Spectacular ancient gold ring with precious stone unearthed in coastal Israel

November 3, 2021 by TPS
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A huge excavation conducted at the coastal city of Yavne by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), as part of an initiative to expand the city, has exposed an ancient and spectacular gold ring, the latest fascinating find at the site.

The ring. (Daphna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority)

An examination of the ring by Dr Yotam Asher at the IAA’s analytical laboratory showed that the stone is mostly made of silica, a material from which many gemstones are composed. This examination ruled out the possibility that the purple inlay is made of glass. The ring weighs 5.11 grams.

Dr Amir Golani, an expert on ancient jewellery at the IAA, said that “the person who owned the ring was affluent, and the wearing of the jewel indicated their status and wealth. Such rings could be worn by both men and women.”

Golani identified the semi-precious stone as an amethyst. The amethyst is mentioned in Bible as one of the 12 precious stones worn by the Cohen Gadol (high priest) at the Temple in Jerusalem on the Choshen (ceremonial breastplate).

“Many virtues have been attached to this gem, including the prevention of the side effect of drinking, the hangover,” he noted.

This characteristic attributed to the stone is particularly interesting, given the context in which the ring was discovered, at a site where a huge winery operated, the largest in the world known from the Byzantine period.

“Did the person who wore the ring want to avoid intoxication due to drinking a lot of wine? We probably will never know,” says Dr Elie Haddad, the director of the excavation on behalf of the IAA.

The ring was found just 150 meters from the remains of a long warehouse, which was used to store wine jars. Some of the jars were found upside down and it may have been a warehouse full of empty jars before they were taken to the winepresses to fill with wine. It is possible that the ring belonged to the owner of the warehouse, to a foreman, or simply to an unlucky visitor, who dropped and lost their precious ring.

Researchers are debating the date of the ring. It was found in a fill dated to the end of the Byzantine period and the beginning of the Early Islamic period, the 7th century CE, but it is possible that the ring, due to its beauty and prestige, was transmitted from generation to generation over the centuries.

Gold rings inlaid with amethyst stone are known in the Roman world, and it is possible that the ring’s find belongs to the elites who lived in the city as early as the 3rd century CE.


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