Medieval Love Rings Unearthed As Future Of Portable Antiquities Scheme Secured

By David Prudames | 11 February 2005
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Shows a photograph of two hands, one laid on top of the other. Both have a gold ring on one finger.

These rings, one larger than the other, both bear the inscription: mon cuer entier - 'my whole heart', leading archaeologists to conclude they are a pair.

A group of metal detectorists has unearthed a series of gold rings bearing messages of love and dating back to the medieval age in East Sussex.

The discovery was made by a group of three metal detecting friends in a field near Lewes, who came across two gold rings and reported them to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). Several weeks later a further two gold rings bearing similar inscriptions were unearthed in the area.

News of the find has been followed by an announcement from the government that it intends to pump £1.2million into the PAS between 2006 and 2008, thereby securing the future of the UK’s most popular community archaeology project.

"All of us dream of finding hidden treasure and unearthing secrets from the past. More than 2000 people a year are lucky enough to do so," said Mark Wood, chair of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, which manages the scheme.

"The Portable Antiquities Scheme was set up to help capture the history that is being found around us, and it has achieved great success in encouraging finders to register their finds. It’s proved a tremendously popular scheme which has really captured the public’s imagination and we’re absolutely delighted that this new funding will allow the team to continue its excellent work."

Shows a photograph of a gold ring being held by a person wearing white gloves up to a magnifying glass.

Found in a field in the same area as the original pair, this ring also dates back to the 15th century.

Set up in 1997, the PAS was created to help identify and record archaeological items found by members of the public.

Every year many thousands of objects are discovered by metal detector users and by people out walking, gardening or going about their daily work. Thanks to a network of Finds Liaison Officers these finders are able to research and record their objects.

Since the scheme was set up more than 100,000 objects, ranging from prehistoric flints to post-medieval buckles, have been recorded on its online database.

Among the latest finds are these two sets of medieval gold love rings. First to be discovered was a pair of love rings engraved with love messages and flowers.

The smaller ring reads ‘mon cuer entier’ (my whole heart) on the outside, with ‘mon est desr’ (he is my desire) inside the band. The larger of the pair, thought to be a man’s ring, mirrors the sentiment with the same inscription ‘mon cuer entier’.

Shows a photograph of the side of a ring as it is held between the thumb and forefinger of someone wearing white gloves.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is the nation’s largest community archaeology project and has now secured funding to keep it going until 2008.

Unexpectedly, several weeks later, two more rings were unearthed separately in the same area.

One is inscribed ‘nul IB bien’, which experts think to mean ‘nul ce bien’ a relatively commonplace inscription meaning ‘none so good’ or ‘none this good’. This ring seems to be customised with either a monogram or with the initials of two lovers ‘IB’, reading as ‘none as good as I and B together’. The legend on the fourth ring is more unusual and reads ‘amer et servir’ (love and serve).

According to experts at the British Museum these types of love tokens were common in the 15th century, but finding a hoard of medieval jewellery is a rarity.

"The PAS has been a huge success so far, allowing us to develop a clearer picture of our cultural heritage," explained the Arts Minister, Estelle Morris.

"I salute the thousands of enthusiasts up and down the country who, thanks to the scheme, can now register their finds, and add yet another piece to the jigsaw of history," she added. "The Government wants to see this work continue, and that is why we are investing a further £1.2m over the period 2006/07 to 2007/08."

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