Child’s Garnet Ring Paints New Picture of Jerusalem Society 2,300 Years Ago

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A beautifully preserved gold ring set with a red garnet is helping to paint a picture of a prosperous Jerusalem during the early Hellenistic period about 2,300 years ago.

Likely gifted to a child, the petite ring — along with other upscale adornments discovered at the dig site called Givati Parking Lot in the City of David — dispels the once-held assumption that the Jerusalem of that era was a small, somewhat provincial, town with very few resources.

“These new finds tell a different story,” noted Tel Aviv University Professor Yuval Gadot and excavator Efrat Bocher. “The aggregate of revealed structures now constitute an entire neighborhood… The character of the buildings – and now, of course, the gold finds and other discoveries, display the city’s healthy economy and even its elite status.”

According to the team made up of researchers from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Tel Aviv University, the ring was manufactured by “hammering thin pre-cut gold leaves onto a metal ring base.” Gold does not tarnish or oxidize, so the ring remained in pristine condition despite being buried for 2,300 years.

During the 3rd or 4th century BCE, gold jewelry with set stones, instead of decorated gold, became fashionable, noted the researchers. Gold and other luxury items became more popular in the Hellenistic world after Alexander the Great’s conquests in the late 4th century BCE.

“It certainly seems that the city’s residents were open to the widespread Hellenistic style and influences prevalent also in the eastern Mediterranean Basin,” Gadot said.

Excavation team member Tehiya Gangate described how she discovered the ring: “I was sifting earth through the screen and suddenly saw something glitter. I immediately yelled, ‘I found a ring, I found a ring!’ Within seconds everyone gathered around me… This is an emotionally moving find, not the kind you find every day.”

Excavations of the former Givati Parking Lot began in 2007. Among the most impressive discoveries at the site is an ancient building believed to be the palace of Queen Helena of Adiabene, who lived during the first century CE.

The garnet ring, along with other recent finds, will go on public display June 4 on the eve of Jerusalem Day at IAA headquarters in Jerusalem.

Credits: Photo of garnet ring and archeologist Rikki Zalut Har-Tuv by Emil Aladjem, Israel Antiquities Authority. Dig site photo by Maor Ganot/City of David.



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