Viking textile did not feature word ‘Allah’, expert says
Engraved burial costumes from Viking boat grave that supposedly provided evidence of contact between Nordic tribe and ancient Islam contain ‘no Arabic at all’, according to an expert who has slammed the initial research.
The Viking textile found in Ninth and Tenth-century graves did not include the word ‘Allah’ as was widely reported, according to a professor of Medieval Islamic art and archaeology.
Dr. Stephennie Mulder of the University of Texas in Austin claimed the error stems from a ‘serious problem of dating’, claiming Kufic script did not occur until 500 years after the Viking.
Dr. Mulder says the claims, which were circulated around the world, are founded on ‘conjecture’ and ‘supposition’ instead of proof.
Kufic characters were commonly found amid the Viking Age in mosaics on burial monuments and mausoleums, primarily in Central Asia.
The claims she refers to were made by archaeologist Annika Larsson of Uppsala University who made the founds after working to recreate textile patterns found in Viking woven bands.
They claimed that the objects, used as inspiration for a Viking Couture exhibit at Enköping Museum, contained Kufic characters, rather than traditional Vikings patterns as had been assumed.
As well as Allah, Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, was also mentioned in the texts, they claimed.
However, Dr. Mulder took to Twitter to criticize their finding, claiming that it was a style called square Kufic’ that is ‘common in Iran, C. Asia on architecture after 15th century’.
‘Let’s assume there are Tenth-century Central Asian textiles with square Kufic. Even so, it turns out Larsson’s drawing doesn’t say ‘Allah’,’ she wrote.
‘Instead, the drawing says للله ‘Allah’, which basically makes no sense in Arabic.’
Similar text was discovered on the woven bands, which were part of grave costumes uncovered inside both chamber grave, in sites such as Birka in Mälardalen, and in boat grave in the Gamla Uppsala area.
Responding to the criticism, Ms. Larsson told The Independent that the finds were ‘no doubt from the Viking age’.
‘They are found in several of the Birka graves and Vikings Age boat graves north of Gamla Uppsala. The geometrical Kufi is also to be discovered in similar textile ribbons from Spain’, she said.
‘Even if the characters should be interpreted as ‘Allah’ it is still Kufic, and as I have understood from the Arabic expert it still refers to ‘Allah’.’
Ms. Larsson said when her research was 1st released: ‘It is a staggering thought that the bands, just like the costumes, was made west of the Muslim heartland.
‘That we so often maintain that Eastern objects in Viking Age graves could only be the result of plundering and eastward trade does not hold up as an explanatory model.
‘The inscriptions appear in typical Viking Age clothing that has their counterparts in preserved pictures of Valkyries.
‘Presumably, Viking Age burial customs were influenced by Islam and the idea of eternal life in Paradise after death.’
In her earlier analysis, Ms. Larsson looked at the widespread occurrence of Eastern silk in Scandinavia’s Viking Age graves.
VIKING AND ISLAMIC TRADE
The Scandinavians are known to have traded glass objects from Egypt and Mesopotamia up to 3,400 years prior.
It is also possible that the Viking fetched glass goods directly from the region, rather than waiting for them to make their way north via trade networks.
Ancient texts mention trades taking places between the Vikings and members of the Islamic civilizations, which stretched from the Mediterranean to West Asia.
Vikings expeditions are said to have extended from Western Europe to Central Asia.
It is from here that sources indicate the extent to which the Viking had contact with the Muslim World during ancient times.
Though the Viking had sacked several cities in Western and Eastern Europe, historians outline that it was in Muslim ruled lands, that the Viking found ’emporiums beyond their wildest dreams’, according to Muslim Heritage.
Historians in Baghdad and other regions of the Muslims world gave the Viking a reputation of being ‘merchant warriors whose primary focus was on trades.’
However, writers in Al-Andalus in Muslim Spain were of a different opinion, due to frequent attack reportedly perpetrated by the Vikings in the region.
In the Valsgärde boat graves, just north of the key early Iron Age site Gamla Uppsala, silk is discovered in the clothing of those buried far more often than wool and linen.
Analyses of materials, weaving technique, and design suggest ancient Persian and Central Asian origins.
‘Grave goods such as beautiful clothing, finely sewn in exotic fabrics, hardly reflect the deceased’s everyday life, just as little as the formal attire of our era reflects our own daily lives,’ Ms. Larsson said.
‘The rich material of grave goods should rather be seen as tangible expressionss of underlying values.
‘In the Quran, it is written that the inhabitants of Paradise will wear garments of silk, which along with the text bands inscriptions may explain the widespread occurrence of silk in Viking Age graves.
‘The findings are equally prevalent in both mens and womens graves.’
This is not the first time that a Vikings artifact has claimed to have links to Islam.
A ring, made over 1,000 years ago, confirmed contact between the Viking and the ancient Muslim world.
Unearthed in Sweden in 2015, it is said to bear an ancient Arabic inscription that reads ‘for Allah’ or ‘to Allah’.