In what can only be considered as no great surprise, Vikings were thought to be kind of gross and uncivilised on their travels to the East, reports Science Nordic.
Thousand year old Arabic texts by noted writer Ahmad ibn Fadlan described Vikings thusly.
“They are the filthiest of all Allah’s creatures: 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.”
Icelandic historian, Þórir Jónsson Hraundal, who studied texts on what we call Vikings by Arab historians and geographers, admits that these depictions from areas around the Caspian Sea and Volga River differ wildly from images of fearsome Viking conquerors handed down from the British Isles and France in the same era.
“A major difference between the Scandinavians who travelled eastwards and those who sailed west was that in the East they were far more subordinated in societies they came to,” said Þórir. “[Still,] the Scandinavians appear to have been versatile people who were really good at adapting to diverse regions and participating in various power structures.”
It should be noted that the aforementioned writer, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, was not completely repulsed by the Vikings he met. He also described Vikings as fair palm trees, writing that he had “never seen more perfect physiques than theirs.”
Additionally, Viking funeral rites were considered very exotic for the Islamic intellectual.
“In the case of a rich man, they gather together his possessions and divide them into three portions, one third for his household, one third with which to cut funeral garments for him, and one third with which they ferment alcohol which they drink on the day when his slave-girl kills herself and is burned together with her master.”
Grapevine Observation: Must have really sucked to be a Viking Slave Girl.
Further cementing Viking-Arab relations, the Washington Post recently reported on a ring discovered in a Viking grave in Birka, Sweden, with the inscription “For Allah” on it.
The ring – which was inscribed in the Kufic Arabic script widely used between the 8th and 10th century – showed a remarkable lack of wear and tear, leading the authors to speculate that it had few – if any – owners in-between its creator and its Viking owner.
This suggests direct contact between Viking society and the Abbasid Caliphate that dominated much of the Middle East and North Africa.
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