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Priceless medieval ring turns up in Espoo field

A local resident sweeping a field with a metal detector in Espoo last week discovered an elaborate gold ring dating back to the 1300's. It is a unique find in Finland that hints at how powerful men of the Middle Ages travelled the King's Road.

Espoosta löytynyt keskiaikainen sormus.
Image: Espoon kaupunginmuseo

The King's Road was an old royal post route reaching from Bergen, Norway on the Atlantic coast, running to Oslo and Stockholm, to Mariehamn in the Åland Islands, through Finland's south-western archipelago to Turku, across southern Finland, on to Vyborg and St Petersburg, Russia at the eastern end of the Baltic.

According to Tryggve Gestrin of the Espoo City Museum, the ring found last week dates to the Middle Ages and is similar to a few rare examples discovered only in Sweden and Norway.

"It is a unique find. No ring like this has been found before in Finland. If we compare it to similar finds in the Nordic countries, then it can be dated to the mid-1300's," says Gestrin.

"In terms of research value, the ring is priceless; it can't be measured in money. But probably in monetary terms its worth a good deal, being made of gold," he adds.

Lost along the way

It is likely that the ring was lost by a traveller making his way between Turku and Vyborg on the King's Road. Another possibility is that the traveller was making a journey along a nearby river. Rivers were important routes for inland travel in the Middle Ages.

More research into the ring and its associations are planned in an attempt to determine its origin.

"One can only guess about the owner, but he was likely to have been a high-ranking official or someone closely associated with the Crown," Gestrin notes.

The museum intends to purchase the find from its discoverer.

The ring on its own does not provide enough incentive to start archaeological excavations at the site where it was found just yet.

"There was some refuse and burned clay at the spot also. It is possible that there was some kind of dwelling there, which would make it an historic site. This is still to be investigated," Gestrin explains.

The ring will next go to the National Board of Antiquities and to a conservation laboratory before becoming a permanent exhibition at the Espoo City Museum, probably sometime next year.

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