2,000-Year-Old Hologram Ring Features Face of Woman’s Deceased Son


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Representations carved into stone have a long history. From Roman busts to Victorian cameos, stone likenesses capture those who were loved and lost. Cameos in particular are a wearable reminder of loved ones or tributes to mythical figures and great leaders. Crafted since ancient days, they can be made out of a variety of materials. One exceptional first century CE example, discovered on the hand of a woman in a Roman tomb, is crafted of gold and rock crystal. However, rather than being carved into the outer face of the stone, the shockingly realistic cameo depiction of the woman's deceased son is carved behind the stone creating a “hologram” of life lost.

The ring belonged to Aebutia Quarta, a Roman noblemwoman. Her tomb is known as the Hypogeum of the Garland. Discovered in Italy in the year 2000 at the Grottaferrata site, it also contains the remains of her son Carvilius Gemellus. Both sets of remains were covered by floral garlands, hence the name of their tomb. The son clearly died shortly before the mother at the young age of 18. His body is remarkably well preserved, and indicates death from either an injury or poisoning.

On the mother's finger was found a gold and quartz ring befitting of her high social statement. Currently, the ring is held in the Museo Archeologica Nazionale di Palestrina in Italy. It features a gold band set with a cabochon of rock crystal. Behind that seems to glow a holographic face, that of Aebutia's son, buried nearby. Unlike a traditional cameo which is carved in bas-relief, the figure here is carved on the back of the stone into its volume to create the life-like 3D illusion. This token was likely created after the son's death and before his mother's as a reminder of her beloved and a token of grief. Today, the ring is a symbol of craftsmanship, grief, and love.

This ancient ring, created in the 1st century CE, immortalizes a woman's deceased son in a clever rock crystal cameo “hologram.”

h/t: [DSF Antique Jewelry]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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