15th c. gold ring with Christ engraving found in Sweden

A gold ring engraved with the face of Christ dating to the early 15th century has been discovered in a wide-scale excavation in Kalmar, Sweden. The ring was found in a waste disposal context but it is in almost untouched condition, suggesting it was accidentally lost rather than deliberately discarded at the end of its usage. The ring is small, so it was probably worn by a woman. Rings of similar type have been discovered in northern Finland and in southern and eastern Sweden.

Another devotional object discovered in a waste area is a glass alsengem, a pilgrim’s amulet named after the Danish island of Als where the first examples was found. They were believed to protect wearers against misfortune on their travels. It dates to the 13th or 14th century and is carved with three rough stick figures. It is fragmentary — only the bottom of it survives — so it was likely thrown away rather than lost.

A major infrastructure project to replace water and sewage pipes and expand the stormwater pipe system was accompanied by archaeological investigations in compliance with cultural heritage laws. Two years of excavations over 10 blocks in the historical Old City, have unearthed the remains of wooden buildings, stone houses with vaulted cellars, streets, latrines, wells and more than 30,000 artifacts dating from between 1250 and 1650.

Never before have archaeologists had an opportunity to explore such a large contiguous area of medieval Kalmar (or of any medieval city, for that matter), and the results have exceeded all expectations, opening a window into the daily lives of the city’s residents over the course of centuries.