Rings

A ring is a circular loop which may have had a variety of uses.

PAS object type to be used

RING should be used for rings that do not fall into any other object type. FINGER RING or EAR RING should be used for those particular object types. Sword-rings of early Anglo-Saxon date should be recorded under SWORD.

Bronze Age rings

Rings with thick frames are often suggested as Bronze Age. Cross-sections vary, with oval, circular, lozenge-shaped and other polygonal shapes all recorded. Rings of these proportions have been found in Bronze Age hoards [citation needed] and sites (e.g. Flag Fen, Pryor 2001). A number of functions have been suggested: horse harness fittings, cauldron handles or cauldron suspension chains.

Possible Bronze Age rings (LVPL49DC54, WILT-091140, NMS-EAF666)
Possible Bronze Age rings (LVPL49DC54, WILT-091140, NMS-EAF666)

Do not use RING for similar penannular rings (formerly known as ring-money). Use PENANNULAR RING for these.

Medieval rings

RING is used for cast copper-alloy rings of 2-3cm diameter and narrow frame. Medieval rings of this type often have faceted cross-sections, sometimes neatly hexagonal, more often irregular. Filemarks are often visible. Look for wear (interior or exterior) that might help to narrow down how the ring was used.

Medieval or early post-medieval ring (SWYOR-9F7F7E)
Medieval or early post-medieval ring (SWYOR-9F7F7E)

These are very common finds and may have had a variety of uses. They may have been part of horse-harness, or used for suspension of vessels, or as curtain-rings, and so on. Sometimes the rings have pins attached and so are clearly buckles (so should be recorded as BUCKLE). It is not possible to assign a function to rings on their own, so avoid the use of terms such as HARNESS RING or CURTAIN FITTING.

Medieval circular buckle frame (SUR-A91E13).
Medieval circular buckle frame (SUR-A91E13). If it lost its pin, it would not be identifiable as a buckle and would have to be recorded as RING.

These rings are not easy to date. Although they often have the filemarks that appear to be characteristic of the medieval period, they may continue in use into the early post-medieval period.

Late post-medieval rings

There is a group of silver wire rings, with a spiral or knotted bezel, that have in the past been hard to distinguish from early-medieval silver wire rings. After a lot of work by Barry Ager, it now seems that we can be certain that rings of two or more strands, and/or made of wire of square cross-section, are fairly modern in date and were used as finger-rings. They are discussed in FINGER RING, under ‘Rings with a spiral or knotted bezel’.

Modern finger-rings (DENO-470362 and DENO-A15253)
Modern finger-rings of silver (DENO-470362) and copper alloy (DENO-A15253)

Rings of uncertain date

Most rings will have to be put down as broad period UNKNOWN. Even if you think that a ring has a date-range of Bronze Age to Roman, don’t give it BRONZE AGE as a broad period, as this will clog up the Bronze Age with a lot of false positives.