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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site

 

The Arabian route (Baghdad – Kufa – Mecca)

The Arabian route (Baghdad – Kufa – Mecca)

Matt Bigg

The pilgrims poured out the water they had and took of this good water, rejoicing at its abundance. The people took joy in swimming and bathing in it and washing their garments. It was for them a day of rest upon the journey, a gift bestowed by God.
Ibn Jubayr (1145–1217)

The 900 mile road from Kufa to Mecca was one of the earliest routes created specifically for pilgrims. The pilgrim routes generally followed the ancient trade routes across Arabia. The Darb Zubayda (Zubayda’s Road) is the most significant of the early routes and was extensively developed during the era of the Abbasid caliphs (750–1258), whose capital was Baghdad.

Aerial shot of the Darb Zubayda

Aerial shot of the Darb Zubayda as it crosses lava fields south of Mahd al-Dhahab, 1984. John Herbert


Milestone (about 700 – 800, Hijaz)

Milestone (about 700 – 800, Hijaz)

National Museum, Riyadh

This milestone is inscribed in Arabic with the words: ‘Eight miles and this is two thirds of the road from al-Kufa’. As part of the care of the Darb Zubayda, succeeding caliphs had milestones placed all along the route to help pilgrims work out how far they had travelled. Very few of the milestones have survived. This example was found in the vicinity of Rabadha by the explorer and Muslim convert Harry St. John Philby.


Gravestone (c. 900, Mecca)

Gravestone (c. 900, Mecca)

National Museum, Riyadh

It was common for pilgrims from all over the Muslim world to go on Hajj and to remain and die in Mecca. Such individuals are known as mujawirun. This gravestone from the Ma‘la cemetery in Mecca states: "This is the grave of Muhammad ibn ‘Ubayd Allah al-Basri al-Sarraf, may God grant him mercy".

Muhammad was originally from Basra. This highly decorative inscription in Kufic script is the work of a remarkable workshop in Mecca which produced many such gravestones.


Camel bone and writing implements (c. 750 – 900, Hijaz)

Writing implements (c. 750 – 900, Hijaz) Camel bone

King Saud University Museum, Riyadh

Rabadha was an important way station along the Darb Zubayda. It developed into an important city which flourished until the 10th century. Excavations begun in 1979 by King Saud University that uncovered houses, mosques, wells, cisterns, a cemetery and a range of different objects including those shown here. Camel bones were one of the most important materials used for writing in early Islam and camels were plentiful at al-Rabadha. Written in black ink and using a reed pen, the inscriptions are in a form of early Arabic script and probably refer to business transactions. On the smaller fragment the word ‘Allah’ can be deciphered at the top. The ink well is part of a wooden writing box and still contains the remains of its ink.


Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council