Israel researchers announced on Wednesday the discovery of a treasure from two shipwrecks off the Mediterranean coast, including a gold ring with ancient Christian art symbolizing Jesus Christ.
The treasure was found by the Israel Antiquities Authority during an underwater survey near the ancient city of Caesarea on the Israeli coast. The finds were dated to the Roman and Mamluk periods, around 1,700 and 600 years ago, archaeologists said.
Among the discoveries was a thick gold ring with an octagonal-shaped green gemstone. Inside the gem was an image of a figure carrying a sheep on his shoulders. The image is of the “Good Shepherd,” an ancient symbol of Christianity.
According to the Loyola Press, the “Good Shepherd” is one of the earliest art depictions of Jesus Christ in which he was often seen as a beardless youth. The Israel Antiquities Authority said in a Facebook post it was a symbol of salvation, as well as protection of man and a testimony of Jesus’ believers.
The ring also carries great significance in Caesarea, a port city that was once a major center of Christianity. Helena Sokolov, a curator for the authority’s coin department, told AFP the ring shows how Christianity was growing in third century Rome.
Robert Cole, head of the authority’s coin department, told The Associated Press the item is “exceptional.”
Other items found from the Roman shipwreck included a red gemstone, hundreds of silver and red coins, figurines, bells, ceramics and metal artifacts that once belonged to the ships, such as nails and a shattered iron anchor.
The style of artifacts indicates the ship came from Italy, according to Jacob Sharvit, head of the authority. Officials believe the shipwreck was due to a powerful storm.
The other shipwreck from the Mamluk period had over 500 silver coins, dating back to the 14th century, within the ocean’s sediment.
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.