Archers’ thumb rings/Archers’ looses
These items are thumb rings. In our records two such items (W312a and W312b) are recorded as coming from Abydos while others are probably from John Garstang’s 1910 excavations at Meroë in Nubia (EC1246, W930, W931 and W932).
Such items are used to protect the thumb when drawing the bow during archery. They are still used by archers today, particularly in Asia where the string is grasped and drawn using a ‘thumb lock’ (or ‘Mongolian loose/release’) rather than two or more fingers being used. Thumb rings may be made from stone, wood, bone, metal or leather. A glass example is even known (Welsby 1996, 42). Today’s examples may be plastic.
The type of grip necessitating a thumb ring is not shown in Egyptian art. However, meroitic art shows kings, queens and gods wearing ceremonial thumb rings and the Museum of Fine Art in Boston has several of these from Nubia which are dated 90BC-AD40. They have frequently been found in Meriotic graves with other archery equipment. While there are Egyptian examples, these tend to be later in date. A silver thumb ring was excavated from Fustat dating to AD 750-850 (Nicolle 1997, 58). If those examples which we have recorded as coming from Abydos are genuinely from Egypt it could be that they represent Nubian mercenaries.
Meroë was the capital of the Kushite kingdom between 800 BC and c.350AD. The people of Kush were celebrated as archers and used as mercenaries in Egypt.
It seems likely that as well as being practical objects, items like this could also be symbols of status, especially if made of hige quality/expensive stone.
Other items associated with archery in the Egypt Centre:
McLeod, W. 1982. Self bows and archery tackle from the tomb of Tutankhamun. Oxford: Griffith Institute, 64. (with further references).
Nicolle, D. 1997. Arms of the Umayyad era: Military technology in a time of change, in Lev, Y. War and society in the eastern Mediterranean, 7th-15th centuries, Leiden: Brill, 9-100.
Welsby, D.A. 1996. The Kingdom of Kush: The Napatan and Meroitic Empires. London: The British Museum.