A Viking era ring inscribed with the words ‘for Allah’, found in the grave of a woman who was buried 1200 years ago in Birka

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Analysis and Interpretation of a Unique Arabic Finger Ring from the Viking Age Town of Birka, Sweden, 25 km west of modern-day Stockholm. The ring constitutes unique material evidence of direct contact between the Vikings and the Abbasid CaliphateThe ring is made of silver alloy set with a stone of colored soda-lime glass. It’s now housed at the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm.

In this work, we used non-destructive SEM imaging and EDS analysis to characterize the material composition of an Arabic finger ring, which was found in a 9thc. woman’s grave at the Viking Age (A.D. 793–1066) trading center of Birka, Sweden. The ring is set with a violet stone inscribed with Arabic Kufic writing, here interpreted as reading “il-la-lah”, i.e. “For/to Allah”. The stone was previously thought to be amethyst, but the current results show it to be coloured glass. 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 mold lines. Thus, the ring has rarely been worn, and likely passed from the silversmith to the woman buried at Birka with few owners in between. The ring may therefore 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 technical analysis presented here provides a better understanding of the properties and background of this intriguing piece of jewelry.

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Originally published Wiley, written by Sebastian K.T.S. Wa¨Rmla¨Nder, Linda Wa˚hlander, Ragnar Saage, Khodadad Rezakhani, Saied A. Hamid Hassan, and Michael Neiß.

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