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December 22, 2021 11:31 am

Israeli Archeologists Discover Gold Ring With Christian Symbol in Ancient Shipwreck Off Mediterranean Coast

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israeli marine archeologists discover a gold ring with a green gemstone carved with the figure of the Good Shepherd. Photo: Dafna Gazit/Israel Antiquities Authority

Israeli marine archeologists have discovered ancient artifacts, some dating back to the third century, in two shipwrecks off the northern coastal town of Caesarea.

The artifacts were recovered from wrecks of two ships that sank off the coast of Caesarea during the Roman and Mamluk periods. The finds were discovered during an underwater survey by the Marine Archaeology Unit of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

Jacob Sharvit and Dror Planer of the Marine Archaeology Unit said they believe that 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,” Sharvit and Planer said.

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The ships’ cargoes and the remains of their wrecked hulls were discovered scattered in shallow water at a depth of about 13 feet.

Among the underwater findings were personal effects of those who were on board the ships. They included an octagonal gold ring with a green gemstone carved with the figure of a young shepherd boy dressed in a tunic and bearing a ram or a sheep on his shoulders. The figure of the “Good Shepherd,” is a well-known symbol of Jesus in early Christian art and indicates that it might have belonged to an ancient Christian, the IAA said.

Another find was a red gemstone which was probably set inside a ring. The gemstone has a carved image of a lyre, known in Jewish tradition as “David’s Harp,” symbolizing the instrument that King David played for Saul. In Greek mythology the lyre is associated with “Apollo’s Lyre.”

Additionally, hundreds of silver and bronze Roman coins from the mid-third century and a large hoard of silver coins from the Mamluk period dating back to the fourteenth century were also among the discoveries. Other finds were a bronze figurine in the form of an eagle, symbolizing Roman rule; a figurine of a Roman dancer in a comic mask; and numerous bronze bells used among other things to ward off evil spirits

“Israel’s coasts are rich in sites and finds that are immensely important national and international cultural heritage assets. They are extremely vulnerable, which is why the Israel Antiquities Authority conducts underwater surveys to locate, monitor and salvage any antiquities,” said Eli Eskozido, Director of the IAA. “There are many kinds of sporting activities along Israel’s shores, including diving, snorkeling, open water swimming and sailing, during which antiquities are occasionally discovered.”

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