Take everything you know about Vikings, and forget it. Okay, maybe not everything – Vikings really did like to have a good party, enjoyed raucous sex, held weird rituals, and let's not forget those frenzied fighters, the berserkers – but some recent finds in a Viking grave in Sweden have revealed potentially "staggering" historical evidence.
According to one archaeologist, the word "Allah" appears on the 10th-century funeral clothes of a Viking woman buried near Stockholm. This find has scholars questioning the relationship between Vikings and Muslims, possibly rewriting history books in the process. Not everyone is convinced that it's Islamic text on the clothing, however, setting up a possible historical smack-down that would make Odin proud.
The Viking Burials Were Originally Discovered In The 1970s
The numerous burial sites throughout the Viking world reveal information about Viking customs and practices as well as hold items that tell the story of Viking life and death.
During the 1970s in Birka and Gamla, Uppsala, Sweden, archaeologists discovered Viking burial sites with artifacts ranging from jewelry to clothing and animal bones. Until very recently, these items were in storage at Uppsala University. When researchers began to catalogue the pieces for an upcoming museum exhibit, they discovered unique writing and geometric patterns unlike any other Nordic findings.
According To At Least One Scholar, The Artifacts Contained Arabic Words
As she looked at the silk from the burial sites, textile archaeologist Annika Larsson from Uppsala University noticed that the patterns on the garments did not match any known Norse writing. When she delved deeper into the contents of a woman's grave at Gamla, Larsson noticed small, geometric shapes. She compared them to a piece of silk from a 10th-century grave at Birka and found that in both instances, the designs were similar to Moorish designs she had seen on silk from Islamic Spain.
She soon realized that the writing was in Kufic, the oldest Arabic script.
"Allah" Appears In A Mirror Image
According to Larsson, the words "Ali" and "Allah" are woven into fabric of the Viking burial garments, the latter visible in a mirror image. Similar patterns have been found in graves in Central Asia, which is possibly the origin of the silk itself.
There Are Other Examples Of Islamic Influences In Scandinavia
The Vikings were no strangers to trade or to contact with the Islamic world. There have been numerous Arabic coins as well as other swatches of Persian silk found in Sweden and Norway dating from the period. There is also evidence that Viking swords were produced using Arab metalworking techniques. The weaving patterns in the silk found at Birka and Gamla reveal Persian and Central Asian influence. More significantly, the presence of the silk in Sweden demonstrates Scandinavian connections with the Silk Road trade across Asia.
What this find indicates, however, is that the exchange between Vikings and Muslims may be more ideological than previously realized.