In what could be a scene right out of any murder mystery or detective story, archaeologists have discovered a ring believed to have been used to poison enemies in medieval Bulgaria. The excavation took place at Cape Kailakra in the Dobrudja area, a region shared by modern day Bulgaria and Romania. This was where many of the aristocracy lived, and mysteriously died, during the 14th century.
The bronze ring has a small cavity drilled into the side that, according to archaeologists, was used to hide poison. When the host offered his “enemy” a drink, he would tilt his pinky finger of his right hand so that the poison would end up in the glass.
The excavation was led by Bonnie Petrunova, deputy director of Bulgaria’s National Museum of Archaeology. The ring’s design and craftsmanship is visible, and was probably imported from either Italy or Spain. Over 30 additional pieces of jewelry were found at the site, but they were for decorative use. Only the bronze ring revealed a more deadly purpose.
The Museum of Archaeology is part of the National Institute of Archaeology at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (NIAM-BAS). The entire organization combines academia, museum exhibits, field work and publications at the regional, national, and international levels. The museum building is a 15th-century mosque originally named in honor of a high-ranking adviser to a sultan. It was completed in 1494 and is located in Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia.
Permanent exhibitions include many items found throughout Bulgaria dating back to prehistoric eras, and artifacts from various empires such as the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman. The Middle Ages collection contains armor worn in battle by men and their horses, and women’s ideas about beauty.
Written by: Cynthia Collins, Senior Museum Correspondent