Medieval Gold Ring




Greg Speed

John Cherry

This week’s #FindsFriday is a beautiful medieval gold finger-ring that was recovered from our 2014 excavations at Catterick. It was the only medieval artefact discovered in the area, so it likely represents an isolated loss by a passing traveller. The ring is made from 86.96% gold alloyed with small amounts of silver and copper. It is an ‘iconographic ring’, which is a style that depicted saints and other religious scenes and the rings were popular in England from the end of the 14th to the early 16th century. The shank has what is known as a ‘wrythen’ hoop composed of 15 elements and a flat interior. The image on the oval bezel depicts a saint who may be identified as St John the Evangelist holding a chalice with a serpent emerging from it. This refers to the story in the Golden Legend (a 13th-century book describing acts attributed to saints) that John the Evangelist was able to drink poison to demonstrate to the Greek high priest Aristodemus that his God was the true God.

It is believed that for much of the medieval period, following the collapse of the Roman bridge over the River Swale, people travelling north along what was the Roman road Dere Street (now the A1) had to detour westwards to the medieval Brompton Bridge, located 1.5km upstream. The route took travellers towards the influential town and castle at Richmond, so rich and important people, such as the owner of this ring, would likely have travelled past where it was recovered. This sole item gives us an insightful picture of an individual travelling in the medieval period, perhaps accidently dropping their gold ring along the way.

The epic find was featured in Issue 55 of the Newsletter of The Society for Medieval Archaeology (

Cataractonium is classed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. These are sites which are considered to be of national importance. For this reason, any kind of archaeological investigation, including fieldwalking, excavation and metal detecting is prohibited without written consent from the Secretary of State. It is illegal to carry out fieldwalking or metal detecting and/or remove objects from a Scheduled Monument without consent under the Archaeological Areas and Ancient Monuments Act 1979. There may also be acts of criminal damage associated with these activities. To learn more about Scheduled Ancient Monuments click here.

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