Ninth century ring was discovered in a Viking grave in Sweden
The stone is coloured glass, not amethyst, as previously thought
Contains an inscription in ancient Arabic that says ‘for Allah’ or ‘to Allah’
Artefact adds weight to theory that Vikings traded with Islamic civilisations
By SARAH GRIFFITHS FOR MAILONLINE
A ring crafted more than 1,000 years ago confirms highlights the contact between the Vikings and the Islamic world.
Discovered inside a ninth century woman’s grave in Sweden, the stone inset into the ring bears an inscription that says ‘for Allah’ or ‘to Allah’.
While it is already known that the Vikings acquired glass in far flung lands, the artefact bolsters the theory that the seafaring civilisation did business with Islamic traders.
The ring was discovered during excavations of a Viking trading centre in Birka, Sweden, in the late 1800s, Science News reported.
Since then, it has been thought that stone in the ring is violet amethyst, but now experts have revealed it is coloured glass – an exotic material at the time.
Researchers at Stockholm University used a scanning electron microscope to determine the material and to clearly reveal ancient Arabic writing called Kufic writing, that reads ‘for Allah or ‘to Allah.’
It is known that Scandinavians traded glass objects from Egypt and Mesopotamia up to 3,400 years ago, so it is entirely possible that the Vikings fetched glass goods from the region instead of waiting for them to make their way north via trade networks.
Ancient texts also mention trades taking place between the Vikings and members of the Islamic civilisation, which stretched from the Mediterranean to West Asia, but archaeological evidence is rare.
The study, published in the journal Scanning, says: ‘The ring may… constitute material evidence for direct interactions between Viking Age Scandinavia and the Islamic world.
‘Being the only ring with an Arabic inscription found at a Scandinavian archaeological site, it is a unique object among Swedish Viking Age material.’
Further analysis of the ring showed that it was rarely worn.
The inner ring still shows signs of where the silver was filed by a craftsman, meaning that it was probably sold as new before it became a treasured possession of a Viking woman.
‘The ring has been cast in a high-grade silver alloy (94.5/5.5 Ag/Cu) and retains the post-casting marks from the filing done to remove flash and mould lines,’ according to the study.
‘Thus, the ring has rarely been worn, and likely passed from the silversmith to the woman buried at Birka with few owners in between.’
…AND ISLAMIC COINS HAVE RECENTLY BEEN FOUND IN A SHIELD
Last year, a Viking sword was discovered in a field in Norway by aman scanning the area with a metal detector.
This led experts from the Museum of Natural History and Archaeology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology to excavate the site.
They found a grave dating to 950AD that contained the remains of a shield buried with a Viking warrior, as well as a sword bearing an inscription.
Incredibly, the shield boss – the round part at the centre of a shield – concealed a leather purse with Islamic coins inside.
This evidence strengthens the theory that the Vikings traded with Islamic civilisations, or came into contact with the culture in Spain.
Archaeologist Ingrid Ystgaard told ThorNews: ‘We have not managed to find out who owned the sword, but we know that he was a well-travelled man.’
‘The shield boss has a clear cut mark by an axe or a sword,’ she said, before adding that it is not known if the man died in battle.