Gold signet ring of the Chief Steward, Sheshonq

From Egypt
26th Dynasty, around 500 BC

Rings were a popular form of adornment from earliest times in Egypt. The simplest forms were strings of beads, carved horn or stone or twisted metal wire. One of the most common rings was a scarab tied to a piece of wire or cord, often found on the fingers of mummies.

More substantial rings appeared in the Middle Kingdom (2040-1750 BC), often of metal with swivelling bezels, inlaid with an inscribed semi-precious stone. Rings with rigid bezels were also made, in both metal and faience. A vast number of faience rings could be produced relatively easily using moulds. Such rings, often with a wedjat eye design, have been found at production sites at Tell el-Amarna.

This heavy gold ring of the priestly official, Sheshonq, is a stirrup shaped signet. This type of ring was developed from the rigid-bezel ring of the Middle Kingdom. The lozenge shaped bezel is incised with the name and titles of the owner, which included the office of Chief Steward. The bezel could be pressed into hot wax to seal documents and letters. Besides this functional aspect, the ring was no doubt worn as a mark of Sheshonq's status and wealth. The name 'Sheshonq' is of Libyan origin, belonging to several kings of the Libyan Period, but became popular among Egyptians from that time onwards.

Find in the collection online

More information


, Sothebys catalogue (21 April, (, 1975)

C.A.R. Andrews, Ancient Egyptian jewellery (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)


Diameter: 3.000 cm
Length: 3.400 cm (bezel)

Museum number

EA 68868


Formerly part of the Northumberland collection


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore