Finger Ring of Akhenaten and Nefertiti

This gold ring of Akhenaten and Nefertiti was found at Tell el-Amarna. The hieroglyphs may be read as an ideogram. The two seated figures are probably Akhenaten (left) and Nefertiti (right) as the deities Shu (air as indicated by the feather he holds) and Tefnut (moisture).

They were father and mother of the earth and sky, which are symbolically represented by the earth hieroglyph (below) and by the sun disk flanked by two sacred cobras (above).

Finger Ring depicting King Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti
Finger Ring depicting King Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti

Egypt is a land rich in gold, and ancient miners employing traditional methods were thorough in their exploitation of economically feasible sources. In addition to the resources of the Eastern Desert, Egypt had access to the riches of Nubia, which is reflected in its ancient name, nbw or Nebu (the Egyptian word for gold).

The hieroglyph for gold—a broad collar—appears with the beginning of writing in 1st Dynasty, but the earliest surviving gold artifacts date to the preliterate days of the fourth millennium B.C.; these are mostly beads and other modest items used for personal adornment. Gold jewelry intended for daily life or use in temple or funerary ritual continued to be produced throughout Egypt’s long history.

New Kingdom, late 18th Dynasty, Amarna Period, reign of Akhenaten, ca. 1353-1336 BC. Gold, diam. 2.5 cm (1 in); l. of bezel 2.3 cm (7/8 in). Petrie excavations, 1891–92. Now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 26.7.767