- Museum number
Ivory bezel from a finger-ring, with a woman in relief.
The woman on this ring has an elaborate hairstyle, with locks of hair framing the face in front of a narrow diadem, behind which the hair is arranged in the so-called melon coiffure. At the back the hair is secured in a bun. The woman has a rather severe expression with a long pointed nose, deeply set eyes and a small mouth, the lips of which curl downwards, almost forming a sneer. Her long neck has three prominent Venus rings scored into the surface beneath the pointed chin.
- Production date
- 3rdC BC-1stC BC
Length: 2.80 centimetres (bezel)
- Curator's comments
- Walker & Higgs 2001
This ring belongs to a series of similar bone finger rings found mostly on Cyprus and in Alexandria. They all show a portrait bust of a woman in relief.
Many of these facial features have been compared to the coin portraits and heads on faience oinochoai showing Arsinoe II (reigned 278-270 BC). This and the other similar rings may represent this particular queen; the diadem certainly suggests that the woman is royal. The rings may have served a commemorative function, or were perhaps made during the festival of Arsinoe, the Arsinoeia which was inaugurated after her death and became one of the most celebrated festivals in Egypt. Though she ruled for such a short time, Arsinoe II fast became a most popular queen, and Cleopatra VII herself adopted many of Arsinoe's traits in her Egyptian royal iconography (cat. no. 160); even Augustus' empress, Livia, modelled her early portraits on Greek-style images of Arsinoe II.
The date of these rings, which all follow similar forms and details of representation, is disputed, but if they do show Arsinoe II, they could date to any time from her death in 270 BC until late in the Hellenistic period. The bone rings show great similarities to a series of bone gaming counters, most of which have been found either in Alexandria or in sites around the Bay of Naples (cat. nos 327-333). These counters, some of which show portraits of Ptolemaic rulers, private individuals and Roman emperors, are thought to date to the late Hellenistic or early Roman period. It has been proposed that the portraits on the rings and the associated counters were inspired by a sense of nostalgia that was prevalent in the first century BC to the first century AD, as the Ptolemaic empire fell increasingly under Roman political control.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: L. Marangou, 'Ptolemaische Fingerringe aus Bein', AM 86 (1971), 164-71; E. Alfoldi-Rosenbaum, 'Ruler Portraits on Roman Game Counters from Alexandria', in R. Stucky and I. Jucker (eds), Eikones: Studien zum Griechischen una Romischen Bildnis, Festschrift Hans Jucker, AntK Beiheft 12 (Bern 1980), 29-39, pl. 11.4.
- On display (G22/dc8)
- The hoop has broken away and there are minor abrasions on the surface.
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number