Researchers from the Israeli Antiquities Authority analyzed the ring, and the stone was determined to be composed of silica—a common material in many other gems—ruling out the possibility of it being simply glass.
It is believed 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,” said Dr. Amir Golani, an expert on ancient jewelry for the Authority.
“Amethysts are mentioned in Bible as one of the 12 precious stones worn by the high priest of the temple on his ceremonial breastplate,” added Golani, who cited that certain powers were attributed to amethysts: “Many virtues have been attached to this gem, including the prevention of the side effect of drinking, the hangover.”
Part of a city expansion initiative in Yavne, the excavation of the massive antique winery—the largest in the world from the Byzantine period—is interesting context for the ring, considering the said characteristics of this semi-precious stone.
The irony was not lost on director of the excavation Dr. Elie Haddad, who pondered the wearer’s purpose owning such a ring, “Did the person who wore the ring want to avoid intoxication due to drinking a lot of wine? We probably will never know.”
The adornment was found just 150 meters from the remains of a long warehouse containing wine jars, called amphorae, some of which were found turned upside-down resting on their mouths, presumably being stored before being brought to the winepress to be filled with wine, the Authority stated.
The splendid gold ring might once have belonged to the owner of the magnificent warehouse, to a foreman, or simply an “unlucky visitor” who dropped the precious adornment only to be found several centuries later.
Researchers debated the age of the ring: the fill where it was found dates back to the seventh century (to the Late Byzantine and Early Islamic periods); though, an object such as this might have been a treasured heirloom that was passed down generationally, and could date back to as early as the third century. Gold rings with amethyst stones have been known to exist in the Roman age.
“The small, everyday finds that are discovered in our excavations tell us human stories and connect us directly to the past,” said Eli Eskozido, director of the Authority. “It is exciting to imagine that the man or woman to whom the ring belonged, walking right here, in a different reality to what we know in today’s city of Yavne.”
The huge Byzantine winery was opened for public viewing on Friday, Nov. 5. Visitors are now invited to explore the sight for themselves. Details are available on the Authority’s Facebook page.