Ancient ‘hangover cure’ gold ring found at Yavne winery excavation

Band is adorned with semiprecious amethyst stone, which was believed to have power in dispelling the aftereffects of alcohol

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

An ancient gold ring found during excavations in Yavne, Israel. (Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority)
An ancient gold ring found during excavations in Yavne, Israel. (Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority)

An ancient gold ring adorned with a semiprecious stone and that might have been worn as a handy cure for hangovers was recently discovered at an excavation in Yavne, in the central region of the country, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Tuesday.

The ring, which weighs 5.11 grams (0.18 ounces) and has a purple stone set on top, was uncovered at a site that has the largest known Byzantine-era winepress in the world, the IAA said in a statement. It is believed to date back to at least the 7th Century, but may be up to four centuries older, the IAA said.

“The person who owned the ring was affluent, and the wearing of the jewel indicated their status and wealth,” said Amir Golani, an IAA expert on ancient jewelry. “Such rings could be worn by both men and women.”

However, the owner may have had another reason for keeping the band close at hand.

The stone embedded in the ring is amethyst, mentioned in the Bible as one of the 12 stones fitted into the High Priest’s ceremonial breastplate.

Among the many powers attributed to the stone is the “prevention of the side effect of drinking, the hangover,” explained Golani.

An areial view of the Yavne excavation. (Assaf Peretz/Israel Antiquities Authority)

That the ring was found at a site where a “huge winery” operated makes the inclusion of amethyst “particularly interesting,” the IAA said.

“Did the person who wore the ring want to avoid intoxication due to drinking a lot of wine?” mused Elie Haddad, who is directing the excavation on behalf of the IAA, along with Liat Nadav-Ziv and Jon Seligman. “We probably will never know.”

Haddad said the ring was unearthed 150 meters from a long warehouse. Some of the amphorae found in the warehouse were upside down, indicating the room may have been used to store wine jars before they were filled.

“It is possible that the splendid ring belonged to the owner of the magnificent warehouse, to a foreman, or simply to an unlucky visitor, who dropped and lost their precious ring, until it was finally discovered by us,” Haddad said.

An ancient gold ring as it was found at an excavation in Yavne. (Eliahu Valdaman/Israel Antiquities Authority)

There is a debate over how old the ring is. Though the fill where the ring was found dates to the end of the Byzantine period and the beginning of the Early Islamic period around the 7th century CE, it may be older, handed down through generations due to its “beauty and prestige,” the IAA said.

Gold rings inlaid with amethyst are known to have been worn in the Roman world and the ring could have belonged to an owner from as early as the 3rd century, the statement said.

Right to left: Jon Seligman, Liat Nadav-Ziv and Dr. Elie Haddad , Yavne excavation directors on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. (Yaniv Berman/Israel Antiquities Authority)

“The small, everyday finds that are discovered in our excavations tell us human stories and connect us directly to the past,” said Eli Eskozido, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “It is exciting to imagine the man or woman to whom the ring belonged, walking right here, in a different reality to what we know in today’s city of Yavne.”

The excavation of the ancient winery at Yavne will be open to the public on November 5, with details available on the IAA Facebook page.

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