyages, reaching the Americas, and possibly as far as Baghdad, in 11th century. Accounts from this period suggest the Vikings were more interested in trade rather than conquest.