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The Erfurt Treasure - The Story of a Ring


In 1998, archaeologists digging in the old Jewish quarter in Erfurt, Germany could not believe their eyes. They had uncovered, beneath a stone wall in the basement of a house from medieval times, a remarkable treasure. This spectacular hoard of jewelry, coins and silverware included 3,141 silver coins, 14 ingots of silver and more than 700 pieces of gold and silver Gothic jewelry as well as rare clothes. The 14th century dates on the coins and the distinctly Jewish nature of some of the items–including a beautiful wedding ring adorned in gold–led researchers to conclude that the treasure belonged to Kalman von Wiehe, the Jewish merchant who once owned the home where the treasure was found. The treasure was most likely buried in January 1349–just before the Black Plague pogroms devastated Erfurt’s Jewish community–and remained buried for centuries.

 The Story of the Ring

One of the most remarkable items in the Erfurt Treasure is a wedding ring. Pictured here is an exact replica. The actual ring will be presented to the public in 2019 when Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People opens its new permanent display.

This ring–a unique combination of silver, gold and enamel–is decorated with a crescent and a six-pointed star; these characteristics were likely typical adornments for Jewish wedding bands of this period. Jewish treasures discovered in Colmar, France included two rings with similar features. As with the Erfurt Treasure, the Colmar Treasure was likely buried during the pogroms that swept Europe during the Black Plague (1348-1350).

ERFURT RING-1

Ring with crescent and star (replica). Late 13th century or early 14th century. Gold, silver and enamel. Erfurt Treasure, TLDA, inv. 5071/98

Creating Connections with Archaeology

Archaeological excavations in modern Europe are often initiated by cities and regions wanting to showcase their local histories. Archeologists are uncovering evidence of a shared past that makes the Jewish story intrinsic to the histories of European towns and communities. The Erfurt Treasure reveals much about a medieval Jewish community, but the people living in Erfurt today see it as something that hits closer to home; it is part of their own story.

The New Permanent Exhibition at Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People

Slated to open in late 2019, our new permanent exhibition will take visitors on a unique journey that tells the incredible, ongoing story of the Jewish people in a new way. Advanced technology will create an interactive and thrilling personal experience that will be complimented by authentic, ancient objects from the Jewish past. This replica of the golden ring from the Erfurt Treasure is a small taste of the marvels that our curatorial team is gathering together. The new Beit Hatfutsot, in its diversity and vibrancy, will truly be The Museum of the Jewish People.

A replica of the ring is currently on display in the lobby of the museum.

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