Engraved ring found in Sweden suggests contact between Viking Age Scandinavians and Islamic civilisation

The excavation site at a Viking trading centre in Sweden called Birka recovered the silver ring in the late 1800s

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The Independent Online

An engraved ring has suggested evidence of close contact between Viking Age Scandinavians and the Islamic world, more than a century after it was discovered.

The excavation site at a Viking trading centre in Sweden called Birka recovered the silver ring in the late 1800s.

The ring is adorned with a violet-coloured piece of glass that was, until recently, presumed to be an amethyst.

An inscription on the glass has now been found to read either "for Allah" or "to Allah" in an ancient Arabic script.

Published in scientific journal Scanning, researchers from Stockholm University wrote: "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."

The ring was found in a grave north of Borg on the Björkö Island. Clothes and jewellery around the decomposed skeleton showed it to be a female burial dating back to 850 AD.

Scandinavians were trading for glass objects from Egypt and Mesopotamia 3,400 years ago.

It is therefore possible that seagoing Scandinavians could have brought back items from Islamic traders who were in the same part of the world.

Ancient texts mention encounters around 1,000 years ago between Scandinavians and members of the Islamic civilization, which stretched from West Asia to Mediterranean lands, but it is reportedly rare to find archaeological evidence to support these accounts.

The Birka ring is particularly remarkable because its inner surface shows virtually no sign of wear.

Filing marks that were made at the end stages of production are still visible, suggesting that the ring had few or no owners before it reached its final owner, researchers said.

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