Maggie, my vivacious impish 19-month-old daughter, loves to walk down the street waving her hand—like a little Queen Elizabeth—and saying, “Bye, bye, tree.” She also loves to put her fingers in holes. That yearning appeared suddenly, like a flower that came into bloom overnight. No doubt such intense curiosity is a natural part of growing up, whether in third-millennium A.D. America, Byzantine Greece, Iron Age Assyria or pharaonic Egypt.
That thought struck me as I watched Maggie put her finger through a hole in a book (supposedly made by a caterpillar). I remembered an ancient gold ring owned by Israeli antiquities collector Shlomo Moussaieff. Dating to the fifth century A.D., the ring is a kind of signet ring, with an oval face carrying a depiction of a seven-branched candelabra—reminiscent of the menorahs that lit the Jerusalem Temple before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. This lovely ring, however, was made for a small child.