Diana Craig Patch
One of the loveliest surprises of the season was the find of a small ring fragment in the mortar between two layers of brick in the exterior enclosure wall along the east side of the King’s Palace. As often happens with single isolated finds at a site as big as Malqata, the object is removed from its context and brought to you unless you are standing right there when it is discovered. At the North Village and the West Settlement, we see the material as it is found. But the King’s Palace was a huge structure: the workman who found the ring was laying new brick next to the remains of original wall, and no one happened to be standing next to him at the time of the discovery.
Hassaan, our expedition manager, brought the fragment to Peter and me while we were talking about future restoration work in the central part of the palace. It is a large ring with a flat bezel in a brilliant blue faience. Squatting on the bezel is a little frog.
What immediately grabbed my interest was the size and the shape of the shank and its bezel, that is, the platform of the ring. A few days earlier at the excavation area where I have been working, to the west of the Audience Pavilion, I found –actually I didn’t find it, our workman did– a pottery mold whose impressed shape looked just like this ring. At the time we found it, I didn’t quite understand what the mold was intended to create. Although the impression looked ring-like, its diameter seemed big. With the find at the King’s Palace, it is clear that we have found a place at the site where the kind of molds that make these large rings might have been used. Shanks need to be large because they support the wide bezel intended to hold a little image, here a frog.
Above you can see how the frog was made as a single piece, and then applied to the bezel, which had been molded independently with the shank. There is a hairline crack that indicates their join. After this step, the ring with its fancy bezel was fired as a single piece in a kiln.
In the collection at the Met, we have two rings with frogs as a decorative element. One (above) looks like the lovely piece we found in the palace, but the other is somewhat smaller.