A stunning “Good Shepherd” ring that depicts a young Jesus holding a sheep — an iconic image of Christ– was just found when archaeologists explored two shipwrecks that sank off the ancient port of Cesarea, Israel.
The announcement of the spectacular find was made on Thursday by the Israel Antiquities Authority, stated that the two shipwrecks dated back 1,700 and 600 years.
And the gold ring with the intricately-carved image of the Good Shepherd was only one of the eye-popping treasures found in the wrecks; bells which archaeologists believe were used to ward off evil spirits were also part of the hoard, along with a comical Roman-era mask made of clay and a bronze figurine of an eagle.
Good Shepherd Ring one of most stunning artifacts found in Israel in recent times
The ancient city of Cesarea figured prominently in the Bible, in the Book of Acts in connection with Peter, Philip the Apostle, and, especially Paul, who is known to have been was imprisoned there before being sent to Rome for trial, where he was subsequently martyred.
The Acts of the Apostles also relates how Peter baptized the Roman centurion Cornelius, who was present at the Crucifixion, in Caesarea.
Archaeologists say that the ring, which is 1,700 years old, was found among a hoard of third-century Roman coins, beside the other objects.
Incredibly, the researchers were able to determine that both ships sank with all hands aboard, apparently while they valiantly attempting to maneuver the vessels into port.
The IAA’s Marine Archaeology Unit stated in their announcement “The ships were probably anchored nearby and were wrecked by a storm.
“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 octagonal gold ring with the eye-catching green gem riveted the archaeologists with its apparent depiction of Jesus as one of his most frequently-known titles, “The Good Shepherd.”
Its green gemstone at the center was carved apparently to depict the figure of Jesus as a young shepherd, dressed in a tunic with a sheep around his shoulders. The same image has appeared in Christian art throughout the millennia.
The Good Shepherd is one of the earliest and oldest images used in Christianity for symbolizing Jesus; he is described in that way in the Bible a number of times.
The first such instance is in John 10:1-21, which describes Jesus as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.
As the IAA said in its statement, “It represents Jesus as humanity’s compassionate shepherd, extending his benevolence to his flock of believers and all mankind.”
This completely unique ring with its likeness of the “Good Shepherd” possibly indicates that its owner was an early Christian in the Holy Land. The Israel Antiquities Authority statement noted that Cesarea is known as one of the earliest centers of Christianity, hosting one of the very first communities of Christians.
Helena Sokolov, a curator at the IAA’s coin department, who researched the Good Shepherd ring, told Agence France Press: “This was a period when Christianity was just in its beginning, but definitely growing and developing, especially in mixed cities like Caesarea.”
She went on to explain in these very earliest days of Christianity, when it was being practiced “underground,” the Roman empire was — at some times and in some places — tolerant of new forms of worship, making it possible for a wealthy citizen of the empire to have worn such a ring.
Alongside the Roman-era finds, IAA divers also discovered a trove of around 560 Mamluk-era coins dating from the fourteenth century in the second wreck nearby.
Caesarea was the local capital of the Roman empire during the third century, and its port was a key hub for all maritime trade in the area.