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‘Spectacular’ Gold Ring with Christ Image Among 30,000 Archaeological Finds

Archaeologists have uncovered a “spectacular” gold ring from the medieval period that features an image of Christ.

The artifact is among roughly 30,000 objects unearthed during excavations in the city of Kalmar in southeastern Sweden, which lies at the edge of the Baltic Sea.

Over two years, a team of archaeologists has been investigating an area of central Kalmar that represents the city’s Old Town. This area, west of Kalmar Castle, was the city center from the beginning of the 13th century until the middle of the 17th.

The excavations have focused on roughly 50 medieval plots, 10 streets and parts of the Old City wall. It is unusual for such large contiguous areas to be investigated in the middle of a city, and the results so far have surpassed all expectations, according to the archaeologists.

The researchers uncovered the remains of hundreds of buildings, cellars, streets, latrines and objects from A.D. 1250 to 1650.

“We have been able to lift the lid on the city’s Middle Ages and have had the opportunity to study how people lived, what they ate and drank and how this changed over time,” Magnus Stibéus, the archaeologist leading the excavations, said in a press release.

“Archeology becomes like a peephole into medieval history that allows us to learn more about how life was several hundred years ago,” he said.

Among the 30,000 identified objects, the archaeologists made two “spectacular” finds—the gold ring and a “very special” artifact known as an “alsengem.”

The gold ring, thought to date to the beginning of the 15th century, features a carved figure of Christ. Given its shape and size, it may have been worn by a woman, the archaeologists suggested.

The alsengem, meanwhile, is a type of small glass setting stone found in both secular and religious contexts and believed to have been used by pilgrims as amulets. The example found in Kalmar likely dates to the 13th to 14th centuries and features three carved figures.

“Of course, it’s great fun to find something like that,” Stibéus said. “The gold ring was in almost new condition with a Christ motif and was found, like the alsengem, in contexts that we interpreted as waste storage. Probably someone was unlucky and lost the ring 500 years ago. The alsengem is broken and may have been thrown away.”

Among the more unusual finds during the excavations were the remains of a rune stone that may have come from a burial mound in a cemetery that existed in Kalmar during the 12th century.

The excavations also revealed evidence of the Kalmar War that brought fighting to the city in 1611. The conflict was fought between the Denmark-Norway union and the Swedish Empire from 1611 to 1613.

“The investigations show that virtually all farms were burned in connection with the Danes’ attack on the city in the summer of 1611,” Stibéus said. “This is visible above all through fire horizons and razed buildings. We have also found a large number of projectiles, such as cannonballs, musket balls and pistol bullets, but also swords.”

The fact that such large parts of the medieval city could be investigated simultaneously makes the project “unique,” according to the archaeologists.

“The building remains and the cultural warehouses form a historical archive that holds enormous amounts of information and stories about the political and economic ambitions, everyday life and living conditions of previous generations,” Stibéus said.

“We get an insight into large parts of the medieval city and encounter traces of the social and economic existence of different groups; traders, craftsmen, civil servants, church people, poor and rich,” he said.

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