Ancient gold ring with amethyst stone found in Byzantine Israel

An ancient jeweled ring was unearthed at the site of an ancient Byzantine winery in Yavne, Israel.

 Picture of the magnificent ring from Yavne. (photo credit: DAFNA GAZIT/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)
Picture of the magnificent ring from Yavne.
(photo credit: DAFNA GAZIT/ISRAEL ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)

A unique gold ring featuring a delicate purple amethyst stone was uncovered in the excavation of a Byzantine winery complex in Yavne, the Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced.

The wine factory was used to produce the legendary regional wine, known as Gaza or Ashkelon wine after the ports from where it was exported all over the Mediterranean. The jewel was unearthed near one of the warehouses.

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

“Amethysts are mentioned in the Bible as one of the 12 precious stones worn by the high priest of the Temple on his ceremonial breastplate,” he added. “Many virtues have been attached to this gem [amethysts], including the prevention of the side effect of drinking, the hangover.”

According to the archaeologists, there could be a connection between this quality attributed to the stone and the location where it was found.

 Yavne excavation (credit: Assaf Peretz/Israel Antiquities Authority) Yavne excavation (credit: Assaf Peretz/Israel Antiquities Authority)

“Did the person who wore the ring want to avoid intoxication due to drinking a lot of wine? We probably will never know,” said Dr. Elie Haddad, the IAA director of the excavation, together with Liat Nadav-Ziv and Dr. Jon Seligman.

A large number of jars were found in the warehouse, some of them positioned upside down so as to store them or dry them before being brought to be refilled with wine

“It is possible that the splendid ring belonged to the owner of the magnificent warehouse, to a foreman, or simply to an unlucky visitor, who dropped and lost their precious ring until it was finally discovered by us,” Haddad noted.

The artifact was not conclusively dated. It was found in a fill dated between the end of the Byzantine period and the beginning of the early Islamic period, around the 7th century CE. However, since similar rings – gold bands with inlaid amethysts – were common in the Roman world, the jewel could have belonged to someone living in the city as early as the third century CE.

Recently, another ancient amethyst was found in an archaeological excavation.

Dating back some 2,000 years, the stone was retrieved by volunteers sifting through soil dug in the underground drainage channel below the main road connecting the Shiloah Pool, at the outskirts of Jerusalem, with the Temple Mount.

 Dr. Jon Seligman, Liat Nadav-Ziv and Dr. Elie Haddad , the excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority (credit: YANIV BERMAN/ISRAELI ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY) Dr. Jon Seligman, Liat Nadav-Ziv and Dr. Elie Haddad , the excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority (credit: YANIV BERMAN/ISRAELI ANTIQUITIES AUTHORITY)

The artifact was also likely placed on a ring. In addition, it was engraved with the figures of a bird and a branch, possibly the first depiction ever discovered of the biblical plant species known as “balm of Gilead,” or persimmon.

In the past two decades, archaeologists have found evidence of settlement in Yavne beginning as early as over 3,000 years ago.

In the same area where the Byzantine wine factory has been found – the largest from the period ever discovered in the world – the remains of another wine press were uncovered, dating back some 2,300 years, during the Persian period, testifying to the city’s long tradition in wine production, as stated in the Mishna, which mentions a vineyard in Yavne.

After the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in 70 CE, Raban Yohanan Ben-Zakai moved the Sanhedrin, the supreme court and legislative body in all matters of Halacha, to Yavne.

During the Byzantine period it was an important Christian town, also featuring a significant Jewish population.