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23 March 2015

Ring with “for Allah” inscription found in Viking grave

viking-yuzukIslamic inscription on ancient ring is first proof of its kind in Scandinavia of contact between Muslims and Viking centuries ago, Swedish scientists say.

The discovery of an Islamic inscription on a ring inside a Viking coffin has confirmed ancient tales about contact between Viking Age Scandinavia and the Islamic world.

The silver ring, recovered from a wooden coffin containing the skeleton of a female buried about 850 A.D., was originally found during excavations between 1872 and 1895 of graves at the Viking age trading center of Birka on Björkö Island near the Swedish capital of Stockholm.

But scientists using a scanning electron microscope have only recently discovered the Arabic Kufic inscription “Inshallah” was inscribed on the ring, Swedish media reported on Thursday.

Sebastian Wärmländer, biophysicist of Stockholm University, told Discovery News: “It’s the only ring with an Arabic inscription found in Scandinavia.

“We have a few other Arabic-style rings, but without inscriptions.”

Wärmländer and his colleagues wrote in the journal Scanning after their discovery in February: “Our analysis shows that the studied ring consists of a high quality (94.5 percent) non-gilded silver alloy, set with a stone of colored soda-lime glass with an Arabic inscription reading some version of the word ‘Allah’.”

– ‘Direct interaction’

The Swedish researchers interpreted the inscription on the ring, which featured a pink-violet colored stone, as “il-la-lah” meaning “For/To Allah”.

However, alternative interpretations say the letters could also be read as “INs…LLH” meaning “Inshallah” (God-willing).

The discovery provides evidence of direct interaction between Vikings and Islamic countries, according to the researchers.

“The Viking Sagas and Chronicles tell us of Viking expeditions to the Black and Caspian Seas and beyond, but we don’t know what is fact and what is fiction in these stories,” Wärmländer said.

“The mint condition of the ring corroborates ancient tales about direct contacts between Viking Age Scandinavia and the Islamic world,” he said.

This ring is currently housed at the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm.

World Bulletin

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