Gold ring engraved with a woman at an altar


British Museum

British Museum

In the fourth century BC, the Greek cities of Asia Minor began to enjoy a new sense of independence. The quantity of gold jewellery known from the region increases during this period, perhaps as the result of an influx of new craftsmen at a time of prosperity. This gold ring was said to have come from a tomb in Phokaia, on the coast of modern Turkey. The ring has a slightly bevelled hoop, which is hammered from the same piece of gold as the bezel. The bezel is engraved with the figure of an elegantly draped woman standing in front of an altar. She wears a chiton and himation, sandals and a simple drop earring. Her hair is tied up at the back. In one hand, fingers downwards, she holds out a small seed or piece of incense, which she is presumably about to place on top of the altar before her. The altar is seen in three-quarter view from a low angle, and has hooks on the corners. On top of it sits an eagle, which may indicate that the offering is being made to Zeus or Apollo.

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  • Title: Gold ring engraved with a woman at an altar
  • Date Created: -350/-350
  • Physical Dimensions: Diameter: 2.00cm; Diameter: 1.80cm (inner); Length: 2.00cm (bezel); Weight: 11.27g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: engraved
  • Subject: sacrifice; religious object; bird
  • Registration number: 1917,0501.59
  • Place: Found/Acquired Smyrna. Excavated/Findspot Phocaea
  • Period/culture: East Greek
  • Material: gold
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Franks, Augustus Wollaston


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