LONDON – Arabic scripts for the word “Allah” engraved in Vikings’ burial costumes have been discovered by researchers in Sweden, implying a connection between the Vikings and Muslims.
According to a BBC report, a new investigation into the garments, found in 9th and 10th Century graves, has thrown up groundbreaking insights into contact between the Nordic tribes and Muslim worlds.
Patterns woven with silk and silver thread have been found to spell the words “Allah” and “Ali”.
The breakthrough was made by textile archaeologist Annika Larsson of Uppsala University while re-examining the remnants of burial costumes from male and female boat and chamber graves originally excavated in Birka and Gamla Uppsala in Sweden in the late 19th and mid-20th centuries.
But 1.5-centimeter geometric designs did not make sense to the researcher.
“I couldn’t quite make sense of them and then I remembered where I had seen similar designs – in Spain, on Moorish textiles.”
Further investigation revealed that the patterns were not Viking at all but ancient Arabic Kufic script, developed in Kufah, Iraq in the 7th century.
After enlarging the letters and examining them from different angles, she “suddenly saw that the word ‘Allah’ had been written in mirrored lettering.”
This new discovery raises question about the origin of the grave occupants.
“The possibility that some of those in the graves were Muslim cannot be completely ruled out,” said Larsson.
“We know from other Viking tomb excavations that DNA analysis has shown some of the people buried in them originated from places like Persia, where Islam was very dominant.”
“However, it is more likely these findings show that Viking age burial customs were influenced by Islamic ideas such as eternal life in paradise after death,” she adds.
“Now that I am looking at Viking patterns differently, I am convinced I will find more Islamic inscriptions in the remaining fragments from these excavations, and other Viking era textiles.”
“Who knows? Maybe they appear in non-textile artifacts too.”
Connections between Muslim and Viking worlds have been previously established by historic accounts.
Two years ago, researchers working on a silver ring from a female tomb at Birka found the phrase “for Allah” inscribed on the stone. That script was Kufic as well.
This finding is unique, however, as it is the first time to find items inscribed with ‘Ali’ in Scandinavia.
“The name [Hazrat] Ali [RA] is repeated again and again beside Allah,” she says.
“I know he [Hazrat Ali (RA)] is highly revered by the largest Muslim minority group, the Shia, and have wondered if there is a connection.”