The Ring’s the Thing

Digs & Discoveries March/April 2016

(Courtesy K. Hinds; © K. Hinds and Hampshire Cultural Trust)

From the iron bands that signified citizenship to those bearing a state seal and worn by the emperor, rings were the most common piece of jewelry for both men and women in the ancient Roman world.

A metal detectorist in Tangley, Hampshire, in southern England, has uncovered a late Roman example dating to the fourth century A.D., fashioned of gold and an unusual type of onyx called nicolo. The ring depicts the god Cupid, his left arm resting on a column and his right arm holding a torch, which he will use to test Psyche (in the guise of a butterfly), in an allegory of love overcoming death. In the absence of the context that comes with a complete archaeological site, it is unknown who might have worn the relatively traditional design.

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