A new study suggests that a ninth-century ring from Sweden has come from the Islamic Civilization.
A silver ring was excavated in the late 1800s from the trade centre of Birka, Sweden. The Arabic finger ring, set with a violet stone engraved with Arabic writing, was found in a 9th century Scandinavian woman's grave.
While there is evidence of close contacts between the Scandinavian civilization of the Viking Age and the Islamic civilization, the study published in Scanning journal claims the ring is unique since "it's the only ring with an Arabic inscription found at a Scandinavian archaeological site".
It was previously thought to be an amethyst but the study has found that it is colored glass. The authors used non-destructive SEM imaging and EDS analysis to typify the material composition of the ring.
According to Sebastian Wärmländer and his colleagues, authors of the study, an inscription on the colored glass reads "il-la-lah", i.e. "For/to Allah".
The study also reveals that the ring was likely passed from the silversmith to the woman. It was rarely worn, with few owners in between. The filing marks made are still visible.
A few rings of similar design have already been excavated at Birka and other sites, but this is reportedly the first ring with an Arabic inscription found in Scandinavia.
From right to left, the characters in the inscription appear to read "AL__LL[H?]. The researchers have interpreted the inscription as ILLLH, to be read il-la-lah, i.e. "For/to (the approval) of the God". They also suggest the inscription may have been written by someone with 'an incomplete understanding of Arabic writing'.
The authors also provide another possible explanation: if we assume a missing line, the letters could read "INš...LLH" ("god-willing").
While the discovery of the ring is a rare archaeological evidence, connections between the Islamic and Scandinavian civilizations are already well-known and established. There are many findings that testify to this. For example, if one visits Istanbul, they can see Norse runes carved into the Hagia Sophia stones.
However, the researchers say that the importance of the ring is that "it most eloquently corroborates ancient tales about direct contacts between Viking Age Scandinavia and the Islamic world."
The ring is housed at the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm.