Dr. Stephennie Mulder Profile picture
Oct 16, 2017 61 tweets 22 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Dear Entire World: #Viking ‘Allah’ textile actually doesn't have Allah on it. Vikings had rich contacts w/Arab world. This textile? No. 1/60
Actually #Viking textile has no Arabic at all but story has gone viral @NYTimes @Guardian @BBCWorld @NatGeo @ScienceAlert have reported 2/60
There is something very troubling here about relationship between news media & experts, who should have been consulted for verification 3/60
It should go without saying that a single scholar’s un-peer-reviewed claim does not truth make. #medievaltwitter 4/60
Here’s the deal with #Viking ‘Allah’ textile, as I have been able to piece it together over past few days. 5/60
1: As an Islamic art historian & archaeologist, I was immediately suspicious about style of Arabic epigraphy. 6/60
It’s really so simple that I spent five days thinking, it couldn’t be that Larsson would make so fundamental and obvious a mistake. 7/60
The issue is a serious problem of dating. #Birka #Viking textile is 10th c. Style of epigraphy in Larsson’s drawing is 500 years later. 8/60
It’s a style called square Kufic, and it’s common in Iran, C. Asia on architecture after 15th c., ex: Safavid Isfahan w/Allah and Ali 9/60
Earliest examples of square Kufic on architecture date to the 11th-early 12th century: Panel of Ibrahim b. Mas‘ud, ca. 1059-1099 10/60
Or the Minaret of Mas‘ud III at Ghazni, ca. 1099-1118, so all at least 100 years later than Birka textile h/t @2Kufic 11/60
But final character in Larsson’s drawing #Viking Allah txtl has Arabic letter 'ha' ـه w/a hook over it that’s not common until 15th c. 12/60
Perhaps there are 10th c. 2Kufic examples on central Asian textiles. If so, I am not aware of them. Especially not w/hooked ‘ha.’ 13/60
Even if such examples exist, Larsson specifically cites architecture as comparanda. 14/60 uu.se/en/news-media/…
2. But let’s assume there are 10th c. Central Asian textiles with 2Kufic. Even so, it turns out Larsson’s drawing doesn’t say ‘Allah’ 15/60
Instead the drawing says للله ‘lllah’, which basically makes no sense in Arabic. 16/60
Arabic phrases like الحَمْد لله al-hamdulillah incorporate 'l-lah' but don’t stand alone, and it’s spelled لله with 2 uprights, not 3. 17/60
This is similar to an argument made for another sensational find: the #Viking ring said to say ‘to/for God’ 18/60 phoenixblog.typepad.com/blog/2016/01/t…
For ring, best conclusion is represents a kind of pseudo-Kufic. This tells us #Arabic was valued by #Vikings as social status/capital. 19/60
And we have some evidence of this in the form of pseudo-Kufic inscriptions on weights for measuring silver 20/60 arkeologiskasamfundet.se/csa/Dokument/V…
Or even real Arabic, for example dinar of Anglo-Saxon King Offa, who keeps Arabic Shahada intact as he inserts his name in the middle. 21/60
3. Spanish ‘ribbons’ bearing Arabic writing also cited by Larsson as comparanda, but this also doesn’t seem to work date-wise. 22/60
Medieval Spanish textile expert Maria J. Feliciano confirmed to me that known square Kufic tablet weaves are post-13th c. 23/60
Here are some examples from Monastery of Santa María La Real de Huelgas in Burgos, 13th c. 24/60
And a bit further north, not far from Paris, maniples w/2Kufic-like patterns from Chasuble of St Edmund, Provins, also 13th c. 25/60
Interestingly, these later European examples of supposed 2Kufic actually also bear pseudo-Kufic, not real Arabic writing. 26/60
4. But the final nail in the coffin *cough* I mean burial ship is that Larsson’s claim is based on extrapolation, not evidence. 27/60
As #Viking textile specialist Carolyn Priest-Dorman puts it, text based on “extensions of pattern, not on existing pattern” 28/60
The word “Allah” in Arabic looks like this: الله. It has an upright alif, two more uprights (lam), and a final ـه 'ha' 29/60
The tablet-woven textile in the widely-dispersed press photograph shows only design of three uprights connected by a horizontal band. 30/60
There is a small triangular shape, but no final ha ـه. Frag. was published in 1938 by Agnes Geijer, original drawing looked like this: 31/60
