Viking Buddha

In the Sixth Century, somewhere in the Swat Valley, an Indian Buddhist carved this jade figurine of Buddha.

In 1954, the figurine was unearthed in Helgö, Sweden, during the excavation of a medieval Viking farm. It was found with an Egyptian ladle, a Byzantine bowl, an Irish crozier. It is now on display at the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm.

How it traveled to Sweden, and how long it took, is anyone’s guess.

This story reminds me of the shark tooth clubs found buried at Cahokia Mounds in Southern Illinois. Obviously, the clubs weren’t local, and had made their way through a trade network to just outside St Louis. When I visited Cahokia in early high school and learned of the clubs, I imagined them being traded from person to person all the way up from Florida. Each transaction moving the them further inland, and therefore making them rarer and more valuable. Now that I’m older, I think they probably became more of a curiosity, rather than an valuable piece. “That weird fish club,” instead of “the rare exotic fish club,” so to speak. Still, multiple people probably paid a premium for them. Just not a large one.