Diameter: 2.300 cm
Weight: 9.630 g
Britain, Europe and Prehistory
Room 41: Europe AD 300-1100
The Gumedruta ring
Lombardic or Ostrogothic, 6th - early 7th
Found at Bergamo, Italy
An inscribed gold seal-ring
This ring is engraved with a female bust and inscribed in reverse: + GUMED/RUTAVEC, which is the Germanic name Gumedruta followed by an abbreviated, honorific title, possibly including the Latin 'V(irgo) E(gregia)' ('Illustrious maiden'). This is the only early Italian ring to portray a woman. She is shown wearing Byzantine-influenced costume with a diadem with triple pendants, a mantle and a single disc brooch.
Such rings were used, as they had been during the Roman Empire, as guarantees of authority. They would probably have been used for sealing documents and private correspondence by royalty, royal officials and members of the nobility, and were worn as a sign of status.
Even after the Fall of Rome in AD 476 the Roman administration largely survived under 'barbarian' rulers. Latin, though less correct and with the addition of a few Germanic words, was still the main spoken and written language of most of the former Empire in the West, and secular schools continued in existence for some time. It had not yet devolved into regional dialects. The language was also important, therefore, for commerce, until the decline of international trade.
W. Kurze, 'Siegelringe aus Italien als Quellen zur Langobardengeschichte', Frühmittelalterliche Studien-1, 20 (1986), pp. 414-51