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Unrolled thread from @stephenniem #Viking #medievaltwitter #Birka #Arabic (ro)

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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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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
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