Israeli archeologists have discovered a rare 1,700-year-old gold ring that includes an image of a shepherd that is thought to represent Jesus and likely belonged to an early Christian, the Israel Antiquities Authority said this week.
Divers with the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Marine Archaeology Unit uncovered the ring in a shipwreck off the coast of Caesarea, a region frequently mentioned in the New Testament, including in the book of Acts as influential in Christianity’s growth.
The octagonal gold ring is set with a green gemstone and carved “with the figure of a young shepherd boy dressed in a tunic and bearing a ram or a sheep on his shoulders,” according to the website of the Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Jesus in John 10:11 describes himself as the Good Shepherd who “lays down his life for the sheep.”
“The ‘Good Shepherd’ image is one of the earliest and oldest images used in Christianity to symbolize Jesus,” the Friends of the Israel Antiquities Authority said. “It represents Jesus as humanity’s compassionate shepherd, extending his benevolence to his flock of believers and all humankind.”
Its owner likely was an early Christian, the Times of Israel said.
The find was part of a discovery by marine archeologists who uncovered treasure, including hundreds of silver coins and figurines, from two ancient shipwrecks. One shipwreck occurred about 1,700 years ago, the other around 600 years ago.
“The ships were probably anchored nearby and were wrecked by a storm,” said Jacob Sharvit and Dror Planer of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Marine Archaeology Unit. “They may have been anchored offshore after getting into difficulty, or fearing stormy weather because sailors know well that mooring in shallow, open water outside of a port is dangerous and prone to disaster.”
The treasure was found scattered in shallow water at a depth of about 13 feet.
Photo courtesy: ©Israeli Antiquities Authority, used with permission.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.