Rare rings are unearthed near Bright

Rare rings are unearthed near Bright

12 September 2018

TWO medieval rings — believed to date back to the 13th or 14th centuries — have been found a short distance apart at Bright, near Ardglass.

Despite their tarnished appearance, the rings have tested as silver, one of which is complete while the other is broken. Both rings are decorated.

The broken ring’s surface is divided into a number of panels, some with a cross-style motif. The decoration, though not as accomplished as on other examples, does compare with similar patterns which experts suggest characterise a series of silver rings of 12th-century date from both Ireland and Britain.

The intact rings decoration includes a flower pattern and traces of lettering which may read a version of ‘IESU REX EXAUDI NOS’ – ‘Jesus, king, hear us’, but this is not certain. 

The nature of the lettering, which is termed Lombardic, suggests the 13th or 14th century while the style of the ring overall is consistent with this date. As the two rings from Bright differ little from each other in date, it is assumed they were lost or deposited together at the same time. 

They are of interest in illustrating the range of finger rings being worn in east Ulster in the late middle ages and might have been made locally or imported. 

The ruins of Bright Castle, believed to have been built between the 15th and 16th century, are close by and may have been built on an earlier settlement. If the rings were in circulation for a reasonable length of time it is even possible that they could have been owned and eventually lost by the castle’s occupants.

Meanwhile, a fragment of Viking ‘hack silver’, dating back to the ninth or 10th century, has been discovered near Drumbo.

Experts say the piece, which is less than 2cm in length, would originally have been part of a larger item such as an arm ring or bracelet.