But reconstruction drawing by @UU_University textile archaeologist Annika Larsson shows extensions on either side that include a ha. 32/60
These extensions practically double width of band. Not mentioned in press accounts: Larsson’s extensions are entirely conjectural. 33/60
Priest-Dorman shows that the piece can’t have had extensions because was finished with selvages on top and bottom. 34/60
A piece that was trimmed of proposed extensions would not have this finished selvage – it would show cut and tattered edge. 35/60
Priest-Dorman’s piece proves conclusively that textile can’t have had proposed extensions, and so can’t have borne word ‘Allah’. 36/60
So if Larsson wants to stick with ‘Allah’ on her textile, it’s exclusively in the realm of supposition, not proof. 37/60
Textile specialist Priest-Dorman’s full analysis can be read here. It’s excellent! 38/60 stringgeek.blogspot.de/2017/10/viking…
All Larsson’s got are three uprights connected by a horizontal band. This does not ‘Allah’ make. 39/60
Why does brouhaha over Arabic on #Viking textile matter? Three reasons. One, context: story likely went viral because of recent events 40/60
#Charlottesville revealed to all what has long been known among medievalists: that #whitesupremacy uses medieval imagery & symbolism 41/60
At #Charlottesville we saw #medieval banners & chants with #Crusader phrases like #DeusVult. #whitesupremacists use medieval imagery/ 42/60
/because #whitesupremacists need to believe #medieval era was a time when Europe was white. 43/60 psmag.com/education/nazi…
But story struck a nerve because it builds on accurate scholarship that shows #Viking era was diverse & included contacts w/Arab world 44/60
#Viking contact w/wide range of outside peoples undisputed as C Downham of @IrishInstitute @LivUni has shown 45/60 theconversation.com/vikings-were-n…
At #Birka and earlier, at nearby #Helgö, #Viking grave goods included a Buddha from India and a Coptic ladle from North Africa 46/60
And at #Birka in same boat grave as #Viking ‘Allah’ textile there were Arabic coins from Baghdad. 47/60
Ibn Fadlan famously travelled to Viking lands in 10th c., a journey popularized by @CrichtonWebsite in novel Eaters of the Dead 48/60
Crichton’s novel was made into a totally terrible but totally kitschawesome film #ThirteenthWarrior 49/60
Arabic coins were so common that Shahada was perhaps most widespread inscription in #Viking Scandinavia 50/60
So the #Viking Allah textile exhibits what Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome once called ‘truthiness’ but is not supported by scholarship 51/60
But ‘truthiness’ cannot be enough for news media, especially in this age of accusations of #FakeNews 52/60
I admire journalists immensely and am sympathetic to newsroom cutbacks that have made reporting more challenging 53/60
reporter @candersonSTO does incredible work. But why not pick up the phone @Metmuseum Islamic curators S Canby or M Rugiadi 54/60
Or any of the @Metmuseum’s knowledgeable textile curatorial staff 55/60 metmuseum.org/about-the-met/…
And when #medieval & particularly #Viking age is used as ideological weapon by #whitesupremacists/ 56/60
/& scholars like @jonathanhsy @jeffreyjcohen @dorothyk98 @Lollardfish are risking careers to fight #whitesupremacist appropriation 57/60
& not just #whitesupremacists use #medieval to further contemporary agendas: same tactic used by #ISIS, #alQaeda who kill thousands 58/60
Then it matters that we get this right. Media can report on diversity of #GlobalMiddleAges w/out trumped-up scholarship @onthemedia 59/60
But we need news media to be our allies, consult experts, and get facts right. 60/60/FIN
Big thanks to everyone who has obsessed w/me this week! @Yael_Rice @2Kufic @cobbpasha @UTLMESLibrarian Martina Rugiadi Maria J. Feliciano

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Dr. Stephennie Mulder

Dr. Stephennie Mulder Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Don't want to be a Premium member but still want to support us?

Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Or Donate anonymously using crypto!


0xfe58350B80634f60Fa6Dc149a72b4DFbc17D341E copy


3ATGMxNzCUFzxpMCHL5sWSt4DVtS8UqXpi copy

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!