Why was a 9th century Viking woman buried with a ring that says ‘for Allah’ on it?

Last year the Vikingship Museum in Roskilde opened up for an exhibition, “The World of the Vikings” that once again highlighted that we were a far more cosmopolitan bunch than you’d expect a thousand years ago. From Greenland to the Far East the Vikings traded and perhaps also fought.

And here’s a little twist on the story from the Washington  Post.

In the modern-era, Scandinavian countries are perhaps more known for their  awkward embrace of migrants from the Arab and Muslim world. But the history behind that relationship goes back far further than you might expect.

Consider the case of a ring discovered in a Viking grave in Birka, a historic trading center in what is now Sweden. The woman in the grave died in the 9th century and was discovered around a thousand years later by the famous Swedish archaeologist Hjalmar Stolpe, who spent years excavating the grave sites around Birka.

Still, the Scandinavians did raise some eyebrows on their journeys. In an otherwise complimentary description of people now believed to be Vikings, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, an emissary of the Abbasid Caliph, wasn’t so sure about their hygiene. “They are the filthiest of all Allah’s creatures,” the Arab writer wrote in the 10th century. “They do not purify themselves after excreting or urinating or wash themselves when in a state of ritual impurity after coitus and do not even wash their hands after food.”

Exactly how the woman in Birka and the ring fit into this relationship isn’t known. It may never be known. In the meantime have a look at our authentic Viking jewellery collection here.