A soldier’s ring from Pennsylvania

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A soldier’s ring from Pennsylvania

This engraved gem set in the remains of an iron ring was unearthed whilst sewers were being laid in Pennsylvania in 1873. The find was studied and published in 1990 by Dr Martin Henig of the Institute of Archaeology at Oxford, the country’s foremost specialist in this field. He wrote:

The gem is ovoid with a flat upper surface. Its device is Mercury. When seen in impression he stands with his body towards the front and faces left. He is nude apart from the stylised winged hat on his head. He holds his cloak over his left arm and his herald’s staff in his left hand. In his right hand he holds a purse (on the photograph of the gem, left and right are reversed).

A second gem with a very similar depiction of Mercury has also been found at Exeter...The finding of two gems with the same device is probably a coincidence. Mercury was widely venerated by all sections of society. As the friendly god connected with trade and prosperity, as master of the flocks and herds, and guide and guardian of travellers, he had something to give to everybody.

Publication: M. Henig 1990, ‘A Roman Signet Ring from Pennsylvania, Exeter’ in Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society No. 48, pp 185-7.

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