by Fahim Azaz

Among the lesser-known facts about the Viking Age, but one of the most well-known among Viking scholars, is the deep-rooted connection between the Viking and Islamic worlds. Primarily based on trade, the impact of trade with the Islamic world is reflected in the overrepresentation of goods such as Islamic silver within Viking archaeological finds such as in silver hoards.

However, imports from the Islamic world had a long afterlife in the world of the Vikings as well, often being totally repurposed or becoming culturally significant enough to serve multiple purposes or spark attempts at imitation. I want to highlight the way both these objects, as well as elements of intangible culture as recorded in the chronicles of travelers to the Viking world, developed lives and identities of their own within the Viking world independent of their Islamic origin. By using these case studies to analyze the way that both material and intangible culture is indigenized, I hope to shed light on the impact of social and economic interactions on the transformation of Viking culture and society.

  • Object 1. A Ring with Arabic from Birka, modern Sweden
  • Object 2. Samanid dirhams from the Storr Rock Viking Hoard
  • Object 3. Silver dirham copies from Tuna i Badelunda, modern Sweden
  • Object 4. Central Asian silk from Oseberg, modern Norway
  • Text 1. Pagan practice as depicted in the Life of Ansgar
  • Text 2. Pagan practice as depicted in Ibn Faḍlān’s Letter

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