Today, July 7, 2009, Hannah (a student in the Heidelberg University archaeological field school) discovered this hard rubber ring in the 1862-1863 prison hospital latrine. The ring is made from hard rubber, first patented in 1851. Prisoners made this jewelry to send to their families, friends, and to sell to fellow prisoners. Several prisoners were well known for their expertise in working with hard rubber. This particular ring is unique in that it has two sets made with shell (the side shield sets) and one center set made from stone. As can be seen, hard rubber jewelry withstands being buried with little or no deterioration.
This ring represents one of the archaeologically significant aspects of this site. Over the years, we have recovered evidence of this hard rubber craft activity in almost every context. Even in the hospital we have evidence of their working with materials necessary for jewelry. The piece of shell noted as FS 8012 was discovered in the soils underneath Block 6, the prison hospital. As you can see from the picture, a section of the shell was cut from the rest of the piece. The cut marks are very clear and undoubtedly this piece was lost by a prisoner saving it for use in such items as the ring above. We have recovered several pieces of hard rubber waste from the manufacturing of rings, brooches, and other trinkets.