This 700-Year-Old Ring Was Used to Poison Kings

Illustration for article titled This 700-Year-Old Ring Was Used to Poison Kings

Should you have happened to find yourself dining with Bulgarian royalty 700 years ago and the wine tasted a bit off, you would have been smart to put the goblet down. Bulgarian archaeologists have just discovered a medieval bronze ring explicitly designed to poison political foes—in the most discreet way possible.

Unearthed in northeast Bulgaria at the site of a former medieval fortress in Cape Kaliakra, the now heavily corroded ring is topped off with a hollow cartridge, complete with a tiny hole for expelling poison. So should you be at dinner with, say, your brother the king and his lovely queen, you need simply refill his royal goblet; tip your finger ever so slightly; and his kingdom, bride, and moody, schizophrenic son are all yours—because ear poison is so passé.

Illustration for article titled This 700-Year-Old Ring Was Used to Poison Kings

The ring itself dates back to around the 14th century, which puts it among the ranks of the over 30 other pieces of jewelry discovered on the site since excavating began in 2011. But as Bonnie Petrunova, head of the dig and deputy director of the National Archaeology Institute and Museum in Sofia, told Discovery News, this little guy is special:

It’s a unique ring. I have no doubts that the hole is there on purpose and the ring was worn on the right hand, because the hole was made in such a way so as to be covered by a finger, thus the poison could be dropped at a moment’s notice. Clearly, it was not worn constantly and would have been put on when necessary.

The ring would have been at its prime while Kaliakra was the capital of the principality in the Dobruja region, so Petrunova suggests that it could very well have been used in the fight between Dobrotitsa, the ruler of the independent Despotate of Durudja in the late 1400s, and his son Ivanko Terter. It might even have been the very same secret weapon used for a set of serial murders at the time and could even solve the many unexplained deaths of noble and aristocrats close to Debrotitsa.

So if anyone did ever feel inclined to question the funny tasting wine in Bulgarian courts, they probably shut up pretty quick—it's hard to complain when you're dead. [Discovery News]


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No. This was owned by a bishop who was a practical joker. People'd lean in to kiss the ring, he'd push the plunger on back with his thumb, they'd get sprayed in the face with holy water. Always good for a laugh, those bishops. They'd also amuse people by moving diagonally.